“When we hear the words ascribed to Jesus in John’s Gospel, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me’, we do not hear them in a narrowly exclusive way. In John’s gospel, let us remember, the words of Jesus are the words of the Logos, not just of the individual human being, Jesus of Nazareth. That Word or Logos enlightens every one who comes into the world. Those of us who are Christians believe that we have heard it loud and clear in Jesus Christ and that we need not look beyond him. But we do not deny that the Word finds expression in other traditions, and, indeed, in the whole creation” (Jesus Christ in Modern Thought (London: SCM, 1990) p. 422).
I wanted to share a quote of this sort because we discussed this aspect of the Gospel of John in my Sunday school class this past weekend. The above quote from Macquarrie follows soon after a proposal to expand the list of those with faith in Hebrews 11 to include the following (pp.421-422):
By faith Mohammed, when he saw the people of Mecca degraded by idolatries, brought them the message of the one invisible God who is righteous and merciful.
By faith Gautama Buddha, when he had perceived the damage done to human life by undisciplined desires, taught the multitudes of Asia to restrain desire and learn compassion for one another.
By faith Krishna brought the presence of the high God among the hosts so that they might know God cares for them.
By faith Confucius, living among the warring states of China, had a new vision of the blessings of rationality and sought to build up human relationships in accordance with the will of heaven…
And what more shall I say? For the time would not be sufficient to tell of Gideon and of Barak, of Zoroaster and of Lao-tzu and of Nanak, who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, quelled agressors.
If I had to put a label on my own viewpoint, it would have to be ‘inclusivist’ rather than pluralist or exclusivist, simply because I evaluate other traditions and other worldviews from the perspective of my own, and I cannot do otherwise, and so I do not have a neutral framework from which to declare them all equal or to declare all others inadequate. Nevertheless, I do hope that I am willing to allow my encounter with other perspectives to challenge and broaden my own worldview. And approaching other religious traditions from the perspective of my Christian faith, I find much in them that I can appreciate, value and learn from.