Theology of Religion

Theology of religion has come a long way from the nomenclature of people other than Christians as pagans, heathens, non-Christian to people of other faith. The crux of the issue is not lexicology and the significance of the role and place of salvation in these other religions. The exclusive belonging to the visible Church for salvation is no longer dogmatic requirement. At least since the great Vatican Council II, the salvation of non-Christians is no longer in doubt. All salvation is Jesus Christ. This indicates it is God the father who saves all in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that Vatican II does not say anything about the role if any that is to be assigned to the other religions to which the non-Christian person supposedly saved belongs . The great Council does declare how different religions are related in different ways to the people of God. This raises the question of salvific significance of other religions.

Dominus Iesus teaches that conditions of these other religions are objectively deficient. This means these other religions do not have autonomous contribution whatsoever to make to their followers to their eternal salvations although several of them make soteric claims themselves. All other religions require the mediatary grace of Jesus Christ and some kind of relationship with the Church and with various conditions ( seeking true God in shadows and images, seeking God with a sincere heart or with no faults of theirs are yet to reach an explicit knowledge of God) to be saved. This position can be called the fulfilment theology of religion. All religions are fulfilled in Christianity. This theology is unidirectional and not reciprocal. We can find such fulfilment theologies in the avtatra theology in Hinduism where a local god is thought to be born again as a sanskritic Shiva or Vishnu. Thus, Chinchinath in Chinchinim became sanskritized as Shiva. We can trace such fulfilment theologies in Goa and elsewhere.

All though there are seeds of the Gospel in all other religions and thus all of have traces of divine origin and are thus included in the universal salvific will of God , yet the fact that these religion do not have ex opera operato salvific efficacy is a question for us to think theologically. All the people adhering to these religions, besides the goodness of their life are saved ex opera operantis through the faith of the Catholic Church. This means the religions they follow do provide conditions although deficient to enable their followers to be saved by the merits of Jesus Christ. Therefore, theology of religions cannot dismiss the salvific efficacy of other religion as long as we admit Christo-centricity and Ecclesial link of salvation. Fulfilment theology of religion appears to underline the physical primacy of the Catholic Church. Can we think the primacy of the link of the Catholic Church differently? Perhaps it is possible. This may require us to develop sacramental theology of religions.

A sacramental theology of religions like the fulfilment theology can embrace all religions. It bases on Jesus Christ as the primary sacrament and the Church as secondary sacrament. Church as a secondary sacrament subsists in the Catholic Church but Church as the sacrament is the entire people of God. This means everyone is saved in and through Jesus Christ and through the sacramental relations with the Catholic church. Thus Salvation given to all in and through Jesus Christ operates Sacramentally. It means people from other religions are saved because of their good life and their ways being human within the (deficient) conditions of their religions through the merits of Christs and linkage of the Catholic Church. Sacramental theology of religion therefore, asserts that people of other faith are saved ex opera operato because of the Jesus Christ, the primary sacrament and the Church the secondary sacrament.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao