Exploring the Frontiers: Jacques Dupuis and the Movement “Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism”

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2000 »Volume 37 2000 Number 1 »Exploring The Frontiers Jacques Dupuis And The Movement Towards A Christian Theology Of Religious Pluralism

Terrence Merrigan

TERRENCE MERRIGAN is Managing Editor of Louvain Studies, and Professor of Christology, and the Theology of the Non-Christian Religions at the Faculty of Theology of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). He is the editor of ÒThe Myriad Christ: Plurality and the Quest for Unity in Contemporary ChristologyÓ (Leuven: Peeters Press, 2000).

Introduction: The Nature of the Theology of Religions

Even the most cursory overview of the history of theology demonstrates that the focus of the discipline has continually shifted, in line with the new questions generated by different eras. The most dramatic shift in recent years has undoubtedly been the turn towards the problematic of the non-Christian religions. The so-called theology of religions will almost certainly dominate the theological agenda in the decades to come. Not surprisingly, the precise nature of this discipline is itself a subject of theological discussion. Nevertheless, I think that the following definition or description would find wide acceptance. It seems to me that the Christian theology of religions is that branch of theology which considers the nature and function of non-Christian religious traditions2 in the light of Christian faith in the salvific character of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, the Christian theology of religions begins its reflection on the non-Christian religious traditions in the conviction that God has acted to save humankind in Christ. One could say, therefore, that the whole Christian theology of religions turns on the question of salvation and its mediation to those outside the Christian dispensation.

It has become commonplace among theologians to distinguish three approaches to the theology of religions (Race 1983). Other divisions have been proposed, but the threefold approach developed by Alan Race in 1983 continues to be dominant. The first approach is described as exclusivism, and consists in the claim that no one can be saved who does not make an explicit confession of faith in Jesus Christ. (Some exclusivists allow for the possibility that non-believers may be given the opportunity to make this confession after death, but they nevertheless insist that it must be made.) In addition to certain Biblical texts (especially Paul’s letter to the Romans), the most important sources for this theology include the work of Karl Barth (1886-1968) and Hendrik Kraemer (1888-1965). The second approach to the question of how non-Christians are saved is described as inclusivism. This position does not insist on an explicit confession of Christ or membership in the Christian Church. However, it insists that Christ is always implicated in the salvific process and regards explicit Christian faith as the completion of every religious system. The most important representative of the inclusivist position is Karl Rahner. This approach is evident in the theology of Vatican II. The third answer to the question of how non-Christians are saved is provided by that school of theology which is known as pluralism. Pluralist theologians insist that salvation is possible in and through a variety of independent and more or less equally valid religious traditions. The most important representatives of pluralism include John Hick, Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Paul Knitter.3

What unites all three approaches is the recognition that God wills the salvation of all humanity (1 Tim 2:4) and, in consequence, has acted to effect this salvation in history. What distinguishes them, however, is their determination to approach the history of salvation from different perspectives. It seems to me that these perspectives can be outlined in terms of a particular point of focus which is characteristic of each. More concretely, while exclusivism focuses on the mediator of salvation, and inclusivism focuses on the concrete mediation of salvation, pluralism can be said to focus on the ultimate goal beyond every particular mediator or mediation. It seems to me that these distinctions are vital for an adequate understanding of the current state of the theology of religions and especially of the work under consideration here, namely, Jacques Dupuis’ Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Dupuis 1997).4 Before proceeding to a detailed analysis of Dupuis’ work, it will be useful to reflect in more detail on the three current approaches to the theology of religions. Let us begin with exclusivism.

Exclusivism focuses on the historical mediator of God’s universal, salvific will, Jesus Christ. This means that exclusivism stresses, above all, the knowledge of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and its saving power. It is therefore radically christocentric.

Inclusivism focuses on the actual, historical mediation of God’s universal, salvific will. It stresses, above all, the way in which Christ’s saving power is made available to people in particular times and places. It therefore tends to focus on the instruments of mediation, such as, for example, the presence of the universal Logos in the world, the sacramental life of the church or, more recently, the activity of the Holy Spirit. In other words, inclusivism need not be christocentric in the narrow sense of that term and can be described as ecclesiocentric or logocentric or pneumatocentric.

Pluralism interprets God’s universal, salvific will in terms of the shared goal of the world’s religious traditions. This goal is thought to be manifest, to a greater or lesser degree, in all these traditions. Therefore, the main focus of pluralism is, as it were, a “point” beyond every particular religious tradition. This “point” can be situated clearly within history - for example, socio-economic liberation and ecological well-being here and now. (This is the main theme in the work of Paul Knitter). But it can also be described as a reality which will only be fully realized in the eschatological future, though it is already manifest here and now - for example, in the transformation of human beings from self-centeredness to a new orientation towards the whole of reality. (This is the main theme in the work of John Hick). Pluralism is therefore sometimes described as soteriocentric.5

Of course, neither of these approaches completely ignores the concerns of the other two. Nevertheless, each approach is largely determined by the decision to focus on one of the themes just mentioned. So, for example, in view of its christocentrism, exclusivism insists that the only possible mediation of salvation is through knowledge of Christ, and that salvation must be defined primarily in terms of Jesus’ atoning death. In view of its conviction that Christ’s saving power can be mediated by a variety of channels, inclusivism does not insist on the explicit confession of Christ and defines salvation as a process within which God’s salvific presence is gradually realized in human hearts and in human history (what the Fathers called “divinization”), though its final achievement will be eschatological. In view of its determination to focus on a reality beyond any particular mediator or mediation, pluralism cannot ascribe any salvific superiority to Christ or to the Christian religion, or indeed to any historical religious tradition. Instead, it appeals to all traditions to cooperate in the promotion of a common concern, whether this be human and ecological well-being (Knitter and, to a lesser degree, Hick), or the development of a universal theology (Smith).

Dupuis and the Inclusivist Theology of Religions

It is against the background sketched above that Jacques Dupuis’ recent investigation of the theology of religions must be situated. Dupuis, a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, has produced a comprehensive and thoroughly readable study of the present situation in the theology of religions, one which is introduced by a lengthy and detailed survey of the theological history of this discipline (Part I, pp. 1-201). Dupuis’ book is manifestly Catholic in perspective and in orientation, and draws extensively on conciliar teaching (especially Vatican II) and on Magisterial documents. Indeed, one of the major sources for his own approach is the work of Pope John Paul II and his encyclical Redemptoris Missio(1990) in particular. Not surprisingly, in view of the many years he spent in India, Dupuis also relies on the theological reflection undertaken by Asian (and especially Indian) bishops and thinkers. Dupuis clearly situates himself within the inclusivist camp. However, as he himself indicates, this camp is itself characterized by a certain diversity of views (130-157, 180-201).

