As we so often hear, Christians of every new generation, or in any new cultural context, have to answer for themselves the question Jesus posed for the first generation of disciples: “Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:27) This is a question that can be answered only in the light of other questions—that is, the personal, social, political, scientific questions we find ourselves grappling with in our own age and experience. The meaning of Jesus “becomes flesh” again in the meaning and direction we struggle for in our own times.
Among the questions that most stir the minds and feelings of Christians today, perhaps one of the most rankling and challenging is that of other religions traditions and other religious believers—the issue of religious pluralism. To answer the question “Who do you say I am?”, we have to connect it to the question “Who do you say they are?” How do we understand Jesus—his person and his work—in view of so many other religious persons and their words and works of wisdom? As Roger Haight has perceptively pointed out, the reality of other religions is not a question we take up after we have worked out our Christology. It enters into, and directs and determines, how we do our Christology from the very start.
If I can try to formulate how “Who do you say I am?” translates into the context of religious pluralism, it might be something like: “How can I be truly committed to Christ and at the same time be truly open to other religions?” That, I think, captures the questions and the struggles many Christians are feeling as they try to understand themselves as Christians in a world of many religions.