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That view throws also a new light on the last article of the creed, the resurrection of the dead and the eternal life. For modern people this article is stunning and almost ridiculous. The billions of people that have in the course of millenia been decomposed into their molecules and atoms, should all of a sudden be recomposed and rise up, living and well, with flesh and bones and skin and hair.
So the traditional church has always thought. The famous frescoes of Luca Signorelli in the Dome of Orvieto are a colourful illustration of this impossible belief. Where and how that billions could come together to be judged, is of course another insoluble problem. Here appears in which deadend it leads, if one takes literally the visionary decriptions of the Bible that have inspired the creed. But all these disconcerting ideas proceed from the belief in a Theos for whom nothing is impossible. From its fruits one can judge the quality of the tree. But if we understand resurrection in a modern way, as to live through death in the measure of our love, which is the same as the measure of our participating in the Ultimate Love, disappears that dead-end and the accompanying irritation and anger.
For then everybody lives through death more or less, according to the development of the divine germ of love in his depth. And resurrection of the dead is than identical with the eternal life, the final words of that last article of the creed. If we understand resurrection in that modern way two other mythological articles of the creed appear in a new light, that for modern faithful makes sense. Heaven being used in the Bible as a reverential password for "God", so as to avoid using that holy name, the ascension of Jesus to heaven since the first Sputnik easy to ridicule becomes identical with his being absorbed in the Ultimate Love.
On the other hand his coming to judge, Last Judgment, that has since the Middle Ages been a source of black terror and panic as is testified by the Dies Irae , can then easily be understood as his appearance in the world through the community that lets guide its way of life by his inspiration. This way of life makes clearly visible that which is good and that which is bad and pronounces in this sense continually not a condamning or acquiting verdict, but an enlightening judgment.
So far as for the creed. But on its theistic formulation the whole church doctrine is based. The whole of it should therefore be examined, and much of it would appear as being outdated and calling for a modern reformulation. But because of the limited size of this article, can that only be done here for some of the statements and convictions of that doctrine. Only the following ten points will be treated. The marian dogmas and the confession of the Trinity. First of all for the statements and traditions that flow directly from the Nicene dogma that Jesus is "true God from the true God" become meaningless.
Therefore we should stop calling Mary "Mother of God". She is simply the mother of Jesus of Nazaret. But with the farewell to that first marian dogma collapses also the dogma of her conception without original sin, promulgated in and that of her bodily resurrection and assumption into heaven, promulgated in They cannot be replaced by a modern formultion. Their contant s simply too pre-modern. Moreover even the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is understood commonly, and that means: commonly misunderstood and misrepresented as the confession of three equal Gods, cannot longer be held. To be sure, in a modern view remains unchallenged the confession of God as the Creator of heaven and earth, understood as the Ultimate Love, that in the course of the cosmic evolution expresses and reveals itself progressively, first as matter, then as life,then as conscience, than as human intelligence, finally as selfless love in Jesus and in those in which Jesus lives on.
Further the confession of Jesus as his most perfect self-expression. And finally the confession of the Spirit as the vivifying activity of that Ultimate Love. The Bible as a book with "words of God". But there is much more that should change, if we have to take leave from theism and hence from the organised form of it: the religion. First our attitude towards the Bible, for all the statements of the creed are based on that Bible. But the belief in holy books, that should have come from God in the highest and therefore are considered as unfallible and binding, is a typical trait of religions.
The church also considers her Bible as a book of supernatural revelations and calls it the "Word of God". As faithful Christians that belong to the modernity we need a new approach to that "holy book". For we can not any longer call the Bible word s of God. Why not? Because words are the result of human speaking. A speaking God is a fully anthropomorphic being. Indeed, to be able to speak one needs a human physiology with lungs, vocal cords, mouth tongue etc. Moreover it supposes a human language system.
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To ascribe that all to God, is robbing him of his a absolute transcendence Why the primitive church has nevertheless thought so? Because she consisted of Jews. And these considered the Bible as the collection of words that Yahweh had communicated or even dictated Moyse and other prophets.
Because of our belonging to the modernity we cannot any longer think as they thought. Moreover the behaviour of Muslims and orthodox Jews, that still consider so their holy books and refer to them to justify inhuman deeds, shows too clear to which problems such a belief can lead. We as modern faithful can cannot longer say that God speaks, we can only say that the Ultimate Love expresses itself, for that is the modern way of understanding creation, this self-expression being the evolving cosmos, that culminates in man and finally in Jesus.
Therefore is the Bible for us not a book with unerring words of a Theos in the highest and cannot any longer serve as the absolutely sure base of doctrinal statements or of the liability of personal ideas and it makes no sense to weigh and discuss every word of it. What is then the Bible for the modern faithful? A book with words of humans, but in which mystically gifted authors have tried to express their intense experience of the transcendent Wonder. For that Wonder continuously expresses itself in the cosmos and especially in those human minds that are receptive for it.
But human minds are always minds with personal and cultural limitations and these adhere to their words, and are a source of deficiencies and even errors. Because of this mixture of divine inspiration and human deficiencies and because of the deep cultural gap between those authors and the modern readers, and because the frequent misunderstandings that arise from that gap, we should read the Bible with a critical mind.
One could compare it rightly with a goldmine, for a goldmine means concretely: tons of useless stones and grit, and therein often some ounces of gold. That's true also for the Bible. Because of this gold, and despite those tons of grit, she remains fur us holy. At the same time she is the safe reference for making out that applies in the first place to the New Testament if something lies still within the limits of our Christian worldview and what lies already outside of it.
The Ten Commandments. A third consequence of abandoning theism and hence religion, is a farewell to the Ten Commandments. If the Theos, that celestial lawgiver and punishing or rewarding judge, disappears, then disappear with him also his commandments, the biblical ten the Jews have , that formulate in reality the ethical experiences of the Jewish people, and those made by the church that refers to that Theos. These ethics of law need absolutely to be replaced.
Even Nietzsche in his parable of the fool who prophesized the total collapse of the western culture as a consequence of the "death of God", saw that most urgent necessity. What will take the place of the ethics of law? The ethics of love. For the Ultimate Reality pushes us to love and this pushing is the really absolute imperative.
In this ethics the good is not any longer that which corresponds to a law, but that which is born out of love and in the measure that is born out of love. These new ethics will to a large extent coincide with old ones, for these also proceeded from the impulse of the cosmic evolution, that itself is the progressively purer self-expression of the Ultimate Love.
This ever active impulse explains that the ethics progress towards humanisation. To the manifestations of that progression belong for instance the ban on slavery, torture, oppression, the proclamation of the absolute rights of the human person, democracy, the equality of the sexes, tolerance, all of them forms of ethical progress, accepted also however reluctantly, by the church leaders in Rome.
But the new ethics will differ clearly from the traditional church ethics on sexuality. These have been indeed formulated and imposed by celibates, tabooing each form of sexual lust outside a sacramental marriage and many forms of it within such marriages. But in the new ethics the norm to observe is not any longer the law, work of humans that ascribe their own decisions arbitrarily to the will of a Theos.
It is now selfless love. This has of course important consequences for homosexuality, premarital sex or remarriage. The soon coming Conference of Bishops in Rom, will show in how far the church leaders are ready to welcome these new ethics. The ecclesiastical power structure or hierarchy. A fourth consequence of abandoning theism and hence religion, is the necessary farewell to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Indeed, the new image of God means the end of every institution that justifies its claims with a mandate from a Theos, a God in the highest. In the modernity authority does not any longer descend from invisible powers in the highest, because there are no more such powers.
