Reynolds Review of Kendall and OCollins In Many and Diverse Ways In Honor of Jacques Dupuis

Kendall, Daniel and Gerald O’Collins, eds. In Many and Diverse Ways: In Honor of Jacques Dupuis. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2003. Pages, xiv + 290, $30.00. ISBN: 1570755108

Reviewed by: Gabriel Reynolds

In Many and Diverse Ways is a Festschrift in honor of Belgian Jesuit theologian Jacques Dupuis on his eightieth birthday. As one might expect, it is made up of articles by prominent theologians on subjects cognate to the work of Dupuis, which itself is catalogued at the end of the volume in an exhaustive bibliography. Yet what distinguishes this volume is its relation to the most recent phase of Dupuis’ career: the publication of his Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism and the subsequent investigation thereof by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which culminated in an official notification on 24 January, 2001. These events form the backdrop for all of the eighteen articles of In Many and Diverse Ways, which thereby enter into the lively current debate on religious pluralism. The focus of this volume on this question is also reflected in the inclusion of a second bibliography, which includes the many documents and academic reviews related to Dupuis’ book and the CDF’s investigation. Thus In Many and Diverse Ways is more than a Festschrift: it is an enterprise of collaborative theological speculation on religious pluralism. Still more, it is a calculated effort to support Dupuis’ approach to this question, in response to the criticisms of the CDF and other observers.

The first of the book’s five parts includes reflections on Dupuis’ life and work by Cardinal Avery Dulles, Cardinal Franz König (the archbishop emeritus of Vienna and longtime advocate of inter-religious dialogue), and Gerald O’Collins, an Australian Jesuit and co-editor of this work (and the primary advocate for Dupuis in the CDF affair). This section alone makes In Many and Diverse Ways compelling reading. Dulles, while expressing personal support for Dupuis, implicitly critiques the latter’s christology by arguing that the texts of Vatican II do not depart definitely from traditional christological teaching. König, meanwhile, uses his brief contribution to critique the CDF in its interactions with Dupuis. O’Collins describes those interactions in detail for the reader, while defending Dupuis on a number of specific points of terminology, e.g., that Christ is a universal but not absolute Savior and that the Christ-event is decisive but not definitive (24). Note that O’Collins supports this latter point with reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12 (“Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles…”), which R. B. Kaiser, in his profile of Dupuis at the end of the volume, also references to support Dupuis’ Christology (225). Indeed, the theological chess that is played out through this volume is based on defining the bounds of knowledge. The arguments of Dupuis and his supporters are based on the premise that Christian revelation provides an incomplete picture of the divine plan.

In the second part of the book the focus shifts to specific theological issues. M. Barnes, SJ writes on Buddhism and Christianity, carefully elucidating the points of tension and interaction between the two religious systems, while emphasizing (34) that dialogue should start with the religious person’s experience and not with doctrinal formulae. Barnes concludes (43) that a great virtue of inter-religious dialogue is the way it inspires Christians to re-express their own tradition, a point that Dupuis himself emphasizes (he describes this experience as “purification of the faith” in his Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, 382). Also of note in this section is the contribution of D. Geffré, OP, whose thought is one of the bases for Dupuis’ own writing. Geffré at once cites with approval the Declaration of the CDF Dominus Jesus (2000), which draws boundaries for theological speculation on religious pluralism, and proposes a new perspective which he calls “interreligious theology” (54ff). Like Dupuis, Geffré explores the limits of theological speculation while seeking to remain faithful to the christological teaching of the magisterium. Both authors thus reject the “theocentric,” “regnocentric” or “soteriocentric” approaches of O. Kittner, R. Haight, and J. Hick.

In this section as well as contributions by T. Merrigan, who lays out the framework for the debate on theology of religions, L. Sartori, who commends on Lumen Gentium (ch. 8) and other Vatican II documents (arguing that inter-religious dialogue should be seen as an element of ecumenism); and P. Phan, who, by comparing the work of Dupuis with that of Asian theologians, defends Dupuis’ combination of inductive and deductive theological methods. Finally, F. Sullivan, SJ examines Clement of Alexandria’s (d. ca. 215) description of Greek philosophy as a praeparatio evangelica. Sullivan emphasizes, like Dupuis (Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, 66-76), how Clement compares philosophy to the revelation of the Old Testament. Yet, unlike Dupuis, he also accentuates how Clement maintains that salvation comes only through explicit faith in the person of Jesus Christ (hence the importance of the harrowing of hell, 112).

The third part of In Many and Diverse Ways is less technical, exploring spiritual and pastoral topics (although the exegetical article of D. Donnelly is less satisfying. She describes (134-5) the new attitude to religious dialogue as a response to the failure of missions to win converts, a strange description in light of the great growing number of converts in Christianity in Africa and Asia. The change in attitude seems to be due to an increasing negative attitude among Catholic and mainstream Protestant theologians in conversion, rather than to frustration at an inability to convert.

