Post-liberal models of religious pluralism

Rémi Chéno

After a short foray into the Jain logic and its model for the status of enunciation in a debate, Rémi Chéno pursues his research on the possibility of a pluralistic approach to religions.

SalvationsIn his famous book, The Nature of Doctrine, 1984, George Lindbeck opposed the cultural-linguistic model, now called post-liberal model, to the propositional cognitive model of classical metaphysics, and to the expressive experiential model of liberal theology. On preliminary examination, these three models refer respectively to three different theories of truth: the pragmatic theory, the realist theory of correspondence and the idealistic theory of coherence. But these associations operate only approximately.

In his noteworthy introduction to the theology of religions, Introducing theologies of religions, 2002, Paul Knitter listed four distinct models (rather than three) for a theology of religions: the replacement model (which refers to the classic exclusivist approach), the fulfillment model (the inclusivist approach), the mutuality model (the pluralistic approach) and the acceptance model, which refers to a new, post-liberal pluralistic approach. This approach is pluralistic in the sense that it seeks to validate the various truth claims of each major religions, but it is post-liberal, because, unlike the pluralism of John Hick and Paul Knitter, who seek unity among religions (in an inaccessible noumenon, the ultimate Real, according to Hick, or in a commitment to justice and peace according to Knitter), it values their differences and refuses to reduce them to a false joint, on behalf of the incommensurability of their worldviews.

In this way, the post-liberal pluralism registers  two breaks: the abandonment of a realist theory of truth (the adaequatio ad rem) and the emphasis on incommensurability of religions, separated from each other by their respective language games, their different worldviews.

This research builds on the works of post-liberal pluralist theologians like John A. DiNoia, S. Mark Heim, S. Ogden, James L. Fredericks, or Paul J. Griffiths. The challenge is to answer the objections that are usually addressed about their relativism (related to the abandonment of a realist theory of truth) and the risk of solipsism (linked to the emphasis on incommensurability). The Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic metaphor and the suggestions of J.A. DiNoia for an ever wider contextualisation of religious discourse invite us to think the coexistence of religions by analogy with the famous question of translation: what makes it possible? what are its limits?

Basic bibliography


Biblical prophecy and Coranic prophecy

Rémi Chéno, « Prophétie biblique et prophétie coranique », Nouvelle Revue théologique 132 (2010) 434–447. Islam presents itself as an all embracing system claiming total and extensive comprehension of the world. Prophecy fulfils the originating law within it, the creative divine decree whose knowledge constitutes a return to the first, hidden meaning which is always anterior and always already given. Christianity, in a contrary sense, awaits for an accomplishment of everything human in Christ, the new Adam who recapitulates creation. The work of the Spirit relates back to an eschatological “excess” or “surplus” always to come and not yet given except in outline, in Christ. You may buy this paper online.

Read More »

Thinking the complex unity of the Church

Rémi Chéno, « Penser l’unité de la réalité complexe de l’Église (LG 8). Perspectives pour une nouvelle étape de la réflexion ecclésiologique catholique » [= “Thinking the complex unity of the Church (LG 8). Prospects for a new stage of Catholic ecclesiology reflection”], Revue théologique de Louvain 40 (2009) 340–358. Contemporary Catholic ecclesiology has progressively centered itself on a few very precise technical expressions in the corpus of documents of the 2nd Vatican Council, the ecumenical implications of which were certainly important. However the discussions which they engendered have somewhat lost steam. An analysis of recent Catholic works on ecclesiology points to new areas of investigation which will have to face up to the difficult question of the unity of the complex reality which is the Church, as Lumen gentium, n. 8 says. You can read its full text.

Read More »