Pluralism and society


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Today’s world is one of increasing interconnectivity and communication. Societies used to be more homogenous, meaning there was a dominant group with a particular culture, history and often religious affiliation. This is radically changing in our multi-religious society. This raises the question of how best a society can thrive in these new conditions.

Christianity was brought to the UK by the Romans and in the 7th century it became the main religion of the country. Today, the UK is a multi-faith society. The proportion of the country identifying as Christian fell from 71.7% in 2001 to 59.3% in 2011 and then to 46.2% in 2021.

The traditional approach of religious exclusivism is coming under pressure from these modern changes and from those who think that a more inclucivist or even pluralist approach would be best suited to enabling social flourishing in a multi-religious society.

This topic is partially about the correct theology regarding exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. The topic is mostly about how themes in that area of theology affect society and Christian practices, especially interfaith dialogue and conversion.

Inter-faith dialogue is the practice of promoting communication across faith divides between those of different religions.

Conversion is influencing a person to become a member of a religion that they were previously not members of.

The pluralism and theology topic relates to how Christians should think about other faiths. This pluralism and society topic is about how Christians should act towards those of other faiths. It is also about which practices would best enable a flourishing cohesive society.

Liberal vs conservative views of inter-faith dialogue & conversion

The question of how religions should think of and act towards each other for the sake of social good is a loaded question. It depends on what one thinks the social good is and what is required to enable it.

Liberals and conservatives tend to have different views on what inter-faith dialogue requires for it to enable social cohesion, including its relation to conversion.

A liberal view of inter-faith dialogue & conversion is that the ‘dialogue’ element requires an open mind; being open to changing one’s beliefs. Dialogue involves an exchange between people ready to learn something from each other. Two groups just trying to convert each other is not dialogue. It’s not promoting learning or understanding, it’s just proselyting. It can’t do the job of reducing ignorance and prejudice so it can’t enable social cohesion.

A conservative view of inter-faith dialogue & conversion is that the ‘faith’ element requires genuine expression of each person’s faith, including traditional exclusivist attitudes that your religion is the only true one and others should convert. For conservatives, dialogue doesn’t require being open to changing one’s mind.

The debate is whether the liberal or the conservative approach to inter-faith dialogue and conversion best enables social cohesion.

Christians tend to choose one of these approaches depending on whether they are liberal or conservative.

Liberals often see conservatives keeping a focus on evangelizing and converting others but thereby sacrificing the ‘dialogue’ element. Conservatives are stuck in an intolerant medieval mindset, unable to adapt to the needs of a cohesive modern multi-faith society. They argue that society needs genuine inter-faith dialogue which requires openness. Exclusivism and its goal of conversion undermines dialogue.

Conservatives often see liberals as toning down the closed-minded exclusivist part, but thereby sacrificing the ‘faith’ element. Liberals are undermining the faith by selling out to the relativizing demands of secular society. They argue that a peaceful society needs religious freedom, which requires the freedom to be exclusivist and try to convert others. Liberal pluralism and its goal of relativizing all religious belief undermines religious freedom.

The scriptural reasoning movement

Scriptural reasoning is a contemporary method of inter-faith dialogue. It involves people of different faiths coming together to read and reflect on each other’s scriptures. The purpose is not about agreement or convincing each other but learning to disagree without conflict. This is based on the view that intolerance is caused by a lack of understanding.

The origins of scriptural reasoning. Peter Ochs (Jewish theologian) developed ‘Textual Reasoning’, a method of combining study of scripture with thinking through the current issues facing Jewish communities and also being open to applying not just traditional philosophy, but postliberal and postmodern philosophy too. The idea was that after the holocaust, methods for dealing with contemporary issues should be as broadly sourced as possible.

Scriptural reasoning was developed from Textual Reasoning when theologians from different religious traditions experimented with reading their scriptures together. It was founded in 1995 by theologians from Abrahamic religions including Ochs and Anglican theologian David Ford.

