Religious Pluralism and the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ


No persons in their senses deny the need for human unity



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Religious Pluralism and the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ
No persons in their senses deny the need for human unity. Our world is in fact torn apart by rival programs for human unity. Washington and Moscow are both convinced that we need one world. Many years ago Andre Dumas drew attention to the ob­vious fact that any proposal for human unity that does not specify the center around which unity is to be constructed has as its hidden center the interests of the proposer. The Myth of Christian Uniqueness provides rich illustration of this. Gordon Kaufman in his essay starts from the need for human unity and takes it for granted, without argument, that the Christian gospel cannot pro­vide the center. He goes on to say that "modern historical consciousness" requires us to abandon the claim to Christ's uniqueness and to recognize that the biblical view of things, like all other views, is the product of a particular culture (pp. 5-6). It is of course true that the biblical view of things is culturally con­ditioned: that does not require us to say that it is not true. "Modern historical consciousness" is also a culturally condi­tioned phenomenon and does not provide us with a standpoint from which we can dispose of the truth-claims of the Bible. Rec­ognition of the culturally conditioned character of all truth-claims could lead to the abandonment of all belief in the possibility of knowing the truth; that is what is happening in contemporary Western culture. But this recognition provides no grounds upon which it is possible to deny that God might have acted decisively to reveal and effect the divine purpose for human history; and such a revelation would, of course, have to be culturally condi­tioned, since otherwise it would not be part of human history and could have no impact on human history. There are certainly no grounds whatever for supposing that "modern historical consciousness" provides us with an epistemological privilege de­nied to other culturally conditioned ways of seeing.

L esslie Newbigin, a contributing editor, was for many years a missionary and

bishop of the Church of South India in Madras. He is now retired in Birmingham,

England, where he taught for several years on the faculty of Selly Oak Colleges.


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