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ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE THEOLOGY OF RELIGIONS. Fulfillment Model. Review of Knitter’s Typology. Replacement Model: Christianity, the “only way,” replaces other faiths (either totally or partially) Fulfillment Model :

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review of knitter s typology
Review of Knitter’s Typology
  • Replacement Model:
    • Christianity, the “only way,” replaces other faiths (either totally or partially)
  • Fulfillment Model:
    • Christianity is the “true” religion but it does not reject, but rather “confirms” good elements in others
  • Mutuality Model:
    • a “rough parity” between all religions; all ways lead to the same end goal
    • Differences are invented interpretations
  • Acceptance Model:
    • there are real differences among religions and they are legitimate (different ends in different religions!)
    • Embrace religions in their uniqueness
orientational remarks
Orientational Remarks

The Significance of Roman Catholic (RC) view

  • A) World’s largest church
  • B) “Spokesperson” and “Window” of Christianity
  • C) Officially formulated position
background of contemporary catholic view of religions
Background of Contemporary Catholic View of Religions
  • Until Vatican II, Catholics (with most other Christians) affirmed the “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” principle
    • “no salvation outside the church”
    • Originally, however, that statement was used against Christian schismatics rather than other religions
  • The Thomistic doctrine of “nature-and-grace”
    • Infuses Catholic theology
    • “Grace of God does not nullify but rather helps perfect nature”
    • Cf. Protestant theology: it operates with the principle of discontinuity
    • Fulfillment not eradication/termination
  • The influence of the Enlightenment was far less dramatic and took longer time than in Protestantism
  • Also, the importance of ecclesiastical structures and hierarchy
vatican 1962 65
Vatican (1962-65)
  • Helped “modernize” Catholic Church and respond to contemporary needs
  • Among the 16 documents, several speak to the topic of theology of religions
    • Nostra Aetate (on other religions)
    • Ad Gentes (on mission)
    • Lumen Gentium (on church)
    • Gaudium et Spes (on modern world)
main affirmations of vatican ii
Main affirmations of Vatican II:
  • 1) The possibility of salvation to people of other faiths because of Christ
  • 2) The Value of Religions as the “preparation for the Gospel”
  • 3) The superiority of Christian Faith and the Need to do Mission
1 the possibility of salvation to people of other faiths because of christ
1) The possibility of salvation to people of other faiths because of Christ

People of “good will” and desire to live according to the light given them, can be saved because of Christ.

  • - Ad Gentes (# 7): Those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the gospel, God can lead to that faith without which it is impossible to please him.

The universal working of the Spirit in making the “paschal mystery” of Christ available to all people.

  • Gaudium et Spes (# 22): All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all individuals of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all human beings are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being associated, in a way known to God, with the Paschal Mystery.
    • Not because of the religion, but in spite of the religion
1 the possibility of salvation cont
1) The possibility of salvation cont.
  • This is “Christo-centric inclusivism”
    • the ontological basis of salvation in Christ
    • The epistemological basis of salvation may vary, depending on the conditions
  • Thus, it is an axiom of post-conciliar Catholic theology that salvation is available to people of good will.
    • Yet, religions in themselves are not salvific, nor is salvation based on “works”
2 the value of religions as the preparation for the gospel
2) The Value of Religions as the “preparation for the Gospel”
  • The religions are in various ways related to the church; there is a kind of “hierarchy of religions”
  • LG # 14-16: Levels of incorporation in relationship to the church
    • 1st level: full incorporation: members of the Catholic Church
    • 2nd level: inquiring members; candidates for baptism
    • 3rd level: other Christians: while they are not true “churches”, they are true Christians
    • 4th level: OTHER RELIGIONS
      • Judaism; Islam (monotheism)
      • Hinduism (polytheism)
      • Buddhism (non-theism)
      • Others: atheists…
2 the value of religions cont
2) The Value of Religions cont.
  • Perhaps the most affirmative passage comes from Nostra Aetate (# 2):
    • The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. With sincere respect she looks on those ways of conduct and life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing on many points from what she herself holds and teaches, yet not rarely reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all human beings. But she proclaims and must ever proclaim, “the way, the truth and the life,” in whom human beings find the fullness of religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to himself. (NA # 2)
  • Many other affirmations: there is a “ray of that Truth which enlightens all men” (NA # 2; see also # 17, LG # 17 and AG # 9)
2 the value of religions cont1
2) The Value of Religions cont.
  • Clearly, the Thomistic doctrine of nature elevated by the grace of God was still an influential idea behind much of the council’s theology of other religions.
    • On the basis of the mystery of incarnation, “nature” and “grace”—the natural and the supernatural—belong together.
    • The grace of God purifies, liberates, and fulfills what is in created nature. “God has willed to gather together all that was natural, all that was supernatural, into a single whole in Christ”
  • There is thus continuity and discontinuity between Christianity and religions
    • Christianity is the true, “perfect” religion that helps other religions reach their goal, or at least people in other religions; Fulfillment Model
3 the superiority of christian faith and the need to do mission
3) The superiority of Christian Faith and the Need to do Mission
  • Whatever is good in other religions is a preparation for the gospel; missionaries are to be open to this
  • The best example is LG # 14-16:
  • Before speaking of relation to other religions, # 14 says that the “church is necessary for salvation”
  • Then # 17 says:

As the Son was sent by the Father, so He too sent the Apostles, saying: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…". The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth.

3 the superiority of christian faith cont
3) The Superiority of Christian Faith cont.
  • Even with all the acknowledgment of good things in other religions, the missionary task is considered mandatory
    • NA # 2: “Indeed, she proclaims and must ever proclaim Christ, ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men find the fullness of religious life, and in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself”
  • Whatever good there is in other religions serves as preparatio evangelica, a preparation for the fullness of the gospel.
    • Yet, It is in the spirit of appreciation and humility that Christian mission is to be carried on (LG # 11).
roman catholic view of religions in a nutshell
Roman Catholic view of religions in a nutshell
  • While Christ is the only Savior and only source of salvation, people in other religions, who never heard of Christ, may be saved because of the universal effects of Christ’s work
  • Two requirements/conditions for salvation :
    • People follow the “light” of their religions as best as they can
      • (Through no fault of their own they are not able to hear the gospel)
    • People pursue moral precepts in the structure of their religion as best as they can
      • (cf. natural law)
leading catholic theologians on religions
Leading Catholic theologians on Religions
  • Karl Rahner
    • “Anonymous Christians/Christianity”
  • Hans Kűng
    • Religions as an “ordinary” and Christianity as an “extraordinary” way of salvation
  • Jacques Dupuis
    • Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism
  • Gavin D’Costa
    • The importance of Vatican II and subsequent official teaching of the Church
disputed question the salvific role of religions
Disputed Question: the salvific role of religions
  • According to Vatican II religions, while having salvific elements in them, are not salvific in themselves; only Christ saves
  • K. Rahner affirmed this interpretation
  • G. D’Costa similarly
  • J. Dupuis leaves it open (but hopes for it!)
  • Knitter and other Catholic pluralists argue strongly for the salvific nature of religions
    • p. 81 gives an overly optimistic/biased view: it is not a settled issue
assessment and reflections
Assessment and Reflections


  • Vatican II helped revise Catholic theology, yet did not offer something absolutely new – a reorientation
  • Catholic view is a major critique of pluralistic views
  • Missionary activity and enthusiasm after Vatican II
  • Church Renewal after Vatican II
    • e.g. Charismatic Renewal
  • The “Catholic vision”
assessment and reflections1
Assessment and Reflections


  • idea of continuity in God’s work:
    • “nature and grace"
  • inclusive view of God’s work in the world
    • God is the Lord of all creation, even above all religions, and is able to bring about good out of less than perfect
  • optimism of salvation (do not confuse with universalism)
  • Christocentrism
  • interfaith potential
assessment and reflections2
Assessment and Reflections


  • scriptural basis?
  • difference between the “possibility” of salvation and “affirmation” of it
  • too optimistic a view of humanity and creation?
  • theological incoherence: the necessity of the church for salvation and the possibility of salvation outside the church?
  • the nature and role of faith?