How by the way could anybody prove that the mandate he claims as coming from the Theos, is not a fake? In the view of the modern faith authority rises now from the depth of the human reality in which the Original Love expresses and reveals itself. That means that no pope or bishop can claim, more than any other faithful, a right to teach and govern, the so called magisterium. For whence would they have that magisterium? Texts in the New Testament to corroborate their claim, are of no help, for those texts are not infallible "words of God", but express only the honest views of pre-modern believers, for which all was coming from the high.
But must this farewell to the hierarchy and its magisterium not inevitably lead to arbitrariness and chaos? By no means. For every human community, surely also that one that has sprung from the radiation of the risen Jesus, produces spontaneously the structures it needs. Also the indispensable structures of authority. But those who in the community exercise power, receive their mandate from the community, in which the creative Spirit is at work, and no more from an imaginary God in the highest, who via his only begotten Son and through him via the popes and their Curia would let descend some part of his power on the hierarchs.
And these reserve that power for their own male half of mankind. But in the new view there's no reason for that inequality. Therefore it plays not any longer a role, whether the person that the community invests with authority is male or female. And to appeal to the Bible that does by the way not pronounces itself on that subject to oppose that equality, is useless, for the Bible is not a book of divine oracles, but depends from the culture in which the authors lived, and in that culture the woman played almost no role.
The end of the priesthood. With the pre-modern hierarchy disappears also the priesthood. Priests belong to the world of the religions, where they always were regarded and even venerated as the indispensable mediators between the gods or God and mankind. But for the modern faithful there is no more need of such mediators, because God is the Ultimate Love that expresses itself in all things and above all in us, humans. And would there be such need, we have Jesus and don't need other mediators.
The priests exercised their function as mediators primarily by making sacrifices of the offerings the believers brought to them. But sacrifices make unconsciously a caricature of God, as will be shown in nr. At any rate, the community around Jesus had in the two first centuries neither sacrifices nor priests. The two appear together in the third century, when the church tried to legitimate its existence by presenting itself as a religion. For whereas the Judaism in the Roman Empire was accepted as a licit religion, Christianity because it had whether sacrifices nor priests, was considered as an illicit union or club or as a kind of philosophical circle.
But when God is not any longer a Theos in the highest, there is of course no more need of priests. There is still more. The new image of God does away with the idea of which the Christian past is full, that God in the highest should by means of human representatives, the popes and the bishops, select and appoint men never women and endow them with the magical power, of which no other human disposes, to change with a particular formula bread in a human body and wine in human blood. Consequently an image of God that is accessible for the modernity, does not let room for the so called consecrations or ordinations of priests, that should elevate men never women to a level that for the other humans is inaccessible.
So instead of priests, modern faithful know only community leaders, men or women indistinctly, judges suited to animate the faith in Jesus and through him in God, and therefore chosen and appointed by the community. The end, not of the religious rituals, but of the sacraments. This statement will provoke an outcry of protest. But it is the quite inevitable consequence of the new image of God and the farewell to religion.
Christianity: The Original & The Present Reality
Sacraments indeed are rituals at the occasion of which God in the highest is thought to intervene with healing and blessing. Of this healing and these blessing, it's true, we don't see or feel anything, so we must believe that they happen, and they happen only if a number of prescriptions are observed.
But if there is no such God in the highest, of course nothing happens at all. That is very bad news for our roman-catholic church, that gives the sacraments a so central place in the Christian life, that it even holds that our eternal salvation depends from them. Of course, humans need rituals chimps and bonobo do not because they need to meet often the holy depth of the daily reality. And rituals manage that, just because they don't serve as means to attain some practical goal, are not useful, the category of usefulness belonging justly to the surface of life.
So every culture has spontaneously developed its own rituals, both religious and others, The church too has developed rituals. She calls them sacramentalia. Seven of these she calls sacraments. These sacraments have begun as church rituals with a rich symbolical content.
Think e. But they have gradually lost their symbolic expressivity. To blame for this is the pre-modern theological error that the only important thing in the sacrament is the intervention of God in the highest with his saving grace, not what we, unimportant humans, do. So the sacramental rites have been reduced little by little to the absolute minimum that was required in order that the Theos could come in action. The baptismal bath became a handful of water over the head of a baby, the bread became a paper-thin host that hardly can be called bread.
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So the sacraments became mere signals addressed to heaven that it could open its holy floodgates. What will then replace advantageously those signals, that are regarded without reason as triggering the healing intervention of God in the highest? New inspiring rituals, that can enrich, enlighten, heal us, not by a divine intervention from the outside but by fostering by their own symbolic force our humanisation.
The new image of God requires hence that we create new rituals or renew the existing ones, and create so a new liturgy, of which will treat point 8. The end of the sacrifice of the Mass. That new image of God means also the farewell to the so called sacrifice of the Mass and to everything that in the liturgy of the Mass recalls the idea of sacrifice. And this is a whole lot. Sure, Rome forbids explicitly to deny the sacrificial character of the Mass and to alter any word in the prescribed texts.
Never mind, we have to look unconditionally for another concept and for other texts. Indeed, the concept of cultic sacrifice supposes an anthropomorphic God, whose favour, like that of human authorities, one can try to win with the aid of presents. In the social life and in politics such attempts are frowned upon and even condemned as bribing and corruption. But sacrifices are the religious equivalent of that bribing. But if we stop tempting to bribe God in the highest and say farewell to the traditional interpretation of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, by which other and better interpretation can we replace it?
What becomes the Mass in the light of a new image of God? It becomes the inspiring ritual memory of the symbolic gesture with which Jesus as a sign of farewell with the aid of bread and wine made clear his desire to feed his disciples with the best of himself. This ritual memory should be an appeal to do in the daily life as Jesus has done in the Last Supper, i. The whole magic doctrine of the transsubstantiation that the Middle Ages have developed, has to be discarded too, because it can only be held, if one believes that there is a God in the highest, who in the moment that a priest pronounces some magic words, miraculously intervenes to change the nature of things.
If something really changes, is it not the bread, for this rests bread, but the signification we give the bread. Before, it was only food that laid in the bakery and could be bought, now for the faithful it becomes the symbol of the presence of Jesus in the community, who calls by that symbol upon all the members of that community to be and to do like he is and does.
In two ways he is present there: really present in the hearts of the faithful community, for faith in him and through him in God means real unity with him, and symbolically present in the bread and the wine. But a symbolic presence too is a kind of real presence. For what is not real, is not existing either. The end of the liturgy as a whole of rules of protocol. As has been said, the new image of God, calls for a new liturgy, and not only for the Eucharist.
The actual liturgy is a kind of protocol, that unconsciously copies the protocol that in past ages also in some measure still today one had to observe, if he approached a king or a pope. As if God were a king that sits enthroned in heaven and had issued himself all those liturgical prescriptions. That protocol prescribes meticulously what the celebrating priest has to put on in order to appear before God, which texts he has to read aloud, which prayers he has to say, which gestures he has to make, such as to fold his hands or to rise hem to heaven or to kneel or bow down to moisten his fingertips, to swing the censer, etc.
