Questions about the place of world religions may prompt the theological showdown of the decade.

There are two kinds of Christians—those who believe in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and those who don’t. For the first group, Jesus is the only way to salvation. For the second, he is only one of several ways.

For older conservative Christians, it seems almost incredible that there is any question about which of these options to choose. The uniqueness of Christ has been a cornerstone of orthodoxy for nearly 2,000 years. No major theologian has ever denied it. Most have championed it vigorously. But incredible as it may seem, this choice may well be the key theological issue of the new decade.

To understand why this question has jumped to the fore, one must first consider the staggering growth of the church in previously non-Christian parts of the world. In all of Asia and most of Africa, unprecedented numbers are coming to Christ. But they are doing so in cultures where animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism have traditionally ruled. New Christians in these cultures experience tremendous pressures to syncretize their new beliefs with traditional ones.

Young Asian and African theologians are working overtime to maintain the uniqueness of the gospel and at the same time allow indigenous theologies to develop. The linchpin in this process is holding fast to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. If this theological stake is driven firmly in the ground, then all kinds of creative expressions of the gospel can blossom. Without it, cultural relativism can easily take over.

It is ironic that in the very moment our fellow Christians in Asia and Africa need a strong statement on Christ’s uniqueness, the American church finds itself ...

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