Session 1 The Various Meanings of Pluralism
Session 2 A Brief History of Religious Pluralism
Session 3 The Influence of the Modern Era on Religious Pluralism
Session 4 The Influence of Postmodernity on Religious Pluralism
Session 5 Responses to Religious Pluralism Among Christians
A Brief History of Religious Pluralism
The Importance of Historicism
One of the fruits that grew on the Enlightenment tree is “historicism.” It is “scientific method” of historical analysis— ”historical criticism”—for studying cultures, religions, eras, institutions, ideas, and so on. The catalyst for its development was the Renaissance and the 17th-century scientific revolution. In his New Science (1725) Giambattista Vico gave to us the verum factum—roughly, “Just the facts” principle.
The form of historicism that contributed most to the emergence of the ideology of religious pluralism was “reductionistic”—”nothing but,” or “nothing more than.”
Historicism in this form represents a way of evaluating all claims to ultimacy, whether religious, political, philosophical, or moral. The evaluation is that not only do all institutions, all religious beliefs, all scriptures, and the values they champion, have earthly histories, that is all they have.
When applied to the religions of the world, historicism evaporates all claims to ultimacy, universality and finality. It supports the ideology of religious pluralism by undercutting all bases for one religion’s alleged superiority over another.
Additional Contributing Factors
In the late 19th and 20th centuries, many additional factors converged to promote the emergence of religious pluralism.
These factors include:
• The end of 18th- and 19th-century Western colonialism in Africa and Asia
• First-hand contact between Westerners and other cultures that came about as travel in other countries and cultures accelerated
• The work of the World Parliament of Religions
• A decline of Western confidence in its own moral and cultural superiority spurred by two world wars
• A steady expansion of the study of world religions in the curricula secondary and university education in Europe and North America
• The recent development of Postcolonial Criticism.
Mature Religious Pluralism
1. In the West there occurred an accelerated and indigenous growth of interest in Eastern cultures and religions.
2. A rapid growth of Islam
3. The magnificent success of Japanese economics, followed by that of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
4. An explosion of writings that exposed people in the West to other regions
5. Although Vatican II (1962-65) did not support the ideology of religious pluralism, it did make place for a positive role to be played by non-Christian religions.
6. The dissemination of information and globalization of cultures ignited by the Internet have probably contributed to religious pluralism more extensively than anyone can measure.