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Stepping Stones to Other Religions – Dermot Lane

19 January, 2012

steppingstonesThe events of the first decade of the 21st century have shown that the assumptions of multiculturalism – the policy of  attempting to assimilate ethnic minorities into Europe on the understanding that they accept the ethos of the host country without demur – are not well grounded. A serious dialogue between the major world religions is needed to set the ground for peaceful co-existence between different religious civilizations.

Drawing on Church teaching since Vatican II and a developed theology of the Holy Spirit, the author presents a hopeful book that could enable that serious dialogue and so contribute to peaceful co-existence in the world of tomorrow.

Dermot A. Lane is President of Mater Dei Institute of Education and Parish Priest of Balally, Dublin 16. He is the author of Keeping Hope Alive: Stirrings in Christian Theology (1996/2005), The Experience of God: An Invitation to do Theology (revised 2003), and Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland (2008).





1. 9/11 and the New Globalisation
a. The Modern Neglect of Religion
b. The Turn to Multiculturalism
c. A post 9/11, New Interest in Religion

2. The Ambiguous Return of Religion to the Public Square 
a. The Impact of Globalisation
b. The Rise of Vague Religiosities
c. The New Visibility of Religion – A Matter of Debate

3. Theology caught between Modernity and Post-Modernity
a. Collapse of the Classical Synthesis of God, the Cosmos and the Self
b. The Rise of Onto-Theology
c. David Taylor’s Take on the Gradual Shift from Faith to Unbelief

4. A Peep at Post-Modernity
a. The Mood of Post-Modernity
b. Some Positive Aspects of Post-Modernity
c. The Possibility of a New, Second Modernity

5. Knowledge, Reason and Faith 
a. There is More than One Way of Knowing
b. Questioning the Self-Sufficiency of Secular Reason: Expanding Horizons
c. The Relationship between Faith and Reason


1. Vatican II on Other Religions 
a. The Gentle but Determined Influence of John XXIII
b. An Outline of Nostra Aetate
c. Light on Nostra Aetate from Other Documents of Vatican II
d. Initial Evaluation of Nostra Aetate

2. The Reception of Nostra Aetate in the Post-Conciliar Period
a. Encyclicals of John Paul II promoting Dialogue with other Religions
b. Dialogue and Proclamation (1991)
c. Dominus Iesus (2000)
d. Post-Conciliar Documents on the Jews
e. Prophetic Gestures of John Paul II

3. Benedict XVI on Inter-religious Dialogue
a. Benedict XVI and Catholic-Jewish Relations
b. Benedict XVI and Islam – A Shift in Focus
c. Benedict XVI and Assisi 2011

4. Challenges arising from Vatican II Regarding Other Religions
a. Nostra Aetate as a Theological and Pneumatological Event
b. The Council as a Christological Challenge
c. Nostra Aetate as an Ecclesial Call to a Dialogue of Mutuality


1. Overview of the Debate in the Twentieth Century and Early Twenty-first Century
a. The Three-fold Typology
b. Discussion among Theologians
c. Interventions by the Catholic Church

2. A Critique of the Three-fold Typology
a. Critique of Religious Pluralism
b. The Legitimacy of Theological Pluralism

3. Moving Beyond the Impasse
a. Inclusive Pluralism
b. Universal-Access Exclusivism

4. The Dialogical Imperative of Vatican II
a. Paul VI on Dialogue and Vatican II
b. Elements within a Theology of Dialogue
c. Dialogue as Conversation
d. Guidelines for Dialogue
e. Dialogue – A Shared Search for Truth
f. Dialogue between the Particular and the Universal


1. Rahner on Christ and Other Religions 
a. The Experience of God
b. Relocating the Christ-event within the History of the World
c. The Presence of a Searching Christology within Other Religions

2. The Explicit Treatment of Other Religions 
a. The 1961 Lecture
b. Christ in Non-Christian Religions
c. The Importance of Other Religions for Salvation
d. The Universal Presence of the Spirit in the World

3. A Critical Review of Rahner
a. A Pioneer of Dialogue and Inclusivism
b. A Critical Examination of Rahner on Christ in relation to Other Religions
c. Rahner’s Treatment of Other Religions

4. Standing on the Shoulders of Rahner in the Context of Inter-religious Dialogue 
a. Rahner and Post-Modernism
b. Inclusive Pluralism
c. Christianity as an Open and Unfinished Narrative


1. A Starting Point for Dialogue with the Religions: Pneumatology and/or Trinity? 
a. Taking a Trinitarian Approach
b. Adopting Pneumatology
c. Reasons for starting with Pneumatology

2. Bernard Lonergan and Frederick Crowe on the Priority of Pneumatology 
a. Lonergan’s Principles
b. Crowe’s Development of Lonergan
c. Consequences and Challenges

3. Philosophical Problems with Spirit-Talk
a. A Cultural Awkwardness with Spirit-talk
b. Summary of Prejudices against a Discourse about the Spirit

4. Philosophical Resources for Spirit-Talk
a. The Shift from Substance to Subject
b. Engaging critically with the Turn to the Subject
c. New Analogies

5. Signposts to Spirit-Talk
a. Anthropology and Pneumatology
b. Putting Spirit back into Matter
c. ‘To Think Spirit … think materially’


1. Reasons prompting a Pneumatology of Revelation 
a. Vatican II and John Paul II
b. Pauline Literature links the Spirit with Revelation
c. The Action of the Spirit in Judaism and Creation
d. The Spirit as ‘the subjective possibility of Revelation’

2. Review of Dei Verbum
a. A Shift in the Understanding of Revelation at Vatican II
b. An Overview of Dei Verbum
c. Gaps in Dei Verbum 
d. Linking Pneumatology and Christology in the Service of Revelation

3. The Ingredients of a Pneumatology of Revelation
a. Imagination and Theology
b. Imagination and the Holy Spirit

4. Different Types of Revelation 
a. Rahner’s Two-Fold Revelation: Transcendental and Categorical
b. Monotheistic Revelation and Mystical Revelation
c. Christ as the ‘Completion’ of the Revelation of God in History
d. The Universality of the Revelation of God among the Nations and the Religions

Select Bibliography

328 pp. Veritas Publications 2011. To purchase this book online, go to www.veritas.ie



AG Ad Gentes: Decree on Missionary Activity of the Church, December 1965*
DeV John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem: An Encyclical Letter On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (1986)
DI Dominus Iesus: on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2000
DP Dialogue and Proclamation: Reflections and Orientations on Inter-religious Dialogue and the Proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, May 1991
DV Dei Verbum: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, November 1965
GS Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, December 1965
LG Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, November 1964
NA Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, October 1965
RH John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis: The Redeemer of Man, 1979
RM John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio: An Encyclical Letter on the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate, 1990
TI Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, Volumes 1-23, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961-1992
UR Unitatis Redintegratio: Decree on Ecumenism, November 1964

* Quotations from the Second Vatican Council documents are taken from Vatican Council II: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations, edited by Austin Flannery, OP, a completely revised translation in inclusive language, Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1996. All biblical quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991, unless otherwise stated.



We live in a world in which the daily news frequently contains references of one kind or another to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. These references are often negative, portraying religions as the cause of violence, hatred and intolerance. Many people have given up on the value of religion and increasing numbers are walking away from their particular religious affiliation, especially among Catholics in Europe and the US at this time. While it is true that religions are often the source of social and political unrest in many parts of the world, it is equally true that religions contain within themselves rich resources to bring about justice, peace and reconciliation in the world.

There is now a recognition among many political leaders that religion can be a power for good within society and a basis for the healing of a broken planet. This role of religion is recognised by international bodies like the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the United Nations. However, there is a danger that when left to politicians, religion becomes instrumentalised and is often called upon to justify war and violence. Religion has a key role to play in making the world a safer place and also has the capacity to put people in touch with the sacred mystery that ‘exists’ at the centre of life which Christians name as God, and invoke as Spirit, Son and Father.

Since the beginning of the third millennium there has been a new interest in religion. This new interest has been caused by a number of converging factors: 9/11, globalisation, and the migration of people. Sometimes this interest in religion is superficial and faddish, at other times it is serious and intense. One way or the other, this new interest is challenging people to look again at religion in their own lives and, at the same time, to explore the possibility of a new dialogue among the religious traditions of the world. The drive behind inter-religious dialogue is a drive to understand the other. There is a growing awareness that in the twenty-first century, to be religious will require that one be inter-religious and that to be authentically Christian will necessitate that one enter into respectful dialogue with other religions.
It is against this background that Stepping Stones to Other Religions seeks to address a number of issues:

  • To outline theological reasons why Christians should enter into meaningful dialogue with other religious traditions;
  • To provide guidelines on how this engagement with the other should take place;
  • To point towards some of the benefits that come from such encounters for one’s own Christian identity;
  • To seek common ground between religious traditions, without neglecting to highlight the significant differences that exist between Christianity and other religions;
  • To highlight the progress that has been made in the important dialogue between Christianity and Judaism;
  • To offer Christians a theological language in which they can engage in respectful and sensitive dialogue with members of other religious traditions;
  • To suggest that Christian Pneumatology provides a promising platform for a new dialogue with other religions;
  • To summarise the teaching of the Catholic Church on its relation to other religious traditions.

