Four Views on Religion in a Pluralistic World

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With the understanding that religious pluralism is the greatest challenge facing Christianity in today’s Western culture, Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips assembled the writings of five scholars to address the issue of whether explicit belief in Jesus is the only way to salvation. The contributions of these scholars, along with introductory comments by Okholm and Phillips, are found in the book, Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, edited by Okholm and Phillips. In this work, John Hick argues the view of normative pluralism and its assertion that all ethical religions lead to God. Clark Pinnock promotes inclusivism and the view that salvation is ultimately based in Christ even though people of other religions may be saved apart from explicit faith in Christ. Alister E. McGrath argues for a particularist view of salvation from a post-enlightenment perspective. R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips present a particularist view from an evidentialist perspective. This paper will give a critical review of Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. It will attempt to accurately summarize the views of Hick, Pinnock, McGrath, and Geivett and Phillips. This paper will also evaluate the arguments made by these contributors. Introductory Issues as Presented by Okholm and Phillips

Okholm and Phillips offer a helpful introduction to the issues of pluralism, inclusivism and particularism. They do this by discussing the rise of religious pluralism and the challenges it has brought to Christianity.

Okholm and Phillips point out that the traditional Christian view of particularism was challenged during the Enlightenment (8). Schleiermacher took an important step toward inclusivism when he asserted that God is salvifically available in some degree in all religions even though the gospel of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and highest manifestation of this universal awareness (8). Classical liberalism followed Schleiermacher’s inclusive assertions until the late nineteenth century when historicism and its heightened awareness of cultural and religious relativities challenged the claim that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of religion. Ernst Troeltsch argued that all people at all times are purely historical creatures, therefore, all religious claims are culturally conditioned perspectives of the divine. Being unable to make normative religious judgments, Troeltsch espoused pluralism (8-9). Okholm and Phillips assert that the late twentieth century “has heightened the dialogue regarding other religions” (9). In the current pluralistic environment normative religious claims are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Likewise, arguments for the uniqueness and superiority of Christianity are not well received. They also point out that the differences between liberal inclusivists and pluralists are only a matter of degree (10). In fact, in recent decades some liberal leaders have crossed over to religious pluralism. The strong pull towards pluralism has also affected conservative Christianity as more within the conservative camp question whether explicit belief in Christ is always necessary for salvation (11). Pluralism as Presented by John Hick

Okholm and Phillips point out that John Hick “towers over all other pluralists in influence and renown” (13). Hick believes salvation must be understood in more general terms than Christianity has traditionally allowed. According to Hick, salvation should be understood as a human change—a gradual transformation from natural self-centeredness to a radically new God-centeredness (43). He calls this transformation “salvation/liberation” (44). Hick believes that all ethical religions lead to God and rejects the view that Christianity alone is superior or uniquely true. He opts for the view that “the God-figures of the great theistic religions are different human awarenesses of the Ultimate” (39). Presenting himself as a former Christian fundamentalist who is familiar with...
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