The quarrelsome Catholic cleric Hans Kong died on April 6 of a long life he spent defending his innovative dissertation in Christian theology, which incurred the wrath of the official church.
We do not care about this aspect of the man’s intellectual personality, but rather his idea of interfaith peace as a condition for building a viable and lasting global peace. Kong considered that the theological and doctrinal dialogue leads to clashing and fueling differences between followers of religions, while these religious systems are broadly consistent in their moral code and human value perspective, hence the possibility of reaching an inclusive cosmic ethics.
It is clear that Kong does not proceed from the theological record, as he does not adopt, like some philosophers of religion, the idea of a universal moral religion, but takes into account the diversity and pluralism barrier that characterizes modern societies and constitutes their foundational specificity.
The new ethical philosophies took into account this barrier, so it went in two major directions: One of them went to build the idea of responsibility on reasonable results and effects, not on the nature of the beliefs themselves, whose knowledge or scientific value cannot be decided, and the other direction went to viewing religions and value systems as links. Debate and communicative entities that are able to reach mentally weighed consensuses.
In the first direction, pragmatic philosophies fall (Joy Doi and William James ..) which considered that the duty of moral philosophies is to contain and avoid the fundamental contradictions in the dogmatic systems to solve the problems of daily coexistence inherited from them, and in the second direction the theories of “synthetic” consensus (in John Rawls’s language) fall That seeks to reach consensuses justified by free evidence-based debate.
However, theological problems remained a real obstacle to the success of the approach to religious dialogue, which appears in two distinct levels: the level of dialogue between monotheistic religions and other religions that differ in the nature of the conception of the divinity and the message, and the level of the relationship between the monotheistic religions themselves.
Regarding the first axis, many claim that the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist religions are more capable of accepting diversity, plurality and difference than the monotheistic systems based on the belief of one God and restricted salvation, and the fact is that this perception is not supported by the theoretical evidence nor the past and present historical reality. What is absent from these contemplative ruling religions are the ideas of subjectivity, freedom and universality that are the deep material for the approach to tolerance and human fraternity in its root background associated with monotheistic religions.
Regarding the second axis, it is inevitable to acknowledge the weight of the legacy of the theological and historical conflict between the followers of the three Abrahamic religions, but they are consistent in what is behind the conflicts and the doctrinal and doctrinal peculiarities in the essence of the deep value view, thus forming a solid ground for specific consensus in the field of cosmic ethics developed by Hans Kong.
The paradox here is that ethical dialogue between religions cannot dispense with theological backgrounds, while theological debate cannot lead to a result, but rather fuels disagreements and conflicts, as all previous experiences have proven.
Hence the necessity to think about a new type of theology that we can call the saying “contextual theology” or “home theology”, meaning that it does not address the axioms of faith and the essential doctrinal constituents, but it derives from the value code and reference texts in the theological heritage consensual consensus values that drive the choice of dialogue. Moral and ethical solidarity between followers of religions.
Referring to the distinctions made by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas between the theological core in religion and the human rational content in it that qualifies to be translated into the language of public reason, it can be said that the active moral dialogue between religions can only take place in a practical rational context in which the doctrinal differences are placed between brackets and it is sufficient. In it, considerations of coexistence, solidarity and tolerance.
This line is what Paul Ricoeur called “the model of linguistic translation” capable of communicating meanings despite the fundamental disparity between tongues and languages, and it connects to what the scholar Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah called the “alliance of virtues” between the components of the Abrahamic family.
Despite the decisions of the Second Vatican Council that went in the direction of understanding with Muslims and integrating Islam into the system of Abrahamic truth, Kong believed in his encyclopedic book on Islam that the Catholic Church should extend the concept of salvation to Islam and accept it from within its own theological system.
Major steps have been made in the direction of solidarity and ethical dialogue within the Abrahamic system since the arrival of the current Pope Francis to the position of supreme religious authority in Christianity, and Islamic scholars and his spiritual references played a decisive role in crystallizing this choice centered on the compass of human virtues and brotherhood.
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