In a pre-modern belief that protocol is considered as the express Will of God, so that one burdens himself with guilt, if he does not observe it careful. But in the light of the new image of God as the Ultimate, all penetrating Love, it becomes senseless. By what should it be replaced? By reunions of prayer of the faithful in which they try or the president of the reunion tries to express a well as possible, their union with Jesus and through him with God. And they should do that with words and images and gestures of their own time, and not any longer with those of the early Middle Ages as it is the case in the pre-modern liturgy.
And in an old peoples home they should do that with other words and forms than for a youth group. And in black Africa with others than in Rome. The end of supplication and of intercession. The new image of God means also a farewell to the prayer of supplication. For the creative Ultimate Love is by no means an anthropomorphic and omnipotent ruler, whom one could move, by beseeching him long enough, to intervene in the course of the human affairs, what means to switch of for a brief moment the inflexible natural laws.
But if he cannot intervene anyway, it makes no sense to invocate his help. That Jesus exhorts us to beseech God, proves only that also he belonged to the pre-modern world, in which everybody thought that God that could intervene at will and didn't know that this would mean the collapse of the universe. The only form of supplication that makes sense, is praying that our love may grow. Then it is the Ultimate Love itself that inspires us that desire and if we respond to that impulse by praying that we may love more, we let this love enter us. The farewell to the prayer of supplication means at any rate the end of invoking the intercession of the saints.
For to invoke them is a kind of square, for it is to attempt to move them to attempt to move the divine ruler, whom we think we cannot move by ourselves because we are too insignificant in his eyes. This invoking of the saints is a very human reaction, but makes a caricature of the Ultimate Love. It is interesting to know that till about the end of the first millennium the official prayers of the church don't mention the intercession of the saints.
What replaces then that very human praxis of the prayer of supplication, with or without intercessors, that stems from time immemorial, as humans felt themselves confronted with invisible powers they feared and in the same time the help of which they needed, and did not yet know what was really the matter? A spirituality of abandon, born from the conscience that the Ultimate Love urges us to further humanisation, and that we have nothing else to do as to follow its impulse.
Prayer of supplication makes only sense, if it springs from our essential need, our lack of love, and is not a call for things that are accidental and transitory, but a desire that the Love, that is God, may fill us more and more. The waning of the so called vertical dimension of the faith. That new image of God means also the waning of the traditional emphasis on piety and obedience That emphasis suggests too clear that one sees God as a ruler in the highest, a view that marks the pre-modern Christianity.
By what should that be replaced? By an emphasis on the horizontal dimension, that means on care, on service, on selfless commitment for a more human society, called by Jesus the Kingdom of God. Then God, the Ultimate Love, cannot but push the cosmos, that is his evolving self-expression, towards more love, and the more this happens, the more he reigns. And he pushes us humans towards that goal by urging us to give up our ego and to unite us with our fellow humans.
That is why the essential task of a Christian consist in the commitment for mankind and cosmos, the so called diaconia, much more than in the liturgy. Jesus himself lets us know that, where he gives the reconciliation with the "brother" priority to the making of sacrifices, and where he does not at all agree with them that call "Lord, Lord", but only with them that do the will of his Father. And the will of his Father is his formulation of that was has been called here the urging of the Ultimate Love.
What rests after that all of the millenarian catholic monument, if one gives up the Theos and factually becomes an a-theistic faithful? Don't wonder: the essence rests. And that is not the formulation of the creed, not a book with infallible words of God himself, not the ten commandments, not an autocratic hierarchy, not the sacraments and the priesthood and the sacrifice of the Mass and the minute rules of a liturgical protocol, not the prayer of supplication and not the obedience to church rules.
But he should not leave the community. He should consider that the pre-modern way of faith has been the way that has guided countless Christians to a deep union with the Ultimate Love and to an outstanding degree of humanity. It remains such a way for all our fellow Christians who don' yet have seen that times have changed.
It has seemed in the beginning that faith and modernity exclude each other. Not only they don't, but even they complete and enrich each other. The Christian faith enriches the modernity by freeing her von her blindness to a Reality that transcends us absolutely and in the same time embraces us. Without that insight the humanist confession of the absolute value of the human person and the human rights misses its indispensable fundament. For without the creative Absolute love that urges the cosmos and mankind to a further evolution, the human race is only a little more evolved branch of the mammal family that has not such absolute value.
And that evolution to homo sapiens would be only the accidental result of blind mutations and natural selection during astronomic long periods. Moreover the human person with his inviolable rights would only be the result of the organic evolution of a zygote, that in the view of the modern humanism has no rights at all. Where from could then this absolute value come? The modernity on the other hand enriches our faith and completes it, by freeing it from the anthropomorphic image of a Theos in the highest, that it has inherited from prehistoric generations and that it has not yet risked to give up, although it was only the consequence of sheer ignorance.
That image is in reality a screen between us and the Ultimate Love. And we shall look to that Ultimate Reality and not to that finger. Moreover, if the cosmos is the self-expression of the Mystery that is God, then I too belong to that self-expression and God becomes in an unconceivable way near to me, becomes deeper myself than my deepest self. And so I can find him, who is my deepest need, always and everywhere. At the same time modernity purifies the traditional faith from the intolerance, the striving for power, the fanaticism, the superstitions, the illusions and fears that proliferate in all religions.
And it enriches faith by its insistence on the existential, the intramundane, the rational, the real. Modernity and faith go indeed together. And that is good so. For they need each other very much. Can Christianity and modernity go together? Videtur quod non The answer to this question should begin in the same manner as Aquinas in his Summa Theologica starts his treatment of such questions, i. The roots of this antagonism Undoubtedly, modern culture and Christianity drift away from each other.
Sed contra est quod But there is an escape from that menace. Faced with the polytheism of the Greek world, Justin sees in philosophy an ally of Christianity since it has followed reason; now this reason is found in its totality only in Jesus Christ, the Logos in person.
Only Christians know the Logos in its entirety. Hence from the beginning there have been those who have lived in accordance with the Logos, and in this sense there have been "Christians" even though the knowledge they have had of the seminal Logos has only been partial.
But in any case the partial and seminal presence of the Logos is a gift and a divine grace. The Logos is the power of these "seeds of truth". For Clement of Alexandria, man is rational to the extent that he participates in the Logos, the true reason that governs the universe. He has full access to this reason if he is converted and follows Jesus, the Logos incarnate. On the other hand, only in Jesus, the light which enlightens every man, can one contemplate the perfect Logos, the whole truth. The fragments of truth belong to the whole.
Justin and Clement are at one in pointing out that these fragments of the total truth known to the Greeks come, in part at least, from Moses and the prophets. The latter are older than the philosophers. Irenaeus makes no direct use of the idea of the seeds of the word. But he stresses very much that at all moments in history the Logos has been close to human beings, has accompanied them, in view of the incarnation; 14 with the incarnation, Jesus, in bringing himself, has brought all newness. Salvation is tied therefore to the appearance of Jesus, even though this appearance had already been announced and its effects in a certain sense anticipated.
The Son of God has united himself to every man cf. GS 22; Redemptoris missio , 6 , among many other places. The idea is repeated frequently in the fathers, who take their inspiration from some passages in the New Testament. One of the passages which gave rise to this interpretation is the parable of the lost sheep cf.
