There is no other. Therefore the gospel must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. The church cannot compromise on its missionary task without ceasing to be the church. If it fails to see and to accept this responsibility, it is changing the gospel into something other than itself. Pluralists cross other bridges. One is the bridge of mystery. This step to mystery must surely be the last fatal step of pluralism.
The pluralist makes God a mystery and relativizes any claim to be the only way to that mystery. Stanley J. Samartha puts it this way:. That Jesus is the Christ of God is a confession of faith by the Christian community. To make exclusive claims for our particular tradition is not the best way to love our neighbors as ourselves. The suggestion is to regard human responses to the revelation of mystery as plural, both in their way of articulation and in their way of experiencing salvation.
But what is God like? Can we know this ultimate reality? Or does He remain an unknown God? Panikkar rejects the idea of finding a common core in the different religions of the world. He sees religions as rivers having their separate identities. The Christian vision of God, he says, is not the Hindu vision or the Buddhist vision. His conclusion is that religions are mutually incompatible and irreducible. This note of despair is captured by Tom Driver when he maintains that God is Himself pluralistic having different natures. The issue is, therefore, not simply that different religious traditions inadequately express who God is, but that there are real and genuine differences within the godhead itself.
God, therefore, has involved Himself in a variety of ways in different human communities. But do not Christians also speak of a mystery? God is knowable through creation; He is knowable through Jesus Christ. Knowledge of God is true while finite; mystery remains because God is infinite. But of those who seek God through unaided reason rationalism , or through the imaginative creativity of human religious consciousness mysticism , or through spiritual disciplines without Christ moralism , God remains remote, a mystery, a hidden God.
Outraged by the suffering of the oppressed in the world, pluralists set the criterion by which to judge a religion, which is the commitment to social justice and human liberation. The goal of religions, according to Knitter, is to fire up liberation movements. All are to engage in the problem of humanizing existence in the modern world. This process of humanization is the final stage in an evolutionary process for the pluralist theology theologian.
Inter-religious dialogue is not to be centered on Christ or God, but on the different ways of liberating the oppressed in the world. The claims for authenticity can only be made on the basis of praxis , or doing the truth.
It is questionable whether a unity can be found in what doing the truth means. What is patent is that in pluralism, evangelism has little priority; salvation as social liberation becomes the center.
More significantly, one needs to ask why abstract words such as justice, love and liberation have a more ultimate status as a criterion than the concrete life of Jesus Christ in His perfections expressed in human history? One can only agree with John Stott and his affirmation:. We should therefore be ashamed that evangelical Christians during this century have tended to be in the rearguard, instead of in the vanguard, of social reformers. We have no quarrel with the proposal to assess religions, including Christianity, according to their social record, since we claim that the gospel is the power of God to transform both individuals and communities.
While rejecting the major tenets of pluralism, evangelical Christians affirm some of its goals. We affirm the need to seek greater understanding of the religions of the world; we agree that we can learn from inter-religious dialogue; we reject a colonial imperialistic mind set; and we affirm a concern for global harmony and for social justice in all the world. But we also affirm the cruciality of witnessing to Jesus as the only Savior who through his life, death and resurrection opens the way to God!
We believe in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ because of his claims and because of the testimony of the apostles. We challenge all to examine his life and His perfections. Jesus claims a unique identity with the Father and a unique mission in the world, namely to reveal God to all humanity. The universal invitation which follows this remarkable statement is a call to come to him personally, to receive him, trust in him, enjoy him and receive rest from him.
Unlike other leaders of world religions Jesus speaks of a staggering intimate relationship to God. Toward the end of His ministry Jesus made another stupendous claim. Through his death and resurrection Jesus in his own person became the way to God. Entrance to that way means embracing him, identifying with him. Salvation is Christocentric!
Jesus frequently addressed the truth question in religion. Title: Christian America? Volume I. Volume II. The Development Paul F. Dave ; Spinks, Professor Bryan D. A Author: Tengan, Alexis B. Thomas Aquinas , [Yr: ]. Title: Christ in Art , [Yr: ]. Title: Christ Jesus , [Yr: ]. Author: Clement of Alexandria; Wood, C. Title: Christchurch Port of Call , [Yr: ]. Title: Christe Eleison!
