Jacques Dupuis became a Jesuit in 1941. After early religious and academic training in Belgium he left for India in 1948. A 3 year (1948-51) teaching experience at St. Xavier's Collegiate School, Calcutta, made him discover Hinduism through the way it shaped the personalities of the students entrusted to him. This was a discovery - the variety of religions -, and the beginning of a lifelong search: "does God self revelation necessarily pass for all through the person of Jesus Christ?"
After being ordained priest in Kurseong, India he completed a doctorate in Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome on the religious anthropology of Origen of Alexandria. He was assigned to teach Dogmatic Theology at the Jesuit Faculty of Theology of Kurseong (later shifted to Delhi, and renamed 'Vidyajyoti College of Theology').
Director of the journal 'Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection' Father Dupuis was also an adviser to the Catholic Bishops conference of India. Besides numerous articles on theological and inter-religious topics, he published in 1973 (with Josef Neuner) a collection of Church documents, 'The Christian Faith', that went into seven editions over 20 years: an invaluable instrument of Theological learning for generations of students of Catholicism.
In 1984, after 36 years in India, Dupuis was called to teach 'Theology and Non-Christian Religions' at the Gregorian University of Rome. A book Jesus-Christ à la rencontre des religions (1989) was well received and promptly translated in Italian, English and Spanish. He was made director of the journal Gregorianum and appointed consultor at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
In 1997, his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism led to Dupuis being investigated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Vatican. Ambiguities were noted between his so-called "Christian theology of religious pluralism" and what the congregation viewed as the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar popes.
Dupuis was told to clarify his position in relation to that document, but was never disciplined. Moreover, future editions of his book had to include a copy of the Vatican's official "Notification," which outlined those areas in which the CDF felt that his work was unclear. However, there is a general agreement amongst his friends and colleagues that "the ordeal he went through with the C.D.F. had caused havoc to his mental and physical health." In the notification, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger stated "It is consistent with Catholic doctrine to hold that the seeds of truth and goodness that exist in other religions are a certain participation in truths contained in the revelation of or in Jesus Christ. However, it is erroneous to hold that such elements of truth and goodness, or some of them, do not derive ultimately from the source-mediation of Jesus Christ."
However, in 2001 Pope John Paul II acknowledged Dupuis's 'pioneering' work on the meaning of other religions in "God's plan of salvation of mankind".
Jacques Dupuis died a few days after celebrating 50 years of priesthood, in Rome, on the 28 December 2004.
Many theologians argue for a Christology that is expressly based on the Trinity and an understanding of the interpersonal relationships between Father and Son and between Son and Holy Spirit. In Jacques Dupuis’ Who Do You Say I Am?, he argues that, within the one person of Jesus Christ, we can distinguish between his two natures, human and divine, and thus between the operations of his uncreated divine nature and his created finite human nature.
In order to properly phrase the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Father, Dupuis utilizes different terms to describe aspects of Christ’s divine and human nature. Instead of “absolute” and “definitive”, Dupuis speaks in terms of “constitutive” and “universal”. In this way, Dupuis tries to lead the discussion away from dealing in absolutes.
“First, our knowledge of God is not absolute or definitive; it is necessarily limited. Second, the absolute Savior is the Father, who is the ultimate source of the risen Lord and of all reality. Hence, the uniqueness and universality of Christ the Savior are ‘constitutive.’ As the son of God incarnate, Jesus is the center of history and the key to the entire procession of salvation, and his resurrection confers universal significance on his human existence. In this sense, he is ‘constitutive’ of universal salvation.”
Dupuis emphasizes that Jesus’ constitutive uniqueness as universal Savior rests on his personal identity as the Son of God.