Originally submitted for Religion 201, sometime in the fall of 1997
Part I: Describe the Approaches
The three approaches for presenting Christ to people of other religions are: particularist, inclusivist, and pluralist.
Particularists believe that Christianity is the only way to salvation. There may be some truth in other religions from general revelation, but nothing revealed in other religions has saving power, and all of it needs correcting from Christianity. This does not mean however that particularists hope members of other faiths will be damned. Many particularists operate off of an assumption that other faiths are not saved, but are still hopeful that this assumption may be wrong. This is known as open-minded particularism. Karl Barth is a good example of this.
Inclusivists say that Christianity is the only true religion, but saving knowledge is avaliable in every religion. This philosophy is based on the belief that God desires to save everyone. People who worship Christ through other religions are called anonymous Christians. Inclusivism has the advantage of working well in interfaith dialogue.
Pluralists believe that not only can people be saved through other religions, but that other religions are just as valid as Christianity. All religions are different experiences of the same God, and no one religion has any superiority over another. Pluralism focuses on a theocentric perspective rather than a christocentric perspective. The problem with this is that not all religions believe in a god. Many people question if pluralism is really a Christian approach.
Based largely on Calvin's ideas of predestination, Reformed theology takes the view of Particularism. According to Calvin, only the elect, those that God has predestined to believe in Christianity, will be saved.
Part 2: Relate the Approaches to Your Own Life Experience
When it comes to being exposed to other faiths, I have led a sheltered life. I have attended Christian schools all my life, and just about all my friends come from church or school. I do not have many friends from my neighborhood, as I live in a rather secluded area, with not many other people my age. However, in my old neighborhood, which I left when I was eight years old, I had several friends of different faiths.
I have stayed in contact with some of these people over the years. One person in particular I used to debate concerning our different religions. I was quite young, not more than seven, when these debates started. He was accepting of the fact that I did not believe as he did, but I was relentless in my attempts to convert him. One day he asked me why I could not just leave him alone and respect the fact that he did not believe what I did. I responded that what he perceived as menace on my part was actually a sign of my caring for him. I was urging him to convert because I did not want to see him burn in hell. In doing this, I took the particularist approach.
The last time I saw him, I was fourteen. As far as I know, he is still a Buddhist.
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