Pluralism and society A* grade summary notes


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The scriptural reasoning movement

  • Modern form of inter-faith dialogue which diverges from the traditional way of doing interfaith dialogue because it explicitly bans conversion attempts during dialogue. It claims this is the best way for dialogue to promote social cohesion. Traditional methods of dialogue are less effective.
  • Different religions get together and reach each other’s holy books.
  • They discuss meanings and interpretations of passages.
  • The goal is just to promote understanding and friendship.
  • Trying to convert others or criticise other religions is not allowed.
  • Initially it was just abrahamic religions (Chrisitianity, Judaism & Islam) but recently has branched out to include other religions too.
  • It was founded by David Ford (anglican) and Peter Ochs (Jewish) among others.
  • It is meant to be ‘postliberal’ – meaning it doesn’t ask participants to suppress any part of their faith – you can show your love and devotion to your religion/scriptures as much as you want.
  • Liberal approaches to inter-faith dialogue go further than banning conversion and criticism, they would even be against a person expressing their personal love/appreciation for their own religion. 
  • Scriptural reasoning is trying to keep things productive and polite – but also enabling people to genuinely express their own faith.


  • Scriptural reasoning is relativistic. 
  • Relativism is the view that there is no one true religion (Pluralists)
  • Scriptural reasoning gets everyone together to look at each other’s books – but does not allow evaluation over which is correct.
  • This is arguably suggestive of the idea that they are all equally correct.
  • Conservative believers tend to have this impression of scriptural reasoning.
  • They aren’t going to like the idea that they can’t criticise the religions of other people.

Defence of scriptural reasoning:

  • Scriptural reasoning is a specific activity with a specific goal. It’s trying to bring people together to promote understanding.
  • It’s fair to ban criticism and conversion when the goal of the meetings is just to promote understanding.
  • This is not promoting relativism – it’s not suggesting there is no one true religion, it’s just trying to get people to understand other religions.

Scriptural reasoning as postliberal

  • Scriptural reasoning was intended by David Ford, one of its founders, to be postliberal. 
  • Liberal approaches to inter-faith dialogue attempt to bring people together on a neutral ground where no one even professes much about the value they find in their own religion.
  • The problem is, this leads to relativism – suggesting all religions are equal.
  • That is not genuine inter-faith dialogue – liberalism sacrifices the faith part to enable the dialogue part.
  • Scriptural reasoning is meant to avoid the problem of liberalism. It allows people to freely express the value and love they have for their own faith/tradition.
  • 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). D’Costa points out that criticising other religions and trying to convert them is part of religion.
  • If scriptural reasoning doesn’t allow that – then it’s not really fully allowing religious people to express themselves – so it’s not genuine dialogue.
  • A Muslim will think that the New Testament is somewhat valid but mixed with error, for example. They would try and convert Christians as a result.
  • If they are not allowed to do that, by the rules of scriptural reasoning meetings, then people can’t express their whole true genuine faith in those meetings.
  • In that case, scriptural reasoning is actually just like the liberal approach to inter-faith dialogue.
  • It prevents the expression of faith to enable dialogue – but ends up not being genuine inter-faith dialogue.

Paul Eddy & Ratzinger on secular liberal pressure against exclusivism

  • Ratzinger said that liberal secular culture has started to be intolerant of exclusivism
  • The idea is that proclaiming that Jesus is the full truth, and that other religions are wrong, is called intolerant by secular liberals.
  • Paul Eddy made arguments to the general synod of the Church of England, which prompted the creation of the ‘Sharing the Gospel of Salvation’ document.
  • Eddie complained that Christians were made to feel guilty for believing that Jesus is the way, truth and life. Secular liberals try and make exclusivist Christians feel guilty by calling them intolerant.
  • Christians are being socially pressured into relativistic pluralism
  • Eddy said that there is a ‘strategic, highly-politicised marginalisation of Christianity in the public arena’
  • He insisted that Christians should not be made to feel guilty for being exclusivist – and they should try and convert others.


