An Introduction to the Theology of Religions: Biblical, Historical & Contemporary Perspectives, By Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
An Introduction to the Theology of Religions
  • Length: 372 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: October 23, 2003
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 2572
  • ISBN: 9780830825721

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Early in the nineteenth century Ernst Troeltsch, the great German liberal thinker, published the influential essay "The Place of Christianity Among the World Religions." The question of the relation of Christianity to other religions is every bit as relevant as and perhaps even more urgent today than it was then.

Beginning with a consideration of the biblical perspective, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen surveys the variety of diverse answers proposed by teachers of the church down through the ages. His reviews include the writings of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, as well as those of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and a broad selection of later Protestant and Catholic thinkers. He completes the historical section with an astute look at the radical challenges of Enlightenment and classical liberalism and the emergence of the fulfillment theory of religions.

The bulk of Kärkkäinen's work provides a detailed and comprehensive survey of major confessional movements and theologians' opinions on the contemporary scene. Kärkkäinen provides succinct and trenchant descriptions of a wide diversity of theologians, including Karl Barth, Hendrik Kraemer, Paul Althaus, Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, Jacques Dupuis, Gavin D'Costa, Paul Tillich, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Lesslie Newbigin and M. M. Thomas, as well as Sir Norman Anderson, Clark Pinnock, Amos Yong, John Hick, Stanley Samartha, Raimundo Panikkar, Paul Knitter, Millard Erickson, Harold Netland and Vinoth Ramachandra.

An Introduction to the Theology of Religions is an indispensable guide for anyone seeking to grasp and work their way through the full range of alternatives offered in answer to the question, What is the relation of Christianity to other religions?

"This introduction is a major contribution to the growing body of literature in theology. It is a well-researched and balanced approach to the theology of religions that is acutely relevant for the religious pluralistic world in which we are living. This book sets a standard for all future work in this area. It is an absolute must for serious students in theology, missions and church history."

Japie J. La Poorta, Deputy President of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, and former principal of Sarepta Theological College in Cape Town

"Professor Karkkainen continues his excellent theological cartography in this intelligent and illuminating survey of theologies of religions. Anyone who wants to explore this territory will find this map to be clear, compact and discerning--in short, invaluable."

John G. Stackhouse Jr., Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

"This is a most useful book. It provides an up-to-date and comprehensive survey of the theology of religions. Dr. Kärkkäinen covers the major themes and introduces the main thinkers who have contributed to the theology of religions in the past century. He writes lucidly and presents the views of each scholar in a fair and balanced way. Anyone--and that should include all of us--who is concerned to follow developments in the theology of religions will find this to be a reliable and informative guide."

Wilbert R. Shenk, Paul E. Pierson Professor of Mission History and Contemporary Culture

"Given today's theological agenda, it is of utmost significance to take into account the challenge of a Christian theology of religions. Dr. Karkkainen, a prolific and creative theologian in this field, takes the issue of religious pluralism seriously from biblical, historical and contemporary perspectives. His treatment of the Christian theology of religions in diverse contexts is comprehensive, impressive and compelling. His book is worth reading and discussing as a platform for improving Christian attitudes toward religious others. His book can also be used as a textbook in the fields of theology and religious pluralism. "Although the author's intent is to introduce diverse aspects of a theology of religions, he actually goes much further. In so doing, he does not confine the future of a Christian theology of religions to the intellectual play of pluralists, but instead builds on the common interests of various Christian traditions (whether Catholic, Protestant, liberal, conservative or Pentecostal) and their attempt at steering a course between the particularity of the gospel and the universality of its mystery. In this regard, Dr. Karkkainen makes plausible a systematic discourse about religious others as a theological discipline with the task of listening attentively to the mystery of God in the midst of people of other faiths. "

Paul S. Chung (D.Th.), author of Martin Luther and Buddhism: Aesthetics of Suffering, and lecturer in theology and Asian spirituality, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California

Anyone, whether pastor or teacher, student or scholar, interested in gaining a good working knowledge of one of the most challenging but stimulating fields of study among the theological disciplines will assuredly benefit froma reading of this book. It may be particularly well-adaptable as a college or seminary textbook.

Tony Richie, Pneuma Review, Spring 2007



Introduction: Christian Theology of Religions As a Theological Discipline

Part 1: Biblical Perspectives: The Ambiguity and Promise of the Biblical Testimony
1. The Overview of Biblical Testimony
2. The Old Testament
3. The New Testament
4. Religion(s) in the Bible

Part 2: Historical Developments
5. Limited Openness to Other Religions Among Some Early Church Fathers
6. "Outside the Church No Salvation": The Consolidation of the Exclusive Attitude
7. The Meaning of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus for the Contemporary Church
8. Positive Attitudes Toward Other Religions After the Early Fathers
9. The Radical Challenge of the Enlightenment and Classical Liberalism
10. The Fulfillment Theory of Religions

Part 3: The Current Scene: Ecclesiastical Approaches
11. The Response of the Roman Catholic Church
12. The Response of the Anglican and Episcopalian Churches
13. The Response of Mainline Protestant Churches
14. The Response of the Free Churches
15. The Response of the Evangelical Movement
16. The Response of the Ecumenical Movement

Part 4: The Current Scene: Theologians' Interpretations
17. Orientation to the Study of Theologians of Religions
Ecclesiocentrism: Early Approaches
18. Karl Barth: Religion as Unbelief
19. Hendrik Kraemer: Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life
20. Paul Althaus: "Original Revelation" in Religions
Christocentrism 1: Roman Catholics
21. Karl Rahner: "Anonymous Christians"
22. Hans Küng: Religions as the "Ordinary Way of Salvation"
23. Jacques Dupuis: "Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism"
24. Gavin D'Costa: Trinitarian Theology of Religions
Christocentrism 2: Mainline Protestants
25. Paul Tillich: The Dynamic-Typological Approach to Religions
26. Wolfhart Pannenberg: Religions Competing for the Universal Truth
27. Lesslie Newbigin: The Gospel as Public Truth
28. M. M. Thomas: "Risking Christ for Christ's Sake"
Christocentrism 3: Evangelicals
29. Sir Norman Anderson: Unique Savior but Nonexclusive Salvation
30. Clark Pinnock: A Wideness in God's Mercy
31. Amos Yong: A Pneumatological Theology of Religions
32. John Hick: The Copernican Revolution of Religions
33. Stanley J. Samartha: One Christ, Many Religions
34. Raimundo Panikkar: The Unknown Christ of Hinduism
35. Paul F. Knitter: Jesus and the Other Names
Ecclesiocentrism: Contemporary Approaches
The Proliferation of Ecclesiocentric Approaches Among Evangelicals
36. Millard J. Erickson: No Other Name
37. Harold Netland: The Enigma of Pluralism
38. Vinoth Ramachandra: The Recovery of Mission
39. The Current Scene: Critical Reflections and Questions

Epilogue: The Way Forward




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Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Dr.Theol.Habil., University of Helsinki) is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and docent of ecumenics at the University of Helsinki. His many books include The Trinity: Global Perspectives, An Introduction to the Theology of Religions, and the five-volume series A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World.