Pluralism


J.W. Wartick has a nice article on the failure of religious pluralism. He makes the point that while religious pluralists want to affirm all religions as being valid, they can only do so at the expense of charging all religions as false. It’s quite the paradox, similar to hitting people to demonstrate your love for them.

While pluralists charge all religious traditions as false in order to affirm them, their own views are presented as objective truth. They do not claim to know the true nature of the Transcendent anymore than the next guy, but they do claim to be the only ones who know the true nature of religion. How convenient.

Inclusivism is the doctrine that while no one can be saved apart from Christ, one need not have conscious faith in Christ to be saved.  So, for example, while a good Buddhist may not trust in Christ for his salvation, since he is a good Buddhist Christ applies the merits of His substitutionary atonement to him. 

The NT is opposed to inclusivism.  It is quite clear that one must exercise conscious faith in Christ to experience salvation: 

John 3:14-18  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, [15] that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. [16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [18] Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

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Many people think religious claims are untestable, making it impossible to make an objective, reasoned choice as to which religion you should adopt.  You just have to pick the one that fits your personal preferences, your family tradition, etc.  Mark Mittelberg challenges this view in his book, Choosing Your Faith In a World of Spiritual Options.

Mittelberg starts with a question that religious people often do not even consider: Why choose any faith at all?  His answer is interesting: because you don’t have an option.  We all place our faith in something.  The question is whether or not that faith is justified or not; true or not.  Contrary to popular belief, answering this question is possible.

Before he delves into the principles by which we can test worldview claims, he discusses and evaluates six faith paths that most people use to determine their beliefs, showing how each is deficient: (more…)

Franklin Graham was invited to the Pentagon to offer a prayer on May 6 for the National Day of Prayer.  The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (of all entities) is objecting to Graham’s invitation because he has called Islam an “evil” religion, and they say his presence will offend Muslim soldiers.  So now the Army is considering rescinding the invitation.  Maybe I failed to get the memo, but the last I checked part of religious freedom is the freedom to think one’s own religion is true, and all others are false (and perhaps even evil).  

This is what religious pluralism gets you: censorship of anyone who thinks their faith is actually true, and is willing to spell out the logical corollary to this belief, namely, that other religions must be false.  That religious view will not be tolerated by the preachers of religious tolerance.

Some theists and religious pluralists claim that God is wholly other; so transcendent as to be incomprehensible to finite minds.  They assert that nothing can be known about God – He is ineffable.  No propositions we humans can formulate about Him can be true.  

This perspective is fundamentally flawed.  Not only is it self-refuting and contradictory, to say no human concept of God can be true of God (since the concept of ineffability is a human concept), it also results in absurdities.  For example, if there can be no true propositions about God, then the proposition “God exists” cannot be a true proposition.  But surely this is absurd.  The ineffability of a being, X, depends on the existence of X.  If God is a real entity, then at the very least the proposition “God exists” must be a true proposition about God.  

If God’s transcendence means there is no congruence between the thoughts of God and the thoughts of man, so that whatever we know God does not know and vice versa, that would mean if we know the proposition “God exists,” God Himself cannot know it.  But surely any conscious being must be aware of its own existence, and thus it is false that our thoughts can never match God’s thoughts.  Indeed, as Christopher Neiswonger once noted, if we can’t know God’s thoughts, then we can’t know anything at all because God knows everything!

While humans cannot know every truth about God, this does not mean we cannot know any truths about God.  Indeed, on the Christian worldview, God is not wholly other, purely transcendent, and absolutely silent.  We are made in His image, He is immanent, and He has revealed Himself to mankind, communicating to us many truths about Him.  While we cannot comprehend the depths of these truths, they can be known and apprehended.

Unless you have been vacationing in a cave somewhere in the nether regions of the Congo, you’ve probably heard of the brouhaha that has developed over Brit Hume’s advice to Tiger Woods:

Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation with him. I think he’s lost his family. It’s not clear to me that — whether he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children.

But the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal — the extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.

So my message to Tiger would be, “Tiger, turn your faith — turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

Many liberals are furious that Brit Hume would make such comments, for a variety of reasons.  The primary reason appears to be that he is claiming Christianity is true over and against Buddhism.  That is a politically correct no-no, labeled “intolerant.”  We’re supposed to act like our religious beliefs are no more true than the next religion’s.  How tolerant is that requirement?!  The fact of the matter is that religious claims are usually exclusive and contradict competing religious claims.  Given this fact, if one really believes the tenets of their religion, they cannot help but to think their religion is true and others’ false.

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Marcus Borg, like so many other theological liberals (although I must admit that Borg is so liberal that even a lot of theological liberals would disown him as such), claims God is ineffable.  During a recent debate between Borg and William Lane Craig, Craig pointed out that to say God is ineffable is to say that no human concept is applicable to God.  But since ineffability is a human concept, it doesn’t apply to God either.  This is self-refuting, and thus cannot be true.  Great point!

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