Theological Pluralism vs. The Door of John 10

Read these articles:

Religious Americans: My Faith isn’t the only way  HT:  Dan B.

Americans see truth in a range of faith: massive study finds  HT:  Greg L.

My Faith Isn’t the only way to heaven  HT:  Scott W.

Yet D.A. Carson writes on John 10:9-10 (emphasis is mine):

Here, the idea is not that Jesus the shepherd draws out his own flock from a rather mixed fold (vv. 1-5), but that Jesus the gate is the sole means by which the sheep may enter the safety of the fold (v. 9a) or the luxurious forage of the pasture (v. 9b).  The thought is akin to 14:6: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No-one comes to the Father except through me.’  While the thief come only to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus comes that they may have life, and have it to the full.  This is a proverbial way of insisting that there is only one means of receiving eternal life (the Synoptics might have preferred to speak of entering the kingdom, although entering into life is also attested there), only one source of knowledge of God, only one fount of spiritual nourishment, only one basis for spiritual security – Jesus alone.  The world still seeks it humanistic, political saviours – its Hitlers, its Stalins, it Maos, its Pol Pots – and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ‘only . . . to kill’), and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only . . . to destroy’).  ‘Jesus is right.  It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.’

(And for Greg, I did catch the words today, “may enter the safety of the fold.”  😉  )

Which is it for Americans?  Theological Pluralism?  or the only Door in John 10? 



  1. You know me, TT. 😉

    I am not going to give up.

    The Word is a lamp unto my feet.

  2. Well, of course there are pluralistic ways of interpreting this passage, including the verse in 10:16, “I have many sheep which are not of this fold.”
    In Acts 10:34: “I truly understand that God shows not partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

    As Diana Eck interpets this passage in her pluralistic account of Christianity Encountering God, that Jesus’s statement here is an answer to Thomas’s anxiety about where Jesus would be going. His answer is pastoral, not polemical. Furthermore, this “I” is the Logos, the creator of the world, not simply the incarnate version of the Logos.

    Todd, you know me too. The text is always interpreted, and we must be willing to examine the assumptions behind our interpretations. We have to consider different ways of how the text might mean. The primary relationship expressed in John is that of love. In relationships of love, exclusive devotion is required, and we speak perhaps hyperbolically to our spouse: “you are the only one for me.” This is a confession of love, not logical numerical accuracy.

  3. Unity
    Inclusivism of the sheep – I see this in John 10. Isaiah spoke of this 700 years earlier. A House of God for all people. The love of God is amazing, not having our prejudiced boundaries. Yes, the passage is deeply pastoral and a work only the Shepherd can do.

    I think the passage is also defending who is the good Shepherd. Isn’t this an ultimate question?

    Kings (David, etc.) and prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc.) of the old covenant all introduced the backdrop to this Shepherd of John’s Gospel.

    For John’s audience, there should have been no mistake about the identity of the Incarnate Logos.

    And Jesus gives his reasons for why He is that Loving One, beginning first with his sacrificial death for the sheep.

    The specific, sacrificial, substitutionary atonement in John 10 is at the heart of Love. Same as in Isaiah.

    There is a lot to unpack here, TT. Yet I don’t think many today are enjoying what Jesus is saying as the audience in Jesus’ day didn’t. Human nature still wrestles over the demonstration of God’s love. Americans embrace a pluralistic Jesus who does not say that they are naughty sheep and deserve death. Hence, they are befuddled over John the Baptist’s public announcement of Jesus to the world at the beginning of John’s Gospel.

    The Shepherd becoming the sin-cursed sacrificial Lamb? Smite the Shepherd?

    This is the crazy part to many.

    But as a sheep, I see Love unparalleled.

  4. Kullervo: While you may be technically correct, the main point, that Christ is the true Messiah/Savior and the others examples of false, secular messianism, surely stands.

    BTW, perused your blog, “Sailing to Byzantium”. Have you checked out the Christianity emanating from that city? You may wish to do so.

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