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I s s ue 0 1 Tuesday Conference
Theology e-magazine To make humanity united in worshipping God

Christian Response to other
Religions Our Heavenly Patron
We live in a very turbulent periods of religious intolerance
and fascist ideologies coming back to our personal lives, whether
it is on worship, food, dress, marriage, love etc. What shall be our
responses to various religions we encounter?
There are many religions is more a sociological fact than a
doctrine. As a Christian theological attempt at articulating a
positive appreciation of other religions,
 pluralism por tr ayed itself as the m ost liber al view ,
 with exclusivism as the least liberal and
 inclusivism as falling in betw een conser vative
exclusivism and the progressive pluralism.
We analyze the responses in the biblical times, moves forward
with the early Church fathers, and finally reaches until Vatican II.

Moral life is already worship. This is why
conscience is a revelation of God and there
exists no a-religious morality.
Jacques Dupuis writes, “the present is the outcome of the past and
Page - 02 whatever newness it may bring does not cancel its historical

Various Christian Response in History
Adopted 4 fundamental attitudes to other religions. The
Our first is a negative attitude- often articulated as ‘outside church
Assumption: there is no salvation’. The second is a partial acceptance and
limited openness towards other religions. It simply meant that
We cannot those religions offer an innate desire for union with the absolute.
The third attitude recognizes the positive values in those
construct a
religions, which may in some way conducive to the salvation of
their members. The fourth is a more positive approach, which
theology of finds in other religion God’s plan of salvation for humankind in
religious the context of the universal value of the Jesus Christ event,
pluralism which Christian faith holds.
apriori or The Problematic of Each Response
without The first: Is th er e any possibility of salvation for

referring to the one who lived either before or outside Christ event? The
second: Is th er e possible substitutes for faith in Jesus
the past
Christ leading to salvation? The third: What would be the role of
such values in the salvation of the adherents of those traditions?
centuries of
All the above three problematic are centered on the idea of
individual salvation.
in this field. The fourth one
goes beyond this and asks:
how to interpret the
religious pluralism
inscribed in the concrete
realities of the present

Here certain theologians find the traditional understanding of Christian faith in
Jesus Christ ‘under unprecedented strain and questioning’. Since it inquires into the
significance and value of other religions in themselves. We leave these questions to
be answered in some other editions of our magazine.
Page - 03 Biblical Times
The Pauline concept of We trace out the evolution of the theological
the Law written on the hearts consciousness in biblical times towards other
religions. Of course there is no comprehensive
makes the Gentiles worthy of
solution of Christianity’s relation to other
the saving grace in a
religions. We can understand that,
mysterious manner and can
the sharp self-consciousness of Israel’s
attain saving faith religious identity as God’s chosen people
without explicit faith in resulted in the negative judgments to other
Jesus Christ at least religions;
through a fundamental but, with exceptions of certain biblical authors
option vis-a-vis the Absolute. offering genuine religious experiences of pagans.

Cosmic Covenant with Human Kind:
Christian tradition has rightly valued 4covenants made by with the humanity;
in Adam, in Noah, in Abraham and Moses and in Christ.
 In the case of Adam, we may not see a covenant relation between God and Adam.
But the mind of the Church Fathers finds a symbolic universal covenant with
human race for the first time in this incident.
 The significance of the covenant with Noah is of a personal, universal covenant
prior to the chosen people. This is a cosmic, everlasting with the sign of rainbow.
Of course, this is a part of the salvation history.
Theology understands salvation history as general or
universal salvation history, unfolded in the first two
covenants and the special salvation history begins with
Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant which culminates in the
The cosmic covenant is
already a supernatural
covenant.- Jean Danielou

The history of salvation is
not limited to a chosen people
but extends to all humankind
and human history.-St. Iraneaus
The holiness in the cosmic covenant is a response to God
made through the conscience. To obey a moral law is to Page - 04

recognize God’s loving will. - Danielou

Pagan Saints of the OT
We are interested here to find
those individuals who were righteous
before God even though they were
outside the God’s chosen people.