Author: Hughes, Richard T. Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated. Kraemer , Therefore, religion is, to Kraemer , not a genuine path to God, but misguided human endeavor. Because of his pessimistic stance regarding the validity of human reason, Kraemer's view is vulnerable to the critical attack that its end would be skepticism or exclusivism.
The ontological judgment of religious phenomena for these two paradigms is derived from and related to their ethical aspects. Kraemer's exclusive view, based on his insistence upon man's total depravity, may easily lead to the criticism that it posits a morally incorrect attitude and behavior. This sort of moral attack comes primarily from the pluralist camp with its humanistic perspective.
Pluralists conceive of exclusivists as arrogant and imperialistic because they believe their religious doctrines to be ultimately true and others' ultimately untrue. John Hick denounces the errors he believes are propagated by exclusivism:. This conviction [exclusivism], with its baleful historical influence in validating centuries of anti-Semitism, the colonial exploitation by Christian Europe of what today we call the third world, and the subordination of women within a strongly patriarchal religious system, not only cause misgivings among many Christians but also alarms many of our non-Christian neighbors, creating invisible but powerful barriers within the human community.
Hick a, viii. But pluralism's morality is not guaranteed by its insistence upon a universal human morality. Rather, its embracing universalism--universal salvation of humanity--is problematic. Its non-theistic approaches to the "Real," shown in its soteriological perspective, ultimately leads to immorality. John Sanders powerfully criticizes it:.
If the words "God will save" are to have any meaning, they must have a particular content. When Hick and Knitter claim that God will save all, do they have a Christian understanding of God and salvation in mind? If so, then they are not true pluralists: they are smuggling in a Christian conception and making it definitive. If not, then what exactly do they mean? If they are genuinely including Hinduism or Buddhism, then they are radically altering the Christian understanding of the assertion that "God will save," since these non-theistic Eastern religions posit a non-personal God who cannot do anything and a non-individualistic existence after death that is quite different from the Christian conception Pluralists such as Hick remove the God of Christianity via the front door with much fanfare only to smuggle him quietly in the back door, and it is for this reason that they are not successful in completing the revolution from a Christo-centric to a theo-centric theology.
Sanders , Hick proposes a definition of religion as "an understanding of the universe," because it involves reference beyond the natural world to God Hick a, Above those general illustrations about the function of religions, Hick tries to put his pluralistic reflection on this functional view of religion. Religion "works" as a means of God's revelation. In this regard, all religions function in their own distinct ways. This means that the different world religions have each served as God's means of revelation to a different stream of human life. Hick a, If religion is "God's means of revelation" and a "way of salvation," then how is God to be known within various religions?
To answer this question, it is necessary to examine Hick's understanding of revelation. Hick does not use the term "revelation" exclusively, nor does he give a clear definition of it. However, he explains the nature and content of it from time to time. Kraemer expresses his understanding of revelation , which he likes to express as "Biblical realism. It is the focal point of his revelational activity Kraemer , , , Other modes of his revelatory works in nature, history or conscience, which scientific researchers argue are God's revelation in other religions, are of a different order.
These modes, therefore, according to Kraemer, may not be called "revelation" or even "general revelation. To Hick , the Bible is not the "revelation of God ," but a "record of the stream of revelatory events" Hick a, Inspiration, which he refers to as the "faith of the biblical writer," makes the Bible differ from a secular historical record.
The uniqueness of the Bible is not due to any unique mode or quality of its writing but to the unique significance of the events of which it is original documentary expression, which became revelatory through the faith of the biblical writers. As such the Bible mediates the same revelation to subsequent generations and is thus itself revelatory in a secondary sense, calling in its own turn for a response of faith. Because Hick clings to a non-propositional view of revelation, especially concerning the Bible, he denies the exclusive manifestation of God's revelation.
