Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism

By Lindbeck, George | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism


Lindbeck, George, International Bulletin of Missionary Research


Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism.

By Jacques Dupuis, S.J. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1997. Pp. xiv, 433. $50.

This is an important work in part because of its genre. It is an attempt at a general introduction to systematic studies of the theology of religions (pp. 2-3) and is thus of the same general type as tractates (not textbooks) on particular loci (e.g., God, Christ, church) that structure the Catholic theological curriculum. It is not the personal outlook of the author that counts in such works but success in delineating the "mind of the church." As Dupuis puts it, he intends "to make an organic presentation . . . of the present state of theological reflection on the main issues which are raised today in the context of religious pluralism" (p. 2).

His book may long be the standard. The only comparable work in theology of religions is V. Bobolik's Teologia delle religioni (1973), which is now thoroughly outdated and yet continues to be used for lack of alternatives. Furthermore, Dupuis is well equipped to supply a replacement. A professor at the Gregorianum in Rome and director of the journal of the same name, he is a Belgian Jesuit who taught theology for thirty-six years in India and has published extensively on interreligious matters.

Part 1, the historical half of the book, is on the whole excellent, although the treatment of the biblical materials is too brief to be anything but disappointing. It is part 2, the systematic portion, which will be controversial.

Dupuis aims at "holding fast to faith in Jesus Christ as traditionally understood by mainstream Christianity," while at the same time assigning "to [other] traditions a positive role and significance in the overall plan of God for humankind, as it unfolds through salvation history" (p. 1). His is a "theocentric Christocentrism" that tries to move beyond the opposition between Christocentric inclusivisms (e.g., Rahner's) and theocentric pluralisms (e.g. Hick's or Knitter's) that are not specifically Christian-that is, they are adoptable also by non-Christians. …

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