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Postliberalism, religious diversity, and interreligious dialogue: a critical analysis of George Lindbeck's fiduciary interests.

Various theologians are unhappy with the classical theology of religions and its threefold typology of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. There is recent literature on the challenges of religious plurality that presents an alternative model, which is intended to end the arguments for openness at the expense of religious particularity. Because it sets out to "sav[e] the particulars," (1) I call it "particularism." (2) Paul Knitter claims that this model relies on "the groundbreaking and foundation-laying work of George Lindbeck, who launched this model and soon attracted a wide following of other theologians and ordinary Christian believers." (3) Lindbeck developed a cultural-linguistic theory that focuses on the particularity of the religions and the seriousness of religious commitments. (4) The insight into the particularity of religions is an important correction of classical theological models. Postliberalism rightly directs attention to the point that openness begins with recognizing the irreducibility of religions. Still, one wonders if postliberal intratextual theology does not end again in a form of exclusivism, thus sealing the end of interreligious dialogue. If this is indeed the case, it seems to be a heavy price to pay for the recognition of the particularity of those of other faiths and a limitation of God's activity and God's universal will that all be saved.

I will analyze whether this theory of religion and the postliberal theology associated with it are theologically acceptable. The reason for this theological starting point is the following. Lindbeck claims that his theory of religion is theologically "neutral" and rests solely on philosophical and social-scientific approaches: The argument for intratextuality, untranslatability, and incommensurability is said to be informed purely by the premises of the cultural-linguistic theory of religion that explains how religion functions. But, I question this "theological neutrality," suspecting that the cultural-linguistic theory of religion rests on specific theological presuppositions. I will need to substantiate this suspicion by exposing the specific theological premises of the cultural-linguistic model. If I succeed in this, I can then analyze the extent to which these premises are theologically convincing and acceptable.

I. Postliberalism, Religious Particularity, and Truth

According to the cultural-linguistic approach, religion is a "comprehensive interpretive scheme usually embodied in myths or narratives and heavily ritualized, which [structure] human experience and understanding of self and world." (6) Two characteristics determine the religious character of an interpretation scheme: the orientation to the ultimately important, and its claim to all-comprehensiveness. Precisely because of the religious orientation to what is ultimately important, the comparison between language/culture on the one hand and religion on the other does not apply completely. People can learn two or more languages, but they cannot belong to several religions: "[Religion] is not like glasses people can take off. Rather, it should be compared to eyes or to the optical receivers of the brain. To suppress them would be to become blind. Religions are--more than the cultures and languages they resemble--abodes that people cannot abandon without changing identity." (7)

The cultural-linguistic approach to religion emphasizes especially how experiences are formed, molded, and even created by cultural and linguistic forms. Only when people are trained in religion and acquire religious skills does the possibility exist for them to have religious experiences. "To become a Christian involves learning the story of Israel and of Jesus well enough to interpret and experience oneself and one's world in its terms. A religion is above all an external word, a verbum externum, that molds and shapes the self and its world, rather than an expression or thematization of a preexisting self or of preconceptual experience." (8)

The cultural-linguistic theory of religion corresponds with a postliberal theological outlook. Lindbeck's argument for postliberalism "is prompted by convictions about the kind of theological thinking that is most likely to be religiously helpful to Christians and perhaps others in the present situation [crisis]." (9) Lindbeck is concerned especially about prevailing individualism, pluralism, the emphasis on feeling, and the opposition between universalism and particularism. According to Lindbeck, "the viability of a unified world of the future may well depend on counteracting the acids of modernity. It may depend on communal enclaves that socialize their members into highly particular outlooks supportive of concern for others rather than for individual rights and entitlements, and of a sense of responsibility for the wider society rather than for personal fulfillment." (10) This requires an intratextual hermeneutics, according to which meanings are determined intrasemiotically. The most important task for theology does not lie in connecting (correlating) the Christian tradition with an extrabiblical reality but in understanding and describing the internal grammar of biblical Christian life, thought, and speech. The "way to determine what 'God' signifies, for example, is by examining how the word" actually functions in the Christian religion and "thereby shapes reality and experience." (11)

Intratextuality, however, means not only "explicating religion from within" but also "describing everything as inside, as interpreted by the religion." (12) All of reality is given a place and meaning on the basis of the all-encompassing religious scheme. For the Christian tradition, that means that the Bible functions as an authoritative narrative text that creates and imagines its own world and invites people to live in and out of that world. In this context Lindbeck speaks of the absorptive power of Scripture: "It is the text, so to speak, which absorbs the world, rather than the world the text." (13) The principle of intratextuality issues a warning to liberal, apologetic theology. Lindbeck understands that in our pluralistic society, in which people choose their own religious identity from a number of competing religious traditions, it appears to be "essential ... to adopt an apologetic approach that seeks to discover a foundational scheme within which religions can be evaluated, and that makes it possible to translate traditional meanings into currently intelligible terms." (14) In this context translation means the same as extratextual hermeneutics: It is the attempt to open up the biblical world of meaning by using categories that are foreign to it--that is, extratextual. The outcome of such an extratextual hermeneutics is the excavation of Christian particularities. Instead of redescribing the Christian tradition in strange or new concepts, "adherents" must learn the language and practice of Christianity. Only such practice can open up the world of a religion. Intelligibility is always determined within the context of the religion itself via tradition-specific criteria. (15) In this respect postliberalism is antifoundational. Moreover, because there are no universal neutral criteria for assessing the truth of religions, postliberalism keeps its distance from every apologetic attempt to connect the Christian tradition systematically to a general interpretative scheme. Postliberalism accepts only a sort of ad hoc apologetics, since the "sufficient reasons ... offered" for one's beliefs "will vary from case to case." (16)

II. Toward a Postliberal Theology of Religions

The cultural-linguistic model excludes the possibility that the same experience lies at the foundation of the various religions. Different religious traditions form different religious contexts and, thus, different religious languages. Simply stated, the adherents of the various religions have different experiences. (17) In this context Lindbeck speaks about the incommensurability of the religions:
   Adherents of different religions do not diversely thematize the
   same experience; rather they have different experiences. Buddhist
   compassion, Christian love and ... French Revolutionary fraternite
   are not diverse modifications of a single human awareness, emotion,
   attitude, or sentiment, but are radically (i.e., from the root)
   distinct ways of experiencing and being oriented toward self,
   neighbor, and cosmos." (18)


The presupposition of a common ground, a common experience, or a common goal
   hinders the communication more than it promotes it. The
   conversations become noisy fights or degenerate into silence or
   trivialities if people are not aware of the fact that beliefs of
   other religions can be so foreign with respect to what they know in
   terms of proofs and presuppositions that a productive dialogue on
   the truth or untruth in question is impossible (that is precisely
   what incommensurability means)." (19)


Even if religions employ "the same" categories, such as God, love, peace, or justice, these terms will mean different things, precisely because they derive their meaning from intratextuality. To say that all religions are ultimately about the same thing--namely, love--is to say nothing. If there are similarities and correspondences, they are superficial. (20)

Classic theology of religions revolves around the question of salvation: Is it possible for non-Christians to be saved and, if so, how? (21) The threefold paradigm of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism emerges from this soteriological focus. Lindbeck calls the fact that religious plurality can be understood from a Christian soteriological perspective an unprecedented expression of Christian hegemony. Soteriology is "an agenda which is of interest to non-Christians to the extent they feel threatened by Christianity, but not otherwise." (22) Other religions feel obligated, as it were, to go along with the fixation on soteriology, out of fear that the failure of interreligious dialogue would entail the return of Christian proselytism. (23) Because the theology of religions and, thus, the question of salvation determine the interpretation of religious plurality, Christianity sets the agenda for interreligious relations. Non-Christians can answer a question that is posed only by Christians. Soteriology determines the way in which the other is present: saved or lost. What is lost to view here, according to Lindbeck, is the fact that "[c]oncern for saving souls in anything like the usual Christian sense is not found or is not central in most or perhaps all non-Christian or non-biblical religions." (24) Taking the particularity of other religions seriously begins with the recognition that these religions do not all experience the same thing and are not all "different ways" to the ultimate (Christian) goal of salvation.