To him, any religious tradition has the same degree of authenticity as others, and therefore, differences cannot support religious exclusivism Hick , Therefore, for Hick, the revelation is that which in a wider sense does not necessarily entail divinely disclosed propositions or miraculous interventions in the course of human history, but in which is found all authentic religious awareness in a response to the presence and pressure of the divine Reality. Hick , The difference in the epistemological presuppositions of these two paradigms is advanced in their ontological understanding of religious phenomena: one statement -- the appearance of religious phenomena does not supply the guidance to God -- vs.
For Hick, all religions are ways to humanity's salvation. He insists "the great religions are all, at their experiential roots, in contact with the same ultimate divine reality" Hick , In Hick's pluralistic schema, the different religious traditions, in their variegated doctrines and practices, actually center upon the same subject. This implies that all religions, or any kind of religious phenomena of humanity, are valid and valuable appearances. These two paradigms on the TOR manifest in their philosophical presuppositions different beliefs.
Figure 2 clearly demonstrates their different presuppositions. Sources of Religious Knowledge. God and the Bible. The Bible and other religious literature. Starting Point of Religious Epistemology. God and his revelation. Humankind and their existence. Ontological Status of Religion. Religion is a human endeavor. Religious phenomena - not guarantee guidance to God. Religion is the legitimate way to the Reality. Human Condition. Man's disposition is basically bad. Man's disposition - naturally good. Figure 2. Kraemer's theo-centric understanding of Christ appears to reflect the situation of the mission field.
Only an exclusive understanding of the Logos concept can make clear the message of the Christian gospel cf. John Kraemer insists that Jesus Christ is not only the "subjective" criterion of the truth, but also the "objective" criterion. On this point, he does not accept the existential view of faith, with its emphasis upon the subjectivity of faith and revelation Kraemer , Methodologically, Kraemer prefers the " Christology from Above" view, though he did not mention it specifically.
His Christology was, in its character, "theo-centric," emphasizing the divinity of Christ without ignoring Christ's human nature. He quoted biblical passages mostly from the Apostles John and Paul. Hick , however, in his methodology of Christology, prefers the search for the historical Jesus , concentrating largely on Jesus' humanity. Hick criticizes traditional Christology as not being authorized by Jesus himself, believing the religious-cultural milieu of the early church as having provided its manner of expression, and asserting that the meaning of the dogma has never been shown to have any precise meaning Hick a, 49; cf.
What, then, is the content of Hick's "revised" Christology? Following the lead of D. Baillie and G. Lampe, Hick introduces his "inspiration" Christology Hick a, 35ff. His "inspiration" Christology can be analyzed as follows:. First, Hick describes Christ as the highest degree or example of grace-inspired humanity. As a human being, Jesus, throughout his life, reflected God's grace.
In other words, Hick insists that in Jesus, God's love, agape , was incarnated, and Jesus' spirit was inspired by God's grace Hick a, Jesus is the fullest or most complete realization of human life as it is meant to be lived by the divine inspiration of God's spirit Hick a, Second, in Hick's Christology, Christ is understood in a functional rather than an ontological sense. Jesus is, according to Hick, a man of the Spirit who is a model of human response to God's principal activity. He exemplifies human life thoroughly lived in faith and freedom within the grace and inspiration of God Hick a, Third, the "inspiration" Christology implies that Jesus' exemplification might also be found and verified by observation and judgment in other religious traditions.
Jesus' exemplification of divine inspiration does not lay a priori claim to the superiority of Christianity in relation to the other world religions.
Who Can Be Saved? Randolph Tate. Millard J. Often, there is a crude attempt to divert attention from the collapse of the Enlightenment vision by implying that religious pluralism represents a new and unanswerable challenge to Christianity itself. Handbook for Biblical Interpretation.
It allows for historical observation and evaluation to decide if this highest degree of inspired life represented in Jesus is also discovered and exemplified in other religious saviors or traditions Hick b, ; a, Finally, the goal and direction of Hick's Christology are to correct the Christian faith by promoting both pluralistic spirit and vision, thereby renouncing the claim of its uniqueness. Hick suggests:.
Hick b, The greater conflict between these two paradigms on the TOR is clearly manifested in their differing understandings of the divinity of Christ. For Kraemer, the divinity of Christ is the unshakable foundation and "the absolutely distinctive and peculiar and unique element" of Christianity Kraemer , Kraemer and Hick, these two experts of religious study, reflect well prior centuries' theological debates in their respective TOR.
