Darrow Miller and Friends

What’s Good About Pluralism?

Depending on your perspective, pluralism in a society is a virtue to be nurtured or a vice to be shunned. Good people will disagree about this.

Some time back, our friend, Bob Osburn, wrote a brief but masterful article on the subject. He distinguishes between principled pluralism and pluralism “as an ideology that eliminates differences in favor of the weak soup of relativism.”

Bob OsburnBob is the executive director of Wilberforce Academy, which is one of Darrow’s annual teaching platforms.

We urge our readers to go to Bob’s blog and read his excellent post, The Potential Of Pluralism, excerpted below.


The Potential of Pluralism

Christians have three strong reasons to favor principled pluralism.  First, the call to love our neighbors as ourselves obligates us to seek their good, even when they are our enemies.  Seeking their good means that we honor their right to embrace other worldviews, political philosophies, and membership in the campus atheist organization, just as we expect them to honor our right to embrace Jesus over all competitors, to embrace political philosophies that don’t sell well in most faculty lounges, and membership in the local InterVarsity chapter.  Their right to freedom of conscience is an obligation of Christian love even as it is also a natural concomitant of their creation as God’s flawed image-bearers.

Secondly, because we believe in original sin we realize that our judgments about reality may be fallible.  It turns out that other fallible people, including those who embrace rival worldviews, can sometimes help us see things about reality that we would not see by ourselves (just as we can also help them).  In other words, the pluralist gratefully learns from his opponent because he knows that sin’s noetic effects blind him in ways that only an opponent can help him recognize.  In no way does this epistemic humility demand that we water down the truth.

Finally, our Trinitarian theology augurs for pluralist practice.   Troubled by the swarming maelstrom of a diverse humanity, the monist insists that human diversity is a threat to unity, and so withdraws from the messy world of politics into a life of pure meditation with the hope of merging into ultimate Openness, or Brahman. The monist’s foil, of course, is the dualist, whose embrace of diversity immediately raises the threat of anarchy.  The dualist, terrified of the chaos brought on by the diversity he otherwise welcomes, seeks unity through coercion.  This is the route of most dictators, whose tolerance for diversity ends as soon as trouble breaks out.


Bob’s article continues at The Wilberforce Academy.

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Bob Osburn was an adjunct lecturer for seven years in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development the University of Minnesota. He has spent 32 years serving in international student and academic ministry at the University of Minnesota, and successfully launched the 1998 World View for World Healing Conference that challenged international students to engage the deepest needs of their societies on the basis of a Christian worldview. He has been married to Susan for 42 years, and is the father of four sons.