The method of scriptural reasoning. The way the sessions work is that the participants choose a topic or theme. Members from each present community then select a passage from their scripture. In small groups, each passage is given an introduction and then read out. They then discuss the passages one at a time, interacting with each other on the possible meanings and interpretations of the passage. Like with Textual reasoning, discussion can involve discussion of the theme or text’s relevance to contemporary issues.

The claimed benefits are promoting learning, understanding and friendship across faith divides, exploring differences within a safe context which humanises those who are different.

The ideological basis of scriptural reasoning. Scriptural reasoning is “postliberal” meaning it attempts to avoid the problems of both liberalism and fundamentalism.

Liberalism tries to bring different views together on a neutral-ground which bans intolerant or exclusivist elements of their ideologies, to enable seeing each other as equal.

The problem with liberalism is that, by suppressing the exclusivist parts of faith, it actually increasingly annihilates the tradition of the different groups it seeks to bring together. This makes groups, especially their traditionally minded members, wary of engaging in liberal attempts to bring people together.

Scriptural reasoning does not ask participants to suppress any part of their faith, making it postliberal. However, attempting to convert others or attacking the faith of others is not allowed. On this point, states that:

  • SR should be a space where people feel safe from pressure to convert or attacks on their own faith.
  • The main aim of the group cannot be to convert others
  • You can show your love for your own scriptures
  • “At no time are you called to compromise your faith commitment”

This is the balance scriptural reasoning is trying to achieve. It claims to be postliberal, not asking participants to hold anything back when sharing how they personally feel about their own perspectives, only asking them to hold back from commenting critically on other faiths or from converting others.

Scriptural reasoning was initially designed for Christians, Jews and Muslims but has since branched to include other faiths too. It began as an academic practice but has increasingly become a civic practice involving lay believers.

Whether scriptural reasoning-style inter-faith dialogue is relativistic 

Relativism about religion is the idea that there is no one true religion. Conservative believers often reject the idea that inter-faith dialogue requires suppression of exclusivist attitudes like attempts at conversion.

Scriptural reasoning arguably faces the classic problem faced by the liberal approach to inter-faith dialogue. It enables open-minded dialogue only by suppressing expression of exclusivist faith. It is explicitly against discussion about which religion is true. The problem is, reading different scriptures as if they are all equal gives the impression that they are all equally true. Conservatives tend to be exclusivist about the truth of their religion. So, they might reject scriptural reasoning as relativistic. Unfortunately, they are precisely the sort of religious believer that proponents of scriptural reasoning would most hope to attract.

Defending scriptural reasoning, it is a quite specific activity with a specific goal. There’s no reason to think that it is promoting relativism in general. It wants to enable mutual understanding across faith divides. It helps that purpose to prevent conversion attempts and debate about which religion is the true one. Conservatives have nothing to fear from learning about other religions. They aren’t being asked to give up their own faith to do so. Scriptural reasoning is often described as ‘postliberal’ because it encourages understanding of traditional religious views and does not reject them.

However, it is a feature of mainstream conservative religious thought to be suspicious of approaches to inter-faith dialogue which demand they not convert others. They think their religious freedom is under attack in liberal secular societies. They might still see scriptural reasoning as encouraging a relativistic pluralist & liberal attitude, regardless of its attempt to be postliberal. Although Scriptural reasoning encourages understanding of traditional religious views, it does still discourage expression of a vital element of tradition: the exclusive truth of a religion and the need for others to convert. So, it cannot really be full inter-faith dialogue while excluding one of the most important (for conservatives) elements of faith.

Whether scriptural reasoning avoids liberalism’s problem of relativism

Liberal approaches to dialogue attempt to bring different religious worldviews together by uniting and unifying them on a common ground with a shared purpose.

The critique of the liberal approach is that, in unifying different perspectives to a single purpose, it actually progressively obliterates their individuality. The liberal approach relativises faith, sacrificing the ‘faith’ element to enable the ‘dialogue’ element.

