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{See the first post for an overview. I am interacting with a book called: Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World.}

In this post I am interacting with John Hick’s pluralistic view. Pluralism is essentially the view that all ethical religions lead to God. It is the only view in the book that is clearly at odds with orthodox Christianity. John Hick includes his own personal story of his move from conservative evangelicalism to liberal Christianity and pluralism. (FYI: John Hick recently died. January 1922 – February 2012. Wikipedia article here on his life and work. He was very respected in his field.)

In his essay, Hick emphasizes that God exceeds the scope of human thought. He references various church fathers and Christian thinkers on how God transcends the human mind.  Yet, later on in his essay he expresses his extreme consternation that after fifteen centuries Christians still can’t clearly explain how Jesus had two separate but complete natures, one human and one divine. According to Hick, this vexing problem has never been satisfactorily answered. Therefore, he reduces the incarnation to metaphorical meaning only, and states Jesus is nothing more than a revered spiritual leader and role model.

He also does not hold an orthodox view of the Trinity, because this is also not rational. His view is that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply roles that God plays, similar to a persona on the ancient Roman stage. Unlike traditional Christian orthodoxy, he states his views are compatible with religious pluralism. He is right – they are compatible. He has a very watered down Christianity (that actually no longer qualifies as Christian), as he eliminated core Christian beliefs.

I observed, what seemed to me, a major contradiction in his essay: That he would be so vexed that orthodox beliefs about Christ’s dual nature and the Trinity can not be properly explained, and yet at the same time emphasize that God transcends and exceeds the human mind! Since God transcends human thought, it only seems natural that our finite human minds will not be able to explain or understand some of God’s attributes or characteristics! Right? I mean…God is God, and we are not. If we can reduce all aspects of God to purely rational human explanations, then we have brought God down to a human level and God is no longer infinite and transcendent.

Another aspect of Hick’s argument is that there are good and moral people in other religions.  Therefore, Christianity can not be considered unique in this regard. While I certainly agree that there are good and moral people in other religions, I also feel strongly that there actually is a unique aspect to the Christian faith in this regard.

The Christian worldview of the Imago Dei (that humans are made in the image of God) has led to Christians worldwide being involved in countless acts of selfless service helping the sick, orphaned, destitute, imperiled, addicted, homeless, or otherwise down and out. I think the Christian example has indirectly contributed to others reaching out to help as well. I agree wholeheartedly with a point made by Clark Pinnock in the book that much of these acts of service in the world are the fruit of the Christian gospel. Pinnock states that Eastern religions seem to produce stagnant societies, and Islam, intolerant ones. A case in point would be how it is typically Christians who go into India and help the poor and destitute.  Life is cheap, and there is little regard for life, in a Hindu religious system that revolves around karma and samsara. If you are suffering, it is what you deserve because of bad actions in a previous life. I know people who have come back from India extremely disturbed by what they observed there.

Pluralists seem to overlook or disregard the implications that stem from the worldviews that underlie the world religions.

(While it can’t be denied that Christianity has been used for ill purposes at certain times in history, this was a sad departure from Christian principles and not a reflection of genuine Christianity.)

Next post: here.

Update: Opiate of the Theologians  Article on universalism from First Things.