ACADEMIA

Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Yong. HOSPITALITY AND THE OTHER (2008)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Oct• 15•08

Yong, Amos. Hospitality and the Other. (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2008)

Our age is characterized by encounter of religions in a number of special ways. In the first chapter of this book (Between Terrorism and Hospitality. The Encounter of Religions in the Twenty-first Century) Amos Yong presents three scenarios rather chosen arbitrarily where inter-religious encounters take place. The first of these is Sri Lanka where the conflict between the Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils is going on for more than twenty-five years. Our age is characterized by encounter of religions in a number of special ways. In the first chapter of this book (Between Terrorism and Hospitality. The Encounter of Religions in the Twenty-first Century) Amos Yong presents three scenarios rather chosen arbitrarily where inter-religious encounters take place. The first of these is Sri Lanka where the conflict between the Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils is going on for more than twenty-five years. Secondly, the situation in Nigeria where Muslim and Christian faiths are at loggerheads. Finally, the United States the majority Christian population is forced to engage in a discourse on the role of their own faith and that of other competing faiths in the increasingly pluralistic scenario. Each of these case studies also describes responses by Christians in each of these situations. Yong concludes from these case studies that Christians need to “articulate a multifaceted theology of religions and theology of interreligious engagement that more adequately underwrite the broad range of practices required for a complex post-9/11 world of many faiths” (p. 37).

The chapter 2 (Performing Theology. The Interrelationship between Christian Beliefs and Practices) where the author discusses the theoretical interconnections between beliefs and practices provides the background for investigating the relationship between Christian theologies of religion and Christian interreligious practices. This survey has provided a pneumatological perspective on the performance of Christian theology in a religiously pluralistic world. He argues that beliefs and experiences, doctrines and practices, theologies and performances are interrelated. The pneumatological approach means that the Christians will adopt a variety of practices and would speak a variety of languages in line with the variety of the pluralistic audiences that they witness to. Simply put his approach is “many tongues equal many practices” which he tries to test in chapter 3 and 4.

In Chapter 3 (Performing Theology of Religions. Christian Practices and the Religions) Yong three approaches to pluralism: traditional exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralistic theologies of the religions and their corresponding practices are elaborated. In the course of this, significant scholars like John Hick, Raimon Panicker, Aloysius Pieris and the like are presented and discussed.
Yong goes on to develop a pneumatological theology of hospitality as an interreligious praxis in Chapter 4 (Performing Hospitality. Towards a Pneumatological Theology of Interreligious Engagement). He presents us a very exhaustive treatment of hospitality as practiced by Jesus, the early church and ancient Israel in order to show the centrality of this approach to the stranger in the Bible. This hospitality, Yong argues can be discerned in Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, which embraced the many ancient near eastern cultures. Christianity, which he chooses to call the “religion of the Melchizedek” (inferred from the Book of Hebrews) is one of hospitality. Melchizedek offered Abraham hospitality according to Genesis.

Drawing heavily on the recent writings on hospitality Yong argues that the best interreligious approach would be to be hosts and also to be guests in a multi-religious context. Accepting hospitality (being guests) and also offering hospitality (being hosts) is a pattern that Jesus, the Apostles and the early church practiced. That is the model that the author tends to present to us.
Yong’s proposal is certainly an eye-opener. In the wake of religious violence on a global scale and has become a daily reality in countries like India where it taken the form of persecution, these thoughts demands a fresh hearing.

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