Scriptural reasoning was intended by David Ford, one of its founders, to be postliberal. This is meant to avoid the problem of liberalism by accepting difference rather than trying to carve out a neutral ground which ends up subsuming difference. Post-liberal approaches accept that there are genuinely different worldviews and different forms of life.

By accepting difference, a genuinely postliberal form of interfaith dialogue is supposed to avoid liberalism’s issue of leading to relativism.

Gavin D’Costa (Catholic theologian) criticises scriptural reasoning, doubting that it is able to achieve this postliberal avoidance of relativism. It actually slides into liberalism and relativistic pluralism.

D’Costa points to Ford’s analogy for scriptural reasoning as a “tent” in which different faiths come together. The point about a tent is that it is a unique space, a neutral ground, not representative of any of the different faiths. It is suggestive of the liberal approach of unifying different perspectives to one purpose that transcends any of their differences. D’Costa illustrates this issue from the Catholic perspective, but it applies just as much for other religions:

“Ford’s tent insinuates … the logic of liberalism: the Bible has no binding authority, nor has the church’s reading of it got primary status, nor can Christian scripture/Christ actually narrate other texts of scriptures: Jewish and Muslim.” – D’Costa.

The problem is, religions are all-encompassing worldviews. They don’t just explain reality, they even explain other attempts to explain reality too. A Christian will explain Judaism as those who failed to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. A Catholic perspective would claim the Catholic Church has supreme authority in interpreting the Bible, compared to Jewish or Muslim interpretations.

So, religions clearly involve critical perspectives on other religions. Seeing other faiths though one’s own perspective and criticising them with the aim of conversion actually is part of a believer’s personal faith perspective. Yet, Scriptural reasoning does not allow that. It claims to be postliberal by not asking participants to hold anything back when sharing their personal faith. So, scriptural reasoning doesn’t actually allow what it claims to allow.

In the liberal ‘tent’ of scriptural reasoning, participants are required to suspend or repress a key element of their faith. This raises serious doubts about whether participants in scriptural reasoning actually can maintain their own faith-commitments during the dialogue.

Scriptural reasoning thus slides back into liberalism, with its attendant problem of suppressing the ‘faith’ element to enable the ‘dialogue’ element. The result is dialogue, but not genuinely inter-faith dialogue. Faith is relativised.

The issue of secular liberal pressure on traditional Christian exclusivism

Cardinal Ratzinger claimed that secular liberal culture had begun to view exclusivist belief in Jesus as a threat to tolerance and freedom.

“affirming that there is a binding and valid truth in history in the figure of Jesus Christ … is described as fundamentalism … as the fundamental threat emerging against … tolerance and freedom.” – Ratzinger

Paul Eddy is a Church of England lay member of the general synod. He argued further that the result of this liberal secular approach is that Christians are socially pressured towards pluralism. He said that Christians were made to feel guilty about causing offence over their views about Jesus being the way, the truth and the life. Christians are being socially pressured into relativistic pluralism.

“What we are witnessing on a monthly basis here in the UK, is a strategic, highly-politicised marginalisation of Christianity in the publica arena.” – Paul Eddy.

“We must not allow the arguments for diplomacy and social cohesion to detract from our primary calling to be Christ’s disciples and evangelists”. – Paul Eddy.

“I would strongly argue that we are failing in our duty as Christians, and failing in our duty as the state church, if we do not offer the claims of Jesus Christ, and salvation through him alone, to people of other faiths” – Paul Eddy.

Conservative believers like Eddy argue that the liberal approach to dialogue and conversion is part of a wider liberal & secular project to undermine traditional religious belief by making it socially unacceptable. Eddy’s comments are part of what led to the Church of England’s document ‘Sharing the gospel of salvation’.

Secular liberals often respond that relativistic social pressure on traditional Christians is justified because exclusivist attitudes often cause social problems.

