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February 08 , 2009

Divinity and Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism


One of today's foremost theologians presents the case for embracing religious pluralism as integral to the Christian gospel. Religious pluralism is a fact in North American society today. More than at any other time, adherents of different religious traditions live, work, and play side by side. Yet the fact of religious pluralism creates a tension for a large number of Christians. At the same time they have realized that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and members of many other religious groups have become their neighbors, they are also aware of Christian teachings that seem to exclude these groups. Statements such as "no one comes to the Father except through me," and "outside the church there is no salvation," seem to imply that these new neighbors are not part of the family of God, or at least that their religious beliefs and practices are not viable avenues to human wholeness and salvation. In this insightful and irenic work, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki demonstrates that Christians need not ignore, nor even compromise, the teachings of the gospel in order to accept and rejoice in religious pluralism. She argues that the Christian doctrines of creation, incarnation, the image of God, and the reign of God make the diversity of religions necessary. Without such diversity the rich and deep community of humanity that is the goal of the Christian gospel cannot be realized. Along the way Suchocki rejects the exclusivist claim that there can be no relationship with God apart from the church, and the inclusivist idea that Christianity is the highest expression of the search for God, with other religions possessing in part that which Christians possess in full. She argues instead for a pluralist position, insisting on a full recognition of the distinctive gifts that all of the religious traditions bring to the human table.
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