Lindbeck's approach to religious plurality follows consistently the assumptions of his cultural-linguistic theory of religion when he endorses the tides ex auditu of Paul (Rom. 10:17): "Faith, according to the cultural-linguistic interpretation, arises through accepting and interiorizing the word that comes from outside, i.e., the verbal, sacramental and practical witness given to Jesus." (25) The experience of salvation is a specific Christian experience. It follows from Lindbeck's theory of religion that only those who appropriate the Christian language and Christian skills can experience reality in a Christian way. Only the Christian language refers to Christ, and only those who speak the Christian language can learn what it means to love God. "The notion of an anonymous Christianity present in the depths of other religions is from this perspective nonsense, and a theory of the salvation of non-Christians built upon it seems thoroughly unreal." (26) In light of Lindbeck's cultural-linguistic theory, non-Christian religions simply do not have the appropriate categories to pose the question of salvation, let alone answer it. It is meaningless to speak about "anonymous Christians" or about implicit faith, because saving faith cannot be implicit--only explicit. "One must ... learn the language of faith before one can know enough about its message knowingly to reject it and thus be lost." (27) One can no more speak about the salvation of non-Christians than one can speak of their being lost, given that being lost can be the result only of a deliberate and free rejection of Christ's redemption. This means mutatis mutandis that not only salvation but also being lost is a purely Christian affair.

Still, Lindbeck does not give up his hope in the universality of the saving encounter with Christ. He places this hope in an eschatological perspective. Only then will the decision about life and death for both Christians and non-Christians be made:
      The proposal is that dying itself be pictured as the point at
   which every human being is ultimately and expressly confronted by
   the gospel, by the crucified and risen Lord. It is only then that
   the final decision is made for or against Christ; and this is true,
   not only of unbelievers but also of believers. All previous
   decisions, whether for faith or against faith, are preliminary. The
   final die is cast beyond our space and time, beyond empirical
   observation, beyond all speculation about 'good' or 'bad' deaths,
   when a person loses his or her rootage in this world and passes
   into the inexpressible transcendence that surpasses all words,
   images, and thoughts. (28)


In anticipation of the eschaton, the church is called, following the example of Israel, to be a light for the world and to witness to God's plan of salvation.

III. Untranslatability and Interreligious Dialogue

Lindbeck's focus on fides ex auditu confirms not only the specific character of Christian salvation, but it also confirms the specific character of religious goals pursued in the non-Christian religions. If one abandons the monoperspectivism of universal salvation, it is possible to acknowledge a plurality of particular religious "goals." The religions are, moreover, so particular and so unique that they are untranslatable. Religions consist materially "of the unsubstitutable memories and narratives which shape community identities." (29) Lindbeck is building here on the analogy between religion and language that he introduced in his cultural-linguistic model.

The thesis of untranslatability has nothing to do with the translation of biblical Greek into Dutch, English, or any other natural language. Lindbeck recognizes that natural languages have the grammatical flexibility and the lexical ability to be suitable media for the biblical message. Only religious "languages" are untranslatable--because of their all-encompassing character. It is precisely in this that they differ from natural languages. Religions are all-encompassing interpretative schemas on the basis of which all of reality is given significance. One can recall in this context the "absorptive power" of the Bible. (30) Everything from outside can be "translated" into the "inside," but "nothing can be translated out of this idiom into some supposedly independent communicative system without perversion, diminution or incoherence of meaning." (31)

Lindbeck uses translation as a "metaphor" for what he earlier called "extratextual hermeneutics." He associates extratextual hermeneutics/translation with "impoverished abstractions" and chooses the restoration of the "rich particularities of native tongues" above translation. (32) The untranslatability of religions thus again directs attention to the fact that religious meanings are intratextually determined. It is not possible to translate the Christian concept of God into the way in which this concept functions in Hinduism. These religions work with entirely different categories. When Lindbeck applies this untranslatability to religions, this points therefore to the fact that the intratextually determined categories of the religions are inadequate. That is why it is impossible to understand one religion on the basis of another, just as it is impossible to "translate" religious meanings by means of "foreign theories." For Lindbeck, it is a choice between incommensurability and untranslatability on the one hand and selling out the religious particularity on the other. His postliberalism rests "on a dichotomy of either reading religions and their sacred texts intratextually, or attempting to translate them into popular categories." (33)

The greatest disadvantage of this approach is that interreligious dialogue can become more difficult because of the untranslatability and incommensurability of religions. Lindbeck speaks of the "Balkanization" of dialogue: "Not only do [the religions] no longer share a common theme such as salvation, but the shared universe of discourse forged to discuss that theme disintegrates.... Those for whom conversation is the key to solving interreligious problems are likely to be disappointed." (34)

IV. Dialogue as a Fundamental Theological Principle

Lindbeck claims that his theory of religion is theologically "neutral" and rests solely on philosophical and social-scientific approaches. The argument for intratextuality, untranslatability, and categorical incommensurability appears to be informed purely by the premises of the cultural-linguistic theory of religion that explains how religion functions, but I question this "theological neutrality." I will argue that postliberalism relies on a number of theological presuppositions that, moreover, are not obvious. With this argument I join several of Lindbeck's critics who remark that there are specific "fiduciary interests" (35) in the background of the cultural-linguistic model. Kristin Heyer, for example, has remarked that Lindbeck "avoids discussions of universal grace or the operations of the Holy Spirit, and is pessimistic regarding sin's effects." (36) Kathryn Tanner has confirmed the view that postliberalism presupposes a rather pessimistic anthropology. (37) Andreas Eckerstorfer has argued again that Lindbeck lacks a properly-worked-out theology of creation. (38) Postliberalism also emphasizes Christian particularity, but that particularity is understood in a christocentric way.

Before taking up the analysis of the possible theological presuppositions of the cultural-linguistic model, it is also necessary to clarify why I question the plausibility of this model. That will immediately make my own "theological presuppositions" clear. For, as will become evident throughout the continuation of this essay, I am a Catholic theologian inspired by the Second Vatican Council and its belief in the possibility and meaningfulness of dialogue with the world. Though I wrestle with similar questions as Lindbeck, I am inspired by other theological principles.

There are various reasons why I question the theological plausibility of postliberalism, each of which has to do with the postliberal dichotomy between intratextuality and extratextuality. First, postliberalism does not take seriously enough the theological idea that God is involved in a constant dialogue with the world. God is involved with creation and displayed that involvement in the divine incamation in an eminent way. The Word became flesh. The incarnation is the translation of God's involvement with the creation and with human beings in particular. It is not dichotomy but dialogical involvement that is a key metaphor for the Christian tradition. Lindbeck's dichotomy between the text (the Bible, the Word of God) and the world seems to be exaggerated in this respect.