The development of the inclusivist position has been shaped by a growing awareness that God’s universal salvific will can find expression in a variety of forms, including the organized religious life of non-Christian religious traditions (Sullivan 1992; D’Costa 1990b: 130-147). The earliest inclusivist theologies, such as that of Justin Martyr (c. 100 - c. 165), acknowledged the operation of God’s life-giving Word (Logos) among individual non-Christians and this view was more or less prominent in Catholic theology up until Vatican II (153-157). The great achievement of Karl Rahner (1904-1984) was to insist that God’s salvific will actually finds expression in the social and structural forms which characterize non-Christian religious life (143-149). In other words, non-Christian religious traditions can be appreciated as themselves constituting media for the operation of the salvific grace poured out in Christ. Vatican II reflects this new appreciation of non-Christian religious traditions, though it does not regard them (with the obvious exception of Judaism) as the product of distinct divine revelations. The great non-Christian religious traditions are portrayed as expressions of the human longing to answer the most fundamental questions of human existence (our origins, our destiny, etc.). The Council also expresses the ‘classical’ view that salvific grace can operate in the hearts of those outside the Church, and even extends this explicitly to atheists (158-179).6 We might summarize by saying that the great merit of the Council was its encouragement of a new attitude towards the non-Christian religions, one which enabled theologians to approach them as, in some sense, real players in the drama of salvation.

In recent years, inclusivist theologians have sought to integrate this new appreciation of the value of non-Christian religions into a comprehensive Christian theology of religions. They seek to achieve this by portraying Christ either as thefont of saving grace (including that grace which is operative in the non-Christian religions), or as the goal of all of humanity’s religious striving (in which case he is the norm against which all religious systems are to be measured) or as thecatalyst for the operation of “the Spirit of truth” who fills all of creation and draws all women and men to the Father (via diverse religious traditions).7

The main objection to inclusivist theology is its insistence on the saving presence of Christ, even where that presence is not acknowledged and especially where non-Christian men and women explicitly attribute their religious lives to other sources. To many critics this insistence on Christ seems imperialistic, a relic of an age when Christianity was the undisputed religious authority in the West. Moreover, it is argued, if Christians are convinced that Christ is the source and/or goal of all genuine religious life, they cannot enter into meaningful dialogue with non-Christians.

In his book, Dupuis attempts to address these challenges by developing a comprehensive theology of religions which is avowedly Christian and indeed inclusivist, but which also explores several avenues of thought that may lead beyond the traditional frontiers of inclusivist theology. Hence, while Dupuis’ book contains an unequivocal defense of inclusivism, it also contains elements which suggest a willingness to venture beyond the well-trod paths marked out by some of his inclusivist predecessors. This perhaps explains the interest the book has aroused in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That being said, however, what Dupuis has done was ultimately unavoidable. There is a real and urgent need for fresh thinking about the theology of religions from an inclusivist perspective and this will inevitably be a matter of long and perhaps painful development. Rather than simply provide a summary of the individual chapters in Dupuis’ book, I would prefer, first, to inquire into the fundamental principles guiding his approach and, secondly, to reflect on those elements (often only remarks) which suggest that he is prepared to advance beyond the traditional frontiers. At the same time, I will endeavor to situate his position within the broader framework of the contemporary theology of religions. Let us begin with the basic building blocks of Dupuis’ theology of religious pluralism.

Some Principles of Dupuis’ Theology of Religious Pluralism

1. The Need to Do Justice to the Contemporary Pluralistic Context

I have pointed out elsewhere that perhaps the main factor invoked to justify a shift in the theology of religions is the new and contemporary experience of pluralism (Merrigan 1997b: 95-102). So, for example, in his introduction to The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, Paul Knitter reflects on what he describes as the “new experience of pluralism” characteristic of our times.

More and more Christians, along with people of other faiths and ideologies, are experiencing religious pluralism in a new way - that is, they are feeling not only the reality of so many other religious paths, but also their vitality, their influence in our modern world, their depths, beauty, and attractiveness. And because of this new experience of pluralism, Christians are feeling the need for a more productive dialogue with other religions, a new attitude toward them (Knitter 1988, Preface: vii).

In his study, Dupuis acknowledges the significance of the modern, pluralistic context.8 So, for example, reflecting on the shift in Catholic theological attitudes to other religions in the period preceding Vatican II, Dupuis observes that this was “to no small extent, dictated by the new situation which obtained during the period.” Increased scientific and academic knowledge of non-Christians was supplemented by “a deeper experiential knowledge obtained through increased interaction between Christians and the members of other religious traditions.”

The irreversible process had begun by which the world would progressively shrink into a ‘global village,’ bringing with it a new awareness that Christianity was one of many traditions which claim and enjoy the allegiance of millions of adherents and disciples. In such a context the question could not but arise as to how the other traditions stood in relation to Christianity and, from the vantage point of Christian faith, what role they might be playing in relation to the salvation of their followers (132-133).

As Dupuis consistently makes clear, however, the historical and cultural context has always played a major role in shaping what we now know as the theology of religions. This is strikingly illustrated by the history of the interpretation of the dictum, extra ecclesiam nulla salus. As Dupuis explains:

After the axiom ‘Outside the church no salvation’ had found its way into the Church’s official doctrine, indeed in its rigid form, at the Council of Florence [to the effect that all those outside the visible Catholic Church are destined for eternal damnation], the historic context underwent a dramatic change. This was, fifty years after Florence’s Decree for the Copts (1442), the discovery of the ‘New World’ (1492). This amounted to a showdown which would shake irreversibly the ancient persuasion of an adequate promulgation of the Gospel throughout the whole world as it had been hitherto understood. The event confirmed in a dramatic way what some authors had vaguely perceived. It called on theologians to reconsider the entire case of the requisites for salvation. No longer would it be possible to hold, without qualification, that faith in Jesus Christ and belonging to the Church were absolutely required for salvation (110-111).

The theological response to the ‘discovery’ of whole peoples who had never heard the Gospel was innovative and, for the times, even generous. This was the period of the flowering of the notions of implicit faith and the implicit desire for baptism. Dupuis highlights the case of J. De Lugo, a theologian at the Roman College (1621-1643), who extended the solution devised for inhabitants of the New World to “heretics, Jews, andMuslims.” Dupuis quotes F. A. Sullivan’s approving appraisal of De Lugo’s “revolutionary” stand.

What we find in these Catholic theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is an openness to truth from whatever source it came to them, and a readiness to reexamine traditional ideas and conceptions in the light of newly acquired knowledge. One has to admire not only their honesty in facing the problems which the discoveries of the age presented to them, but also their courage in proposing solutions that not only ran counter to the previous theological tradition, but seemed also to contradict the teaching of mediaeval councils and popes that there was no salvation outside the Church (120).9

Of course, it is a commonplace in modern Catholic theology to insist on the need to take account of contemporary experience. In the case of the contemporary Christian experience of non-Christian religions, however, its absorption into theological reflection has far-reaching implications. Dupuis refers several times to the implication drawn by the Theological Advisory Commission of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (1987) in this regard:

Its experience of the other religions has led the Church in Asia to [a] positive appreciation of their role in the divine economy of salvation. This appreciation is based on the fruits of the Spirit perceived in the lives of the other religions’ believers: a sense of the sacred, a commitment to the pursuit of fullness, a thirst for self-realization, a taste for prayer and commitment, a desire for renunciation, a struggle for justice, an urge to basic human goodness, an involvement in service, a total surrender of the self to God, and an attachment to the transcendent in their symbols, rituals and life itself, though human weakness and sin are not absent [emphasis added] (220).

