Church, Liberation and World Religions (Ecclesiological Investigations)

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  1. Church, Liberation and World Religions (Ecclesiological Investigations Series)
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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.

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Church, Liberation and World Religions (Ecclesiological Investigations Series)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 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.

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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. This is a major discernment because of the consequences flowing from this for the anthropology and sociology inherent in each religion. The religions recognize essential attributes of the divinity as omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, justice. But to understand the doctrinal coherence of each religion and to overcome ambiguities of an apparently common language, it is necessary to understand the axis on which these divine names turn.

This discernment especially concerns the biblical vocabulary, whose axis is the covenant between God and man as this has been fulfilled in Christ. Another discernment is made necessary concerning the specifically theological vocabulary to the extent that it is a tributary of the culture of each participant in the dialogue and of his implicit philosophy. Therefore, it is most important to pay attention to the cultural peculiarity of the two parties, even if both share the same original culture. The contemporary world seems to be preoccupied, at least in theory, with the rights of man.

Some integrists, even among Christians, oppose to these the rights of God. But in this opposition what is the God one is dealing with, and in the final analysis, what is the man with whom one is concerned? An implicit anthropology is also involved in the interreligious dialogue, and this for two major reasons. On the one hand, the dialogue puts two persons into communication, each one of whom is the subject of his own word and behavior. On the other hand, when believers of different religions dialogue, there takes place an event much more profound than verbal communication: an encounter between human beings with respect to the end toward which each one tends, bearing the weight of his own human condition.

In an interreligious dialogue, do the parties have the same concept of the person?


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The question is not theoretical, but it raises a question for both the one and the other. The Christian party knows without doubt that the human person has been created "in the image of God", that is to say, in a constant call of an essentially relational God and capable of opening "to the other". But are all the participants aware of the mystery of the human person and of the mystery of the God "beyond all"?

Whence the scene of his social or religious personage? Whence the depth of his "superego" or of his ideal image? Given that he must bear witness to his Lord and Savior, in what "dwelling" of his soul is this one encountered? In the interreligious dialogue, more than in any other interpersonal relationship, the relationship of each person with the living God is at stake.

Here is shown the importance of prayer in the interreligious dialogue: "Man is in search of God. The Christian knows that God "tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. Thus, in the common search for truth which must motivate the interreligious dialogue: "There is a close relationship between prayer and dialogue If on the one hand, dialogue depends on prayer, so, in another sense, prayer also becomes the ever more mature fruit of dialogue. To the extent that the Christian lives the dialogue in a state of prayer, he is docile to the movement of the Spirit who works in the heart of the two interlocutors.

Then the dialogue makes itself more than an interchange: It becomes an encounter. More profoundly, at the level of what is not said, the interreligious dialogue is in truth an encounter between beings created "in the image of God", although this image is found in them somewhat obscured by sin and death. Put differently, Christians and those who are not are all hoping to be saved. For this reason each one of the religions presents itself as a search for salvation and proposes ways to reach it.

This encounter in the common human condition puts the parties on an equal plane much more real than their merely human religious discourse. Such a discourse is already an interpretation of experience and passes through the filter of confessional mentalities. The problems of personal maturity, the experience of human community husband and wife, family, education, etc.

Peter Phan: Doing Ecclesiology in the World Church

Then in this encounter one finds that the "place" of God is man. Now then, the constant factor which underlies all the other problems of the common human condition is nothing other than death. Suffering, sin, failure, deception, failure to communicate, conflicts, injustices Surely man, unable to exorcise death, does everything possible not to think about it.

But nonetheless it is in death that the call of the living God resounds with greatest intensity. It is the permanent sign of the divine otherness, for only he who calls nothingness to being can give life to the dead. No one can go to God without passing through death, that fiery place in which the Transcendent reaches the abyss of the human condition. The only serious question, because it is existential and unavoidable, without which religious discussions are "alibis", is this: Does or does not the living God assume the death of man?

Theoretical answers to this question are not lacking, but they cannot evade the scandal which remains: How can God remain hidden and silent before the wounded innocent and the oppressed just man? It is the cry of Job and of all humankind. The answer is "crucial", but beyond all words: On the cross the Word is silence. Relying on his Father, he entrusts to him his last breath. And there on the cross is the encounter of all men: Man is in his death, and God unites himself with him in it.

Only the God of love is the victor over death, and only through faith in him is man liberated from the slavery of death. The fiery wood of the cross is thus the hidden place of the encounter. The Christian contemplates on it "him whom they have pierced" and from it receives "a spirit of grace and petition" Jn ; Zech The testimony of his new experience will be that of the risen Christ, the conqueror of death through death.

