December 4, 2020 Wayne Northey

Christianity and Pluralism

Book Review of Christianity and Pluralism, Ron Dart and J. I. Packer, Lexham Press, 2019; 70 pages

excerpt:

Another publication, In a Pluralist World, was an earlier iteration of the book under review. In that Preface we read: “In the autumn of 1997, Bishop Michael Ingham reopened a longstanding debate within the Anglican Church of Canada (and within most other denominations as well) by the publication of his book, Mansions of the Spirit: The Gospel in a Multi-Faith World . . .  This booklet contains some early responses to Mansions of the Spirit from two members, one lay and one ordained, of the Bishop’s [in 1997] own Diocese of New Westminster.” (p. 7)

Bishop Ingham has since retired. He was not pleased with that initial publication as demonstrated in personal interaction with one of the authors.  Ron Dart writes in the Preface to the updated book, “This extreme form of ideological liberalism—as also embodied in the life and work of John Hick and Bishops Ingham, John Spong, William Swing, and Richard Holloway (to name a few)—alerted conservatives to a more serious problem in the life of the church: the subversion of Christian truth claims.” (p. vii)

In this reviewer’s experience, there is none so fundamentalist as one who has grown to reject what once was held near and dear. (Not of course, that such rejection automatically predisposes one to fundamentalism.) I have lived for decades with not a few in my extended family. Dart writes again in the new Preface: “It is not very liberal of a liberal not to critique liberalism. But many liberals seem unable to question their blind spots—such is the nature of ideology. They signal openness to the legitimate nature of alternate readings of timely and timeless issues, yet they are actually closed to such.” (p. ix) Though one must feel for those genuinely harmed or worse by religious fundamentalists—or any kind of such. A sordid business. Dart ends the Preface with this sentence: “Pluralism and syncretism can be as exclusivist as any of the positions they rail against as being exclusive.” (p. ix) I reflect in part on my experience of this within our extended family on my website post, Easter Song.

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Wayne Northey

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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