The willingness to accord the other religions a positive role in the divine economy of salvation - a willingness inspired by the actual experience of the fruits of the Spirit visible among them - is a major feature of Dupuis’ own approach. But Dupuis is not satisfied to understand this ‘role’ as merely ‘accidental’, so to speak. Nor is he prepared to regard the religions - in the fashion of some of his inclusivist predecessors (e.g., Jean Daniélou, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar) - as enjoying only a “preparatory” role relevant to Christianity (what Dupuis describes as the “fulfillment theory” with respect to non-Christian religions; pp. 130-142).

Instead (and here we touch on one of the more controversial proposals enunciated in the book), Dupuis prefers to regard the world religions as possessed of “a lasting role and a specific meaning in the overall mystery” of the relationship between God and humanity [emphasis added] (211). This claim is basic to Dupuis’ whole approach and deserves consideration in its own right.


2. The Idea of the Unified Religious History of Humankind

At the outset of his study, Dupuis observes that the expression, “theology of religions,” has largely given way to the expression, “theology of religious pluralism.” “The change in terminology,” he reflects, “indicates a change in theological perspective.”

The new perspective is no longer limited to the problem of “salvation” for members of the other religious traditions or even to the role of those traditions in the salvation of their members. It searches more deeply, in the light of Christian faith, for the meaning in God’s design for humankind of the plurality of living faiths and religious traditions with which we are surrounded [emphasis added] (10).

The current theology of religions means to look at religious pluralism not merely as a matter of course and a fact of history (pluralism de facto) but as having a raison d’être in its own right (pluralism de jure or “in principle”). The question no longer simply consists of asking what role Christianity can assign to the other historical religious traditions but in searching for the root-cause of pluralism itself, for its significance in God’s own plan for humankind, for the possibility of a mutual convergence of the various traditions in full respect of their differences, and for their mutual enrichment and cross-fertilization [emphasis added] (11).

Dupuis’ own determination to take the other religions seriously in their own right finds strongest expression in his conception of salvation history as the realization of “one divine plan for all peoples [which] embraces the whole universe” (371).10

“The history of salvation and revelation is one,” Dupuis insists (251; 220; 236) and can be distinguished into three stages (though these do not correspond to a chronological sequence): (1) a stage of cosmic or “general” (233) revelation, in which “God grants to the hearts of seers the hearing of a secret word, of which the sacred scriptures of the religious traditions of the world contain, at least, traces;” (2) the stage of “special” (233) revelation to Israel, in which “God speaks officially to Israel by the mouth of its prophets” (a word recorded in the Old Testament along with the account of human response to it); (3) the stage of “plenary” or special Christian revelation, in which God “utters his decisive word in him who is ‘the Word’” (250). Accordingly, Dupuis is able to say that “revelation is progressive and differentiated” (251, 247), with the history of Israel and the Christian church serving, so to speak, as the ‘prime analogue’ for the understanding of what is happening in the stage of cosmic revelation (233, 235, 211, 219).11

Nevertheless, Dupuis insists, “the distinction between the general and the special history of salvation must not be taken too rigidly: extrabiblical religious traditions cannot be excluded a priori from belonging to special revelation history” (233). Hence, Dupuis is able to speak of a “universal process of divine revelation which occurs through concrete, limited manifestations” (329), and of the “universal active presence of the Word of God and his Spirit, as a source of enlightenment and inspiration of religious founders and the traditions which have sprung from their experience” (385). In a similar vein, he insists that “God’s saving action, which always operates within the framework of a unified plan, is one and at the same time multifaceted,” (316) and that the history of salvation is both “one and manifold” (325, 211).

Against all reduction of the history of salvation-revelation to the Hebrew-Christian tradition it must be affirmed that salvation history coincides and is coextensive with the history of the world. It consists of human and world history itself, seen with the eyes of faith as a “dialogue of salvation” freely initiated by God with humankind from creation itself and pursued through the centuries until the fulfillment of God’s Reign in the eschaton (217).

Central to the Christian view of God’s dealings with humankind is a historical perspective capable of accounting at once for a variety of divine self-manifestations and the unity of a divinely preordained plan. God’s design for humankind is neither monolithic nor piecemeal, but singular and complex at the same time. It is one and universal, in view of God’s will to communicate with the entire human race, irrespective of historical situations and circumstances in which men and women find themselves; and it is manifold and variegated in the concrete forms which the divine unitary design takes on in historical unfolding (211).

In line with this wholistic vision, and taking his lead from the new understanding of Christian ecumenism as an attempt to restore a shattered “organic unity,” Dupuis argues that “the relationship between Christianity and the other religions can no longer be viewed in terms of contradiction and opposition between realization here and stepping stones there, much less between absoluteness on one side and only potentialities on the other.”

It must henceforth be thought of in terms of the relational interdependence, within the organic whole of universal reality, between diverse modalities of encounter of the [sic] human existence with the Divine Mystery. The Catholic Church will, no doubt, continue to hold that the mystery of the Church willed by Jesus Christ “subsists” (subsistit) in it while it “exists” to a lesser extent in other churches. Similarly, the Christian faith will continue to imply a “fullness” of divine manifestation and revelation in Jesus Christ not realized elsewhere with the same fullness of sacramentality. Nevertheless, in both cases, the realities involved will have to be viewed as mutually related and interdependent, constituting together the complete whole of human-divine relationships. It is in this direction that a Christian theology of religious pluralism must seek to overcome the dilemma between christocentric inclusivism and theocentric pluralism, understood as contradictory paradigms (204; see also 209, 212, 220, 232, 385).

Dupuis’ own attempt to overcome this dilemma is distinctly trinitarian in character. Let us examine this feature of his approach.

3. The Trinity as Source and Goal of the Religious History of Humankind

Dupuis is very insistent that only a radically trinitarian approach can preserve the essential unity of the salvific economy while allowing for the legitimate diversity which is manifest in humankind’s plural religious history. “Salvation history is in its entirety the history of the origin of all things from God through his Word in the Spirit and of their return to God through the Word in the Spirit” (228).

Dupuis locates the unity-in-origin of humankind’s religious history in the heart of the Trinity:

The mystery of the Trinity implies at once unity and plurality, personal identity in interpersonal relationships. It discloses to us the immanent life of the Godhead as consisting of total mutual exchange and sharing - in sum, that God is absolute communion of love. The diversity and communion of persons in the Godhead offer the proper key for understanding the multiplicity of interrelated divine self-manifestations in the world and in history (208).

