Encountering Pluralism through the Lens of Scripture

by Bruce McDowell June 10, 2017

Watch or listen to his related sermon.


By Dr. Bruce A. McDowell

(Partially excerpted from his new book Faith in the Mosaic.)

Today we live in an environment of increasing diversity, with the culture emphasizing and even enforcing multiculturalism and pluralism. Academics and policy makers work at eliminating Western civilization from university study curricula and suppress Christian morals from making value judgments on student and faculty behavior. Currently a political movement in the United States seeks to eliminate from Christian colleges most vestiges of Christianity, including required chapel, prayer, a Christian worldview perspective in curriculum, required Bible classes, and adherence to a doctrinal statement.[1] Those colleges that impose traditional Christian rules of morality and conduct on issues regarding gender identity and sexual orientation will be stripped of public funding[2] and open to law-suits.[3] Some are even advocating that Christian colleges be stripped of their accreditation. At the same time at “secular” universities, all sorts of ideologies, world views and religions are introduced as “truths,” and are considered appropriate because they are seen as acceptable pluralism and multiculturalism in our post-modern milieu. Christianity is not considered to be part of that mix. As an example, at an Ivy League university a Christian administrative faculty was dismissed by the dean of the department for having Christian verses in her office and meeting with students for prayer and Bible study. In today’s pluralist environment, talking about and expressing one’s faith in public is strongly discouraged, as it is believed to be a very private matter.

This past week, Russell Vought was questioned for approval for his position as second in command with the Office of Management and Budget by the Senate. Instead of asking about his economic experience he received a personal attack. After confronting him on something he had written suggesting that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, Senator Bernie Sanders asked, “…Do you think that’s respectful of other religions?… I would simply say, Mr. Chairman that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.” In other words, true pluralism has died. When Christians stand firm on their faith, it is considered discriminatory. But when Muslims, Mormons, Hindus or others stand firm in their faith, it is considered diversity. Only Christians in our country are considered to be acceptable to attack because they are Christians.[4]

Peter Jones, Christian apologist and cultural analyst, describes our current climate: “Political correctness denies any distinctions between cultures, religions, and value systems. Thus, politically correct multiculturalism dominates the public square and the university campus and affects domestic and foreign policy.”[5] It has become official United States policy to fund lobbyists and to train activists to demand gay rights, gay marriage, and abortion rights, and to deny foreign aid to majority countries who refuse to comply with our monistic religious based cultural imperialism.

Secular university campuses have shifted toward emphasizing pluralism and multiculturalism, and not just at a practical level at which all religious views get a voice at the table; rather, welcoming diversity is now an ideology and movement. Two types of pluralism have emerged. The first is a militant form that says one can have a voice at the table only as long as one espouses views that are pluralistic. The second form, which is true pluralism, allows for all with differing religious and philosophical viewpoints to express them, no matter how committed those speaking are to these ideals.[6] Obviously the first form is more oppressive and restrictive, while the second allows for true diversity and freedom. The challenge is when one group’s freedom takes over the right to free exercise or expression of faith of another.

This context of our current daily lives challenges our faith. It has become closer to the pluralistic religious mixture prevalent in the Roman Empire as the early Christians learned to live out their faith. Consequently, it makes it harder to remain neutral and passive about faith in Christ. The former trend towards cultural Christianity has now been replaced with many claiming to be spiritual, but not associated with organized religion or identifying themselves as Christian.

As true Christians, how should we think about those outside faith in Christ and their eternal destiny in light of our faith’s claims to special revelation defining the true and only God, biblical authority, and exclusivity to salvation through Christ alone? Are we the only ones who are right? How can we know? At a time when so many are looking for tolerance, freedom, peace and unity, how should we respond from a Christ-centered perspective? With all the daily bad news in this world, how can we expect the future to end up? Is there hope?

My book Faith in the Mosaic: Finding a Biblical Focus in a Pluralistic World wades through these questions and offers thoughts to help those of us who are believers relate to those from others faiths or those without any apparent faith. Find your copy through your favorite bookseller.

Continue to Part 2


[1] Lea Carawan, “’First They Came’ …Will History Repeat Itself?” Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation Newsletter (6/29/2016).
[2] David French, “The American Church Needs to Get Serious about Religious Liberty, Now,” National Review (6/30/2016).
[3] Bonnie Pritchett, “Political Attack on California Christian Colleges Advances,” World (7/1/2016), https://world.wng.org/2016/07/political_attack_on_california_christian_co,lleges_advances (Accessed 7/3/2016).
[4] “Bern Victim: Sanders Wars against Nominee’s Faith,” Tony Perkins’ Washington Update (June 08, 2017). http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WA17F16&f=WU17F06
[5] Peter Jones, The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat, 78.
[6] Michael Keller, “RUF and the Secular Campus,” RUF Northeast Report (September 2015).

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