This is what Anti-theist Christopher Hitchens argues. He accepts that religious people should have the freedom to try and convert people but thinks it should be socially looked down on. So, although religious people have the right to be an exclusivist and try to convert people, others have the right to judge them negatively for thereby creating social tensions. Atheists also have the right to try and convert people to atheism.

Hitchens claims that ‘domesticating’ religion is essential for social cohesion. Religion’s traditional approach to conversion and dialogue deserves social pressure because its intolerance leads to social issues.

So, exclusivists like Eddy are confused. They are confusing criticism for marginalisation. They don’t like the effect of mainstream culture calling them intolerant, but that’s what it means to live in a free society – people are free to think you are intolerant. Exclusivists are free to believe and say what they want, and mainstream society is also free to criticise exclusivists as intolerant. That is simply the result of free speech, it’s not marginalisation.

A free society allows conversion & social pressure has unintended consequences. People should have the right to believe what they want, including exclusivism, without being pressured into relativism.

It is considered part of a liberal democracy that people have freedom of speech, which includes attempting to persuade others of your views, including religious views. It is up to those who listen therefore to decide whether they want to convert. This encourages social stability. If everyone feels like they have the freedom to express, then for the most part that’s all people will feel a need to do. Civilisation is based on recognizing the choice between speech and violence. If everyone feels part of the political process, then that greatly lowers the number who feel they must resort to violence.

Relativistic social pressure can therefore have unintended negative consequences, such as driving religious believers towards fundamentalism. If Christians think that their religious freedom is under attack, many will gravitate towards a more extreme form of exclusivism in the hope that it might protect their interests. That’s not good for social cohesion.

Response: Regarding the argument that the social relativistic pressure on traditional Christians might fuel extremism, Hitchens retorts that sacrificing liberal values to satisfy those people will simply result in backslidings towards theocracy and even worse social tensions. Hitchens seems happy to go to war with exclusivists. He sees no other choice between their accepting their domesticated status where they are free to practice their religion in their private lives, but if they venture beyond that to converting others in ways which cause tensions, Hitchens thinks they are fair game for ridicule and denouncement as intolerant. Sacrificing liberal values for the sake of avoiding offending conservative Christians is a slippery slope back to theocrasy. Christians had simply better get used to the fact that their view on life is simply their opinion and if they try and convert others, including through inter-faith dialogue, then, in a free society they had better be ready for others to voice their counter-opinion against them. If they feel this amounts to an unfair relativistic pressure on them, then that must be because hold to some pretence that their opinion is actually worth more because God is on their side. Hitchens argues that reveals a totalitarian mindset which wants to control others and cannot accept the equality that comes from freedom.

“There’s an excellent chance of a healthy pluralist outcome, but it’s very unlikely that this can happen unless [religious believers] are compelled to abandon certain presumptions that are exclusive to themselves. The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. Those who pretend that we can skip this stage in the present case are deluding themselves and asking for trouble.” – Hitchens.

“they won’t be happy until you believe it too … because that’s what their holy books tell them … [religion] isn’t just a private belief. It is rather, and I think always has been … a threat to the idea of a peaceable community.” – Hitchens.

W. L. Craig’s defence of the conservative approach to interfaith dialogue

William lane Craig is a conservative who defends the traditional approach to dialogue and conversion from the liberal argument that exclusivist attitudes conflicts with tolerant openness to dialogue. He argues that an Exclusivist or Inclusivist approach is compatible with interfaith dialogue and social cohesion.

Craig argues that the influence of political correctness, post-modernism, relativism and belief in ‘diversity’ as the ultimate value have together influenced the rise in theological pluralism. He cites Alan Bloom’s claim that today’s culture is defined by thinking “relativism is necessary to openness”. Relativism about religion is the view that all religions are equally true, i.e., Pluralism.

