Magazine article International Bulletin of Missionary Research
The First and the Last: The Claim of Jesus Christ and the Claims of Other Religious Traditions
The First and the Last: The Claim of Jesus Christ and the Claims of Other Religious Traditions. By George R. Sumner. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004. Pp. 219. $26.
In The First and the Last, George Sumner, principal of Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada, considers the reality of religious pluralism. His postliberal theology of religions has one key term, "final primacy," which relates non-Christian religions to Christ and the truth claims of these religions to the grace of Christ as an overarching theme of Christianity.
After an investigation of Gotthold Lessing's viewpoint (chap. 2), Sumner analyzes "final primacy" in five areas (chaps. 3-7): modern theology (Barth, Rahner, and Pannenberg), salvation economy (Trinitarian theologies of religions), mission theology (Farquhar, Kraemer, Hogg, Barth, Brunner, and Gutmann), Indian Christian theology (the encounter with Hinduism), and inculturation theologies (African Christian theology as test case). In the conclusion of his study, the author opts for disputation over against dialogue: "Christians working from the assumption of final primacy must engage in dialogue as disputation" (p. 213).
Sumner attempts to overcome the unsatisfying contemporary framework in the theology of religions; he regards exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism not as three models or types of approach but as three necessary dimensions of Christian life (compare Pannenberg, Newbigin, D'Costa). …