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Religious Pluralism and the Modern World: An Ongoing Engagement with John Hick.

Religious Pluralism and the Modern World: An Ongoing Engagement with John Hick. Edited by Sharada Sugirtharajah. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Pp. 269. $85.00.

In the book under review the editor gathers a thorough Festschrift honoring the late John Hick, one of the leading British scholars of religion and theology. This collection of essays is limited to the Western Christian perspective on Hick's ideas about religious pluralism. The essays are works of Hick's advocates and critics, with a focus on issues that emerge from his pivotal publications, including Philosophy of Religion (1963), Evil and the God of Love (1966), The Myth of God Incarnate (1977), and God Has Many Names (1982). Sugirtharajah believes that Hick changed the world's perspective on both religious pluralism and racial politics. These articles are intended to further the development of Hick's idea "to face the challenges of a world which is becoming increasingly intolerant and illiberal" (p. 14).

Hick's "religious pluralism" relates to his "global theology." E.g., an article by Perry Schmidt-Leukel responds to Hick's postmodern critics by demonstrating that Hick's version of religious pluralism enables both a "truth-seeking dialogue" and a global theology (p. 19.) However, Marilyn McCord Adam, in her article, "Which Is It? Religious Pluralism or Global Theology," is uncertain whether Hick was referring to religious pluralism, global theology, or a mixture of the two--thereby problematizing his definition of both terms. Among the backdrop of such varying perspectives, Sugirtharajah emphasizes that Hick is not aiming for a privileged position for any pluralistic view, including his own. Instead, she is convinced that Hick was "challenging any truth-claim that smacks of theological finality" (p. 6).

The second part of the book, "Religious Pluralism and Practical Concerns," investigates issues within different faith traditions, including Jesus among other leading religious figures, the spirituality of other faith traditions, and participation in interreligious gatherings. Sugirtharajah includes her own article in this section, "The Mahatma and the Philosopher: Mohandas Gandhi and John Hick and Their Search for Truth," in which she compares Hick's ideas to those of Gandhi. Though not explicitly about religious pluralism, the third part of the book, "Theological and Philosophical Orientations," addresses themes with which modem- day religions continuously struggle, including topics on God, the problem of evil, and the concept of suffering. In this section, Anastasia Philippa Scrutton's essay, "Suffering as Transformative: Some Reflections on Depression and Free Will," grapples with the themes of suffering and eschatology, in which she examines two notions of suffering: aetiological, which is focused on providing explanations for suffering; and nonaetiological, which employs suffering as a practical tool for understanding and coping with psychological illness. The fourth section, "John Hick's Writings and Their Impact," contains essays that emphasize the influence of his publications. E.g., Wang Zhicheng scrutinizes the response of various Chinese scholars to Hick's works in "John Hick and Chinese Religious Studies."

While the book lacks a satisfying conclusion, as many anthologies often do, Sugirtharajah leaves the readers with two issues to further the discourse. She briefly addresses the lack of engagement in this publication of non-Christian scholars, explaining that there are currently a small number of Hindus, Buddhist, Sikhs, and Jains who professionally qualify as scholars of religion or theology; therefore, this particular discourse does not contain those religious perspectives. Unfortunately, she does not address the lack of engagement with Jewish and Muslim scholars in this publication. Further, Sugirtharajah is concerned that the current discourse is limited to Western theological and philosophical assumptions. Though this topic could perhaps be thoroughly explored, she only remarks briefly that little effort has been made to explore the applicability of interpretative models of religious pluralism available within other faiths' traditions, which could offer different ways to approach such dialogue. She laconically notes that other approaches to pluralism would keep Hick's pluralistic vision alive and also get his endorsement (p. 15). While more breadth in the articles would have been useful, the book provides a solid foundation of Hick's religious pluralism--at least as Western Christian scholars understand it.

Laila Khalid Ghauri, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, MD
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Author:Ghauri, Laila Khalid
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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