Diverse Cultural and Religious Ways of Thinking: A Dia-logue

(2017/1) Editor(s): Thierry-Marie Correau (c), et al
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Articles of the issue

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Diverse Cultural and Religious Ways of Thinking: a Dialogue

Concilium 2017/1

Editorial: Thierry-Marie Courau & Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez


Part One: Thinking about Cultural and Religious Rationals

Interreligious Epistemological and Hermeneutic Paradigms – Jean-Jacques Wunenburger

An observation of the Thought Patterns of the Han Ethnicity and Their Impact on Religions and Theologies – Huang, Po-Ho

Part Two: In Touch with Realities in the Field

 The interplay of Identities in Contacts Between Europe and Insulandia in the 16th and 17th Centuries – Romain Bertrand

 Relation and Opacity: Exchanging Without Getting Lost – Anne Douaire-Banny

Reasoning emerging from Resistance Movements against the Violence of the System – Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez

Part Three: On Truth and Universalism

The Metaphorical Truth: Notes on Universality in the Works of Paul Ricoeur – Olivier Abel

Truth, Respect for the Singular, and Universality in Dialogue – Françios Bousquet

Part Four: Some Theological Perspectives

Christian Faith and Socio-cultural Rationalities: Reflection from Asia – Felix Wilfred

Dialogue as a Hope of Truth – Bruno Cadoré

Towards Unity: Responding Together to Truth’s Call – Thierry-Marie Courau

Part Five: Theological Forum

Faceless Poor Make a Saint: Mother Teresa in Context – Felix Wilfred

The Interpellations of Pope Francis in Present-day Theology – Hermann Rodríguez Osorio


Our planet is made up of every diverse cultural and religious universes. What happens when they face on another? How do they meet and engage in dialogue when their rational approach and apprehension of the world are unique? What happens when a Chinese person receives a European thought, a European discourse, of which the structures of language and reasoning have been constructed and elaborated over centuries? And conversely? More generally, how do we think and communicate in a particular culture, in a specific religious tradition, in a determined world? How do we make ourselves understood by others? Can we understand them?

These questions, ever-present in a contemporary globalized world, under pressure from the multiplication and speeding up of encounters that can turn into real clashes of culture, are of fundamental importance for theological research as they are for many other fields, starting with political theory. While communications apparently bring people closer together, conflicts based on different world-views are nevertheless breaking out all the time. The reaction takes the form of retreats, rejection, exclusion, the building of barriers, fences, walls.

This issue of Concilium tackles the task of exploring the issue of the uniqueness of cultural and religious forms of reasoning and of the possibilities of dialogue between them, and of the importance of the issue for theology today. We choose to use ‘reasoning’ to denote a vision, an approach, a unique rational grasp of the world. A way of reasoning is understood here to mean a complex of interwoven grammars, mental structures developed to apprehend and report what one experiences and learns. The subject is not new. Very different disciplines have dealt with it, from philosophy to sociology, including anthropology, linguistics and history, in an effort to establish what is the result of the encounter of different ways of thinking and, sometimes, what methods allow for constructive dialogue. Nevertheless, there are still few collective attempts to respond to the twofold challenge approaches and disciplines, on the one hand, and dealing with a variety of cultural and religious areas, on the other. Moreover, the question is rarely considered from the point of view of the encounter of religions or, if it is, religion is simply included as a form of culture. As for theology, it has dealt very little with the question directly, even though in the nature of things the Church has been confronted by it for a long time. Mission, the history of texts and doctrines, hermeneutics, inculturation, to name only a few, are all fields deeply affected by this dynamic.....


Jean-Jacques Wunenburger - Abstract

Religious plurality is exposed to exclusions based on both agnostic pathos and irenic approaches for conciliation in the name of a transcendent unity of religions. Is not eah religion rather like the sexual polarity of an androgynous whole, as with Plato of the monad of Leibniz, at once closed in upon itself, with neither door nor windows, and similar to a mirror of the human spirit? Is it not necessary to call for a third party mediator? Various categories and discursive strategies are considered for enabling a mutual understanding between religion, which avoid both the need for aggressive inspections and the renouncing of their own identity.

Huang, Po-Ho - Abstract

Han people’s ways of expression can be found in its language structure. Derived from the most original form of Pictographs (象形), it has developed to a particular characteristic of figurative description, which has shaped a distinctive way of expressing abstract concepts through concrete images. The abstract concepts, thus, are translated to a concrete and countable metaphor. Based upon these particular characteristics, a distinctive way of thinking has thus been developed by the Han people that includes: Intuitive way of thinking, preference for the idea of “round circle”, and emphasis on Individuality instead of universality.