In addition to serving as the source of human religious diversity, the Trinity also constitutes the final goal of humankind’s religious history:

The expansiveness of God’s inner life overflowing outside the Godhead is, in the last analysis, the root-cause for the existence in human history of convergent paths, leading to a unique common goal: the absolute mystery of the Godhead which draws all paths to itself, even as in the first place it launches them into existence (209; see also 312, 313).

            In opposition to pluralist theologies, Dupuis insists that the ultimate reality towards which all religion tends is none other than the Triune God (237). The portrayal of God as Father, Son and Spirit is not simply a peculiarly Christian construct, a culturally-determined image of the unfathomable divine Mystery. On the contrary, Dupuis insists, “the Christian Trinitarian God represents the Ultimate Reality an sich” (259).12 Moreover, “the doctrine of the Trinity serves as the hermeneutical key for an interpretation of the experience of the Absolute Reality to which other religions testify” (264, 266). Indeed, “it may be said that the divine Trinity is experienced, though hiddenly and ‘anonymously,’ wherever human beings allow the Divine Reality that impinges upon them to enter into their life. In every authentic religious experience the Triune God of Christian revelation is present and operative” (277, 242, 244). Hence, Dupuis urges that a “search” be made for “‘traces’ of the Trinity (vestigia Trinitatis) outside the biblical tradition, in the religious life of individual persons and the religious traditions to which they belong” (227-228).13

The essential unity of the salvific economy is realized and expressed in the incarnation of Christ. As Dupuis explains:

The becoming human of the Word of God in Jesus Christ, his human life, death, and resurrection, is the culminating point of the process of divine self-communication, the hinge upon which the process holds together, its key of interpretation. The reason is that the Word’s “humanization” marks the unsurpassed - and unsurpassable - depth of God’s self-communication to human beings, the supreme mode of immanence of his being-with-them (320-321).14


Dupuis is insistent that Christ’s death and resurrection are “constitutive” for human salvation,15 that is to say, possessed of a “universal significance” (305). Indeed, Dupuis claims that “the universal mediation of Christ in the order of salvation concretely refers to the fact that his risen humanity is the obligatory channel, the instrumental cause, of grace for all people” (350). Moreover, he declares that the only secure foundation for this claim is Christ’s “personal identity as the Son of God” (297, 280-281).

In view of such claims, Dupuis can only be regarded as an inclusivist, indeed as a classic inclusivist, theologian. His position is not unnuanced, however. Hence, he approvingly cites Claude GeffrŽ to the effect that “it is legitimate to consider the economy of the incarnate Word as the sacrament of a vaster economy, that of the eternal Word, which coincides with the religious history of humankind” (379, 299).16

The ‘distinction’ between the salvific economy unfolded in the incarnate Word (Logos ensarkos), and a “vaster” salvific economy effected by the eternal Word (Logos asarkos) is basic to Dupuis’ own proposal. Clearly, however, it would be wrong to characterize Dupuis’ position as Logocentrism (298-299). So, Dupuis argues that while God’s saving action “never prescinds from the Christ-event, in which it finds its highest historical density,” the “Word of God is not constrained by its historically becoming human in Jesus Christ,” just as the “Spirit’s work in history” is not “limited to its outpouring upon the world by the risen and exalted Christ” (316; see also 321). Indeed, Dupuis pleads for a recognition of the “hypostatic distinction between the Word and the Spirit” and for the acknowledgement of the “specific influence of each in the Trinitarian rhythm of all divine-human relationships, individual and collective”17 (206; see also 207, 300). Similarly, he claims that “the specific function of the Spirit consists in allowing persons to become sharers, whether before or after the event, of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection” (197, referring to Gaudium et Spes, no. 22).

That being said, however, Dupuis repeatedly insists that “the cosmic influence of the Spirit cannot be severed from the universal action of the risen Christ.  Christ, not the Spirit, is at the center as the way to God” (197).

Pneumatocentrism and Christocentrism cannot, therefore, be construed as two distinct economies of salvation, one parallel to the other. They constitute two inseparable aspects, or complementary elements, within a unique economy of salvation (197; see also 198).

In this regard, it is worth noting that Dupuis’ first direct intervention in the text, that is to say, the first occasion when he clearly expresses a view, is to rebut pluralist objections to the centrality accorded to Christ, and to defend “a high christology in which the personal identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is unambiguously recognized” (191).18 Likewise, he later declares that his position is dependent on “a ‘high’ Trinitarian theology” (228; see also 280-281), and that it can best be described as “Trinitarian Christology” (205).

And this is certainly the case. So, for example, Dupuis even invokes the “relationship of order” which prevails within the Godhead to insist on the centrality - within a Trinitarian framework - of the Christ-event:

A well-poised theological account of the relationship between christology and pneumatology must combine various elements: on the one hand, the roles of both the Son and the Spirit may not be confused but must remain distinct, even as their hypostatic identities are distinct; on the other hand, there exists between both a “relationship of order” which, without implying any subordinationism of one to the other, translates into the divine economy the order of eternal relations of hypostatic origination in the intrinsic mystery of the Godhead.

Thus, while the functions of the Son and the Spirit need to be kept clearly distinct, there is between them no dichotomy but total complementarity in one divine economy of salvation: only the Son became man, but the fruit of his redemptive incarnation is the outpouring of the Spirit symbolized at Pentecost. The Christ-event is at the center of the unfolding of the divine economy, but the punctual event of Jesus Christ is actuated and becomes operative throughout time and space in the work of the Spirit (207; see also 227).

In the last analysis, we are here encountering the mystery of time and eternity as it affects God’s dealings with humankind in history. While for our human discursive knowledge the historical unfolding of salvation is by necessity made up of beginning-center-end, or of past-present-future, in God’s eternal awareness and knowledge, all is continuous and coexisting, co-simultaneous, and interrelated (222-223).

4. The Understanding of Non-Christian Religious Traditions as “Substitutive Mediations”

His trinitarian perspective allows Dupuis to insist on the universal character and even the necessity of Christ’s redemptive work without, however, requiring him to concentrate - in the fashion of exclusivism - on Jesus, the historical mediator. Instead, Dupuis shares the inclusivist concern with the concrete mediation of that grace which finds its focus and its raison d’être in theLogos ensarkos. And precisely in view of that concern, he is prepared to credit non-Christian religious traditions with a genuinely mediatory role. If one loses sight of this concern for concrete mediation, one will inevitably lose sight of the essential orthodoxy of Dupuis’ position - and one will inevitably misconstrue his repeated assertions regarding the “positive value” and the “saving significance” or “saving power” of non-Christian religions (305, 306).

