The "inclusive pluralism" of Jacques Dupuis, its contribution to a Christian theology of religions, and its relevance to the South African interreligious context.
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This thesis falls within the area of systematic theology. It seeks, by examining Jacques Dupuis’s theological concepts and proposals, to evaluate his perspective on a Christian theology of religious pluralism. The concepts which are examined include the idea of a single history of salvation and revelation, God’s revelation in the sacred scriptures of other religions, the universality and uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the church in relation to the Reign of God, and the characteristics of interreligious dialogue. The main theological proposals cover religious pluralism “in principle”, the Trinitarian Christology for understanding God’s saving activity outside of Christianity, and the world religions as “participated” mediations of salvation. A brief characterisation is presented of Dupuis’s life and theology in general, the influences on his thought and its evolution, and his difficulties with the Vatican. The research also covers the historical theological context out of which the theology of “inclusive pluralism” emerges, giving an overview of the main approaches to religions, namely, ecclesiocentrism, Christocentrism and theocentrism in a Christian theology of religions. Dupuis uses the Trinitarian approach to the religious history of humanity to explain the work of the Holy Trinity in the process of salvation of humanity focusing on a distinction between the enduring action of the eternal Word of God, the Word incarnate in Jesus Christ and the saving presence of the Spirit. This Trinitarian Christology becomes the basis for Dupuis’s proposal for perceiving the religious traditions as “paths” to salvation. Dupuis attributes to the religious traditions “participated” mediation on the basis of God’s self-communication which takes place in other religions. Because this dissertation has been written in the South African context, the final question concerns the possible applications of Dupuis’s inclusivist thought to the present situation of dialogue among religions in this country. In this regard, a general background is given of religious diversity in South Africa. Relations among religions during respectively colonial and early apartheid years, the second half of the twentieth century and finally democracy are examined. The research suggests areas of application of Dupuis’s proposals for dialogue among religions in South Africa. The existing relationship between Christianity and Islam is the basis for a case study of the possible application of Dupuis’s proposals. The research indicates areas of convergence between Dupuis’s proposals and dialogue with Muslims. Concrete examples reveal that the most promising forms of dialogue with Muslims in South Africa remain dialogue of life and action that are especially needed in the process of reconstruction and nation-building. The thesis concludes with an evaluation of the “inclusive pluralism” of Jacques Dupuis, its validity and contribution to a Christian theology of religions and to the future of interreligious dialogue.