Christology in Asian Perspective
V. Jesus and the Saviour Figures
‘The difference between Jesus Christ and other human beings (including the founders of world religions) is not one of kind but of degree, and this is to acknowledge that there must be some affinity. But this is far from saying that one must adopt a thoroughgoing relativism. (John MacQuarrie Jesus Christ in Modern Thought, 1991) MacQuarrie’s suggestion that the difference between Jesus Christ and the central figures of some of the other great world religions (including Krishna and the Buddha) ‘is not one of kind but of degree’ (1991:414) reflects perhaps a common modern approach to the difficulty of relating the claims of Christianity to those of faiths. The term ‘saviour’, MacQuarrie thinks, is problematic (though he uses it as a chapter title) and he prefers to call them ‘mediators.’ This point is well taken. Salvation means different things in different religions, and to use the term saviour may be to impose a Christian category upon other faiths. Though comparisons between Christ and other mediators is frequently raised in discussions of christol- ogy in Asia, systematic and extended treatments of this issue are less common. In this chapter I shall examine two attempts to situate Jesus among other saviour or mediator figures, one from Hinduism, the other from Buddhism. Stanley Samartha: situating Christ within religious pluralism Samartha (1920-2001) was born in Karnakaka in south India. He studied in In- dia and in America (where ironically he seems first to have been seriously at- tracted to Hindu thought) and Europe....
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