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Comparative Religion

Problems of Religious Pluralism by John Harwood Hick

By John Harwood Hick

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But the kind of experiencing-as that I should like more particularly to consider is situational. It is a feature of monotheistic religion that any human situation may, in principle, be experienced as one in which one is living in the unseen presence of God. For God is omnipresent, and in all that one does and undergoes one is having to do with God and God with oneself. In the case of saints this consciousness of existing in God's presence has been relatively continuous and pervasive; in the case of more ordinary believers it is occasional and fleeting.

Moving to the inclusivist answer, this would suggest that religious experience in general does indeed constitute a contact with the Transcendent, but that this contact occurs in its purest and most salvifically effective form within one's own tradition, other forms having value to the varying extents to which they approximate to ours. This is a more viable position than the previous one, and less damaging to the claim that religion is not a human projection but a genuine human response to transcendent Reality.

However, since such exclusivism seems so unrealistic in the light of our knowledge of the wider religious life of mankind, many theologians have moved to some form of inclusivism, but now feel unable to go further and follow the A Philosophy of Religious Pluralism 35 argument to its conclusion in the frank acceptance of pluralism. The break with traditional missionary attitudes and longestablished ecclesiastical and liturgical language would, for many, be so great as to be prohibitive. There is however the possibility of an acceptable Christian route to religious pluralism in work which has already been done, and which is being done, in the field of Christology with motivations quite other than to facilitate pluralism, and on grounds which are internal to the intellectual development of Christianity.

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