Craig points out that if religious diversity calls for openness which requires relativism, then that is incompatible with the objective truth of Christianity:

“Thus, we are led to the paradoxical result that in the name of religious diversity traditional Christianity is de-legitimated and marginalized.” – Craig.

True religious diversity has to include traditional exclusivism. Liberalism seems to have a tendency to become its own type of intolerance, denying religious freedom, such as the freedom to be an exclusivist. Liberals try to link tolerance with pluralistic relativism, but Craig resists, arguing that it is possible to be tolerant without adopting pluralism. Christians do not have to become pluralists in order to get along well with those of different faiths, have productive dialogue or a cohesive society in general. Tolerance and humility are sufficient.

Paul Knitter’s liberationist Pluralism

Knitter can be used to criticise Craig, as Knitter argues that there is a link between exclusivism and intolerance and further, that even tolerance isn’t enough for social cohesion anyway – only pluralism is.

Knitter is a pluralist who argues that Pluralism is actually essential for a cohesive multireligious society. He claims that the true core in all religions is commitment to peace and justice. Religions must abandon their traditional exclusivist approach to dialogue and conversion because it gets in the way of peace, social cohesion and justice.

Knitter claims that there is a link between exclusivism and violence. Throughout history, the exclusivist belief that God is on one’s side has encouraged violence. Exclusivism has helped to justify western imperialism and colonialism. Even the Nazis thought God was on their side. The world faces the danger of religious violence and the clash of civilisations, e.g. 9/11 and the violence following it.

Exclusivist doctrines and theology therefore ‘get in the way’ of tolerance. However, Knitter goes further, arguing that a cohesive multireligious civil society requires more than tolerance. Just being tolerant, i.e., putting up with our neighbours being a different religion isn’t enough, we need to actually be happy about it.

Religions have reached a point in their history where they must lay aside or radically reinterpret their traditional exclusivist views. There is a growing need for an “axial shift” – a fundamental change in the nature of what religion is. Religions must find a healthier way of relating to and understanding each other, to collaborate rather than compete.

Knitter suggests a parallel between religious harmony and racial harmony. The health of a multi-racial society is threatened by one race believing in its supremacy. Similarly, the health of a multi-religious society is threatened by one religion believing it is God’s preferred religion.

“Christian supremacy is just as dangerous as white supremacy”. – Knitter.

H. Kung said that world peace requires peace and dialogue among religions. Knitter agrees and argues further that peace among religions requires pluralism.

Pope John Paul II’s ‘Redemptoris Missio’

Redemptoris Missio (mission of the redeemer) is an encyclical of Pope John Paul II published in 1990. ‘Missio’ means mission, which refers to the spiritual purpose of the Church on earth. Traditionally, conversion has been a vital part. In the modern world, challenges have emerged to the traditional view of mission, regarding its continued relevance and validity. John Paul II sets out to answer these challenges.

He begins by saying he senses an “urgent duty” to repeat this line from St Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Although the second Vatican Council was fruitful for missionary activity, JP II is concerned that missionary activity to those who do not believe in Christ is decreasing. He calls on the Church to renew its missionary commitment. Missionary activity is vital and must be continued as it is the “primary service” the Church can give to individual people and humanity as a whole.

JP2 in Redemptoris Missio on the validity of conversion

Pope John Paul II points out that in modern times the purpose and validity of conversion is increasingly ignored, questioned or seen negatively as “proselytizing”. Christian mission traditionally involves conversion. Today, mission is increasingly reduced to helping people build communities of justice, freedom & peace. Some go as far as arguing that trying to convert someone actually fails to respect their freedom of conscience and religion.

JP2 rejects these views. He argues that religious freedom includes the freedom to try and convert others, so long as it is done respectfully and without coercion. He claims this modern anti-conversion attitude overlooks the fact that every person has a right to hear the Gospel so that each one can live according to their full proper purpose.

The Second Vatican Council accepts that everyone has a right to religious freedom, including immunity from coercion by any human power.

