EN §53: Respect other religions, but evangelize anyway

And you thought I had forgotten about blogging evangelii nuntiandi! Ha! The last entry is HERE.

EN §53 is one of the longer sections of evangelii nuntiandi, and we find a wealth of points about Christianity in relation to other religions, including animistic ones.

First we find that they merit respect, along with Rahner Paul VI finds that there is much that is praiseworthy in those religions. This is quite different than much of the Patristic witness which found, say Greek polytheism, to be Satanic in nature and equated those gods with demons (and I am thinking of Augustine here particularly). But Paul VI has nary a bad thing to say about non-Christian religions, for they express the longing in the human soul for the true God, that is, they are teleologically oriented but imperfect.

Because they are imperfect and do not disclose the fullness of God's truth, the Church is continually under the obligation to preach the Gospel to them: Even in the face of natural religious expressions most worthy of esteem, the Church finds support in the fact that the religion of Jesus, which she proclaims through evangelization, objectively places man in relation with the plan of God, with His living presence and with His action; she thus causes an encounter with the mystery of divine paternity that bends over towards humanity.

One longs for more specific treatment of Islam! Given that Islam was, unlike Buddhism, Hinduism, or the manifold expressions of animism set up in contradistinction to Christianity and indeed the heart of the Christian faith--the Trinity and Incarnation--how shall we treat it? Can we say that it, like the other religions is "a preparation for the Gospel"? Can one say that about Islam?

If not, then a very substantially different approach is required for this religion. But there is not word on Islam in EN, not once does the word Islam or Muslim appear in the letter. In which case we are only left with the medieval condemnations of Muhammadanism as "the mother of all heresies" and with the Catechism's rosy statement which some have accused of syncretism. That having been said, actions speak louder than words, which is why I have been a supporter of BXVI's decision to baptize brother Magdi Cristiano Alam in Rome on the eve of Easter. At least we know how he approaches these various texts :-)

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