Can a Christian be a Religious Pluralist?

religion,religious pluralism

What is Pluralism?

A good definition comes from Matt Slick at the CARM website

Pluralism then would stand in opposition to the idea of an absolutely correct system or belief. Such pluralism would contradict biblical teaching that there is one absolute and supreme being (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6; 45:5), that Jesus is the only way to be saved from the righteous judgment of God (Acts 4:12), and that the Bible alone is the revealed word of God.

April 10, 2008 – 7:00 pm | Can a Christian be a Religious Pluralist?

Location | Kantzer Lecture Hall (TEDS)

Participants | Dr. Paul Knitter (Paul Tillich Chair of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary) versus Dr. Harold Netland (Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies and Naomi A. Fausch Chair of Missions, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

John 3:16 is undoubtedly among the most famous Bible passages of all time: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what happens to those who do not believe in Jesus? Is belief in the person and work of Jesus the only way to please God and thereby gain everlasting life? Or might Christians allow for the possibility that other pathways can lead to gaining God’s favor as well? What happens to people who haven’t heard the Gospel of Christ, who haven’t understood it, or who, for whatever reason, have chosen to pursue God from one of the many other (explicitly non-Christian) religious alternatives?

In this debate, Drs. Harold Netland and Paul Knitter probed these and other questions as part of the annual Trinity Debates. Formally, the evening featured a debate over the question, “Can a Christian be a Religious Pluralist?” What occurred was a passionate and engaging dialogue between two of Christendom’s most notable thinkers on the right relationship of Christianity to other religions. Dr. Knitter argues that a Christian can be a religious pluralist, while Dr. Netland suggests that a Christian cannot.

Paul Knitter is the Paul Tillich Chair of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, and author of numerous books, including No Other Name? (NY: Orbis Books, 1985; now in its 11th printing).

Harold Netland is Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies and Naomi A. Fausch Chair of Missions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of Encountering Religious Pluralism (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001)

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