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Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) [Paperback]

John Hick , Clark H. Pinnock , Alister E. McGrath , R. Douglas Geivett , Gary W. Phillipe
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Book Description

1 Aug 1996 Counterpoints: Bible and Theology
Four views, from salvation in Christ alone to the belief that all ethical religions lead to God, presented by advocates of each, help Christians understand and meet the challenges of our pluralistic culture.

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Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World (Counterpoints: Exploring Theology) (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) + God Has Many Names: Britain's New Religious Pluralism + God and the Universe of Faiths: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; New edition edition (1 Aug 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310212766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310212768
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 582,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Back Cover

Religious pluralism is the greatest challenge facing Christianity in today's Western culture. The belief that Christ is the only way to God is being challenged, and increasingly Christianity is seen as just one among many valid paths to God. In Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, four perspectives are presented by their major proponents: Normative Pluralism: All ethical religions lead to God-- by John Hick - Inclusivism: Salvation is universally available, but is established by and leads to Christ-- by Clark Pinnock - Salvation in Christ: Agnosticism regarding those who haven't heard the Gospel-- by Alister McGrath - Salvation in Christ alone-- by R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips. This book allows each contributor to not only present the case for his view, but also to critique and respond to the critiques of the other contributors. The Counterpoints series provides a forum for comparison and critique of different views -- both Christian and non-Christian -- on important theological issues.

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The other writers in this book represent either conservative or very conservative theological standpoints. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A super book - saves you reading many others 19 Jan 2007
By Nige
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a superb achievement - to get the leading credible academic representatives of the various evangelical responses on the forever vexed question of who gets to 'heaven' and who doesn't, AND to bring their prime theological enemy (John Hick) into the conversation too, is an important and commendable achievement. I commend this book to anyone exploring answers to these issues which affect alot of human views and behaviour in our religiously confused world today.

1) Geivett presents the hardcore exclusivist position, meaning that anyone who dies outside of saving faith in Jesus, is pretty well doomed (a haphazard and cruel arrangement on God's part, if true? Hick and Pinnock think so);
2) McGrath offers us the same but wisely prefers to leave God the problem of what happens to the 'unsaved' (i.e. it's not for us to say, which he calls 'Christian particularism');
3) Pinnock is considered a progressive evangelical because he aligns with the Roman Catholics i.e. he's inclusivist in his approach at least, which says people of any/no faith who manifest godliness will be allowed into 'heaven' because God's love through Jesus has gained forgiveness for all whether they realise it or not and so God accepts that they have failed to happen to believe and accept that 'through no fault of their own'.
4) Lastly comes Prof. Hick's viewpoint which is attacked by all those in the book whenever possible, because it's the most "radical", in that he abandons the Christian supremacy which all the others hold onto. Very simply, he says that all the main world religions (judged by their spiritual and moral fruit in human lives), influence humans to move increasingly out of natural self-centredness and toward greater God/Divine Centredness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of the darkness, into the light 24 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, what about those who never heard the Gospel message through no fault of their own? Are they doomed to everlasting perdition in Hell simply for that reason? Or does God save even non-believers, provided they live morally upright lives? And if God does so, how does that square with the traditional Christian message that Jesus was unique? Can Christianity still claim to be unique and uniquely true in a pluralistic world?

These are the questions addressed in "Four views on salvation in a pluralistic world". Essentially, the anthology is a written debate between a number of theologians taking different opinions on the matter: John Hick, Clark Pinnock, Alister McGrath, Douglas Geivett and Gary Phillips.

Of these, Geivett and Phillips take the traditional approach, which could be called Particularism or Exclusivism. Since salvation is by faith in Christ alone, people outside the fold will indeed be lost, including those who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. This is compatible with the loving grace of God, Geivett and Phillips argues, because God somehow knows that people in areas where the Gospel haven't been preached would have rejected it, even if it had been preached there. Who hears and who doesn't hear the Gospel is therefore under the providential guidance of God. Unless I'm mistaken, this argument was originally proposed by a Jesuit!

John Hick takes the most radically innovative approach, called Normative Pluralism by the editors. He believes that all or most religions contain both truths and falsehoods, and that the truths of all religions reflect the same morality, the same yearning for salvation, and therefore the same Ultimate Reality.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Compilation -- Should Have Been More Readable 9 Mar 2002
By David R. Bess - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Having studied these four views previously, I was disappointed after finishing this particular title. All of these authors could have made their arguments much more concise and readable, but none of them chose to do so.
Hick basically states that many different religions lead to the same God. Pinnock holds that salvation in Christ may be found through other religions. McGrath asserts salvation is found in a relationship with Christ, and persons who have had no chance to enter that relationship MIGHT receive God's mercy in some unknown way. Geivett and Phillips maintain salvation is ONLY found in a relationship with Christ, and persons who have had no chance to enter that relationship will spend eternity separated from God.
This book could have and should have been written in such a manner to appeal to the average layperson. These individuals are the ones who struggle with these issues and want to be better informed. Instead, all of these essays are directed towards other scholars. The overly-technical manner in which they are written will not appeal to most persons without professional theological training.
For pastors and well-versed teachers, this book provides a helpful summary of four current views on salvation. For everyone else, this volume will be confusing and hard to follow.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging but worthwhile... 6 Aug 2007
By Chad Oberholtzer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book offered an expansive and surprisingly lively exchange between four streams of theological thought pertaining to the relationships between Christianity and other religions, specifically in connection with salvation. John Hick represented the pluralism camp, Clark Pinnock represented the inclusivist camp, Alister McGrath represented a more broadly defined camp within particularism, and Douglas Geivett and Gary Phillips jointly represented a narrower branch of particularism.

