The Word-Crucified in the Theology of Aloysius Pieris, S.J. : Pieris' Contribution to the Development of a Christian Theology of Religions in the Context of Sri Lanka

Title: The Word-Crucified in the Theology of Aloysius Pieris, S.J. : Pieris' Contribution to the Development of a Christian Theology of Religions in the Context of Sri Lanka
Authors: Lowe, W. F. Romesh
Date: 2012-11-16
Abstract: This project is a study of Pieris’ theological writings with a focus on his particular contribution to the post-Vatican II development of the theology of religions and its implication for a renewed understanding of divine revelation/salvation and Christ in the context of religious pluralism and poverty in Sri Lanka. The main objective of this project is to bring to attention Pieris’ notion of the Word-Crucified, a central notion of his theology of religions, as a catalyst and a compass to set the right direction with a reverential attitude towards other religions in the Sri Lankan context. The reason for this undertaking is the reality of Christianity’s place as “stranger” and “intruder” (foreignness) in the context of Sri Lanka. Hence, the Sri Lankan Church is in need of a language to communicate the credibility of revelation in the process of becoming a Church of Sri Lanka with a sound theology that views other religions as co-partners within God’s one single but progressive and holistic economy of salvation for humanity. Here, we underscore that Buddhism, from the time of its introduction to Ceylon in the third century B.C. has been a dominant formative factor in the Sri Lankan historical and cultural transformation. Hence, we need to recognize the importance of perceiving the Word-Crucified through the soteriological perspectives of non-Christian religions, particularly, Buddhism. A critical analysis of the development of Sri Lankan theology would show that the renewal of the Sri Lankan Church after Vatican II Council was basically worked out within the framework of adaptation. This model is associated with an infiltration of the faith into a culture. This approach deprives the culture of its own religious content. Hence, the Church failed to enter effectively into the religio-cultural fabric of Sri Lanka. This scenario shows that the Catholic Church did not possess a relevant theology that considered local contextual realities as its resources to back its renewal programme. It had traces of the “triumphalistic” ecclesiology of the colonial era. This search for a proper theological idiom is a challenge against the historical background of centuries of cultural estrangement during the colonial period and in the context of the present religio-cultural awakening. Here, we argue that the Sri Lankan Church should relentlessly engage in a Triple-Dialogue that would allow her to nurture the essence of faith in Jesus Christ while separating it from the trappings of the colonial experience. This is a call for inculturation understood in terms of the local Christian Church getting involved in the local people’s struggle for full humanity. This will eventually deepen the roots of the Sri Lankan Church in the life and culture of the people, most of whom are non-Christians. As for the most effective model of inculturation we propose the “monastic model” of participation in a non-Christian spirituality. In Chapter One we examine the religious heritage of Sri Lanka as predominantly Buddhist, which reshaped its national and cultural identity. The overall purpose of this chapter is to set the background to think anew the credibility of Christian revelation from within the religious pluralism and abject poverty of Sri Lanka. In this chapter we discuss the religio-cultural alienation brought about by the aggressive evangelization of the missionaries during the colonial period which caused the rise of “Protestant Buddhism.” It also marked the height of positive Buddhist revivalism. This chapter briefly studies a few pioneering efforts to overcome the foreignness of Christianity. Chapter Two investigates the theological and spiritual journey of Pieris in order to shed light on his theological originality. It takes into account an overview of Pieris’ childhood and family atmosphere, his vocation as a Jesuit and his academic formation. It highlights the unique background of Pieris to show his moral authority and obligation for a fresh “Sri Lanka’s/Asia’s search for Christ” centered on Christ’s mission of love which he articulates in his paradigm of Covenant Christology. The main text examined is Pieris’ unpublished autobiography. Chapter Three examines in detail Pieris’ notion of the Word-Crucified, the foundation of his paradigm of Covenant Christology. This main chapter of the dissertation intends to provide the direction and the basis for a relevant theology of revelation and Christology for Sri Lanka. This chapter brings to light Pieris’ unique theological contribution which fills a lacuna in the present theological thinking in Sri Lanka in the context of religious pluralism. It also endeavours to show how the notion of the Word-Crucified gives the Sri Lankan Church and its theology a credible and necessary basis for a much needed Triple-Dialogue. Chapter Four presents Pieris’ Asian paradigm of theology of religious pluralism built on his Covenant Christology. The principal aim of this chapter is to highlight and appreciate the unique theological contribution of Pieris to the Sri Lankan Church as she finds her way in a context of religio-cultural pluralism that is predominantly Buddhist. This chapter also discusses his “integral approach” to religious pluralism, which can be applied to the wider Asian Context.On the basis of this study, we maintain in the General Conclusion that the Sri Lankan Church needs to participate in the local cultural ethos and soteriological nucleus of its religions in becoming a Church of Sri Lanka. It would provide the point of re-entry to Christ while the Church would regain its lost ‘authority’ and local recognition that comes with being a Church of the poor. The concluding remarks ends with an indication of the possible areas of further study and a guiding theological orientation to the Sri Lankan Church.
CollectionThèses Saint-Paul // Saint Paul Theses