“Christian Encounter With Other Religions” by Timothy Tennent
In the chapter titled “Christian Encounter with Other Religions,” Timothy Tennent explores the theme of interactions with non-Christian faiths. The theologian claims that examining the relationships between different religions is crucial because relativistic pluralism and multicultural societies produce competing and conflicting points of view. The chapter comprises three parts, containing the author’s review of the four major theologies of religion, criticism of each position, and proposal of a broad approach to evangelical theology. The following reading report will contain the author’s discussion and criticism of the four theological models and Tennent’s modifications to the classic paradigm.
The author introduces the topic by reviewing the history of Christendom and the distance between religions. Tennent (2010) examines the contrasting terms such as “total replacement” attributed to fundamentalists and “partial replacement” characterizing new evangelicals, who are open to the presence of God in other faiths (p. 293). The concept of total replacement is illustrated by the uncompromising position of Hendrick Kraemer, who disregards general revelation and declares the single authority of Jesus Christ and his critical role in world history. The theologian explains that the partial replacement paradigm recognizes general revelation accessible to everyone but denies the possibility of salvation in other religions.
According to Tennent (2010), inclusivists support the status of Jesus Christ and the authoritative revelation of truths about God but claim that gospel and salivation are universally available. The author also regards the position of pluralists who claim that different religions provide independent opportunities for salvation and examines the postmodern acceptance model, which denies the existence of universal truths and encourages interfaith dialogue.
The chapter on religious diversity includes the author’s evaluation of the four positions. Tennent (2010) suggests that one of the weaknesses of the acceptance model is the rejection of objective revelation and the reconstruction of the concept of truth based on individual narratives. Another problem of the postmodernist model is its weak view of history, which creates uncertainty and makes the claims of different religions viable because they cannot be verified. The last issue discovered by Tennent (2010) is the anti-foundationalist stance encouraging relativism and the endless search of religious norms.
The plurality model is also described as imperfect due to its disregard for the current practices, the vague definition of God, and the subjectivity of the human experience used in pluralists’ claims. The author praises the New Fulfillment model of inclusivism for respecting Christian history and tradition. However, Tennant (2010) states that inclusivists “diminish the importance of Christ’s commission” and separate “soteriology from ecclesiology” (p. 305). Finally, the exclusivism model is criticized for its approach to special revelation, defensiveness or inability to face objections, and the rejection of other religions.
The final part of the chapter provides the modified version of the classic paradigm. Tennent (2010) reviews the five standards and proposes that the first principle can be followed by renaming the models to emphasize accuracy and precision. The second standard requires to approach revelatory particularism from a trinitarian perspective to facilitate interreligious dialogue. The third principle proposed by Tennent (2010) suggests that revelatory particularism should declare the Bible as “central to our understanding of God’s self-disclosure” (p. 314).
The fourth position allows the reader to understand the theology of religions through the concept of the Missio Dei, while the last standard describes revelatory particularism as both evangelical and catholic. Overall, the evaluation of the theological models and the modifications proposed by Timothy Tennent provide valuable insights into the topic of interreligious dialogue. The knowledge of the classic principles and the alternative approach can help the reader support evangelical position at the times of religious pluralism fueled by globalization.
Tennent, T. (2010). Christian encounter with other religions. In C. Ott, S. J. Strauss, & T. C. Tennent (Eds.), Encountering theology of mission: Biblical foundations, historical developments, and contemporary issues (pp. 292–316). Baker Publishing Group.