I found the experience of reading this book to be extremely rewarding. It was a difficult read, probably as philosophical in nature as anything that I've ever read. The language that the authors used was more complicated and intricate than typical (though they would certainly argue that they dumbed-down and truncated their standard arguments to fit within the confines of this particular format). And I was amazed and pleased by the honesty and direct nature of the dialogue. There were no punches pulled, and these great thinkers were perfectly willing to challenge and even insult each other (or at least each other's ideas).

Though I was drawn to Hick's narrative introduction, I was immediately put-off by his aversion to the Bible. I instantly disconnected when he essentially decried the Bible as a series of man-made texts that were culturally/politically/theologically crafted for particular earthly purposes. I was further frustrated by the tenor of his writing throughout the book and found him to be less gracious than his colleagues. And without any foundation in the Bible or traditional Christian thinking, I found his arguments to be disconnected from any truth-source. Though he brought great challenge to my thinking, I remain unconvinced by his arguments.

Pinnock was hard to understand, as he claims to fall within evangelicalism but seems to press very hard against the walls of that distinction. He makes a very compelling case against the notion of a loving God who would choose billions for hell, but I found his argumentation to be rather scattered and unconvincing.

Geivett/Phillips were most closely aligned to my own spiritual upbringing, and they had the advantage of having me in their camp at the start. And though I found their approach to be comfortable for me (very Scripturally-based and well-organized), I was unimpressed by their logic and argumentation. The other authors seemed to be able to poke some significant holes in their reasoning, and I found their responses to be inadequate.

Ultimately, I finished this book most impressed by the case and position of Alister McGrath. This result was somewhat surprising, as I've mentioned that I expected to align most closely with Geivett and Phillips. Instead, I found McGrath to have a very winsome tone through his writing. Though very direct and confrontational when needed, he was never patronizing like Hick, never desperate like Pinnock, and never careless like Geivett/Phillips. I appreciate the clarity of his logic, as I was not lost in his thoughts as I occasionally was with the others. And I found that he struck a helpful balance between commitment to the Scriptures and the history of Christian thinking while honoring God's sovereignty by leaving a few important questions essentially unanswered. He did not bash the Bible (like Hick), he did not insult Augustine and Calvin (like Pinnock), and he did not proof-text (like Geivett/Phillips). He simply made a solid case for the reality that salvation is available in and through Christ, and our job as Christians is to spread that message everywhere, regardless of whether we know for sure what God plans to do with anyone that we miss. This gives us a vital job to do but leaves the final work in God's hands.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One of the Better Works in Four Views Series 4 April 2006
By Reader From Aurora - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World edited by Okholm and Gundry discusses the issue of salvation in light of the multiplicity of contemporary worldviews. This is part of the Four Views series published by Zondervan.

The following four perspectives of salvation are discussed:

* John Hick - Pluralism - all religions lead to God

* Clark Pinnock - Inclusivism - universally available but through Christ

* Douglas Geivett/Gary Philips - Exclusivism - only through acceptance of Christ

* Allister McGgrath - Exclusivism (slightly nuanced)

Although the Four Views series is normally characterized by solid argumentation, it has been criticised for its narrow perspective. This limited scope often makes the texts come of as a bit of an hair splitting exercise between conservative American Protestants. In this regard, the current instalment is notably better - John Hick's extreme liberal if not non-Christian perspective helps to significantly widen the discussion.

With regard to the quality of the contributions, I thought given the limited space they were generally good (McGrath's piece struck me as hastily written and a bit off tone). As one of the most recognizable proponents of religious pluralism, Hick's comments were especially helpful and interesting. Without a doubt he advocates the most politically correct position in the current Western intellectual climate. At the same time, however, it is the most at variance with scripture and tradition - indeed, while hopeful; Hick's position is arguably not truly a Christian one. Pennock's piece and the one by Geivett and Philips were also useful in filling out the spectrum of viewpoints. McGrath while sometimes an able commentator added little to the debate.

