Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On exclusivism and authentic dialogue

1. Let us recall what we studied before in Christology. There we said that there are three given approaches to other religions with Christ as our basis. We spoke of exclusivism, inclusivism and theocentrism. 

2. In our faith we say that the "Seeds of the Word" are found in other religions. This notion came from Church Fathers and St. Justin in particular. Later, in the Vatican II council this was mentioned again. Pope John Paul II also mentioned it in his Redemptoris missio.

3. But then even if we have this notion, aprroacing other religions has been met with difficulties. Let us look at exclusivism.

4. Exclusivism says that a person must have faith in Christ AND BE INSIDE THE CHURCH to be saved. Other religions do not have Christ in them and certainly people in those religions are outside the Church. They are therefore EXCLUDED from the grace of God. For exclusivism "we are the best". Other religions are in the dark, they are sinful and they are ruled by Satan.

5. Exclusivism is so ecclesio-centric, Church centered. Note that one has to be IN THE CHURCH. So really the central emphasis is Church membership.

6. We might think that the Church was exclusivist up until Vatican II. No, the Church EVEN BEFORE VATICAN II was already hesitant in endorsing exclusivism. Exclusivism did not take very deep roots in Church tradition. 

7. Let us go to inclusivism. This is a step away from Church centered mentality and the emphasis is on Christ himself. It is Christ and not the Church who saves, therefore all must be centered in Christ. What about the other religions? People in those religions may be outside the Church but they are IN CHRIST. They are not excluded from the graces of God and they are INCLUDED in the saving work of Christ. 

8. For inclusivism, other religions may look different from Christianity but THERE ARE ASPECTS IN THOSE RELIGIONS THAT ARE QUITE CHRISTIAN. People in ther religions follow certain values that are Christian-gospe values. So the inclusivist concludes that people in other religions are "implicitly" or "anonymously" Christian. They may not be explicitly Christian but they are already showing signs of Christian elements.

9. Inclusivism is an attractive position because it does not give up the faith but it opens up to other religions. Salvation can happen EVEN AS PEOPLE STAY IN OTHER RELIGIONS. Inclusivism, however, has been criticized. It looks "imperialistic", so critics say. 

10. Why does inclusivism look imperialistic? It tries to make people of other religions "look Christian" even if anonymously. For inclusivism THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING CHRISTIAN IN OTHER RELIGIONS. Critics will then say that this does not fully respect other religions. Other religions have the right to be completely different from Christianity. People in other religios can have THEIR OWN ways and they do not have to "appear" Christian. 

11. So a different group of persons came out with the notion of "theocentrism". The perceived lack of respect for other religions has led some to think of ways that can make ALL RELIGIONS EQUAL. Exclusivism really thinks itself superior to other religions. Inclusivism may be respectful but not fully respecful. So a "theocentric" approach was created.

12. For theocentrism, for all religions to be equal they should all revolve around a God that is common to all. There is an absolute and ultimate reality around which all religions revolve. So belief in MY GOD does not contradict YOUR BELIEF IN YOUR GOD because, according to theocentrism, we can have the same God which we shall call as "THEO". Everyone then is equal and revolve around the same God for all.

13. This really looks attractive. But it violates religious rights too. Why? Take the example of Christianity. God is Trinitarian. But in theocentrism, we drop this to give way to the more generic "Theo". For the sake of "equality" do we have to give up our own faith and accept this new God called "Theo"? Will people of other religions accept this too and say that they will drop their notions of God to accept the new God "Theo"? If every one moves away from his or her faith to embrace what theocentrism proposes, then every one is faced with an imperialism too. Theocentrism looks imperialist by making all people of different religions embrace the God proposed by theocentrism. 

14. Theocentrism is so attractive precisely because it looks respectful of religions. It is an attempt to remove upsetting others and remove the feeling of superiority of one religion over another. Many Christians have felt superior over others so maybe theocentrism can correct that. But again there is imperialism here. It is an imperialism that deviates from the human condition. Let us explain this by doing first a little bit of philosophy.

15. Each of us is always "here". There is nobody else who can be in my "here". It is our human condition that each is To go there is TO TRANSFORM THE THERE TO A HERE. If I go there and I am already there, I will say, "I am here". We cannot escape being here.

16. Let us apply this to our discussion of theocentrism. Theocentrism wants that we respect each other. Christianity should thus respect other religions. How can a Christian do that when the Christian stays Christian? To stay Christian "here" is to fail acknowledging the "here" of another religion. Will this mean, therefore, that the Christian shifts out of being "here" as Christian to go "there" to other religions? Will that mean respect? 

17. If the Christian drops out of the Christian faith to go "there" to another religion, the Christian will be in a new "here". For example, out of respect for the Hindu I drop my faith and get into the shoes of Hinduism. But if I am now "here"  as a Hindu, Christianity becomes a "there". But I must respect Christianity, so what do I do?

18. In theocentrism, all people of religions go out of their "here" in their religions to go to the "Theo" of theocentrism--and it is to make "Theo" the new here of everyone. This is imperialism. Everyone is asked to shift away from the original religion TO ACCEPT A NEW RELIGION PROPOSED BY THEOCENTRISM. This is not dialogical at all. It remains, precisely, imperialistic.

19. Authentic dialogue is best when it admits that each partner in the dialogue is different. Authentic dialogue presupposes that each one can be true and faithful to his/her own religion. This fidelity does not necessarily have to lead to superiority. It is simpl an admission of who each one is, in each one's "here". Dialogue happens authentically when we admit our differences. 

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