Critique of “Is Jesus the Only Savior” by Ronald H. Nash: Chapters 1-6

Section One

Introduction:

In this critique of Ronald H. Nash’s book “Is Jesus the Only Savior,” the author would like to divide his comments into two sections. In section one the author will first address the broad scope of chapters 1-6, with general comments regarding Nash and how he masterfully demonstrated the inconsistency of the “Pluralistic” argument, while maintaining a Christian-theistic worldview. Next in this section, the author will elaborate on specific points within the text. Finally, in section two of this essay, a personal conclusion will be given that addresses additional points of reference in Nash’s argument with a specific focus on apologetic application.

Broad Overview:

The author found Nash’s argument against Religious Pluralism, and specifically, John Hick’s, an apologetic masterpiece. First and foremost, Nash never strayed from the foundational truth of the Christian worldview and all of his argumentation was performed in a clear and concise manner; bringing glory upon Yahweh who created mankind as a rational being. Moreover, Nash argues throughout the discourse presupposing the only true fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:2-3). This presuppositional commitment is readily witnessed in the opening pages of the book, where Nash sets forth a clear and concise summation of the Christian Exclusivist and Biblical position when he proclaims that; “Christian exclusivism can be defined as a belief that (1) Jesus is the only Savior and (2) explicit faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation.”[1]

Also appreciated is the fact that Nash took the time to represent the many different levels of Hick’s Pluralism. Whether it was Hick’s beginnings as the self proclaimed “radical”[2] who was formulating an improved system of Pluralism, or the later Hick’s who adopted the relativistic views of W.C. Smith, it is seemingly clear that Nash has represented his opponent in a worthy manner. Moreover, throughout his discourse, Nash showed an acute ability to point out the logical contradictions and fallacies of his opponent(s), and easily exposed the circularity of Hick’s methodology.

Specific Points Addressed:

In specific, the author would first like to address Nash’s proper handling of Hick’s argument that “God was both personal and impersonal…”[3] Here, Nash rightly points out that this is type of argumentation is in violation of the logical absolute known as the Law of Non-Contradiction, when he states; “[I]t is logically impossible for God to be both personal and impersonal at the same time.”[4] This was an extremely helpful point that demonstrated that Nash was not simply being arbitrary in his claim of inconsistency. Rather, he based his rebuttal of Hick’s position on universal standards of reasoning which are essential to rational discourse. However, Nash failed to address a glaring inconsistency on the following page when he elaborates on Hick’s adoption of “Sunyata” as a symbol of the “Real.” Here, Sunyata is described as “the anti-concept that excludes all concepts.”[5] If this anti-concept is taken to its logical conclusion, then it would also exclude itself from having any validity; a point that was not addressed.

Starting on page 54 of the text, Nash does a wonderful job in elaborating on the Laws of Logic and truth and their/its necessity to rational discourse. Point-in-fact, one could claim that the consistent rejection of logical absolutes in a given system would necessarily imply that the adherents of that system do not hold to their professed truth statements. In such cases, the denial of the Law of Non-Contradiction, as described in the promotion of Pluralism, would necessitate that the individual holder of the Pluralistic position did not in fact, believe the Pluralistic system. This is a point that can be slightly inferred from Nash’s treatment of the topic but it is not a point that is described in specific terms. Nevertheless, Nash did the reader a great service in elaborating on these topics.

Finally, Nash did a wonderful job in pointing out the underlying presuppositional systems that are foundational to the Pluralistic argument. On pages 60 and 63, Nash touches on the Existential foundations of the Pluralist argument and likewise catches the Pluralist in language deconstruction on page 61. Also, Nash pointed out the issues that Hick’s ran into while attempting to critique the Orthodox understanding of the Deity of Christ; using the Law of Modus Ponens to demonstrate that the Pluralist is in “deep trouble” on page 70. More broadly, Nash uncovered throughout the bulk of his argumentation, the relativistic and arbitrary attitude that is attached to Pluralistic methodology and exposed its incoherence at every turn.  In all of this, Nash defends the Exclusivist understanding of the Bible with the utmost grace and in eloquent style; exposing time after time the logical inconsistencies of the Hick’s, Pluralistic argument.

Section Two

Personal Conclusion:

The author found these chapters delightful in their content and powerful in their apologetic. Nash presented a logical and coherent argument that was based on the Christian worldview and is to be credited for such a wonderful contribution. Noting this, additional statements could have been made in the area of epistemological justification that would have been very enlightening to the Christian reader. For example, Nash did a wonderful job in explaining the nature and necessity of Logical absolutes and truth. However, he did not touch on the Christian foundation of these necessities of rationality. What is the foundation that one would need to understand their experience, one could ask? The answer to this question is found in the fact that there must be a non-arbitrary standard of reasoning that is transcendent to all of experience. This standard comes namely in the Laws of Logic which can only be justified in the Christian worldview. Logical absolutes, being universal, abstract and invariant, are not dependent on human experience and as such, transcend experience. By their very nature, they preclude any and all challengers to the Christian worldview because no other worldview can justify universal, immaterial abstractions. Hence, all arguments, when viewed in light of the pre-conditions of experience, fail to justify this essential foundation needed for rational discourse.[6] Noting this, the Pluralist cannot justify the very rationality that he uses to present his religious system.

Finally, in regards to Nash’s work, it is believed that it easily reduced the Hick’s Pluralistic position to nonsense. With the exposed circularity of the position, the denial of logical absolutes, the countless logical fallacies and so on, the Pluralistic position has been shown by Nash to be irrational. Additionally, on many occasions, moral standards were invoked and seemingly applied to the Exclusivist. On this point, it is proper to proclaim that a Pluralist has no absolute standard from which to condemn the Exclusivist. Rather, the Pluralist can only appeal to his subjective and personal standard and hence, the individual Exclusivist is not wrong or immoral, given the “subjective” standard that he has chosen for himself. Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument and there are few that are more inconsistent then the Pluralist; a point that Nash brilliantly demonstrated.


[1] Ronald H. Nash. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994: Pg. 11.

[2] Ibid., Pg. 30

[3] Ibid., Pg. 35

[4] Ibid., Pg. 36

[5] Ibid., Pg. 37

[6] For the sake of word count, the author will not elaborate further on what is commonly know as the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG). However, if asked in follow-up, the author will demonstrate how it is only the Christian worldview that can justify Logical Absolutes, while other worldviews/world religions fall short and are hence, irrational. Also see: http://carm.org/transcendental-argument

Bibliography:

Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

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