On a number of occasions, Dupuis speaks of the non-Christian religious traditions in a fashion which is susceptible of non-inclusivist interpretations. So, for example, drawing on the terminology of Yves Congar, he describes the non-Christian religions as “substitutive mediations” (médiations de suppléance; 351), and as “channels of salvation” (316, 317) or as “mediation of the mystery of salvation” (318).19 Likewise, he speaks of them as “ways or means of conveying the power of the saving God,” and as “paths of salvation” (306).20 On one occasion he speaks of them “as representing in their own right distinct facets of the self-disclosure of the Absolute Mystery in a single, unitary, but complex and articulated divine economy” (210). Indeed, Dupuis even speaks of the possibility of “diverse ‘paths’ to salvation” (299, 316) and of the recognition of “other saving figures in history” (282, 283, 298, 373, 388). He even ventures the view that “the Trinitarian Christology model, the universal enlightenment of the Word of God, and the enlightening by his Spirit make it possible to discover, in other saving figures and traditions, truth and grace not brought out with the same vigor and clarity in God’s revelation and manifestation in Jesus Christ.” The “truth and grace found elsewhere represent additional and autonomous benefits.” Dupuis goes on to assert that “more divine truth and grace are found operative in the entire history of God’s dealings with humankind than are available simply in the Christian tradition” (388).

In his view, the world’s religions are the visible and social expression of the “distinct modalities of God’s self-communication to persons and peoples” (212), that is to say, of the various covenantal relations established by God with humankind at various times (223-234).21 As such, they are possessed of an “abiding meaning,” and “an abiding [and “lasting”] efficacy,” in “accordance with God’s universal saving design for humankind” (212). Indeed, they may be described as representing “true interventions and authentic manifestations of God in the history of peoples; they form integral parts of one history of salvation that culminates in the Jesus-Christ-event” (303).  Accordingly, Dupuis is able to claim that “plurality needs to be taken seriously and to be welcomed, not merely as a matter of fact but in principle. Its place in God’s plan of salvation for humankind must be stressed” (201).22

Dupuis’ most comprehensive commentary on the role played by the non-Christian traditions in the economy of salvation reads as follows:

The various religious traditions of the world are the many ways in which God has, in anticipation of the coming of his Son, disclosed the divine self to the nations and in which he continues to do so. They all form part of the history of salvation, which is one and manifold. They all contain elements of divine revelation and moments of divine grace, even though these remain incomplete and open to a fuller self-gift and disclosure on the part of God. The gracious moments enshrined in the religious traditions of humankind open their followers - through faith and agape - to God’s grace and salvation. They do so insofar as in God’s providence they anticipate God’s fuller disclosure and decisive self-gift in Jesus Christ (325).

The inclusivist character of this passage is unmistakable. Indeed, it might even be read as a return to the fulfillment theory of revelation and salvation history from which Dupuis seeks to dissociate himself.23 His recognition of their salvific role notwithstanding, Dupuis is insistent that non-Christian religious traditions (i.e., “religious practices and sacramental rites”) “are not on the same footing as the Christian sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ” (319).24

We must distinguish various modalities of the sacramental presence of the [Christic] mystery. The mystery of Christ knows different modalities of the mediation of its presence. The grace of God, while surely one, is visibly mediated in different modes - differing among them[selves] not only in degree but in kind (319).

Hence, alongside the expressions of appreciation for the non-Christian religions noted above, we also find Dupuis describing them as “an incomplete mode of mediation,” in which, accordingly, the “mystery of salvation” “is present in an implicit, concealed manner,” as opposed to Christianity, where the same mystery is present “overtly and explicitly” (312). The non-Christian religions, Dupuis contends, “exercise, with regard to their own members, a certain mediation of the Kingdom,” but this mediation, which “is doubtless different from that which is operative in the Church,” is very difficult to define (346; emphasis added). Cosmic revelation is an “initial,” a “hidden,” even a “secret” divine word (250, 303), and nothing that it contains can contradict “him who is ‘the Word’” (252; emphasis Dupuis). “No revelation, either before or after Christ can either surpass or equal the one vouchsafed in Jesus Christ, the divine Son incarnate” (250).

To the degree that non-Christian religious traditions exercise a mediatory role, they would appear to do so as “participated forms of mediation,” that is to say, according as they participate in the “one, universal” mediation of Christ. Dupuis takes this notion from John Paul II’s encyclical, Redemptoris Missio. There the pontiff affirms (no. 10) that “salvation in Christ is accessible to people outside the Church ‘by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation’.” The encyclical then goes on to recognize the possibility in the order of salvation of “participated forms of mediation”: “Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value onlyfrom Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his” [emphasis Dupuis] (no. 5). Dupuis comments that “it is not clear whether among the ‘participated mediations’ contemplated in this text are included, for the benefit of members of the other religions, the traditions to which they belong’ (177).

For Dupuis himself, it would seem, the “participated mediation” mentioned by the Pope does extend to non-Christian religious traditions as such. In any case, John Paul II, in Redemptoris Missio, provides another avenue for approaching these traditions as genuine mediators when he describes them as loci for the activity of the Spirit. Dupuis cites the encyclical (no. 28) to the effect that:

The Spirit’s presence and activity are universal, limited neither by space nor time. The Spirit’s presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions (222, quoting Redemptoris Missio, no. 28).

Commenting on this passage, Dupuis observes that, “Thus, throughout human history, in the religious traditions as well as in individual persons, the Spirit has been present and active.”25 He continues by noting that “the same conviction is echoed in the statement of the ecumenical consultation held at Baar, [Switzerland] (1990),” where we read: “We affirm univocally that the Holy Spirit has been at work in the life and traditions of peoples of living faiths” (222; see also 200, 243).


            Dupuis makes much of the document, Dialogue and Proclamation: Reflections and Orientations on Interreligious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, published jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (19 May 1991). Dupuis describes this as “a first among documents of the Church’s magisterium on the subject of members of other religions and their traditions.” It “goes beyond whatever Church documents have stated before regarding the role played by religious traditions in the salvation in Jesus Christ of their followers.” The text (no. 29) declares that, “the mystery of salvation reaches out to [those who “remain unaware that Jesus is the source of their salvation”], in a way known to God, through the invisible action of the Spirit of Christ. Concretely, it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Savior” (178; emphasis Dupuis). Dupuis acknowledges that the statement is a “guarded one,” but he also claims that “a door seems to be timidly opened here, for the first time, for the recognition on the part of the Church authority of a ‘participated mediation’ of religious traditions in the salvation of their members. With such a statement we seem to be definitely moving from the ‘fulfillment theory’ to that of an active presence of the mystery of Jesus Christ in the traditions themselves” (178-179).

