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The Catholic Doctrine of Non-Christian Religions: According to the Second Vatican Council.

Miikka Ruokanen's illuminating study of the Second Vatican Council's teaching on "other" or "non-Christian" religious traditions appears as volume 7 of E. J. Brill's Studies in Christian Mission, edited by Marc R. Spindler. It is a distinguished addition.

Ruokanen unfolds the theology of religions contained in the council's Decree on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), but he does far more than analyze Nostra Aetate. Irenically but with scholarly rigor, the author examines the conciliar teaching as a whole-including elements found in the decrees on mission (Ad Gentes), on the church (Lumen Gentium), and on the church in the world (Gaudium et Spes). While he does this in a way that sheds light on subsequent debates on conciliar doctrine, Ruokanen refrains from entering into these later theological discussions. An appendix reprinted from International Bulletin of Missionary Research, in which Ruokanen, Paul Knitter, and this reviewer attempted to sort out such matters, however, is a help in that direction.

Ruokanen performs an especially important service by situating conciliar teaching in the context of the Thomistic theology of nature and grace - a scholastic appropriation of Augustinian theology that underlies all official Roman Catholic soteriological teaching. In my experience, when fundamental misinterpretations of conciliar teaching arise, there is generally a failure as well to realize that the Roman magisterium judges that its version of Thomistic teaching on nature and grace is the best construal of scriptural teaching on salvation.

Understanding, as he does, that for the Catholic magisterium "conscience" is the focal point where transforming grace is active and not merely a practical "moral" faculty, Ruokanen does justice to two aspects of that teaching: (1) conviction that grace operates in a zone wider than explicit Christian faith, and (2) concern to avoid relativism. In eleven carefully constructed chapters, Miikka Ruokanen uncovers facets of Vatican II teaching on the importance of the missionary mandate and the need to honor divine activity outside Christianity. These doctrines, as the council unfolds them, cohere with neither fideist biblicism nor secularist relativism, but it is keeping them in tension that constitutes the genius of the council. This Ruokanen shows clearly.

This is not a book that solves the "problem" of a Christian theology of other religious traditions. But it is the best I know in bringing into relief questions that traditionalists, progressives, evangelicals, liberationists, and liberals all need to examine afresh.
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Author:Burrows, William R.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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