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No Other Gospel! Christianity Among the World's Religions.

Carl E. Braaten, professor of theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, has collected here a group of occasional papers united by a polemic against John Hickand Paul Knitter's, whose myth of Christian Uniqueness is taken to stand for all pluralist approaches to a theology of world religions. Braaten's title is a takeoff on Knitter's No Other Name? Braaten despises Knitter's question mark and takes such pride in his own exclamation point as to attribute it to the apostle Paul (pp. 1 - 2).

Braaten's own position is not that Christianity is the exclusively correct religion, because all religions are equally incapable of offering salvation. Salvation is offered exclusively by God in Jesus Christ. With the Bible and the traditions of the ecumenical councils, the Christian church has some natural advantages over other religions, but not so much as to offer salvation itself. Besides, argues Braaten, the other religions have helpful preparatory revelations and should be appreciated as such. Braaten argues strongly for both missionary efforts and interfaith dialogue in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed while sharing and building upon God's grace as manifested throughout many cultures and religions.

Braaten sharply distinguishes his position from theocentrists such as Hick, Knitter, and also James Gustafson, by emphasizing the centrality of the Trinity. Braaten's is a Christocentric Trinity, with both the Father and Spirit taking the form of Jesus Christ. For this reason, salvation by God means salvation by Jesus Christ. It is puzzling indeed to figure out how what he advocates is not simply Christian exclusivism, softened slightly by the admission that Christian institutions too are flawed, even though they alone are the Way.

Braaten's conceptions both of Jesus Christ and of salvation are purely formal and empty. Thus his position has exactly the same logic as formal exclusivist arguments from any other religion. At one point he admits that other religions might mean something different by "salvation." But he does not draw the moral that the content of Christian salvation needs to be explored, nor does he appreciate that serious empirical questions remain regarding whether Christianity and the other religions are truly competitive. Surely it is too quick to take Hick and Knitter as the only pluralists. Why not carefully consider the strongly Trinitarian position of Ninian Smart and Steven Konstantine in Christian Systematic Theology in a World Context? The polemical, even supercilious, tone of most of the essays here is apparently acceptable in some Lutheran circles, judging from the audiences; but in a wider context where his conversation partners are those with whom he disagrees, the tone eclipses Braaten's own potential contributions.
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Author:Neville, Robert Cummings
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:Missiologie, 2 vols.
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