Overall this is a good read for those interested in Christian theology. I encourage Zondervan to continue this series, but with a wider range of contributors (Catholic and/or Orthodox might be helpful). As it is Four Views is a good series - with a wider range of perspectives it could be outstanding.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into Popstmodern Soteriology 9 Jan 2001
By R. Brewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you want to see first-hand how postmodernism has infected the Doctrine of Salvation within evangelical Christianity - this is the book. Coming from a conservative evangelical background it was interesting and informative to have a concise overview on the other schools of thought all in one volume. It also provides an excellent affirmation of the exclusivity of salvation through Christ. I particularly enjoyed how the contributors interacted with each other on the four views. A must read for anyone who wants to be equipped to evangelize in the 21st century.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of the darkness, into the light 18 Jan 2009
By Ashtar Command - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, what about those who never heard the Gospel message through no fault of their own? Are they doomed to everlasting perdition in Hell simply for that reason? Or does God save even non-believers, provided they live morally upright lives? And if God does so, how does that square with the traditional Christian message that Jesus was unique? Can Christianity still claim to be unique and uniquely true in a pluralistic world?

These are the questions addressed in "Four views on salvation in a pluralistic world". Essentially, the anthology is a written debate between a number of theologians taking different opinions on the matter: John Hick, Clark Pinnock, Alister McGrath, Douglas Geivett and Gary Phillips.

Of these, Geivett and Phillips take the traditional approach, which could be called Particularism or Exclusivism. Since salvation is by faith in Christ alone, people outside the fold will indeed be lost, including those who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. This is compatible with the loving grace of God, Geivett and Phillips argues, because God somehow knows that people in areas where the Gospel haven't been preached would have rejected it, even if it had been preached there. Who hears and who doesn't hear the Gospel is therefore under the providential guidance of God. Unless I'm mistaken, this argument was originally proposed by a Jesuit!

John Hick takes the most radically innovative approach, called Normative Pluralism by the editors. He believes that all or most religions contain both truths and falsehoods, and that the truths of all religions reflect the same morality, the same yearning for salvation, and therefore the same Ultimate Reality. In that sense, all religions are "true" and salvation can be attained through all of them. Hick also writes about his own spiritual journey, which took him from atheism to Christian fundamentalism, and then further to a Pluralist position. This is the most interesting part of the anthology. Hick is obviously a very liberal theologian, something of a cat among the ermines in this conservative anthology. His pluralist form of Christianity sounds similar to the Hindu philosophy known as Advaita Vedanta. He also denies that Jesus ever called himself God, and thus has a very "low" Christology.

Clark Pinnock defends the Inclusivist position. Pinnock is apparently something of a "heretic" in evangelical circles. In another Counterpoints volume, he defends purgatory and annihilationism! By Inclusivism, Pinnock means a position similar to that of C.S. Lewis or Vatican II. Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone, but God uses the non-Christian religions to draw people closer to Christ. Although the other religions are strictly speaking false, their followers could nevertheless be saved. God indirectly mediates his saving grace even through heathen religions. In a sense, this means that a Buddhist or Muslim might be an unconscious Christian. Pinnock believes that many uncoverted heathens were saved during Biblical history: the Queen of Sheba, Melchizedek, the Ninevites, Job, Cornelius and others. He even claims that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were saved (based on a statement of Jesus that the fate of unbelieving Israel would be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgement).

Alister McGrath's position is the most difficult to fathom. For starters, McGrath uses postmodernism as a club against the enlightenment tradition, while nevertheless suggesting that Christianity is absolutely true (!?). Nor is it clear whether he believes that non-Christians can be saved or not. Indeed, the editors introduce him as someone having an agnostic position on the subject. He also spends a large part of his contribution making veiled personal attacks against John Hick, and fulminating against how modernity spawned Stalin, Hitler and Pluralism (!!). A cold shower might do this guy good, I think. Still, McGrath also raises more serious points against Hick's posititon. Since Pluralism must amputate what makes Christianity distinctive, e.g. the notion that Jesus was divine, in what sense is Pluralism really "pluralist"? Isn't it really a covertly intolerant position? McGrath also points out that concepts such as "religion" and "morality" are very different in different cultures. Nor does "salvation" mean the same thing in, say, Christianity or Hinduism. For that reason, it's impossible to harmonize "all religions". In what meaningful sense can "all religions" really be said to reflect the same truth? Here, McGrath is obviously on to something.

Personally, I'm not a Christian, and one of many reasons is that I suspect Geivett and Phillips to be right on the issue of Bible interpretation. In other words, I think Ur-Christianity, although it had other sympathetic features, was indeed exclusivist in its view of salvation. That, of course, is an intolerant position, put mildly! There are Biblical passages that could be given an Inclusivist spin (Pinnock knows them by heart), but this doesn't seem to fit the general context of the New Testament as a whole. Christianity didn't transcend the usual in-group/out-group dichotomy. For this reason, I obviously consider the Inclusivist and Pluralist positions to be positive developments, not because they are "true" (they are not), but because they are better from a moral and political perspective. Out of the darkness, into the light?

I found the book interesting, but I agree with some of the other reviewers that it's a mere introduction to the subject. There is little theological meat in this debate, since the contributions are relatively short. Hick and McGrath obviously dislike each other, and there are a lot of digressions and soap-boxing about other issues in the various articles. Still, to somebody completely new to the theological conflicts concerning salvation in a pluralistic world, this anthology might nevertheless be helpful.
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