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THEO 403 (Su '16) T24-25 - A Theology of Religions

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Hartmut Scherer

on 25 January 2017

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Transcript of THEO 403 (Su '16) T24-25 - A Theology of Religions

(ethical ideals)
Lesson adapted from Timothy C. Tennent, Invitation to World Missions -
A Trinitarian Theology for the Twenty-first Century (Kregel, 2010), 191-226 and Muck, Terry C., Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott,
Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices
(Baker, 2014), ch. 3.
A Theology of Religions
Christianity claims . . .
that the basis of the Christian proclamation is a transcultural source.
- God, the Father is the source of all revelation
- consider the relationship between
special revelation
special revelation is nothing more than specific symbolism of the general revelation
true knowledge is found only in Christ and the Scriptures
Exclusivism or the Replacement/
Partial Replacement Model
- affirm the unique authority of Jesus Christ as the ultimate revelation
and the norm by which all other beliefs must be critiqued
- affirm that the Christian faith is centered on the proclamation of the

historical death
of Jesus Christ
- believes that salvation comes through repentance and faith in
Christ’s work on the cross
Inclusivism or the New Fulfillment Model
- affirms the first two of the three claims of exclusivists
- differs in a particular view regarding universal access to the gospel
- differs in the necessity of a personal knowledge of and response to
Jesus Christ
What is their reasoning?
Reasons for Inclusivism
- If every human being has been objectively provided redemption in
Jesus Christ through the cross, then it must be possible for every
human individual to become personally eligible to receive that
- John 3:16 + 2 Peter 3:9 -> God’s universal love for the world;
-> everyone must have access to salvation
- this access has been made available through general revelation,
God’s providential workings in history, and even other religions
- salvific grace is mediated through general revelation
Pluralism or Mutuality Model
- rejects all three claims held by exclusivists
- claims that world’s religions provide independent access to salvation
- all claims to exclusivity have been surrendered through a process of
radical relativization
- conflicting truth claims are reconciled through relocating them from
the level of objective, normative truth to subjective experience
- the only universal
of criteria rests in
human experience
not in any particular sacred texts
Postmodern or Acceptance Model
- declares that there are no universal truths
- it is arrogant to declare that such truths may exist
- acknowledges that world religions really are fundamentally different
from one another
- Robert Frost wrote: “Good fences make good neighbors.”
- metaphor: "many paths up one mountain"
- metaphor: "many paths up many different mountains"
1) This model rejects objective revelation as the basis for truth by
redefining truth as socially constructed narratives
2) This model has a very weak view of history
3) This model leads to an unrestrained relativism
1) This model does not take seriously the actual claims and practices
of those who practice the religions that are being considered
2) The “God” of the pluralists is so vague that it cannot be known
and is, in fact, unknowable
3) The pluralist position ultimately is based on the subjectivity of
human experience, not on any objective truth claims
1) Inclusivists drive a wedge between Christ’s work and the human
response of repentance and faith
2) Inclusivists shift the emphasis from a personal response to Christ
to the experience of faith regardless of the object of faith
3) The inclusivist position separates soteriology from ecclesiology
4) To call Hindus or Muslims or Buddhists “anonymous Christians” has
long been regarded as an insult to those within these traditions
1) In a desire to affirm the centrality of special revelation and the
particular claims of Christ, exclusivism can fail to fully appreciate
God’s activity in the pre-Christian heart
2) Exclusivists sometimes have been unwilling to honestly engage
with the questions and objections of those from other religions
3) Exclusivists have often unnecessarily bracketed off non-Christian
religions and their sacred texts from the rest of culture
3 Major Structural Problems of All Models
1) All models have been primarily articulated within a
soteriological framework
2) The positions within the models have been understood
as either validating or negating particular religious traditions
3) The traditional models emerge out of the Enlightenment
project and completely ignore the Majority World church and
their understanding and experience with religious pluralism