 The Abel inaugurates the line of the saints of the cosmic covenant and he is the
first pagan saint on whom God has lavished his love. The blood he shed
prefigures the sacrifice of Christ.
 Enoch as the pr ototype of th e salvation of th e pagans . Th e Genesis
depicts him as man ‘walked with God’, and the Sirach, “Enoch pleased the Lord…
he was an example of repentance to all generations”.
 Noah becam e an instr um ent of w or ld ’s salvation and thereby prefiguring
Christ. The deluge showed Noah’s faith to be right and escaped God’s judgment
through his righteousness. His faith was considered as a scale to condemn the
 Job has shown us the possibility of being
righteousness and holy even in the order of
the cosmic covenant. He proved to be loyal
even when his life was shattered.
Lucian Legrand -  Melchizedek is ranked among the most
“The God of Israel does eminent non-Jewish figures of the Old
not limit his action to the Testament. He is accommodated well in the letter
of Hebrews where the type of Christ the priest is
one people of Israel; but
attributed to him.
he is the Lord of
 Lot, another model of a just man in whom the
universal history. The OT
blood inscribed the Law.
manifests a universalism
 Queen of Saba w h o cam e to K ing Solom on
where everything is in search of Wisdom is another saint. Because she
placed under God’s adored the true God of Solomon revealed to her
providence.” through conscience.
God of Israel & Gods of the Nations: Page - 05
Israel did not condemn the people among other nations altogether
idolatrous. Rather they could recognize the living God manifesting through the
cosmic covenant. Evidently,
 Cyrus the pagan conqueror is accepted as the anointed of God;
 The conversion of the pagan city Nineveh witness the universality of God’s love
and the pardon extending to the other peoples.
 Deutro-Isaiah says; all the nation from the ends of the earth are invited to sing
to the Lord. The focus is that all nation will walk in the light of God’s glory.

Jesus’ Attitude:
We have numerous instances where Jesus praises the faith of Gentiles,
reaches out to them with miracles and healings. He showed full admiration for ;
 the entry of the “others” into the kingdom of heaven ,
 the parable of the banquet to show the universality of the Reign of God.
 the healing of the possessed daughter of the Canaanite women.

 the faith of

The New Testament Time The speech in the Aeropagus
The NT testifies to a life giving and values the riches of human
transformative activity of the Spirit, extending religious experiences, the search
to the entire world. The Lucan account of for God since God reveals himself
Pentecost suppose at least an intentional by being sought. Also the Peter’s
universality of the gift of the Spirit. We have acceptance that ‘God shows no
every right to assume that the apostles received partiality’ helped the apostolic
a mission for all. St Paul teaches that we have Church to go beyond the
no monopoly of gifts. boundaries built by human.

We should refrain making an exclusively Christian
reading of the Gospel. We need greater attention in
interpreting the biblical statements that are
affirmative and not tend to make them exclusively.
Page - 06 The Cosmic Christ in the Early Fathers

St Justin: Th e m anifestation of God Clement of Alexandria: He has
through his Word is not limited to the no hesitation to call philosophy a
Christian dispensation. He writes, “it covenant made by God with men a
took place before the incarnation of the stepping stone to the philosophy of
Word, among the Jews and Greeks; Christ. He thought, for Jews the law,
everywhere there have been people and the Greeks the philosophy, were
who lived by Word and deserve to be designed by God to lead people to
called Christian.” However Justin Christ. Succinctly we can say that the
makes a distinction that the fullness of authentic guides of mankind are truly
the Logos is only in Christ’s advent in inspired by God, acted upon by the
flesh. Logos.