For some people, however, inter-religious dialogue is seen as a new-fangled idea that the world can do without. This view forgets that, historically speaking, dialogue among the religions is as old as the religions themselves. Most religions have come into being through engagement with other religions. For example, Christianity is itself a religion that came to be out of a dialogue internal to Judaism, and Islam is a religion born out of a reaction to Judaism and Christianity. Christians will be mindful that in the Gospels, Jesus engages in dialogue with people from other religious traditions, such as the Syrophoenician woman (Mk 7:25-30), the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:7-26), and the Roman centurion (Lk 7:1-10). Further, Christians will also be aware that there is evidence of engagement with other religions in the Patristic Period and that this continued well into the Middle Ages with Aquinas, Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen and Francis of Assisi. Indeed, many would hold that the theological synthesis of the Middle Ages was forged by Aquinas partly out of engagement with some of the great thinkers of Judaism and Islam. While Stepping Stones does not review the history of engagement between Christianity and other religions, it does map out the debate in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Of books on dialogue among the religions, there seems to be no end! For example, Orbis Books, the publishing wing of the US Maryknoll Missionary Society, has published over sixty-five volumes dedicated to the theme of ‘Faith meets Faith’. So why do we need another book on inter-religious dialogue? There is general agreement that we are only at ‘the beginning of a new beginning’ of dialogue with other religious traditions, and that this dialogue looks set to be a defining feature of the first century of the third millennium. Further, to be Catholic, especially since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), carries with it a commitment to dialogue with other religions, not as an optional extra but as an essential part of the definition of what it means to be Catholic. In addition to addressing these particular issues, Stepping Stones also seeks to develop the Pneumatological, Christological and Ecclesiological foundations of this new self-understanding of Catholicism.

This book has been inspired by the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions issued by the Second Vatican Council in October 1965, commonly referred to as Nostra Aetate. Nostra Aetate was the shortest document of the Council; it may, however, have the longest effect on the life of the Church. This book is also influenced by other documents from the Council, especially Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium and Ad Gentes, which provide the larger theological context for understanding and interpreting Nostra Aetate. Further, this book has been shaped by the positive reception of Nostra Aetate in the post-conciliar period. While Stepping Stones has been written from a Catholic perspective, it draws freely from other Christian theologians, in the hope that it might be of some interest to other Christian denominations.

The methodology implicit in Stepping Stones is inductive, following the recommendation of Gaudium et Spes that ‘the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel’ (GS 4). This approach is spelt out in further detail in Article 44 of Gaudium et Spes:

With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the whole people of God, particularly of its pastors and theologians, to listen to and distinguish the many voices of our times and to interpret them in the light of God’s Word, in order that the revealed truth may be more deeply penetrated, better understood and more suitably presented.

Among ‘the signs of the times’ are the following: the rise of pluralism, the reality of secularisation in the West, and the growing phenomenon of religious fundamentalism. These are developments which are affecting all religions including Christianity.

Among ‘the many voices of our times’ there exists the World Parliament of Religions, which last met in 2009. There is also the existence of different charters calling religions to a new dialogue. From the Catholic Church there is Nostra Aetate (1965). From the Jewish world there is Dabru Emet – Speak the Truth, a Jewish statement about Christianity, published in the New York Times in September 2000, signed by some 200 Rabbis and Jewish scholars, outlining among other things what Jews and Christians can agree upon. In 2007, 138 Muslim scholars issued ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’, calling for dialogue between Islam and Christianity, the first agreed statement of its kind in the history of Islam. In January 2011, The World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, and the World Evangelical Alliance issued Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct.

Stepping Stones is constructed on three pillars. The first pillar is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on other religions and the positive reception of that teaching in the post-conciliar period. Coming out of this new teaching of the Catholic Church is recognition that inter-religious dialogue is one aspect of the evangelising mission of the Church in the world. A further insight coming from Nostra Aetate and its reception is an awareness that encounter with other religious traditions has the capacity to enrich the particularity of one’s own Christian faith and so offers an opportunity to learn ‘from’ and ‘with’ the other in a way that can deepen Christian faith and the faith of the other from anthropological, soteriological and theological points of view. The second pillar supporting Stepping Stones is the presentation of a theology of the Holy Spirit, both universal and particular, as the foundation for dialogue with other religions. The third pillar is that of Christology which sees Jesus as the Christ, crucified and risen, not as an obstacle but as a source inspiring engagement with other religions.

Chapter One outlines the radically new context in which theology exists in the twenty-first century: 9/11, the rise of multiculturalism, the new but ambiguous visibility of religion in the twenty-first century, and the ongoing tension between modernity and post-modernity.

Chapter Two outlines the teaching of the Catholic Church on its relationship with other religious traditions and the positive reception of this teaching in the post-conciliar period with the support of three different Popes.

Chapter Three maps out the theological debate in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries on the relationship between Christianity and other religions. It summarises the critique of Jacques Dupuis by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and of Peter Phan by the US Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine. In particular, this chapter outlines the basic elements that belong to a theology of dialogue.

Chapter Four discusses Karl Rahner’s singular contribution to the development of an inclusive self-understanding of Christianity. It shows how he opens the way for dialogue between Christianity and other religions, and it also notes how the later Rahner recommended Pneumatology as a point of departure for dialogue with other living faiths.

Chapter Five explores how the ‘turn to the Spirit’ in the twenty-first century could be adopted, with some fine tuning, as a point of departure for dialogue with other religions. However, it notes that this ‘turn to the Spirit’ as a resource for dialogue with other religious traditions will only succeed if it is reformed. At present, Spirit-discourse suffers from a number of modern prejudices that need to be addressed.

Chapter Six outlines a Pneumatology of Revelation in the light of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from Vatican II. Revelation is a key category within inter-religious dialogue. This chapter notes the relationship between Revelation, the gift of the Spirit, and imagination.

Chapter Seven develops a Christian theology of the Holy Spirit that could be used in inter-faith dialogue. In doing this, it highlights the importance of linking Pneumatology and Christology in the service of inter-religious dialogue, moving from a Spirit-Christology to a Spirit-centred Ecclesiology.

Chapter Eight reports on the progress that has been made in Jewish-Catholic dialogue. This final chapter notes how the dialogue between Catholics and Jews has enriched the self-understanding of Catholic identity in a variety of ways.

Stepping Stones is essentially a hopeful book: hopeful in virtue of the progress already achieved in inter-religious dialogue over the last fifty years, hopeful that the emerging new relationship between Christianity and Judaism might be adopted as a model for dialogue between Christians and Muslims, hopeful about the value of inter-religious dialogue for a deeper understanding and praxis of Christianity, hopeful that the religions of the world can work together out of their respective differences in the service of the well-being of the earth, the common good of society, and the possibility of a more peaceful co-existence among the living religions of the world.



In this opening chapter, I lay out, in broad strokes, the new context in which a theology of inter-religious dialogue must begin to reconfigure itself in the early decades of the twenty-first century. It is a radically new context, and calls for what some refer to as the recontextualisation of theology. This new context has many layers to it. I begin with the reality of 9/11 and its implications for a theology of religions. This will be followed by an outline of the ambiguous return of religion to the public square. This return of religion calls for an articulation of some of the questions theology must address as suggested by David Tracy and Charles Taylor. Alongside these questions, I will show how theology in the twenty-first century is caught between the mixed successes of modernity and the wild winds of post-modernity, and how this new location of theology implies the need for engagement with the possibility of a new, second modernity. The chapter will close with some comments on the different kinds of knowledge that exist within modernity and theology, and how these might complement rather than compete with each other, especially when one takes account of the ‘intimate relationship’ that exists between faith and reason.


Christian theology only exists as embedded in the social, cultural and historical forms of the day. When theology neglects or ignores its surrounding context, it ceases to communicate. It is instructive to remember that at the commencement of the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII introduced an important distinction between the deposit of faith and the different ways in which it is expressed. This distinction between form and substance, or between context and content, is echoed throughout the Council and its documents, and it also appears in post-conciliar documents (1). As John Paul II frequently pointed out, only a faith that is enculturated is truly a living faith. The context of Catholic theology has changed as a result of the Second Vatican Council, becoming experiential, historical, ecumenical and inter-religious. These changes have accelerated significantly in the early years of the new millennium.

a. The Modern Neglect of Religion
The horrors of 9/11 changed the world, and the ill-conceived US response of ‘War on Terror’ also wrought change. It needs to be noted, however, that President Bush did point out that although 9/11 was enacted by some Muslims, not all Muslims should be associated with this assault on humanity and civilisation.

Prior to 9/11, religion was not always taken seriously by the modern world. For example, in 1979, the US public wanted to know why and how the CIA had failed to anticipate the revolution in Iran. In response, Admiral Stansfield Turner pointed out that the CIA had tracked Iranian markets, cinemas, demographics and publishing houses, and then he went on to admit: ‘The only thing we paid no attention to was religion because it had no power in the modern world’ (2). Alastair Campbell, Press Secretary to the former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, (in)famously said at a conference: ‘We do not do God.’ Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State during the Clinton administration, in her autobiography, looking back at her public career, regrets buying into the modern assumptions that religion is not important in international affairs (3). The modern assumptions, inherited from the Enlightenment, are that religions are basically all the same, that they should not be taken seriously in the public domain, that they are a private matter for citizens, that they should be treated in a neutral, detached and objective manner. And yet, when we look around the world, we will notice that most of the war zones are connected to, and often fuelled by, religious differences. The close association of religion with violence in the world is one of the most disturbing realities of the early twenty-first century, and must be one of the factors motivating the much-needed, most urgent dialogue among the religions of the world. On the other hand, there is an increasing awareness that if religion is a source of violence, it is also a powerful force for good, justice, peace and reconciliation in the world. In the 1990s, Hans Ming pointed out, prophetically:

No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue. No dialogue among the religions without ethical criteria (4).

b. The Turn to Multiculturalism
In the light of 9/11, governments and politicians have begun to take religion more seriously, realising that it is as much a source of peace and reconciliation as it is a source of conflict and violence. Governments in Europe have promoted programmes of multiculturalism as a way of welcoming and accommodating newcomers into western society. However, engagement with the religions in these programmes was more pragmatic than genuinely religious and to that extent could be described as half-hearted. In the UK, multiculturalism was conceived in terms of integration, seeking to integrate foreigners into British society. In France, multiculturalism was about assimilation, a policy that said, if you want to live in France as a migrant, then you must conform to the French way of being, which includes their philosophy of laicité, not only in relation to education and politics, but also all the way down to the details of religious dress in public.