Building a Theology of Religions
- classification of four categories seems to be too simplistic
- all models have been primarily articulated within a soteriological
- many other questions
need to be addressed in
a theology of religions
General Revelation
Special Revelation
be sorted into four neat categories
Continuum of perspectives on other religions
- consider each religious tradition on its own in relation to Christianity
The Priority of Scripture
Core Themes in a Christian Theology of Religions
Describing Religious Phenomena Accurately
Universality and Particularity
Themes for Explaining Religion
The Trinity and the Religions
Salvation and Religious Others
Christian Mission and Religious Others
- for some theology of religions is an exercise in comparative religions
The Priority of Scripture
- draw upon the resources and experiences of all the major religions
(e.g., John Hick)
- deny the definitive authority of any single tradition
- the historic Christian tradition insists that God has revealed himself in
an authoritative manner in the incarnation and OT and NT
A Christian theology of religions cannot be reduced to comparative religion, but must be shaped and disciplined by the inspired scripture.
Describing Religious Phenomena Accurately
- portray both commonalities and differences across religious traditions
- Evangelicals: emphasize differences; less willing to recognize
- Pluralistic theologies of religion: focus upon similarities, ignore
striking incompatibilities
A responsible theology of religions will acknowledge both similarities and differences between the Christian faith and other religions.
Universality and Particularity
- balance the biblical emphases upon universality and particularity
1 Tim 2:4
The theology of religions is formulated within the polarities of the biblical themes of universality and particularity.
Acts 4:12; Heb. 1:1-4
Themes for Explaining Religion
satanic/demonic influence
- all human beings are created
in God’s image;
general revelation
common grace
- God has revealed something of himself
and our obligation to him to all
- a sense of God's gracious provision
- false, idolatrous, and a
perversion of God’s creation
don't exaggerate
The Manila Declaration
". . . Religions may also be understood as expressions of the longing for communion with God, which is an essential human characteristic since we are created in the image of God for the purpose of service to him, fellowship with him, and praise for him. Here also, while always corrupted by sin in practice, we may affirm in principle the goodness of a diversity of some aspects of the religions. We are not able, however, to affirm the diversity of religions without qualification because religions teach a path to salvation, or a concept of salvation, that is not consistent with God’s saving action in Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible.
To the extent that a religion points away from Jesus Christ, we deny the validity of that religion.
We would also deny the validity of the Christian religion should it fail to proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the Lord of all creation, and the sole savior of the world." (Nicholls 1994, 15-16)
- operates on both the individual
and social levels
The Trinity and the Religions
- God is present and active throughout the world as Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit
The Manila Declaration states, “Thus the true aspects of the world’s religions stem from God’s creative power or from the work of the Holy Spirit as he prepares individuals, people groups, and even whole cultures to hear about Jesus Christ” (Nicholls 1994, 16).
- don't disconnect the eternal Logos or the Holy Spirit from God’s special
revelation and saving activity in Jesus Christ
Salvation and Religious Others
A summary of the evangelical perspective:
(1) All people are sinners and face God’s just condemnation for sin.
(2) Salvation is available only on the basis of the sinless person and
atoning work of Jesus Christ.
(3) No one is saved merely by doing good works or being religiously devout.
(4) Salvation is always only by God’s grace and must be personally
accepted through faith.
(5) Ultimately, not everyone will be saved.
(6) God is entirely righteous, just, and fair in his dealings with humankind.
Christian Mission and Religious Others
- in obedience to our Lord and out of compassion for the lost, we are to
“make disciples” of
Marks of our world today:
- aware of the injustices of four centuries of Western imperialism
Is it possible possible for those who have never heard the gospel to be saved?
1) those who hear the gospel and explicitly respond in faith to Jesus Christ
2) a large numbers of those who never heard the gospel nevertheless will
be saved ("wider hope" perspective)
3) God might save those who have never explicitly heard the gospel (don't
