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Pluralistic Theologies of Religions. Mutuality and Acceptance Models. Review of Knitter’s Typology. Replacement Model: Christianity, the “only way,” replaces other faiths (either totally or partially) Fulfillment Model :

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Pluralistic theologies of religions

Pluralistic Theologies of Religions

Mutuality and Acceptance Models

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

  • Acceptance Model:

    • there are real differences among religions and they are legitimate (different ends in different religions!)

Pluralistic theologies in knitter s typology
Pluralistic theologies in Knitter’s typology

  • Two forms of Pluralism:

    • Mutuality and

    • Acceptane

  • Mutuality Model: “Three Bridges”

    • Philosophical-Historical: Hick

    • Religious-Mystical: Panikkar

    • Ethical-Practical: Knitter; Liberationists

  • NOTE: pluralism can be grouped in many ways; there are varieties of pluralisms

Background enlightenment modernity
Background: Enlightenment, Modernity

  • “Independent” use of reason

  • The significance of the Enlightenment

    • In secular culture and science

    • In religion

      • “natural” religion

    • In Christian theology

      • “Rationality” of theology

      • Suspicion towards supernatural

      • Rise of historical-critical study

      • Doctrinal criticism

Features of pluralism mutuality model
Features of Pluralism: Mutuality Model

  • All religions, notwithstanding apparent differences, have the sameultimatereference point,

    • “rough parity” between religions

  • No religion has the right to impose its own supremacy or truth on others

    • Instead of conversion, common basis

  • No religion has an access to the (absolute) truth

  • Rather than propositional, religious terms are “metaphorical” or “mythical”

John hick s pluralistic views

John Hick’s Pluralistic Views

A Leading Christian Pluralist

A background
A. Background

  • From conservative evangelical to self-described pluralist

  • Questioning of all major Christian doctrines

    • 1970 essay

  • Phenomenological similarity of religions based on a wide exposure to various religions especially in the East

    • “metatheory”

B myth and truth exposition
B. Myth and Truth:Exposition

  • The mythical (or metaphorical) nature of religious language:

    • myth/metaphor is “suggestive of another”

    • Even though not literally true, myths “evoke an appropriate dispositional attitude”

      • Contra: “either-or” propositions

  • makes it possible to accept differing opinions or doctrines

B myth and truth exposition1
B. Myth and Truth:Exposition

Three categories of religious claims

  • (1) Historical

    • E.g., whether Jesus died on the cross or not

  • (2) “Quasi-/Suprahistorical claims”

    • such as reincarnation

  • (3) Conceptions of Ultimate Reality

    • regarding the question of deity or final ends

B myth and truth criticism
B. Myth and Truth:CRITICISM

  • If religion (also) has to do with questions of the Ultimate Truth, then, while analogical, religious language against historical events and facts

  • Hick’s mistaken – modernist – understanding of “tolerance”

    • Tollere (Latin)

    • Cf. “tolerance” of Asian religions

  • Is Hick suggesting a new “world religion” (“Hickianism”) rather than being an “honest broker”?

B copernican revolution exposition
B. Copernican Revolution: Exposition

  • Comparison with the astronomical model of Copernicus (1543): involves a shift from the dogma that Christianity is at the center to the realization that it is God who is at the center, and that all the religions of mankind, including our own, serve and revolve around him.”

  • Religions are but human interpretations of God “at the center”

B copernican revolution exposition1
B. Copernican Revolution: Exposition

  • “Complementary pluralism”

    • All religions should give up claims for uniqueness

    • The claims of followers of religions can not be taken at their face value

  • Move to: “The Ultimate Reality”: A Revised god-concept

    • Having been criticized for favoring theistic religions,

    • The only thing that can be said of it, is that its core is LOVE

  • “Epicycle”

B copernican revolution criticism
B. Copernican Revolution: CRITICISM

The starting point problematic:

  • From the fact that there are striking similarities between religions does not follow necessarily that religions are similar

    • Similarities may relate only to the surface-level, not to essentials.

