The two theologians—Jaques Dupuis and Joseph Ratzinger, now pope Benedict XVI—we studied in our class in Theology of Religious Pluralism gave us an idea of where most Christians are in relation to the question stated above. Currently, there are three views on how a person can be saved from eternal damnation in relation to Jesus Christ, i.e. exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism.
While both of them ruled out exclusivism as an option, Ratzinger’s book, Truth and Tolerance, was basically a response to Dupuis’ position in his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. The latter on the one hand, posits the idea that all religions other than Christianity may facilitate salvation to their believers. He alleges that other religions also have salvific value in that God can work through those religions. According to him, the salvation of non-Christians however, is still due to the work of Christ on the cross and that it is still only because of Christ that they are saved even without them knowing. The former on the other hand focuses on the importance of knowing the Truth, which is Jesus Christ, as the only way to salvation. He considers other religions as stepping stones or means of preparing people to accept the message of the Gospel, which is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He calls non-Christians pre-believers rather than non-believers. Both theologians recognize the presence of elements of truth in all religions, albeit, not the ultimate and complete truth.
I concur with the position of Ratzinger except that I take a strictly exclusivist stance on the issue. The bible says that to be saved, we must confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10). Jesus Himself said that “He is the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through him” (John 14:6). Therefore, it is truly necessary that a person comes to personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. This, of course, takes into account the sovereign will of God in deciding whom to give this grace and to whom to deny it (Rom. 8:28).
With regard to religion’s clash with culture, instead of inculturation, Ratzinger prefers what he calls interculturality, or the meeting of cultures:
“For ‘inculturation’ presupposes that, as it were, culturally naked faith is transferred into a culture that is indifferent from the religious point of view, so that two agents that were hitherto alien to each other meet and now engage in a synthesis together. But this depiction is first of all artificial and unreal, because—outside of modern technical civilization—there is no such thing as religion-free culture.”
For missions to be effective, missionaries must realize that Christianity’s culture has itself developed and is still in the process of development. As history unfolds and the Christian religion comes into contact with many and various cultures of the world, Christianity has assimilated and therefore has been affected by the same.
Why is this important? Because if we truly believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, then, effective missions should be our top priority as Christians. In fact, Jesus commissioned us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).