Few current terms are less precise than “theological pluralism.” It is used to indicate, now a denominational policy, now a theological outlook, now a form of theology. The term gains prestige from the fact that our society is pluralistic. Should not Christian theology, then, grant “equal rights” to all shades of doctrinal opinion?

This sounds impressive, if one does not take seriously the claim of the Christian faith to present One who makes exclusive demands upon our lives. In the light of His claims, the appeal to democratic practice to justify theological pluralism seems to be a misapplication of a socio-political concept.

Theological pluralism rejects the Reformation principle of sola scriptura. In place of the finality of Scripture for the Christian faith, it substitutes a complex of “authorities.” Alongside historic creeds and confessions are placed newer and equivocal “creeds” so that the symbols that formerly were normative for Christian bodies become but part of a series of “statements of faith.”

Various figures of speech are used to justify this dilution of Christian doctrine. Earlier the illustration was the tripod: authority was said to rest upon three “sources,” revelation, tradition, and experience (or revelation, experience, and reason). More recently the favorite figure is the quadrilateral: authority is said to be derived (presumably in equal quantities) from revelation, tradition, reason, and experience.

As a gesture to the past, older standards and symbols are retained. But the juxtaposition of alternate “creeds” alongside those based upon biblical authority drains the latter of current validity. Appeals to historic faith ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: