Will my mother be in heaven?" ten-year-old Lexi asked her adoptive parents. Lexi wanted to know whether her birth mother, who was from India and had died without ever having heard the gospel, would be saved. Lexi had an obvious personal reason for asking this question, but it is one that most Christians encounter at some point: Can anyone be saved who has not heard and accepted the gospel?
Recently I attended a meeting at my son's middle school where parents were introduced to sex-education materials for our children. There are students in this school from over 30 countries, composing a mosaic of the world's religions. It occurred to me that most of those people from other religions who sat beside me that night maintain high sexual standards that are far closer to my own views than are those of the "average" secular American. I felt strangely positive about and even grateful for the presence of believers of other faiths in my community.
These two encounters with other religions pose two different challenges—one theological, the other political. Lexi's question poses the issue of theological pluralism and is religious in nature: Is there truth in other religions? Can an adherent of a non-Christian religion be saved? Lexi's question is foreboding, for the very heart of the gospel is at stake in how we answer.
The other challenge of world religions is cultural pluralism, and the issues raised are political: How can people of widely divergent faiths live peacefully together in society? My sex-education experience filled me with gratitude about the presence of non-Christian, religious allies on a crucial moral issue.
How do we sort out these questions?
MANY GODS, MANY LORDS A smorgasbord of religions is not new. It is precisely ...1