Author: Dr Robert Dutch, Bristol Baptist College.
Andrew Kirk (1999:118) remarks, ‘Of all the topics encompassed by the study of mission none is more fundamental and controversial than the relation between Christian and non-Christian faiths’. Moreover, David Bosch (1991:477) calls the theologia religionum (‘theology of religions’) ‘the epitome of mission theology’, noting that the theology of religions has dominated missiological studies from the 1960s. The Roman Catholic missiologists Bevans and Schroeder (2004:254) concur, ‘The most challenging question facing the church and mission at the end of the twentieth century, within both Catholicism and Protestantism, was the question of the relationship of Christianity and other religions, and this continues to be the case today.’ Similarly, Perry Schmidt-Leukel (2009) considers ‘theology of religions’ a necessary task when seriously engaging with non-Christian religions. Also, the evangelical scholars Kang-San Tan (2000) and Miriam Adeney (2005) agreed on the foundational importance of a theology of religions in an Asian mission context. This essay, therefore, addresses primary, not peripheral, issues.
First, the essay addresses Christ’s uniqueness in a pluralistic world from the traditional Christian understanding of uniqueness and then considers the pluralist, inclusivist and exclusivist perspectives. The views of representative scholars are described and evaluated. Second, the essay evaluates the threefold typology for theologies of religion by examining arguments for/against the typology. Proposed replacements for the classical typology are examined. A conclusion summarises the terrain covered.
The position adopted follows Tiessen (2004) with a Western evangelical stance and critical realism as the approach to truth. The southward shift of Christianity is recognised (Ott and Netland 2006) and that religious plurality, recent in the West, has been ‘a long-standing issue in Asia’ (Tan 2000). Theology of religions is complex, challenging and contested.
Full article PDF: A Survey of Current Theologies of Religion
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