Pluralism: The Reality Adventism Can No Longer Ignore

I never would have suspected the two kinds of consistent reactions I get when I share about my field of study. The one kind, and thankfully the most often one, is a mix of shock and befuddlement. When further explanation is given this usually turns into a statement along the lines of “that’s really cool.” The other type of reaction I get is much more serious, being overtly rooted in a mistrust of my entire academic field. This usually produces the question “how do you protect your heart?” Both these reactions stem from simply not knowing what inter-religious means, along with any philosophical underpinnings it might have. In part this is due to the relative newness of the field on the academic stage, but more in part due to our church’s view that engaging with other faiths theologically is to be avoided.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

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Perhaps the reason we might want to reject pluralism is not a belief that there is only one path to eternal life, but that we have become aware that eternal life is not the result of having successfully trod a specific religious path.

While Ellen White often supported the essential nature the denomination’s understanding in the moment, she also understood that salvation was a mystery beyond human understanding,

“The only way in which we can gain a more perfect apprehension of truth is by keeping the heart tender and subdued by the Spirit of Christ. The soul must be cleansed from vanity and pride, and vacated of all that has held it in possession, and Christ must be enthroned within. Human science is too limited to comprehend the atonement. The plan of redemption is so far-reaching that philosophy cannot explain it. It will ever remain a mystery that the most profound reasoning cannot fathom. The science of salvation cannot be explained; but it can be known by experience. Only he who sees his own sinfulness can discern the preciousness of the Saviour.” DA 494

And in this spirit she denounces as religious bigotry declaring another’s spiritual experience and practice as unacceptable to God.

“Every human being, in body, soul, and spirit, is the property of God. Christ died to redeem all. Nothing can be more offensive to God than for men, through religious bigotry, to bring suffering upon those who are the purchase of the Saviour’s blood.” DA 488

These observations are not to be mistaken as obligations, but rather feel as evidence of true freedom from obligatory demands by the Divine. We so want to be judged as worthy of Divine acceptance, rather than as simply already possessed by the Divine. Grace can feel so demeaning, sometimes. Often when comparing spiritual notes with others.


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