The Religious Pluralism Of John Hick: A Critical Response To His Philosophical Argument -- By: Douglas E. Potter
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The Religious Pluralism Of John Hick: A Critical Response To His Philosophical Argument
The problem of religious pluralism concerns the question of truth among the great world religions. This at least includes Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Simply put, which religion is true? Or to offer the question on a more personal level, which religion contains true beliefs that will lead one to salvation or liberation? Within Christian theology three traditional answers have been offered to answer this question: exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. Exclusivism answers that Christianity is the only true religion and that salvation is confined to Christians. Inclusivism asserts that one religion is true (i.e., Christianity), or has more truth than the others, but other belief systems are partially true, and ultimately salvation is achievable outside Christianity, even outside the great world faiths. Pluralism responds that all religions are true, and salvation is achievable in their own different approaches.
For quite some time Professor John Hick has championed an
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argument for religious pluralism. While not escaping criticism,1 he has found popular as well as scholarly acceptance for his position. One defense is presented in his book A Christian Theology of Religion.2 This work offers an introductory argument and then develops a fictional dialogue between a philosopher, a theologian, and the author. In this article some of the main philosophical arguments presented by Hick for religious pluralism are explained and a critical response is offered.
John Hick’s Philosophical Reason for Religious Pluralism
John Hick’s philosophical reason for religious pluralism is offered in the form of an observation that reduces all religions to common truth–claiming ground. That is, all religions seem to make an explicit or implicit claim to be true. However, upon observing the central beliefs of religions, one finds that they contradict each other. Hick believes a solution can emerge that solves the question of religious pluralism. In other words, since no religion (including Christianity) has a superior truth claim, then the main difficulty left is to account for their fundamental contradictions. It is worth mentioning that Hick makes two prior points regarding all great religions.3 He attempts to demonstrate that there is no superior moral or salvific ground that establishes one religion over another. These points may be important to Hick’s total argument that attempts to eliminate e...
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