This latest book from Dermot Lane consists of eight inter-related parts or chapters: theology in a radically new context, the Catholic Church and other religions, mapping the debate in the twentieth century and early twenty-first century, Rahner’s contribution to inter-religious dialogue, a fundamental theology of the Holy Spirit, pneumatology and revelation, a theology of the Holy Spirit, and the Jewish-Christian dialogue. Three elements are foundational for the structure of this book: first, Vatican II’s view of other religions and the mostly positive reception of that Council’s teaching in the years after 1965; second, the articulation of a theology of the Holy Spirit as the basis of the dialogue of Christianity with other world religions; and three, a new understanding of christology that sees Jesus as a fountainhead that inspires the dialogue of Christianity with other world religions, particularly Judaism. In regard to this last point, Lane expresses the hope that the Jewish-Christian dialogue may be paradigmatic for the Muslim-Christian dialogue.
Lane begins by offering us a glimpse of the new context in which theology finds itself: the horror of 9/11, religion as a source for violence and, simultaneously, a force for good, multiculturalism, globalization, theology betwixt and between modernity and post-modernity,”onto-theology” or the God of the philosophers that emphasizes the eternal, unchanging being of God as opposed to the God who shows herself in revelation, and the new modernity that Vatican II ushered in for Catholic theology. Chapter Two shows the influence of John XXIII on Vatican II, evaluates Nostra Aetate, commenting on its reception over time, looks briefly at Dominus Jesus (2000), and reflects on Benedict XVI and his take on inter-religious dialogue. Chapter Three looks at and offers a critique of the three models for inter-religious dialogue: exclusivism, inclusivism, and the pluralist option. The author then develops a theology of dialogue with emphasis on dialogue as a conversation and a shared search for the truth that transcends any one religion. Chapter Four examines Karl Rahner’s understanding of inter-religious dialogue and offers a critique of Rahner’s view.
Chapter Five raises the question whether the doctrine of the Trinity or pneumatology ought to be the point of departure for elaborating a fundamental theology of the Holy Spirit. The author, following Bernard Lonergan and Frederick Crowe, argues persuasively that a fundamental theology of the Holy Spirit should begin with pneumatology. In Chapter Six Lane uses Verbum Dei as a key to sketch out a pneumatology of revelation. Lane sees the imagination as a crucial ingredient in developing a pneumatology of revelation since the imagination enables humans to respond wholeheartedly to the word of God. The human imagination may be thought of as a “God-shaped hole” in us for the reception in faith of God’s revelation. Chapter Seven develops a Christian theology of the Holy Spirit by looking at the role of the Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and contemporary authors. Lane makes the move from a Spirit christology to a Spirit ecclesiology, pointing out its relevance for inter-religious dialogue. The final chapter sheds considerable light on the Jewish-Christian dialogue. Lane notes the commonalities between Judaism and Christianity but also the differences.
This book breaks new ground in terms of the dialogue between Christianity and the world religions by showing the importance of a theology of the Holy Spirit in the service of inter-religious dialogue. In writing this book the author has certainly done his homework. His command of the relevant scholarship in regard to inter-religious dialogue is particularly commendable. I particularly enjoyed the questions he raises on page 97 such as What’s distinctive about Christianity vis-à-vis other world religions? How can God permit two-thirds of humanity to “fall outside the good news of Jesus Christ?” How does one speak of Christ’s uniqueness without downgrading the Buddha and Confucius from other religious traditions? I have two critical questions. First, would it be more appropriate to sub-title this book a “Catholic, rather than a Christian, Theology of Inter-Religious Dialogue?” I say this because there’s a strong emphasis on the key documents of Vatican II, such as Nostra Aetate and the views of the popes on inter-religious dialogue. Second, the author mentions H. Muhlen and his work on the Holy Spirit but does not elaborate on Muhlen’s books such as Una Mystica Persona. Muhlen has a neat formula for understanding the mystery of the Church. Muhlen states that the Church should be understood as” One Person, namely the Holy Spirit, present in many billions of persons simultaneously.” How this is possible is the mystery of grace. According to this formula, no religion and no church has absolute possession of the Holy Spirit inasmuch as She moves where She wills. Might Muhlen’s work be able to beef up the author’s argument about the importance of pneumatilogy for inter-religious dialogue in the twenty-first century?