Theological reflections on multi-religious identity
Komulainen, Jyri (2011)
The Donner Institute, Åbo Akademi
This article attempts to provide a theological assessment of multireligious identity, especially in the context of the Hindu-Christian encounters. The paper rests on recent post-colonialist literature on religion and assumes that the so-called ‘religions’ are open-ended cultural traditions and that the Christian tradition is capable of encompassing different world-views and cultural traditions. Following the initial observations, which highlight the ambiguity of the concept ‘religion’ as well as the radical diversity of the so-called religious traditions, the possibility of delineating a Christian identity in the midst of cultural and religious dynamics is explored. If the common feature of Jesus of Nazareth and the theological idea of incarnation are taken into account, the most vital tenets of the Christian faith entail a constant call for contextualization. Since all cultures also display religious dimensions, i.e. a fundamental openness to transcendence, this contextualization embraces also those traditions that have been labelled traditionally as ‘religions’. In addition to these theoretical observations, two instances of Hindu-Christianity—Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya (1861–1907) and Raimon Panikkar (b. 1918)—are presented and discussed. The article concludes that from the point of view of Christian theology, the Christian faith can also adopt such forms that could be labeled ‘multi-religious’. The decisive factor is, however, whether the Christian narrative may provide the meta-narrative of multi-religious identity, i.e. whether it is the one that transforms other cultural narratives.