Academic journal article Theological Studies

Jacques Dupuis: The Ongoing Debate

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Jacques Dupuis: The Ongoing Debate

Article excerpt

IN LATE 1997, JACQUES DUPUIS (1923-2004) (1) of the Gregorian University published a 447-page theological reflection on Christianity and other religions. (2) Written originally in English, this book appeared almost simultaneously in French and Italian, and subsequently in Portuguese (1999) and Spanish (2000). In spring 1998 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) began an investigation of the book, which culminated in a notification published on January 24, 2001. While stating that the "book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points, which could lead a reader to erroneous or harmful opinions," the CDF did not ask Dupuis to change a single line in his text but only to include the text of the notification in "any reprinting or further editions of his book, as well as in all translations." (3)

The literature and documentation on Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism are vast. An article written by Dupuis himself for Louvain Studies took into account 20 reviews that had appeared in English and 27 in French. (4) Some of these, such as the assessment by Terrence Merrigan in Louvain Studies, entered into critical dialogue with Dupuis in a way that was admirable; others, such as an equally long piece in Revue thomiste, seemed an odd throwback to a dead past. (5) In all, there were well over 100 reviews in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages, as well as articles in journals and chapters in books dedicated, in whole or in part, to a critical evaluation of Dupuis's views. (6)

Shortly after Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism appeared in October 1997, the publishing house of Queriniana (Brescia) asked Dupuis to write a shorter, more accessible version. This time he wrote in Italian, and after some delay the book was published in autumn 2001. (7)

Clearly Dupuis addressed a central question: how can Christians profess and proclaim faith in Jesus Christ as the one redeemer of all humankind, and at the same time recognize the Spirit at work in the world's religions and cultures--as was done by Pope John Paul II? (8) From a Christian perspective, what is the place in God's providence for the other religions some of which predate the birth of Christ (e.g., Hinduism), and what beneficial contribution do they make toward the salvation of their followers? As revealer and redeemer, Jesus is unique and universal, but in practice the visible paths to salvation have remained many. What might the various religious traditions mean in the one divine plan to save humanity?

After Dupuis died on December 28, 2004, his views have continued to be cited, approved, or criticized. Most of those who write on Dupuis concentrate on his Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism; only a few also take into account his subsequent Christianity and the Religions, in which he clarified his "inclusive pluralism." (9) Among other changes, he qualified his language about the "complementarity" between Christianity and other religions by calling it "asymmetrical complementarity," (10) he dropped the terminology of the "Logos asarkos" and the "Logos ensarkos" and spoke rather of "the Word as such" and "the Word as incarnate," (11) and he introduced some of the teaching of the Third Council of Constantinople (680/681) to support his position about the actions of Christ's divine nature and human nature being "distinct" but inseparable. (12)

Keeping in mind a certain shift from Dupuis's longer 1997 book to what he published in the 2001 book, (13) I propose here to present and evaluate, in chronological order, some of the discussion that has appeared in English from 2005 to date. (14) The (seven) interlocutors run from Terrence Merrigan in 2005 to Keith Johnson in 2011. When discussing theological method, the nature of interreligious dialogue, and other issues raised by Dupuis, some scholars, as we will see, prove open to his proposals, while others remain rather hostile. …

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