Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World offers a broad range of viewpoints concerning salvation from a Christian perspective. John Hick defends pluralism, which is the view that the major world religions provide different paths to salvation and the Divine “Reality.” Hick, a former conservative Christian, denies the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Christ, making him an extremely liberal theologian and making his status as a Christian questionable (I believe it is impossible to be a Christian in any sense at all if one denies the Resurrection of Christ). He offers two main arguments for pluralism:
- All of the major religious traditions seem to produce roughly similar results in procuring morally good behavior, on both an individual and collective level.
- The diversity of religious experience seems to indicate that they all offer independent access to at least part of the Divine “Reality”
Additionally, Hick attempts to cast doubt upon the truth of Christianity as the only correct world religion by arguing against the logical coherency of the Incarnation.
Clark Pinnock offers a relatively liberal inclusivist view, claiming that it may be the case that God works through other religions to save non-Christians. He points out that such an inclusivism does not necessarily deny the primacy and indispensability of Christ. According to this view, non-Christians are still saved because of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. Had Christ not died and been raised, no salvation would be possible.
Pinnock claims that inclusivism is theologically attractive, because it makes sense of God’s love and God’s transcendence. Since God loves everyone and is present everywhere, Pinnock finds it unlikely that salvation would be predominantly restricted to certain geographical areas where the Gospel is available. Thus, Pinnock hopes to show that inclusivism is supported by, or at least compatible with, the Bible. He uses the examples of Melchizedek and Cornelius as pagan saints who God revealed Himself to outside the general framework of the Christian religion and the Gospel.
Alister McGrath defends a relatively conservative inclusivism in his essay. McGrath’s position is almost identical to Pinnock’s, except that he does not emphasize the role of other religions in salvation as Pinnock.
Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips offer the traditional exclusivist (or, as they call it, particularist) view of salvation. According to Geivett/Phillips, conscious belief in Christ as our Savior is necessary for salvation. They start out by defending their viewpoint with an “evidentialist” approach. Using natural theology (such as the Cosmological Argument, Argument from Design, and the Argument from Desire) they show that belief in one personal Creator is more rational than the pluralism that Hick espouses. They then argue that the Bible has credibility as a source of divine revelation since it corresponds well with the findings of natural theology and is supported by the testimony of Jesus Christ. Geivett/Phillips maintain that there is good historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Against McGrath and Pinnock, Geivett/Phillips argue that the Bible supports an exclusivist view and, furthermore, that the texts most inclusivists use to support their view are actually supportive of exclusivism.
I found Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World to be a very worthwhile read. If you want to explore the issue of Salvation, then this book is ideal because it allows you to get a broad perspective on the many different stances and also get a glimpse of how scholars debate about this issue.