An Evangelical Theology of Other Religions?

I will be teaching “Dialogue with Asian Faiths” in a couple of weeks. It is one of my favorite classes. I don’t just talk about the beliefs and practices, I also speak of the background associated with holding dialogue with people of other faiths. In this class I do talk considerably on various theological implications of living with those of other faiths. But I think I can do more.

I was reading Evangelical Mission Quarterly (Jan-Mar 2019, Vol. 55, #1). One article was titled, “Outlining a Biblical Theology of Islam: Practical Implications for Disciple Makers and Church Planting.” The article is written by Warrick Farah. It is an interesting article. I will admit that I think Farah was using the term “Biblical Theology” wrong, but that is hardly worth complaining about. Farah does a good job addressing several theological questions when it comes to Islam. He notes when dealing with the “Final Prophet of Islam” that in our theological reflection, we cannot simply embrace a traditional Christian attitude about him. We also would be remiss to simply react against “modern” Islamic views of their founder. We need to look at who he was, not just how he has been interpreted by his followers and enemies.

In line with that, we need a solid Theology of Other Faiths. Since I teach at a Southern Baptist seminary, this theology would be somewhat narrowed to be (mostly) Evangelical in terms of the lens used in the theological reflection. Some of the topics for such a theology could include:

  1. What do we say about revelations from other religions. This would include the revelations, how these revelations are handled, and the prophets/shamans behind the revelations. A lot of this has been handled before by Sir Norman Anderson. Anderson notes that broad views include (a) other revelations come from God, (b) other revelations come from the devil, (c) other revelations come from the hopes and aspirations of man, or (d) a nuanced combination of the above.
  2. What do we say about “other gods.” Are they devilish snares (or even ‘literal devils’), or can some descriptions (“god of the heavens” or “God above the gods”) point to the God who is, or even be said to be the same as. (This is especially relevant when it comes to the Abrahamic faiths. Is the God of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism the same? Or similar?)
  3. How should we, as Christians, relate to other religions, houses of worship, idols, religious leaders, and religious adherents. The Bible shows a lot of different ways that range from destroy all idols to respectful coexistence. Where are we supposed to fit into this spectrum?
  4. How does salvation relate to other faiths? This goes back to the common spectrum that utilizes three terms defined broadly— Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Pluralism. One could add at the extremes, two more categories— Particularism and Universalism. Can other religions be a path to salvation? Are other religions a path to destruction? Is there a middle ground where (some) religions may help prepare people for the gospel? For example, some describe Sikhism as a gateway to Christianity. Some forms of Animism also seem to do this as well.

These seem like good topics to consider under the umbrella of Theology of Other Faiths.