“What is a Christian to make of religious diversity? How does one affirm faith in Jesus Christ and seek to live according to the teachings of Christian faith and at the same time live with neighbors who are not Christian? These are not new questions that people of faith find themselves asking, but they present themselves with new urgency in today’s world. . . . What is new is that all of us on this planet are now more aware of this diversity. . . . We now live closer to the religious lives of others than in any other era of history. Religious diversity is a factor in everyday life in our neighborhoods and schools, in the workplace, and in our own families. Tragically, conflict between persons of different religious faiths or conflicts in which religion plays a role are before us almost daily in the news.”
—from the preface
In A Multitude of Blessings, Cynthia Campbell clearly and engagingly explores the ancient but timely issue of religious diversity, drawing on both biblical and theological sources. Analyzing Old Testament texts, she provides a close reading of several key passages that express God’s steadfast love for humankind and show that diversity is part of God’s overall plan for human culture. In the New Testament, she turns to several influential texts, including many familiar passages (such as John 14:6) to which Christians have often pointed as proof of the exclusive truth or superiority of Christianity over other religious traditions. By putting these texts in their respective contexts and by examining the roles of religious “others” in the New Testament, Campbell demonstrates that God’s grace extends far beyond a chosen people and that knowledge of God is not limited to Christian believers. Then, looking at the doctrine of the Trinity, she suggests that the triune being of God implies that God can relate to human beings in different ways—while still being the same God.
In the end, Campbell affirms that though God has made Godself uniquely known in Jesus, religious diversity is part of God’s providential care for humankind. Therefore, she urges Christians to be modest in their claims to truth, to be open to interfaith dialogue, and to work with others for justice and peace. Suggestions for further reading are included.
Cynthia M. Campbell is President of McCormick Theological Seminary, where she also serves as Professor of Church and Ministry. The President of the Association of Theological Schools, she is the editor of Renewing the Vision: Reformed Faith in the 21st Century.
Living with Religious Diversity: New Duties
- Christians are called to have humility with respect to the question of religious truth.
- We are called to treat others with a respect, rather than simply with “tolerance.”
- Christians should give greater attention to the “practices” of Christian faith and how those practices make for a “Christian shape” to life in the world today.
- We must understand what the Christian practice of “bearing witness” to our faith or relationship with Jesus Christ means in a multifaith world.
- Christians are called to “work with others for justice, freedom, and peace,” which has significant implications for building civil community.
- Christians are called to engage others in dialogue with the goal of learning and being open to transformation in the process.
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