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Theology Of Religions: Pluralism, Inclusivism, Exclusivism

English: Resurrection of Christ

Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Domenic Marbaniang

The term ‘theology of religion’ is to be understood here as the branch of Christian theology that attempts to theologically and biblically evaluate the phenomena of religion. Three important schools within this field are pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism. Each of them will be briefly examined here.

1. Pluralism

Pluralism is basically the belief that the world religions are true and equally valid in their communication of the truth about God, the world, and salvation. The chief expounder of this view is John Hick of Claremont Graduate School in California, who first propounded it in his book God and the Universe of Faiths (1973). His view is not different from the popular Hindu view capsulated in Krishna’s saying in the Bhagavadgita:

By whatsoever way men worship Me, even so do I accept them; for, in all ways, O Partha, men walk in My path. [IV.11]

This is the popular view that all religions lead to the same God and all ways lead to heaven. According to Hick, Christianity is not the one and only way of salvation, but one among several. To a pluralist such as Hick, Christianity is not the absolute, unique, and final way to God. While pluralists assert the validity of all religions, they also deny the finality of all religions. According to Hick, in the evolutionary scheme of things in which at isolated ages and places the early religions are succeeded by higher religions, it is the same message of God that comes distinctly to a particular group but as different from the others. Hick challenges the older view that Christ or Christianity must be seen at the center of religions. Rather, he says, God must be seen at the center of religions. The pluralistic contention is that all religions are fundamentally the same though superficially different.

‘The attraction of pluralism,’ says McGrath, ‘lies not in its claim to truth, which are remarkably elusive and shallow, but in its claim to foster tolerance among the religions.’ To an evangelical Christian, however, such pluralism only means the abolition of kerygmatic mission, i.e., the mission of evangelizing the world with the salvific gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the reasons for rejecting pluralism go beyond the cause of evangelization. Any sincere study of world religions expressly reveals that contrary to the pluralistic contention all religions look superficially the same but are fundamentally different. Each of them differs from the rest in its view of God, sin, salvation, death, and eternity. Obviously, the pantheistic notion of the world as God and the monotheistic notion of the world as creation of God are not the same. The only way to call them same is by jettisoning the notion of absolute truth itself; however, that would mean that no absolute statements about anything can be made, including the statement that all religions are the same.

Another point against pluralism is the counterfeit posture it assumes. Pluralism contends that it is different from exclusivism in that it accepts the validity of all religions. Thus, truth is both relativized and pluralized. However, one basic feature of truth is exclusivity. Truth by nature excludes everything else contrary to it. Thus, every statement in order to be meaningful must exclude all its opposite. Thus, pluralism by contending the validity of all religions against the segregated contention of each to validity excludes all other views contrary to it. For example, it excludes the view that ‘all religions are not true.’ Therefore, though assuming the form of pluralism, it is none other than a variant of exclusivism itself.

2. Inclusivism

Inclusivism is the belief that God is present in non-Christian religions to save the adherents through Christ. The inclusivist view has given rise to the concept of the anonymous Christian by which is understood an adherent of a particular religion whom God saves through Christ, but who personally neither knows the Christ of the Bible nor has converted to Biblical Christianity. This position was popularized by the Roman Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner (b. 1904).

One important issue that Rahner raises is about the salvation of those who have never had the opportunity to listen to the gospel Jesus Christ. To Rahner, then, people can be saved apart from allegiance to the Christian church. It is God in Christ who reaches out to the individual in his own personal religious history to same him. Rahner used the term ‘anonymous’ to denote people who experience the grace of God in Christ regardless to what religion they belong to. Inclusivism is based on two axioms: the first is that salvation is through Christ alone, the second is that God wills the whole world to be saved. Consequently, God saves people through Christ alone; however, he makes this possible through ways that extend to all humanity.

To Rahner, a non-Christian religion is a lawful religion for until its followers have a Christian witness it is a means by which non-Christians gain a right relationship with God. Also, the religion is included in God’s plan of salvation which God has ordained for the communication of His grace.

