Theology and the Dialogue of Religions

Theology and the Dialogue of Religions

Theology and the Dialogue of Religions

Theology and the Dialogue of Religions

Synopsis

Michael Barnes SJ contributes to the debate about the place of inter-religious relations in the life of the Church by developing a "theology of dialogue". He offers a critique of much current thinking in this area and proposes instead a theology rooted in the themes of welcome and hospitality. He argues for a vision of Christianity as a "school of faith", a community called not only to teach others but to learn from them as well.

Excerpt

More than ten years ago I wrote a book called Religions in Conversation which in their more mellow moments my friends tell me still has something to commend it. At the time I felt I wanted to contribute to a debate about what has come to be known as the theology of religions. The book fitted into the general category of a survey of a rapidly expanding field. In general that book was well received. One review even praised its intelligence (which pleased me) but criticised it for avoiding the awkward questions (which didn't). The nub of the criticism was that the author had found his way to the centre of a complex labyrinth but, once there, had little idea about how to get out again. Having pondered the issues at much greater depth since that relatively youthful excursion I feel I am now more happy to stay immured in the richness and complexity of inter-religious relations. The key questions, I am convinced, are not about the return and subsequent reflection – which remain comparatively straightforward – but how to cross over the threshold in the first place, how to get to the centre of a different and even threatening world, and how to remain there with a measure of Christian integrity.

This present study continues, and I hope deepens, that initial enthusiasm for the life of inter-faith engagement. I am confident that at some level it touches upon all the most important issues surrounding interreligious dialogue and the place of Christianity in a multi-faith world – issues about Christ and Church, revelation, salvation and mission. This is not, however, a straightforward work of systematic theology. It will quickly become apparent to the reader that the dissatisfaction with much current thinking in this area which I hinted at in the earlier book has become a more blunt rejection in the present one. It is not so much that I find myself out of sympathy with the theological . . .

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