Author: Kevin HART, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Abstract:Christianity appears to be a religion that can be universalized and that, according to the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28: 18-20), should be universalized. But to what does the Great Commission actually bind Christians? It is hard to say whether Jesus makes a general or a specific directive, if it is a new commandment or a summary of earlier commandments. Certainly its meaning is animated for successive generations by Paul’s evangelizing of the Gentile world. Equally significant is that Christianity is grounded in monotheism: a universal element is presumed, to some extent, though this is no reason to avoid evangelizing the nations, for the particularity of Jesus crosses the universality of the one God. That process has difficulties, however: it generates a complicity of Empire and Religion. Vatican II and Karl Rahner point us to alternative ways of thinking the issue: a hierarchy of religions, and the teaching of anonymous Christianity in which the good representative of any religion is already an implicit Christian. Problems with Rahner`s position are entertained. I propose, instead, a rethinking of universalizing Christianity by way of Origen`s figure of Christ as autobasileia, himself the Kingdom that he preaches. A person can be one with Christ in two ways: by explicit confession that Jesus is the Christ, and by seeking the Kingdom that he preaches. If Christ and his Kingdom are one, the person of good faith, who is not a confessing Christian, is already one with Christ.
Great Commission, Autobasileia, Universalization, Anonymous Christianity, Kingdom of God
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