“no one should be forced to act against his conscience in religious matters, nor prevented from acting according to his conscience, whether in private or in public, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.” – Second Vatican Council.

JPII concludes that proclaiming Christ with the hope of converting people is good but only if done in a way that respects people’s conscience and does not violate their religious freedom. He claims that the Church strives for religious freedom for all people, since it is vital to ensure the common good of individuals and people. It has the hope that “authentic religious freedom will be granted to all people everywhere”.

“the Church addresses people with full respect for their freedom. Her mission does not restrict freedom but rather promotes it. The Church proposes; she imposes nothing. She respects individuals and cultures, and she honours the sanctuary of conscience.” – John Paul II in ‘Redemptoris Missio’.

“The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim.” John Paul II in ‘Redemptoris Missio’.

JP2 makes a convincing argument. Religious freedom has to include the freedom to try and convert others

Progressive liberals would respond: given the history of Christianity spreading itself through violence, arguably the only way they can really apologise and make up for that is by never attempting to convert anyone again. Even if they do it in a non-harassing way, attempting to convert anyone while in the historical context of forced conversion is still an insult to those who suffered violence by Christian missionaries in the past.

Giles Fraser doesn’t go as far as saying conversion is wrong, but still at least claims to accept the point regarding his own personal life when it comes to converting Jews. So he commits to not try and convert Jews:

“I am very nervous of the Christian mission to the Jews because of the history of anti-Semitism with which Christianity has been bound up … forced conversions, violence, for centuries … conversion has been a part of this story of anti-Semitism … I will be no part of trying to convert Jews to Christianity.”

JP2 in Redemptoris Missio: defending an inclusivist approach to interfaith dialogue and conversion

JPII defends an inclusivist version of the conservative approach to interfaith dialogue and conversion. He is exclusivist about the truth of Christianity, but inclusivist in that he regards other religions as containing some of the Christian God’s revelation. This means there is Christian truth in other religions, though mixed with error. He quotes Paul VI’s explanation from a Vatican 2 address, that despite having value, other religions still contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors’.

“The Church gladly acknowledges whatever is true and holy in the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as a reflection of that truth which enlightens all people” – Pope John Paul II.

Dialogue is therefore a means of ‘mutual knowledge and enrichment’. Christians can benefit from learning God’s partial revelation in other religions, and non-Christians can benefit from learning about God’s full revelation in Christianity. God calls all people to the ‘fullness of his revelation and love’ in Christ.

This allows John Paul II to argue that Christians can and should engage in tolerant and open-minded dialogue, ready to learn about the partial truth found in other religions. Since that truth was put there by the Christian God, this open-minded dialogue is compatible with maintaining the exclusively full truth of Christianity and attempting to convert others.

John Paul II concludes that inter-faith dialogue does not oppose the mission of conversion but is actually a part of it:

“Inter-religious dialogue is a part of the Church’s evangelizing mission … and is one of its expressions.” – Pope John Paul II.

“the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue.” – Pope John Paul II.

“Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation.” – Pope John Paul II.

Ultimately and crucially, JP II still says that ‘Dialogue leads to inner purification and conversion’. So he is explicit that one of the purposes of dialogue is conversion.

He claims the Church’s call to dialogue does not come from self-interest but a ‘deep respect’ for everything that has been brought about in human beings by the Holy Spirit. Dialogue must be entered into without close-mindedness and with ‘humility’ because dialogue can enrich both sides. Though, there must be no abandonment of principles.

JP2 concludes that this mode of dialogue can eliminate prejudice and intolerance, thus enabling social cohesion.

Catholic inclusivism actually undermines dialogue. Hans Kung’s critique targets Rahner’s inclusivism in particular, but it applies to the Catholic view of inclusivism in general. Kung argues that genuine & sincere non-Christians would find it ‘presumptuous’ to be labelled an anonymous Christian. It is a ‘theological fabrication’ designed to give a surface-level positive spin to the traditional Catholic claim that outside the Church there is no salvation (Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus). It is merely broadening the definition of what counts as being inside the Church to include all people who are morally good.

