Postcolonial Theology of Religions: Particularity
and pluralism in world Christianity
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THE Church Times asks its reviewers to include a few
sentences describing a book's intent; so let the author, Jenny
Daggers, speak for herself.
The constructive proposalof this book presents "Christian
particularity, centred in Trinitarian thinking, as capable of
hospitality to the liberative and interreligious concerns of
post-colonial, Asian and feminist theologies; respectful
interreligious engagement and the pursuit of gender justice amid
increasing global diversity need not require repudiation of
orthodox Trinitarian thought and its liturgical expression."
It would be a pity if the complexity of the language deterred
readers from struggling with this important book, which summarises
and offers critiques of the views of many theologians on the
question how Christianity relates to other world religions.
The Christians who first addressed this issue, as Daggers makes
clear, were Western males, often entangled in the European colonial
project. Moreover, the generic use of the term "religion" by
"natural religion", the supposedly neutral "scientific study of
religion", and "comparative religion" - in which comparisons always
favoured Christianity - masked the particularity of religions.
The author distinguishes helpfully between three dominant
approaches. The first sees global Christianity diminished by
secularism - a view dominant in the early years of the World
Council of Churches. The second pictures Christianity transcended,
either by modifying claims for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ or by
the gradual growing together of faiths into a world religion.
Third, many continue to hope that by the Church, by her missionary
endeavours, will indeed become universal.
Today's post-colonialism and post-modernism, however, provide a
new context in which to address the question of Christianity's
relationship to other religions. Daggers insists on the
particularity of each religion and the importance of listening to
the voices of Asian Christians and women theologians from all
continents. Daggers makes clear the importance of inter-religious
co-operation in the search for peace and in protecting human rights
and the environment, but insists that this does not require
diluting orthodox Trinitarian belief - indeed, new emphasis is put
on the universal presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet, even in the
concluding chapter, Daggers discusses other writers instead of
giving a clear summary of her own views and their bearing on actual
The motivation of the interfaith pioneers was not primarily
theological, but a mystical sense of the all-encompassing love of
the Holy One, who transcends all human speech. George Appleton,
Thomas Merton, Bede Griffiths, and others who have inspired me are
not mentioned in the index, and I feel like asking those who engage
in this scholarly debate what the father in the Upanishads asked
his son Svetaketu: "As you are so well-read. . . have you ever
asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard,
by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know
what cannot be known?"
The Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke is President of the World
Congress of Faiths.