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Pluralism or Exclusivism

One way or many or none.

Richard B. Hays on Practicing Faiths in a Public Way

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In accordance with the intention of the University’s founders, Duke Chapel maintains an explicit Christian identity and mission. For many years, the Chapel has been a center of faith Trinitarian Christian worship. Its architecture and iconography identify it unmistakably as a Christian place of worship. … In the context of these clear historic Christian commitments, Duke University is quite properly a place where people of many different faiths, as well as those of no religious faith, work and study together. The University is committed to creating a shared, mutually enriching life in which various historic religious traditions can thrive and learn from one another as part of a common commitment to education and the pursuit of wisdom. The University is not a community in which differences are suppressed; it is a vibrant “city” in which the particular ideas and traditions of different communities can be expressed openly, discussed respectfully, and evaluated critically. In this spirit, we in the Divinity School strongly support the presence of various spaces on campus where diverse historic religious faiths can be practiced in a public way. Such a commitment does not, however, necessarily lead to endorsement of the decision to explicitly identify the Chapel with another faith tradition.

The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays

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The Epistemology of Disagreement brings together essays from a dozen philosophers on the epistemic significance of disagreement; all but one of the essays are new. Questions discussed include: When (if ever) does the disagreement of others require a rational agent to revise her beliefs? Do ‘conciliatory’ accounts, on which agents are required to revise significantly, suffer from fatal problems of self-defeat, given the disagreement about disagreement? What is the significance of disagreement about philosophical topics in particular? How does the epistemology of disagreement relate to broader epistemic theorizing? Does the increased significance of multiple disagreeing agents depend on their being independent of one another?

Abraham’s Children

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Scarcely any country in today’s world can claim to be free of intolerance. Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sudan, the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and the Caucasus are just some of the areas of intractable conflict apparently inspired or exacerbated by religious differences. Can devoted Jews, Christians, or Muslims remain true to their own fundamental beliefs and practices, yet also find paths toward liberty, tolerance, and respect for those of other faiths? In this vitally important book, fifteen influential practitioners of the Abrahamic religions address religious liberty and tolerance from the perspectives of their own faith traditions. Former president Jimmy Carter, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Indonesia’s first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, and the other writers draw on their personal experiences and on the sacred writings that are central in their own religious lives. Rather than relying on “pure reason,” as secularists might prefer, the contributors celebrate religious traditions and find within them a way toward mutual peace, uncompromised liberty, and principled tolerance. Offering a counterbalance to incendiary religious leaders who cite Holy Writ to justify intolerance and violence, the contributors reveal how tolerance and respect for believers in other faiths stand at the core of the Abrahamic traditions.

Our Inescapable Pluralism

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The great variety of contradictory religious views is for many reason enough to conclude that there is no truth to be had in such matters, that no one religion is at all likely to be closest to the truth. In his debate with Dinesh D’Souza, John Loftus makes these inter-religious and intra-religious disagreements the gravamen of his case against Christianity, arguing that in effect they cancel each other out in virtue of the mutually exclusive nature of their claims.1 He does not see, apparently, that by such reasoning, the ageless debate between naturalists and theists is also cancelled, each position nullified. Indeed, every point of view falls prey to such a criterion. When we look within naturalism, we also find denominations and sects, a cacophony of diverse and contradictory positions on fundamental questions. It turns out, the problem of pluralism is an equal opportunity employer. Worldviews are like personalities. Each one is unique. Though there are types of personalities, just as there are broad worldview categories, none is identical. Whatever our worldview, that view must countenance the fact that many others think it mistaken. This is the problem of pluralism. The implication of this reality, however, need not be the defeat of any particular set of beliefs. Rather, the proper response is virtue. It begs modesty, a profound intellectual humility about our take on reality. And second, it should serve as a call to personal responsibility for our beliefs, and therefore to the epistemic virtues, for there is no consensus on ultimate questions that we can simply adopt by proxy.

An Apology for Apologetics

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An Apology for Apologetics argues that a vigorous apologetics is a vital component of any sound effort at interreligious dialogue. Griffiths shows that a spirited defense of each religious tradition must be made by people who are both committed to their “truth” and open to serious criticisms by members of other faith traditions. He demonstrates why and how such a recognition of the necessity of interreligious apologetics (the “NOIA principle”) runs counter to the underlying presuppositions of many proponents of interreligious dialogue. Griffiths raises the specter of an unacceptable price that will be paid if the apologetic enterprise is abandoned. Religious traditions, he shows convincingly, will face relegation to the realm of purely private opinion and religious people will be denied the minimum plausibility they need to engage in public discourse. He argues ultimately that if basic doctrines cannot be defended against alien claims, religious tradition cannot survive. This book will without a doubt stimulate the debate it seeks to introduce: it unapologetically issues a challenge to teacup ecumenists and lazy pluralists. An Apology for Apologetics is for all who are seriously concerned with their own religious communities. It shows how to think about (and communicate with) those whose practices and convictions seem to differ significantly from one’s own.