Christ's Divinity. Jesus' Humanity. Jesus Christ is totally human. Jesus Christ himself is fully God. Jesus himself denied his deity; to assert it is "blasphemous". Jesus is a religious leader.
Figure 3. Paradigmatic Comparison: Christology. The character of Kraemer's soteriology is exclusive because it demands an explicit belief in Jesus Christ alone as leading to salvation Kraemer , This is why his thinking is labeled as "exclusivism" by many scholars Newbigin ; Conn ; Scheid Hick argues that the central tenet of Christianity as a "way of life" is its self-perception as a way of salvation.
The teaching of Jesus is presented as "a Way" Hick a, The Christian way is a practical way of life, but it is not simply an ethic as many modernists understand. The important element of this Way is "belief or faith" Hick a, , expressed in the activity of worship. But this expressive activity, according to Hick, has been changed in its form, organization or worship, according to the influence of its immediate environment.
Nevertheless, there is the unchanging element that is to be found in the originating event. In this event Christian faith sees God acting self-revealingly for the salvation of the world. It is the "Christ-event" Hick a, Both paradigms propose a decree of God in which is expressed his salvific will toward fallen humankind. But they differ in dealing with God's action in achieving his purpose. First, they disagree over the definition of the word "salvation.
Two different views of the salvation of humanity are based upon and derived from their understanding of human nature. For Kraemer, humanity is fallen and corrupted , having definitely lost its sensus divinitatis. It cannot save itself nor rightly recognize its problematic nature, being separated from God by personal sin. Humanity needs God's action and God's Mediator for salvation.
God's loving intervention is the unique hope of humankind. But for Hick, humans are autonomous beings. There is no "original fall" or the like; hence human nature itself is basically good. It does not need any mediator nor God's action. Humankind can save itself by its own right response to the Reality.
Such contrasting interpretations of the nature of humanity require different provisions for salvation. For Kraemer, the "atonement" is inevitably necessary for the "restoration," in which God's initiative is involved. However, for Hick, there is no need of any redemptive work by a mediator nor for a mediator at all, inasmuch as humanity transforms itself by itself into the "likeness of God" Hick b, Another contrast between these two views of soteriology is the understanding of faith.
For Hick, Christians' faith in Christ , evidenced by serving him as God Incarnate, is very subjective. On this point, he basically agrees with the existential view of faith. Hick interprets the inspiration given to biblical authors as their faith in Jesus. Therefore, inspiration also is a very subjective response on the part of the biblical authors. In contrast to Hick, Kraemer , though not denying there is a subjective element in the char acter of faith, claims that faith in Christ also possesses objectivity Kraemer , As a final observation upon these differing soteriologies, the subject of salvific operation in these two paradigms on the TOR is evidently different.
For Kraemer, God and God alone is the subject of salvation, inasmuch as only he can perform the "restoration" or heil of humankind. To him, the decisive factor in determining who is to be saved is the sovereign grace of God. On this point, Kraemer's soteriology, from a theological standpoint, corresponds well to the Calvinistic or Reformed perspective of soteriology.
For Hick, however, since humanity has some sense of divinity in its nature, humankind itself controls the operation of salvation. Thus a Calvinistic doctrine such as predestination is, for Hick, merely a product of religious elitism and cannot "claim to represent the message of the great spiritual traditions" Hick , Figure 4 shows how greatly these two paradigms differ in their understanding of salvation and its operation. Nature of Man. Humanity is fallen and corrupted.
Humans are autonomous beings; no "original sin". Nature of Salvation. Salvation is the "restoration" of the lost normal, original divine order of life. It is maximization of human nature's potentiality.
Provision for Salvation. Humanity's self-deification. Nature of Faith. Faith is both subjective and objective. Faith is subjective.
