The terminology comes from Harvard Professor, Diana Eck (see publications/american-religious-pluralism-civic-and-theological-discourse-democracy-and-new); but I was introduced to this framing of concepts through the Doctor of Ministry dissertation I was advising by Biblical student/soon-to-be grad, Jason Poling. His fascinating dissertation project proposes that Jews and Evangelicals can engage one another and learn from one another through dialogue over shared sacred texts without offending one another, without proselytizing one another, and without either group leaving their most-cherished theological and religious convictions behind, either.   

It’s an idea that has captured my attention and stimulated my imagination and it has led to the present series of blogs, of which this is the third. Specifically, “Can those who do NOT affirm theological pluralism (the idea that all sincerely held religious views lead to salvation) nevertheless affirm civic pluralism (the idea that people of different perspective and conviction are equally entitled to a place at the table of civic discourse and equal opportunity to secure space and resources for pursuing their deeply held world and life views)?

Let’s say the answer is a definite “yes” — we can have deeply held, strongly cherished religious and theological convictions in which we believe eternity is at stake in them, but we nevertheless agree to certain “ground rules” by which we engage civilly, understanding that people with equally cherished theological convictions diametrically opposed to ours will be afforded the same rights we have to forward them. Even if we say “yes” to that deal, the devil is in the details. Achieving civil discourse will still be easier said than done. 

But if missional Christians can be the model citizens in this, it seems to me that that in itself could help rehabilitate the evangelical Christian reputation.  

Is that overly idealistic?  Naïve?  Or a much-needed idea whose time has truly come? What do you think?


 Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also

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