Picky Particularism....

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Frogman, May 22, 2003.

  1. Frogman

    Frogman
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    Following is an article posted to HBS by Elder John Kohler of Morris Fork Baptist Church, Brother Kohler is moderator of the YahooGroups email forum of Historic Baptist Symposium, you can read the posts under discussion there at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HistoricBaptist/

    This shows the neverending attempt of the adversary to lead men into denying ultimately the purpose and need of the sacrifice of Christ. IMHO. I disagree with the tenets of the article, I agree with Bro. Kohler. I am also a "hardline particularist."

    Bro. Dallas Eaton

    Theologians opening heaven's gate a bit wider

    By Paul Galloway, Chicago Tribune Religion Writer

    Five centuries since the end of the Middle Ages, it's likely that many modern-day Christians still subscribe to vestiges of that period's classic depictions of heaven and hell: the former a place of infinite peace and joy;the latter a hideous chamber of eternal punishment.

    Last week, the Church of England made international news by joining other church bodies, including its American relative, the Episcopal Church, in rejecting the medieval image of hell, calling it a distortion of ``the revelation of God's love in Christ.''
    The implication was that God is ``a sadistic monster . . . who consigned millions to eternal torment.'' Instead, a church commission replaced the idea of a fire-and-brimstone afterlife with the concept of annihilation at death--``total non-being''--for those who reject God's love.

    Whether that's an improvement over a burning hell is open to personal opinion, but the change is a vivid example of wide-ranging contemporary re-examinations of some of the basic tenets of the Christian faith.Those tenets address some of mankind's most profound questions: What is the purpose of life? Is the universe the work of some sort of just and merciful intelligence we call God? And if so, why do the innocent suffer? What happens when we die?

    One of the most controversial debates now occurring involves the matter of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, whatever those destinations may entail. The catalyst is society's increasing religious and cultural pluralism, which encourages tolerance of other beliefs.

    Like people in every religion, Christians have always battled among themselves over doctrines and precepts, but for most of its history, there was little disagreement among believers that Christianity was the one true religion and the only path to eternal salvation.This meant that anyone else--Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and, indeed, followers of any other belief system, not to mention agnostics and atheists--were destined for hell no matter how moral, ethical or saintly they might have been.

    ``Pluralism is an issue that's making everyone rethink the Christian concept of salvation through Jesus Christ,'' says Dennis L. Okholm, associate professor of theology at Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution. ``The world is smaller, and we know more about other religions.'' Okholm and colleague Timothy R. Phillips, who also teaches theology at Wheaton, are editors of ``More Than One Way? Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World'' (Zondervan).

    Limiting salvation solely to Christians is a position that has been discarded or renounced by many scholars, clergy and ecclesiastical bodies, including the Roman Catholic Church and mainline Protestant denominations.But as exemplified by the Okholm-Phillips book, the more theologically conservative evangelical Christians are engaged in a spirited discussion about whether to defend or modify the traditional doctrine of ``salvific exclusivism.''

    The book grew out of a 1992 conference at Wheaton on this subject that was sponsored by the college's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals.``It's both a theological problem and a cultural phenomenon,'' Phillips says.``We Christians now live next door to Hindus and Muslims, so this is aquestion we must face up to.''For Okholm, the future of the faith hinges on the answer: ``I think the issue is whether Christianity will survive in a religiously pluralistic world, and if it does, what will it look like?''

    Phillips complains that the culture prefers to define religious faith as a private concern. ``It's seen as something on the order of whether I prefer rocky road or strawberry ice cream, and when I try to transcend those private boundaries, my culture takes offense.'' A result is to restrict dialogue and blur distinctions about different religions.``Our students are so influenced by culture that they are tolerant to a fault,'' Phillips says. ``When I ask them in class about disagreements Christians might have with Hinduism, they say, `I'm not supposed to judge anyone's religion.' ''Because evangelicals and fundamentalists have been in the exclusivist camp, they're seen by other Christians and members of other faiths as arrogrant and intolerant, Phillips observes.``But our culture is so relativistic that it's hard for us even to talk with fellow Christians and other faiths about our differences in a respectful way,'' he says.

    ``More Than One Way?'' presents three main Christian positions: pluralism, inclusivism and particularism.The pluralist view is represented by John Hick, a noted British scholar and author who has taught at Princeton University, is now at Birmingham University in England and the sole non-evangelical voice in the book. Hick, a universalist who believes that God's redeeming grace and unconditional love will welcome all humans into heaven, is especially dismissive of the hard-line particularists: ``The implication is that the large majority of the human race thus far have, through no fault of their own, been consigned to eternal perdition. . . .But can it possibly be the will of the loving heavenly Father of Jesus' teaching that only that minority of men and women who have the luck to be born into a Christian part of the world can enter eternal life?``This would not be the work of a God of limitless and universal love, who values all human beings equally, but of an arbitrary cosmic tyrant, more fit to be reviled as the devil than to be worshiped as God.''

    Clark Pinnock, an evangelical scholar who teaches at McMaster Divinity College in Canada, is an inclusivist as well, but his view isn't as all-embracing as Hick's view that all faiths offer salvation.``Pinnock insists salvation is through Christ, but there might be ways to come to God through Christ that include people from other religions,'' Okholmsays. ``His point is that God's grace is very wide, and he wants to be sure we have a gracious God.'

    Alister McGrath, an evangelical theologian who teaches at Oxford University in England and at Regent College in Canada, speaks for an optimistic particularism.``He's open to what God may do to people's lives who don't follow Christ,'' Okholm says. ``He too would expect God to be gracious. He leaves it to God, but he notes that non-Christian religions . . . have radically different conceptions of salvation. So people who want to be nice and pluralistic are imposing their beliefs on others by declaring they are destined to reside in an afterlife they may not choose.''

    The hard-line particularist position is held by R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips, who teach, respectively, at Biola University in California and Bryan College in Tennessee: ``In our view, Christianity is uniquely true, and explicit faith in Jesus Christ is a necessary condition for salvation.''

    So what is the trend in thinking about the afterlife? ``For evangelicals, the move is toward Pinnock's inclusivism,'' Phillips says. That is, to view the pearly gates as opening wider to people of other faiths. And the consensus of other Christians? ``Hick,'' Okholm says. Everybody's ``going to end up in Hickville.''

    ***I am a hardline particularist.---John Kohler
     
  2. Frogman

    Frogman
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    You guys are too picky :D
     
  3. KenH

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    Interesting article, Brother Dallas. And what a busy list you got that from. I noticed it averages about 40 posts per day. :eek:

    Here is another article I found on the subject of inclusion that I think can add to the discussion you have started. I know very little about the man the writer of the article is talking about, but I still found the article to be interesting along the lines of this thread as to how some people view inclusiveness.

    What is Carlton Peason's "Doctrine of Inclusion?"

    [ May 23, 2003, 08:42 AM: Message edited by: KenH ]
     

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