Inclusivism has a great appeal to people because of its sympathetic approach to religion. However, it ignores the fact of ungodly elements within religions. It would only be a contradiction in terms to conceive of a God who reveals that he is against idolatry and at the same time assert that he saves a person in his worship of idols. Jesus said it is by knowing the truth that one is liberated. When the apostles spoke of salvation by the name of Jesus, they never meant that people could be saved within allegiance to the lordship of Jesus; on the contrary, they expressly meant that only by a voluntary submission to the Lord could one be saved. The will of God for salvation of all men in 1 Timothy 2: 4  is qualified by His desire that all of them will come to the knowledge of the truth for which Paul testifies as being appointed a preacher. Thus, the Bible is clear on the point that knowledge of Christ precedes the reception of saving grace in faith.

Inclusivism is seen as arrogantly exclusivist, if seen from the perspective of other religions. It tells that Hindus are not saved by their dharma, and Muslims are not saved by their works, but all are saved unaware by Christ. This not only proves that the salvation doctrine of all other religions are false but also that people are not saved because of following the religious way of their religion. This is something like saying that the neighbor is living by my money though it is he who earns his livelihood and lives by it. The claim is unwarranted. Finally, Christ assumes a nebulous and abstract character and personal commitment to the historical Christ almost loses soteriological value as can be seen in the case of M. M. Thomas’ Christ-centered syncretism. Therefore, inclusivism cannot be accepted as Biblically warranted.

3. Exclusivism

Exclusivism is the theological position that holds to the finality of the Christian faith in Christ. The finality of Christ means that there is no salvation in non-Christian religions. Notable among the exclusivists of this century are Samuel Zwemer, Hendrik Kraemer, and Lesslie Newbigin.

Based on the Aristotelian concept of truth as one and not many, exclusivists regard all other religious claims as false and invalid since the Christian revelation is accepted as true. Exclusivists hold that salvation is through Christ alone. It is through a personal experience of commitment to Christ that one receives assurance of salvation. The non-believers cannot receive such assurance since they are neither aware of the uniqueness of Christ neither do they acknowledge His lordship. The exclusivist begins with the Bible as the source of all knowledge about spirituality and salvation. The Bible is the criterion of all religious truth. The Bible relates the history of redemption, gives a foundation to personal faith, is a guidebook of the Christian community, and tells us of the future of the world that links up all history, life, and service with meaning and purpose. Exclusivism, thus, establishes the uniqueness and identity of Christianity among world religions. Such exclusivism can take either an extremist or a moderate viewpoint. The extremist view regards all non-Christian religions as demonic and enemies of Christian truth. On the other hand, the moderate view sees some non-Christian religions as containing elements whereby a dialogue with them can be initiated. However, all exclusivists in general agree that salvation is exclusively only through Christ and received by a personal commitment to the Lord.

An exclusivist view is inevitable in any dialogue of truth. As has been seen, neither the pluralist nor the inclusivist could avoid being exclusivist at some point. Truth by nature is exclusive and any claim to truth is exclusive. The only way to deny exclusiveness of Christ is to deny the veracity of the Bible. The exclusivist view rightly sees the exclusiveness of the Bible in its proclamation of Christ as the only way of salvation. However, at the same time, it must be affirmed that the Bible also speaks of God involved in the history of the nations. Therefore, it must not be thought non-Christian religions are totally devoid of virtue. Thus, though being very vociferous in his attacks on Hinduism, Nehemiah Goreh could say that ‘Most erroneous as is the teaching of such books as the Bhagvadgita, the Bhagvata, etc., yet they have taught us something of ananyabhakti (undivided devotedness to God), of vairagya (giving up the world), of namrata (humility), of ksama (forbearance), etc., which enables us to appreciate the precepts of Christianity.’

