- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: InterVarsity Press; Rev Sub edition (Sep 1984)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0877849811
- ISBN-13: 978-0877849810
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 21.3 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,491,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The main thrust of this work is the uniqueness of the Gospel. There are three major chapters dealing with the uniqueness question: A unique proclamation? A unique salvation? A unique disclosure?
The two other chapters: No other name? Proclamation, dialogue, or both?
"A unique proclamation?" discusses the idea that the New Testament argues that God-in-manhood (i.e. Jesus Christ) has died in human history and has been physically resurrected as well; these are unique historical events. Anderson contrasts this with major differences found in other religions. The mystery religions of the early Christian era (c. 0-200 A.D.) are myth based whereas Christianity is based on events in a specific place and a specific time. Anderson also notes the mythological basis of Hinduism (he also discusses the Hindu doctrine of avatars which is quite DIFFERANT from the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation). As for religions with a historical basis, he discusses Islam and Judaism (and includes Buddhism under this category, but I don't agree. Buddhism could exist if the historical Buddha was mythological.)
"A unique salvation?" discusses the ultimate goal or purpose of human existence, as understood from Christianity and other religions. For the Christian, this would be Heaven and the forgiveness of sins etc... However, this stands in sharp contrast to other religions, which have, for example, release from reincarnation as their "salvation." Anderson than classifies religions into two categories; those that are "this worldy" and those that are Hereafter oriented. The "this-worldly" religions/ideologies discussed are: Communism, Fascism, Theravada Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism. Then there are the religions where salvation is "primarily in terms of eternity" (e.g. Hinduism, Bhaki Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism etc...). He notes that Christianity is among the very few with the dual emphasis both on eternity and the present world. Then, Anderson looks at the question of how salvation is to be attained in various different religions and the differences that are entailed here.
"A unique disclosure?" contrasts the Christian revelation of the nature and character of God to other religions. Anderson addresses the so-called, "evolutionary theory of religions," which asserts that religions start as animism, then polytheism and lastly monotheism. Anderson presents contrary evidence to this, in that there have been several tribes discovered which are either at the level of monotheism (and this development could not be attributed to outside influences) or henotheism (which is belief in or worship of one God while admitting or not denying the existence of other Gods; i.e. the notion of a "Supreme" God). Anderson looks at the problem of evil, the character of God and some other ideas in the rest of this chapter.
"No other name?" (based on Acts 4:12), is challenging in terms of the ideas presented but I think that Anderson has some good ideas here. He notes that the New Testament records the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as "once for all." One of the great passages in the book, is here:
"Inevitably, then the Christian faith is either itself false or `casts the shadow of falsehood, or at least of imperfect truth, on every other system. This Christian claim' as Stephen Neill insists, ` is naturally offensive to the adherents of every other religious system... But we must not suppose that this claim to universal validity is something that can be quietly removed from the Gospel without changing it into something entirely different from what it is... For the human sickness there is one specific remedy, and this is it. There is no other.'" (page 140).
Anderson then proceeds to examine various different situations such as the pre-Christian era, those today who have never heard the Gospel, the Jews since the advent of Christ. I was very surprised that Anderson did not mention or discuss Hebrews 8:13; such a passage would seem to have decisive to say about the case of Judaism.
The last chapter is about the relation between proclamation and dialogue. Proclamation is the announcement of the Gospel and declaring what God has done in Jesus. Entering into discussion with the adherent of another religion, does not require, giving up one's commitments, embracing relativism etc... both rather committing to respect the dignity and accord the other person the respect the deserve as a person. Anderson takes as a text, the encounter between Cornelius and the Apostle Peter in Acts 10 where both gained something in the meeting. I am not sure what to make of this chapter; the whole issue of what dialogue is (in contrast to evangelism or theological argument) has not been clearly defined in a widely accepted way. There are some informal forms of dialogue with adherents of other religions, which may eventually change into a presentation of the Gospel; this would seem to be the ideal situation.
I would recommend this book, in addition to, "Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth," by Harold A. Netland, to all Christians who:
a) want to know how to deal with members of other religions
b) want to know how to show the idea "that all religions teach the same thing," is really a distortion of the world's religions
c) are interested in learning about other religions