Such ‘politically correct’ policies of multiculturalism during the first decade of the new millennium have had very limited success. Many hold that multiculturalism has given rise to the isolation of political extremists and ghettoisation of different ethnic groups. In support of this view, they point to the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, the London bombings of July 2005, the controversy over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed, September 2005, the Paris riots, September 2005, and the bombing and shootings in Norway, July 2011.

As a result of the London bombings, the then Secretary of State in England, Ruth Kelly, established a government ‘Commission on Integration and Cohesion’. The speech launching this commission questioned ‘the uniform consensus on the values of multiculturalism’ and wondered whether multiculturalism in the UK ‘is encouraging separateness?’ Also at the launch, Kelly perceptively asked the question: ‘Have we ended up with communities living in isolation of each other with no common bonds between them? (5)

In the same year, the UK Muslim scholar, Dr Mona Siddiqui, described multiculturalism as the ‘failed experiment of the past and the impasse of the present’, mainly because ‘multiculturalism has meant nothing and everything at one and the same time’ (6). There is similar evidence for the failure of multiculturalism in France. The 2005 autumn riots in Paris were an indication that the French policy of assimilation was not working. President Nicolas Sarkozy, conscious of the ongoing tension within the French Muslim community sought to promote a ‘positive laicité’ that goes beyond the negative, traditional and absolute separation of church and state. Sarkozy also sought to promote a better understanding in schools of religion, especially of Christianity, as an integral part of the cultural inheritance of France. In spite of these small steps, the ongoing debate in France about a dress code for Muslim women in public is a further indication that all is not well with multiculturalism.

Part of the reason for this failure of multiculturalism in Europe is that there was no real engagement or exchange between the different cultures. One must move from multiculturalism to the possibility of inter-cultural exchanges that acknowledge diversity, respect differences, and values the other as other. In too many parts of Europe, immigrants were valued primarily for what they might offer to the economy as ‘units of labour’, in the words of one commentator. Instead, there must be real dialogue between the cultures and this will require at least a moment of inter-ethical exchange and at best experiences of inter-religious dialogue. It is within this larger context that Christians need to have a theology of other religions if they are to contribute to inter-cultural, inter-ethical and inter-religious dialogues.

c. A post 9/11, New Interest in Religion
There are some signs that governments are beginning to appreciate the importance of religion for promoting social cohesion and political peace at the local, national and international levels. In 2007, the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, inaugurated a ‘Structured Dialogue with the Churches, Faith Communities and Non-Confessional Bodies’. This initiative sought to initiate dialogue between all denominations that would be respectful of all faiths and those of no faith. In 2009, the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs appointed a panel of six experts to advise its 16,000 strong diplomatic corps on the role of religion in international affairs. In the same year, a similar move took place in the UK through the appointment by John Denham, Communities Secretary, as a policy adviser on faith communities. Further, in the last six years, the Council of Europe, one of the oldest institutions of Europe, has begun to take a new interest in religion, especially in relation to the interplay between religion and education in schools. One other example comes from the Secretary General of the United Nations who appealed to the leaders of world religions to support at local level proposals for the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009 on climate change.

These examples could be described as baby-steps by governments in the right direction of bringing religion into the public forum. They are an indication that politicians are beginning to see religion as a potential force for good in the world, as an important player in promoting civic harmony, social cohesion and justice, and as a way of creating an awareness of the importance of attending to the creation of an ecologically sustainable future.


In the light of 9/11 and multiculturalism, there has been a resurgence of public interest in religion. This return of religion has been heralded by international magazines like Der Spiegel, The Economist, and Time magazine (7) and is the subject of various books such as The New Visibility of Religion (8) and God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World (9).

a. The Impact of Globalisation
This return of religion to the public forum is not just an after-effect of 9/11. Other forces are also contributing to this new interest in religion such as the movement of peoples through migration, the shrinking of the world through the phenomenon of globalisation, and the revolution in communications through the advent of the internet. The migration of peoples across the globe, but especially from the south to the north, is bringing people of different religions together like never before. The presence of members of other religions as neighbours is now an inescapable social and cultural reality in the west. Globalisation is gathering people of different religions into a new network of social and political relationships. The internet is putting people in immediate contact with each other and giving them access to the texts, traditions and rituals of other religions.

The increasing phenomenon of globalisation is giving rise to a new visibility of religion in the market-place. However, before people rush to see this as a positive development, it should be remembered that globalisation itself is a modern invention, constructed primarily to serve the interests of market-driven capitalism, and operates out of a secularist and supposedly neutral philosophy.

b. The Rise of Vague Religiosities
This return of religion to the public square is found in a variety of different forms. It can be seen in the rise of religious fundamentalisms across the globe. This fundamentalism is found, within Christianity among evangelical movements in America and Pentecostal groupings in Latin America, in certain strands of Roman Catholicism, and among some militant Muslim, Jewish and Hindu groups. In many instances, this fundamentalism is a reaction against western modernisation and the persistent presence of inequalities within society. Another expression of this return of religion is the growing ‘commodification’ of religion within the new globalised culture. One striking example of this is the extraordinary success of The Da Vinci Code, in which religion is made into a source of entertainment. A further expression of the return to religion is the rising tide of vague religiosities among people of all ages. These vague religiosities are expressed in statements like: ‘I am spiritual, but not religious’, or ‘I believe, but I don’t belong’, or ‘I belong but I don’t believe’, or ‘I am a person of faith but I don’t practice’. There is in addition a popular turn to spirituality among churches and religions which appeals primarily to the interior sources of significance like self-awareness, self-development and self-fulfilment. A further feature of this new religiosity is the presence of a vague belief ‘in something’ which seeks to go beyond the endless flow of facts and figures from the information society.

c. The New Visibility of Religion – A Matter of Debate
In the light of 9/11, the crisis within modernity and the ever-increasing phenomenon of globalisation, religion has acquired a new visibility in the public square. It is difficult to assess the significance of this new presence of religion. Is it due to the intellectual limitations of modern rationality, or is it simply the result of postmodern permissiveness, or is it because ethics and morality are in need of resources on fundamental questions surrounding solidarity and social integration? It is possible to discern both a positive and negative assessment of this return of religion to the public square.

There are those who argue that a new dialogue is needed within the public square on the relationship between religion and society, because they believe that religion has a contribution to make to the social and political construction of a post-modern world. Some of those promoting this new dialogue would not describe themselves as religious and in some instances refer to themselves as atheists or agnostics — yet they feel religion has a contribution to make to the needs of society. The names that come to mind here include Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas, and the Slovenian thinker, Slavoj ZiZek. Others such as Terry Eagleton, a believer with a critical take on religion, recognise the intellectual resources that religion could bring to a debate about society and politics. Together, these voices suggest that religion has resources, intellectual, prophetic and transcendent, that could stimulate a constructive dialogue within the public square. These voices see religion as offering a critique of the flatness of so much social and political discourse. They are motivated more by an unease with the way the world is than by any personal commitment to any one particular religion (10).

The reasons put forward by this small group of intellectuals can be summarised in the following way. There is agreement that the non-realisation of the secularisation thesis is a factor prompting their contribution. This thesis, put forward by sociologists and religious thinkers for well over a century, suggested that large sectors of society and culture would become free from domination by religious institutions, that there would be a decline in the religious content of art, of philosophy, and of literature, and that the rise of science as an autonomous and secular discipline would become the yardstick of progress within modernity. This secularisation thesis has not come to pass. Closely connected to this reason for the rise of religion is that the lines of demarcation within modernity between the sacred and the secular, between religion and society, between faith and experience, are far from clear, and that this kind of dualism, exemplified in certain forms of fundamentalism and secularism, does not do justice to either the secular or the sacred.

A second reason is that there is a recognition among these intellectuals that religion offers a potential for individual emancipation and social transformation. For example, Slavoj Zizek suggests that religion should be co-opted as an ally in helping to bring back conflict into politics and also to serve as a critique of the de-politicisation of the public square and the state (11). In particular, Terry Eagleton argues that the politics implied by theology ‘are more, not less, radical than much that is to be found in the more orthodox discourses of leftism today’ (12). Further, according to Eagleton, theology in spite of the implausibility of many of its truth-claims, nonetheless, ‘is one of the most ambitious theoretical arenas left in an increasingly specialised world – one whose subject is nothing less than the nature and destiny of humanity itself, in relation to what it takes to be its transcendent source of life’ (13). In other words, for Eagleton, religion deals with questions that go beyond the narrow specialisations of contemporary life and the compartmentalisation of life that is promoted within the modern world.

Echoing Eagleton and Zizek, but in a more explicitly Christian register, US theologian-social critic Cornel West suggests ‘secular thinkers … must become more religiously musical. Too many secular thinkers are religiously tone deaf.’ And equally ‘Religious persons like myself must be secularly musical … We must try to get inside other people’s view of the world, to understand why people are convinced … why they are agnostic or why they are atheistic’ (14). To do this, both sides need to have greater empathy and imagination to expand their understanding of each other. Within this exchange, religion offers reservoirs of cultural memory, compendia of utopian yearnings and interruptions, and distinctive moral visions to track the human misery and despair of our modern world (15).

For these intellectuals, religion may be able to help overcome what many see as a deficit in the perception of what is going on in the world today and further religion has the capacity to shake up and transform political reflection on the world as it is. In brief, religion offers critical and intellectual resources for a more transformative mode of social, cultural and political reflection.