What Lindbeck seems to forget is that Christian religious identity is more than the product of a particular cultural-linguistic context in which a religion forms and molds the identity of a believer, that this religion functions as an idiom in which experiences can be expressed. These are pertinent insights, but they remain too one-sided when it is claimed that the identity of the believer is solely and exclusively formed by his or her tradition. Thus, the danger arises in the cultural-linguistic theory of religion that the emphasis will come to lie on an absolute commitment to a religious tradition instead of on a believing commitment to the absolute, that is, God. It appears to be very much the case that the cultural-linguistic model has pushed the analogy between language and religion too far in this respect, as a result of which the fact that being a believer is more than speaking a religious language has been lost to view. To believe is to be in a relationship with a living God. In close connection with this, the question arises here as to the extent to which the distinction between the Word of God and the biblical word of God within postliberalism is sufficiently recognized. The relationship to God seems to have degenerated into a relationship with the text.

Something similar can be said, for that matter, for the relationship between the voice of the believer and the biblical text. Within the cultural-linguistic model the voice of the believer is virtually identified with "the voice of the tradition." What is forgotten here is that people also have experiences that are not adequately understood in their tradition and for which they find no answer in the tradition as it stands. It is also forgotten that the personal course of people's lives results in their giving shape in very different personal ways to their faith. This model does not address this personal dimension, emphasizing the consensus of the faith community--as if no friction or conflicts exist in the faith community that is formed and molded completely by the biblical text.

That brings me to yet another reason not to find intratextual theology convincing: the claim that the Bible interprets itself. The creative and constitutive contribution of the reader to the interpretation of the text is denied. This view ignores the insight that has developed within the hermeneutical tradition, that is, that the interpretation of the text always presupposes a dynamic between text and reader. The meaning of the interpretation of the text can be unfolded only through reading the text. (39)

V. Uncovering Lindbeck's Theological Fiduciary Interests

In the following I will investigate Lindbeck's specific theological presuppositions from the perspective of the theology of creation, ecclesiology, and theological anthropology.

A. Creation

Lindbeck's attitude with respect to the world is rather pessimistic concerning culture. He associates the world outside the Bible with plurality and chaos. (40) He states in this context that the faith community must not allow itself to be dominated by ideas from the world but should maintain and protect its own symbols so as to be able to preserve its own pure identity.

Lindbeck himself confirms this pessimism and suspicion of the world. Already in his reflections at Vatican II he formulated serious objections with respect to the optimism behind the aggiornamento. This Catholic optimism assumes that grace does not destroy nature but presupposes and perfects it. (41) Lindbeck has difficulty with this theological interpretation of the relationship between nature and grace: Evil, which is always present in the human being, is minimized. In contrast, Lindbeck emphasizes that the world is, as it were, dominated by the power of evil. There is a discontinuity between the world and redemption, between nature and grace. With respect to the world, the emphasis, in Lindbeck's view, lies on the principle of sola gratia. Grace and nature are opposed, as are the world and revelation.
   In part because of past painful experiences with illusory optimism
   and idealism, we are intensely afraid of any view that minimizes
   the continuing reality of sin and power of the evil in our lives
   and in the world. However, it must once again be admitted that ...
   nothing in the outlook which we are considering ... implies that
   the world is getting progressively better ... (42)

   We Protestants ... have a natural affinity for existentialist
   rather than evolutionary categories.... We are afraid that a
   futuristic, realistic evolutionary eschatology may, for many
   people, be simply a modernized version of ancient or contemporary
   milliennialism or sixteenth century Anabaptist enthusiasm. There is
   danger that this concentration on the temporal future will distract
   attention from the one thing necessary.... our present relation to
   God. (43)


It is striking that Lindbeck does not refer to the world as the place where revelation occurs. In an interview with Eckerstorfer, Lindbeck stated that, although we can learn from the world, what we learn is not revelation. Revelation is contained in Scripture, which interprets itself, and "the worldly sphere is not woven into that in any causal way. Apparently, it is only--in accordance with the Lutheran verbal character of revelation and the doctrine of justification--transformed exclusively from outside." (44)

Discontinuity between the world and the revealed Word of God also explains Lindbeck's allergy to a kind of latent and implicit Christianity in the world. Over against tides implicita he places tides ex auditu: (45) God can be known only via God's Word that pronounces a judgment over the world. (46) The attempt of liberal theology to build a bridge from humanity to God or from the world to God is doomed to failure. One ends up not with God but with humankind.

Goh claims that the discussion between Karl Barth and Friedrich Schleiermacher echoes in Lindbeck's critique of liberalism. (47) David Tracy even associates Lindbeck with the theology of Barth, stating:
   ... Lindbeck's substantive theological position is a
   methodologically sophisticated version of Barthian confessionalism.
   The hands may be the hands of Wittgenstein and Geertz but the voice
   is the voice of Karl Barth.

      ... For Lindbeck's real problem ... is theological: like Karl
   Barth ... and like some of his colleagues at Yale he is
   theologically troubled by the liberal tradition. He wants theology
   to be done purely from 'within' the confessing community. He wants
   a new ecumenical confessional theology. (48)


B. Ecclesiology

With respect to ecclesiology, cultural pessimism gives rise to the model of the contrast church, which rests on an antithetical scheme: church versus world. (49) This scheme allows an ecclesiological argument for the church as a contrast community. The most important mission of the church is viewed as analogous to that of Israel: to be a light for the world and to witness to the gospel. It is not by posing the question of relevance but by concern with its own Christian identity that the church will be of service to the world. Theologians who advocate the model of the contrast church emphasize primarily the critical attitude of the church toward the world. The "outside world" and what occurs there is taken up and given a (different) meaning on the basis of the biblical world. Postliberal theology does not expect that the world itself can cast light on the biblical text and on the church. The consequence is that the church itself cannot be challenged critically by what occurs in the world. James Gustafson calls this "the sectarian temptation." (50) The danger of the sectarian tendency shows itself here not only as a retreat from the social world but also as the "inclination to deny that the world carries seeds of the good news in itself." (51)

C. Anthropology

Lindbeck's postliberal theology presupposes not only a specific view of the world and the church but also a specific theological anthropology behind that view. Both the world and humankind are dominated by sin. This holds true, for that matter, for both non-Christians and Christians. The latter have, thanks to the grace of Christ, learned to know the Savior, but the Christian is no different from the non-Christian with respect to both one's religious and moral qualities. The believer remains a sinner, simul iustus et pecator, because, "as Luther put it, 'we do not yet have our goodness in re, but in fide et spe."' (52)

Lindbeck's rejection of "implicit faith" can be understood in this respect as well. Faith is not an expression of meanings that people already know or that they can discern God in the depths of their being. (53) The world is in darkness, and thus human attempts to fred God via understanding are also darkened. That is also why liberal correlative theology is bankrupt. Over against implicit faith, Lindbeck places the salvation that comes only through explicit faith in Christ. Here, he follows the anthropological pessimism of postliberal theology, of which Tanner also remarked that
   postliberals are no fans of the idea that God's purposes are
   evident in the world of nature or in the structures of human life
   generally. Certainly, where knowledge of God is concerned, the
   particularities of this unsubstitutable person, Jesus, always
   outweigh discussions of a universal Logos or the possibly far-flung
   peregrinations of the Holy Spirit; and that preference is backed up
   by a weighty pessimism about the effects of sin. (54)


In line with this theological anthropology, Lindbeck places all the emphasis on religion as a verbum externum that forms and molds the identity of the self and brings it into accordance with the Christian tradition. (55) Human beings are not creators; (56) they are created by the religion to which they belong. In postliberal theology it is not the autonomous subject that is the active principle but the text. The text is the producer of meanings and experiences; without the text there is no experience. The metaphor of absorption confirms this: The biblical text swallows the subject with all her experiences. The subject is passive; he no longer speaks but is spoken to. (57)

The anthropology that Lindbeck suggests here is--just as is his theory of religion--the reversal of liberalism. Postliberalism breaks with the liberal concept of the human being who has free, flexible, and active disposal of his or her meanings. (58) Voluntarist anthropology and the focus on the individual consciousness are rejected. The postliberal critique of the sovereign liberal self is right. "Liberal theology's tendency to assume that God is always on our side is reconstructed in postliberal theology: God is first of all on the side of the text." (59) It is not the human being who stands at the center but Scripture, which contains the Word revealed by God. If the believer wants to know God, then he or she must turn to the text.

