Only One Way? Critical Perspectives on Christian Pluralism

SCM Press recently released Only One Way?: Three Christian Responses to the Uniqueness of Christ in a Religiously Pluralistic World.  The book presents three theologians’ perspectives on religious pluralism in critical dialogue.  These theologians’ past expressions suggest Only One Way’s content:

Gavin D’Costa, Roman Catholic theologian, has rejected absolute religious pluralism (see Gavin D’Costa, The Impossibility of a Pluralist View of Religions, 32 Rel. Stud. 223 (1996)) as fundamentally flawed.  That view could not, for example, evaluate the truth claims of the Deutsche Christen (“German Christians”), who equated Nazism and gospel and were known to preach in SA uniforms; and the Bekennende Kirche (“Confessing Church”), who refused to embrace Nazified, Christo-Aryanism (see Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power 223–28 (2005)).  In an absolute-pluralist view, how could one distinguish between Reichsbischof (“Reich Bishop”) Müller, who preached Hitler, the national redeemer, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who defied National Socialism and was hanged for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler?  (See D’Costa at 226; Evans at 228).  For an account of Bonhoeffer’s defiance of Nazism, pastoral rebellion (he founded an illegal seminary), and eventual execution on April 9, 1945, eleven days before Berlin’s fall, watch Bonhoeffer (Journey Films 2003).

By analogy, from D’Costa’s examples, absolute pluralism would also prevent us, say, from distinguishing between the Islam that gave rise to the 9/11 attacks and the ancient, peaceful, and culturally profound Islam that abhors the violence that occurred on 9/11.

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