Bible Review 18:3, June 2002

Ways of Knowing God

A Christian theologian sees multiple paths to salvation

By Joseph C. Hough Jr.

Almost every religion claims that it is the exclusive path to a true knowledge of God, or at least that its path is superior to other religious traditions. This is certainly the case in my own tradition, Christianity: Only in Jesus Christ is the true revelation of God made accessible.

I have come to believe that this exclusivist tendency in my own faith tradition—and in other faith traditions—is a serious barrier to genuine peace-making in a world of religious pluralism. For Christianity, the claim that salvation is possible only in Jesus Christ is, in the end, dismissive of other religious traditions and inherently divisive. If Christians are to be instruments of the peace of God, we must develop a new Christian theology of religions that will enable us to see God’s revelation in Jesus Christ while at the same time rejecting any claim to exclusivism.

Religious belief is founded on revelation, which is nothing more nor less than the self-disclosure of God. Christian revelation, as the great 20th-century theologian (and my mentor) H. Richard Niebuhr put it, is that “special occasion” in Christian history that illuminates everything else in our history. It is the one event in our lives that makes all the rest of life intelligible.1

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