CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND RELIGIOUS
PLURALISM: THE CHURCH’S MISSION IN
Peter C. Phan
Peter Phan is Ignacio Ellacuria Professor of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown
University, Washington, DC. He received his S.T.D. from the Pontifica Universitas Salesiana,
Rome and his Ph.D from the University of London. He has authored several books and
contributed numerous articles to theological journals. A prolific writer, his most recent
publications are In Our Own Tongues: Perspectives from Asia on Mission and Inculturation
and Christianity with an Asian Face: Asian American Theology in the Making. Both are
published by Orbis Books.
Cultural diversity and religious pluralism are often associated together in
theological discourse on the contemporary challenges to the Church’s
mission. Conceptually, however, they refer of course to different realities.
Cultural diversity connotes the co-existence of many and different cultures in
a particular location, whereas religious pluralism refers not only to religious
diversity—that is, the simultaneous presence of several, at times mutually
exclusive and even mutually hostile, religions in one and the same location—
but also, and more importantly, to the heightened consciousness, ever more
widespread since modernity, of the necessarily relational and historically
embedded character of all exclusive and absolute claims, including religious
ones, a feature that seems to render such exclusive and absolute claims
problematic if not impossible.