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A Christian Theology of Religions: The Rainbow of Faiths Paperback – November 1, 1995

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

One of the most useful aspects of this book, which began as the 1994 Auburn lectures at Union Theological Seminary in New York, is Hick's discussion of the etiquette of controversy--an important subject at a time when controversy (theological, philosophical, and other) is often anything but constructive. The book begins with a careful restatement of Hick's pluralistic hypothesis and continues with four dialogues--two with a character named Phil, who articulates a series of philosophical criticisms, and two with a character named Grace, who articulates a series of theological criticisms. The book ends with a lyrical account of "a Christianity that sees itself as one true religion among others" and an excellent bibliography. This is an entertaining book, accessible to a wide variety of readers. It is suitable as an introduction to Hick's thought and the criticisms it has generated, but it is also a fine synthesis that will prove valuable to readers already familiar with his work. Steve Schroeder

From the Back Cover

Renowned theologian and philosopher of religion John Hick takes a hard look at intellectual problems facing Christians in the late twentieth century: Where exactly does Christianity fit into the scheme of the world in light of other world religions? and Is it possible to remain Christian while accepting the truth of other beliefs? Employing the use of a dialogue between "Phil" (philosophy) and "Grace" (theology), Hick explores the validity of other religions and Christianity's place among them. Offering good reasons for why the traditional stance that Christianity is the only true religion is no longer workable, he puts forth a cogent defense of Christianity in the global context of other religions. This book is must reading for those concerned about the uniqueness of Christianity and how it is to be interpreted theologically in today's world.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664255965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664255961
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
John Hick, a proponent of religious pluralism, has again come out with a book that tries to persuade its readers that Christianity is not *the* religion but is only one amongst many, all of which are pathways to the Transcendent Reality.
In this book Hick has taken a different tack toward this goal. Instead of being didactic and scholarly, he posits and replies to questions from two fictional characters Phil and Grace, corresponding to philosophers and theologians, and argues the issues of pluralism. The result is a lively and readable dialogue that tries to anticipate and answer many of the readers' questions.
As always Hick is a joy to read and his points are, needless to say, well-taken.
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This book is a challenge to review. I don't want to blast the book simply because I disagree, so I'll make it clear right away that I do disagree with his fundamental point. I do not believe all religions are equal, and neither, I think, do most adherents to different religions. I found this book to be quite frustrating to read, especially because of the way the body of the book is presented. The first chapter lays out Hick's primary arguments for his pluralist position. That section is clear, well-written, and easy to follow. I disagreed with his points, but I was engaged and intrigued by the writing. However, most of the rest of the book is in the frustrating form of a made-up character engaging in a "debate" with the author. This is, I think, a frustratingly manipulative way to present an argument. The characters, representing philosophy and grace, who disagree with Hick, do so by offering often simplistic critiques that ignore the logical inconsistencies in his reasoning. To those who must read this for a class, I implore you, think about what you're reading. Do not just assume because something sounds good, it must be true. Hick has some valid points, and many huge logical and theological gaps.
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Format: Paperback
In A Christian Theology of Religions, John Hick does not set out to make an irrefutable argument for a pluralistic approach to religion, in fact he points out where others might (and often do) disagree with his points. Instead, he attempts to present his version of religious pluralism as a valid way -- perhaps even the best way -- to understand the rainbow of faiths and traditions, given that:
A) The "fruits" (think "fruits of the Spirit") of the members or followers of each religious tradition are more or less indistinguishable from each other.
B) The traditional Christian conceptualization of God fails to hold up against this observation, as well as other observations and facts.

After outlining his argument, and describing his hypothesis of religious pluralism, Hick proceeds to enter an engaging dialogue with two fictional characters: first with Phil who brings up philosophical criticisms, and later with Grace, who argues the theological ones. These criticisms are actual criticisms which have been raised against Hick from a wide variety of philosophers and theologians. The dialogue is conducted respectfully, and really helps flesh out Hick's pluralistic hypothesis.

Finally, Hick presents his vision of how a pluralistic attitude would not only prevent the strife which has typically existed between religions, but would allow each religion to grow and learn from the others while maintaining its unique and treasured identity. Hick concludes with a series of quotes and passages from non-Christian scriptures and authors which give Christian readers a small sample of the varied and useful resources they might encounter if they adopt a pluralistic attitude and decide to "travel abroad in the spirit".
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I am completing my dissertation on how Christians should perceive other religions, and am taking John Hick as one of my main debate partners. In general, I've found Hick's work quite readable, and also has the advantage of having been critiqued from many directions. But I had only found short replies to those critiques, until I read this book. Here he cites his critics repeatedly, and offers what seem sincere and direct responses to their critiques. Furthermore, I found the book exceptionally readable. Unlike one of the other reviewers, I think his device of putting objections in the mouths of "Phil" and "Grace" works quite well, better than I would have expected, though in a few cases they should have pressed harder. (But isn't that even the case with Plato's dialogues?)

I suppose it also says something good about the book that I kept writing comments in the margins of the book -- not just because I may include a few comments in my dissertation (it's a thousand words too long already), but more because some of his comments seem to demand a response.

So let me offer a bit of one here.

Hick repeats his critique of "inclusivism" that it is like "epicycles" used to save a dead theory, an exclusivism that has changed in response to the allegedly novel challenge of world religions. "We should be warned that such theological epicycles tend to appear in the last days of a dying dogma!"

Hick should realize by now that (pardon the jargon) ontological inclusivism, the idea that there is important truth in non-Christian religions, appears in the Church fathers, not to say (as I argue) in the New Testament itself. This criticism of inclusivism is simply based on a false assumption, and I wish one of his sock puppets had strongly challenged him on the point.
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