Evangelical Responses to the Question of Religious Pluralism
The relatively recent rise of religious pluralism has significantly affected the evangelical movement, the roots of which are traceable to the sixteenth century Reformation. In particular, the theological implications of religious pluralism have led to debate concerning the nature of core beliefs of evangelicalism and how these should be interpreted in the contemporary world. While evangelicals continue to articulate a genuine undergirding desire to “honour the authority of Scripture”, differing frameworks and ideals have led to a certain level of fracturing between schools of evangelical thought. This research focuses on the work of three evangelical theologians – Harold Netland, John Sanders and Clark Pinnock – and their responses to the question of religious pluralism. In assessing the ideas put forward in their major work relevant to religious pluralism this thesis reveals something of the contestation and diversity within the evangelical tradition. The authors' respective theological opinions demonstrate that there is basic agreement on some doctrines. Others are being revisited, however, in the search for answers to the tension between two notions that evangelicals commonly affirm: the eternal destiny of the unevangelised; and the will of God that all humankind should obtain salvation. Evangelicals are deeply divided on this matter, and the problem of containing seemingly incompatible views within the confines of “evangelical belief” remains. This ongoing division highlights the difficulty of defining evangelicalism in purely theological terms.