Romain Bertrand - Abstract

In the 16th century situations of contact – commercial, diplomatic, military – multiplied between Europeans (Portuguese, Dutch, British) and the political societies of the Malay world (Aceh, Banten, Pattani). In clerical writing, and most especially in the hagiologies produced by the missionary orders, this ‘encounter’ is frequently presented as a head-on clash between two religious worlds that were naturally hostile to each other. The motive of ‘hatred of the Christian faith’ (odium fidei) is thus put forward to explain the ‘martyrdom’suffered by the fidalgos of Malacca at the hands of the Sultan of Aceh or the Javanese. Revisiting the documents reveals that it is not religious considerations, but commercial and political rivalries that guide the potentates of South East Asia in their interactions with the Europeans. What is more, the points of interaction between the worlds involved are in fact numerous.

Anne Douaire-Banny - Abstract

Poetry as a power of invention and action, offers us an ambitious model of cultural dialogue. Aimé Césaire and Edouard Glissant, two 20th century Martinican poets, from their unique historical experience invite us to read a complex, rich world in the process of creolization. Negritude is a proclamation of humanity that refuses to remain locked in one skin colour. Relation exceeds cultural interbreeding and reveals a world of rhizomes in which determined rootedness in one’s own place opens one to otherness. Opacity claimed and agreed to, is a barrier to the constant threat of global uniformity.

Carlos Mendoza-Alvarez - Abstract

This article offers an analysis of social, epistemic and spiritual resistance movements being mounted in our time by the victims of the system’s violence in the global South. Following the collapse of instrumental reason – imposed in all parts of the planet by neoliberal capitalism, in particular under the model of the ‘extractivist state’, supported by a sacrificial version of religion – it is essential to examine the possibility of a plurality of ways of reasoning. This perspective must be able to account for the multiple experiences, stories and symbols produced by individuals and communities who live in a state of ‘resilience’. This plural reasoning is here called ‘messianic’ in order to underline its theological meaning, linked to the self-emptying of the divine Word that is present at the origin of creation, revelation and redemption. In its phenomenological basis, thanks to practices and stories of gift-giving from the lives of those who are bringing down the wall of hatred, eschatological anticipation enters the scene as true faith-understanding of the saving presence of God in the world.

Olivier Abel - Abstract

Taking as a starting point the metaphorical nature of ‘living’ truth and universality, the author highlights some of the themes in an old essay by Ricoeur, which views the cumulative progress of world civilizations as being eaten away by the scepticism of a touristic relationship to cultures in which ‘there are only others’. Seeking the heart of cultures in their ‘ethico-mythical kernel’, he outlines the conditions necessary for a creative encounter and proposes a ‘consonance without accord’, the fertility of disagreements.

Françios Bousquet - Abstract

This article explores first the concepts of universality and the truth. Truth in three orders: noetic, ethic and religious; and the universality that is not to be found in the general but in the truth of the singular in relationship. The major formula of the articulation of the universal and the singular is: the joy of communion within difference upheld. The three experiences of a plural that is not without unity are explored: the transcendentals (being, one, true, good, beautiful); translation faced with an excess of sense; the person within a humanity where each is unique and all stand together. 

Felix Wilfred - Abstract

Today we need to acknowledge the rich and polymorphous character of rationality, before any consideration of the relationship of reason and faith.Language and culture are matrices generating different forms and expressions of reason, which is not to be treated in the abstract but, should be seen also in its practical component and import. Moreover, as the Asian traditions show, the mystery of ultimate truth forms part of a quest, a journey, and hence the need of theology to relate with a reason that is not static but in movement.Given multiple forms of rationality, it is quite unbecoming for theology to anchor in one single form of rationality – the Greco-Roman – and elevate it to the ultimate point of reference. Contextual rationality has deeper implications for the life of Christian communities and their theologies in the global world.

Bruno Cadoré - Abstract

Is truth not the objective and foundation of all dialogue? The demands of an exchange with the prospect and possibility of a common world as its objective cannot ignore differences. From the outset it demands that we move away from our familiar comfort zones, that we determinedly engage in thinking with others. Then we can develop a ‘maturity for dealing with insoluble problems’, the basis of which is developed through study and whose patience draws on the objective of fraternity. If we understand that human reason’s structure is scatological, it is abiding in the encounter that makes it possible to hold to this road. This is the one where, for those who seek together within dialogue, truth ‘reveals’ itself even as it evades their grasp.

Thierry-Marie Courau - Abstract

The concept of rationality is resistant to being an idea shared by all. The diversity of world-views does not mean that each rationality is a fixed monad. Each is a dynamic whole. We are called to live and to acknowledge the complexity of the world and the diversity of realities which make it, while the dominant force in the world denies complexity and diversity through uniformity. This tendency to want to be the same or seem to be the same, questions the desire for unity and gives rise to neglect of the third person. Unity is an eschatological aim: God’s plan for humanity, a human aspiration. The search for unity must engage with what makes us human: a person is only truly human once she perceives and understands herself as being dia-logou, in dialogue. This can only take place once the third person is recognized, from the ‘within’, which unveils itself as truth.