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pluralism and hell

October 17th, 2018 | 1 min read

By Matthew Loftus

Shadi Hamid, who is one of the sharpest foreign policy commentators out there, has a really good interview in Providence magazine about Islam, liberalism, and pluralism:

As for theological resources that conservatives might share across faiths, something I’ve been thinking about more is the idea of the suspension of judgment. If you’re an evangelical who thinks that Muslims are going to hell, that isn’t, or at least it shouldn’t be, a deal breaker. There’s the widespread notion (so widespread, in fact, that it’s almost never countered) that to believe someone will be punished in the next life is to wish them harm in this life. Rousseau once said “it is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned.” But there’s a mostly forgotten strain of political theology called “Christian pluralism,” and there are corollaries in the classical Islamic tradition as well.

Expounded by the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper, Christian pluralism takes as given that non-believers may not be granted salvation, but then it comes to a completely different conclusion than Rousseau. A Christian world is a world that is broken. Kuyper argued that “ideological fragmentation and division is simply the reality of life lived after the fall into sin.” According to his intellectual biographer Matthew Kaemingk, Kuyper is effectively calling for a temporary suspension of judgment. Kaemingk explains it this way: “The pluriformity of faiths would remain a permanent feature of political life until the return of Christ.” That sounds like something even a Muslim like me could get behind.

Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at