Mt ; Lk : The latter is identified with the erring human race, which Jesus has come to seek out. In assuming human nature, the Son has placed all of humanity on his shoulders to present it to the Father. Gregory of Nyssa expresses himself thus:. The Savior takes the whole sheep on his shoulders, for The shepherd carries it on his shoulders, that is to say, on his divinity Having taken this sheep upon himself, he makes it one with himself" 16 John , "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us", has also been interpreted on not a few occasions in the sense of dwelling "within us", that is to say, within each person; from the idea of his being in us one can go easily to that of our being in him.
The fathers do not forget that this union of human beings in the body of Christ is brought about above all in baptism and the eucharist. But the union of all in Christ through his assuming our nature constitutes an objective presupposition on the basis of which the believer grows in personal union with Jesus. The universal significance of Christ is also revealed for the early Christians in the fact that he liberates man from the princes of this world, who keep him imprisoned in his own particular and national interests.
The Christological dimension of the image [of God]. Moreover the council indicates that only " in mysterio Verbi incarnati mysterium hominis vere darescit " ibid. Among other bases for this affirmation, a passage in Tertullian is mentioned according to which, in molding Adam from the clay of the earth, God was already thinking of Christ, who was to become incarnate. If man's destiny is to bear the image of the heavenly man 1 Cor it does not appear mistaken to think that in every man there must be a certain internal disposition toward this end.
Only in Jesus can human beings be saved, and therefore Christianity has an evident claim to universality. The Christian message is directed consequently to all human beings and has to be announced to all. Some texts from the New Testament and from the oldest Christian tradition hint that Christ has a universal significance which is not reducible to that which we have just mentioned. With his coming into the world, Jesus enlightens every human being; he is the final and definitive Adam to whom all are called to be conformed, etc.
The idea of the universal presence of Jesus is found, worked out in somewhat more detail, in the ancient doctrine of the logos spermatikos. But even there a clear distinction is drawn between the full appearance of the Logos in Jesus and the presence of the seeds of the Logos in those who do not know him. This presence, which is real, excludes neither error nor contradiction. Jesus leads all of history toward its fulfillment cf. GS 10, If salvation is bound up with the historical appearance of Jesus, personal adherence to him in faith cannot be a matter of indifference for anyone.
Only in the Church, which is in historical continuity with Jesus, can his mystery be fully lived out. Hence the inescapable necessity for the Church of announcing Christ.
Other possibilities of salvific "mediation" cannot be seen in isolation from the man Jesus, the only mediator. It will be more difficult to determine how human beings who do not know Jesus and other religions are related to Jesus. Mention should be made of the mysterious ways of the Spirit, who gives to all the possibility of being associated with the paschal mystery GS 22 and whose work cannot be without reference to Christ Redemptoris missio , The question of the salvific value of religions as such must be situated in the context of the universal active presence of the Spirit of Christ.
Since Jesus is the only mediator, who carries out the saving plan of the one God the Father, salvation is one and the same for all human beings: full conformity to Jesus and communion with him in participation in his divine sonship. Consequently one must rule out the existence of different economies of salvation for those who believe in Jesus and those who do not believe in him.
There can be no roads leading to God that do not converge in the only road which is Christ cf. Jn The universality of the salvific action of Christ cannot be understood without the universal action of the Holy Spirit. An initial element of this universality of the work of the Holy Spirit is already found in creation. And the book of Wisdom points out that "the spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing and knows what man says. If this can be said of the whole universe, it is especially true of man, created in the image and likeness of God, according to Genesis — God makes man so that he, God, may be present in him, may dwell in him, to look on him with good will, to be joined to him, to be his friend.
Thus we can speak of an original friendship, an amicitia originate , of man with God and of God with man Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. Life in general—and man's in particular—is placed in a more or less explicit relationship with the Spirit of God in various places in the Old Testament cf. Ps ; Job ; Eccl John Paul II links the creation of man in the image of God and in divine friendship to the communication of the Spirit cf.
Dominum et vivificantem , 12, The tragedy of sin is this: Instead of closeness between God and man, there is a distance. The spirit of darkness presents God as man's enemy, as a threat cf. Gen —5; Dominum et vivificantem , But God has drawn close to man through the different covenants of which the Old Testament speaks. From the beginning, the "image and likeness" signifies a capacity for personal relationship with God and therefore the capacity for a covenant.
Thus God gradually drew close to men through the different covenants with Noah cf. Gen ff. In the new covenant God drew so close to man that he sent his own Son into the world, becoming incarnate through the action of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The new covenant, in contrast to the old, is not of the letter but of the Spirit 2 Cor It is the new and universal covenant, the covenant of the universality of the Spirit. Universality means versus unum , toward one. The word spirit means movement, and this movement includes the "toward", the direction.
The Spirit is called dynamis power Acts and dynamis includes the possibility of a direction. From the words of Jesus about the Spirit, the Paraclete, one can conclude that the "to be toward" is a reference to Jesus. The tight bond between the Spirit and Christ is shown in the anointing of Jesus. Jesus Christ means precisely: Jesus is the anointed of God with the ointment of the Spirit: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me" Lk ; Is —2.
God has anointed Jesus "with the Holy Spirit and with power", and thus he "went about doing good works and healing all who were in the grip of the devil"' Acts As Irenaeus said:. He who anoints is the Father, the anointed is the Son, and the Spirit is the unction or the anointing. As the Word says through Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me' Is —2 , signifying the Father who anoints, the Son who is anointed, and the unction which is the Spirit.
The universality of the covenant of the Spirit is therefore that of the covenant in Jesus. He has offered himself to the Father through the eternal Spirit Heb , in whom he has been anointed. This anointing is extended to the whole Christ, to the Christians anointed by the Spirit and to the Church. Ignatius of Antioch already indicated that Jesus received the anointing "in order to breathe incorruption into his Church".
In fact, just as between the surface of the body and the anointing of oil neither reason nor sense knows any intermediaries, so the contact of Son with the Spirit is equally immediate; therefore, he who is about to enter into contact with the Son through faith must of necessity enter beforehand into contact with the oil. Neither part lacks the Holy Spirit. The whole Christ includes all men in a certain way, because Christ has united himself to all men GS Jesus himself says: "As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me" Mt The Church is the privileged place for the action of the Spirit.
In her, the body of Christ, the Spirit stirs up different gifts for the common good cf. The formula of Irenaeus is well known: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Church, and where the Church is, there is the Spirit of the Lord and all grace. Some passages of the New Testament seem to insinuate the universal scope of the Spirit's action, always in relationship with the evangelizing mission of the Church, which must reach out to all men. The Holy Spirit precedes and guides the preaching; he is at the origin of the mission to the pagans Acts , 44— The overcoming of the sin of Babel will take place in the Spirit.
There is a great contrast between the work of those who built the tower of Babel and the work of the Holy Spirit. Those who built the tower of Babel wanted to storm heaven, God's dwelling place, by their own powers. The Holy Spirit, who has descended from heaven as a gift, makes it possible to speak all languages and to hear, each in his own tongue, the wonderful works of God cf.
Acts — The tower of Babel was an effort to achieve unity without universality: "Let us make a name for ourselves [a sign of unity]; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth" Gen Pentecost was the gift of universality in unity: "All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them" Acts In the gift of the Spirit of Pentecost can be seen also the perfection of the covenant of Sinai cf. Ex ff. The gift of the Spirit is the gift of Jesus, who has been raised and ascended into heaven at the right hand of the Father Acts ; cf.