know exactly nor how many)
Clear pattern in the NT:
people first hear the gospel and then, through
the work of the Holy Spirit, respond in faith to
the proclamation of the Word and are saved
- ethnic, nationalistic, and religious tensions erupt into violence
- religious conversion is increasingly seen as an obstacle to peaceful
- approach today’s world with an attitude of humility and repentance
Proper Christian response with regard to mission:
- develop new models of evangelism and disciple making
- urge all to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ
Christian Interaction with Other Religions
evangelism and proclamation
and neighborliness
and transformation
Evangelism and Proclamation
- “gospel”, or good news, stood in marked contrast to the good news
of Caesar
- entrance requirement into the kingdom of God: faith alone in Jesus
Christ was sufficient
forced on its subjects
Pax Romana
Pax Christi
is formed in us by faith in his love
conquered by retribution
conquered by redemptive love
assimilated new gods into Roman pantheon + required worship of Caesar
strict monotheism
Approach to discipleship and evangelism:
- must be framed relationally
- never look at people as a means to an end
Dialogue and Neighborliness
- we do not have our existence outside those who are “other”
- created in the image of the Triune God
- the three persons of the Triune God constitute
one another as persons in relation
humans are constituted as human subjects in relation to one another
Mark 12:30-31
The “other” is one’s neighbor regardless of difference in social status, actions, or religious affiliation
the incarnate Word
proclaims God's will
lives God's will
enters into dialogical engagement with others in his midst
evangelism and proclamation must involve dialogue, i.e., approaching the other as a subject
person of Jesus
human other (e.g., diverse religious other)
common good
makes space
- Jesus uses a Samaritan, not a Jew of high standing
Affections in engaging the religious other
(Luke 10:25-37)
- the outsider cares for the Jewish other in need
- the Samaritan cares for the man in need at great risk and cost
Our holistic engagement of the religious other involves orthodoxy (head), orthopraxy (hands), and orthopathy (heart).
- compassion flows from the heart and shapes his thoughts and deeds
- conversion does not equal coercion or involve forcing people to believe
Conversion and Transformation
- real conversion occurs when the Word is proclaimed and it creates
faith in the heart
- the Word that creates faith appeals to the person’s heart and mind,
and the Spirit generates an internal transformation
Conversion is the gracious work of God
- tolerance and its opposite function as properties of
behaviors, not beliefs
Conversion Leading to Intolerance?
- if tolerance implies acceptance of another
person’s belief system, then anyone who rejects
another’s system of belief would be intolerant
death of a reasonable dialog
- any time we are arguing for a particular view (not simply a religious view)
as having greater merit than another tradition, we are evangelizing
- Christians are not the only ones engaged in evangelism
Evangelism is simply an attempt to persuade someone of a particular belief, attitude, or way of life.
- everyone is seeking to convert others when they call for a certain action
Forms of conversion
- from one religious tradition or worldview to another
- dialogue that is aimed at cultivating understanding and tolerance
- gaining greater understanding is a conversion from misperceptions and
distortions of other traditions’ claims and practices
- not only do people convert to Christianity, but also Christians continue
to be converted to Christ
- conversion to Christianity from another tradition should never lead to
intolerance of the other tradition but rather charity toward it
- as the Spirit of God pours the gift of God’s love into our hearts, we are
able to create more space for others
When transformation of our lives in the Spirit occurs . . .
- we affirm their inherent dignity and worth
as God’s good creation
- our hearts and lives are expanded
- we can listen to diverse religious others
- we will be humble and learn from them
- look upon them with the eyes of Christ and
his love
- we seek ways to resolve tensions
“People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care”
(Floyd McClung, quoted in Aldrich 1993, 35)
The Priority of Scripture
Core Themes in a Christian Theology of Religions
Describing Religious Phenomena Accurately
Universality and Particularity
Themes for Explaining Religion
The Trinity and the Religions
Salvation and Religious Others
Christian Mission and Religious Others
Christian Interaction with Other Religions
evangelism and proclamation
and neighborliness
and transformation
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