How does Christian faith, based on a unique revelation, relate to other world faiths? Depending on one’s comfort zone, this might be experienced as either a stimulating question on the one hand, or irritating and threatening on the other.
Within the Christian confession, there is widely accepted typology of three dominant views set out by Alan Race (1993)
From within Christian faith, one can take an exclusivist stance in relation to other belief systems – that is the Christian tradition is the only effective purveyor of religious truth and holds the only path to salvation.
Another perspective is the inclusivist view. This affirms the availability of saving faith in other traditions because God who acts most decisively and fully in Christ is also redemptively available in those other traditions.
Finally, there is the pluralist view, maintaining that some other belief systems are independently valid paths to salvation and Christ is irrelevant to those following those traditions, but serving Christian believers as their means to the same end.
The ongoing debate seems to wind backwards and forwards through this typology. S. Mark Helm, in The Depth of the Riches: a Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends (Eerdmans, 2001), bypasses this typology by suggesting different ends for different belief systems. When differing faith systems are in dialogue with each other, they ultimately discover the difference in their goals. From a Christian point of view, not all have Christian salvation as an end. So why not simply acknowledge engage in mutual exploration of the end in question?
As Helm says, “The question is not ‘Which single religious tradition alone delivers what it promises?’ Several traditions may be valid in that sense. If that is so, the truly crucial questions become ‘Which religious end constitutes the fullest human destiny?’ and ‘What end shall I seek to realize?'” (p4).