Decisive Factor or Role. God's sovereign grace. The individual's personal decision. Figure 4. Paradigmatic Comparison: Soteriology. One of the important things in Kraemer's ecclesiology is his distinction between historical Christianity, which he generally expresses as "empirical Christianity," and the true invisible Church, which he sometimes refers to as "biblical revelation," "true Christianity," or " biblical realism " Kraemer , ; , ; , The content of "empirical Christianity" is the "mixture of 'true' Christians and Christians in name" Kraemer , The latter, nominal human expression of spiritual life can be brought into line with the other religions in some aspects like psychological, moral or mystical phenomena Kraemer , Therefore, Kraemer does not deny the possibility that "the demonic aspect of religion" could appear within "empirical Christianity" Kraemer , , Nevertheless, the Christian Church is in a special position, differentiating it from non-Christian religions Kraemer , The unique element of the Christian Church is "the fact of Jesus Christ," who invites humanity to genuine communion with God.
Though the Christian Church itself is not the standard or criterion of truth - Christ is - it is constantly called and standing under the direct influence of God's revelation in Christ Kraemer , The Church must keep its unique character, so that it does not lose its element of uniqueness in a multi-religious society.
Though its mode of expression may at times be similar to other religious societies, its meaning differs radically. The Christian Church, according to the conception of the New Testament, is a community sui generis. The unique character of the Christian Church is entirely misunderstood if it is conceived as a welfare or goodwill society on a religious basis. The unique character and position of the Church definitively implies its missionary obligation. The Church is the center of missions. The Church, as an official institution, must be aware of its essential missionary character because it exists for the sake of the Lord of the world and not for its own sake Kraemer , 34; , The church is, rightly understood, the greatest agency for continual change and renewal of the world and its life, for it obeys a Lord who is the "hidden" Lord of the world, and who is bent upon the redemption and renewal of the world, of this world.
For Kraemer, the primary interest of the Christian Church is its mission toward other religions. According to Hick , though the Christ-event serves as the origin of Christianity, there is a fundamental problem in understanding it, inasmuch as it only happened once, and is not reconstructible, i. Only the reports of the witnesses, the New Testament writers, remain. Because of the difficulty of historical reconstruction, according to Hick, different Christian circles have understood Jesus very differently Hick a, Those with faith in the Christ-event interpreted it under the influence of the religious environment within their immediate community.
They formed doctrines, intellectually fixed systems of beliefs and diverse terminologies. Their theological systems, as diversifications of the modes of Christian thought, developed through a complex interaction between religious and non-religious factors. Therefore, according to Hick, Christian systems of beliefs, or theologies, are ever changing.
Christian theology is part of the culturally and historically conditioned response to the Christ-event. Only the essence of Christianity, which is the way of life and salvation originating in the Christ-event, will continually exist as the Way Hick a, Christianity is an open-ended history that has taken diverse forms in diverse circumstances as well as heralding the way of salvation.
Hick himself confesses his faith in the uniqueness of the Christ-event. I believed that God has made himself known to mankind with unique fullness and saving power in Christ, and has ordained that all men must come to him through Christ Hick a, However, this way of Christianity is not the unique way of salvation. According to his "Copernican revolution" in the TOR, this kind of salvation can be found outside Christianity. The position and role of the Christian Church is described differently in these two theological paradigms. For Kraemer, who accepted the traditional understanding of the nature of the Church, it is to be distinguished from the world, advancing its spiritual nature over the world.
Thus the Church is "the apostolic body" Kraemer , 17 and is commissioned to proclaim the message of God , For Hick, however, while accepting the validity of Christianity's confession and faith Hick a, , there is a denial of its unique nature a, To him, the Church is a faith community such as other religious congregations. Therefore, according to Hick, the role or contribution of the Christian Church, from his pluralistic view, is partial and insufficient as a guide for the salvation of humankind.
The priority of the functions for the Church is different between the two paradigms, as well. For Kraemer, the supreme function of the Church is evangelism; for Hick, the humanistic service is the most important role of the Church. Actually, Hick denies the evangelistic task of the Church. Their understanding of the Church's position in the pluralist society makes for a strong contrast. In Kraemer's view, the Church is the unique container of God's revelation.
According to Hick's view, however, the Christian Church is merely one of many religious organizations in the world. This differing understanding of the Church's position is linked to the content of the message that the Church will deliver. According to Kraemer, the Church's message to the non-Christian religions is one of "conversion to Christ. Thus the Church needs to maintain an ecumenical spirit.
