Models of Pluralism

Models of Pluralism

In this blog post, we will discuss Models of Pluralism or different types of pluralism. If you are searching for a topic what is pluralism, then this post is for you.

Models of Pluralism

The popular view in the circle of Christianity holds that it is only in Christ and in His Church that the fullness of religious life is found. But on the other hand, some of the leading contemporary theologians, who are in the forefront of inter-religious dialogue; believe that the “pluralistic approach” is the only adequate model in the understanding of interfaith relations.

And earlier scholars of religion and theology were unhappy with the aggressive approaches of Christian towards other religions; particularly of “exclusivism and inclusivism kind”; and started searching internally viable and externally valid Christian attitude; which would be applicable both locally and globally; especially keeping in mind the future course of religions to move progressively towards a global or universal theology.

So, different models of pluralism can be used imperfectly or friendly in this pluralistic world of faith. In this paper, we will highlight the different models of Pluralism.

What is pluralism?

The concept of pluralism has been widely used in correlation with the theologies of religion during the past two or three decades. Pluralism primarily refers etymologically, to “the quality or state of being plural”, philosophically, to “a theory that there is more than one basic substance or principle, or that reality consists of two or more independent elements, to “ecclesiastically, to the holding of more than one office by the same person”, Sociologically, it means “cultural pluralism, i.e., and those who minority they are participating in the dominant society; and maintaining their cultural differences.

Pluralism is another word is the position that rejects any unique, final or decisive claims to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Considering exclusivism to be outdated and untenable and dismissing exclusivism as being Just as exclusive as exclusivism, pluralists argue that no single religion can claim to be the norm for the world today.

Knowledge of God is partial in all faiths and therefore each religion must acknowledge the validity of every other religion. So, we can say that the plurality of faith tries to realize how to live peacefully with people of other faith. Today’s general understanding of religious pluralism is that different religions exist as diverse means of knowing and experiencing God or the ultimate one reality in a culturally, historically and linguistically familiar way.

Models of Pluralism

a) Christological inclusivism

In this model, Christ was regarded as the final goal of all religions. Though there are different practices of religious faiths and experiences, the final goal and destination is Christ. S.J. Samartha is one of the prominent writers of this type of Christological inclusivism. In his book One Christ Many Religions: Towards a Revised Christology he affirmed these types of models of pluralism.

b) Theistic Inclusivism

In this model, John Hick’s move was termed as “Copernican Revolution” in Christian Theology of religions. This indicates the paradigm shift that took place in the theories of astronomy that maintained as per earlier Ptolemic theories, the earth to be the center of the universe and all other planets, including the Sun to turn around the earth.

But the Copernican theory brought a great revolutionary change in this early belief stating that the Sun is the center of the whole universe and the earth is turning around the Sun along with other planets. On this model, it was stated that Christianity is not the central point of all world religions, but God or Ultimate Reality is the center of all religions including Christianity.

So, Hick further advocated the need for developing “Theocentric” theologies instead of “Ecclesia-centric” or “Christ-centric” theologies in relation to people of other faiths. It is indeed a new move from Church-centredness to a God-centric understanding of world religions.

For John Hick, all religions are diverse concepts and perceptions of and responses to, God. All religions lead towards the same goal, and provide the same salvation. The incarnation, atonement and salvation automatically lead to the belief that only one section of humanity, those who have confessed their faith in Christ will be saved and other non-believers of Christ unsaved, which perhaps, is contradictory to the very basic idea of a loving God and Father of all beings

God is working in the great world faiths, and that the revelation in Christ is “our revelation of the Logos.” The same salvation or liberation process is obviously taking place within each one of the religious traditions, namely the transformation of human existence from self-centeredness to reality-centeredness to reality-centeredness. Every religious tradition, for Hick, is thus a valid context of salvation/liberation.

c) Unitarian Theo-centrism

As Paul F. Knitter, this Unitarian Theo-centrism can also be called as “a unitive pluralism of religions” that deals with the “universalistic religious identity.”  Paul F. Knitter said that without claiming that all religions are equal, Christians with a correlational mentality hold that at the outset of dialogue every partner in the conversation should recognize the equal rights within the dialogue of all religious believers.


d) Radical Pluralism

This model is the exclusivistic dimension of religions. Raimundo Pannikar is one of the notable scholars of radical pluralism. He represents his pluralistic theory as a radical alternative in opposition to those thinkers; who in various ways and varying degrees strive to develop a universal theology of religions by reducing plurality to some particular framework. Their assumption is that all religions are various manifestations or perceptions of the same reality or ultimate truth.

Mark Heim

Mark Heim, one of the radical pluralists is of the opinion that John Hick, Paul Knitter, and other pluralists generally fit into the school of universal theology of religions; who perhaps failed to be really pluralistic in their attempts. Many of them mistakenly point out that various religions focus on the same goal, while, in reality, these religions have different ultimate goals.

As it generally believes, when the path is different then it leads to a certain goal. Therefore, Heim prefers to point towards “salvation” in multi-salvations. Different religions are valid as paths to specific goals. He believes those religions as true and alternative, rather than necessarily either true or false. All religions that are true do not have to be true in the very same sense; there may be differences in beliefs, practices, doctrines or dogmas.

All religions, from their faith perspective, are true as paths to their set goals. Everybody believes that their own religion is true and authentic, hence, try to defend his/her faith; but this can be done only in the context of dialogical openness and of mutually respecting; and listening to other’s witnessing and sharing of faith.

Christian witness

In this process, Christian witness and experience may criticized by others from their faith perspectives and belief structures; but openness should be maintained in an inclusive manner. Heim’s radical pluralism is in a strict sense inclusivistic pluralism.

Many pluralists assume the respective ultimate goals of different religions, in general, to be one and the same. In that sense, salvation is the same, but only the means to attain it are different; as the paths to reach that goal are different. According to Heim, this enables inter-religious dialogue and relationships, to continue with respect and without hatred. Many religions are not competitors for the same thing, but seekers after various things.

e) Concentric Model

Pannikar opposed the theory of the ‘Copernican revolution’ in the understanding of world religions; and he proposed the model of the “concentric solar system. He argues that the center is neither the earth nor the sun. Rather, each solar system has its own centre, and every galaxy turns reciprocally round the other. There is no absolute center. Reality itself is concentric in as much as each being is the center of the universe; of its own to begin with.

On this type of model, religion is not the central point; but “God” is the central focus where all religions have contact with supernatural power or creator “God” or Ultimate Reality”. Different religions developed in different historical, cultural, socio, political contexts, may call God the “Ultimate Reality”. Different religions developed in different historical, cultural, socio, political contexts, may call God the “Ultimate Reality” or “Supernatural Power.”

They may approach that God using different names; with different ways, methods, and faiths; but the main aim of all these religions is to reach that “Central Focus” either to merge in it; or to get its favor for survival. In a concentric model, there is no place for superiority or inferiority; but all depend on and get sustenance from that “Central Focus” for their survival.


We may compare different religions with different planets in this universe revolving around the “Central Focus;” which works as an ‘axis’ to keep contact with all the planets.  If at any time any two of these planets move in a disorderly manner; there may be a big problem in the universe.

In a similar way, when one religion claims superiority over the other, then problems arise. We have to reject the exclusivistic approach of religion where we live with different people of other faiths. So, to achieve this goal, different models of pluralism help us to understand and experience the need of understanding between different religions.