VI. Dialogue as the Basic Principle of Theology

Is it necessary to choose between "insisting on a divine order of creation already inhabited by Christian grace, or does one need to consider the coming of Jesus Christ as a radical rupture bringing salvation in a fallen world incapable of rising to God?" (60) Must one choose between continuity and discontinuity and between creation and salvation? I do not think so. Theologically, it is also possible to speak in a different way about the relationship between church and world, experience and text.

First, I will propose that the world as God's creation is also a place in which people can encounter God. Next, I will discuss an important dimension that remains underexposed in Lindbeck's theology, in particular the trinitarian character of God. I also have serious objections to Lindbeck's position regarding anthropology. I will look here at the creative capacities of human beings. This will bring me, finally, to looking anew at the dichotomy between experience and tradition.

A. Creation

Because postliberal theology sees the world as dominated by sin, it seems to pass over the idea that God can also be known and experienced in the world. Believers do talk about God, but God is not present in the world of people: God can be known only via the Bible. Thus, the world is not recognized as a source of theological knowledge. This also has consequences for the relationship to other religions. Just as with the world, interreligious dialogue is no place to encounter God. In my view, it seems that Lindbeck pays insufficient attention theologically to the createdness of the world. The idea that the creation is also an expression of God's glory and love is not found in postliberalism; it thus implies "a dangerous mutilation of the world, given that it extensively excludes elements of creation theology." (61)

If one takes another starting point, that of sacramentality, then another perspective opens up on the relationship between experience and reality--a perspective that also shows a different picture of interreligious dialogue. Over against the discontinuity thinking of postliberalism, I propose a thinking that takes both continuity and discontinuity seriously. Sin has damaged the world but has not destroyed its character as creation. A theology that takes both continuity (the creation is good) and discontinuity (sin has affected creation) seriously is a theology that recognizes the essential ambiguity of reality. Grace and nature are not viewed as being in opposition, just as creation and salvation are not. God reveals Godself in the created order in which good and evil are often intertwined. The world is and remains--despite sin--God's creation. The creation is the place of God's revelation and the place where God can be encountered. It is God who "expresses" and "impresses" Godself in the life of the believer, using what is present in the world. Vincent de Paul stated this idea as follows: "Events are the masters given from God's hand." (62) This means both that not everything is good and that not everything is distorted by sin. It also means that one needs to investigate for oneself what is true and good. A priori determinations are not suitable.

On one hand, Lindbeck's critical attitude regarding reality is confirmed. A critical questioning of the world from a Christian theological perspective is necessary, for we still live under the "eschatological restriction" in expectation of the Reign of God. "Eschatological faith, the vision of the Reign of God, exhorts us not to call any part of reality 'good' and 'salvific without further ado, even though this is experienced subjectively as such. There is always a 'credit.'" (63) The Bible and the Christian tradition, just as with experiences of others, are means to carry out this "critical test" time and again. (64) On the other hand, the one-sided negative attitude toward the world must be rejected, because in that way a limitation is imposed on God's involvement with God's creation. (65)

B. Postliberalism and Trinity

Lindbeck's exclusive theological attention for the biblical text leads to God's dynamic and relational character's being lost from view. The problem is that postliberalism limits revelation to Scripture and that people can encounter God solely and exclusively in Scripture. The idea that God still reveals Godself today to people receives little attention, and the idea that revelation is a never-ending process between God and people remains underemphasized as well.
      Part of the price that attaches to Lindbeck's intratextual
   strategy, which places all its stakes on the written Word, is that
   it overlooks the "event" [dabar] component ingredient in the
   original Hebrew understanding of revelation which the early
   Christians inherited. Furthermore, it overlooks the continual
   unfolding of events as people the world over encounter God anew
   down through the ages with their vastly different cultural
   settings, experiences and questions. (66)


The result is that, within postliberalism, revelation becomes merely recorded textual data that, moreover, must interpret itself. Even more, postliberalism incorrectly identifies the Word of God with the word of God. (67) This becomes clear from several perspectives.

The fact that Lindbeck fixes the Word of God in Scripture entails not only the idea that revelation reached its climax in Christ, the incarnate Word of God, but also that everything has already been said. Lindbeck stakes everything on the solus Christus principle. Postliberalism thus ignores the fact that the faith community does not come together around the written word but around the living reality of Christ. (68) The identification of the Word and the word can happen only if Christ is viewed not only as the climax of God's revelation but also as its end. Inspired by the Catholic theologian Jacques Dupuis, I want to reintroduce the important distinction between the Logos ensarkos and the Logos asarkos, that between the incarnate Word and the eternal living Word. The economy of salvation of the Logos asarkos, about which the prologue of the Gospel according to John states that "The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (Jn. 1:9, N.R.S.V.), also continues after the divine incarnation (Logos ensarkos). (69) The Word of God has become human, but that becoming human does not exhaust God. (70) It is precisely this distinction that postliberal theology forgets when limiting the revelation to the biblical text and fixing it to that text, as a result of which the reality of the second person of the Trinity is exhausted in the reality of Jesus of Nazareth. With this the Word and the word can be identified:
   Lindbeck's case rests on an interpretive framework that is strictly
   identified with the scriptural narrative. But scripture clearly
   points beyond itself, to the reality of the risen Christ, as well
   as to his living presence amongst humanity. Furthermore, Scripture
   points to the unfolding future which its historical narrative does
   not and, indeed, cannot encompass. One may concur with ... Lindbeck
   that the identity of Jesus is unknown apart from the narrative
   framework. But that Jesus is now the Christ, the living Lord who is
   present in human community in Spirit, whose story continues to
   unfold existentially in every age, and whose final revelation lies
   beyond the pale of human history and everything in it, including
   the Holy Scripture that points to the eschaton. (71)


Lindbeck is also particularly quiet about the third person of the Trinity, "the Holy Spirit, who ensures the communication of revelation till the eschaton." (72) Nevertheless, he does acknowledge the activity of the Paraclete (Jn. 14:16 and 26). Lindbeck does speak about the Spirit as verbum internum, that is, the capacity of the human being to receive God's Word. (73) The Paraclete prepares people to receive God's Word in Christ. From this perspective, the discontinuity between the triune God and the world is thus not absolute: God is actively present in and through the Holy Spirit in the world and the lives of all people.

