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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


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    1. Pluralistic Theologies of Religions Mutuality and Acceptance Models

    2. 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!)

    3. Pluralistic theologies in Knitter’s typology • Two forms of Pluralism: • Mutuality and • Acceptance • Mutuality Model: “Three Bridges” • Philosophical-Historical: Hick • Religious-Mystical: Panikkar • Ethical-Practical: Knitter; Liberationists

    4. Background issues • The Importance of Enlightenment and Modernity

    5. A Radical Challenge to Christian Theology • The Enlightenment of the 18th Century helped transform radically the intellectual milieu in Europe in general and in theology in particular • The Enlightenment gave rise to modernity

    6. A Radical Challenge to Christian Theology • Until the time of Enlightenment, all Christians – despite their hermeneutical and doctrinal differences – had taken the Bible as the divine revelation, the Word of God • Jesus’ divinity was not doubted any more than his uniqueness as Savior and Lord • The Enlightenment thinking offered a massive challenge to and rebuttal of everything orthodox in Christian tradition

    7. A Radical Challenge to Christian Theology • What lies at the heart of the Enlightenment was not so much the use of reason per se but rather the use of independent reason • The use of human reason independent from ecclesiastical, societal, or divine authorities is the most unique feature

    8. The Critique of Christian theology • The “rationality” of Christianity: whatever is in keeping with modern rational thinking, can be accepted, that which is not, should be either rejected or reinterpreted • Sympathy with “natural” religion and human religiosity: continuity between religions • Religion can be derived from reason rather than from divine revelation • Suspicion of miracles and supernatural

    9. The Critique of Christian theology • The rise of historical-critical study of the Bible helped eradicate the “Scripture Principle” which had considered the Bible as an authoritative divine revelation • Instead, Bible was now studied similarly to any other religious book • Bible was no different from, say, Quran • Doctrinal criticism: doctrines such as original sin and Trinity were highly problematic to the modern mindset

    10. General Features of Pluralistic Theologies of Religions Mutuality Model

    11. Features of Pluralism: Mutuality Model • All religions, notwithstanding apparent differences, have the sameultimatereference point, be that a personal God (as in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity), or a deity or pantheon of deities (as in Hinduism), or some kind of “ultimate reality” (as in Buddhism that does not have any concept of God at the center) • There is thus an assumption of the “rough parity” between religions

    12. Features of Pluralism: Mutuality Model • No religion has the right to impose its own supremacy or truth on others • On the contrary, religions should give up their desire to convert others and instead, seek for common basis

    13. Features of Pluralism: Mutuality Model • Epistemologically, no religion has an access to the (absolute) truth • At their best, religious concepts are approximations or myths or metaphors • Rather than propositional, religious terms such as “incarnation” or “resurrection” are “metaphorical” or “mythical”

    14. Features of Pluralism: Mutuality Model • While many religions have “mediators” (Jesus Christ) or “founders” (Gautama Buddha) who enjoy a highly elevated and special status, none of them is exclusive of others • Claims such as that “Jesus is the only way” can only be applied to Christian faith but not to all religions

    15. John Hick’s Pluralistic Views A Leading Christian Pluralist

    16. A. Background • From conservative evangelical to self-described pluralist • a. Conversion and early theological work • b. The rise of pluralistic convictions

    17. A. Background Hick began to question most all traditional doctrines: • Divine revelation • Creation ex nihilo • Substitutionary death of Christ • Virgin birth • Miracles of Christ • Resurrection • Need for new birth to be saved • That there would not be another chance after death • Hell and heaven

    18. A. Background • Phenomenological similarity of religions based on a wide exposure to various religions especially in the East • Hick acknowledges the nature of his proposal as “metatheory” but denies it is based on any philosophical or theological standpoint.

    19. B. Myth and Truth:Exposition • The mythical (or metaphorical) nature of religious language: religious terms are not “facts” or propositions • With the “myth” that is based on “metaphor,” we speak “suggestive of another” • E.g., incarnation

    20. B. Myth and Truth:Exposition • The benefit of adopting mythical approach is that it makes it possible to accept differing opinions or doctrines since myths operate in “separate mythic spaces” • Propositional understanding leads to “either”- “or” confrontations

    21. B. Myth and Truth:Exposition What then is the value of myths? • Even though not literally true, myths “evoke an appropriate dispositional attitude”. • The purpose is to change our attitude and thus influence our thinking in a real way.

    22. B. Myth and Truth:Exposition Three categories of religious claims • (1) Historical conceptions: • These can be resolved only with appeal to the historical facts (many of which are unavailable) • E.g., whether Jesus died on the cross or not

    23. B. Myth and Truth:Exposition • (2) “Quasi-/Suprahistorical claims” such as reincarnation • There is no objective way to defend or reject these claims

    24. B. Myth and Truth:Exposition • (3) Conceptions of Ultimate Reality regarding the question of deity or final ends • Hick considers various views of religions complementary

    25. B. Myth and Truth:CRITICISM • Contra Hick, Pannenberg among others insists that the main function of religion is to negotiate differing and conflicting truth claims • Thus: theological/religious language, while analogical, should be assessed against historical facts • Many wonder if Hick’s view may seriously compromise the basic function of religions to deal with ultimate questions of life and death

    26. B. Myth and Truth:CRITICISM • Even several Asian religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism while they have been more tolerant and pluralistic than Christianity and Islam, still regard themselves as the true religions. • Hick seems to confuse tolerance with an attitude of “everything goes” • “tolerance” however means patient negotiation of differences and willingness to live with them

    27. B. Myth and Truth:CRITICISM • Hick’s desire to soften or deny real differences among religions seems to lead to a new “world religion” – Hickianism – which is compatible with none of existing religions

    28. B. Copernican Revolution: Exposition • Comparison with the astronomical model of Copernicus (1543) • “ It 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.”

