Episode 11: Religious Pluralism

Show Notes

Under the conditions of globalization, more religious people than ever find themselves in close contact with members of other religious traditions. Our hosts convene in this episode for a scriptural conversation on religious pluralism. How is the religious “other” discussed in the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? How do each of these traditions interpret the fact of multiple religions? Is the multiplicity of religions positively willed by God—or just permitted by God as a result of human failings?

In each of the three traditions, scriptural statements on these questions seem to be contradictory—or at least in tension. God’s unique election of Israel, especially in Genesis and Exodus, is fundamental to the Jewish Tanakh; but at the same time, passages in Isaiah speak of God’s universal designs for the gentiles. The New Testament speaks of Jesus in some places as the culmination of the story of Israel, sent primarily to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and in other places of the universal scope of Jesus’ mission. The Qur’an seems to say in some places that the call to Islam is imperative for all people, but in other places that whoever believes in God and the last day will be rewarded for his or her righteousness.

The conversation dilates from there into a back-and-forth between our hosts on what the point of conversing with members of the two other traditions is. Is it purely polemical, meant to prove them wrong? Is it purely proselytizing, meant to convert them? Do the other traditions’ disagreements with my tradition have anything positive to teach me? Is it—perhaps—that we only come to know the truth by conversing with each other, by disagreeing, pressing one another to sharpen our arguments and see something true we hadn’t seen before? Our hosts weigh in on the landmark, but much controverted, joint document signed in 2019 by Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, before turning to the question at the heart of our podcast: Can we disagree religiously and still be friends?

Further Reading

IMAGE CREDIT: Minding Scripture Podcast.