Jn , 26; ; ; ; this is a constant teaching in the New Testament. The resurrection of Jesus itself is realized through the intervention of the Spirit cf. Rom ; Rom ; Gal ; Phil ; Acts Therefore one cannot think about a universal action of the Spirit which is not related to a universal action of Jesus.
The fathers did not hesitate to put this into relief. Only through the action of the Spirit can we men be conformed to the image of the risen Jesus, the new Adam, in whom man definitively acquires the dignity to which he has been called from the beginning: "All of us, gazing on the Lord's glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image by the Lord who is the Spirit" 2 Cor Man, who has been created in the image of God through the presence of the Spirit, is re-created in the image of God or of Christ because of the action of the Spirit.
The Father is the painter; the Son is the model after whom man is painted; the Holy Spirit is the artist s brush used to paint man in creation and in redemption. Thus the Holy Spirit leads to Christ. Christ, in his turn, directs all to the Father. No one comes to the Father save through Jesus, because he is the way Jn , but it is the Holy Spirit who guides the disciples to the whole truth Jn — The word he will guide Greek: hodegesei includes the way Greek: hodos. The Holy Spirit guides therefore along the way that Jesus is, the way that leads to the Father. And the name Paraclete , used by John, shows us that the Spirit is the advocate in the judgment which begins in Jerusalem and continues in history The Spirit, the Paraclete, will defend Jesus from the accusations made against him in the person of his disciples cf.
Jn — The Holy Spirit is thus the witness to Christ, and through him they are able to be disciples: "He will bear witness on my behalf. You must bear witness as well, for you have been with me from the beginning" Jn The Spirit, therefore, is the gift of Jesus and leads to him, although the specific way that leads men is known only by God.
Vatican II has clearly formulated this matter: "For since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" GS There is no sense in affirming a universality of the action of the Spirit which is not encountered in relationship with the meaning of Jesus, the incarnate Son, dead and risen.
All men by virtue of the work of the Spirit can enter into relationship with Jesus, who lived, died and rose in a specific place and at a specific time. On the other hand, the action of the Spirit is not limited to the intimate and personal aspects of man but embraces also the social dimensions. He is therefore not an alternative to Christ, nor does he fill a sort of void which is sometimes suggested as existing between Christ and the Logos.
Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood in reference to Christ" Redemptoris missio , The privileged sphere of the Spirit's action is the Church, the body of Christ.
But all peoples are called, in different ways, to the unity of the people of God that the Spirit promotes: "This characteristic of universality which adorns the people of God is a gift from the Lord Himself. By reason of it, the Catholic Church strives constantly and with due effect to bring all humanity and all its possessions back to its source in Christ, with Him as its head and united in His Spirit All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it.
And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation" LG It is the very universality of the salvific action of Christ and of the Spirit that leads us to ask about the function of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. It is not possible to develop a theology of the religions without taking into account the universal salvific mission of the Church, attested to by Holy Scripture and by the tradition of faith of the Church.
A theological evaluation of the religions was impeded over a long time because of the principle extra ecclesiam nulla salus , understood in an exclusivist sense. With the doctrine about the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation or the sacrament of the kingdom of God , theology seeks to respond to the new way of posing the problem.
The primary question today is not whether men can attain salvation even if they do not belong to the visible Catholic Church; this possibility is considered theologically certain. The plurality of religions, something increasingly evident to Christians, better knowledge of these religions and the necessary dialogue with them, without leaving until the end the clearer awareness of the spatial and temporal frontiers of the Church—all these considerations make us ask whether one can nonetheless speak about the necessity of the Church for salvation and about the compatibility of this principle with the universal salvific will of God.
Jesus linked the proclamation of the kingdom of God with his Church. After Jesus' death and resurrection, the reunion of the people of God, now in the name of Jesus Christ, took place. The Church of Jews and gentiles was understood as a work of God and as the community in which one experienced the action of the Lord exalted in the heavens and his Spirit. With faith in Jesus Christ, the universal mediator of salvation, was joined baptism in his name; this mediated participation in his redemptive death, pardon of sins and entrance into the community of salvation cf.
Mk ; Jn For this reason baptism is compared with the ark of salvation 1 Pet ff. According to the New Testament, the necessity of the Church for salvation is based on the unique salvific mediation of Jesus. One speaks of the necessity of the Church for salvation in two senses: the necessity of belonging to the Church for those who believe in Jesus and the necessity for salvation of the ministry of the Church which, on mission from God, must be at the service of the coming of the kingdom of God. In his encyclical Mystici Corporis , Pius XII addresses the question, How are those who attain salvation outside visible communion with the Church related to her?
He says that they are oriented to the mystical body of Christ by a yearning and desire of which they are not aware DS The opposition of the American Jesuit Leonard Feeney, who insisted on the exclusivist interpretation of the expression extra ecclesiam nulla solus , afforded the occasion for the letter of the Holy Office, dated 8 August ,, to the archbishop of Boston, which rejected Feeney s interpretation and clarified the teaching of Pius XII. The letter distinguishes between the necessity of belonging to the Church for salvation necessitas praecepti and the necessity of the indispensable means of salvation intrinseca necessitas ; in relationship to the latter, the Church is a general help for salvation DS — In the case of invincible ignorance the implicit desire of belonging to the Church suffices; this desire will always be present when a man aspires to conform his will to that of God DS But faith, in the sense of Hebrews , and love are always necessary with intrinsic necessity DS Vatican Council II makes its own the expression extra ecclesiam nulla salus.
But in using it the council explicitly directs itself to Catholics and limits its validity to those who know the necessity of the Church for salvation. The council holds that the affirmation is based on the necessity of faith and of baptism affirmed by Christ LG In this way the council aligned itself in continuity with the teaching of Pius XII, but emphasized more clearly the original parenthentical character of this expression.
In contrast to Pius XII, the council refused to speak of a votum implicitum implicit desire and applied the concept of the votum only to the explicit desire of catechumens to belong to the Church LG With regard to non-Christians, it said that they are ordered in diverse ways to the people of God. In accord with the different ways with which the salvific will of God embraces non-Christians, the council distinguished four groups: first, Jews; second, Muslims; third, those who without fault are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and do not know the Church but who search for God with a sincere heart and try to fulfill his will as known through conscience; fourth, those who without fault have not yet reached an express knowledge of God but who nonetheless try to lead a good life LG The gifts which God offers all men for directing themselves to salvation are rooted, according to the council, in his universal salvific will LG 2, 3, 26; AG 7.
The fact that even non-Christians are ordered to the people of God is rooted in the fact that the universal call to salvation includes the vocation of all men to the catholic unity of the people of God LG The council holds that the close relationship of both vocations is rooted in the unique mediation of Christ, who in his body that is the Church makes himself present in our midst LG Thus the original meaning is restored to the expression extra ecclesiam nulla salus , namely, that of exhorting the members of the Church to be faithful.
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium speaks of a gradual ordering to the Church from the perspective of the universal call to salvation, which includes the call to the Church. But on the other hand the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes opens up a wider Christological, pneumatological and soteriological perspective.
What it says about Christians is also valid for all men of good will, in whose hearts grace works in an invisible way. They also can be associated with the paschal mystery through the Holy Spirit, and they can consequently be conformed to the death of Christ and be on the road to the encounter of the resurrection GS When non-Christians, justified by means of the grace of God, are associated with the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, they are also associated with the mystery of his body, which is the Church.
