Paul Knitters Pluralistic-Relativistic Model of Christology

  • Marta Romaszko-Banaś
Keywords: pluralistic theology of religion; pluralism; relativism; theology; ecclesiology; Christianity; kingdom; regnocentric; Jesus; Christian; non-Christians; saviors; salvation; revelation; church; dialogue of religions


Pluralistic theology of religion is getting more and more popular in Poland. This kind of theology deals with such questions as: Are all religions equal? Does Christianity surpass all these religions? Is there any way to state clearly how one should relate to Jesus Christ today' word that strikes a balance between these two extremes?

No set of questions concerns Christian theologians more today. No questions have more practical relevance in the religiously most pluralistic country in the world. No American theologian has kept these questions on the theological agenda over the past three decades with more consistency than Paul Knitter. And none is more expert in his or her knowledge of the field. He is the chief disseminator of these views.

Paul F. Knitter is Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York He was formerly Emeritus Professor of Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a leading theologian of religious pluralism. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (1966) and a doctorate from the University of Marburg, Germany (1972). Knitter's journey into interreligious dialogue began in 1964 when he was a seminarian in Rome and experienced the Second Vatican Council firsthand, at a time when the Roman Catholic Church declared its new attitude towards other religions. Since publishing his acclaimed book, No Other Name? (1985), Knitter has been widely known for his religious pluralism. Along with his friend and colleague, the Protestant philosopher of religion John Hick, Knitter has come under harsh criticism from Cardinal Ratzinger (presently the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church).

Knitter is against using absolutist language to depict the Saviour in interreligious dialogue, and writes about the relational understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus: the Saviour is to be understood in relation to other saviours. Although Jesus is truly the Word of God, Knitter states that he is not the only word: he is God's universal, decisive and indispensable manifestation of saving truth and grace. According to Knitter, the creed and other Christian dogmas concerning Jesus are to be interpreted symbolically as expressions of the church's experience of Christ. Here Knitter's insight is contrary to the traditional church's teaching on Jesus as far as it has an ontological foundation. Knitter's teaching about the relational uniqueness of Jesus is naturally unacceptable to bishops, because it alters the way the faith is proclaimed and it also deviates from what is central to Christianity.


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