    29. B. Copernican Revolution: Exposition • God stands at the center of all religions around which religions – in the analogy of planets – revolve • Religious doctrines are but human interpretations of one and same reality, God

    30. 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

    31. B. Copernican Revolution: Exposition “The Ultimate Reality”: A Revised god-concept • Having been criticized for favoring theistic religions, Hick made a shift from the concept of “god/deity” to “the Ultimate Reality” • The only thing that can be said of it, is that its core is LOVE • Thus: religions of the world are different and complementary ways of approaching this Reality which exists beyond the human capacity of knowing.

    32. B. Copernican Revolution: Exposition • “Epicycle” (an analogy from astronomy): facing other religions, each religion tries to negotiate its claims for uniqueness • E.g., Rahner: “Anonymous Christians”

    33. B. Copernican Revolution: CRITICISM The starting point is questionable: • 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.

    34. B. Copernican Revolution: CRITICISM Denying the right for the followers of religions to define their own religion is unacceptable: • The importance of religious self-identity • Ignoring the self-understanding of adherents of religions means nothing less than violating their religious rights. • It is “elitist” and “imperialistic”: it tries to force all religions into the same pluralistic format

    35. B. Copernican Revolution: CRITICISM A naïve view of hermeneutics and interpretation • Hick’s re-interpretation of world religions, over against their own self-understanding, does not in fact represent a genuine “scientific” neutrality but is yet another interpretation • Hick’s view also leads to an oversimplified attitude toward religions, to a kind of “either” -(exclusivism) “or” (pluralism)

    36. B. Copernican Revolution: CRITICISM • In order for the notion of the “Ultimate Reality” to apply to all religions, it has to be almost formal (i.e., without any material content) • If you begin to fill in some attributes – even love -, it may not apply to all religions • But a formal concept is just that, formal and has no meaning

    37. C. “New Christology”: Exposition • The Metaphor of God Incarnate (1993) • Borrows widely from Classical Liberalism and the Quest of the Historical Jesus

    38. C.“New Christology”: Exposition • From Christocentrism to Theocentrism • In keeping with his “Copernican Revolution,” God or Ultimate Reality should replace Christ at the center or “only way”

    39. C.“New Christology”: Exposition • A key concern in the shift from an exclusivistic to a pluralistic understanding of Christian faith is to negotiate the traditional doctrine of incarnation • Mythological understanding of incarnation • Jesus' incarnation is one among many “embodiments” of the divine

    40. C.“New Christology”: Exposition • Neither Jesus nor his immediate disciples interpreted Jesus as God incarnate • Instead, because of the power of the Christ event, the early church later came to elevate Jesus onto the status of God

    41. C.“New Christology”: Exposition • As long as the incarnation of Jesus Christ is taken as a one-time historical event in the past, there is no way to reconcile it with ideas of incarnations in other religions • Only when the term “incarnation” is cast into a metaphorical understanding, such as shift may happen • Then incarnation means something similar to the “influence of the divine” or an “embodiment of divine love”

    42. C.“New Christology”: Exposition Other Christological Claims: • the sinlessness of Jesus can not be maintained in light of the Gospel stories of Jesus getting mad at the merchants or talking in a rude way to a Gentile woman • Jesus did not view himself as God-Man but rather considered himself to be an end-time prophet

    43. C.“New Christology”: Exposition Other Christological Claims: • While Jesus’ miracles such as healings did not happen de facto, people did get help because they experienced in his company a unique divine presence and love

    44. C.“New Christology”: Exposition “Degree” versus “Substance Christology” • Whereas traditional Christology holds that Jesus is unique in kind (“Substance Christology”), the new pluralistic interpretation considers him different only to a “degree” • Instead of homoousios, Hick prefers the term homoagape: Jesus “uniqueness” consists of a unique presence of divine love and compassion in his life

    45. C.“New Christology”: Exposition • In sum: • Hick’s is a truly Pluralistic Christology: Christ has a specific God-consciousness but that does not mean that other religious leaders would not be the same • The language of two loving persons: • their passionate love to each other does not mean that they are the only two people in the world who love truly each other

    46. C.“New Christology”: Exposition Salvation • Hick posits a unified soteriological structure in all religions meaning that all religions are as much salvific or that all religions have the capacity to “save” • The main criterion for assessing the soteriological capacity is the turn away from “me-centered” lifestyle to “other-centered” spirituality and action

    47. C.“New Christology”: Exposition • Salvation cont. • Because the final goal of salvation is moral perfection, it takes more than one human life to accomplish it • He calls it “transmigration” of the soul into the next lives (and perhaps even different dimensions of reality in the next life)

    48. C.“New Christology”: CRITICISM Methodology is open to many criticisms: • He revisits the classical arguments of the Quest of the Historical Jesus in a rather naïve way • His use of the NT is very selective, and he admits it. • Hick’s analogy of religious language being like a language of lovers is not adequate. These two uses of language have different goals.

    49. C.“New Christology”: CRITICISM • A. McGrath: • Hick’s Christ has very little in common with Classical Christianity • (VMK) Thus, he offers yet an interpretation, but one that would hardly be embraced by insiders anymore than outsiders