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"Those who say that everybody can be saved in his/her own Faith"

On the Suspension of Religious Exclusivity in the Age of Scholasticism

Latin Christianity is not generally understood as tolerant. On the contrary the history of the crusades and the inquisition have been for a long time commonplaces to reflect on the fanaticism of this branch of Christianity. It is true, the question remains to be answered why of all Christian churches the Latins took the turn to systematic religious violence. Still there are other aspects of their specific reaction to religious plurality which also call for attention.    

During the 13th century an extreme statement emerged in Latin texts. Believers who at the same time adhered to their own religious affiliation claimed that everybody might be saved in his/her own faith. The statement was considered heretical at the famous theological faculty of the University of Paris. Yet it attests the possibility of a suspension of Latin Christian’s exclusive claim to universal truth without religious relativism or the renunciation of religious belief being a precondition to it. As it occurred in different areas of Latin Christian domination and was repeated to the end of the Middle Ages it was not an isolated problem of the French masters of the 13th century.

The project suggested here aims at analysing evidence for this statement. First and foremost the social and cultural background of the extant material shall be identified. In contrast to its claims on religious unity Latin Christianity was faced with religious contacts and religious plurality within its borders. Muslims, Jews and pagans in varying numbers were living under its domination. In the Middle East it was soon going to meet its utter defeat against the Muslim powers of the period. Additionally, since the 12th century groups were forming up which the Roman Church was neither able nor cared to integrate due to their teachings and their practices. While the statement has logic on its side, the social and religious context in which it emerged is not known and all the more difficult to identify as the religious authorities are known to have invented phantom heresies out of hysterics and for their own purposes.

Yet during this period of religious violence some of the theologically learned and some poets designed theories of religious connivance and even of respect of members of other religions. To compare the more extreme statement with these much better known thoughts and hopefully also with evidence from other areas of monotheistic domination shall be the second step of the investigation. The study hopefully will shed light on both the mechanics of religious demarcation and its loss.