Interreligious dialogue receives then its meaning in the economy of salvation: It means more than to follow the message of the prophets and the mission of the Precursor; it is grounded in the event of salvation accomplished through Christ and is oriented toward the second coming of the Lord. The interreligious dialogue takes place in the Church in an eschatological situation. At this end of the second millennium, the Church is called to give witness to the crucified and risen Christ "to the ends of the earth" Acts , in different cultures and religions throughout the world.

The religious dialogue is connatural to the Christian vocation. It is inscribed in the dynamism of the living tradition of the mystery of salvation, whose universal sacrament is the Church; it is an act of this tradition. As a dialogue of the Church, it has its source, its model and its end in the Holy Trinity. It manifests and actualizes the mission of the eternal Word and of the Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation. Through his Word, the Father calls all human beings from nothing into existence, and it is his breath which gives them life.

Through his Son, who assumes our flesh and is anointed by his Spirit, he directs himself to them as to his friends, "he speaks with them on the earth" and reveals to them "all the ways of understanding" cf. Bar — His living Spirit makes the Church the body of Christ sent to the nations to proclaim to them the good news of the resurrection.

The Word can enable us to know the Father, for he has learned all from him, and he has accepted to learn all of man. Thus this must take place in the Church for those who want to encounter their brothers and sisters of other religions and to dialogue with them. It is not Christians who are sent, but the Church; it is not their ideas that they present but Christ's; it will not be their rhetoric that will touch hearts but the Spirit, the Paraclete. To be faithful to the "sense of the Church", the interreligious dialogue begs for the humility of Christ and the transparency of the Holy Spirit.

The divine pedagogy of the dialogue does not consist only in words but also in deeds; the words manifest the "Christian newness", that of the love of the Father, to which deeds give testimony. Working in this way, the Church shows herself as the sacrament of the mystery of salvation. In this sense the interreligious dialogue forms a part, according to the times and moments fixed by the Father, of the praeparatio evangelica.

In truth, the mutual witness is something inherent in the dialogue between persons of different religions. The Christian witness here is not, however, the proclaiming of the Gospel, but is already an integral part of the mission of the Church as an irradiation of the love poured out from her through the Holy Spirit. Those who in the different ways of interreligious dialogue give witness to the love of Christ the Savior realize, at the level of the praeparatio evangelica , the burning desire of the apostle "to be a minister of Christ Jesus among the gentiles, with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel of God so that the gentiles may be offered up as a pleasing sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit" Rom International Theological Commission, "Faith and Inculturation", 3, 10; cf.

Gregorianum 70 : The New Vulgate translates veniens in mundum. Apologia 1, 5, 4; 2, 6, 7; 2, 7, Biblioteca de autores cristianos [BAC] , f. Apologia 1, 44, 10; 2, 10, 2; 2, 13, ibid. Protrepticus 10, , SCh 2 bis, Stromata 1, 37, SCh 30, Adversus haereses 3, 16, 6; 3, 18, 1 SCh , ; ; 4, 6, 7; 4, 20, 4; 4, 28, 2 SCh , ; f. The idea of "exchange" could also be introduced here; cf.


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Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 5 Prol. SCh , 14 , etc. Ita limus ille, iam tunc imaginem induens Christi futuri in carne, non tantum Dei opus erat, sed et pignus"; the same in Adversus Praxean 12, 4 CCL 2, Augustine, Epistolae , 12 Patrologia latina [PL] 33, f. For the same Irenaeus the Spirit descends on Jesus in order to "habituate himself" for dwelling in the human race. Cum effusum super omnem carnem spiritus donum gloriam exaltati super coelos domini protestaretur.

Chapter 4; cf. Object, Method and Aim 4. Discussion on the Salvific Value of Religions 8. The Question of Truth The Question of God The Christological Debate Mission and Interreligious Dialogue The Father's Initiative in Salvation The Unique Mediation of Jesus A. Some New Testament Themes Gregory of Nyssa expresses himself thus: "We human beings are this sheep Conclusions The Universality of the Holy Spirit As Irenaeus said: "In the name of Christ one can understand him who anoints, him who is anointed and the very anointing with which he is anointed.

Paschali Mysterio Consociati Universale Salutis Sacramentum The Salvific Value of the Religions The Question of Revelation The International Theological Commission has already spoken about these themes 33 here it seems necessary to mention only two indications : 1. Interreligious Dialogue and the Mystery of Salvation Ecclesiology is also an academic discipline studying these ecclesiologies. As an academic discipline, ecclesiology originates in dogmatics and the need for a more specialized field of studies depending on a more focused development of the understanding of the church in theology at large during the nineteenth century.

During the last part of the twentieth century, ecclesiology integrated theories from history, sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines Skip to main content Skip to table of contents. Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions Edition. Contents Search. How to cite. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Barruffo, A. Sui problemi del metodo in ecclesiologia. Google Scholar. Brodd, S.