The scene took place about 25 years ago. I was sitting in a restuarant talking to an atheist. During the conversation he said to me “You’re only a Christian because you were born the the U.S.. If you had been born in India you would probably be a Hindu.” I was young and stupid. The comment caught me off guard and I just sat there not really knowing how to respond. I don’t recall what I said exactly but I’m sure it wasn’t very meaningful. As I was browsing a new book by Harold A. Netland, Christianity and Religious Diversity, I stumbled across this very objection and it brought back the memory. (By the way Dr. Netland was one of the readers for my Master’s Thesis while I was at Trinity.) Netland quotes Alvin Plantinga’s response to John Hick on this issue. Plantinga wrote,
“Suppose that we concede that if I had been born in Madagascar rather than Michigan, my beliefs would have been different. . . . But of course, the same goes for the pluralist. Pluralism isn’t and hasn’t been widely popular in the world at large; if the pluralist had been born in Madagascar, or medieval France, he probably wouldn’t have been a pluralist. Does it follow that he shouldn’t be a pluralist or that his pluralistic beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process? I doubt it.” (p. 157)
Over the years I’ve learned a great deal from Netland on the issue of religious pluralism. Apart from him Terrance Tiessen’s book, Who Can Be Saved? (IVP), has been most helpful. Both men have thought long and hard on the issue. They have a very good grasp of the theology and philosophy surrounding the issues.
Christianity and Religious Diversity is from Baker Academic. It is a paperback with 304 pages and sells for $24.99.
Harold A. Netland (PhD, Claremont Graduate University) is professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he also directs the PhD in intercultural studies program. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Encountering Religious Pluralism: The Challenge to Christian Faith and Mission, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth, A Trinitarian Theology of Religions, and Buddhism: A Christian Exploration and Appraisal. He is also the coeditor of Globalizing Theology and Handbook of Religion.