Thus, of the various schools of approach to the study of religion, theologically speaking, moderate exclusivism proves to be the best, since it neither distorts the meaning of truth, as pluralism does, nor forces itself over the other religions, as inclusivism does, but remains true to its source of doctrine, viz. the Bible.

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2007

About the Author

Dean of Post-Graduate Studies, Professor of Theology, Religions, and Missions, Author, Editor of Theological Journal, and Pastor

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/Theology Of Religions: Pluralism, Inclusivism, Exclusivism

Note – Since this article was first published, there have been some changes to articlesbase.com. The original links have been left intact. 

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How to have an Intimate relationship with Christ whom you cannot see?

The following article seems to take the Bible a bit more literally than I would. But I post it because it makes a good point about being guided by the Holy Spirit. I have sometimes wondered just how spiritual people can be when they do not believe in God. For me, a recognition of being guided by the Holy Spirit was the true beginning of my mature spiritual life. And without that, I was just like an unfocussed infant. —MC

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...

Child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to have an Intimate relationship with Christ whom you cannot see?

By prophet3333 (Written by Joseph Ho, March 28th 2015)

Jesus always speaks with analogy whenever he wants to explain the concept in the Kingdom of God. He uses such examples as an indirect way to explain that the Kingdom of God is everywhere and also within us. In order to have an intimate relationship with him, we have to remain in the Vine. He is the Vine and we are the branches. By this he means that if we are cut off from him, we will lose the life giving support which comes from the main vine and the roots. A branch that is not connected to the vine will have no more life giving force or nutrients to support it. So the kingdom of God is like a vine with all its branches, and it is also how we should lead our life in him.

John 15 King James Version (KJV)

15 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Jesus explains things in simple understandable principle, yet even theologians cannot understand what he is trying to say since it is so simply mentioned. So if the branches have to remain with the Vine, how are we to be connected to Christ when he is no longer on earth? If Jesus were alive on earth today, it would be easy to have a relationship with him since we can all call him, write to him and spent time with him by talking to him or listening to him whenever he gives a seminar. But this is no longer so. So how can anyone have a relationship with a person who is no longer visible or easily contactable? Such are the question of ordinary folks who have no education or any deep understanding of what the bible is talking about.

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded...

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded by angels, by Giaquinto, 1750s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The process of having a relationship with a saviour who no longer can be seen easily is indeed a mystery. Have you tried having an intimate relationship with your grandmother who has died? What would you do? You probably visit her grave, see some past photos and try to remember the times you had with her that you cherished. But the amount of material you have of her is limited because you didn’t get to say thanks. And you love her much but it never even occurred to you that she needs to hear those things from you either. When you were younger everyone lived for you and you never gave it another thought to return the gratitude for their time spent with you. So how can anyone love Jesus whom they have never spent any time with? We need to read the bible which kept an account of who he is.

Jesus although we know he is alive as a believer is someone who does not come to visit his sheep often. This is the truth, as I have asked many believers if they have seen Christ in their lives even once, and the answer is no; they have not seen Jesus at all. Even the most sincere of Christians and even pastors and evangelists, have not seen Jesus in their lives. So having an intimacy with Christ does not include seeing Jesus in their lives, if seeing Jesus was a requirement then 99.99 percent of all Christians do not have a relationship with Him. I only know that true apostles will see Jesus directly because he alone commissions them for his purpose. These are the real ones with the power to operate in signs and wonders. Then what was Jesus saying that we should be connected to him as the branches are to the Vine?

First of all if we are interested in the person of Christ we should know what he was teaching on how to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The bible contains much of his teachings on how to become his people. So we need to put in his teachings into our minds and hearts. Then Jesus said, we have to be baptized into his Kingdom in his name. After this baptism in water, Jesus promised to baptize us again in the Holy Spirit by sending us his Holy Spirit to teach, guide and remind us of what he has taught us in the bible. The evidence that we have this Holy Spirit is we can speak in tongues and we can hear his voice. When will we receive the Holy Spirit? It is written in the book of Luke that whoever asks the father for the Holy Spirit, he will give unto them this good gift. It is then upon the receiving of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to have an intimate relationship with God. We need to ask for the baptism in the Holy Spirit which Jesus can give himself.

