A fundamental requirement in an inclusivist understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other religions is evidence of God's salvific activity outside any knowledge of Christ. This is commonly identified in the religion of Old Testament Israel. On this basis an analogy (the ""Israel analogy"") is drawn between the religion of the old covenant and contemporary non-Christian religions. Closely related is the parallel argument that as Christ has fulfilled the Old covenant, he can also be seen as the fulfillment of other religious traditions and their scriptures. This study outlines the use of the Israel analogy and the fulfillment model, subjecting these concepts to a biblical and theological critique revealing that the exegetical and patristic data are misconstrued in support of these concepts. Furthermore, the Israel analogy and the fulfillment model undermine the sui generis relationship between the old and new covenants and fail to respect the organic, progressive nature of salvation history. They also misconstrue the old covenant and the nature of its fulfillment in the new covenant. The Israel analogy and fulfillment model rely on a correspondence between the chronologically premessianic (Israel) and the epistemologically premessianic (other religions), and therefore consider the ""BC condition"" to continue today. In so doing, they undermine the significance of the Christ-event by failing to appreciate the decisive effect of this event on history and the nature of existence. It marks a radical turn in salvation history, a crisis point, rendering the BC period complete and fulfilled. Therefore the concept of a continuing ""premessianic"" condition or state is seriously flawed, as are the Israel analogy and fulfillment model. Thus the inclusivist paradigm reliant in large part on these defective concepts is also problematic, and proponents of this paradigm need to reconsider its basis. ""Within the Christian theology of religions, the 'Israel analogy' or 'fulfilment paradigm, ' albeit in differing tradition-specific forms, is often believed to be indisputable evidence which clinches the case for some version of 'inclusivism.' In this important and comprehensive study, Sparks puts this evidence under the microscope of biblical and systematic theology, and shows it to be fundamentally inadmissible."" --Daniel Strange, Oak Hill Theological College, London. ""This important book presents a serious challenge to the prevailing inclusivist understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other faiths. The author brings post-supersessionist readings of Scripture and tradition into the broader field of 'theology of religions' in an original formulation that will have to be taken seriously by anyone concerned with interfaith relations, Jewish-Christian dialogue, and a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of Christ."" --Richard Harvey, allnations, UK ""This book addresses a hotly debated question; how is the Christian church to consider those not reached with the gospel? Dr. Sparks exposes the theological flaws in the argument that such people are akin to those of Old Testament Israel, their religious background preparing them for Christ or being sufficient for salvation. The implications of his thesis are significant for both theology and missions.-Dr --Robert Letham, Wales Evangelical School of Theology ""The relationship between Christianity and other religions is a 'hot' topic both theologically and pastorally. Adam Sparks has shown that much contemporary discussion rests heavily on the redemptive-historical connection between the Old and New covenants. He argues persuasively for the progression of redemptive history and unique significance of the Christ event. This book offers a scholarly challenge to the foundations of the inclusivist position and its relationship to the sweep of Christian theology."" --The Revd. Dr. Liam Goligher, Duke Street Church, Richmond. Adam Sparks is a sessional lect.
About the Author
Adam Sparks is a sessional lecturer (Christian theology and other religions) at Birkbeck College (University of London) and Secretary of Theology for All (TFA).