To say Jesus Christ is the only mediator between
God and human beings does not necessarily lead
to the conclusion that there are no saving values
and seeds of truth and grace out of him, even
possibly participated mediations connected to his
mediation.—Jacques Dupuis SJ

No Salvation outside the Church
The axiom is usually associated with St. Cyprian. But scholars are of opinion
that Ignatius of Antioch held such a view. Origen made even sharper use of it even.
Later Augustine also taught the necessity of baptism for the salvation. This axiom
came into the magisterial teaching as;
1. the Letter of Innocent III as the first instance.
2. The second came out of the deliberations of 4th Latern Council (1215).
3. The third and the weightiest, is Boniface VII’s the Unam Sanctam, in the long
history of the axiom. Here we read a submission to the Roman Pontiff is
necessary for salvation.
4. The fourth document is the Decree of the General Council of Florence (1442). It
follows in the same vein asserting, “no one can be saved …unless one remains in
the bosom of the Catholic Church.”
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This assertion in the history cannot be studied aloof of its context. A proper
hermeneutics is required to interpret the universal condemnation involved in it.
Dupuis argues, the axiom is totally unacceptable today citing Pope Pius XII’s
objection to the same while correcting a Jesuit priest. The Pope wants us to
understand this dogma to be understood as the Church itself understands it. We
understand the value of this axiom as positively formulated in Vatican II that Church
as the general instrument of salvation.

Theological Perspectives Surrounding Vatican II

Fulfillment Theory:
According to the Fulfillment theory the “mystery of Christ reaches the
members of other religious traditions as the divine response to the human religious
aspirations. But these religious traditions themselves play no role in their salvation
mystery.” They distinguish religions into two,
 natural  supernatural.
Non-Christian religions belong to the ordinary natural reason and Judeo-Christian
to the supernatural. The natural religions are considered to be ‘preparation for the
gospel’. Christianity is the universal means of salvation and the normative way.
After analyzing different versions of Fulfillment theory, Dupuis seems to have
two reservations.
 The first one, how can we say other religions if positively taken, in matters of
granting salvation, place them in competition with Christ?
 The second one, can there be various modalities of mediation in relation with
the mystery of Jesus Christ.
The Inclusive Presence of Christ:
The religious traditions of humanity “have a salvific value by virtue of the
presence of the mystery of Jesus operative in them.” However this presence is
hidden and unknown to their adherents. For Rahner, Someone of other religion
lives his own religion sincerely, he is living anonymous Christianity. So to say,
Christian salvation reaches out to them anonymously through their religious
practices. Raimon Panikkar wrote that there is a living presence of Christ in
Hinduism. Even though this presence of Christ is unknown to others, it is no less
real in their religious traditions, believed Panikkar.
 Dupuis doubts whether Panikkar has answered the distinction he made about
Jesus as Christ of faith and Jesus of history. Page - 08
 Dupuis raises a few question about the difference between Anonymous Christian
and the explicit Christian as simply a matter of subjective awareness.
 He also expresses serious difficulties with Rahner’s talk of the ‘absoluteness of
Christianity’ and of Christ as ‘absolute Saviour’. He argues that absoluteness is the
attribute of the ultimate reality. Even the human existence of Son of God made
man makes him only a universal saviour. It does not make him absolute
saviour, who is God himself.

Vatican II and the Post– Conciliar developments
We have documents of the Council asserting the patristic idea of ‘evangelical
preparation’ and ‘seeds of the Word’.
Vatican II is the first council to speak positively
about the other religions. the main texts that
appeal positively to other religions as in Lumen
Gentium (16, 17) Nostra Aetate (2), Ad Gents
(3, 9, and 11).
We can summarize the Council teachings in to these themes;
a) the salvation of the people outside the Church,
b) the authentic values found in non-Christian religions and their traditions,
c) Church’s appreciation of these values.

For all these the Council had an affirmative answer. Later dur ing the
pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II, we had documents calling for greater
dialogue. To Conclude: A fully satisfactory Christian theology of religions is
still in gestation and has been struggling to be born, says George Nedumgatt SJ.
The present times demand a great need of tolerance from the part of all religions in
matters of faith affirmations. Let us walk together in spirit of dialogue.
Editor: Tony Maliyekal VC Published from Vincentian Vidyabhavan, Aluva.