Clearly, from within the framework of Dupuis’ trinitarian analysis, the recognition of a role for the non-Christian religious traditions as such, in view of the active presence of the Spirit, does not compromise the constitutive character of Christ’s redemptive work. As he explains:

If religion has its original source in a divine self-manifestation to human beings, the principle of plurality will be made to rest primarily on the superabundant richness and diversity of God’s self-manifestations to humankind. The divine plan for humanity, as we have explained, is one, but multifaceted. It belongs to the nature of the overflowing communication of the Triune God to humankind to prolong outside the divine life the plural communication intrinsic to that life itself. That God spoke “in many and various ways” before speaking through his Son (Heb. 1:1) is not incidental; nor is the plural character of God’s self-manifestation merely a thing of the past. For the decisiveness of the Son’s advent in the flesh in Jesus Christ does not cancel the universal presence and action of the Word and the Spirit. Religious pluralism in principle rests on the immensity of a God who is love (387).

This passage, taken from the concluding chapter of Dupuis’ study, could be taken as a summary of his entire approach to the theology of religious pluralism. We have sought to expound that theology by extensive reference to Dupuis’ text. There remains the task of offering a few critical reflections.

Dupuis’ Exploration of the Frontiers of the Inclusivist Theology of Religions

Throughout his study Dupuis clearly takes issue with the pluralist approach to the theology of religions. At the same time, however, as we have already indicated, he occasionally seems at least to ‘echo’ certain pluralist themes. I would highlight two major instances of such echoes: (1) the references to “a plurality of ways or paths to human liberation/salvation” and to “other [“different”] saving figures” (282, 283, 298); this notion is coupled with the observation that the revelation in Jesus Christ “is not absolute,” but “remains relative” (249) or, again, that the constitutive uniqueness of Christ “must not be construed as absolute [since] what is absolute is God’s saving will” (387-388); (2) the suggestion that “more divine truth and grace are found operative in the entire history of God’s dealings with humankind than are available simply in the Christian tradition” (388, 252, 294, 322, 373, 379).

I deliberately use the term ‘echoes’ in discussing the presence of these themes in Dupuis’ work because, it seems to me, what is at stake here is more a question of language than of doctrine. Let us take each ‘echo’ separately.

1.  A Plurality of Saviors and Ways?

The notion of other saviors and paths is basic to pluralist theology. However, it is clear from what has preceded that, according to Dupuis, the only savior is the Triune God disclosed in Jesus Christ. Dupuis’ concern, a concern which he regards as absent from the considerations of Vatican II, is “the vertical relationship of humanity’s religious traditions with the mystery of Jesus Christ.”  Had the Council turned its mind to this question, Dupuis suggests, instead of the question of the “horizontal relationship of [the non-Christian traditions] with Christianity or the Church,” there might have been a movement towards the “acknowledgement of a hidden presence of the mystery of Christ in these same traditions, and of a certain mediation of this same mystery through them” (170). It is only in view of the essential relatedness of the non-Christian traditions to the Trinitarian and Christic mystery that Dupuis would be prepared to describe them as “legitimate paths of salvation for their members” (170). Hence, strictly speaking, that is to say, within the framework of a Trinitarian understanding of the salvific economy, there are no “other” saviors or saving paths. Within an inclusivist framework, other religious leaders can perhaps best be described as “pointers to salvation for their followers,” a phrase which Dupuis himself employs (298). The question which has to be asked here, then, and a question which shall recur, is whether an inclusivist framework really allows for the more generous language which Dupuis occasionally employs with respect to the founders and/or saviors honored in other traditions, and with respect to those traditions themselves. I do not think it does.

Dupuis, of course, insists on the definitive character of revelation in Christ. At the same time, however, he points up the limitations inherent in the incarnation (a tendency which is becoming rather common in the theology of religions). So, on one occasion, Dupuis portrays the revelation given in the incarnation as “incomplete” in view of the inevitable “historical particularity of Jesus” (298). Similarly, on two occasions he speaks of the “relative” character of incarnational revelation, with a bow to the ever-greater mystery of the Godhead (249, 379).26 Finally, at the conclusion of his study, he remarks that Christ’s constitutive salvific uniqueness “must not be construed as absolute: what is absolute is God’s saving will” (387-388).27

Here, as in the case of the so-called ‘plurality’ of saviors and ways, we are dealing with a limited number of passages which must be read against the background of Dupuis’ entire project. Viewed against this background, it is clear that Dupuis does not intend to suggest that the revelation given in Christ is “relative,” if by ‘relative’ one means ‘neither constitutive nor universal’. As I have already indicated, it is not at all clear that Dupuis has actually managed to move beyond the “fulfillment theory” as regards the relationship between Christianity and other religions.28 One thing is clear: his approach to the other religions will not satisfy pluralist demands that other traditions be accorded (rough) parity with Christianity as independent ways of salvation (Gilkey 1988: 37). It would appear that his ‘qualifications’ of the revelation in Christ must always be understood in terms of his overriding concern to highlight the Trinitarian character of the salvific economy and to insist that its mediation cannot be limited to the conscious confession of Christ. As we indicated at the outset, this concern is characteristic of inclusivist theology.

2.  A Plurality of Religious Truths?

The second ‘echo’ of pluralist themes which occasionally sounds in Dupuis’ study is the notion that religious truth is more extensive than the truth disclosed in the Christian dispensation. I have pointed out elsewhere that pluralist theologians (e.g., Paul Knitter) sometimes argue that any claim to an “unsurpassable” revelation in Jesus is “in tension, if not direct contradiction, with the more basic Christian belief that God is an unsurpassable Mystery, one which can never totally be comprehended or contained in human thought or construct” (Knitter 1996: 37; see Merrigan 1977: 703-705). Among pluralist theologians, the appeal to the mysterious character of the Godhead - and the inevitably ineffable character of religious experience - is invoked to justify what I have described as a “polar” notion of religious truth. I use this term to refer to the pluralist claim that the integrity of our portrayals of the religious object (i.e., our theologies) is dependent on their incorporation of complementary, or rival, or even “dipolar” and “multipolar” descriptions of that object.29

To my mind, the pluralist linking of the notion of ‘unsurpassability’ and the notion of the ultimately mysterious character of the Godhead evidences a certain confusion. More specifically, what is evident here is a confusion between, on the one hand, the Christian conviction that the Christ-event is God’s definitive revelation, and, on the other hand, the claim that the fullness of divinity has been exhaustively expressed in the incarnation (see Merrigan 1977: 694 n. 40). The latter claim is not part of orthodox Christian faith. To assert that Jesus is God’s definitive revelation ‘on this side of history’, so to speak, is not to deny that God remains mysterious. But, by the same token, the recognition of divine mystery does not necessitate acknowledgement of multiple revelations or of the co-existence of contradictory religious truth claims.

