Sunday, Dec 01, 2002: “Jesus: Unique and Universal”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary

“Who Do You Say I Am?”  a reflection of God’s Work on Salvation in Jesus Christ

“Jesus: Unique and Universal”

Sunday, December 01, 2002


One of the most important and hotly contested topics of discussion for Christians is the person of Jesus Christ.  For more than 100 years, Christian scholars have attempted in various ways to conduct a “Search for the Historical Jesus.”  Theologians today are proposing new approaches, yet approaches that are still based on Scripture and tradition, of answering Jesus’ ancient question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  Over the course of six weeks Mike Kreutzer will lead us in trying to ask the right questions and help us to offer possible approaches to answer it.  Following are Mike’s notes on the discussion from the sixth and final session.

Sunday, December 1:  “Jesus: Unique and Universal”   How might these new models in Christology be useful in an ongoing dialogue with other religions?   How can we affirm the uniqueness and universality of Christ, while recognizing the work of God in other religions as well?


“This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.”  (The Athanasian Creed, The Book of Common Prayer, page 864-865)


Tension between salvation in Christ alone and God’s will for universal salvation


What is drawing religions (and adherents of religions) together?  …and what are some of the problems or concerns involved?  One of the chief factors is:

        globalization:  includes a movement toward homogenization; a relativizing of religions (by those outside the religious spectrum); on the positive side, there is also a sense of shared responsibility for the world

Differing approaches:  Typology of interfaith dialogue (discussed in Session 5):  inclusivism, exclusivism, religious pluralism  — There is a growing awareness that these three categories were useful, but the boundaries between them are now porous.  D’Costa and Haight see them as inadequate.  They do not advance mutual respect and understanding, or the advancement of one’s own religion.


Avery Dulles, four models (America, “Christ Among the Religions”, February 4, 2002):

1)      coercion:  common throughout human history

2)      convergence:  basic religious impulse is common to all; all religions agree in essentials; differences are superficial; John Hick et al., theocentric

3)      pluralism:  each religion reflects certain aspects of the divine

4)      toleration:  endorses freedom of religious beliefs and practices; Vatican II taught that non-Christian religions may have “seeds of the word… rays of that divine truth which enlightens all men”; approach preferred by Dulles


[ Terrence Tulley  (Commonweal, March 22, 2002) suggests that Dulles                                                                    may be on target by promoting toleration and declining to answer                                                                              specifically how God works.  Our role, he asserts, is to testify by our actions                                                        that God works, doing so in mutual acceptance, working together for the                                                                   good of all.]

Paul Knitter:  theocentrism; dialogue is sincere only if all partners are on equal footing; may need to revoke traditional claims of Jesus as the “constitutive savior” of all


Walter Kaspar (“The Unicity and Universality of Jesus Christ”, Boston College, October 17, 2000):

Since the time of the Enlightenment, some (e.g. J.E. Lessing and Ernst Troeltsch) have asserted the immense value of Christianity, but not its absolute value.  We can come to know only what a thing means for us, not its absolute self (Immanuel Kant).  John Paul II’s encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (1990), No. 28, offers a Spirit-centered approach:  The Spirit of God is present and at work everywhere, limited by neither space nor time. He is active in the heart of every person who is ordered to what is true and good and who honestly seeks God. The Spirit gives light and strength to every person to respond to his or her highest calling and offers each person the possibility “of sharing in the paschal mystery in a manner known to God …. The Spirit therefore is at the very source of man’s existential and religious questioning, a questioning which is occasioned not only by contingent situations but by the very structure of his being. The Spirit’s presence and activity affect not only the individuals, but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions.”


Joseph C. Hough (Bible Review, June 2002):  “Religious pluralism is not a threat to a vital faith in Jesus Christ.  It is rather a testimony to the enormous creativity of the one God who is make known to Christians in Jesus Christ as the God who lives and acts in total freedom.  God’s creativity is boundless.”


Jacques Dupuis:  Interfaith dialogue for Christians begins with the assertion that Jesus is the “concrete universal”: that is, he is specific, concrete, historical and particular, but he has a universal significance.  There could be a convergence and complementarity among the world    religions around the building up of the Reign of God, which will come into its fullness at the eschaton; “a Christian theology of interreligious dialogue will adopt, preferentially, a regnocentric (reign-centered) perspective.”  (Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, page 358)


“Jesus with an Asian Face” (SEDOS Conference, August-September 1999): reflects on the work of the Synod of Asian Bishops, who reported, “There are many ways of presenting Jesus Christ which are intelligible to Asian peoples: Jesus Christ as the Teacher of True Wisdom, Jesus as the Way of the Spirit, Jesus as the Teacher of Truth, Jesus as the Spiritual Guide, Jesus as the Enlightened One, Jesus as the one who shares the kenosis of the Asian peoples.  The presentation of Jesus Christ could come as the fulfillment of the yearnings expressed in the mythologies and folklore of the Asian peoples.  This was done in the early Church.  A gradual doctrinal catechesis about Jesus will then be able to give a sure foundation to the faith of believers.” (n. 15)

Some Principles for Interfaith Dialogue:

1) need not abandon our own religious convictions (“not with empty heads or vacant hearts”)

2) “come with an openness to the other”  (may well entail a personal change and conversion)  (David Tracy:  “must allow the truth of the other to become a possibility for oneself”)

3) “deep awareness that every religious tradition has within itself a certain ambiguity and incompleteness”; needs an eschatological awareness (what is given, and not given, in the Christ-event)

4) “interfaith dialogue is not about, polite, cultural exchanges”  (response to something that is given in life, “not created, but found”, something prior to my own interpretation 

(Carl Jung:  “Whether called upon or not, God is present.”)

5) “all interfaith dialogue should seek to promote a shared search for the truth”

            a)  “Truth is one.”

            b)  “Truth is relational.”

            c)  “Truth is transformative.”  (“Religious truth is not about information, but about participation.”)


Religious dialogue:  (Dermot Lane)  “concerned people coming together in search of human flourishing, and knowing that that flourishing comes as grace and gift”