A further reason advanced for a return of religion to the public forum is that it has resources for addressing the ethical vacuum that is a part of the post-modern world. Many point to a moral deficit at the centre of contemporary economics and politics, especially in the areas of social solidarity and community cohesion. This concern about the moral and political discourse of contemporary life has been raised in an insightful way by Jurgen Habermas, to whom we will return later in this chapter.

It should be emphasised that these supporters of the new visibility of religion are not proposing a return to a pre-modern understanding of the relationship between faith and society. Instead, they seek to address secularity itself and call for a more self-critical and self-reflective approach to modern secularity and its exclusion of religion. If anything, this approach is a recognition that religion, especially Christianity, has contributed to the emergence and legitimacy of secularisation and therefore religion should be a participant in the dialogue about the future of modern, secular society.

In spite of this new visibility of religion, and the compelling reasons lying behind this return of religion, there is another view which suggests that this phenomenon should not be taken too seriously. This approach has been expressed by Ingolf U. Dalferth who, after an extensive review of the return of religion to the public forum, concludes: ‘Post-secular states differ from secular states in that they cease to define themselves as neutral vis a vis religion … they do not take a stance towards religion or the non-religion of their citizens.’ Instead, ‘a post-secular state is indifferent to questions of religion … and not merely neutral.’ In other words, the secular state has a position vis a vis religion, one of neutrality, whereas the post-secular stance towards religion is one of sheer indifference. Consequently, there is no comfort to be gained for religions in the shift from a secular society to a post-secular society. If anything, the shift is more negative than positive. A prominent exception to this negative assessment of the shift to a post-secular society is the later work of Jurgen Habermas and his dialogues with the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2004 and with philosophers from the Jesuit School for Philosophy in Munich in 2007, which we will look at later in this chapter. Dalferth concludes his analysis by pointing out that the challenge facing Christianity, and by implication the religions, is how to address ‘the widespread apatheism and indifference towards faith and God that characterise many strands of contemporary society (16).

It is this challenge and this particular expression of the challenge that prompts the contemporary need for dialogue among the religions. This dialogue between the religions has the potential to renew the identities of individual religions and at the same time enrich those identities in ways that will enable religions to enter into a more constructive dialogue with the secular world, a dialogue that ultimately could benefit both religion and the world. If this dialogue with the other religions is to bear fruit, and if the further dialogue between religion and the world is to succeed in a manner that is mutually beneficial, then Christianity needs to work out a new theology of inter-religious dialogue. It is this three-fold challenge facing Christianity, namely dialogue with other religions, dialogue between religion and the world, and the need for a theology of other religions, that has prompted this monograph.


Part of the background to this return of religion in the market-place is the ongoing debate about the relationship between modernity and post-modernity. The new visibility of religion is more a cultural phenomenon than a strictly theological one. Lying in the background to this interest in religion is the academic discussion about the philosophical and theological merits of modernity and post-modernity. How does the return of religion fare within the culture of modernity? Is post-modernity a better place for religion? Or, is there some middle position between modernity and post-modernity? This is a debate that the religions ignore at their peril. Some religions exist as if modernity had not taken place, other religions take a hostile view towards modernity, and this helps in understanding the rise of fundamentalisms in the early twenty-first century.

Without rehearsing the history of the Enlightenment which gave rise to the modern era, reference must be made to two highly influential figures who have left an indelible mark on modern culture and theology. The first is Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who, through a process of methodic doubt, sought to come up with a scientific foundation for clear and distinct ideas. This foundation he found in his famous soundbite, ‘I think, therefore I am / cogito ergo sum’. This starting point, established by Descartes, issued in the turn to the subject which is one of the defining features of modernity.

After Descartes came Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who asked: ‘What is the Enlightenment?’ His answer was, sapere aude, which roughly translated means, have the courage to use your own reason without recourse to tradition, authority or religion. With this response of Kant, Enlightenment rationalism emerged over time. In his application of reason alone to life, Kant made a distinction between what he called ‘the phenomena’ of the external world, which can be known by reason, and ‘the noumenon’, the hidden and invisible world behind the phenomena, which cannot be known by reason. This distinction has challenged theology and has evoked many different theological responses.

Descartes’ ‘cogito’ gave rise to the development of the substantial, self-sufficient, sovereign subject of modernity. Kant’s ‘sapere aude’ produced an emphasis on the autonomy of reason that issued in a cold, clinical and detached rationalism. These two streams of philosophy are largely responsible for the philosophical construction of the modern world with its focus on subjective individualism and scientific, disengaged rationalism. The culture of modernity became the context in which theology sought to find its voice in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

a. Collapse of the Classical Synthesis of God, the Cosmos and the Self
By far the most serious outcome of the influence of modernity upon theology has been what David Tracy describes as ‘the break-up of the ancient and medieval synthesis of God, the cosmos and the self’ (17).

As moderns, we privatised religion and God; we stripped the cosmos of divine presence and disenchanted it; we individualised the human self and placed it at the centre of the earth. The consequences for theology have been far-reaching: the modern world has given us a nature-less view of God and a God-less view of nature; the universe has been mechanised and thereby stripped of all traces of transcendence; nature has now been made to serve the needs of humanity.

One of the many troubling expressions of this collapse of the relationship between God, the cosmos and the human is the extraordinary degree of human estrangement, loneliness and isolation that now exists between the self and the earth, and by far the most vivid expression of this is to be found in the ecological crisis of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. A further expression of this collapse can be seen in the rise of radical secularism that permeates the whole of life, so that if there is a God, that God is no longer present to or mediated by the universe, history or human experience. A further expression of this collapse is the separation that persists within much modern theology between nature and grace, in spite of the gallant efforts made by la nouvelle theologie to reunite the natural and the supernatural.

For the moment, however, we will concentrate on what happened to our understanding of God within this culture of modernity. Many today would argue that Enlightenment rationality, namely logos understood as scientific reason, has taken over theology at the expense of Theos, the mystery of God. There has been too much Logos and too little Theos. The logos in question, the form of rationality operating within modernity, was a rationalism devoid of affectivity, shorn of memory, disengaged from its object, and committed to the totalism of a single paradigm. Human affectivity was put aside in the name of objectivity because it could not be controlled or measured. Memory did not count because tradition and history were suspect and the particular was subordinated to the dominance of universal reason. In its pursuit of rationalism, modernity sought a single paradigm, a scientific and universal paradigm, to which all other disciplines, including theology, had to conform. The role and function of God within this situation was to provide an absolute point of reference and an ultimate foundation for the universal claims of reason. Thereafter the mystery of God was a purely private and personal matter.

Within this picture of modernity, admittedly over-simplified here, two other very significant things were happening in relation to theology, which today are clearer in retrospect than they were in the historical unfolding of modernity. Philosophy, more especially a particular form of rationalism, was using God as a means to ground its own brand of intelligibility. Theology, in turn, if it was to have any credibility, had to conform to the canons of empirical scientific rationality to the neglect of the historical revelation of God in the Bible. Philosophy, which in previous times had been described as the handmaid of theology was increasingly subjected to the norms of the scientific method and was now becoming the dismantler of theology.

A further development within modernity was that God, the mystery of God, was reduced to the level of an item of information, a rational explanation to ground the intelligibility of the world of modern philosophy and science. In consequence, the reality of God was objectified into the category of a being among other beings. The end result of these unfolding influences was the development of what is now called ‘onto-theology’ which we must review.

b. The Rise of Onto-Theology
The meaning of this strange-sounding term, ‘onto-theology’, is about ‘the conflation of the philosophical notion of being and the self-revelation of God of the Bible’ (18). The God of the philosophers takes over the God of Revelation in a way that identifies God with being, the eternal, immutable, impassable being of philosophy. This God, this absolute being of human reason, is invoked in ‘the service of the human project of mastering the whole of reality’ (19). The God of ‘onto-theology’ is ultimately a being, a super-being, existing alongside other beings and therefore runs the risk of promoting a form of idolatry. A number of difficulties arise with this philosophical God of ‘onto-theology’.

The first and most serious issue is the separation between the God of philosophy and the God of Revelation, a separation forced upon modernity by Enlightenment’s desire to be rid of tradition and authority.

A second difficulty is that ‘onto-theology’ reduces God to the level of one more item and one more explanation among many other items and explanations in the world. The effect of this reduction is the inevitable loss of interest in the mystery of God which helps us to understand the stinging observation often made in the post-modern world that ‘God is missing but not missed’ (J.Vives).

A third difficulty with ‘onto-theology’ is that it implies that the highest form of knowledge is theoretical reason, a rationality that seeks to control by mastering reality, especially nature. In contrast, it must be countered that Christianity is not simply about knowing the truth, but primarily about doing the truth in love, a lesson we have begun to learn from liberation theology and a careful re-reading of the New Testament. In other words, Christianity is a practical way of being in the world and its credibility is to be judged not only by an appeal to rational norms, but also by its capacity to engender a liberating praxis in the world that serves the well-being of the individual and society.

A fourth difficulty with ‘onto-theology’ concerns the character of the God it delivers. According to Heidegger, it is a God before whom the individual ‘can neither pray nor sacrifice … can neither fall to his knees in awe nor can he play music and dance’ (20). In spite of this criticism, Heidegger’s own attempt to find ‘the truly divine God’ through the help of the poets failed because it remained too much in the grip of being and did not take sufficient account of the God of the Bible.

A fifth difficulty with ‘onto-theology’ is that the language used to describe God is one of conceptual clarity and scientific objectivism, a language that forgets about the limits attaching to theological language. In effect, a univocal language replaces the analogical imagination of classical theology and ignores the Jewish prohibition against images of Yahweh. A separation of the God of philosophy from the God of Abraham, of Sarah and of Jesus, took place during the period of modernity with unhappy consequences for theology: a theism untouched by Christology, a deism unaware of the agency of the Spirit in the world and in history, and a fideism blind to the mediations of the divine. Thus the transcendence of God was domesticated by philosophy and the immanence of God controlled by reason alone.