A World of Difference

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Recent Barna research indicates that less than one in ten evangelical Christians hold a biblical worldview. A World of Difference seeks to change this disturbing fact by educating readers on how the Christian perspective is uniquely reasonable, verifiable, and liveable. Author Kenneth Richard Samples faced a profound test of his own belief system during a personal life-and-death crisis. In A World of Difference, he uses nine distinct tests to compare the Christian worldview with current religious and philosophical competitors, including Islam, postmodernism, naturalism, and pantheistic monism. Samples tackles tough issues through this in-depth study of Christianity’s history, creed, and philosophical basis. An excellent resource for readers who want their view of life and the world to make sense. ~ Product Description

God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions?

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In the providence of God, why are there other religions? Was the God of the Bible wise in allowing for them? Can they serve any purpose? Gerald R. McDermott explores teaching from the Old and New Testaments and reflections from a number of key theologians from the early church to suggest an answer to this intriguing but perplexing question. In the end McDermott provides considerable insight into the troubling clash of the world religions and offers a helpful Christian response. "Dr. McDermott has written extensively on the world religions from the orthodox Christian perspective. God’s Rivals sets forth to answer the questions of whether or not there are other gods, and more importantly Why? Past that the questions really flow, and I personally love his style of giving enough facts from the Bible and historical writings to let the reader begin to form his or her own opinion. The "continuous red thread" is a helpful concept guiding this reader through a difficult forest." ~ William A. Fintel at Amazon.com

Cosmopolitanism

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AAppiah, a Princeton philosophy professor, articulates a precise yet flexible ethical manifesto for a world characterized by heretofore unthinkable interconnection but riven by escalating fractiousness. Drawing on his Ghanaian roots and on examples from philosophy and literature, he attempts to steer a course between the extremes of liberal universalism, with its tendency to impose our values on others, and cultural relativism, with its implicit conviction that gulfs in understanding cannot be bridged. Cosmopolitanism, in Appiah’s formulation, balances our “obligations to others” with the "value not just of human life but of particular human lives" — what he calls “universality plus difference.” Appiah remains skeptical of simple maxims for ethical behavior — like the Golden Rule, whose failings as a moral precept he swiftly demonstrates — and argues that cosmopolitanism is the name not "of the solution but of the challenge." ~ The New Yorker

James K.A. Smith on Metanarratives

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What characterizes the postmodern condition, then, is not a rejection of grand stories in terms of scope or in the sense of epic claims, but rather an unveling of the fact that all knowledge is rooted in some narrative or myth… The result, however… is what Lyotard describes as a “problem of legitimation”… since what we thought were universal criteria have been unveiled as just one game among many. If we consider, for instance, the reality of deep moral diversity and competing visions of the good, postmodern society is at a loss to adjudicate the competing claims. There can be no appeal to a higher court that would transcend a historical context or a language game, no neutral observer or “God’s-eye view” that can legitimate or justify one paradigm or moral language game above another. If all moral claims are conditioned by paradigms of historical commitment, then they cannot transcend those conditions; thus every moral claim operates within a “logic” that is conditioned by the paradigm. In other words, every language game has its own set of rules. As a result, criteria that determine what constitutes evidence or proof must be game relative: they will function as rules only for those who share the same paradigm or participate in the same language game. The incommensurability of language games means that there is a plurality of logics that precludes any demonstrative appeal to a common reason. Recognition of the incommensurability of langauge games and the plurality of competing myths means that there is no consensus, no sensus communis. Many ? especially Christians ? lament this state of affairs… But is the problem as bad as we think? … In the face of this problem, we must not lose sight of the fact that what constitutes the postmodern condition is precisely a plurality of language games ? a condition in which no one story can claim either universal auto-legitimation (because of the plurality of “the people”) nor appeal to a phantom universal reason (because reason is just one myth among others, which is itself rooted in a narrative). And this plurality is based on the fact that each game is grounded in different narratives or myths (i.e. founding beliefs).

Jonah Goldberg on Cafeteria Religion

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I also detest the tendency of Americans, Westerners, or “Moderns” to boast of how they’ve customized their religious views to fit their lifestyles. “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I’m a very spiritual person.” Yuck. It simply strikes me as intellectually offensive to pretend that the engineer of it all goes out of his way to let individual people order off-menu their religious preferences in just such a way so as pretty much everything they do is exactly how God wants it. And, even if that were the case, even if God customizes the heavens, space, and time so as to make every personal indulgence divinely inspired, the trend of people being their own priests is not one I celebrate. I’d hate to sound like I’m lending my voice to that chorus–I’m not. Indeed, my belief that religion is important depends on it being a social institution. If everyone has his own church, each designating himself a personal messiah, we’ve slipped out of the realm of faith and, ultimately, into the arena of the übermensch where whoever has the religion which condones the most barbarity, wins.

