A genuinely pluralistic model should (1) recognize the clear differences in fundamental beliefs among the religions; (2) affirm the different religions as roughly equally effective ways of responding to the one ultimate reality, so that no single tradition is privileged; and (3) provide a coherent explanation of how (1) and (2) can be simultaneously maintained.
Hick’s model (and any genuinely pluralistic model) is inadequate for the following reasons:
1. Hick either minimizes the differences among religions or reinterprets troublesome beliefs from various religions so as to avoid the clear conflict between the claims of various religions. The religions offer what are at times mutually incompatible claims about the nature of reality. Hick reinterprets key doctrines from the various religions in ways unacceptable to adherents of the religions themselves.
2. The relationship between the Real and the personae / impersonae on Hick’s model is incoherent, given the ineffability of the Real. If Hick emphasizes continuity between the Real and the various manifestations of the Real, then he must either (1) reinterpret what believers themselves understand by terms such as Yahweh, Allah, Shiva, Emptiness, the Tao; or (2) admit that the various manifestations of the Real can be mutually contradictory. If Hick emphasizes discontinuity between the Real and the manifestations of the Real, we are left with total agnosticism about the Real.
3. Hick’s model suffers from an internal inconsistency in that it (1) appeals to an ethical criterion both to support the postulation of the Real as the one reality behind various religions and to enable us to discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate responses to the Real; and (2) maintains that the Real itself utterly transcends all categories, including those of good and evil, so that we cannot say that the Real is itself good rather than evil.
4. Even on Hick’s model we cannot escape the conclusion that large numbers of intelligent, sincere, morally respectable religious believers are simply mistaken about some of their core beliefs.
All Credit to Harold Netland–Philosopher of Religion
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