God Has No Favourites: The New Testament on First Century Religions
by Basil Scott
Primalogue Publishing Media. #32 2nd Cross, Hutchins Road, St. Thomas Town PO, Bangalore 560 084 India, 208 pages, 2013, $9.99 Kindle.
—Reviewed by Joel Rainey, executive director, Mid-Maryland Baptist Association; adjunct professor, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Capital Bible Seminary.
Basil Scott seeks to leverage his decades of experience in order to provide readers with both an exegetical and practical approach for engaging followers of other faiths in a multi-faith world. In part one, Scott seeks to provide an exegetical foundation from which evangelicals can take a new approach to engagement with the world’s religions by identifying “the approach of the New Testament to the religions of its time” (p. xi). Primarily, he focuses on the accounts in Acts relative to Jew-Gentile relations, extrapolating from the apostolic approach described by Luke in an attempt to conjecture how these encounters might be compared to evangelical engagement with other world religions today.
Although Scott is clear in stating that the apostles did not approve of the religions they encountered, he is much less perspicuous regarding the role these religions played in motivating their first-century adherents toward the pagan practices that Paul openly condemns. Scott continues with additional examples in the biblical record of those outside the boundaries of traditional Hebrew monotheism (i.e., the Magi from the East, and the Centurion of Capernaum) whose sincere search for God was rewarded.
In part two, Scott seeks to apply these exegetical conclusions to current missiological approaches where other religions are concerned. His main point in this section is simple—to demonstrate that saving faith can be explored and even discovered while still inside the boundaries of other world religions. Although he maintains that “Christ is the personification of the way of faith” (p. 181), he states in his final analysis of the various approaches to other religions that “though Christ is God’s way of salvation, this does not mean that he cannot save people who do not know the Gospel” (p. 198).
Readers should appreciate Scott’s efforts to communicate clearly the global scope of God’s invitation. This book is a helpful reminder to missionaries, or any faithful Christian in our multi-faith environment, that God is indeed at work in all contexts, drawing people to himself even from within other world religions. It is unfortunate that in order to make this case, the author found it necessary to equivocate between boundaries of religious belief and those of geography and ethnicity. Such category confusion is unnecessary in order to present Christianity as “the only world religion, which is both international and not territorially based” (p. 183). In the end, the author’s sincere attempts to demonstrate the global reach and invitation of Jesus are clouded by hermeneutical leaps that are both unnecessary, and potentially harmful to the clarity of gospel proclamation, and thus to Christian mission.
By the title of this book alone, the author gets it right: God has no favorites. And this is precisely why everyone, without exception, must come to him through repentance and explicit and exclusive faith in Jesus.
Check these titles:
Roberts, Bob. 2013. Bold as Love: What Happens When we See People the Way God Does. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.
Rommen, Edward and Harold Netland, eds. 1995. Christianity and the Religions: A Biblical Theology of World Religions. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.
Volf, Miroslav. 1996. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashsville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press.