But what of Dupuis? At first glance, it would appear that Dupuis does espouse a version of the polar model of truth. Indeed, it is in this regard, above all, that Dupuis seems to articulate more than a mere echo of pluralist thinking. So, for example, he speaks of the ‘polarity and tension between distinct approaches to the reality of God” as not unfamiliar to the Christian tradition (242). Elsewhere, he speaks of “the word of God as a complex whole, with the tensions involved between apparently contradictory, yet complementary, elements of truth” (294), and of “the ‘complementary uniqueness’ of the mystery of Christ in relation to the religious traditions” (303). In a similar vein, he claims that what is at stake in interfaith exchange is “mutual complementarity, in which a dynamic interaction between two traditions results in mutual enrichment” (389; see also 326). In discussing the views of Aloysius Pieris on interreligious dialogue, Dupuis appears to evidence some sympathy for the idea that “distinct” traditions (i.e., Buddhism and Christianity) relate to one another in “reciprocal complementarity” (328) and that this is based on “the innate inadequacy of the basic medium proper to each.” Accordingly, it can be said that the “complementary idioms” of the two traditions “need each other to mediate the self-transcending experience called ‘salvation’” (326-327; see also 381).30

As we indicated above, Dupuis draws heavily on his Asian background to develop his theology of religions. This background is also evident here. So, for example, he refers to the text produced by the “Bishops’ Institutes for Religious Affairs” in India in 1995 which asserted that ‘religions, as they are manifested in history, are complementary perceptions of the ineffable divine mystery, the God-beyond-God. All religions are visions of the divine mystery” (314 n. 6).31

Once again, however, we must ask whether Dupuis’ inclusivist framework can accommodate the concession granted by Pieris, hinted at by the Indian “Bishops’ Institutes,” and intimated by certain of Dupuis’ turns of phrase. In the final analysis, I do not think that it can. Indeed, it is clear that Dupuis does not think that there are other religious truths which, as it were, ‘rival’ the truth of Christian revelation. Nor does he seem to hold that Christian truth is supplemented in any significant fashion by the ‘truths’ of other religions. One must bear this in mind when one encounters the claim that “more divine truth and grace are found operative in the entire history of God’s dealings with humankind than are available simply in the Christian tradition (388) or that “dialogue implies learning a new truth” (373). These and a few other rather unguarded (and perhaps insufficiently nuanced) pronouncements32 must be weighed against the thoroughly inclusivist claim that, while there are “surely elements of other faiths that are in harmony with Christian faith and can be combined and integrated with it, there may be other elements that formally contradict the Christian faith and are not assimilable” (381). Indeed, all Dupuis’ references to the presence of ‘truths’ in other traditions33 must be read in the light of the foregoing, and of the following, remark:

The question of what basic elements and religious insights can be shared by Christian theology and other religious traditions, as they come in contact with each other, is a difficult one which admits of no easy resolution. For each religious tradition constitutes a whole from which the various elements cannot be easily isolated. We are faced in fact with distinct, global worldviews within which, as within living organisms, each part plays its specific function, with the result that a “dynamic equivalence” between the components on either side is not easily available (384).

In the final analysis, Dupuis insists, the “harmony between religious communities will not be served by a ‘universal theology’ which would claim to bypass differences and contradictions” (384).


It would seem that the official inquiry into Dupuis’ study most probably relates to very specific expressions and turns of phrase. As I hope this review makes clear, the fundamental thrust of his argument is manifestly orthodox. This makes it all the more disconcerting that he should have been investigated so soon after his work appeared. Perhaps more time should have been left for the theological community to digest the work and to engage the author in dialogue. As I hope I have indicated, questions can be raised about the coherence of certain of Dupuis’ formulations with his system as a whole. Moreover, it is not at all clear that Dupuis has established what seems to be one of his basic presuppositions, namely, that religious traditions, merely by their very existence, are purveyors of revelation and salvation.34 Moreover, it is clear that what he offers here will not entice pluralists to abandon their insistence on parity for the non-Christian traditions.

What Dupuis has done is to explore the frontiers of the inclusivist theology of religions. In so doing, he has exposed certain “no-go areas” and apparently even ventured into something of a no-man’s-land between the three ‘classical’ approaches. Of course, these are pitfalls confronting every explorer. However, like all true explorers, Dupuis deserves respect and admiration for his endeavors. This is a brave and conscientious book, a comprehensive map of familiar territory, and an attempt to chart new routes. Dupuis’ map may not be complete but it will surely serve those who come after him.



1. Reprinted by permission of the author and publisher from Louvain Studies 23 (1998), pp. 338-339.

2. Of course, the word “religion” is itself controverted. I would describe as “religious” all those practices, worldviews, traditions, etc., which are more or less directly related to whatever people regard as their “ultimate concern.” For this understanding of “religion,” I am indebted to John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent (London: Macmillan, 1989) 3-5. Hick, of course, makes use of Paul Tillich’s notion of “ultimate concern.” Clearly, the theology of religions tends to focus on the ‘recognized’ or ‘established’ forms of organized religious life.

3. For an extensive discussion of the nature of pluralist theology, see The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, ed. J. Hick, P. Knitter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1988). For an inclusivist response, see, Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, ed. Gavin D’Costa (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1990).

4. Page numbers in this article, unless indicated otherwise, are refer to this work.

5. For a discussion of the nature of the pluralist theology of religions, see: Merrigan 1977: 686-707; 1997a: 117-144; 1997b: 95-132.

6. See Nostra Aetate, nos. 1-2; see also Lumen Gentium, nos. 16-17, Ad Gentes, nos. 3, 9, 11.

7. As example of these three approaches, one thinks of, respectively, Karl Rahner, Hans KŸng, and Gavin D’Costa as well as Jacques Dupuis. See, for example, Karl Rahner, “Christianity and the Non-Christian Religions,” Theological Investigations, vol. 5 (Baltimore: Helicon, 1966) 115-134; Hans KŸng, “What is True Religion? Toward an Ecumenical Criteriology,” Toward a Universal Theology of Religion, ed. L. Swidler (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1987) 231-250; Gavin D’Costa, “Towards a Trinitarian Theology of Religions,” A Universal Faith? Peoples, Cultures, Religions and the Christ, ed. C. Cornille, V. Neckebrouck (Leuven: Peeters, 1992) 139-154; Jacques Dupuis, “L’Esprit Saint répandu sur le monde: fondement du dialogue interreligieux,” Lumen Vitae: Revue internationale de catéchèse et de pastorale 53 (1998) 57-66. Dupuis also developed this view in a paper delivered to the international congress, “The Myriad Christ: Plurality and the Quest for Unity in Contemporary Christology,” held at the Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in November, 1997. The text of Dupuis’ lecture, “Trinitarian Christology as a Model for a Theology of Religious Pluralism,” will be published, along with other contributions to the congress, in a book bearing the title of the congress, which will appear in the series Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium in early 1999. The work of process theologians, such as John Cobb, would appear to belong to the third category. See, for example, John Cobb, Christ in a Pluralistic World (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975).

8. See, for example, pp. 1, 2, 4, 7, 10, 11, 13, 18, 86, 110-111, 120, 131, 132, 201, 248, 286, 293, 294, 314, 315, 375, 385, 386.