That is what he suggests through his biblical realism Kraemer , ; , and the Church must be obedient to the Word of God. In contrast, Hick's suggestion to the Christian Church is implied in the title of his " Copernican revolution " that the Christian Church abandon traditional doctrines and its exclusive truth-claim. Christians must give up their prejudiced "ecclesio-centric" understanding of religions Hick a, In other words, the Christian Church must radically change its attitude from one of absoluteness to one of relativeness in the face of religious pluralism Hick , 86; , Figure 5 summarizes how significant the difference is between these two paradigms in their understandings of ecclesiology.
Nature of the Church. The Church is the sole agency of God. The Church is a faith community that was influenced by Jesus' life.
Role or Function. The Church is commissioned by God to proclaim his message. The Christian Church is one of many faith communities, a response to the divine Reality. The Church's Position. The Church is the unique container of divine revelation. The Church, as one of many religious organizations, needs. The Church's. Primary Task. Humanistic service. The Church's Message for. Conversion to Christ and regeneration. Charitable cooperation. Ideal Model of the. Figure 5. Pradigmatic Comparison: Ecclesiology. All religious phenomena, according to Hick, are encounters "with the one infinite reality" Hick a, In other words, all religions are responding to the one God, the one Divine Reality or Absolute.
Therefore, for Hick, every religious expression is relative. But this relativity neither means that every expression is true, nor that all is equal. Hick himself argues that religious phenomena can be graded Hick , But this grading can be applied only to their religious phenomena.
Grading of great world religions as totalities is impossible, because the human mind cannot weigh up and compare their merits as systems of salvation Hick , In summary, Hick's "Copernican revolution" in the TOR implies that Christians must respect the ways and systems of other religions, rather than claim exclusive validity for their own way and system. Second, according to Hick, this Copernican revolution is required not only for the Christian, but also for the adherents of other great religions of the world Hick a, In other words, every religion must take off its attitude of Ptolemaic thought which assumes that its own system is alone fully true and that all the others are more or less true according as they approximate to or diverge from it.
Each Ptolemaic theology of great religions tends to posit its center on the basis of the accidents of cultural geography a, Therefore, it must be aware of its historical relativity. Hick develops his argument based on this insistence: namely, that any conversion from one religion to another, including that of Christianity, could not have been successful in the past Hick a, What then is the valid theory to which this Copernican revolution points?
Na , On this new map, the different religions will constitute a global religious life. The relationship between these religions will be like the appearance between the different denominations of Christianity today. What, then, is the implication for Christian missions of this "Copernican revolution" in theology? According to Hick , Christianity has the right to claim its distinctiveness, but it must be practiced under the "pluralistic vision. For each of the great traditions has developed its own absolute claim which in principle relegates other relations and ways of salvation to a secondary status.
To varying extent the kind of rethinking that is going on fairly vigorously within Christianity is also going on within the other major traditions; and the gradually emerging outcome will be a new pluralistic world consciousness. But the rethinking has to be done within each tradition, developing its own resources in the direction of the pluralistic vision. In other words, the mission of Christianity in a pluralistic society is, first, to abandon its claim of absoluteness, and second, to take off the ego-centric or exclusive understanding of salvation and recognize that its way is not the only way but one way of many ways Hick , 53,86; a, Since Hick's TOR claims a pluralistic view of the religions, the inter-religious or inter-faith dialogue is an inevitable and important subject in the theological paradigm.
According to Hick, theological dialogue comprises a spectrum ranging between two extremes: "confessional dialogue" and "truth-seeking dialogue" Hick , Hick introduces Hendrik Kraemer as the representative of the Christian "confessional" attitude. But this attitude, Hick argues, can only result either in conversion or in a hardening of differences a, Ideal patterns of dialogue must be accompanied by the possibility of mutual change.
In order for dialogue to be mutually fruitful, lesser changes than total conversion must be possible and must be hoped for on both or all sides a, Hick argues that Christians may engage in dialogue with a changed attitude in which they perceive themselves not "as adherents of historical Christianity but simply as adherents of Jesus" Hick a,