The mystery of the Church in Christ is a dynamic reality in the Holy Spirit. Although the visible expression of belonging to the Church is lacking to this spiritual union, justified non-Christians are included in the Church, "the Mystical Body of Christ" and "a spiritual community" LG 8. In this sense the fathers of the Church were able to say that justified non-Christians belong to the ecclesia ab Abel. While these are reunited in the universal Church joined to the Father LG 2 , those who certainly belong "to the body" but not "to the heart" of the Church because they do not persevere in love will not be saved LG Therefore, one can speak not only in general of an ordering of justified non-Christians to the Church, but also of a bond with the mystery of Christ and his body, the Church.
But one ought not to speak of belonging or membership, not even of a gradual belonging, to the Church or of an imperfect communion with the Church, something reserved for non-Catholic Christians UR 3; LG 15 ; for the Church in her essence is a complex reality constituted by a visible union and a spiritual communion. Of course, those non-Christians who are not culpable of not belonging to the Church enter into the communion of those called to the kingdom of God; they do so by putting into practice love of God and neighbor; this communion will be revealed as the ecclesia universalis at the consummation of the kingdom of God and of Christ.
When it was presupposed that all would enter into contact with the Church, the necessity of the Church for salvation was understood above all as the necessity of belonging to it. Since the Church has been made aware of her condition as a minority, both diachronically and synchronically, the necessity of the universal salvific function of the Church has become a matter of prime importance.
This universal mission and this sacramental efficacy in the order of salvation have found their theological expression in calling the Church the universal sacrament of salvation. As such, the Church is at the service of the coming of the kingdom of God, in the union of all men with God and in the unity of men among themselves LG 1. God in fact has revealed himself as love, not only because he gives us already a part in the kingdom of God and its fruits, but also because he calls us and frees us to collaborate in the coming of his kingdom. Thus the Church is not only a sign, but also an instrument of the kingdom of God, which breaks out with force.
The Church carries out her mission as the universal sacrament of salvation in martyria , leitourgia and diakonia. Through the martyria of the Gospel of universal redemption carried out by Jesus Christ, the Church announces to all men the paschal mystery of salvation, which is offered to them or which they already live without knowing it. As the universal sacrament of salvation, the Church is essentially a missionary Church. For God in his love has not only called men to attain their final salvation in communion with him. In the leitourgia , the celebration of the paschal mystery, the Church fulfills her mission of priestly service in representing all humankind.
In a way that, in accord with Gods will, it is efficacious for all men, it makes present the representation of Christ who "was made sin" for us 2 Cor and who in our place "was hanged on the tree" Gal in order to free us from sin LG Finally, in the diakonia the Church bears witness to the loving gift of God to men and of the eruption of the kingdom of justice, of love and of peace.
Also belonging to the mission of the Church as universal sacrament of salvation is the fact that "whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men For the action of the Spirit at times even visibly precedes the apostolic activity of the Church AG 4 and his action can be shown also in the religious search and restlessness of men.
The paschal mystery into which, in the way God knows, all men can be incorporated is the salvific reality which embraces all mankind, which unites beforehand the Church with those non-Christians to whom she directs herself and to whose service her revelation must always be directed. To the extent to which the Church recognizes, discerns and makes her own the truth and the good that the Holy Spirit has worked in the words and deeds of non-Christians, she makes herself to be more and more the true Catholic Church, "which speaks all tongues, understands and accepts all tongues in her love, and so supersedes the divisiveness of Babel" AG 4.
Established by Christ as a communion of life, charity and truth, it is also used by Him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth cf. Mt " LG 9. Now that the salvific initiative of the Father, the universal mediation of Christ, the universal gift of the Spirit, the function of the Church in the salvation of all have been examined, we have the elements for providing a sketch of a theology of religions.
In the face of the new situation created by religious pluralism, the question arises again about the universal significance of Jesus Christ in relationship to other religions and the function which these may play in God's plan, which is nothing other than bringing all things into one in Christ Eph There is nothing surprising that old themes from the tradition are used to illuminate new situations.
Positively, Ave must keep in mind the universal significance of Jesus, of his Spirit and also of the Church. The Church in truth proclaims the Gospel, is at the service of human communion and represents all of humanity through her priestly service in the liturgical celebration of the paschal mystery. Negatively, this universality is exclusive. On these coordinates are inscribed the specific problems that are dealt with in the following. We will study some of the points already highlighted in the status quaestionis.
The object of discussion today is not the possibility of salvation outside the Church of those who live according to their conscience. This salvation, as was seen before, is not produced independently of Christ and his Church. It is based on the universal presence of the Spirit, which cannot be separated from the paschal mystery of Jesus GS 22; Redemptoris missio , 10, etc.
Some texts of Vatican Council II deal specifically with non-Christian religions: Those which have not yet received or heard the Gospel are oriented in different ways to the people of God, and belonging to these different religions does not seem to be indifferent to the effects of this "orientation" LG It is recognized that in the different religions are rays of truth which illuminate all men NA 2 and seeds of the word AG 11 ; because of Gods disposing, there are in these religions elements of truth and goodness OT 16 ; one finds elements of truth, of grace and goodness not only in the hearts of men but also in the rites and customs of peoples, although all must be "healed, elevated and completed" AG 9; LG Whether the religions as such can have salvific value is a point that remains open.
The encyclical Redemptoris missio , following and developing the way traced by Vatican Council II, has emphasized more clearly the presence of the Holy Spirit not only in men of good will taken individually, but also in society and history, in peoples, in cultures, in religions, always with reference to Christ nos.
A universal action of the Spirit exists which cannot be separated from or confused with the specific, peculiar action that develops in the body of Christ which is the Church ibid. From the formulation of the third chapter of the encyclical, titled "The Holy Spirit, Principal Agent of Mission", it appears that it can be deduced that these two forms of presence and action of the Spirit are derived from the paschal mystery In fact, after developing the idea of the mission set into motion by the Holy Spirit in nos. At the end of no.
The distinction between the two ways of the Holy Spirit's acting cannot lead us to separate them as if only the first were related to the salvific mystery of Christ. Again there is talk of the presence of the Spirit and the action of God in the religions in nos. The religions are a challenge to the Church, because they stimulate her to recognize the signs of the presence of Christ and the action of the Spirit. He does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression, even when they contain 'gaps, insufficiencies and errors' Paul VI " Redemptoris missio , Also in this context, the different way that Christ makes God present with his Gospel is singled out.
Given this explicit recognition of the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the religions, one cannot exclude the possibility that they exercise as such a certain salvific function; that is, despite their ambiguity, they help men achieve their ultimate end. In the religions is explicitly thematized the relationship of man with the Absolute, his transcendental dimension.
It would be difficult to think that what the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men taken as individuals would have salvific value and not think that what the Holy Spirit works in the religions and cultures would not have such value. The recent magisterium does not seem to authorize such a drastic distinction. On the other hand, it is necessary to note that many of the texts to which we have referred not only speak of the religions, but also in conjunction with them speak of cultures, the history of peoples, etc.
All these can also be "touched" by elements of grace. In the religions the same Spirit who guides the Church is at work. But the universal presence of the Spirit cannot be compared to his special presence in the Church of Christ. Although one cannot exclude the salvific value of the religions, this does not mean that everything in them is salvific. One cannot forget the presence of the spirit of evil, the inheritance of sin, the imperfection of human response to God s action, etc.