In response to modernity, Christian theology must make clear that the God of the prophets in Judaism is not simply the God of the philosophers, that the God of Jesus in Christianity is not simply the God of detached reason, and that the God of the Christian tradition is not simply the God of metaphysics but the one God revealed as a Trinity of persons in the life of Jesus.

Of course it would be wrong, indeed it would be a serious misrepresentation, to suggest that Christian theology adopted in toto this vision of modernity. To the contrary, we know that much of Catholic theology, right up to Vatican II, shunned modernity and rejected most of its suppositions. Nevertheless, the spirit of modernity did affect and influence the shape of fundamental theology. Consider, for example, the importance given to ‘the proofs’ for the existence of God, the focus on ‘natural theology’, and the emphasis placed on the preambles of faith within fundamental theology. In spite of attempts to ignore the Enlightenment, the spirit of modernity did infiltrate, negatively speaking, the method and content of fundamental theology.

c. David Taylor’s Take on the Gradual Shift from Faith to Unbelief
Paralleling David Tracy’s diagnosis of what happened in modern theology is the philosophical analysis of Charles Taylor. In 2007, Taylor published A Secular Age, a magnum opus which has generated international debate at conferences, in journals and books, and on the internet. Taylor tells the story of secularisation by answering the question: How is it that in the year 1500 most people believed in God and that in the year 2000 most people find it difficult to believe in God? In his answer, Taylor maps out the changing conditions and circumstances surrounding the rise of widespread unbelief. He is quick to reject early on in the narrative what he calls ‘subtraction theories of secularisation’, that is the suggestion that secularism is the result of public spaces being emptied of God which he calls secularism number i, or the result of the falling-off of religious belief and practice, which he names secularism number ii. Instead the story of secularism and its impact on religion is far more subtle and complicated. The problem with subtraction theories is that they short-change secularism and religion; they also neglect the possibility of a critical engagement between secularism and religion; and they also ignore the ongoing interaction between faith and unbelief.

Instead, secularism is a process in which a number of significant shifts have taken place over the centuries: from an enchanted universe to a disenchanted world; from an understanding of time as kairos to chronos; from theism to providential deism; from deism to an impersonal order; from transcendence to an immanent frame; from a hierarchical social order to a levelled self-sufficient society; from a moral order with transcendent roots to an order of exclusive humanism.

Anthropology plays a key role in the unfolding of Taylor’s narrative. As the author of a major volume on anthropology entitled Sources of the Self (1989) (21), Taylor appreciates better than most the centrality of anthropology to the modern project. In A Secular Age, Taylor traces what he calls the move from a pre-modern ‘porous self’ to a modern ‘buffered self’ as one of the major sources of unbelief. A ‘porous self’ is one that is open to outside influences, whereas the ‘buffered self’ is a bounded, autonomous self, master of meaning and creator of purpose. Within this ‘modern’ anthropology, there is a strong emphasis on the primacy and priority of the individual. The individual comes first, and only then can we talk about the individual’s freedom to belong or not belong to community (22).

Towards the end of A Secular Age, he returns to the theme of anthropology, noting that it was the Catholic view of the human as ‘part angel and part beast’ that led to Walker Percy’s conversion, a perspective that stands out in contrast to the scientific view, which sees the human as a ‘mere organism in an environment’.” And yet, he notes that ‘our modern culture is restless at the barriers of the human sphere’:” a restlessness expressed through the search for meaning, the ennui of so much empty time, the lack of human contact with nature, and the dread of death.

A second theme is the debate about the difference between Europe and America in the context of secularism. Is Europe the exception to Taylor’s phenomenology of the rise of secularism and its promotion of an exclusive humanism? Most Americans would describe themselves as religious humanists in contrast to the secular humanists of Europe. Taylor explains this difference between Americans and Europeans by noting that America historically did not have to overcome established ecclesiastical institutions in the way that Europe had. The US is founded on the principle of non-establishment.

A third theme running through Taylor is the role imagination plays in shaping the conditions of belief and unbelief. He had previously written an important book on Modern Social Imaginaries (25). In that text, he describes the social imaginary as ‘something much broader and deeper than the intellectual schemes people may entertain when they think about social reality in a disengaged mode.’ Instead, the social imaginary is about ‘the ways people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows’ (26). The social imaginary is a set of background understandings operative and influential in the way society functions. Taylor singles out three particular areas of the social imaginary that are central to the emergence of secularity, namely the modern economy, the public square, and the sovereignty of the people. What is new and distinctive about these three expressions of the modern social imaginary is the absence of reference to transcendence, a strong sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency, the living out of life within clock-time (chronos), and the location of human flourishing or fullness of life exclusively within an immanent frame of reference. The modern social imaginary should not be confused with ‘a social theory’ about society coming to us from social science. Such social theory is the provenance of the academy and the preserve of elites – and as such can and does change. In contrast, the social imaginary, the way people see their social reality, is the outcome of subtle changes over a period of time which affect the self-understanding of society.

A fourth theme running through Taylor’s narrative of the secular age is what he calls the ‘great dis-embedding’ (27)’ that took place in modernity. In broad terms, early religions understood themselves as embedded in society and the cosmos, and human well-being was embedded in a relationship of dependency on divinity. This disembedding of the modern social imaginary entails the removal of economic, social and public spheres of life from any relationship with transcendence, the separation of the individual from community, and the removal of the immanent frame of exclusive humanism from any external transcendent point of reference because ‘flourishing involves no relationship to anything higher’.” Because this shift to a secular immanent frame has been inspired by Christian sources, Taylor remains hopeful that this secular frame may be not just the condition of unbelief, but also the condition of a new kind of faith and belief in the twenty-first century.

In summarising what Tracy and Taylor have to say about modernity, it would be wrong and inaccurate to imply that they do not see anything of value within modernity. Quite the opposite, both appreciate the constructive contribution modernity has made to the modern understanding and interpretation of life. Both wish to safeguard the gains of modernity which include the elimination of superstition from religion, the vindication of human rights for all, respect for religious freedom, promoting the values of democracy and the primacy of justice for all, the principle of inclusivity, the importance of human and social solidarity, and the value of secularisation as distinct from secularism. It is against this outline of negative and positive aspects of modernity that we must now examine the rise of post-modernity.


In mentioning post-modernity, some will react, suggesting it is a passing fashion, one more sideshow, distracting theology from the task of faith seeking understanding. This reaction ignores the cultural tension that exists in the struggle between modernity and post-modernity, and more importantly, the possibility that there are important elements of truth in the criticisms of modernity by post-modernity. There is little agreement about the transition from modernity to post-modernity. Some see the end of modernity and the beginning of post-modernity (29) as something that occurred at the end of World War II, in such events as the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the Cold War. Others suggest it was in the 1960s that the tide began to turn to post-modernity and that a change of consciousness began to take place through such figures as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and phenomena like Beatle mania, pop culture and the sexual revolution. Post-modernity is often described as a critique of the ‘illusions of modernity’ (30).

a. The Mood of Post-Modernity
Part of the post-modern mood can be summed up in the words of Jean Francois Lyotard: ‘Simplifying to the extreme, I define post-modern as incredulity towards metanarratives’ (31). Lyotard goes on to prompt: ‘Activate difference, let us acknowledge incommensurability, advance multiplicity and promote dissensus’ (32). As a reaction to modernity, post-modernity is driven by a desire for the radical deconstruction of all that is informed by the Enlightenment: the deconstruction of the self, history, metanarratives, universal reason, and God. The post-modern deconstruction of the human subject of modernity is particularly fierce, and is summed up rather graphically in the words of Michel Foucault who holds that: ‘Man is an invention of recent date’ and will be ‘erased like a face drawn in the sand at the edge of the sea’ (33). For some post-moderns the self is merely a rhetorical flourish, a linguistic and cultural device to facilitate the interaction of differences. For others, the self is at best a site in and around which speech, transactions of power, and mechanisms of desire play themselves out (34), a site which in effect has no unified ground or enduring field of identity. Richard Rorty sums up the position of many post-moderns when he says of the self: ‘There is nothing deep down inside except what we have put there ourselves’ (35).

Once the human subject is dissolved, then it follows that everything else disintegrates: history is dismantled into disconnected bits, culture is broken down into scattered fragments, metanarratives are reduced to unrelated events, and reality is emptied of reference. This bleak account of post-modernity prompts the question: is there anything of value within the post-modern condition, anything worth salvaging, anything that we can learn? So far, we have given only a rather negative account of post-modernity. There are also some positive aspects of post-modernity that must now be noted.

b. Some Positive Aspects of Post-Modernity
At the centre of post-modern thinking, there is a strong awareness of ‘otherness’, the other that was all too frequently forgotten, marginalised, or repressed by the master narratives of western modernity. The repressed others of the modern narrative include, according to Tracy, ‘the hysterics, the mad, mystics, dissenters, avant-garde artists, subjugated communities of resistance in the past and the present who are allowed to speak on their own terms” (36).

A second positive feature of post-modernity attracting attention is the emphasis placed on what we do not know. In particular, post-modernity recovers the tradition of negative theology, especially the apophatic and mystical traditions of classical Christianity. In this way, post-modernity retrieves, first of all, the radical incomprehensibility of God but also the hiddenness of God in the suffering, weakness and struggle of others. Within this context, post-modernity offers a radical critique of modern forms of idolatry and ideology.

