No Salvation Apart from Religious Others
The aim of this dissertation is to demonstrate why the theology of Edward Schillebeeckx provides a worthy and valuable resource for negotiating the question of how Christians can maintain their unique Christian identity and uphold the core tenets of their faith, while recognizing the need for and benefit of dialogue with non-Christian religions. In a world where interaction with religious others is inevitable, a perilous sense of superiority that excludes non-Christians from the possibility of imparting wisdom must be avoided. Yet, as this dissertation illustrates, a theory that all religions are equal and that absolute claims that contradict the beliefs of other religions (such as Jesus as God incarnate and the universal savior of humankind) must be given up, is equally as dangerous. I show that Schillebeeckx, although he never identified himself explicitly with one of the three paradigms of the theology of religions (exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism), maintained an inclusivist position but one that is more radical than that of some of his contemporaries. He upheld the unique role of Jesus Christ in human history while regarding religious pluralism, rather than a problem to be solved, as an opportunity for Christians to learn from and expand upon their conceptions of the humanum, or what human wholeness entails. This dissertation critically examines the three major paradigms used to understand the relationship of Christianity to non-Christian religions. It argues that the adoption of a pluralist position that regards all religions to be equal, and relinquishes any absolute claims, is not necessary, and can, in fact, be detrimental to fruitful interreligious dialogue. It traces Schillebeeckx's development of the negative contrast experience and illustrates how it can serve as a universal starting point for interreligious dialogue that does not attempt to essentialize human nature or tie all positive responses to human suffering to a latent Christianity present in every person. This dissertation describes the major components of Schillebeeckx's soteriology: creation as the starting point for soteriology; the unbreakable relationship between fragments of salvation in this world and final, or eschatological salvation; the role of Jesus as the assurance of final salvation; and the communal nature of salvation. It shows how the implication of Schillebeeckx's soteriology, which starts from the premise "there is no salvation outside the world," is "no salvation apart from religious others." This means that our ability to experience fragments of salvation in our everyday lives is dependent on learning from and collaboration with human beings who do not share our religious beliefs, but does not require us to erase religious differences, or tailor our beliefs to "fit" neatly into others' religious views. Finally, this dissertation applies Schillebeeckx's soteriology to concrete struggles faced by Muslim women and Catholic women in order to illustrate how interreligious dialogue can bring persons toward the fullness of the humanum.