Luke 11:13New International Version (NIV)

13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Matthew 3:11New International Version (NIV)

11 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Mark 1:8New International Version (NIV)

8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once we can hear, we must learn to obey and move with the Spirit as he guides us. The very first thing that the Spirit will lead is in the area of Sin and Repentance. Sin separates us from the Holy Spirit of God so he would not hear from us. It is essential that we get deliverance from such iniquities that hinders us from having a close relationship with God.  Jesus has already paid this price so we can enter into the presence of God. The deliverance of such Sin is the first step. Once we get delivered, he will convict us of the need to learn from various different ministries that he would put into our paths. We must not limit or restrict how an what God will put into our ways to learn of what he wants us to have. He will put spiritual wisdom into our spirit so we can get involved in his kingdom work. Deliverance from spiritual bondage and oppression is an essential step into intimacy with him. We no longer need to worship Sin and be obedient to its torment once we are in Christ. This step may take a few months to a few years depending on how fast you response to his conviction. It also depends on your willingness to give up the particular Sin in your life.

When we begin to hear from God, we have to respond. We have to turn towards the burning bush to investigate if it is of God, like in the days of Moses. The next step would be the availability of our time and resources to do his errands. God will prompt us to do some errands for him so that he can authenticate his voice in our lives. There is a price to pay for being obedient to his voice. It requires your time and your resources. He will instruct you to do small little things, like giving some money to someone, give a book, speak to someone, and call a friend, and so on. But have no fear; God does not call us to do things beyond our means. We will be uncomfortable in the beginning, as it requires us to come out of our comfort zone to be bold to do things to strangers, people whom you have no prior relationship with. Only when you respond and obey the voice then he would speak to you more and give you a word of wisdom to minister to the poor, needy, oppressed and depressed. The gift and intimacy will develop through our own conscious effort to exercise hearing from God by our actions.

Giving of material things and resources is easy, but giving a word of knowledge is not so, as it requires us to hear accurately and with confidence. The fear of speaking something foolish is a greater fear to overcome for a new believer. But if you would not do this, then God will not be able to advance our spiritual intimacy with him. If you want an intimate relationship with God, he will take you for your word and commence to send angels to prompt you.

John 10:27King James Version (KJV)

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

The Holy Family with God the Father and the Ho...

The Holy Family with God the Father and the Holy Spirit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You will begin to feel things in your heart which you have never felt before. It will be like something which just drops into your spirit and you suddenly have an urge to do something for someone. Anything that is good comes from God; so there is no need to worry if you hear from the devil, as long as you address your prayers to God in Jesus’ name, Satan cannot intercept your messages. The name of Jesus is the gate to God in the heaven. This is an assurance from God, else no one can speak to God, we are given the password to address our prayers to God, and that Code name is Jesus, Yahushua. Jesus shared this name with God, his Father, because it was his Father’s own name.

John 17:11New International Version (NIV)

11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

If you have no intentions to hear from God then don’t pray or ask him, because when you ask him, he expects you to obey his advice. Else, he may never speak to you again, since you do not trust him to take his advice. Remember you are talking to the Almighty God, King of Kings and he has no time for fools.  There is any other advice I can give to confirm the word from the Lord other than by using two or three witnesses. That means we can ask for any confirmation by seeking two or three witnesses. These witnesses can be word from the bible, prophetic word from man of God, pastors sermon, information that comes from other people speeches, streets signs, emails, as long as it’s not from the same source, it is a witness. The witness does not need to be a human they could be facts or given words, even dreams.