Nonetheless, discontinuity is given the upper hand over continuity in Lindbeck's theology. This explains why the possibility of natural theology, which plays such an important role in the dialogue with the world, is rejected within postliberalism. (74) Much more strongly than Lindbeck, I emphasize that God remains involved in the creation and is active in it. That is why it is said that seeds of the Word (semina verba) can be found (see Ad gentes [section] 11 and Nostra aetate [section]2), and mention is made of the Spirit who blows where the Spirit wills (Jn. 3:8). It is possible for people to encounter God in God's Spirit. People can experience God in daily reality, because God's Spirit searches for people. One can also think in this context of the meaning of the Hebrew word "Shekinah," which refers to God's presence among humankind. Unlike the solus Christus principle and contrary to the notion that revelation has come to an end in Christ, one can argue that "the revelation of the Word of God, spoken definitively in Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing to fruition the 'seeds of the Word' in creation, represent together a single continuous action of God in the world." (75) The God of the Jewish and Christian traditions is a relational God, a speaking, transcendence that unremittingly reaches out to the people God has created. (76) It is precisely this dynamic involvement that is insufficiently considered in postliberalism. Lindbeck's postliberalism--and precisely his concern for the preservation of the tradition--risks ending in a silent rather than a speaking transcendence.

C. Theological Anthropology and Hermeneutics

The linguistic turn does not place the subject but, rather, language in the center as that which forms and molds the subject. The question is to what extent in this model "the weight" of the cultural-linguistic structures is not too heavy or too solid. Can the subject still take a critical distance and resist certain beliefs and practices in this model? The image that one gets with the cultural-linguistic model is that of a subject trapped in one spot by the massive weight of the tradition. Lindbeck's critique of the modern self that places itself in the center and has the tradition freely at his or her disposal is correct. The question concerns only the extent to which his metaphor of the reversal from inside to outside has silenced the subject.

When Lindbeck speaks about the text as self-interpreting and self-referential, (77) he not only excludes an extratextual hermeneutic but also imposes silence on the "reader" of the text. He seems to assume that the biblical world "is there" to be found and confirmed. Postliberal theology minimizes the contribution of the reader. (78) The text does all the work and interprets itself. In this context Goh finds that "the claim that the Bible 'embraces' our experience or 'absorbs' our world is perplexing, because it is 'anthropomorphizing' the text--speaking as if it does things." (79) It is not only surprising that the text in Lindbeck's postliberal theology becomes "an active principle." It is perhaps even more surprising that the subject is described as a direct object. The "believer" is seen as a kind of blank slate that can be written on. The particularity of the believer's context, with his or her specific experiences, is not part of the process, nor is the idea that people are both the product of a religion and also producers of religion. (80) It is correct to ask if people are purely and simply the creation of their environment. (81) It is not the constructive and creative contribution of the individual to the faith community that is emphasized but his or her receptivity. The communication of the faith and the interpretation of the text are here viewed--in line with the metaphor of absorption--as the transmission of faith and not as a dialogical event: "[T]he constitutive role of the reader is silenced and her situation omitted; the role is assumed by the text itself." (82) The specific experiences of the subject are also not taken into account. Yale theology is suspicious of the contribution of the subject to the hermeneutical process. The text does all the work. This suspicion is connected with the theological anthropology that forms the foundation of postliberalism. The human being must be transformed and converted to the biblical world. Because of this transformation process, the human being seems to be nothing more than a passive, receptive principle.

The idea is that the biblical text is sufficient to ground a meaningful world. Miroslav Volf has argued that Lindbeck's metaphor of absorption ends in a hermeneutical simplification: "We can look at our culture through the lenses of religious texts only as we look at these texts through the lenses of our culture. The notion of inhabiting the biblical story is hermeneutically naive because it presupposes that those who are faced with the biblical story can be completely 'dis-lodged' from their extratextual dwelling places and 're-settled' into intratextual homes." (83) The human being is not a blank slate that can simply be written on but lives in several contexts that give shape to his or her relationship to the Bible and tradition. This is not a matter of two monolithic blocks that stand next to or opposite each other. People are not the products of the Bible or their culture. The identity of people is a multiform and always particular datum that is given form by a number of experiences, encounters, and texts. The idea that believers live in the biblical world ignores this.

Terrence Tilley, agreeing with this, has accused Lindbeck of forgetting his "public." It could well be that the biblical texts can be understood without an extratextual hermeneutics, (84) but, if the terms of the text in question do not mean anything to the reader, the text will remain unintelligible. The point is that Lindbeck ignores the fact that the proclamation of faith can be successful only if the core concepts of the Christian faith tradition can be understood by the hearer: creation, providence, sin, incarnation, Trinity, eschatology, etc. (85) This means, on one hand, that searching for connections with the world of the listener is necessary for making the Christian message intelligible. Explaining the Christian story means translating and finding a connection with the world of the listener. On the other hand, this also means that in this hermeneutical process the text does not remain unchanged. The reader unlocks new and different meanings of the biblical texts because of his or her particular context. A plurality of interpretations arises, which does not end, as Lindbeck claims, in a confusion of tongues and thus means the end of speaking about God. Rather, it is precisely the expression of the fact that people search for God and God searches for people. "Speaking about God is varied, but--paradoxically enough--his authority is confirmed through that. Critical, intelligent reading of the Scriptures and kerygmatic listening to the Word that has come from on high and from afar do not exclude each other." (86)

Unlike the earlier pessimistic anthropology, which is part of the background of the Yale school, I presuppose an anthropology that understands the human being as a hermeneutical creature. (87) This is an anthropology that starts from the idea that the human being is called to openness toward the world, his or her fellow human beings, and God. This calling does not imply a denial of sin and thus a denial of forms of closedness. On the contrary, human beings do not always live up their calling. They are inclined to turn away from God and creation. Every human being sinned in Adam, but this sinfulness did not eclipse the rational ability of human beings. Moreover, the human being still has the ability to discover God with the help of grace. (88) Such an anthropology, which presupposes that the human ability to discern God is not completely obscured, an anthropology that presupposes that human beings are not blind to this calling, also displays a more positive attitude toward a hermeneutics that recognizes the creative contribution of the interpreting subject--a subject who is always situated and who inevitably includes precisely this situatedness in reading the Bible:
   [The] survival [of the Christian revelation] depends on human
   response.... an inescapable dimension of its character as
   essentially divine self-communication. Revelation, as a relational
   reality, is not something which the human subject 'receives', but a
   reality which human subjects bring about.... An incarnational
   theology valorizes human subjectivity and accords it a central role
   in the realization of God's revelatory and salvific project in
   history. (89)


Faithfulness to God does not presuppose any intertextual hermeneutics but is, rather, a creative hermeneutics. The meaning of a text can be discerned only when the text is read and interpreted, and "any mode of reading must feature an emphasis on the dynamic and interactive nature both of the text and of the act of reading." (90)

There is yet another problem connected to Lindbeck's anthropology. The way in which the passive subject is formed, molded, and determined by the religious framework to which he or she belongs limits how the subject can be affected in his or her capacities by everything that does not fit into that framework. It is not clear how something from "outside" the framework, which does not "exist" within the religious framework, can break into and interrupt that framework.

Not only is the creative ability of the human individual cut short by the cultural-linguistic model, but his or her critical voice is cut short as well. The voice of the text is the voice of the subject. The emphasis lies on receptivity.

