Pluralist's View of Salvation Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Jesus the Only Savior?

Part I Pluralism

It must first be noted that the author, Ronald H. Nash, was a Calvinist/Baptist philosopher and apologist and a professor on theology and history for more than four decades. He earned many more honors and occupied more positions than will open him to questioning as to his vast knowledge of the theological discipline.

His book introduces the philosophies surrounding salvation, i.e., exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. The first Part of the book discusses pluralism, which argues that all religions offer all men a way to salvation. Nash replies most adequately to the repudiation of pluralism, as presented by John Hicks, its most influential proponent, and inclusivism. Pluralists, like Hicks, and inclusivists wage ferocious attacks against the long-held Biblical doctrine of Christianity that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, as explicitly stated in John 14:6. Pluralism holds that there are many paths to salvation and inclusivism concurs that Jesus is the only Savior for all people but argues that salvation is still attainable without knowing Him explicitly. Nash and fellow exclusivists, in contrast, maintain that Jesus is the only way to the Father and to attain salvation, as belief in Him is the only condition for it.

The first six chapters evaluate the work of John Hicks, whom Nash acknowledges as possessing prominent standing among teachers and writers on world religions.

This was why ideas about Christianity and world religions are evaluated or even screened through Hick's teachings.

His admirers like Robert Smid and Keith Ward acknowledged him as among the most, if not the most, "significant religious philosopher of the last century" and "the greatest living philosopher on global religion."

He drew his philosophy from his deep involvement in interfaith and non-Christian groups. In his works, "More than One Way?" And "God and the Universe of Faiths," Hicks wrote about other peoples of other faiths who believed in and practiced the same principles and morality that Christians do. This created an uneasy feeling in him and led him to question why a supposedly loving God would discriminate against non-Christians and sentence them to eternal punishment for belonging to non-Christian faiths.

But Nash is firm on his position that Christians who would adhere to pluralism cease to be Christians and pledge themselves to "a version of non-Christian faith."

In earlier pages, Nash succinctly more than repudiates pluralism as directly opposed to the Christian doctrine of salvation in Christ alone. He writes that pluralism is also "unthinkable."

He discusses and investigates the two stages of the development of Hick's philosophy then summarizes his views on salvation, on truth and Jesus Christ.

Readers must be reminded or informed about Hick's Copernician view of salvation. Hick proposes an alternative to a Christ-centered concept of religion with a mere God-centered one in the same design as the solar system. Nash describes this proposed substitution as "a philosophical and theological disaster."

And while Nash admits that Hick's philosophy enchants and influences many, Hick's pluralism teems with many serious flaws and is not at all a responsible alternative to the Christian faith.

He initially attempted to convince others of the reasonableness of what he advocated by starting with unbiased premises and proceeding to some logical conclusions about pluralism. His often-mentioned and classic example was that God is unknowable. Yet he also taught that God saves out of divine love. Nash sharply counters this reasoning and exposed its inconsistency. If Hick believed that God is unknowable, he then could not possibly know that God is love. It was clear to Nash that Hick wanted to either rescue his proposition on the unknowability of God or resolve the inconsistencies Nash exposed. Hick was aware that pluralism would collapse if anything about God's character could be known. If the belief in One personal God is proved true, belief in many gods or in the world as God can only be false. These beliefs cannot be viewed equally reasonable and acceptable. By asserting that God is unknowable, Hick actually admitting knowing at least that He exists and that He is unknowable. The mere assertion of God's unknowability is an admission of knowing something about Him, which is that He is not knowable. The other assertion that Hick made that contradicts pluralism is his very appeal to the love of God as the basis of the availability of salvation for all religions. Claiming the existence of God's love is another proof of Hick's knowing something about God whom he claims is not knowable.

Hand-in-hand with this failed claim of unknowability, Hick argues that a loving God must make salvation available to all religions and therefore, non-exclusive. And that His love is both personal and impersonal in an effort at embracing all religions and making salvation open equally to all of them. His pluralism possesses the distinction of tolerance. But Nash counters this by asserting that an all-loving God must be personal. If Hick insists on God being personal, his pluralism would cease to be global or universal because it would exclude those with non-personalistic views of God, like the pantheists. And if he changes his mind and says that God is, after all, non-personal, he would be excluding a number of religions like Judaism, Islam and Christianity itself, which worship a personal God. Pluralism per se is supposed to be tolerant towards all religions and Hick's dual claim of God being both personal and impersonal in advocating inclusivism necessarily falls.

Nash delineates that Hick's argument violates the Law of Non-Contradiction by refuting that God cannot be personal and impersonal at the same time. His use of a concrete law of reasoning illustrates his proper use of discourse. He continues to elaborate on the Laws and their necessity to the conduct of rational discourse. He straightway declares that the consistent rejection of absolutes of any system of belief must mean a rejection to the truths professed by that system. This exposes pluralism's denial of the Law of Non-Contradiction in itself as a denial of the truths it holds. The serious reader can make this inference from Nash's lines. .

Hick must have discovered the weaknesses of the first stage of his philosophy and changed his mind. In the first stage, he pressed for the elimination of Christ at the center of religion and the replacing Him with God. In the 80s, he developed the second stage of his pluralism, which placed salvation at the center. When salvation is used to test the authenticity of a religion, what matters is how salvation is defined and understood. He experimented on the various applications of this new method. If salvation is illumination, then Buddhism is the only true religion that saves If it means unity with the One Universal Deity, then only Hinduism can save. And if salvation requires repentance, forgiveness and justification by a Savior, then only Christianity can save. But this muddles the issue much more. What if a society believes that forming a classless society, infanticide, mass murders, or idolatry would mean salvation? There are just too many interpretations as there are individuals on what saves. Hick's attempts at a borderless salvation of ultimate human fulfillment can only lead to disaster and annihilation at the worst.

He attempts some more by suggesting that all proper forms of salvation necessarily exhibit a common movement from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness. But this concept is at best a simplistic one. And the issue of what saves has for ages and in cultures never been a simple one. Religions not only conflict with one another on the understanding of what is ultimate and the human condition and the means of being delivered completely from this condition.

Hick's pluralism also toys with the truth and religious doctrines. He reduces them into mere subjective experiences, which transform the individual. Christ's resurrection, for example, and in Hick's mind, is not an objective event and is true only if it changes something in the believer's spiritual state. He cannot reduce or alter the very significant and very real meanings of events among the religions of the world the religious experiences. The real difference among religions lies in their respective doctrines and pluralism cannot underplay doctrines as irrelevant or merely subjective. Almost all religions correctly believe that authentic doctrines are basic to the attainment of salvation. Acts 16:31 and John 3:16 state this position very clearly and non-Christian religions have parallel doctrines to these.

Nash discusses how pluralism accuses exclusivists, such as Christians, of immorality through intolerance. Christianity, in particular, is accused of arrogance and intolerance for the boastful claim that all incompatible religious beliefs are necessarily false. Yet the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus make the very same claim. Intolerance is not an automatic consequence of exclusivism.

Geographic and cultural conditioning in the choice of religious belief is another ground for Hick's rejection of exclusivism. Hick implies that what peoples of a certain region believe in as a result of culture must be true and what others in other regions believe in…

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