In this section as well is an engaging description by G. Gispert-Sauch, SJ of the intersecting yet diverging paths of Dupuis and the Hindu-Christian Benedictine Henri LeSaux, known also as Swami Abhishiktananda. Gispert-Sauch emphasizes that, unlike Dupuis, Abjishiktananda is focused on mystical depth, not theological synthesis. Again the point is effectively made that the most meaningful inter-religious contact is made through experience, not intellectual speculation. A different focus appears in the contribution of S. Rayan, an Indian Jesuit who, according to Kaiser (224), makes Dupuis seem conservative. Rayan argues that only an inclusivist position on religious pluralism corresponds to the life of Jesus, who takes true worship and religion past locales, temples, and rituals, and re-founds them in the heart’s sincerity, loving mercy and human solidarity” (171). He describes (174) all religions as responses to the grace of God, who, out of his love for humanity must have been active in all human societies. At the same time, Rayan expresses (176) wonder at the idea that explicit faith in Jesus Christ would become necessary for salvation after the Christ-event. It seems, Rayan remarks, that God suddenly became close-minded. Through all of this Rayan distinguishes himself from other authors in this volume by referring consistently to Scripture and official church writings. The cogency of that argument would therefore see to rest on the strength of his exegesis, another matter altogether.

The fourth part contains two articles, the first of which, by Archbishop M. L. Fitzgerald, M.Afr., deals specifically with the tension between dialogue and evangelization in Christian Muslim relations. Fitzgerald a former missionary in northern Sudan, bases his comments on the Church document Dialogue and Proclamation, to which Dupuis himself is a contributor. Yet Fitzgerald has a notable more balanced approach to this matter. Dupuis, while never explicitly ruling out proclamation, focuses his considerable intellectual ability on explaining how God saves through other religious traditions (and yet also through Christ). Fitzgerald, meanwhile, following Church teachings more closely, pays attention (186-7) to conversion as a deeper level of dialogue, which cannot be ruled out even for Muslims, who often face civil punishment, including death, for embracing Christianity. Finally, Fitzgerald (189) mentions the widespread oppression of Christians in the Muslim context, a phenomenon about which Dupuis is silent. If Fitzgerald seeks to elucidate recent Church teaching, then the author of the second article in this section, H. Waldenfels, SJ seeks to challenge it. Waldenfels takes up the recent (1999) Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia and critiques it for its silence on the proclamations of the Federation of Asian Bishop Conferences (FABC), which Dupuis quotes repeatedly in Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. Waldenfels (following the Sri Lankan A. Pieris and the FABC), insists that the Church needs to take the religious plurality and the widespread poverty of Asia more seriously.

The fifth and final part of In Many and Diverse Ways includes Kaiser’s profile of Dupuis mentioned above and a general reflection by W. Burrows. The latter describes (211) the theological tension between the vetera of Scripture and Tradition and the nova of anthropological/sociological observations. He commends Dupuis, and rightly so, for taking seriously the Christological question (indeed, as Burrows points our [215], the Christian Testament is not held together by Jesus’ ethical teaching but by Jesus himself), concluding, “I believe that no one has done a better job than Father Dupuis in retrieving the vetera of Scripture and its interpretation in the Patristic Era” (214).

With this, I believe, we arrive at the issue ultimately at stake in this book and the greater question with which it is concerned: the tension between the vetera and nova, or, as other contributors put it, the deductive and inductive methods of theology. In the end, Burrows’ comments notwithstanding, it is the nova that dominates in this work, as in the work of Dupuis. Dupuis wrestles with Revelation in his Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism as Jacob wrestles with the mysterious figure at Jabbok. Christian scripture and tradition appear in Dupuis’ work as an obstacle to be overcome, an opponent to be subdued. This same attitude prevails in most articles of In Many and Diverse Ways, as the ancient tradition of the Church is generally ignored and the Bible appears only as support for positions otherwise developed. This approach, no doubt, is the source of the magisterium’s concern with the direction of theological speculation on religious pluralism having subdued scripture and tradition by daybreak, will the theologian walk away alone?

None of this takes away from the contribution that In Many and Diverse Ways makes to the contemporary conversation on this topic. Kendall and O’Collins have brought together articles that at once do honor to Father Dupuis and contribute new perspectives. True, their book does not provide a balanced collection of views, but then it never pretends to do so, though the inclusion of a bibliography of all works relating to the Dupuis-CDF affair assists the reader in finding opposing views. At the same time, not every article is a panegyric of Dupuis; even Kaiser in his biography admits (222) that Dupuis’ colleagues at the Gregorian University find him “gruff and grum” and “a curmudgeon.” Thus Kendall and O’Collins are to be commended for successfully carrying out a delicate task. And while In Many and Diverse Ways never explicitly addresses Latino theology (indeed, Gispert-Sauch points out [155-6] that Latin American liberation theology is one of the areas in which Dupuis is not particularly interested), it will nonetheless interest readers of this journal, as religious pluralism is a question with which all theologians must wrestle.