Gavin DíCOSTA, Christianity and World Religions: Disputed Questions in the Theology of Religions. West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. pp. xiv + 232. $31.95 pb. ISBN 978-1405176736.
Reviewed by Jeffrey MAYER, Lourdes College, Sylvania, OH 43560

DíCosta brings Christianity into a discussion with the rest of the worldís religions. This work explores the relationships of both Christian and non-Christian theologies. DíCosta cites an impressive list of theologians, academicians, church fathers and non-Christian thinkers to support his arguments. The presentation is carefully laid out in a logical and systematic format, referred to as a map. DíCosta encourages the reader to attempt to identify his/her own location on the map during the journey.

According to the author, the dramatic changes of the last fifty years have set the stage for a clash in the West between the cultures of the Christian and the Muslim (ix). By better understanding our own Christian theology and how it relates to other non-Christian religions, discussion and cooperation between religions can lead to productive coalitions rather than destructive confrontations while preserving and respecting each culture and theology.

The book is divided into four parts. The first two parts lay the foundations for understanding the arguments and conclusions of the last two. Part One introduces and explains the developments in the field of the theology of religions by ďmapping.Ē DíCosta begins by articulating his understanding of theology and then continues with a discussion of pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism. Each of these categories are further sub-divided. An examination of the work of at least one theologian who demonstrates each particular subdivision helps clarify the nature of each. John Hick is presented as an example of unitary pluralism and Karl Rahner represents structural inclusivism while various types of exclusivism are explained using Christian movements as examples. DíCosta includes a critical commentary on each theologianís position as well as an appraisal of his own conclusions. In his appraisal he is honestly self- critical and invites discussion.

Part Two discusses the historical move from religious states to political states and examines the resulting upheaval in loyalties and religious practice. Religion has moved from being the culture to being a force, sometimes an ineffective force, within the culture. Often a religion has become subservient to the state and even suppressed by the state or political force. The question then becomes, in Part Three, how religion functions in the public square. DíCosta answers by presenting the Roman Catholic and the Muslim plurality as examples. Roman Catholics range from conservative members who remain attached to the Tridentine traditions to liberals who would welcome the ordination of women. He also cites Islamic diversity; such as Shiíite and Sunni. Yet it is the responsibility of all believers to treat the followers of other traditions with kindness and respect, and he argues that the followers of other traditions may find the way to salvation through their own faiths by the grace of God.

In Part Four, DíCosta begins a discussion of a theme which had been a recurring idea through the other parts of the book. By examining the modern significance of Christís descent into hell, the author argues for the possibility of the salvation for a non-Christian who leads a good and virtuous life but is unaware of Christ, the Trinitarian God or baptism. The discussion in the final two chapters is about Hell, Purgatory, the limbo of the Just and the limbo of the innocents. These topics are approached as open discussions of theological questions that have not yet been resolved. While DíCosta presents possible solutions, he is clear that much discussion and debate remains for the future.

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