Only the Church is the body of Christ, and only in it is given in its full intensity the presence of the Spirit. Therefore, to no one can belonging to the Church of Christ and participation in the fullness of the saving gifts which alone are found in it be a matter of indifference Redemptoris missio , The religions can exercise the function of a praeparatio evangelica ; they can prepare different peoples and cultures for welcoming the saving event, which has already taken place.
In this sense, however, their function cannot be compared to that of the Old Testament, which was the preparation of the very event of Christ. Salvation is obtained through the gift of God in Christ, but not without human response and acceptance. The religions can also help the human response, insofar as they impel man to seek God, to act in accord with his conscience, to live a good life cf.
Wouldn’t You Love to Know: Towards a Christian View of Reality
LG 16; also Veritatis splendor , 94; the moral sense of peoples and religious traditions put the action of the Spirit of God into relief. The search for the good is in its ultimate sense a religious attitude cf. Veritatis splendor , 9, It is the human response to the divine invitation, which is always received in and through Christ. The religions can therefore be, in the terms indicated, means helping the salvation of their followers, but they cannot be compared to the function that the Church realizes for the salvation of Christians and those who are not.
The affirmation of the possibility of the existence of salvific elements in the religions does not imply in itself a judgment about the presence of these elements in each one of the specific religions. On the other hand, the love of God and of one's neighbor, made possible in the final analysis by Jesus the sole mediator, is the only way to reach God himself. The religions can be carriers of saving truth only insofar as they raise men to true love. If it is true that this can be found in those who do not practice any religion, it nonetheless seems that true love for God must lead to adoration and religious practice in union with other men.
The specificity and unrepeatability of divine revelation in Jesus Christ is based on the fact that only in his person does the triune God communicate himself. Therefore, from this it follows that in the strict sense one cannot speak of the revelation of God save insofar as God gives himself of himself.
Christ is thus at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation DV 2. The theological concept of revelation cannot be confused with that of religious phenomenology religions of revelation, those which consider themselves based on divine revelation. Only in Christ and in his Spirit has God given himself completely to men; consequently, only when this self-communication gives itself to be known is there given the revelation of God in the full sense. The gift which God makes of himself and his revelation are two inseparable aspects of the Jesus event. Before the coming of Christ, God revealed himself in a special way to the people of Israel as the only living and true God.
Insofar as they bear witness to this revelation, the books of the Old Testament are the word of God and have a perennial value cf. DV Only in the New Testament do the books of the Old Testament receive and manifest their complete meaning cf. But in Judaism the true divine revelation of the Old Testament perdures.
Certain elements of biblical revelation have been recognized by Islam, which has interpreted them in a definite context. God has given himself to be known and continues to give himself to be known by men in many ways: through the works of creation cf. Wis ; Rom —20 , through the judgments of conscience cf. Rom —15 , etc. God can enlighten men in different ways. Fidelity to God can give rise to a kind of knowledge through connaturality. The religious traditions have been characterized by "sincere individuals marked by the Spirit of God" "Dialogue and Proclamation", The action of the Spirit does not allow itself to go unperceived in some way by human beings.
If, according to the teaching of the Church, "the seeds of the word" and "rays of the truth" are found in the religions, one cannot exclude from them elements of a true knowledge of God, albeit with imperfections cf. Redemptoris missio , The gnoseological dimension cannot be totally absent where we recognize elements of grace and of salvation. But although God has been able to enlighten men in different ways, we are never guaranteed that these lights will be properly welcomed and interpreted by those to whom they are given.
Only in Jesus do we have the guarantee of the full welcoming of the will of God the Father. The Spirit assisted the apostles in a special way in bearing witness to Jesus and in transmitting his message; from the apostolic preaching the New Testament emerged and thanks to it also the Church received the Old Testament. The divine inspiration which the Church recognizes in the writings of the Old and New Testaments assures us that she has recognized in them all and only what God wanted written about himself. Not all religions have sacred books. Although one cannot explicitly exclude any divine illumination in the composition of those books in the religions which have them , it is much more fitting to reserve the qualification of inspired to the books of the canon cf.
The expression the word of God has been reserved in the tradition for the writings of the two testaments. The distinction is clearly included in the ancient ecclesiastical writers, who have recognized seeds of the Word in philosophical and religious writings. The sacred books of the different religions, even when they can form part of an evangelic preparation, cannot be considered equivalent to the Old Testament, which is the immediate preparation for the coming of Christ to the world.
It is also a necessity in the present situation of the world. We know that this dialogue is the major preoccupation of the pluralist theology of the religions during recent times. In order to make this dialogue possible, the representatives of these theologies think that it is necessary for Christians to get rid of any claim of superiority and absoluteness.
It is necessary [they think] to consider all the religions as having equal value. They think that one claim of superiority is to consider Jesus to be the sole savior and mediator for all men. Abandoning this claim is therefore considered essential in order for the dialogue to take place. This is undoubtedly the most important issue we must confront.
Faced with this way of setting the stage, we must show that Catholic theology in no way undervalues or does not appreciate the other religions when it affirms that everything true and worthy of value in the other religions comes from Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is the best way that the Christian has of expressing his appreciation for these religions.
Both seek dialogue with them, without prejudices and without wearisome polemics. But the basic difference between the two starting points [the plurality-of-religions school and Catholic theology and the magisterium] is found in the position taken regarding the theological problem of truth and at the same time regarding the Christian faith. The teaching of the Church on the theology of the religions presents its' argument from the center of the truth of Christian faith.
It takes into account, on the one hand, the Pauline teaching of the natural knowledge of God and at the same time expresses its confidence in the universal action of the Spirit. It sees both lines anchored in the theological tradition. It values the truth, the good and the beauty of the religions from the inmost depths of the truth of faith itself, but it does not attribute in general the same validity to the truth claim of other religions.
To do so would lead to indifference, that is to say, to not taking seriously either one's own truth claim or the truth claim of another. The theology of the religions which we find in official documents argues from the very center of faith. With regard to the way of proceeding taken by pluralist theologies and weighing the different opinions and constant changes which take place in them, it can be affirmed that at bottom they hold an "ecumenical" strategy of dialogue; that is, they are preoccupied with restoring unity among the different religions.
But this unity [according to the pluralist view] can be achieved only by eliminating aspects of one's own self-understanding. It—the pluralist view—seeks to gain unity by denying any value to [religious] differences, which are regarded as something threatening; it believes that at least these must be eliminated as particularities or reductions proper to a specific culture.
There are many aspects of the change in the way one understands one's own faith in the pluralist theology of the religions. We note the most important: a on the historical level a schema of three phases— exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism—is suggested, a schema which reaches its culmination in pluralism; it is supposed, erroneously, that only the last position—pluralism—is helpful in giving true attention to other religions and achieving religious peace; b on the level of the theory of knowledge, the truth capacity of theological affirmations forms of expression specific to a culture is reduced or suppressed theological affirmations are made the equivalent of mythologies ; and c on the level of theology a platform of unity is sought; [but] the possibility of recognizing the equal dignity [of religions] is purchased by a methodical partialization and reduction of ecclesiocentrism to Christocentrism and of Christocentrism to theocentrism, while an undefined concept of God is suggested , and by the modification and reduction of the specific contents of faith, especially in Christology.