One of the consequences of the focus on the passive receptivity of the subject is the danger that the text itself becomes "inviolable." "The basic idea is that God's word as embodied in text-shaped selves and in text-shaped communities is the most reliable source for theology, and while it may not be above all distortions, a safety net against which the text could be double-checked in regard to its referent does not seem necessary." (91) There is a lack of space for a voice critical of ideology: The "close relation of God and the word of Scripture elevates the biblical texts into a strong position of authority. This authority can indeed challenge certain contemporary structures of exclusion. But how does it deal with structures of exclusion in which the biblical authors and their communities participated and which are reflected in the texts?" (92)

VII. Concluding Reflections

The postliberal polarization of text and experience also influences the relationship between the church and the other religions and, thus, the place and valuation of interreligious dialogue. I have already alluded to this in the foregoing. Does the dichotomic thinking of intratextual theology not end again in a form of exclusivism? If this is indeed the case, it seems to be a heavy price to pay for the recognition of the particularity of those of other faiths and a limitation of God's activity and universal will that all be saved.

Lindbeck's theological presuppositions are determinative for his turn to particularistic incommensurability between the religions. He cannot acknowledge the real challenge of the contemporary experience of religious plurality as a source of moral and spiritual truth. Just as the world cannot be conceived as a place to encounter God or as a location for the seeds of the Word, neither can the religions. The consequence of his thought is that the religions can indeed be recognized in their particularity but are theologically meaningless. Lindbeck also excludes non-Christians from salvation. (93) Only those who explicitly confess Christ can attain salvation: fides ex auditu. In this respect it is also correct that Gavin D'Costa has situated Lindbeck within the exclusivist paradigm. (94) Because Lindbeck holds that the definitive decision is made only after death, he manages to avoid a hard form of soteriological exclusivism. It is, after all, possible that people who are confronted in the hereafter in an explicit way with Christ's message of salvation will still be converted. However, it is still the case that they are saved only if they confess Christ and thus become Christians. There is no salvation outside the church, (95) and he excludes both the inclusivist and the pluralist possibility that non-Christians can be saved. (96) In this respect Lindbeck's postliberal theology is closer to the exclusivism of evangelical theology. (97) Both reject all forms of a latent Christianity; there is no such thing as an implicit faith. (98) Exclusivism is thus the logical consequence of the cultural-linguistic model. Those who do not speak the Christian language do not know Christ, and those who do not know Christ cannot be saved.

Stephen Stell has noted an additional problem. The ultimate decision about one's salvation is made in the hereafter with regard to both Christians and non-Christians. The only thing that counts in this decision is faith in Christ: Solus Christus. (99) But, for non-Christians, according to Stell, this ultimate decision of faith has little to do with their particular faith commitment in this world. This is a consequence of the discontinuity between the comprehensive Christian interpretive schema and the other religions. "[T]he demand for an explicit faith leaves salvation totally in the future and disconnected from our current experiences of life." (100) The result of Lindbeck's theology is that our salvation is detached from our current existence. According to Lindbeck, "All previous decisions, whether for faith or against faith, are preliminary. The final die is cast beyond our space and time, beyond empirical observation, ... when a person loses his or her rootage in this world and passes into the inexpressible transcendence that surpasses all words, images, and thoughts." (101) This means that the definitive decision about salvation is made only after death, that is, when people lose their "worldly roots."

Kenneth Surin has formulated still another serious objection here to Lindbeck's position, primarily with respect to his anthropology:
   It is doubtless true that at death our physical or bodily existence
   comes to an end. My body, however, is not just some bit of material
   'stuff' ... which I 'use' instrumentally to interact with other
   human beings. My body is more than this. My body, to use the
   terminology of current literary theory, is a 'text' replete with
   filial and affiliative inscriptions....

      If it is acknowledged that our bodily (and hence our 'personal')
   identities are socially and culturally constituted ..., then the
   non-Christian individual who, as Lindbeck sees it, confronts Christ
   and the gospel at the eschaton will certainly ... in 'this' life,
   [have] been the bearer of a quite specific set of cultural and
   social inscriptions. (102)


By emphasizing what happens in the eschaton so much, Lindbeck seems, first, to say that people no longer have these inscriptions after death. Second, he seems to suggest that the "falling away" of these specific social and cultural inscriptions makes people receptive to the gospel.

If these reflections are sound, then this means that postliberalism understands the religious particularity of non-Christians as an obstacle to coming to God. Only after death does this obstacle disappear. Lindbeck sees the nonChristian after death as a kind of tabula rasa who now experiences no "interference" by his or her particular religious inscriptions in hearing God's Word (tides ex auditu). Despite all of Lindbeck's attention for religious particularity, he is unable to conceive of this particular situatedness as the way in which God seeks people.

In light of our theological reflections above on God as a dynamic and relational being, the creation, the universal activity of the Spirit, and the distinction between the Logos ensarkos and the Logos asarkos, I have quite serious doubts about the price Lindbeck pays for the "recognition" of the particularity of religious traditions. It seems that Lindbeck succeeds after all in recognizing the different religions in their particularity only when he undervalues both the universal activity of the Spirit and the distinction between the Logos ensarkos and the Logos asarkos. The recognition of the radical and irreducible particularity of the religions means, theologically, a return to a christocentric theology that leaves the trinitarian activity of the Spirit and the Word and the world as God's creation "underexposed."

In the first place, the dialogue with the other religions is no longer theologically necessary. Moreover, learning from other religions no longer has theological relevance. Interreligious dialogue, one could say, is then the expression of a kind of cultural interest, such as tourism or going out for an exotic dinner. Interreligious dialogue is thus something with which Christians can occupy themselves if they want to take the trouble. As with ad hoc apologetics in postliberalism, there is also very little ad hoc interreligious dialogue here. "Ad hoc" here primarily means sporadic. Dialogue does not constitute a systematic part of theology.

Conversely, all of this also means that, as soon as the activity of the Spirit and the traces of the Word are recognized in the religions, the gulf between these religions can no longer be absolute. It is the trinitarian character of the Christian faith that invites Christians to a dialogue with the world. It is the Trinity that, theologically speaking, makes the search for connections possible, for the Logos makes dialogue possible and the Spirit represents connectedness. Theology means speaking about God in response to God's Word, which also entails not only listening to the possible seeds of God's Word but also to what God has perhaps said in this new context of otherness. Interreligious dialogue is thus also a context of otherness.

If postliberalism and the God-church-world schema ends in a form of exclusivism, I then advocate a church that lives in the world and feels called to enter into dialogue with the world. This is not the same as saying that the world determines the church, but it does mean that the church has to listen to the world. After all, the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills. Theologically, the inclusive principle is to be chosen above the exclusive principle. Human beings may not limit God's revelation a priori. To use Goh's terminology, I would rather speak of the Spirit/transformation paradigm that states that "the world, ambiguous as it is, is seen as the locus of a saving encounter. There, the Spirit is already at work, and Christians relate best to the world if they discern the signs of the times and cooperate with the action of God in the world." (103)

Bracketing the relational involvement of God with creation and all people--because otherwise injustice would be done to their self-understanding--is very difficult to substantiate theologically. God's will for universal salvation extends to the whole creation and to all people, also to those who do not explicitly believe in Christ. Those of other faiths are not outside the reach of God's will for salvation. The fact that people are so struck by the moral and spiritual truth of religious plurality is an expression of the fact that non-Christians also participate in God's salvation history. Non-Christians are already now working on the Reign of God:
   In Christian salvation, the final decision of the future is seen to
   be based on the experience of the present and the experience of the
   present is shaped by that impending future; the present subjective
   quality of love directs one towards specific future goals and the
   path toward a particular goal engenders subjective qualities in the
   present; the Holy Spirit is a pledge of future glory precisely
   because it is in some measure already the participation in that
   future, while conversely the promise of future fulfilment nurtures
   our present participation; finally, the character of human
   experience guides one's acceptance of a tradition, while the
   explicit claims of a tradition shape one's experiences and the
   faith implicit therein. (104)


Theologians must understand what all is at stake if they "sing the praises" of the cultural-linguistic model and the principle of intratextuality too quickly, for the wholly other is the meaningless other. If theologians are inspired by the cultural-linguistic model, they should have a good idea of what the underlying theological presuppositions are and what the consequences are for the interreligious learning process. The postliberal attempt to protect its own and to acknowledge the other in its "irreducible particularity" ends in locking the other in his or her otherness, with the otherness becoming theologically insignificant. It means that a recognition of the otherness of the other, and thus of the discontinuity, can occur only if the continuity is also recognized.

