Does the Bible affirm Pluralism?

Gregory Koukl describes the erosion of pluralism this way: “Both the New Age and the ecumenical movement have been steadily chipping away at the orthodox Christian teaching that Jesus is the only source of salvation and also, since Pentecost, the only object of salvation.” [1] In the book Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash argues that pluralism arises “mainly out of opposition to exclusivism”[2] so therefore an explanation of exclusivism and Biblical examples of it will be discussed in this post.

“Christian exclusivism can be defined as the belief that (1) Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and (2) explicit faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation.”[3]

The first premise obviously excludes the notion, held by pluralists, that there are many paths to salvation. Christians are not the only exclusivists though. Any religious person or groups who regard their unique religious claims as true are also exclusivists. Is there any virtue in being a follower of Allah if the Muslim does not really believe that the Quran is really a sacred book of truths? Or, why follow Allah if Yahweh will do?

Pluralism and Logic:

It can be shown that besides neglecting large portions of Biblical data, pluralism also suffers from logical inconsistencies. In an effort to close the divide between religious group’s pluralists overlook the plain facts. Religions such as Judaism or Islam rejects statements such as “Jesus is God Incarnate” as not true. Christians, on the other hand, would accept such statements as true. John F. Walvoord summarizes that belief this way:

“The evidence of Scripture is so complete that one who denies the deity of Christ must necessarily reject the accuracy of the Scriptures...All modern defections from the doctrine of the deity of Christ assume that the Bible is not authoritative or final in its revelation of this doctrine.”[4]

The law of non-contradiction basically asserts that “A cannot be both B and non-B at the same time in the same sense.” For example, saying Barak Obama cannot be both the President and not the President at the same time and in the same sense. Geisler and Brooks argue that “Without the law of noncontradiction, there is no such thing as true or false, because this law itself draws the line between true and false. So we can’t call it false without assuming that it is true.”[5]

The principle of the excluded middle is basically that “A is true or A is false.” Either Barack Obama is President or Barack Obama is not president. He cannot be both at the same time and in the same sense. Geisler and Feinberg argue that the principle of the excluded middle demands “either one or the other opposite is true, with no middle ground.”[6] Therefore, Jesus is either God or He is not God. The view of the Muslim and the view of the Christian, concerning the Messiah, cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.

Religious truths, just as this one, do not differ from other propositional statements such as “fire is hot” or “fire is not hot”. Both of those statements are not religious but use the same form of logic as was used above. The pluralist must, eventually, undercut the actual Biblical claims in order to be true. Essentially, they are the ones who will not possess a high-view of the Scriptures or acknowledge them as authoritative.

Pluralism and Jesus Christ: 

Pluralism must actually undercut the Biblical data in order to be true. If not, it has no veracity. A major proponent of pluralism is English philosopher John Hicks. John Hick was formerly a faculty member of Cornell, Princeton and Cambridge. Hicks holds to the view that the early belief “Jesus is God” is a “myth”. Nash also points out “By ‘myth’ Hick means a story or image that is not literally true.”[9] So much for the tolerance of pluralism when major figures of their traditions are relegated to mere myth. 

The Jesus of pluralism is similar to the Jesus of Unitarianism or Socinianism. This Jesus merely represents God to us. He is not really God Incarnate; Jesus only manifested the reality of God to humans.

A pluralist is someone who believes there can be many paths to heaven, or many saviors. They would answer the question “Is Jesus the only Savior?” with a negative answer. Jesus is a savior but not the “only” savior for the pluralist since the ultimate reality or the real can also be understood in different ways.

Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God and believes in the importance of the new birth and missions. If the Bible is the Word of God it is true and will not lead us into error. The Scriptures, however, make a pluralist interpretation impossible. Yet, people in this community have defected (e.g. Clark Pinnock, John Sanders) from such important truths to embrace a more inclusive view. Some of the arguments for this view can be dismissed from the Scriptures themselves.

Upon examination of the Old Testament, the God of this book cannot be the god of pluralism. In the Old Testament the God of Israel asserts that He, alone, created all things and is the true God (Isaiah 37:16; 44:24). Therefore, using the Old Testament will not help the case of the pluralist. Very early in Old Testament theology Deuteronomy 4:35, 39 records:

“To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. …39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (ESV)

This God is the “LORD”. Translators customarily capitalize the word LORD when, Yahweh, the scared name of God is actually present in the Hebrew text. The spelling “Yahweh” and its corresponding pronunciation are considered acceptable in modern scholarship but both are still uncertain until this day. 

Here this personal name of God is also joined with “God” or the Hebrew word elohim. Angels and men, such as Moses, could be called elohim. Angels are elohim: Psalm 8:5. Pagan gods are elohim: Genesis 3:5. Human judges are elohim: 1 Samuel 2:25. In this context the term elohim takes on a different meaning than when applied to men or angels. It is referring to the God of Israel, not a pagan or competing deity.

Therefore, Yahweh is Elohim and there is no other “elohim” besides him. The deliberation on the single, undividedness of Yahweh can be seen, and should not be overlooked, by use of singular personal pronouns. “God” here is not being used merely to describe a nature that is shared by other beings. Nor does it refer to any god but to the God of Israel. This “God” is personal and speaks as Who and is referred to as an He. No council of pagan gods can be included in this singleness. Whether in heaven and on earth there is no “other” besides the Lord of Israel who can be called God.

New Testament Witnesses:

Romans 10:9 records, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (ESV) 

The Jesus of pluralism has a Jesus who is not God, only God in a sense. This is inadequate. In Romans 10:9 Paul records for us that salvation includes confessing, with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord. The Old Testament Hebrew name for God (Yahweh) was regularly translated in the Greek LXX as Lord or kurios. Therefore, to confess Jesus is Lord is to confess Jesus is God. One cannot even be saved with a low or improper view of Jesus Christ. 

John 14:13-14 and Matthew 18:20 indicate it is Jesus as Jesus who hears and answers prayers, and is in personal communion with his believers. The Gospel of John also records, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV) Here John succinctly and forever buries the hopes of pluralism. One cannot have “eternal life” apart from believing in the Son and obeying the Son.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) 

Here it is clear that Jesus’ own self-understanding was not that of a mere man. No mere man can give eternal life. Jesus views Himself as the provider of salvation. Forgiveness is not possible without the cross of Calvary as payment and therefore from Christ comes the only source of salvation. Gregory Koukl wrote:

“Jesus is the Savior, the source of salvation for the world. The Father Himself chose Jesus for this purpose. That’s why rejection of Jesus is actually a rejection of the Father Himself. Such a rejection is met with God’s wrath, while belief in Jesus rescues from wrath. Rescue is possible because Jesus is the one who provides forgiveness from sin. Many impostors will claim to provide an alternate form of salvation, but there are no other alternatives. That’s why the church’s solemn commission is to make sure that all nations are given this Gospel. On the last day Jesus will be man’s final judge.”[10]


[1] Koukl, Gregory (2009-06-10). Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses (Kindle Locations 34-36). Stand to Reason Press. Kindle Edition.
[2] Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994 (11)
[3] Ibid. 11
[4] Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord,. Chicago: Moody, 1969 (108, 109)
[5] Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990). 16.
[6] Norman L. Geisler, Paul D. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980). 168.
[7] Ibid. 31
[8] Ibid. 29
[9] Ibid. 71 [10] Koukl, Gregory (2009-06-10). Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses (Kindle Locations 81-85). Stand to Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

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