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
Responses to Religious Pluralism Among Christians
Each religion has its own independent legitimacy.
No religion can legitimately sit in evaluative judgment upon another.
Scholars who embrace the pluralist assessment of religious pluralism include D.Z. Philips, John Hick, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Paul Knitter and Stanley Samartha.
- While there is only one absolute reality, God, God has many faces.
- The various religions are so many different paths to, and accounts of, God.
- Mahatma Gandhi embraced this form of pluralism. The chief representative among Christians is John Hick.
- A true pluralism must abandon any prior concept of a single “God.” The wide differences among the religions are definitive and they should not be glossed over.
- A true pluralism gives up on the idea of a “God with many faces,” and just accepts religious diversity without trying to “fix it.”
The inclusivist response to religious pluralism affirms that there is only one God, the God to whom the Old and New Testaments bear witness.
All other claims to deity are false.
Inclusivists reject the notion that the autonomy of all the religions should be recognized.
The question inclusivists seek to answers is, “How does Christ relate to other world religions?” The answer takes two forms.
- Cautious Inclusivism
- Clark H. Pinnock, systematic theologian, and John Sanders represent the first form.
- While affirming an orthodox Christology, they believe that the prevenient grace of God is at work in all persons . . . works to bring all persons to salvation.
- If through another religion a person responds positively to prevenient grace, he or she may be “saved” without ever hearing the gospel, and without ever explicitly confessing faith in Christ.
- This form of inclusivism stresses that while the Holy Spirit may “use” another religion, non-Christian religions are not by themselves independent pathways to God.
- Less Cautious Inclusivism
- Is represented in the work of Karl Rahner.
- ⎯ Jesus Christ to be the one in whom the Father has acted to create and redeem the world.
- ⎯ Christianity to be the absolute religion
- ⎯ while it is true that only through Jesus Christ is salvation made possible and offered to all, God reaches persons under diverse circumstances and at different times
- ⎯ status of one who is faithful to his or her historic religious vision prior to hearing the gospel?—“anonymous Christians”
- Is represented in the work of Karl Rahner.
Some of the best known particularists are Karl Barth, Hendrik Kraemer, John Piper, Ronald Nash, R.C. Sproul and Carl F. H. Henry.
Particularlists maintain that only through Jesus Christ can persons know God and come to salvation.
Particularists reject the inclusivist belief that we can affirm Jesus Christ to be the only redeemer and still make some place for the positive role of non-Christian religions.
Inclusivists who do this, particularists say, compromise the radical singularity and finality of Jesus Christ.
Additional texts . . . are: Ex 20:3-6; 2 Chr 13:9; Is 37:18-19; 40; Jer 2:11; 5:7; 16:20; Acts 26:17-18; and Col 1:13.
Particularists reject the idea that through prevenient grace as assisted by a non-Christian religion, persons can experience God’s saving grace . . . only persons who in this life hear the gospel and explicitly place their trust in Jesus Christ will be redeemed. All others are lost.
A Moderating Position and An Evolutionary Assessment
A Moderating Position
A response that . . . by Harold Netland. Other evangelicals who hold this position include J. I. Packer, John Stott, Chris Wright and Millard Erickson.
According to this position, inclusivism and exclusivism go beyond what the New Testament states . . . We should not speculate regarding how God will choose to deal with those who have not heard the gospel . . . salvation is by God’s grace alone.
An Evolutionary Assessment of Religious Pluralism
Not currently prominent among Christians.
Representatives of the evolutionary position include R.C. Zaehner, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Ninian Smart and Steven Constantine This position depends upon an evolutionary view of man, of cultures and of religions.
All religions are undergoing evolutionary changes that will take them higher than they are now.
But we know the process is moving on a path that leads away from isolation and toward increasing dialogue and harmony. One day the process will deliver a harmonized world religion.