Are the world's great religions ultimately all the same?
Christianity and Pluralism is a collection of concise yet thoughtful essays by J. I. Packer and Ron Dart, interacting with and responding to the four traditional models used to answer the existence of multiple faiths (exclusive, inclusive, pluralist, and syncretist), but focusing particularly that form of syncretism which claims that all faiths find commonality through their mystical traditions.
Written in response to key events in the history of the Anglican church, Packer and Dart's analysis gives us a perennially relevant model for how the church ought to respond to our own pluralistic culture with integrity and kindness—and how to uphold the distinctiveness of the gospel. Christians directly or indirectly engaging our pluralist world will find their ideas enriched by this short yet powerful book.
Ron Dart and J. I. Packer rightly insist that there can be nothing more universal, final and inclusive of the crucial insights of other perspectives than the religion of the Incarnation of God himself. Were this not so, then Christianity would lose its meaning.
–John Milbank, Professor Emeritus in Religion, Politics and Ethics and Director of the Center of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham
This missive from Ron Dart and Jim Packer is as timely now as when it was first published. Their critique of Michael Ingham's mystical pluralism is both respectful and incisive. This unapologetic yet irenic defence of creedal Christianity deserves a wide readership and is a reminder of our continued indebtedness to faithful leaders such as Dart and Packer.
–Hans Boersma, St. Benedict Servants of Christ Professor in Ascetical Theology, Nashotah House, Wisconsin
Our cultural moment needs Dart and Packer’s deft volume on how to think about Christianity and other religions. In their crisp presentation of various approaches to the inter-religious challenge and of their logic and history, Dart and Packer judiciously, charitably, and incisively expose the fallacies that lie behind our era’s glib rejection of the generous but exclusive claims of the Christian gospel. By turns informative and reflective, the authors have managed to provide a robust and gentle Christian witness that will benefit believers and unbelievers alike.
–Ephraim Radner, Professor of Historical Theology, Wycliffe College
“Pluralism and syncretism can be as exclusivist as any of the positions they rail against as being exclusive.” (Page ix)
“The modern fact of pluralism, though, for the West is not new. In fact, Christianity was birthed and matured in the classical and late antique world; the Roman culture of the time was thick with pluralism and syncretism. The New Testament, postapostolic, and patristic writers swam in the waters of immense religious diversity and had to make sense of their faith within such a religious and philosophical context.” (Page 3)
“the apophatic or negative way. The essence of such an approach is that no concept or image can exhaust the Divine” (Page 6)
“To be sure, there is one form of religion that is clearly anathema to him. He ascribes this repugnant form to what he calls ‘the conservative-evangelical-fundamentalist coalition’ but which two millennia of history entitle us to describe as mainstream Christianity. This is the view that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity incarnate, that personal discipleship to him is the only path of eternal life, and that making disciples of all the nations is the church’s unending primary task.” (Page 10)
“Pluralism, then, as a descriptive fact is our reality. We can take courage from the reality that the situation we live in today has many intersection points with the early church. Christianity came into being in a pluralistic and syncretistic setting, and it is crucial to note that it did not uncritically adopt either model as a way and means of being true to itself.” (Page 59)
Ron Dart (PhD, McMaster University) is associate professor of political science at the University of Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, BC). He is author of numerous books, including The Marks of the Church and Renewal and The North American High Tory Tradition.
J. I. Packer (PhD, Oxford University) is Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College (Vancouver, BC). He is author of many books, including Knowing God, Affirming the Apostles' Creed, and Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.