Truth And Tolerance

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Is truth knowable? If we know the truth, must we hide it in the name of tolerance? Cardinal Ratzinger engages the problem of truth, tolerance, religion and culture in the modern world. Describing the vast array of world religions, Ratzinger embraces the difficult challenge of meeting diverse understandings of spiritual truth while defending the Catholic teaching of salvation through Jesus Christ. “But what if it is true?” is the question that he poses to cultures that decry the Christian position on man’s redemption. Upholding the notion of religious truth while asserting the right of religious freedom, Cardinal Ratzinger outlines the timeless teaching of the Magisterium in language that resonates with our embattled culture. A work of extreme sensitivity, understanding, and spiritual maturity, this book is an invaluable asset to those who struggle to hear the voice of truth in the modern religious world. ~ Product Description

Jesus Among Other Gods

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In a world with so many religions—why Jesus? In his most important work to date, apologetics scholar and popular speaker Ravi Zacharias shows how the blueprint for life and death itself is found in a true understanding of Jesus. With a simple yet penetrating style, Zacharias uses rich illustrations to celebrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives.Jesus Among Other Gods contrasts the truth of Jesus with founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, strengthening believers and compelling them to share their faith with our post-modern world.

Problems of Religious Diversity

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Problems of Religious Diversity analyzes the philosophical questions raised by the fact that many religions in the world often appear to contradict each other in doctrine and practice. The volume distinguishes the differences between religious and non-religious responses to these questions, and evaluates the fundamental philosophical underpinnings of these contemporary debates. It further discusses what a religion is and how diversity in religion can be understood, and examines the concepts of religious truth and salvation. Questions considered include: Can there be more than one true religion? What is the relation between commitment to one’s faith and tolerance of other faiths? How does one’s awareness of diverse religious claims affect the degree or strength of belief in one’s own religion? In what ways can the concept of salvation and its prospects be construed in response to the contradictory nature of different religions?

Is Jesus the Only Way?

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Christianity teaches that something is profoundly wrong with the human person. We are, among other things, corrupted, dysfunctional, sinful, and at times evil. Furthermore, there is ultimately only one remedy for our condition, and that is salvation from ourselves and our condition by faith in Jesus Christ. This central Christian tenet is often unsettling to Christians themselves and is positively insufferable to the culture at large. Religious Tolerance Online, for example, catalogues all manner of religious perspective with delicacy and precision, raising no quibble with their various beliefs. But it judges the Christian belief in the unique salvific efficacy of Jesus as on par with racism and other forms of intolerance. Observe the author’s herculean (and commendable) effort to describe Christian exclusivism’s view toward other religions without expressing his/her own frustration and sadness with this perspective. Leadership U. is featuring several articles that seek to justify Christian exclusivism. We especially recommend Rick Rood’s “The Christian Attitude Toward Non-Christian Religions,” Brad Johnson’s, “A Three-Pronged Defense of Salvific Exclusivism in a World of Religions” and Paul Johnson’s “The Necessity of Christianity“.

Alvin Plantinga on Religious Pluralism

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[T]here is something wholly self-defeating, so it seems to me, in [John] Hick’s posture. If we take [his] position, then we can’t say, for example, that Christianity is right and Buddhism wrong; as Christians, we don’t disagree with the Buddhists; and we take this stance in an effort to avoid self-exultation and imperialism. But we do something from the point of view of intellectual imperialism and self-exaltation that is much worse: we now declare that everyone is mistaken here, everyone except for ourselves and a few other enlightened souls. We and our graduate students know the truth; everyone else is sadly mistaken. Isn’t this to exalt ourselves at the expense of nearly everyone else? Those who think there really is such a person as God are benighted, unsophisticated, unaware of the real truth of the matter, which is that there isn’t any such person (even if thinking there is can lead to practical fruits). We see Christians as deeply mistaken; of course we pay the same compliment to the practitioners of the other great religions; we are equal-opportunity animadverters. We benevolently regard the rest of humanity as misguided; no doubt their hearts are in the right place; still, they are sadly mistaken about what they take to be most important and precious. I find it hard to see how this attitude is a manifestation of tolerance or intellectual humility: it looks more like patronizing condescension.

