The Religions Next Door: Uninformed? Underdeveloped? or Unregenerate?


"No issue in missiology is more important, more difficult, more controversial, or more divisive for the days ahead than the theology of religions. This is the arena where differing truth claims among world religions challenge Christians to articulate their understanding of the relationship between God's redemptive activity in Jesus Christ and people of other faiths. Our understanding of the theological significance of other religious traditions determines our attitude and approach to people of other faiths in terms of mission, evangelism, dialogue, service, and other forms of Christian witness."  

From: Gerald Anderson, "Theology of Religions and Missiology" (p. 200) in The Good News of the Kingdom: Mission Theology for the Third Millennium, ed. Charles Van Engen, Dean S  Gilliland and Paul  Pierson {Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis. 1993 ) pp. 200–208.

This quote was used by Dr. Mike Goheen, the Calvin Seminary professor of missiology, recently in a March 7/2013 talk entitled: "THE CHURCH AND RELIGIOUS PLURALISM: Living Faithfully Amidst the World Religions".

My big question: How do we see the religion of our neighbor, or for that matter our neighbor as a religionist?

My first subquestion concerns the religions:

1. Are these religions stepping stones to Christianity?

2. Are they systematized rebellion against Christianity?

3. Are they a bit of both? Where do we find the answers?

My second subquestion concerns the religionist or that person who follows a certain religion:

1. Is this person simply misinformed and requires a bit more information?

2. Is this person simply in a underdeveloped stage on the path to Christianity?

3. Is this person an un-regenerate human who lives in conscious or sub-conscious rebellion to God?


If Anderson is right — and I think he is — then this might be the million dollar question of our day. Thank you for your well thought out, theologically informed, Biblically-based responses. And a special thanks to John Bolt and company at Calvin Seminary for translating and editing the new J.H. Bavinck reader which Dr. Goheen makes reference to.


Posted in:

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Hi Salaam, I’m a little late (several months) noticing your posted article.  I think you post some challenging questions.  But I doubt that other religious adherents feel challenged by Christianity any more than Christians feel challenged by other religions.  They all propose different pathways to God and are not meant to be stepping stones to anything except to God.  In fact, most religions are mutually exclusive, therefor not stepping stones at all.  Few religions try to accommodate any other religion.  For example Christians claim there is no way other than Christ to win God’s favor and acceptance.  As Christians, we don’t see any other religion as a stepping stone to Christ or God.

Another important question that needs answering, is who is to say that other religions are false and only Christianity is true?  That seems to be the assumption that you are working with.  We might claim that only the Bible is the inspired word of God and therefor completely true and trustworthy, and therefor lays out the only valid pathway to God.  But that is also what every other religion claims, as well.  What makes the Bible true and not the God inspired writings of other religions?  Or is that just a matter of opinion?  Is there anything that validates one religion over another, Christianity over all other religions?  

Why are the claims of other religions false and not our claims?  As Christians, we may assert that the claims of other religions are not logical, are nonsense.  But is the Christian assertion that Jesus is God and has come down to earth from heaven and taken on a human nature, lived a perfect life, was crucified but rose from the dead and has now returned to heaven from which he will return one day to earth in all power and glory, is this any more realistic or logical?  Other religions likely say that our Christian claims make little, if any sense.  So what is the basis of us saying our religion makes sense but other religions don’t, therefor we are the only true religion?

And now for the crux of G. Anderson’s concern, winning Christian converts from within other religious beliefs.  Of course that points to the exclusivity of the Christian religion.  If Christians believed that there are many paths to God, they wouldn’t be concerned to pull Muslims, Hindus or Mormons away from their own religions to make them adherents of Christianity. But of course Christians are quite willing to see a Muslim convert suffer the anguishes of hell on earth (persecution) and to rejoice that they have become a Christian.  That’s exclusivity at any and all costs.  And that exclusive attitude by Christians is because our understanding of salvation is directly opposed to the teachings of all other religions.  Other religions are hardly a stepping stone to Christianity.

Much more could be said, but I’ve gone on for too long already.  Thanks for sharing your concerns.  I think they are valid, but not easily answered.