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Christianity and World Religions: The Contributions of Barth and Tillich

David R. Mason


For centuries Christianity proclaimed itself as the sole path to salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus). Recent advocates of pluralism have radically challenged exclusivism as arrogant and bigoted, and so unchristian. Is there a way to strengthen the gracious insights of pluralism while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of Christianity? Karl Barth and Paul Tillich provide insights and analyses that enable Christians to regard major religions as genuine expressions of divine–human encounter and legitimate paths to salvation, and to understand Christianity itself as the decisive witness to this truth. Because Barth is typically, but inaccurately, regarded as an exclusivist, I have treated him first. But both theologians, in different ways, argue that God is the Redeemer; all human beings are redeemed; and Jesus as the Christ is the decisive light in which this truth is seen and the standard for making known universal divine redemption. Further, Barth and Tillich agree that it is the task of Christians both to proclaim this redemption in Jesus and to recognize God’s redemptive love in different contexts.

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