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Jesus Christ in the Understanding of World Religions.

Jesus Christ in the Understanding of World Religions.

By Mariasusai Dhavamony, S.J. Rome: Gregorian Univ. Press, 2004. Pp. 332. Paperback $39.70.

This book is volume 30 in the series Documenta Missionalia. It is the eighth book in this series by Mariasusai Dhavamony, professor of Christian theology and the phenomenology of religions at the Pontifical Gregorian University at Rome and a recognized specialist in the field of Christianity and Asian religions (primarily Hinduism). The book is divided into three parts. The first investigates the African traditional, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist views of Jesus Christ. The second part links founders of religions (Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tze, and avatars in Hinduism) with Christology. The final part deals with systematic topics: Jesus and the Gentiles; the absoluteness, uniqueness, and universality of Jesus Christ; and the convergence of world religions and Christocentrism.

I note that the author does not investigate the perception of Jesus Christ by non-Christian Africans before their conversion to Christ. Such information, though difficult to obtain, would have been of great help in understanding how their view of Christ changed along with their change in worldview from cyclic to linear. There is some overlap between the first and the second part, each of which has a chapter on Buddha and Christ. The overlap occurs because Dhavamony discusses identical issues from two different perspectives: the phenomenology of religion in the first part, and Christology in the second part.

The third part uses the terms "absoluteness," "uniqueness," and "universality" without taking into account the existing, thorough discussions regarding this terminology. Many theologians and missiologists dislike the philosophical term "absoluteness" (from Hegel). We need fresh reflections on this topic, ones emphasizing, for instance, the linear view of history in the Bible and the "unidirectionality" and "irreversibility" of the Christ-event (terminology borrowed from Sir Arthur S. Eddington, Lawrence W. Fagg, and others).

Dhavamony's book is a strong plea for Christ-centeredness in the approach of non-Christian religions and is, consequently, a strong missionary book. It shows that phenomenology of religion does not automatically end in relativism; it also can be a vehicle for doing proper theology, especially missiology.

Jan A. B. Jongeneel, a contributing editor, recently retired as professor of missiology at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
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Author:Jongeneel, Jan A.B.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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