9. Dupuis is quoting from Sullivan 1992: 98.

10.This expression is found in the Theses on Interreligious Dialogue (Hong Kong: FABC Papers 48, 1987) 6, composed by the Theological Advisory Commission of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in 1987.

11.This analogical role is also assigned to the Jewish-Christian scriptures vis a vis other sacred writings (250-251). A problem which the tripartite division of revelation does not resolve is the position of Islam which, despite its status as a so-called prophetic religion and its claim to a certain Jewish pedigree, is hereby ‘reduced’ to the status of ‘cosmic’ religion.

12.There would seem to be some tension between this claim and the remark (263-264) to the effect that “while the primordial affirmation [regarding the Divine Mystery as communion between Father-Son-Spirit] made by the Apostolic Church belongs to the foundational Christian revelation and as such to the norma normans of Christian faith, the later elaborations do not have either the same authority or universality. The ecclesial enunciation of faith in the divine Trinity remains open to further elaborations and clarifications or even to other modes of expression.” See also p. 277, where Dupuis inquires whether, “if the Father is the unfathomable Trinitarian source beyond the Spirit and the Word” we do not have “the right to ask whether there is in turn a Beyond-the-Father?”

13.Dupuis undertakes such a search in the case of Hinduism. See the discussion on pp. 268-279.

14.See pp. 221-222: “...The Christ-event is the midpoint and the focal point. It is the pivot upon which the entire history of the dialogue between God and humanity turns, the principle of intelligibility of the divine plan concretized in the history of the world. It influences the entire process of history by way of a final cause, that is, as the end or the goal drawing to itself the entire evolutionary process: both pre-Christian and post-Christian history are being drawn by the Christ-Omega to himself.”

15.Dupuis returns repeatedly to the constitutive uniqueness of Jesus. The references include the following: 283, 293, 294, 295, 297, 300, 303, 304, 305, 313, 316, 318, 320, 350, 373, 379, 387, 388.

16.The text is taken from Claude GeffrŽ, “Théologie chrétienne et dialogue interreligieux,” Revue de l’Institut Catholique de Paris 38 (1991) 63-82. See p. 72.

17.See also: 207 - “their [Son and Spirit] hypostatic identities are distinct;” 208 - “distinct and correlated functions;” 221 - “two distinct persons.”

18.See also p. 189 n. 19 where Dupuis criticizes Raimundo Panikkar’s views and insists on the unique sonship of Christ.

19.Dupuis refers to Yves Congar, Vaste monde ma paroisse (Paris: Témoinage chrétien, 1959) 144 [English translation: The Wide World My Parish: Salvation and its Problems (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961)].

20.See also 319: “a way and means of salvation;” 315-316: “differentiated ways;” 317: “in a certain manner ‘channels’ of Christ’s saving power.”

21.On p. 204 Dupuis appears to use the expression, “diverse modalities,” to refer to the non-Christian religions. On p. 212, it seems to refer to the “‘pre- Christian’ covenants.” It is not clear how much of a distinction ought to be made between these covenants and the world’s religions in which they appear to find concrete expression.

22.See also pp. 11, 210, 252, 268, 294, 322, 373, 379, 388.

23.In this regard, see p. 279 where Dupuis actually speaks of “fulfillment” in the case of Christ: “The religious traditions of the world convey different insights into the mystery of Ultimate Reality. Incomplete as these may be, they nevertheless witness to a manifold self-manifestation of God to human beings in diverse faith-communities. They are ‘incomplete’ faces of the Divine Mystery experienced in various ways, to be fulfilled in him who is ‘the human face of God’” [emphasis added]. See also p. 325.

24.See p. 298: “It seems legitimate ... to point to a convergence between the religious traditions and the mystery of Jesus Christ, as representing various, though not equal, paths along which, through history, God has sent and continues to seek human beings in his Word and his Spirit.”

25.See also Dupuis’ discussion (pp. 173-179) of other documents and statements by the Pope (including the encyclicals Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979) and Dominum et Vivificantem (18 May 1986)) where the active presence of the Spirit in non-Christian religious traditions is affirmed. See also pp. 365-370.

26.On p. 249, Dupuis writes that the “revelation [in Jesus] is not absolute. It remains relative.” In my opinion, it would have been better for Dupuis to have employed the word, “limited,” instead of “relative.”

27.But see p. 303: “The uniqueness and the universality of Jesus Christ are neither absolute nor relative.” See also pp. 387-388.

28.See p. 345, where Dupuis seems to develop a version of Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christians’: “While the believers of other religious faiths perceive God’s call through their own traditions and respond to it in the sincere practice of these traditions, they become in all truth - even without being formally conscious of it - active members of the Kingdom” (emphasis added).

29.Raimundo Panikkar speaks of the differences among religions as “dialogical tensions and creative polarities.” See his “The Myth of Pluralism: The Tower of Babel - A Meditation on Non-Violence,” Cross Currents 29 (1979) 226. Knitter [No Other Name?: A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1985) 221] insists that “the world religions, in all their amazing differences, are more complementary than contradictory,” and that “all religious experience and all religious forms are, by their very nature dipolar.” Elsewhere (No Other Name?, 223) he speaks of “the dipolar, indeed multipolar, character of divine truth.” Knitter (No Other Name?, 221) notes that: “The West is awakening to this necessary dipolarity of religious experience and identity. Paul Tillich saw it in his proposed ‘dipolar typology’ for interpreting the entire history of religions [Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963) 53-59]. W.C. Smith encapsulates it in his assertion that ‘in all ultimate matters, truth lies not in an either-or but in a both-and’ [The Faith of Other Men (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) 17]. More recently, John A.T. Robinson argues the same in his elaborate case that ‘truth is two-eyed’, and that Western Christianity, with its emphasis on the personality of God, the historicity of faith, the importance of the material world, has been peering into the mystery of God with only one eye [Truth is Two-Eyed (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980)]. John Cobb, in his proposal for a mutually transformative dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, shows that the ‘profoundly different’ experience of Buddhists and Christians are not contradictions but ‘mutually enriching contrasts’ [Beyond Dialogue (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982) 47-53, 140-143]. Contained in this growing awareness is the insight that all religious experience and all religious language must be two-eyed, dipolar, a union of opposites.”

30. Dupuis is quoting Aloysius Pieris, “The Buddha and the Christ: Mediators of Liberation,” ed. Knitter 1988: 163.

31. Among the many references to the “complementarity” of religions, see the following: 204, 212, 242, 252, 253, 268, 278, 294, 303, 304, 305, 322, 326, 327-328, 372, 381, 384, 389, 390.

32. See pp. 249, 322, 379.

33. See pp. 204, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 252, 253, 268, 294, 322, 373, 379, 388.

34. See for example the ease with which Dupuis speaks of “authentic prayer” (240), “genuine religious experience” (241), “authentic experience of God” (244, 317, 318, 319), etc., when he discusses the non-Christian traditions.


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