A third positive feature about post-modernity is its programme of deconstruction. Within every process of deconstruction there is an impulse for reconstruction. Deconstruction is driven by a passion for something better, a restlessness with the status quo, a concern about the future. of course, not all post-modernists would concede this. Yet, Derrida, one of the most radical deconstructionists of the post-modern movement, openly admits there is something implicit in deconstruction: ‘What remains irreducible to any deconstruction, what remains as undeconstructable as the possibility itself of deconstruction is, perhaps, a certain experience of the emancipatory promised’ (37). Part of that emancipatory promise, that messianic expectation, is the possibility of the impossible, the advent of what is unforeseeable and unrepresentable. There is a trace of hope implicit in the radical critique of modernity by post-modernity.

A fourth positive feature about post-modernity is that it has enabled the academy to realise that there is no truly neutral approach to knowledge. All knowledge is contextual, being influenced by location, culture and tradition. Post-modernity has helped to overcome the ‘prejudice against prejudice’ (Gadamer) and to realise that knowledge is tradition-specific and tradition-based, and that the personal enters into all knowledge and self-understanding. In this way, post-modernity has called into question the so-called objectivity of Enlightenment rationality as normative. In a paradoxical and ironic way, post-modernity points to the legitimacy of an intimate relationship between knowing and believing, recognises that trust is an inescapable dimension of all knowing, and encourages pluralism and dialogue.

c. The Possibility of a New, Second Modernity
What is important about this debate concerning modernity and post-modernity is that it highlights how theology is caught in between the crossfire of two opposing philosophical outlooks. Within this new situation, theology often seeks some kind of safe space in between the ambiguities of modernity and post-modernity. Such a space simply does not exist. The challenge for theology is not a return to a so-called safe haven of pre-modern thought, nor is it the blind embrace of post-modernity. Instead theology must engage more creatively and critically with modernity in the light of the critique coming from post-modernity. Some talk about the possibility of theology engaging with a ‘second modernity’ or ‘a new modernity’ or ‘a Catholic modernity’ that brings about a new synthesis of insights coming from what is best in both modernity and post-modernity (38). This is part of the radically new context in which theology exists today, and is part of the challenge facing all religions in the twenty-first century. It is, in brief, the new context in which we must construct a Christian theology of inter-religious dialogue.

It was precisely this possibility of a new modernity that Vatican II opened up for Catholic theology. The Council began not only to embrace modernity, but it also took a critical stance towards certain aspects of modernity at the same time. It would be inaccurate to imply that Vatican II resolved this challenge for theology, but it did point theology in a new direction of confronting modernity, both positively and critically. Vatican II did talk about the possibility of the Church contributing to the world, and the world contributing to the Church (39), and it also talked about the possibility of opening up a new dialogue between Church and the world, faith and culture, Catholics and other churches, Christianity and other religions, in a way that could effect a process of mutual understanding (40).

This construction of a second modernity will seek to combine elements of continuity and change within theology’s self-understanding of other religions. Continuity is essential to understanding, but equally there must be some recognition within a new modernity that there is an element of discontinuity, what Lieven Boeve consistently refers to as ‘interruption’, and this element of the new is necessary for theology to recognise, respect and learn from and welcome the other into our midst as guest. It is this latter perspective that must shape any theology of inter-religious dialogue among the religions (41).

In spite of the incredulity of post-modernity towards metanarratives, it must be pointed out that the core of Christianity is structured by a particular narrative which embraces an underlying unity between creation, redemption and consummation; it is this unified story that grounds Christian faith, praxis, worship and dialogue with other religions. The Christian story is more than a construction that can be dismantled at will; it is a personal, existential reality rooted in the ongoing agency of the Spirit of God in creation, in the history of Israel, in Jesus as the Christ, and in the ecclesial community of his disciples and the successors of the Apostles. This does not mean that Christian faith can take for granted the credibility and coherence of this story. Instead Christian faith must continually struggle to articulate the historical particularity and cogency of this narrative in a way that is faithful to the Bible, tradition and the ongoing action of the Spirit of God within the Christian community.

What is important about the debate between modernity and post-modernity is that it highlights the presence of a vacuum, or at least a certain ‘in-betweenness’, existing between the deep ambiguities of both modernity and post-modernity. This is the primary context in which a new theology of inter-religious dialogue must be formulated in the twenty-first century. This task facing theology, therefore, is one that requires not a return to pre-modern forms of faith, or a naive embrace of either modernity or post-modernity; instead, it necessitates a rescuing of modernity in the light of some of the critiques coming from post-modernity. In brief, there is no escaping the crucible of modernity within a theology of inter-religious dialogue.


To conclude this opening chapter, it is necessary to have some sense of the nature of knowledge, the activities of reason, and the praxis of faith that is peculiar to theology and religions. This is necessary in the light of the precarious existence of theology, caught between modernity and post-modernity, and in the light of the suggestion that it may be possible, indeed necessary, for theology to engage with a new, second modernity.

The Enlightenment paradigm of knowledge has had the effect of sidelining religion within public life as already noted. The kind of knowledge that theology offered became suspect in the eyes of modernity, and therefore regarded as of little public consequence in the affairs of modern life. The modern, scientific paradigm of knowledge emphasises the importance of detachment, objectivity and attention to empirical evidence, whereas theology appeared to be focused on the purely personal, the subjective, and the transcendent aspects of life, a characterisation that hardly does justice to theology which must also attend to the data of human experience, history, revelation, texts and rites.

a. There is More than One Way of Knowing
There can be no doubting the extraordinary advances in knowledge that modern science has brought about since the Enlightenment, especially in the natural sciences, medicine and the cosmologies. These outstanding successes prompted modernity to hold up the scientific method as the norm of all knowing. In response to this claim of modernity, theology argued there is another kind of knowing, an equally valid form of knowledge, based on the personal participation, engagement and involvement of the individual in the subject matter under review that applies to the Arts, Humanities and Religion. Further, theology questions this division of knowledge into such watertight compartments pointing out that the dividing line between the objective and the subjective, between the detached and engaged, between the neutral and participative knowing, is far from clear. In addition, theology suggests that all knowing involves a critically important moment of interpretation and that in truth there is no such thing as detached knowing, nor is there such a thing as simply attending to the facts without some value-laden process of selection and interpretation of the facts. The science of interpretation, known as Hermeneutics, was developed into a fine art by Hans-Georg Gadamer and others in the twentieth century. Hermeneutics highlights that we cannot step outside history, location and culture in the process of interpreting the data, texts, history and religion. The time has come to overcome ‘the prejudice against prejudice’ within modernity, whether in dealing with the physical sciences or the human sciences, including philosophy and theology (42). We cannot jump out of history, tradition and location when dealing with science or the religions. We are all shaped and influenced by the complex circumstances of existence, education, history and background. This does not mean we cannot go beyond these circumstances and transform our ‘prejudices’; we can and that is precisely the role of dialogue and the value of inter-personal conversation, especially in the area of inter-faith engagement, as will be shown in the following chapters.

An example of a religious thinker who has defended the value of participative knowing is William James (1842-1910), author of the still important work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, originally published in 1902 (43). William James is taken as an example because of the critical rehabilitation of James by Charles Taylor in ‘Varieties of Religion Today: William James re-visited’, a series of lectures given in 2000 to mark the centenary of the birth of Gadamer and later published in 2002 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the publication of James’ book on religious experience.

William James makes the case for the validity of other forms of knowledge besides that of modern science. He engages with his contemporary William B. Clifford (d. 1879) who held: ‘It is wrong always, and everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence’ (44). Clifford wants this principle to be applied, not only to science, but also to religion and morality. For William James, this is an example of the ‘agnostic vetoes upon faith’ which demand that one should not believe anything without compelling evidence. In response to these vetoes against religion from W. B. Clifford, James suggests that there are some domains of life in which truths will remain hidden unless we go at least half-way towards them. More explicitly, James points out that there are ‘cases where a fact cannot come at all, unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming’ (45). According to Charles Taylor, William James is building on an Augustinian insight that in some domains of life, love and self-opening enable us to understand what we would never grasp otherwise (46).

In other words, William James was pointing out over one hundred years ago that it is only in the act of personal participation and self-surrender to a particular experience or event or text that its full meaning and light and truth actually emerges. This experience of discovering new knowledge through personal engagement is most evident in the areas of human relationships which provide an analogy for understanding what happens in religious knowing. To dismiss these areas of life to the margins would be to relegate the drama of existence as expressed in the arts, the humanities and religion to the sidelines of life. Instead, we are dealing here with a form of knowing that must be recognised as having its own validity alongside the knowing that belongs to the scientific method of enlightenment. It is this former mode of knowing, that is participative knowing, that characterises religious and theological knowledge. It would be wrong to polarise or separate these two modes of knowing: instead they should be seen as complementary; indeed it is debatable that one can happen without the other.

This does not mean there is no such thing as detached knowing. Clearly disengaged reasoning takes place in formal logic and mathematical reasoning. In a nearly similar manner, some level of detached knowing appears to takes place in the scientific method of observation, verification and explanation. However, in the case of the scientific method, the matter is not as clear-cut as some suggest. In the process of observation, verification and explanation, certain conceptual assumptions or imaginative frameworks are at work as the philosophy of science has highlighted. These assumptions or frameworks drive the work of science and can hardly be described as detached or disengaged. Further, these assumptions or frameworks change from time to time through paradigm shifts. The difference between scientific knowing and religious knowing is not as great as some would have us believe (47).

b. Questioning the Self- Sufficiency of Secular Reason: Expanding Horizons
Because these two types of knowing have become separated within modernity, secular reasoning has assumed a sufficiency and independence that has come in for criticism in recent times. This does not mean that anyone wants to deny the intrinsic validity of secular reasoning and its extraordinary success over the centuries. It does mean recognising, however, that the so-called detached pursuits of secular reason are premised on a number of assumptions that cannot be ignored, such as the existence of order, meaning and intelligibility within the natural world. Secular reason should acknowledge these assumptions and recognise that its activities are not nearly as neutral or detached as it would like to think. It is the existence of these assumptions, often unacknowledged, that drives secular and scientific reasoning. This separation of the objective and participative knowing, so characteristic of modernity, has resulted in a narrowing of secular reason that is open to question, not only from theology, but also from within the guild of secular philosophy and especially the philosophy of science.

