September 8, 2000

Dear Frank,

 

Let me address each of your questions in turn.

1) I have been teaching a course titled "Christianity and World Religions" since I came to Georgetown twelve years ago. The first half of the course examines the historical disposition of Christianity towards other traditions from Cyrian's extra ecclessiam nulla salus to the present. The central foci are soteriology and ecclesiology. The second half looks at the "soteriology" of other religions (particularly Islam and Hinduism). Essentially, it attempts to answer the question: "What is 'salvation' and how do different religions describe 'it.'" The course investigates the dialogue among religions and articulates theological options Christian theologians suggest to describe this relationship and its future. In the past few years I have taught our departmental major's capstone seminar addressing similar issues but concentrating on the Christian self-understanding and understanding of the other. The course also examines strategies for and implications of interreligious dialogue. I have written these recent articles in the area:

"Radical Christologies? Analysis of the Christologies of John Hick and Paul Knitter." Bibliotheca Ephemerdium Theologicarum Louvaniensium.

"Christian Approaches to Interreligious Dialogue." Louvain Studies 22:2, 15-38 Spring 1997.

"Evangelical Inclusivism: Progress or Betrayal?" The Evangelical Quarterly, 68:2, 139-50 April, 1996.

2) My perception of teaching and research in Jesuit theology and religious studies departments is limited by my lack of direct contact with other programs. My general impression is that this kind of scholarship and teaching is underrepresented and sometimes marginalized. Christian theology accounts for the lion's share of the curriculum. I have no problem with this provided that consideration of other traditions and Christians' relation to these traditions is not disvalued in the process. I fear that this is sometimes the case.

The situation at Georgetown is a bit different. In the past fifteen years or so our department has made a conscious effort to include other traditions in our curriculum and to encourage dialogue among colleagues who have expertise in various traditions. So while we are de jure a theology department we function de facto as a religious studies faculty with a wide range of interests and competencies in religion. We have full time professors of Buddhism and Hinduism, a long-term full time adjunct professor in Islam, and two long-term adjunct professors in Judaism. Testimony to our commitment to the study of religions (and not exclusively Christianity) and the dialogue among them is the fact that the two senior majors' capstone courses deal with interreligious dialogue in one seminar for majors who concentrated in Christian areas (Christian theology, ethics and biblical studies) and in the other seminar (for majors in World Religions and Religion and Culture) deals with religious pluralism.

A meeting of professors teaching various religions or interreligious issues would be most valuable at this time. The recent publication of Dominus Jesus by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the pending implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae make this not only timely but urgent. A common strategy would be helpful to maintain our right to continue research and teaching in this area.

Sincerely,

Chester Gillis


Created: September 24, 2000 Updated: September 24, 2000