  • Secular liberals respond that social pressure on traditional exclusivism is justified because exclusivism causes social tensions & problems.
  • Religious intolerance and even violence has occured throughout history and still occurs around the world.
  • Religious people should therefore be made to feel guilty about being exclusivist, since that attitude causes social problems.

JP2 Redemptoris Missio – an inclusivist approach to interfaith dialogue and conversion

  • Inclusivism is the view that Christianity is the one true religion, but God reveals himself through other religions. God tries to reach people in other religions through their religion.
  • JP2 says that this means there is Christian truth in other religions (though mixed with error).
  • So, Christians should engage in tolerant open-minded dialogue with those of other faiths.
  • They can thereby learn about the truth that the Christian God has revealed in other religions.


  • Hans Kung criticises catholic inclusivism – saying it is ‘presumptuous’ – and Hick agrees, saying it is ‘offensive’ – to say that non-Christians are deep down really responding to the Christian God through their own religion.
  • When a Hindu prays – they think they are praying to their Gods, but actually it is the Christian God trying to reach them through their own religion.
  • 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 Paul 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.
  • The Catholic inclusivist approach cannot achieve 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.

Redemptoris Missio AND the COE’s ‘sharing the gospel of salvation’: arguing for the conservative approach to conversion and dialogue.

JP2 Redemptoris Missio – argument for the validity of conversion

  • JP2 says that conversion has come to be regarded as negative in much of mainstream secular liberal culture.
  • He argues that actually it is positive – it is part of a free society that people should be free to try and convert others.
  • However, he emphasises that conversion must be done in a respectful way.
  • Missionaries must be respectful of people’s freedom of conscience.
  • JP2 says that the ultimate aim of dialogue is conversion. He claims dialogue leads to conversion.
  • He would therefore disagree with the scriptural reasoning approach to dialogue, because it does not allow conversion.
  • However, dialogue is mutually enriching and can be done with deep respect and eliminate prejudice and intolerance, thus enabling social cohesion. 

Sharing the gospel of salvation paragraph 

  • Church of England document.
  • It is about the question of how Christians should relate to and get on with those of different faiths in today’s multi-faith society.
  • The document affirms that Jesus has a unique role to play in salvation.
  • The ‘highest calling’ of the Church is to proclaim Jesus.
  • Jesus is indeed the way, the truth and the life – so Christians should share their religion with others in the hope of converting them.
  • It claims that Christians should engage in interfaith dialogue to promote social cohesion, but adds that conversion attempts are an important part of dialogue.
  • “There is no conflict between ‘dialogue’ and ‘evangelism’”.
  • The document resulted from Paul Eddy’s address to the Synod where he called for the Church to affirm the importance of conversion.
  • The document notes how Eddy received widespread support from all different factions within the Church (of England).
  • The document accept this, though it warns that conversion should be done in a respectful way.
  • We shouldn’t view non-Christians as ‘targets’ of an advertising campaign, for example.
  • They should just be earnestly and genuinely told the good news.
  • This conflicts with the scriptural reasoning approach to dialogue which doesn’t allow conversion.


  • Secular liberal progressives would criticise the idea of conversion as insensitive and encouraging of social tensions.
  • They would point out that Christianity throughout history has spread itself by the sword – through violence.
  • Christianity is still currently benefiting from that history of forced conversion because it now has many colonised countries who are predominantly Christian – e.g. in Africa and south america.
  • The main reason these countries are currently mostly Christian is because they were forced to become Christian in the past.
  • That’s how Christianity currently still benefits from its history of forced conversion, even though it no longer engages in that.
  • So, if Christians really want to make up for an apologize for that history, they should stop trying to convert people completely.
  • Giles Fraser doesn’t go quite this far, but still supports the reasoning somewhat, saying that he will never try and convert Jews to Christianity because of the history of forced conversion Jews suffered throughout history.i

Optional counter-evaluation:

  • Today, Church mission is about much more than converting people – it’s also about service, charity and outreach. 
  • It would be wrong to ban all missionary activity – because it helps so many people.
  • Also – the people who were wronged in the past are no longer alive and stopping conversion now won’t do anything to make up for past crimes.