The relation of Christianity to other religious traditions has received increasing attention in the five decades since the declaration of Nostra Aetate at Vatican II was written. Brockman and Habito help to make clear in this volume that not only is this question much older but the variety of answers to it is as well.
The book is addressed to those interested in how Christians can “live in fidelity to and as effective witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of a multireligious contemporary global society.” (ix) This question assumes a special urgency in an age marked not only by rapid global communication and but ever more deeply by global crisis. The introduction reviews some grim realities of our world which, for example, can boast a surplus of food while every few seconds a child dies of starvation. Brockman and Habito establish this setting of global brokenness as impetus for finding ways to move beyond a focus on religious difference, which sadly often contributes to the crises, toward engagement with religious others for embodying solutions. The work extends further to explore how this engagement might also shed light back upon our own Christian faith and work in the world.
Part I of the book collects primary source readings which review Christian approaches to other religious traditions beginning with the New Testament up through recent theological thinkers. The introduction to this section, written by Brockman, offers excellent cartography of the ground covered through two millennia; the notes for this section, (likely drawn from Brockman’s dissertation work), are an education in themselves for interested readers. The primary source selections which follow are closer looks at the terrain Christians have encountered in honestly confronting the question of the religious other and the maps left for us from these journeys. The summaries which precede each selection, the background provided about the writer, and the editors’ assessment of the work in grounding and shaping a theology of religions for Christianity make the volume very useful as a textbook. The thirteen selections represented under the modern and postmodern category include a variety of voices, three women among them; nearly half are from the Catholic tradition and four of those are Jesuits (missing though, is the work of Jacques Dupuis).
Concluding Part I is a selection of representative church documents. Several statements from the Catholic tradition beginning with Nostra Aetate are included. Guidelines for Dialogue from the World Council of Churches and statements from the United Methodist 2008 Book of Resolutions and the Episcopal Church USA Statement on Interreligious Relations accompany them. In addition to such sampling, useful at this point, both for the student and the general reader, might have been a full listing of other official denominational statements and their web locations.
Part II of the book is a collection of eleven previously published essays written by contemporary practitioners about their experiences with ministry, theology and spirituality in the interfaith setting. These essays reach to the heart of the matter as authors from a variety of Christian perspectives tell their stories. They are a graceful complement to the sources of Part I. Readers will enjoy the variety of settings described and religious traditions encountered - genuine dispatches from the field as we listen to Christians immediately engaged in and profoundly touched by deliberate encounter with the religious other. Each essay offers a treasure of its own, no two alike. Especially noteworthy are the essays in the theology section. Here Timothy Tennent discusses the possibilities for Christian understanding of the Trinity inspired by the Hindu saccidananda description of Brahman, and John Keenan seeks to understand the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through the prism of Mahayana Buddhist thought.
The text should prove valuable for seminary use, for focused undergraduate courses, and for the general reader interested in the theory and experience of Christians engaged in interfaith encounter.