The dominant religion of North America is religious pluralism, the posture that each religions deserves a place at the table, that each religion has something to offer, and that no religion is truth, right or superior. It is the religion of the irreligious and probably more or less the religion of the “spiritual but not religious.” Yes, and the Christian framework has eroded and for many — if not most — is forgotten or unknown.
How does the Christian witness or live in a pluralistic world? David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, in their book Prodigal Christianity, address this situation with their proposal of “prodigal openness.” They pose this approach in the face of two alternatives:
First, the dialogical approach of Brian McLaren seeks a “wider vision of what God is doing in the world” (150). Walking next to others of other religions in search of a common good. Openness and respectful are operative words. But the authors contend there’s too much dialogue here and not enough witness, too much listening and not enough witnessing.
Second, the truth declaration approach of J. Piper, J. Taylor and D.A. Carson pushes harder for non-compromise and more declaration of the truth of the gospel and the truthfulness of truth. Jesus is Lord is objective truth.
Their contention is that we live in a new world where defensiveness and aggressiveness miss the mark in a pluralist world; that there is a better way, one borne out with their own experiences.
“Instead God calls us to stand with while witnessing to the Lordship of Christ in our lives” (154). They see two elements of how to do this:
We enter into the far country of pluralism incarnationally, which for them means as embodying the gospel in how we live and how we live with others. Central to this is a lack of coercion. “We do not communicate the gospel until we have learned how (or have the right opportunity) to say it in such a way that it can be received as good news” (157).
We enter into the far country of pluralism as witnesses — by non-coercively pointing people to Jesus as Lord. The Christian’s affirmation is the non-negotiable affirmation that Jesus is Lord, and on that basis all witness occurs. Non-coercively, non-aggressively, non-defensively. Conviction that Jesus is Lord empowers the Christian to be a witness and to know God is at work.
Pluralism, they contend, is God’s way of revealing truth. It began with Babel. “Pluralism is the non-violent condition for God to work out the truth of the gospel in each of us, slowly over time and in relation to others (even other religions)” (160).