2 Corinthians 13:1New International Version (NIV)

13 This will be my third visit to you. ‘Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

You can never be intimate with God if you cannot hear from him. That means there is no communications between you and Jesus, so you cannot be intimate with him. Reading the bible will not cause you to be intimate with him, it will caused you to know more about him but it will never replace a close relationship with him through communicates. You prayed, God answered and he tells you to so something and you did it. Many don’t have any breakthroughs because they think they know the mind of God, so they go ahead to do something of their own righteousness just to please God. God is not interested in the things you would do for him; he is only interested in the things he commanded you to do on his behalf. If you are still interested in the things you want to do for him then he cannot develop a relationship with you because you are still in your self-righteousness.

Romans 10:3King James Version (KJV)

3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Romans 14:17New International Version (NIV)

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

Philippians 1:10-11New International Version (NIV)

10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Detail - Glory of the New Born Christ in prese...

Detail – Glory of the New Born Christ in presence of God Father and the Holy Spirit (Annakirche, Vienna) Adam and Eva are represented bellow Jesus-Christ Ceiling painting made by Daniel Gran (1694-1757). Post-processing: perspective and fade correction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In God contains all the wisdom of the world. He originally wanted to teach Adam about the godly wisdom but Adam would not listen to him instead he listened to the bone of his flesh, Eve, and proceeded to get this knowledge himself, thus he lost a great teacher. As God has all the wisdom of this world, he does not need any counsellor so he does not need to bless our desires and ideas but as he has plans to prosper us, we do need to follow him. How good it is to have the Almighty God as our adviser, so we do not need to worry and be concern about the way we do things as he can command legions of angels to guard us in all our ways when we follow him. He is better than all of the world’s richest mentor for he commands the insects, the wild animals, the natural storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, the waters and the seas, the rain and the invisibles elements to give us the support we need.

When we hear from him and obey his commands than we prosper. Yet, most people still do not learn this truth, they asked God to bless their plans and then when they get into troubles, they asked God to deliver them from the foolishness of their own plans. They get into the cycle of falling down and asking God for help. This shows that they have not learnt this truth. I would rather follow the plans of God so that my life will be smoother and more pleasant knowing that God is with me thus avoiding many sleepless nights caused by disobedience. But to follow God’s plan, we must be attuned to his ways, and be able to listen to him with intimacy and reverence. Yet, even though many people know and understand this truth, they have not been committed to take the time to polish their listening ears, so they do not hear perfectly and thus do not prosper holistically also. But they do expect God to answer their prayers immediately when something goes wrong, then the process of asking God for help never ends. This repeating of getting into troubles and needing deliverance is evidence of an un-renewed mind. They followed their own plans and thus do not submit to the perfect will of God so their plans failed; all because they could not hear from God and obey him.

Now why would God bless us? He wants to show the whole world a testimony of a man who listens and follows his commandments, decrees, and statues. For eyes have no seen, ears have not heard, what God will do for a man who follows him whole heartedly. Only when you have an intimate relationship with God by obeying him after you can hear from him, will you then mature into a great spiritual powerhouse for God, to be used according to his will. A sanctified vessel fit for honour. The Psalms 91 in the bible belongs to those who have an intimate relationship with God and the benefits are real. He is your support and strong high tower, and no one can come against you all the days of your life. Make him your real father, a father who is Almighty and invincible who can call upon anything to save you from your enemies. He is the kind of backing that any men would love to have but not many have his undivided attention because all have fallen short of his expectation. I testify to this truth, God is real and he can do anything to protect you from harm’s way. For he promises to tell his servants what event is to come and when it will come so that they will escape the disaster that will befall these places of wrath. Those who walked with God are blessed.

Psalm 91 King James Version (KJV)

91 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/christianity-articles/how-to-have-an-intimate-relationship-with-christ-whom-you-cannot-see-7234131.html

About the Author

Numbers 33:33, Job 33:33, Ezekiel 33:33. Apostolic, prophetic Ministry, Dreams and Dreams Interpretation. Author of My Sheep Hear My Voice, God’s Gift to the Chinese People.