An Amorous Tryst with Pluralism

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, January 11, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

After the comments I made about pluralism last week, one would conclude that a Christian really cannot hold pluralistic views and be biblically consistent. But no, constant reader, they still try.

“Modal inclusivism” is an attempt to make Christianity more accessible to people of other religions by expanding the Christian view of the work of the Holy Spirit to include those other religions. It is an assertion that the Holy Spirit is present in other religions; not just persons holding to other religions, but the actual religions themselves.

Karl Rahner would be the voice in the catholic world, and Clark Pinnock is his ardent admirer translating this to the evangelical world. The inclusivism of Pinnock would not attempt to accept everything from other religions as true, but he pushes forward the idea that the Holy Spirit is present throughout all the world and that He is at work in the lives of all human beings and their religions to bring them to God. But Pinnock goes way too far when he claims that salvation can be obtained inside other religions.

He would not go so far as to say that all roads lead to God; he would say that Christ is the only way to God, but then assert that there are many roads to Christ, the Christian church being only one of many. These many other roads which lead to Christ are found in all the world’s religions like Islam, Hinduism, and pagan religions to name a few. The axis of this assertion lies in his belief that the exclusivity of Christianity is unacceptable to the world and therefore needs to be modified so that “more radical options [such as pluralism] are unnecessary.”

Pinnock’s evangelical heritage compels him to at least attempt to moor his theology to the Bible. He views all those believing before Christ came as pre-Christian believers. He calls Job a “pagan saint” and infers that Melchizedek is also one. He uses the account of Cornelius to make the point that God wanted “to teach the apostle Peter that there is no partiality in God’s dealings with humanity.”

The account with Cornelius (Acts 10) contradicts Pinnock’s inclusivism, however. Although Pinnock claims that God is in pagan religions, God did not use any of Rome’s pagan worship to convince Cornelius (who was Roman) to convert to Christ; rather he used specific means. Cornelius had already rejected the Roman gods and had become a “God-fearer.” This meant he believed in the God of Israel and had committed himself to a life of prayer, giving, and Sabbath worship. He was truly seeking God. But in spite of what Pinnock thinks, God did not send an angel to him to preach the gospel, rather He sent an angel that gave Cornelius the name and address of a Christian preacher. The Holy Spirit used the church.

Pinnock argues that the Holy Spirit can move in other religions, but we do not find an example of that in the New Testament for sure, and one has to be careful about calling God’s people under the Old Covenant who were waiting for the Messiah to come “non-Christian.” Certainly the name of Jesus had not manifested itself to properly call people “Christian,” but they were waiting in faith for the promises to be fulfilled in the Christ (Messiah).

Cornelius calls upon Peter, who has been prepared for the encounter and salvation comes to Cornelius and his whole household. He is the first recorded Gentile to become a Christian. For sure Peter did need to learn to accept Cornelius, but that didn’t include recognizing any value in Roman pagan worship. It simply wasn’t paganism that connected Cornelius to God.

We would firmly recognize that the Holy Spirit is at work everywhere in every person, but we could not say that God is using Islam or Hinduism to bring people to an awareness of Jesus Christ. The clarity of the gospel reaches some of these unbelievers in spite of the high pitched noise of false religious preaching. God be praised. God has ordained the preaching of gospel through Christians to be the mode of saving grace for all the nations.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Also remember what the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said to the assembled body of the church, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Pinnock may not go “all the way” with pluralism, but he definitely has an “emotional affair.”

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