A striking description of this narrowing of secular reason is given by the French philosopher, Jean-Luc Marion. Marion describes the modern restriction of reason as the ‘most profound crisis of our era’ and then goes on to talk about ‘the dilation, evanescence, perhaps even the disappearance of a rationality that is able to clarify questions that go beyond the mere management and production of objects.’ The problem with this restricted rationality is that it has very little to ‘say about the human condition: about what we are, what we can know, what we must do, and what we are allowed to hope for.’ According to Marion, we are lost in a ‘dry desert of rationalism’ (48). A similar concern with this narrowing of secular reason is found in Charles Taylor. For Taylor: ‘calculating reason cuts us off from sympathetic union with others’, separating secular reason from its ‘own desiring nature, from community which thus threatens to disintegrate, and from the great current of life in nature’ (49).

This concern about the role of reason, about the narrowing of secular reason, has been a theme in the work of Jurgen Habermas, and has surfaced in his dialogues with others, especially his dialogue with the then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger in 2004 and the Faculty from the Jesuit School of Philosophy in Munich in 2007. Habermas has described modernity as ‘an unfinished project’ and therefore has sought to defend modern rationality against attacks from post-modernity.

The young, earlier Habermas held that the task of social integration, once exercised by religion, had been transferred to secular reason, especially in the light of mounting secularisation: ‘the authority of the Holy is gradually displaced by the authority of an achieved consensus’ through secular reasoning or what Habermas prefers to call ‘rational communication’ (50).

Some years later, Habermas, still reserved about the role of religion, nonetheless calls on religions to contribute to our understanding of the human condition: ‘Among modern societies, only those that are able to introduce into the secular domain the essential elements of their religious traditions which point beyond the merely human realm will also be able to rescue the substance of the human’ (51). Implicit here is a recognition by Habermas that secular reason needs the insight of the religions to understand better the meaning and possible rescue of the human condition, a task not only for modern secular society, but also for all religions and especially for the dialogue between religions.

The later Habermas, in his dialogue with representatives of the Jesuit School for Philosophy in Munich in 2007, calls for a new dialogue between modernity and the major world religions (52). For this dialogue to succeed, Habermas puts down a few markers or conditions. We must speak ‘with’ one another and not merely ‘about’ one another. For this engagement to succeed, two presuppositions must be fulfilled. On the one hand, ‘the religious side must accept the authority of “natural” reason as the fallible results of the institutionalised sciences and the basic principles of universalistic egalitarianism in law and morality.’ On the other hand, ‘secular reason may not set itself up as the judge concerning the truths of faith, even though in the end it can accept as reasonable only what it can translate into its own, in principle universally accessible, discourses’ (53). Here Habermas is challenging religion to translate its theological insights into a discourse that is accessible and meaningful to all in the public square. In his dialogue (2004) with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he offers as an example of what he has in mind: ‘the translation of the concept of “man made in the image of God” into that of the identical dignity of all men that deserves unconditional respect’ (54).

Theologians are not happy with the demand for translation by Habermas. For example, Maureen Junker-Kenny points out that such a demand disconnects religion from its originating context which is the gift of faith inspired by God. Further, she argues that ‘reason remains below its potential’, especially when the highest hope of humanity is confined to reason alone (55). Others like Judith Butler point out that when a religious claim is translated into secular reason, the religious part gets left behind and the translation becomes an extraction of the rational element, thereby reducing the religious element to so much dross (56).

Habermas wants a new dialogue between faith and knowledge to take place in order to overcome some of the inadequacies of modern reason (57). The motive promoting this dialogue between secular reason and the religions ‘is to mobilise modern reason against the defeatism lurking within’ itself. For Habermas, something is missing within modern reason and he wants to spell out what this missing dimension might be. As an example, he points to the failure of practical reason ‘when it no longer has sufficient strength to awaken, and to keep awake, in the minds of secular subjects, an awareness of the violations of solidarity throughout the world’ and it is this he calls an awareness of what is missing that cries out to heaven (58).

The need for this new dialogue between secular reason and religious convictions becomes all the more important in light of the conflicts between the religions and political authorities around the globe. These conflicts are often sparked by misunderstandings surrounding the neutrality of the state towards religions or the presence of a certain type of fundamentalism within these religions. A key moment within this dialogue is the challenge, according to Habermas, for the religions to translate their core convictions ‘into a publicly accessible language’ (59). An equally central moment within this dialogue is the challenge for secular authorities not to treat religions as simply irrational.

In summarising this openness of Habermas to an expansion of secular reason, and in noting his call for a new dialogue between reason and the religions, it would be naive to think that Habermas is a new apostle intent on promoting the interests of religion or Christianity as such. Instead, Habermas is seeking to widen the range of secular reason and then only in terms of secular reason as such. Habermas is content to use religion in this way in the service of the needs of secular reason, especially in the area of discourse ethics and the challenge this faces in terms of providing motivation for global solidarity and the holding together of community.

Adopting a more critical stance towards Habermas, Stanley Fish points out that the religions are brought in to prevent or overcome social disruptions, and once ‘they have performed this service, they go back in their box and don’t trouble us with uncomfortable cosmic demands’ (60). In spite of such comments by Fish and others, it must be acknowledged that these dialogues of Habermas, on the nature of reason and the possibility of a new dialogue between reason and the religions, pose a new intellectual challenge for all religions. These conversations of Habermas also offer draft guidelines on how dialogue between reason and the religions might be conducted. The real value of these dialogues by Habermas is the acknowledgement by a secularist of the limits of secular reason and the need for a new dialogue between an enlightened self-understanding of modernity and the theological self-understanding of religions. Furthermore, Habermas’s dialogues also highlight the necessity for religions to take more seriously the findings of secular reason, and that raises questions about what kind of relationship can and should exist between faith and reason, which will now be briefly addressed.

c. The Relationship between Faith and Reason
One of the enduring themes throughout the history of Christianity has been the close relationship that exists between faith and reason, and the insistence that this relationship be respected. This emphasis on faith and reason can also be found in Greek philosophy. For example, Aristotle suggests that:

Whoever wishes to understand must believe (61).

Similarly, Isaiah of the Hebrew Scriptures points out:

If you do not stand firm in the faith, you shall not stand at all (62).

This interplay between faith and reason is given classical expression in Augustine who sums up their relationship in this way:

Believe, so that you may understand (Crede ut intelligas)


Understand, so that you may believe (Intellige ut credas) (63)

For well over a thousand years, one of the principal philosophical questions was working out the proper relationship between faith and reason. An emphasis on this relationship between faith and reason can be found explicitly in the Patristic period, in Augustine and in Aquinas. It is also a permanent theme in Catholic theology and is addressed in the documents of Vatican I, Vatican II, in the 1998 encyclical of John Paul II on Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio), and in the address of Benedict XVI at Regensburg on ‘Faith, Reason and the University’, 12 September 2006. It was only with the advent of the Enlightenment and the development of a specifically modern version of reason that faith and reason became separated.

The basis of the classical relationship between faith and reason can be found in the congruence that exists between biblical revelation and Hellenistic philosophy. This rapport between philosophy and faith is expressed in the revelation of God in Judaism in the ‘I am’ epiphany of Exodus” and the Johannine theology of the Word (Logos) that for Christians enlightens all and is made flesh in Jesus (65). These pivotal revelations are communicated respectively in the categories of ‘existence’ and reason/logos that have deep resonances in the history of Hellenistic philosophy.

The dynamic of the relationship between faith and reason has been and continues to be a matter of philosophical and theological debate. One important aspect of this debate is how one translates the verb credo which, more often than not, is rendered simply as ‘I believe’. However, the problem with this English translation is the potential confusion that exists between the personal act of faith and the content of that act as expressed in propositions. A better translation of credo would be one which recognises that credo is a compound of two words, cor, cordis (heart) and do which primarily means to put or place, or possibly to give. Thus credo is about placing one’s heart in the object of faith, namely God, or making a personal commitment rather than subscribing to a series of statements even though statements do spell out that to which one is making a commitment or placing one’s trust in. Faith is primarily a personal act of trust and commitment addressed to the Mystery of God as at least not less than personal (66).

The actual relationship between faith and reason is described as dynamic, reciprocal, convergent and mutually illuminating. The particular theme of mutual understanding between faith and reason, between the Church and the world, between faith and culture, between Christianity and other religions is found in the documents of Vatican II. This model of mutual understanding as a key for interpreting Vatican II is advanced persuasively by John Dadosky (67) who shows among other things how mutual understanding enables a process of mutual self-mediating identities and relations between the churches and in reference to other religions. It is worth noting that this particular way of looking at faith and reason, namely the model of mutual understanding, resonates with some of the proposals put forward by Jurgen Habermas for conducting dialogue between enlightened reason and the religions as outlined above.

In this dialogue between faith and reason, there can be benefits for both sides. The dialectic between faith and reason is a two-way process and when conducted in an open and honest manner can effect a mutually self-correcting relationship. On the one hand, reason protects faith from fideism, idolatry, superstition and ideology. At the same time reason needs faith if it is to go beyond a blind rationalism and political totalitarianism. On the other hand, faith, as already seen, can expand the horizons of reason by insisting there is more than reason alone can deliver. Equally, faith can offer an important critique of various forms of rationalism and the politics of secular self-sufficiency. Likewise, faith, Christian faith, will insist that our grasp of truth is incomplete and unfinished, and that, therefore, there is an eschatological dimension to the truth that reason and faith seek together. It is ultimately the unifying character of truth that keeps faith and reason together.