(1) S. Mark Helm, The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends (Grand

Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, UK.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001); see chap. 1, "Saving the Particulars: The Diversity of Religious Ends," pp. 17-40.

(2) Marianne Moyaert, "Interreligious Dialogue and the Debate between Universalism and Particularism: Searching for a Way out of the Deadlock," Studies in Interreligious Dialogue, vol. 15, no. 1 (2005), pp. 36-51.

(3) Paul Knitter, Introducing Theologies of Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), p. 177.

(4) George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984), p. 22.

(5) Ibid., p. 7.

(6) Ibid., p. 32.

(7) George Lindbeck, "Relations interreligieuses et oecumenisme: Le chapitre 3 de la nature des doctrines revisitS," in Marc Boss, Giles Emery, and Pierre Giesel, eds., Postliberalisme? La theologie de George Lindbeck et sa reception (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2004), p. 199. All translations from French or German sources are the author's.

(8) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 34.

(9) Ibid., p. 10.

(10) Ibid., p. 127.

(11) bid., p. 114.

(12) Ibid., pp. 114-115.

(13) Ibid., p. 118.

(14) Ibid., p. 129.

(15) Ibid., p. 131.

(16) Ronald F. Thiemann, Revelation and Theology: The Gospel as Narrated Promise (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), p. 43.

(17) Lindbeck, "Relations interreligieuses," p. 190.

(18) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 40.

(19) Lindbeck, "Relations interreligieuses," p. 194.

(20) George Lindbeck "The Gospel's Uniqueness: Election and Untranslatability," Modern Theology 13 (October, 1997): 433.

(21) Gavin D'Costa, Theology and Religious Pluralism: The Challenge of Other Religions (Oxford: Blackwell 1986).

(22) Lindbeck, "Gospel's Uniqueness," p. 425.

(23) Ibid., p. 426.

(24) Ibid., p. 425.

(25) Lindbeck, "Relations interreligieuses," p. 193.

(26) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 62.

(27) Ibid., p. 59.

(28) Ibid..

(29) Lindbeck, "Gospel's Uniqueness," p. 423.

(30) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 118.

(31) Lindbeck, "Gospel's Uniqueness," p. 429.

(32) Ibid., p. 426.

(33) Jeffrey C. K. Goh, Christian Tradition Today: A Postliberal Vision of Church and World, Louvain Theological and Pastoral Monographs 28 (Louvain: Peeters Press, 2000), p. 523.

(34) Lindbeck, "Gospel's Uniqueness," p. 427.

(35) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 259.

(36) Kristin E. Heyer, "How Does Theology Go Public? Rethinking the Debate between David Tracy and George Lindbeck," Political Theology: The Journal of Christian Socialism 5 (July, 2004): 320.

(37) Kathryn Tanner, Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology, Guides to Theological Inquiry (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1997), p. 149.

(38) Andreas Eckerstorfer, Kirche in der postmodernen Welt: Der Beitrag George Lindbecks zu einer neuen Verhaltnisbestimmung (Vienna: Tyrolia, 2001), pp. 320-322.

(39) Werner Jeanrond, "After Hermeneutics: The Relationship between Theology and Biblical Studies," in Francis Watson, ed., The Open Text: New Directions for Biblical Studies (London: Watson, 1993), p. 94.

(40) George Lindbeck, "Barth and Textuality," Theology Today 43 (October, 1986): 370.

(41) George A. Lindbeck, "Church and World: Schema 13," in George A. Lindbeck, ed., Dialogue on the Way: Protestants Report from Rome on the Vatican Council (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965), p. 242.

(42) Ibid., p. 248.

(43) Ibid., p. 250.

(44) Eckerstoffer, Kirche in der postmodernen Welt, p. 232.

(45) George A. Lindbeck, "Unbelievers and the 'Sola Christi,'" Dialog 12 (Summer, 1973): 185.

(46) Ibid., p. 184.

(47) Goh, Christian Tradition, pp. 251-252.

(48) David Tracy, "Lindbeck's New Program for Theology. A Reflection," The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review 49 (July, 1985): 465-466.

(49) George Weigel, "Re-viewing Vatican II: An Interview with George A. Lindbeck," First Things 48 (December, 1994): 48.

(50) James Gustafson, "The Sectarian Temptation: Reflections on Theology, the Church, and the University," Catholic Theological Society of America Proceedings, vol. 40 (1985), p. 83.

(51) Alain Thomasset, Paul Ricoeur, une poetique de la morale: Aux fondements d'une ethique hermeneutique et narrative dans une perspective chretienne (Louvain: Peeters, 1996), p. 38.

(52) Lindbeck, "Unbelievers," p. 187.

(53) Ibid.

(54) Tanner, Theories of Culture, p. 149.

(55) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 34.

(56) Tiina Allik, "Religious Experience, Human Finitude, and the Cultural-Linguistic Model," Horizons 20 (Fall, 1993): 249.

(57) Joerg Rieger, God and the Excluded: Visions and Blind Spots m Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 71.

(58) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 126.

(59) Rieger, God and the Excluded, p. 78.

(60) Thomasset, Paul Ricoeur, p. 39.

(61) Eckerstoffer, Kirche in der postmodernen Welt, p. 232.

(62) Raymond Facelina, "Une theologie en situation: Approche methodologique," Revue des sciences religieuses 48 (October, 1974): 313.

(63) Annemie Dillen, "Theologisch denken vanuit het gezin: Methodologische aanzetten tot 'leren aan de werkelijkheid,'" in Didier Pollefeyt, ed., Leren aan de werkelijkheid: Geloofscommunicatie in een wereld van verschil (Louvain: Acco, 2003), p. 192.

(64) The sources of theology are both tradition and the experience of people in "our time." Theology must keep both the synchronic and diachronic character of theology in mind. Anton Houtepen correctly remarked in this respect that "without considering 'the faith of the church through the ages' contextual theologies are in danger of becoming ideologically determined" (Anton Houtepen, "Intercultural Theology: A Postmodern Ecumenical Mission," in Martha Theodora Frederiks, Meindert Dijkstra, and Anton Willem Joseph Houtepen, eds., Towards an Intercultural Theology: Essays in Honour of J. A. B. Jongeneel, IIMO Research Publication 61 [Zoetermeer: Meinema, 2003 (repr., Bangalore: Center for Contemporary Christianity, 2010)], p. 32). Making an appeal to the tradition does not in any way mean a return to a static view of religion or a confirmation of "dogmatism." First, diversity is found not only outside the Christian tradition but also within it. Second, traditions are not static; rather, a dialectical interaction between context and tradition occurs. Precisely because of the dynamic character of religion, it is not possible to determine a priori where exactly interreligious conflicts will occur, nor is it possible to state that certain conflicts will never change. Theology is never "finished." With the help of the sources of tradition and experience, theologians grope for the boundaries of the possible. In doing so, they develop new ways of speaking. One's own faith narrative is told differently. Theology is a particularly precarious undertaking because there are no "fixed" criteria for what can and cannot be. Both the Christian tradition and the other religions are constantly in motion. How can the relationships between and among these religions be set once and for all? The tradition and the context itself are continually changing.