In an epoch characterized by a pluralism of the marketplace, this theology acquires a high degree of plausibility, but only when it is not applied to the position of the interlocutor in the dialogue. The religious dialogue comes to an end the moment one of the following possibilities is presented: a that the interlocutor recognizes the thesis of "equal dignity" as historically plural; b that he accepts for his own religion the thesis of the limitation or suppression of the truth capacity of all theological affirmations; or c he modifies his own theological method and the content of his own affirmations of faith in such a way that they are valid only in relationship to the canons of his own religiosity.
In truth, there is nothing to be done except to take account of this indistinct plurality. Therefore, the pluralist theology, as a strategy of dialogue among the religions, not only is not justified in consideration of the truth claim of one's own religion, but simultaneously destroys the truth claim of the other side. Faced with the historical, epistemological or theological oversimplification of the relationship between Christianity and the other religions in the pluralist theology, it is necessary to take as our point of departure the different vision of the religions in the declaration Nostra Aetate of Vatican Council II.
It describes what the religions of the world have in common, to wit, the attempt "to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each [religion] in its own manner, by proposing 'ways', comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites" no. With Islam, the Church has more in common, since it recognizes that its followers "adore the one God Recognizing in total clarity what separates us, we cannot, nonetheless, ignore common elements in history and in doctrine.
Christianity is united with Judaism in its origin and in their rich common heritage. The history of the covenant with Israel, the confession of the one and only God who reveals himself in that history, the hope in God who comes and in his future kingdom—all this is common to Jews and Christians cf NA 4.
A Christian theology of the religions must be able to express theologically the common elements and the differences between its own faith and the convictions of different religious groups. The council situates the task in a tension between two aspects: On the one hand, it contemplates the unity of the human race based on a common origin NA 1. For this reason, anchored in the theology of creation, "the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions" NA 2. But on the other hand, the same Church insists on the necessity to announce the truth which is Christ himself: "Indeed, she [the Church] proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth, and the life' Jn , in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself 2 Cor —19 " NA 2.
Every dialogue lives on the truth claim of those who participate in it. But the dialogue between the religions is further characterized by applying the deep structure of each ones original culture to the truth claim of a quite different culture. It is clear that this dialogue is demanding and requires a special sensibility in facing the other culture. In the most recent decades especially this sensibility to the cultural context both of the different religions and of Christianity and its theologies has developed. It suffices to recall the "theologies in context" and the growing significance of the theme of inculturation both in the magisterium and in theology.
The International Theological Commission has already spoken about these themes 33 here it seems necessary to mention only two indications :. A differentiated theology of the religions, which is grounded in ones own truth claim, is the basis of any serious dialogue and the necessary presupposition for understanding the diversity of positions and their cultural means of expression. The context—literary, sociological, etc. This indicates the meaning and the limits of the cultural contextuality. The interreligious dialogue treats "coincidences and convergences" with other religions with caution and respect.
For the treatment of the "differences" one must take into account that this treatment must not annul coincidences and elements of convergence, and moreover that dialogue about these differences has been inspired by ones own doctrine and corresponding ethics: In other words, the form of the dialogue cannot invalidate the content of one's own faith and ethics.
The growing interrelationship of cultures in the present world society and its constant interpenetration into the means of communication bring about the situation in which the question of the truth of the religions has passed to the center of the daily conscience of the person of today.
Our present reflections consider some presuppositions of this new situation, but the discussion of the contents of the different religions does not enter into these reflections. This ought to be taken up in the theology of the different places, that is to say, in the different centers of study which are in cultural contact with the other religions.
Faced with the situation of a change of the conscience of man and the situation of believers, it is clear that the discussion about the truth claim of the religions cannot be a marginal or partial aspect of theology. The respectful confrontation with this truth claim must play a role in the center of the daily work of theology; it must be an integral part of it.
This respect before the "otherness" of the different religions is at the same time conditioned by one's own truth claim. Along with love, interest in the truth claim of the other shares the presupposition, structural in character, of appreciation of oneself. The basis of every communication, and hence also of the dialogue among religions, is the recognition of the exigent character of truth.
But the Christian faith has its own proper structure of truth: The religions talk "of" the holy, "of" God, "about" him, "in his place" or "in his name". Only in the Christian religion is God himself the one who speaks to man in his Word. Only this way of speaking makes his personal being in a true sense possible for man and at the time communion with God and with all men. The tripersonal God is the heart of this faith. Only the Christian faith takes its life from the God one and three. From the background of Christianity's culture arose the social differentiation which characterizes modernity.
To the unique salvific mediation of Christ for all is attributed, on the part of the pluralist position, a claim of superiority; therefore it asks that a more acceptable theocentrism take the place of that theological Christocentrism from which this claim is necessarily deduced. In view of this demand, it is necessary to affirm that the truth of faith is not at our disposal. In facing a strategy of dialogue which asks for a reduction of Christological dogma in order to exclude this claim of Christianity s superiority, we opt instead—with the aim of excluding a "false" claim of superiority—for a radical application of the Christological faith to the form of proclamation proper to it.
Every form of evangelization that does not correspond to the message, to the life, to the death and to the resurrection of Jesus Christ compromises this message and, in final analysis, Jesus Christ himself. The truth as truth is always "superior"; but the truth of Jesus Christ, as made clear by our need for him, is always service to man; it is the truth of the one who gives his life for men in order to make them enter definitively into the love of God. Every form of proclamation which seeks above all and over all to impose itself on its hearers or to dispose them by means of a strategic or instrumental rationality is opposed to Christ, to the Gospel of the Father and to the dignity of the man of whom he has himself spoken.
Since Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church has definitively committed herself to interreligious dialogue; 34 the present document has been developed with a view to this dialogue, although this is not its fundamental theme. The state of the question about Christianity and its relationship with the religions, theological presuppositions and the consequences which are deduced from them about the saving value of the religions, divine revelation—all these are reflections intended to enlighten Christians in their dialogues with the faithful of other religions. To the extent that these dialogues take place among specialists and are effected in everyday life in words and actions, they not only engage the persons who carry on the dialogue but also and in first place the God whom they profess.
The interreligious dialogue as such implies three participants. Therefore in it the Christian is faced with two fundamental questions on which the meaning of the dialogue depends: the understanding of God and the understanding of man. In the interreligious dialogue, each participant in fact expresses himself according to a definite understanding of God; implicitly he poses to the other the question, Who is your God?
The Christian cannot hear and understand the other without posing this question to himself. Christian theology is more than a discourse about God: It is concerned with speaking of God in human language as he is made known through the incarnate Word cf. Jn ; Hence the need of some discernment in the dialogue:. If the discussion concerns the divinity as a transcendent and absolute value, are we treating an impersonal reality or a personal being?
Does the transcendence of God mean that he is a nontemporal myth or is this transcendence compatible with divine action in the history of men? Is God known only through reason or is he also known through faith because he reveals himself to men? Given that a "religion" is a certain relationship between God and man, does it express a God in the image of man or rather does it imply that man is in the image of God? If it is granted that God is one as required by reason, what does it mean to profess that he is one? A monopersonal God is acceptable to reason, but only in his self-revelation in Christ can the mystery of God be welcomed through faith as consubstantial and indivisible one-in-three.