Is Jesus the Only Savior? – Pluralism (Pt. 2)


Chapter Three

Chapter three begins by noting Hick’s second stage and its incorporation of Kant’s thought. Once again, Nash does not move beyond Hick in his analysis of Hick’s work. The author limits himself to Hick and Hick’s influences as to purify his analysis. This ultimately portrays the author as confident in his own criticism. Hick’s major incorporation from Kant concerns the phenomenal (apparent) vs. the noumenal (actual) world. Hick uses this terminology to clarify pluralistic thought – i.e., religions are merely culturally determined appearances corresponding to the actual God. This distinction “helped [Hick] escape his dilemma.”[8]

Next, Nash claims that Hick attempts to correct his first stage of thought by clarifying terminology. Nash notes, however, that this was a shift with an essential principle guiding it.

“Hick is attempting to get away from the mistakes he made in the first stage of his pluralism, which often found him operating with elements of an older, more theistic, even Christian concept of God. A serious pluralist does not want to do that.”[9]

It appears that Nash has identified that pluralist concepts have not generated any true pluralists. If Hick – the most notable pluralist – has not been awarded the consistency of a ‘serious pluralist,’ then who can be identified as such? After a few pages of dissecting the shift to an ‘unknowable God’ by Hick, Nash exposes the essential fault: this proposal advances the discussion nowhere.“When you begin by stating that point A in your system is the recognition that humans cannot know anything about God, how can you rationally get from point A to point B – or anywhere, for that matter?”[10]

Nash continues by exposing the complex contingencies of Hick’s view. One of these great deductions regards salvation and the evaluation of other religions. Apparently, Hick’s view would lead one to assume that all religions are equal, but this is not Hick’s conclusion. Hick supposes a broad soteriology rooted in the self-liberation. After a long explanation, Nash easily notes that this is an oversimplification on Hick’s part. Religions illustrate different means of salvation because they have different views of the “Ultimate” and the “basic human predicament.”[11] These differences are not reconciled in a general soteriology, but do harm to each religion’s essential worldview.

In conclusion, Nash determines that Hick’s second stage of pluralism does little to reconcile the inconsistencies of his first stage. “Every time Hick is confronted by a difficulty, he takes another step backward into the epicycle.”[12] Therefore, Hick provides an inadequate rebuttal to Christian theism, but has drawn academic support due to those scholars who agree with his basic biases.

Chapter Four

The next section in chapter four examines pluralists’ claims against exclusivism and its supposed outdated reasoning. Nash cites Hick, W. C. Smith, and Paul Knitter. Now that the author has summarized Hick, he moves to incorporate other pluralist thinkers. Nash begins by providing some basic understanding of logic. It is a great aid to the student that Nash does not presume the reader’s knowledge even on such fundamental truths. Once again, the author is portrayed as one who is not on the pursuit of novelty for novelty’s sake, but is more concerned with the truth and validity of the very basic principles of this argument.

The author puts forth the rules of logic, and then puts forth the idea of truth and its ties to propositions. Next, in a simple yet profound manner, Nash exposes the correspondence between truth and logic with religious claims: “while belief certainly includes more than mental assent to a proposition, belief always includes believing something, and that something is a proposition.”[13] Religion contains propositions just like any other truth claim, thus it should be treated with the same rules of logic and affirmation.

The majority of the analysis concerns W. C. Smith and his rejection of such a conclusion. Nash draws a large amount of scholastic support from Harold A. Netland, exposing a community of opposition against mentioned pluralistic claims. This observance alerts the reader that Nash is not alone in his refutation, further confirming his position. Moreover, Christianity is not the only religion that suffers from such a non-propositional assertion regarding religion; all religions would challenge the pluralists’ claim, because all religions propose propositional truth. Obviously, pluralism’s unorthodoxy has a damaging effect beyond Nash’s personal view. Therefore, the author removes himself from the accusation that he is simply attempting to uphold a personal bias. The summation of the chapter ends with a clear deduction regarding pluralism: “we contend that any theory that so mishandles truth and logic cannot stand.”[14]

[8] Ronald H. Nash, Is Jesus the Only Savior? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 43.

[9] Ibid., 41.

[10] Ibid., 44.

[11] Ibid., 48.

[12] Ibid., 51.

[13] Ibid., 64.

[14] Ibid., 68.


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