We could develop Kung’s critique further. Arguably John Paul II’s inclusivism is even worse for inter-faith dialogue than exclusivism.

The claim that there is truth in other religions allows Catholics to legitimately claim that they expect to benefit and find value from interfaith dialogue. However, they are only valuing learning from other religions in a way which presupposes the truth of their own. The only value in Hinduism and Buddhism is that the Christian God has worked through their religion and the conscience of its adherents such that there is some measure of truth in its doctrines.

His call for dialogue with non-Christians is not directed toward their actual self-identity, but merely the part of them that is thought to be Christian.

Imagine being the non-Christian in this Catholic inclusivist-style interfaith dialogue. Imagine knowing why the Catholic wants to engage in dialogue with you. They want to understand the truths that their (Christian) God has revealed through your religion. You may think your religion is not Christian – and certainly, much of it (the errors) are not, but the Catholic inclusivist thinks that there is a little bit of truth in your religion – and it is Christian truth. Of course, that partial truth is just a small part of the full truth, which is found in Catholicism.

John Paull II talks about ‘deep respect’ and ‘dignity’ and enriching both sides, but these words ring hollow when one realises the reason he is saying them. Which is merely that he believes the Christian God has placed some Christian truth in other religions.

This is worse than the traditional exclusivist approach. At least an exclusivist can genuinely acknowledge that other faiths are different, even if mistaken. Catholic inclusivism is saying that non-Christian theists actually believe in a confused version of Christianity, without realising it.

This is not the sort of attitude which can result in dialogue that can promote the mutual understanding required to overcome prejudice and intolerance. If you only respect another person’s opinion because you think they, without realising it, actually believe a confused version what you believe, then you don’t really respect their opinion.

In dialogue between exclusivists, at least both sides could come to the mutual understanding that they simply have faith in completely different worldviews. They see the other as in error, while also understanding that the other also sees them in error. This makes mutual understanding possible.

The Catholic inclusivist approach cannot achieve that level of mutual understanding. They do not see other religions as genuine commitments to completely different spiritual worldviews. They see other religious people as confused. They may be sincere in their confusion, but they don’t realise that all which is good in their religion is actually gained from the Christian God.

Possible exam questions for Pluralism & society

Has inter-faith dialogue contributed practically towards social cohesion?
Assess the methods and aims of the scriptural reasoning movement
Should Christian communities seek to convert people from other faiths?
Should Christians have a mission to those of no faith?
“Inter-faith dialogue is a waste of time” – Discuss.

Does mutual study and interpretation of different religions’ sacred literature benefit society?
‘Scriptural reasoning relativizes religious belief’ – Discuss.
How should Christians respond to inter-faith dialogue?
How should Christians respond to the development of contemporary multi-faith societies?
What is the best way to develop contemporary multi-faith societies?

Have Christian communities responded well to the challenge of encounters with other faiths?
How might understanding of different and conflicting religious truth claims be promoted?
How successful is the Catholic approach to other faiths?
“The Church of England appraoch to other faiths fails to enable social cohesion” – Discuss.
Analyse the views expressed in ‘Redemptoris Missio’.
Critically compare the Catholic with the Church of England on their approaches to the challenge of other faiths
Assess the views expressed in the Church of England’s ‘Sharing the Gospel of Salvation’.

Quick links

Year 12 Christianity topics:
Augustine. Death & afterlife.
Knowledge of God’s existence. Person of Jesus.
Christian moral principles. Christian moral action.

Year 13 Christianity topics:
Pluralism & theology. Pluralism & society.

Gender & society. Gender & theology.
Secularism. Liberation theology. 

OCR Ethics
OCR Philosophy
OCR essay structure
OCR list of possible exam questions