  • The denial of religious self-identity

    • “elitistic” and “imperialistic”

    • Is Hick’s interpretation of religions “neutral” and “scientific”?

  • Formal and self-contradictory concept of God

    • In order to apply to all, must be without any material content

    • If so, it is neither interesting nor useful!

C new christology exposition
C. “New Christology”: Exposition

  • The Metaphor of God Incarnate (1993)

    • Classical Liberalism and the Quest of the Historical Jesus

    • From Christocentrism to Theocentrism

  • Mythological understanding of incarnation

    • Jesus’s incarnation one among many “embodiments” of the divine

    • Discrepancy between Jesus’ own and his followers’ interpretation of who he was

    • Whereas Classical view leads to “exclusion,” mythical helps negotiate

  • Salvation

    • Unified soteriological structure in religions

    • From “me”-to “other”-centered life

    • Eschatology: transmigration

C new christology exposition1
C.“New Christology”: Exposition

Other Christological Claims:

  • Sinlessness

  • Miracles…

    • Healings

    • Resurrection

  • “Degree” versus “Substance Christology”

    • From homousios to homoagape

    • Christ’s uniqueness: unique God-consciousness

    • The language of two loving persons

C new christology criticism
C.“New Christology”: CRITICISM


  • Naïve use of 19th century Liberalism

  • Intentionally selective use of the New Testament

  • Use of metaphorical language

    “Another” Christ

  • Little similarity with Classical Christianity (McGrath)

    • Its uselesness in dialogue

    • “anonymous exclusivism” (D’Costa)


    • Is this what religions teach?

    • Are all religions equally salvific?

D mission to religions exposition
D. Mission to Religions: Exposition

Factors that challenge traditional exclusivism

  • Diversity of religions: Christians are in minority

  • The tie between ethnicity and religion

  • Lack of missionary success

  • The quality of religious life in Non-Christian religions

  • The phenomenological similarity of religions

    Political advantage of pluralism

  • All religions have similar ideals

  • All religions, however, tend to be superior in their own eyes

  • Therefore, all religions should give up the absolutistic claims and learn peaceful co-existence

D mission to religions exposition1
D. Mission to Religions: Exposition

  • The abuse of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity

    • Anti-Semitism; inquisition; colonialism

    • Oppression of women

  • Co-operation between religions as the goal

    • ecological, social and other problems,

    • No conversion but rather work for “common good”

    • A vision of future: religions closer to each other and boundaries get fluid

  • Dialogue:

    • confessional dialogue:

    • truth-seeking dialogue:

F mission to religions criticism
F. Mission to Religions: CRITICISM

  • Misuse of religions no reason for abandonment

  • Contra Hick: truly pluralistic society, a “free” market of religious claims

    • Dialogue, tolerance

  • Hick’s view of “mission” is both unrealistic and naïve

    • Cf. truly missionary religions

Raimundo panikkar and paul f knitter

Raimundo Panikkar and Paul F. Knitter

Other Mutuality Model Advocates

Panikkar background
Panikkar: Background

  • Biographical note:

    • A truly cosmopolitan person

  • ‘Cosmo-theandrism’ (cosmos, theos, anthropos)

    • Christians name this Trinity, other religions other ways

  • Pluralistic Christology: “Universal Christ and Particular Jesus”:

  • advaita: ‘non-duality’

Panikkar s theology
Panikkar’s theology

  • God, the “Mystery,” works in all religions

    • Christ, the Logos, is present in religions

      • The Unknown Christ of Hinduism

  • The importance of the Trinity to religions

    • trinitarian structure of reality genuinely reflects the structure of reality as such

    • Revision of trinitarian doctrine:

      • Father as “Nothing” (cf. emptiness)

      • Son the “only person” of Trinity

      • Spirit as “immanence”

Panikkar vision for religions
Panikkar: Vision for Religions

  • Unlike Hick, no elimination of differences but rather a “convergence” or “parallelism”

    • Harmonious co-existence

    • “cave of heart”

