Lindbeck dini doktrinler nasıl ele alınmalı sorusuna kültürel-dilbilimsel teorisiyle cevap vermiştir. Onun bu yaklaşımında dinler farklı kültür ve dillerin ürünü olduğu için dinler arasındaki ortak deneyim ve benzerlikler reddedilmiştir. Kültürel-dilbilimsel teorinin en ayırt edici özelliklerinden biri dinler arasında karşılaştırılamazlık ilkesini getirmiş olmasıdır. Bununla da dinler arasındaki geçişkenlik yok edilmiştir. Lidnbeck’in getirmiş olduğu bu yeni yorum dinler teolojisi tartışmalarında da yeni bir akım başlatmıştır. Postliberalizm veya tikelcilik (particularism) olarak da anılan bu yaklaşımda, çoğulculuk felsefesinin tam tersi bir yaklaşımla dinlerin farklılıkları üzerinde durulmuştur Bu makalede Lindbeck’in kültürel-dilbilimsel teorisi tanıtılıp, dinler teolojisindeki yeri ve dinler teolojisinde temel tartışmalara etkisi analiz edilmiştir. Son olarak, Lindbeck’in teorisinin eleştirisi yapılmış ve Lindbeck’in farklılıklar üzerinde durması öteki dinlerin farklılıklarını gerçek anlamda anlamak için önemli bir gelişme olarak görülse de bunun getirmiş olduğu sorunlar vardır. Bu problemler arasında ilk olarak dinleri belli sınırlar içine hapsedip dinler arası etkileşim veya diyalogu anlamsız kılmasını sayılabilir. Başka bir problem de dinleri monolitik bir olguymuş gibi sunup hem herhangi bir din içindeki farklı yaklaşımları hem de din yorumlarının tarihsel bir gerçeklik olarak birbirlerini etkiledikleri gerçeğini görmezden gelmesidir. Son olarak Hristiyanlığın ayırt edici özelliklerini korumak adına oluşturduğu kültürel-dilbilimsel teorisi, dinlerin evrensellik düşüncesini de tehlikeye atmıştır.
Since Race offered his three-fold typology, exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism have become central approaches within the discussion of the theology of religions. While theologians have been discussing which approach is better than others, Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic challenged three-fold typology and brought about a new dimension into the theology of religions. In so doing, Race’s threefold typology became insufficient to explain diverse approaches, and for that reason, some theologians have added the fourth category into this typology.
Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic theory arrived in an environment where liberal theologies were dominant within both academy and interreligious dialogue meetings. Since Schleiermacher, liberal theology has become popular and Christian theology was cleared of mythical elements. The liberal theologies emphasise the common core of religions in that they regard diverse religions as different explanations of the same core. This approach initially might be seen as more open and tolerant to the followers of other religions, but it disregards the difference of other religions. From this perspective, by prioritising difference of religions, Lindbeck locates his approach opposite to liberal theology. This article describes Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic theory and analyses its place and contribution to the field of theology of religions. Lindbeck offers his cultural-linguistic theory of religion in response to cognitive-propositional and experiential-expressive theories. While the cognitive-propositional aspect of religion treats doctrines as informative propositions and truth claims, experiential-expressive theory interprets doctrines as a noninformative and nondiscursive symbol of attitudes and inner feeling. In the first approach, religions are seen as a matter of knowing about the divine through comprehensible propositions. In other words, if a certain doctrine is seen as a true or false doctrine, it is always and only true or false. In the second approach, the religious meanings can change whilst doctrines remain the same. Religious truth is considered as a function of symbolic efficacy, in which religious experience are prioritised over language.
Lindbeck rejects these two theories and offers his cultural-linguistic approach as an alternative. In his theory, religions are considered as “different idioms for constructing reality, expressing experience, and ordering life.” Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic approach prioritises the coherence of religion rather than cognitive and the symbolic efficacy of religions. This approach considers the differences between religions as incommensurable. According to Lindbeck’s theory, a religion or a language can contain some crucial terms which do have any meaning in another context or tradition. Thus, he accepts non-Christian religions as comprehensible on their own. Although the problem of salvation is not central to Lindbeck’s theory, the place of Jesus Christ for the doctrine of salvation is still important. He reiterates the necessities of Sola christus and fide ex auduti for salvation, but he offers post-mortem solution for salvation of non-Christians.
Lindbeck brought a new perspective to the theology of religions. While the problem of salvation was the central issue within the theology of religions, the issue of differences of religions dominated the discussion on the theology of religion following Lindbeck’s contribution. Yet, the current discussion within the theology of religions revolves, on the one hand, on pluralist theologians’ insistence on similarities and, on the other hand, on postliberal/particularist theologians’ emphasis on the differences of religions. He considers that other religions are comprehensive in their own culture and language. By believing so, it might seem he avoids endorsing the notion of the superiority of religion over another. This perspective is one of the primary reasons why certain theologians accused him of reducing and ignoring the central themes of Christianity. However, his exclusive focus on the differences of religions creates another version of exclusivism. It is suggested that even though his theory helps to appreciate the real differences of other faiths, it raises some problems, which are addressed here. First, his theory has locked religions into certain borders in which interreligious dialogue has become meaningless. Second, he presents religions as monolithic entities, thus overlooking the diverse interpretations within a single religion and how religions have influenced one another historically. Finally, for the sake of preventing distinct features of Christianity, Lindbeck’s theory also endangers the concept of universality of religions. Eventually, regardless of such criticisms, it should be noted that Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic theory made a significant contribution to the theology of religions and continued to inspire debates.