It is especially important for the religions that this interactive unity between faith and reason be progressed. One way of doing this is to assert, as Newman does, that the act of faith ‘is an act of reason, but of what the world would call weak, bad or insufficient reason; and that, because it rests on presumptions more, and on evidence less (68). Here Newman is using the idea of reason in an expanded sense in contrast to a purely empirical view of reason restricted to evidence. Further, for Newman the act of reason within faith is more than that which issues in ‘paper logic’ or ‘the smart syllogism’.

What is important here is the statement that the act of faith is an act of reason and that it rests on what he calls ‘presuppositions’ more than evidence. Newman, some thirty years later in the Grammar of Assent, spells out these presuppositions which for him are a part of the rationality of faith without, however, reducing faith to rationality. Among the presuppositions attaching to the act of faith as an act of reason there are at least three moments or phases in the journey of faith. These include the call of conscience, the presence of first principles such as the love of truth, justice and respect for others, and thirdly what he calls antecedent probabilities or instruments of conviction in religious matters (69). Newman was very clear in his own mind, contrary to the claims of modern rationalism, that there was no such thing as pure reason, no such thing as reason alone, no such thing as thinking without presuppositions because: ‘Almost all we do, every day of our lives, is on trust, that is faith’ in ‘the sense of reliance on the words of others’ (70). In the same sermon he asks: ‘After all, what do we know without trusting others? (71) What this means in effect is that it is impossible to think without presuppositions, and this applies as much to science as it does to theology and in particular to the performance of faith.


1. See Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, GS, a.62; UR, a.6 and a.17, Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973)
2. James L. Heft, ‘Introduction: Religious Sources for Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam’, Beyond Violence: Religious Sources of Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, James L. Heft (ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, 2004, 2
3. Madeleine Albright, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs, New York: HarperCollins, 2005
4. Hans Kung, Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic, New York: Crossroad, 1991, 138
5. Launch of ‘Commission on Integration and Cohesion’ by Ruth Kelly on 24 August 2006
6. Mona Siddiqui, ‘Response to Max Farrar’, Conversations in Religion and Theology, May 2006, 111
7. Spiegel Special: International Edition, No. 9, 2006;’Special Report on Religion and Public Life’, The Economist, 3-9 November 2007
8. The New Visibility of Religion: Studies in Religious and Cultural Hermeneutics, Graham Ward and Michael HoeIzI (eds), New York: Continuum, 2008
9. God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, London: Penguin Books, 200910
10. A helpful review of these different voices is given by Ola Sigurdson, ‘Beyond Secularism?: Towards a Post-Secular Political Theology’, Modern Theology, 26, April 2010,177-96
11. See discussion of Zizek by Ola Sigurdson, art. cit., 182
12. Terry Eagleton, Holy Terror, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, vi
13. Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, 167
14. C. West, ‘Prophetic Religion and the Future of Capitalist Civilisation’ in Judith Butler, Juergen Habermas, Charles Taylor and Cornet West, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011, 92-100 at 93
15. Ibid., 11, 99,105
16. Ingolf U. Dalferth, ‘Post-Secular Society’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 2010, 334-9
17. David Tracy, ‘T.S. Eliot as Religious Thinker: Four Quartets’, Literary Imagination, Ancient and Modern: Essays in Honor of David Grene, Todd Breyfogle (ed.), Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999, 269-84 at 278.
18. Michael Scanlon, ‘Post-Modernism and Theology’, New Theology Review, February 2000, 70.
19. Ibid.
20. Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference, New York: Harper and Rowe, 1969, 70-1
21. Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Cambridge: CUP, 1989
22. Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2004,64-5
23. Taylor, A Secular Age, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007, 731
24. Ibid., 726
25. Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, 2004
26. Ibid., 29
27. Taylor, A Secular Age, Chapter 3, and Modern Social Imaginaries, Chapter 4
28. Taylor, A Secular Age,151
29. Graham Ward, Introduction’, The Postmodern God: A Theological Reader, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1997
30. David Tracy,’The Post-Modern Renaming of God as Incomprehensible and Hidden’, Crosscurrents, Spring/Summer 2000, 240-7 at 240; and Kevin Hart, Postmodernism: A Beginner’s Guide, Oxford: Oneworld, 2004,10
31. Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Minnesota: University of Minneapolis, 1979/1984, xxiv
32. Ibid., xxv, 82
33. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, New York: Random House, 1970, 387
34. Rowan Williams, Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement, Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 2000,166
35. Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1982, xlii
36. David Tracy, art. cit., 241
37. Jacques Derrida, Spectres of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, New York, Routledge, 1996, 59. Some twenty years prior to this text, Derrida acknowledged that’It is totally false to suggest that deconstruction is a suspension of reference.’ See Jacques Derrida in States of Mind: Dialogue with Contemporary Thinkers, Richard Kearney (ed.), Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984,123-4
38. See the Marianist Lecture by Charles Taylor, A Catholic Modernity (1996), and the subsequent debate of this lecture in James L. Heft (ed.), A Catholic Modernity?: Charles Taylor’s Marianist Award Lecture, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. A similar position is found in Robert Schreiter’s four-part series of articles in New Theology Review, February, May, August and November 2007, and in On the Way to Life: Contemporary Culture and Theological Development as a Framework for Catholic Education, Catechesis and Formation, 2005 (published by the Catholic Education Service of the English Bishops and the Heythrop Institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life), as well as in Dermot A. Lane, Challenges Facing Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland, Dublin: Veritas, 2008, 50-4
39. GS, a.40-5
40. See John Dadosky, ‘Towards a Fundamental Theological Re-Interpretation of Vatican II’, Heythrop Journal, 2008, 742-63
41. See Lieven Boeve, God Interrupts History: Theology in a Time of Upheaval, New York: Continuum, 2007, and more recently L. Boeve, ‘Theology in a Post-Modern Context and the Hermeneutical Project of Louis-Marie Chauvet’, Sacraments: Revelation of the Humanity of God, Engaging the Fundamental Theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet, Philippe Bordeyne and Bruce T. Morrill (eds), Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008, 5-23 at 17-20
42. See Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, New York: Crossroad, 1989
43. William James has been chosen here as an example of the importance of engaged knowledge because he has much to say that is still important for religion, especially his emphasis on religious experience. James has also been selected in spite of the many serious theological deficits within his treatment of religion, such as his disdain for the institutional, ritualistic and sacramental aspects of religious experience
44. This quotation is taken from Charles Taylor’s book, Varieties of Religion Today: William James Re-visited, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002, 45, which Taylor took from W. K. Clifford, The Ethics of Belief (1879)
45. William James, The Will to Believe, 1896, 28
46. See Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today: William James Re-visited, 47
47. See Taylor, ‘Reason, Faith, and Meaning’, Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 28, No. 1, January 2011, 5-18. For some, the concept of ‘detached knowing’ is self-contradictory
48. Jean-Luc Marion, Le Monde, 11 September 2008, quoted by Stephen England, ‘How Catholic is France?’, Commonweal, 7 November 2008, Vol. 135, No. 19,12-18 at 15
49. Taylor, A Secular Age, 315
50. Quotation taken from Michael Reder and Josef Schmidt, ‘Habermas and Religion’, An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age, Jurgen Habermas et al., Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010, 1-14 at 4
51. Ibid., 5
52. Jurgen Habermas, ‘An Awareness of What is Missing’, in An Awareness of What is Missing, 16
53. Ibid., 16
54. Jurgen Habermas, ‘Pre-political Foundation of the Democratic Constitutional State’, in Jurgen Habermas and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006, 45
55. Maureen Junker-Kenny, ‘Post Secular Society and the Neutral State’, Religious Voices in Public Places, Nigel Biggar and Linda Hogan (eds), New York: OUP, 2009,
80-1. These points are further developed by Junker-Kenny in her book Habermas and Theology, Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 2011
56, Judith Butler, ‘Concluding Discussion’, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, 112
57, Jurgen Habermas, ‘An Awareness of What is Missing’, 18
58. Ibid., 19
59. Ibid., 22
60. Stanley Fish, ‘Does Reason Know What it is Missing?’, Opinionator. Exclusive online Commentary from the Times (New York), 12 April 2010
61. Quotation and translation taken from Raimon Panikkar, Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics, New York: Paulist Press, 1979, 220, n.14. In this footnote, Panikkar discusses this saying of Aristotle and its subsequent influence on people like Augustine, Aquinas and others
62. Is 7:9: See Panikkar, op. cit., 187 for a discussion of the different translations of this text
63. For a discussion of these sayings in Augustine and the possibility of different translations, see Panikkar, op. cit., 188-95 and 22o, n.14
64. Exod 3:13-15
65. Jn 1:1-14
66. For a fuller discussion of this meaning of faith, see Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Faith and Belief, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979, chapter 5, and Dermot A. Lane, The Experience of God: An Invitation to do Theology (revised edition), Dublin: Veritas, 2003, 77-99
67. Dadosky, ‘Towards a Fundamental Theological Re-Interpretation of Vatican II’, Heythrop Journal, 2008, 742-63
68. John Henry Newman, University Sermons, 2004, as quoted by David Burrell, ‘Newman in Retrospect’, Cambridge Companion to Newman, 69, 2009, 256-7
69. See Tom Norris, ‘Newman’s Approach to the act of Faith in the light of Catholic Dogmatic Tradition’, Irish Theological Quarterly, 2004, 246-7
70. John Henry Newman, ‘Religious Faith Rational’, Parochial and Plain Sermons, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997,125
71. Ibid. For a more extensive account of faith in Newman’s writings, see Terrence Merrigan, ‘Newman on Faith in the Trinity’, Newman and Faith, Ian Ker and Terrence Merrigan (eds), Louvain: Peeters, 2004, 93-117.

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