Buddha, Shiva, and Muhammad: Theistic Faith in Other Religions? -- By: Winfried Corduan

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 02:2 (Summer 1998)
Article: Buddha, Shiva, and Muhammad: Theistic Faith in Other Religions?
Author: Winfried Corduan

Buddha, Shiva, and Muhammad:
Theistic Faith in Other Religions?

Winfried Corduan

Winfried Corduan is Professor of Philosophy at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. He is the author of several books, including Handmaid to Theology, Mysticism: An Evangelical Option? and No Doubt About It, and is a regular contributor to scholarly journals. His most recent book is Neighboring Faiths, a volume on world religions.

What is the destiny of the unevangelized? Clark H. Pinnock has argued that a person who has not had the opportunity to hear the gospel and so has not exercised explicit conscious faith in Christ may yet partake of the effect of Christ’s atonement for salvation.1 Pinnock supports his case with a number of arguments,2 only a minor one of which is the presence of true and noble beliefs found in non-Christian religions.

In this paper I will respond to some of Pinnock’s references to non-Christian religions. In these references Pinnock attempts to show that there are some aspects of some religions which offer a potential for fruitful faith in God. I will show that Pinnock distorts the content of these religions in order to provide more common ground than there really is. In the process, however, it becomes apparent that Pinnock does not really need these cases because his subjective understanding of salvific faith overrides the objective content anyway.

Pinnock appeals to four specific areas of rapprochement with biblical theism: the teachings of the Buddha, particularly with regard to nirvana; the Jodo Shin-Shu school of Buddhism and the free grace of Amida Buddha; the Shaivite school of Bhakti Hinduism with its emphasis on an all-pervasive divine love; and the teachings of Muhammad in reaffirming monotheism.3 None of these four cases is as helpful as Pinnock would like them to be.

I approach Pinnock’s work, and my response to his views on salvation in other religions, with a few presuppositions. I believe that goodness can be found in other religions, and that God has given witness to His existence outside of Scripture. However, neither of these have the weight with which Pinnock invests them. I present these presuppositions because I want the reader to understand these underlying basic beliefs through which I interact with Pinnock’s work.

Presupposition A: Goodness in other Religions

We need not question whether there can be good and true beliefs in other religions. Of course there are. Many religions present helpful insights into some aspect of life or command importa...

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