Isaiah, Jonah, and Religious Pluralism -- By: Wayne G. Strickland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 153:609 (Jan 1996)
Article: Isaiah, Jonah, and Religious Pluralism
Author: Wayne G. Strickland


Isaiah, Jonah, and Religious Pluralism

Wayne G. Strickland

[Wayne G. Strickland is Chairman of the Bible and Theology Department, Multnomah Bible College, Portland, Oregon.]

With the church’s concern for the lost, nagging questions such as these often have been raised: What about those in other cultures who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? What about ancestors who never heard of Christ?1 Do all roads lead to heaven? Can other religions provide salvation? Do non-Christian religions have any redemptive truth? Should Christians continue to insist on the uniqueness of Christ in the pluralist “global community”?

These questions seem to have led to a reevaluation of the traditional evangelical position known as exclusivism. The philosophical basis for this reevaluation is the relativism introduced by Immanuel Kant, who denied the possibility of validation of absolute truth claims regarding the metaphysical. This perspective was expounded in Hick and Knitter’s The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, which demanded that Christians give up their claim to the uniqueness of Christ.2 However, the question is more fundamental than the soteriological issue raised by pluralism. As Newbigin has noted, the central issue in the debate is the “abandonment of the belief that it is possible to know the truth.”3 Many who adopt inclusivistic or relativistic models reject the

evangelical doctrine of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, including the claims of Jesus Christ.4

Don Richardson, who holds the evangelical doctrine of biblical inspiration, opened the door to such reevaluation in his book Eternity in Their Hearts. On the basis of general revelation he argued that non-Christian religions are redemptive (i.e., they contribute to the redemption of a people) and may lead to salvation although they are not in and of themselves redeeming, apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.5 Similarly Norman Anderson, who has worked for many years among Muslims, represents the growing trend toward reevaluation of the exclusivist model: “I cannot believe that all those who have never heard the gospel are inevitably lost.”6 Packer concurs that a devotee of another religion might through general revelation experience salvation without the explicit message of the gospel.

The answer seems to be yes, it might be true, as it may well ha...

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