Dean Scotty McLennan, of Stanford University, defends a view of religious pluralism that prohibits any expression of exclusive truth. In his sermon “Religious Pluralism as the Truth” ¹ he advocates for religious pluralism that allows faith only in a subjective personal sense. He seems to have no desire for objective truth, and is willing to stifle any discussion of exclusive truth claims in order to bring harmony and cooperation to an interfaith community. However, this is an unreasonable thing to ask any person of faith since all religions claim to have the truth, even newly invented ones that deny truth. Tolerant only of inclusiveness McLennan and his contemporaries become intolerant of truth except their own.
McLennan begins by agreeing with a misinterpretation of one verse and a denial of the other. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions” John 14:2, does not describe many paths to God as McLennan would wish. It more likely describes a dwelling place God has prepared for believers. McLennan rejects Jesus’ claim to be “the way the truth and the life” John 14:6, because it is exclusive truth. He does admit that this claim is true for him but not for all because it goes against his determination that religious pluralism alone is truth. The fact is, there is no other religious figure or philosophy that presents us with an effective solution to our problem of sin, confusion and death. Instead of acknowledging that fear, hatred, and violence, are consequences of our sin condition and we need a savior, he attacks the objective, exclusive, truth, Jesus Christ.
McLennan applauds the work of Eboo Patel, the Muslim founder of Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, who believes that objective truth claims and religious exclusivity breed bigotry, fear, hate, and violence. Patel’s answer is to encourage “proactive cooperation that affirms the identity” ² of the faith communities while silencing any talk of exclusivity. Any out working of faith is to be confined to a prescribed format of activity and conversation without mentioning exclusive truth. Patel and McLennan forget that truth is by nature exclusive. To them, truth is the cause of all religious and political unrest. Rather than promoting study, and dialogue in the free market of ideas, they would deny us the opportunity to search out, reason from, and express truth.
Patel acknowledges that all religions have exclusive claims but focusing on them is not fruitful. He asserts that “each religion has something unique to say about universal values”³. Finding middle ground between religious pluralist and religious totalitarians, Patel proposes a third way to build community, peace and harmony within religious pluralism. He has created a “safe space” where young people could talk about faith. Moving away from “mutually exclusive discussions” like who is going to heaven and who’s not.
It is unlikely there would be a discussion of sin and salvation and the efficacy of Christ. The group would be guided “to conversations about shared values,” (like hospitality, compassion, and cooperation.)” These are legitimate topics for people of faith to address, but not under compulsion and the suppressing of truth. Ravi Zacharias writes that “to deny the Christian the privilege of propagation is to propagate to him or her the fundamental beliefs of another religion.” McLennan and other advocates of Patel’s third way of religious pluralism, are proposing that it become what it supposedly opposes “religious totalitarianism”.
“You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You don’t enter it yourselves, and you don’t permit others to enter when they try.” Matt 23:13
¹Scotty McLennan, “Religious Pluralism As The Truth” – Sermon May 22,2011
²Eboo Patel, – “Acts of Faith” (Boston: Beacon Press,2007)
Ravi Zacharias,- “Jesus Among Other Gods” p.158 (Word Publishing 2000)
Matt 23:13 – “GOD’S WORD” Translation