(65) Ge Speelman, Keeping Faith: Muslim-Christian Couples and Interreligious Dialogue (Zoetermeer: Meinema, 2003), pp. 17-23.

(66) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 303.

(67) Ibid., pp. 285-287.

(68) Gavin D'Costa, Theology in the Public Square: Church, Academy, and Nation (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), p. 144.

(69) Jacques Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997), p. 298.

(70) In response to ibid., which is Dupuis's magnum opus, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a Notification, which stated, "The members of the congregation recognized the author's attempt to remain within the limits of orthodoxy in his study of questions hitherto largely unexplored. At the same time, while noting the author's willingness to provide the necessary clarifications, as evident in his Responses, as well as his desire to remain faithful to the doctrine of the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium, they found that this book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points, which could lead a reader to erroneous and harmful opinions. These points concerned the interpretation of the sole and universal salvific mediation of Christ, the unicity and completeness of Christ's revelation, the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit, the orientation of all people to the Church, and the value and significance of the salvific function of other religions" (available at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregtions/cfaith/documents/ rc_con_cfaith_doc_20010124_dupuis_en.html).

(71) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 286; emphasis in original.

(72) Ibid., p. 309.

(73) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 34.

(74) Giles Emery, "L'interet des theologies catholiques pour la proposition postliberale de George Lindbeck," in Boss, Emery, and Giesel, Postliberalisme? p. 56.

(75) Michael Barnes, Theology and the Dialogue of Religions, Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine (New York and Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 45.

(76) Roger Burggraeve, "A Conversational God as the Source of a Response Ethics," in Jacques Haers and P. DeMey, eds., Theology and Conversation: Towards a Relational Theology, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium 172 (Louvain: Peeters, 2003), pp. 337-357.

(77) Lindbeck, "Gospel's Uniqueness," p. 433.

(78) Dan R. Stiver, The Philosophy of Religious Language: Sign, Symbol, and Story (Malden, MA, and Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell Publishing, 1996), p. 143.

(79) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 238.

(80) Speelman, Keeping Faith, p. 65.

(81) Colman O'Neill, "The Rule Theory of Doctrine and Propositional Truth," The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review 49 (July, 1985): 426.

(82) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 319.

(83) Miroslav Volf, "Theology, Meaning, and Power," in Miroslav Volf, Carmen Krieg, and Thomas Kucharz, eds., The Future of Theology: Essays in Honor of Jurgen Moltmann (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), p. 103; emphasis in original.

(84) "Masterpieces such as Oedipus Rex and War and Peace, for example, evoke their own domains of meaning. They do so by what they themselves say about the events and personages of which they tell. In order to understand them in their own terms, there is no need for extraneous references to, for example, Freud's theories or historical treatments of the Napoleonic wars. Further, such works shape the imagination and perceptions of the attentive reader so that he or she forever views the world to some extent through the lenses they supply" (Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, pp. 116-117).

(85) Terrence W. Tilley, "Incommensurability, Intratextuality, and Fideism," Modern Theology 5 (January, 1989): 98-99

(86) Luc Pareydt, "Paul Ricoeur: Comprendre ce que l'on croit et agir ou l'on est," Archives de Philosophie 63 (April-June, 2000): 281.

(87) It is clear from our critique that the two different anthropologies to which I am referring are essentially the different anthropologies of Reformational and Catholic traditions: the difference between nature as "fallen" or as "wounded." For this remark, see also Tanner, Theories of Culture, p. 149; and Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 434.

(88) John E. Thiel, Nonfoundationalism, Guides to Theological Inquiry (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), p. 100.

(89) Terrence Merrigan, "What's in a Word? Revelation and Tradition in Vatican II and in Contemporary Theology," in Mathijs Lamberigts and Leo Kenis, eds., Vatican II and Its Legacy, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum theologicarum Lovaniensium 166 (Louvain: Peeters, 2002), pp. 81-82; emphasis in original.

(90) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 295.

(91) Rieger, God and the Excluded, p. 79.

(92) Ibid., p. 76.

(93) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 57.

(94) Gavin D'Costa, "Theology of Religions," in David F. Ford and Rachel Muers, eds., The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology since 1918, The Great Theologians, 3rd ed. (Oxford; Blackwell Publishing, 2005), p. 631.

(95) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 59.

(96) Ibid., p. 58.

(97) Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm, eds., "The Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals," in Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm, eds., The Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals in Discussion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp. 7-20.

(98) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 62.

(99) Ibid., p. 59.

(100) Stephen L. Stell, "Hermeneutics in Theology and the Theology of Hermeneutics: Beyond Lindbeck and Tracy," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 61 (Winter, 1993): 682.

(101) Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, p. 59; my emphasis.

(102) Kenneth Surin, "'Many Religions and the One True Faith': An Examination of Lindbeck's Chapter Three," Modern Theology 4 (January, 1988): 194-195.

(103) Goh, Christian Tradition, p. 567.

(104) Stell, "Hermeneutics," p. 683, n. 5.

Marianne Moyaert (Roman Catholic) is a part-time associate professor on the Faculty of Theology of the Free University of Amsterdam and a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation-Flanders in the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University in Louvain. Her research project during 2011-14 is "Beyond the Impossible: A Theological Inquiry into the Nature of Interreligious Dialogue as Revelatory Event through Scriptural Reading." She is also part of a ten-member research team of the Marie Curie project, "Translating God(s): Comparative Theology in Europe" (2010-14). Her prior postdoctoral research (2007-11) involved vulnerability and interreligious dialogue, while her doctoral research was in the area of pluralism and interreligious dialogue. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in religious studies, a Sacrae Theologia Licentiatus, a master in theology, a Sacrae Theologia Doctor, and a doctorate in theology (2007), all from the Theology Faculty of K.U. Leuven. She has also taught in both the Faculty of Theology and the Faculty of Pedagogical Sciences at K.U. Leuven, as well as working (2002-10) with an interactive electronic learning environment to provide resources for Catholic religious educators. In addition to many involvements within the theology faculty and the university, she has been a member of the Interdiocesaan Pastoraal Beraad since 2009. Her book, Fragile Identities: Towards a Theology of Interreligious Hospitality was published in 2011 by Rodopi as part of its Currents of Encounter series. With D. Pollefeyt, she edited Never Revoked. Nostra Aetate as Ongoing Challenge for Jewish-Christian Dialogue, Louvain Theological and Pastoral Monographs (Peeters, 2010). She also co-edited with C. Brabant, Worstelen met bet woord (Pelckmans, 2009); and, with P. Kevers, Wanneer alteriteit realiteit wordt: Christendom en Islam, Bijbel en Koran (Acco, 2008). More than twenty of her articles have appeared as book chapters, and another twenty-some articles have appeared in leading theological journals in Europe and the U.S., as have her book reviews. She has lectured and delivered conference papers at international meetings throughout Europe and in Boston.
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