Stewart Guthrie on Anthropomorphising God

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‘But if oxen (and horses) and lions…. could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen. … Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair.’ Like many later critics of anthropomorphism, Xenophanes evidently did not question the gods themselves but only their human attributes. Later Western writers think the Greek gods especially anthropomorphic, but gods in many other religions are equally so.

R. Douglas Geivett on Revelation

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The proliferation of religious options is ample testimony that humans everywhere desire meaningful contact with ultimate religious reality. But human religious diversity signals that something is amiss. It is impossible to discern a consistent pattern among the innumerable human strategies for seeking spiritual fulfillment. The sad track record of religious activity initiated by humans suggest that the conditions for genuine spiritual satisfaction must be set by our Creator and communicated in an accessible and compelling way to us his creatures.

R. Douglas Geivett on Religious Pluralism

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Thus, we find members of the human community resisting God’s attempts to establish lines of communication with himself. Some, in fact, are scandalized by the prospects of a precise diagnosis of the human condition with a specific remedy. This very tendency is symptomatic of human alienation from God. But while the propensity to dictate to God the conditions of divine-human relations is pervasive, it is hardly rational. The religious pluralist’s insistence that God cannot have arranged for our salvation in the exclusivist way of Christianity presupposes a greater knowledge of God than the radical religious pluralists are in a position to have on their own assumptions.

Pearcey and Thaxton on Non-Euclideanism and Relativism

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Throughout the academic world, non-Euclidean geometry was invoked to support a positivistic, anti-metaphysical temper of thought. A culture was assumed to be analogous to a geometry. Both were built on a few postulates chosen from an indefinite number of possibilities; both consisted of internally consistent, interrelated wholes; and both were immune to judgements about their truth or falsity in any ultimate
sense. Just as different geometries could all be logically valid, it was argued, so any number of different cultural and ethical systems could all be logically valid. Thus non-Euclideanism became a metaphor for the rejection of all traditional deductive systems — particularly the moral and religious tradition of Christianity. This is not to say that non-Euclideanism is intrinsically anti-Christian or anti-religious. Yet it was invoked as a symbol to deny that Christianity has any claim to a superior or exclusive truth.

Brennan Manning on God

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Over the years I’ve seen Christians shaping God in their own image — in each case a dreadfully small God. Some Roman Catholics still believe only they will gaze on heaven’s green pastures… There is the God who has a special affection for capitalist America, regards the workaholic, and the God who loves only the poor and the underprivileged. There is a God who marches with victorious armies, and the God who loves only the meek who turns the other cheek. Some like the elder brother in Luke, sulk and pout when the Father rocks and rolls, serves surf-and-turf for a prodigal son, who has spent his last cent on whores. Some, tragically, refuse to believe that God can or will forgive them: “My sin is too great”.

Christianity Through Non-Christian Eyes

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It is important for Christians to understand how their religion is viewed by others and where the greatest friction exists between Christianity and the faiths accepted by billions of our fellow humans. I found it best, as a Christian, to take this material in small bites. Due to its very nature, the majority of the contents of this book are in direct opposition to the Christian faith. A believer should not be too unsettled by reasoned assaults on what they purport to have absolute faith in. That said, it is naturally unnerving to be confronted with worldviews that are directly opposed to aspects of the thing a person has the most faith in. In order to get the most use out of a work like this, and it has much use for Christians, is to read one or two of the pieces at a time and mull them over with an understanding and objective mindset. Remaining somewhat objective and keeping ones passions at bay will allow there to be a great deal of value taken from this book. The best way to find out what you believe, how much you really believe it, and why you believe what you do is to allow your beliefs to be honestly and rationally challenged. This book also shows areas in which much of the friction between religions and cultures is based on miscommunication and misunderstanding. The various world religions should respect each other’s differentness, but it is better for all parties is everyone is well informed. This book will definitely help any Christian be more informed about the religious views of others and to better form his/her understandings of his/her own faith. ~ jwoodward at Amazon.com

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

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How does the gospel relate to a pluralist society? What is the Christian message in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism? Should Christians encountering today’s pluralist society concentrate on evangelism or on dialogue? How does the prevailing climate of opinion affect, perhaps infect, Christians’ faith? These kinds of questions are addressed in this noteworthy book by Lesslie Newbigin. A highly respected Christian leader and ecumenical figure, Newbigin provides a brilliant analysis of contemporary (secular, humanist, pluralist) culture and suggests how Christians can more confidently affirm their faith in such a context. While drawing from scholars such as Michael Polanyi, Alasdair MacIntyre, Hendrikus Berkhof, Walter Wink, and Robert Wuthnow, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society is suited not only to an academic readership. This heartfelt work by a missionary pastor and preacher also offers to Christian leaders and laypeople some thoughtful, helpful, and provocative reflections.