Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

An Evangelical Theology of Religions


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It is unhelpful to cut off someone’s nose and then ask them to smell the flowers. Thus having a robust approach to an evangelical theology of religions is important in our pluralist context. First it’s important to define religion. Religion is a commitment people have which operates as an ultimate authority over all other commitments as well as provide a basic framework for living. An evangelical theology of religions is “thinking theologically about what it means to live with people of other faiths and the relationship of Christianity to other religions”. A solid evangelical approach to a theology of religions keeps in mind two axioms. First – God’s love is universal with global reach. Second, salvation is found only through Jesus Christ. This speaks to the exclusivist approach, as well as to the pluralist approach. Amos Yong in Beyond the Impasse makes the case that a pneumatological approach will make a richer theology of religions, because Scripture teaches that God is “universally present and active in the Spirit”, the Spirit gives breath to all humans, which means all relationship are “pneumatologically mediated”, and “the religions in the world, like everything else that exists, are providentially sustained by the Spirit of God for divine purposes.” Thus while holding to Christ, and empowered by the Spirit, we can engage in genuine dialogue with people of others faiths, trusting God’s Spirit of discernment to be at work in us and “the other”, wooing all to Christ, the culmination of truth.

While pluralism might seem the most tolerant or unifying to some, the primary difficulty with pluralism, whether of Hick’s “rough parity” idea, Paul Knitters “social agenda”, Pannikkers “unity-in-diversity” approach, Smarts “religious studies” orientation or Heims “Trinitarian” idea of pluralism, is that they all purport to hold the truth in an imperialistic and exclusivist way. But as Newbigin has said, “The very heart of the biblical vision for the unity of humankind is that its center is not an imperial power but a slain lamb.”

3 Responses to An Evangelical Theology of Religions

  1. Evan Hansen says:

    I love that last Newbign quote!

  2. JR Woodward says:

    Yeah, Newbigin had such a deep loving grasp on these things and a way of articulating truth in a way that continues to blow me away.

    The fuller quote is even richer:

    “The Christian gospel has sometimes been made the tool of an imperialism, and of that we have to repent. But at its heart it is the denial of all imperialisms, for at its center there is the cross where all imperialisms are humbled and we are invited to find the center of human unity in the One who was made nothing so that all might be one. The very heart of the biblical vision for the unity of humankind is that its center is not an imperial power but a slain Lamb.”

  3. Lionel Andrades says:

    Lionel’s blog
    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    The Theology of Religions being promoted by various liberal groups omits Ad Gentes 7 which says all need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water for salvation ( to avoid Hell ). Vatican Council II like the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus is saying that all Jews, Protestants and Orthdox Christians need Catholic Faith and the baptism of water for salvation. Protestants and the Orthodox do not have Catholic Faith.

    The Theology of Religions being promoted by the liberals omit the teaching of Vatican Council II which says that there is exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church. This has been the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church for centuries.

    The Center for Christian Jewish Learning in Boston College, which has the support of Jewish Left professors and allies presents its political version of Vatican Council II . -Lionel Andrades


    Christian M. Rutishauser


    From a historical point of view, the new understanding of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people was the catalyst for the Second Vatican Council to elaborate a declaration on the non-Christian religions. This is not a mere accident.

    Lionel: Nostra Aetate does not state that Judaism is the ordinary means of salvation or that Jews do not have to convert into the Catholic Church.

    Nostra Aetate says that ‘the Church is the new people of God.’

    The Jewish-Christian relationship does, even from a systematic point of view, play a paradigmatic, critical and corrective function for a Christian theology of religions. It has a character sui generis, for Judaism constitutes the Other within Christian self-identity. The Jewish-Christian relationship helps to formulate the meaning of the particular in the discussion of the universal Christian claim of truth and salvation when facing other religions.

    Lionel: According to Ad Gentes 7 Judaism is not a path to salvation. Jews, and all people need to convert into the Church. Similarly Dominus Iesus 20, the Catechism of the Catholic Church 845,846 and other magisterial documents repeat the Biblical message that Jews need to convert into the Church for salvation.

    Furthermore, it prevents a theology of religion from sliding into abstract, non-historical and purely speculative definitions. Normally, Christology and especially the theology of Incarnation guarantees it, but they have to be linked themselves back to the messianic idea of Judaism and the history of salvation where the Church itself recognizes the unrevoked covenant between God and Israel.

    Lionel: Catholics believe that Jesus made a new and eternal covenant with his death and Resurrection. This is the clear message in the New Testament.

    Only a theology of religions that recognizes the lasting challenge of the Jewish faith for Christian identity will have overcome anti-Judaism at its roots.

    Lionel: Vatican Council II , like the dogma Cantate Domino, Council of Florence 1441 says Jews need to convert for salvation. ALL need to convert.

    The Letter of the Holy Office 1949 to the Archbishop of Boston referred to ‘the dogma’ the ‘infallible’ statement. The infallible dogma says all Jews in Boston need to convert to avoid the fires of Hell.It affirmed exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church and not the theology of religions.

    The theology of religions was rejected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Notification on Fr.Jacques Dupuis 2001 during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. It is now being enforced politically by the Jewish Left.

    Jewish-Christian Dialogue; Theology of Religions

    Jewish-Christian Dialogue; Theology of Religions

    Full Text: PDF


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