Posted by William Nunnelley on 2010-10-18

A skeptical world is watching the Christian church to see how it will respond to the growing presence of other religions in its midst, religion professor Harold A. Netland told Samford University divinity students Oct. 14.

“Will we simply exacerbate the tensions or will we show a better way forward?” Dr. Netland asked in a lecture at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School.  He spoke on “The Gospel and ‘Religious Others.’”

“In the days ahead Christians must demonstrate that we can both be faithful to Jesus Christ as the one Lord and Savior for all peoples and work for peace, harmony and mutual respect among adherents of different religions,” he said.

He added, “we must engage in responsible evangelism among followers of other faiths. But we must also be active in promoting justice and protecting the rights of minority religious communities to live and practice their faith among us.”

Netland is professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

Explaining one reason for the world’s skepticism, Netland said “we live in a post-colonial world that is acutely aware of the injustices of four centuries of Western imperialism and that believes—rightly or wrongly—that Christianity bears much of the blame for such injustice.” 

Can Christians remain committed to Jesus Christ “as the one Lord and Savior for all humankind and to the need for evangelism among adherents of other religions,” he asked, while also being accepting of religious diversity and working for harmonious relations among those religions?

“This is the watershed issue for evangelicals in the days ahead,” he said.

Netland reminded the students of three biblical texts related to his subject: the Great Commission, the Great Commandments to love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself, and the Golden Rule.  These are at the heart of Jesus’ teaching and help to define what a disciple of Jesus is like, he said.

“Based upon these texts, then, we have three obligations with respect to followers of other religions.  One, we are to make disciples of ‘religious others’; two, to love religious others; and three, to treat religious others the way we would want to be treated by them.”