17th March 2018

Pluralism: As an Ideology

“Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NKJV)

It is simply a fact of life that today we live in a pluralist society. However some people have come to regard pluralism as an ideology that claims that there is no truth, only truths and that the multiplicity of civilisations, cultures, beliefs and lifestyles should be treated on an equal footing where none is considered superior to any other.

This poses a problem for those attempting to promote or defend the truth-claims of Christianity. How can we show the truth of Christianity to those with an ideology that views all claims to truth as equally valid?

The inconsistencies of this ideology particularly towards religion, needs to be unpacked. Whilst religion is often determined by the circumstances and geographical region of one’s birth and upbringing, some have argued that it follows that all religions must be equal paths to the truth. This idea has been largely discarded since most people recognise that the place of one’s birth and upbringing or the mere existence of a religious idea is not a guarantor of truth.

What has now become predominant is the idea that whatever is sincerely believed and practised may be regarded as true; something is true if it is true for me. But what happens when different people sincerely believe incompatible and contradictory views—can all be right? Given this view, it is difficult to distinguish this concept of truth from self-deception. If this ideological approach to truth is right, what justification can be given for opposing sincerely held extremist views such as say Nazism or communism that were responsible for the brutal deaths of millions of people? Clearly there needs to be criteria, standards of judgement, which allow certain viewpoints to be considered as unacceptable.

Whilst ideological pluralism discourages the search for truth (since it claims that all truth is relative) Christianity actively encourages such a quest.

Christianity is concerned with the transformation of human existence through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It involves believing certain things are true and that truth can reliably influence our decisions, actions and perceptions. But, as the above scripture shows, Christians are always encouraged to discover and test truth claims. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Christianity teaches that what is capable of being tested should be tested. As the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so,” Christians should show a willingness to hear what purports to be truth, to judge it by God’s Word, and willingly accept what is found to be true.

Prayer
Father, we thank you for your revelation of truth through Jesus Christ. Help us to present that truth in the best possible light in today’s culture.
Amen

Study by Eddie Marsh

References:
The Challenge of Pluralism for the Contemporary Christian Church A. E. McGrath JETS 35/3 (September 1992) 361-373

The Christian Church’s Response to Pluralism A. E. McGrath JETS 35/4 (December 1992) 487-501

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About the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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