a1 University of Kent
Recently there has been considerable debate about the relationship between the religions of the world; in particular Christians have been anxious to formulate a theology of other religions which transcends the traditional Christian belief that God's revelation and salvation are offered exclusively in Jesus Christ. In this context a number of theologians have questioned the finality of Christ and Christianity. Professor John Hick for example - the leading proponent of this view - speaks of a Copernican revolution in theology which involves a radical transformation of the concept of the universe of faiths. It demands, he writes, ‘a paradigm shift from a Christianity–centred or Jesus–centred to a God–centred model of the universe of faiths. One then sees the great world religions as different human responses to the one divine Reality, embodying different perceptions which have been formed in different historical and cultural circumstances. Similarly, the Roman Catholic priest, Raimundo Panikaar, endorses a new map of world religions. Advocating a revised form of ecumenism which strives for unity without harming religious diversity, Panikaar argues that the fundamental religious fact of the world's religions is the mystery known in every authentic religious experience. For Panikaar, this mystery within all religions is both more than and yet has its being within the diverse experiences and beliefs of the religions: ‘It is not simply that there are different ways of leading to the peak, but that the summit itself would collapse if all the paths disappeared. The peak is in a certain sense the result of the slopes leading to it.… It is not that this reality has many names as if there were a reality outside the name. This reality is the many names and each name is a new aspect.’ Such a vision of the universe of faiths implies that no religion can claim final or absolute authority.