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Is Jesus the Only Savoir? Is Ronald H. Nash's opportunity to develop a passionate and well-developed argument answering yes: yes, Jesus is the only Savoir. However, Nash does not rest on the reader's understanding or experience of faith to make his case. The author takes a different approach, using logic and reason to explain that at least to a believer in Christ, there can be no other paradigm other than Christian absolutism. According to Nash, pluralism by its very definition violates the tenets inherent in the New Testament. It is therefore impossible for a theologian, especially a Christian one, to be a pluralist.
Nash's scapegoat, for better or worse, is John Hick. Hick is a theologian who has succumbed to the temptation of thinking pluralistically and who attempts to show that Jesus is in fact not the only savior. Nash picks apart Hick's argument by revealing the logical fallacies embedded within it. For example, in Chapter Five, "Pluralism and the Christian Understanding of Jesus Christ," Nash shows how pluralism and Christianity cannot coexist. "If A, then B.A. Therefore, B," (Nash 70). If the Christian Bible and the story of Christ is true, then it must follow that salvation depends on a belief in Christ. The only way to deny the latter (B) is to deny the former, because they coexist in logical progression.
In fact, this is the strongest case Nash makes against Hick's avowed pluralism. Nash does, however, use other arguments to pick apart the fallacy of pluralism and show his readers that it is not he, the author, that is saying this but that it is both reason and the Bible. For one, Nash notes, "a study of the literature reveals that religious thinkers who reject the possibility of revealed truth seldom bother to support their position with arguments," (13). This may or may not be true; it is unlikely that all pluralists or all atheists, for that matter, reject the use of rhetorical argument and debate to make their cases.
The purpose of Nash's writing Is Jesus the Only Savoir? is twofold: the author seeks to answer the central question that forms the title of the book. Nash also wishes to inform correct Christian pedagogy. For example, in the introduction of Is Jesus the Only Savior?, Nash states that "contemporary non-Orthodox theology" and "the theological mind-set in many departments of religion" are using false truths to guide their lessons on Christianity (13).
Hick's position is in keeping with the non-Orthodox and ill informed type of theological inquiry that is rotting the heart of religious seminaries. According to Nash, Hick has a "defective understanding of divine revelation and Scripture," (13). In other words, Hick denies the inherent validity of Scripture as God's Word. What Nash wants to know is, how is it possible to validate the Bible as being God's word and simultaneously reject the absolutism of Christ? It is, according to Nash, categorically impossible to hold the two truths together. Either one rejects the Bible entirely, or one believes fully that Jesus is the only Savoir. On this point, scripture is clear. Any casual glance at the Gospel shows that what Hick is saying is substantiated in the New Testament. The most concrete statement revealing the absoluteness of Christ is John 3:18: "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." Likewise, the Gospel of John is unequivocal about the central truth of Christ as Savoir. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," (John 14:6). What Nash is trying to say is, the Bible does not get much simpler. There is no other way of interpreting Scripture other than to value the Word of Christ.
Nash is not above assaulting the character of Hick in his diatribe against the English philosopher. For instance, Nash accuses Hick of being sympathetic with Eastern religion and not being true to the core tenets that shaped his religious sentiment in childhood. Essentially Nash is saying that Hick is not a good Christian, even as Hick himself claims to have been one. What's more, Nash also assaults Hick's religious philosophy by calling it a "disaster," (38). In Chapter Two, Nash also accuses Hick of trying to appease "militant, radical feminists," instead of reverting to the core truths of the Bible (51). The rejection of the Bible in favor of a modern, politically correct ethic reveals the author's commitment to Biblical literalism. It is this literalism that underscores Nash's argument throughout the book. Nash starts from a fundamental assumption: the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Theologians who reject the Bible as the Word of God are wrong, because the Word of God is right.
Besides outright character assault, Nash accuses Hick of using poor logic or no logic at all to substantiate his claims. For one, Nash accuses Hick of starting with a conclusion (all religions are equally good and Christianity is not special), and then seeking for various premises to support that conclusion rather than starting with several premises that are true (such as the Bible) and coming up with logical conclusions based on that truth.
Hick's methodology is relatively simple: he rejects Scripture. The first thing Nash notices is that Hick moves away from a Christ-centered world to a God-centered one that welcomes diversity of religious doctrine. The author accomplishes this goal in Chapter Two. Chapter Three extends the diatribe against Hick (for whether Nash is correct or not, his tone is angry and embittered) by referring to how Hick initially develops his philosophical stance vis-a-vis Immanuel Kant.
Chapter Four is Nash's attempt to delve deeper into the logical fallacies of Hick's argument. One logical fallacy Nash finds in Hick's brand of pluralism is simple. Hick tries to hold two competing claims at the same time. The endeavor is, as Nash puts it, "intellectual suicide," (55). Nash focuses especially on the fact that it is impossible to value the truth of Scripture while also holding in mind the competing notion that all religions are just different paths to the same goal. This New Age philosophy is certainly not Christian. Hick and other philosophers seduced by the New Age shun the use of logic when they try to squeeze religious pluralism (and relativism) into the same theological hat.
After noting that the religions of the world are meaningfully and qualitatively different, based on their clearly differential theologies and worldviews, Nash proceeds to Chapter Five's analysis: "Pluralism and the Christian Understanding of Jesus Christ." Here, Nash points out the meat of Hick's logical fallacy. Hick is too afraid to hurt feelings, or appear politically correct. Therefore, Hick rejects Christian absolutism because Christian absolutism suggests that all non-Christians in the world are being ineligible for salvation. Hick finds this suggestion unpalatable, and therefore he "must use every weapon at his disposal to deny such Christian doctrines as the deity of Christ, the Incarnation, and the Trinity," (70).
Finally, Nash accuses Hick of having an internally invalid argument. That is, Hick's argument is rooted in the philosophers use of bad sources to base his claims. Rather than citing directly from Scripture to talk about Scripture, Hick "relies on outdated critical theories" which have no relevance to Christian theology (91). Indeed, it is impossible for a religious scholar to retain credibility while relying on spurious sources. This would not be tolerated in world of science; it should also not be tolerated in the world of religion. Nash's astute observation coincides with the fact that the author recognizes that a conscious conspiracy of religious relativism and religious pluralism pervades academic discourse. Relativism might have its place in other subjects, but the realm of religion must, according to Nash, be exempt from it lest the arguments dissolve as soon as they are raised. Nash shows that to reject the fundamental tenet of Christian faith would be akin to rejecting the validity of the scientific method, or to reject the truth of sense-data in science. That which is most fundamental to the study of Christianity is the Bible, and any theological attempt to twist the Bible to suit politically correct agenda is false.
Chapter Six is Nash's summation of the various reasons for rejecting Hick's pluralism. Mainly, Nash claims that Hick's argument is built on the spurious premise of cultural and ethical relativism. There is no room for ethical relativism in Christianity, notes Nash. The assumption that Christian absolutism is intolerance for other religions is true on some levels, but as Nash points out, it is possible to not tolerate a lack of faith while holding other people with high moral regard, loving them, caring for them, and offering them a way to Christ. Nash's argument is based on Hick's lack of logic in his theological inquiry; his lack of reliable source texts for his theological inquiry; and his self-contradictory philosophies. The arguments contained…[continue]
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