Is Jesus the Only Savior? – Pluralism (Pt. 1)

JesusANALYSIS

Nash’s preface provides ample information to alert the reader as to the proceeding examination throughout the book. With a dash of humility, Nash admits the academic placement of his book and the assistance of fellow scholars.

Chapter One

Chapter one sets out to carry the reader into the essential focus of the book – the exclusivity of Christ as savior – and three primary views concerning the debate: Christian exclusivism, pluralism, and inclusivism. Nash provides definitions for each of the views.

The first (Christian exclusivism) composes the majority of the chapter. Nash uses biblical authority and scriptural evidences to establish its description. Essentially, the author convincingly portrays the first view, setting the mindset that the later views will be analyzed in their inadequacy of debunking this initial view. The burden of proof befalls pluralism and inclusivism. Nash appears to produce a thesis along these lines:

“The major question I will seek to answer in the rest of this book is whether pluralists or inclusivists have produced arguments strong enough to justify the repudiation of exclusivism, which is the position of historic Christianity.”[1]

A key distinctive of traditional Christian exclusive is already introduced in chapter one: theology “has been replaced by personal encounter, religious feeling, trust, or obedience.”[2] This theme is recurrent throughout his following analysis of pluralism in the first part of his work. Moreover, he notifies the reader of his structure and allows them to anticipate his concentration on scholar John Hick.

Properly, the author notes that atheism, non-Christian religions, and universalism are “beyond the scope of this book.”[3] This designation allows Nash the academic precision to focalize the examination. Furthermore, the exactitude of his work and care for his reader is exemplified in that he introduces this claim early.

Next, Nash provides introductory definitions of pluralism and inclusivism. He conveniently provides the student with a functioning definition of each view in order to allow the reader some access to foundational knowledge during the more detailed analysis following chapter one.

The conclusion of chapter one supplies a structure to accompany the study. Nash puts forth two propositions that distinguish these three views:

  1. “Jesus Christ is the only Savior” and
  2. “No one can be saved unless he or she knows the information about Jesus’ person and work contained in the Gospel and unless he or she exercises explicit faith in Jesus Christ.”[4]

Pluralists reject both (1) and (2), and inclusivists accept (1) but reject (2). Nash states his thesis (as quoted above) and then continues to part one of his analysis – that concerning pluralism.

Chapter Two

As previously mentioned by Nash, he propagates that his central criticism will be of John Hick. This is not some inconsiderable scholar within the debate, but is “generally acknowledged to be the best-known and most influential proponent of pluralism today.”[5]

Additionally important, Nash’s progression follows Hick’s progression. “Hick’s pluralism did not suddenly appear in a mature, fully developed form.”[6] This portrays the author as respectful to Hick, as well as meticulous in his critique of Hick’s work. Simply, Nash will scrutinize Hick in the same manner that Hick put forth his proposal. Thus, no element of a faulty representation is suspected with Nash.

The author then begins his summation of Hick’s work. This is not illustrated as a shallow examination. Nash puts forth quotes from Hick’s own works and attempts to aid the student in understanding Hick with various diagrams, analogies, and helpful explanations. Moreover, Nash asks the ‘why’ questions. The author not only presents Hick’s view, but he provides an explanation as to what purposed Hick in proposing these observations. The reasons range from Hick’s observance of ‘good’ non-religious people, the presupposition of an all-loving God, and so forth.

Hick’s first stage of pluralism is given a convenient summation, and then Nash moves to addressing the problems within Hick’s view. The author’s major front is expressed in Hick’s self-contradicting propositions. Here, Nash allows Hick to be his own critic, presenting the apparent contradictions, and allowing the student to naturally deduce the view’s inadequacy. This removes Nash from the accusation that this is simply a matter of opinion or difference, and reinforces the logical inconsistency as a means of refutation. The author further undercuts Hick’s entire scheme (conclusions before premises), and the student is left with an overwhelming evidential claim against Hick. Nash finally concludes, “Hick’s first attempt at a Copernican Revolution was a philosophical and theological disaster.”[7]


[1] Ronald H. Nash, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 25

[2] Ibid., 13.

[3] Ibid., 21.

[4] Ibid., 25.

[5] Ibid., 29.

[6] Ibid., 29.

[7] Ibid., 38.

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