Panikkar contributions
Panikkar: Contributions

  • Criticism of Hick’s type of pluralisms which deny the diversity of religions

  • religions need and may contributo to each other

  • Trinity at the center of interfaith dialogue rather than an obstacle

  • Holding on to the identity of Christianity while at the same time holding on to the idea of universal common ground which does not negate differences but affirms them

  • Attempt to incorporate Asian spirituality into Christian faith

Panikkar problems and challenges
Panikkar: Problems and Challenges

  • Weak epistemology

  • Christology: historical basis

  • The content of the doctrine of Trinity

  • Self-contradictory regarding the need to honor differences, yet naively equating key claims

Panikkar problems
Panikkar: Problems…

Questions for Interfaith Dialogue:

  • Do other religions accept the fact that reality really is Trinitarian?

    • Is it valuable for dialogue?

  • Does Panikkar represent an authentic Christian theology?

  • Question to Knitter:

    • Mutuality or Acceptance Model?

Knitter theocentric christology
Knitter: Theocentric Christology

  • Biographical Note

  • Takes biblical Christology “seriously” but not “literally”

    • “Faithfulness to tradition”

    • “uniqueness” of Christ only for Christians

  • Constitutive versus Representational Christology: the latter holds up Jesus as a decisive embodiment of God’s saving love

Knitter liberation theology of religions
Knitter: Liberation Theology of Religions

  • Religions necessary to tackle social and ecological problem

    • Common task for all religions

    • soteriocentric approach leads to advance the coming of the kingdom of peace and justice

  • Jesus’ “uniqueness” in his capacity to elicit a proper incentive and response

  • Praxis the criterion of “truth”

Knitter contributions
Knitter: Contributions

  • The importance of suffering and justice

  • The possibility of a common response by all religions

  • A corollary: the victims need to be given an important place at the dialogue table

  • A genuine attempt to hold on to the “uniqueness” of Jesus while constructing a pluralistic theology

Knitter problems and challenges
Knitter: Problems and Challenges

  • Epistemological question: can praxis be adopted as the key to doing theology

  • Soteriological: this-worldly versus transcendental vision

    • Is the Eco-Liberationist criterion an implicit imperialistic claim in relation to other religions?

    • Do all religions have resources for the common task?

  • Christological: Christ’s uniqueness? Isn’t it a disguised way of denying the uniqueness?

Acceptance model

Acceptance Model

General Features

Knitter general features of acceptance model
Knitter: General Features of Acceptance Model

  • The Rise of Postmodernity with its focus on differences and alterity

  • “Big narratives” and universal explanations are under suspicision

  • Differences are not only real but they are incommensurable

  • Knitter: categories

  • (1) Postliberalism (G. Lindbeck)

  • (2) Many religions = Many Salvations

    • S. Mark Heim

  • (3) Comparative Theology

Acceptance model1

Acceptance Model

S. Mark Heim’s Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends


  • Main books:

    • Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion (1995)

    • The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends (2001)

  • Harsh critique of pluralisms of Mutuality Model

A trinitarian theology
A Trinitarian Theology

  • Trinity represents unity within diversity;

    • because of the diversity in the Godhead, there is diversity to the religious ends among religions

  • each religion has their own specific end

    • the idea of plenitude

    • different ends corresponds are thus God-willed

    • there could be movement among religions from one end to another, but that is not a task for us

  • Christian salvation = communion with the Triune God

    • “taxonomy” of religious ends


  • A genuine attempt to expose the fallacies of pluralisms

  • Affirmation of differences between religions not only as something to be tolerated but as something that could be the key to interfaith relations

  • A sincere attempt hold on to the key Christian doctrine (Trinity) while at the same time making that distinctively Christian doctrine the key to affirm the distinctive identity of other religions

Problems and challenges
Problems and Challenges

  • Epistemological: from the idea of diversity in the godhead does not logically (nor theologically) follow the idea of different ends

  • Works against main purpose of Trinitarian doctrine, namely the affirmation of diversity in the oneness

  • Eschatological: works against the biblical vision of all people under one God (Rev 21-22)

  • Isn’t this yet another imperialistic notion?

  • If every religion is on their way to their own end, what’s the point of dialogue?