In JULY 1974, 2,700 evangelical Protestants from 150 nations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the first International Congress on World Evangelization. The Lausanne Covenant, which set evangelization into a broader context than had been the practice among evangelicals to that point including the purposes of God, the authority of Scripture, the uniqueness of Christ, the mission of the church, the power of the Holy Spirit and the second coming of Christ. (The Lausanne Committee's website is

Pluralism is not just recognition that there is a plurality of faiths in the world today. That is an obvious fact. No, pluralism is itself an ideology. It affirms the independent validity of all faiths. It therefore rejects as arrogant and wholly unacceptable every attempt to convert anybody (let alone everybody) to Christian opinions.

The reason we must reject this increasingly popular position, of Pluralism, is that we are committed to the uniqueness of Jesus (he has no competitors) and his finality (he has no successors). It is not the uniqueness of "Christianity" as a system that we defend, but the uniqueness of Christ. Jesus is unique in His incarnation: in His atonement (dying once for all for our sins); in his resurrection (breaking the power of death); and in his gift of the Spirit (to indwell and transform us).

So, because in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth did God first become human (in his birth), then bear our sins (in his death), then conquer death (in his resurrection) and then enter his people (by his Spirit), he is uniquely able to save sinners. Nobody else has his qualifications.

Are we being intolerant? Tolerance is one of today's most coveted virtues. But there are at least three different kinds of tolerance when you discuss Pluralism.
First, there is legal tolerance: fighting for the equal rights before the law of all ethnic and religious minorities. Christians should be in the forefront of this campaign.
Second, there is social tolerance, going out of our way to make friends with adherents of other faiths, since they are God's creation who bear his image.
Third, there is intellectual tolerance. This is to cultivate a mind so broad and open as to accommodate all views and reject none.

The other word we need to define is proselytism. To proselytize and to evangelize are not synonymous. The best way to distinguish them is to understand proselytism as "unworthy witness." The World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church pro-duced a helpful study document in 1970 titled Common Witness and Proselytism. It identified three aspects of proselytism.
Proselytism takes place:
(1) when-ever our motives are unworthy (when our concern is for our glory rather than God's),
(2) whenever our methods are unworthy (when we resort to any kind of "physical coercion, moral constraint, or psychological pressure"), and
(3) whenever our message is unworthy (whenever we deliberately misrepresent
other people's beliefs).

In contrast, to EVANGELIZE is (in the words of the Manila Manifesto) "to make an open and honest statement of the Gospel (The Gospel is what Jesus taught), which leaves the hearers entirely free to make up their own minds about it. We wish to be sensitive to those of other faiths, and we reject any approach that seeks to force conversion on them."

There are lessons the Western church can learn from the church in Africa, Asia, and the Latin world! We can affirm that the God of "Africa, Asia, and Latin America" is the living God (Jesus Christ), and that they refuse to place human limitations on His power. Their faith is uncluttered. They believe Jesus hears and answers prayer. They also exhibit freedom and joy in their worship, and their extended families are living expressions of hospitality and care. They take naturally to evangelism, and new converts are expected immediately to witness to Christ their Savior.

The main concern for the church everywhere is that we often do not look like what we are talking about. We make great claims for Christ, but there is often a credibility gap between our words and our actions. For example, consider the implications of 1John 4:12: "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." The invisibility of God is a great problem. Today, in our scientific culture, young people are taught not to believe in anything, which is not open to empirical investigation. How then has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? The first answer is of course "in Christ." Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. See John 1:18.

"That's wonderful," people say, "but it was 2,000 years ago. Is there no way by which the invisible God makes himself visible today?" There is. We return to
1 John 4:12: "No one has ever seen God." It is precisely the same introductory statement. But instead of continuing with reference to the Son of God, it continues: "If we love one another, God dwells in us." In other words, the invisible God, who once made himself visible in Christ, now makes himself visible in Christians, if we love one another. It is a breathtaking claim. The local church cannot evangelize, proclaiming the gospel of love, if it is not itself a community of love.

It is therefore obvious that one can not bring together Pluralism and Christianity, they just do not mix.
Comments by John Stott to Christianity Today September 2003

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