Cultural Encounters 15.2: Religious Conflicts—Jesus Style

This issue of Cultural Encounters includes some fascinating and thought-provoking content! Read the abstracts for the featured articles and see which books are covered in the reviews!


On the Ethics and Theology of Martyrdom: Lessons from the Early Christians By Alan Vincelette

Persecution of Christians shows no signs of abating in certain regions of the world, such as the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Central America. Even in the United States Christianity has come increasingly under attack in the twenty-first century. In some instances, such persecutions have even led to people giving up their lives for the faith, that is becoming martyrs. Hence the time seems appropriate for an ethical and theological reflection on martyrdom. In particular this paper will address what the proper disposition and demeanor of a martyr should be, what should motivate one to undergo martyrdom, whether one can flee persecution or voluntarily turn oneself in to expedite one’s martyrdom, whether one can deceive to avoid martyrdom, and whether one who dies in an act of violence against others can be considered a martyr. The paper argues that one should approach one’s martyrdom in a state of calm hopefulness rather than exuberance or rushing toward one’s death, that one should be primarily motivated by desire to imitate Christ and love even one’s enemies, that one can and indeed should flee persecution if possible but one cannot commit a lie to avoid martyrdom, and finally that one who dies while committing an act of violence against others, especially innocents, cannot be considered a martyr. In order to facilitate this conversation, examination will be given to the accounts and theologies of martyrdom found in early Christianity.

Do Christians Worship the Same God as Those from Other Abrahamic Faiths? By Paul D. Molnar

This article argues that when Jews, Christians, and Muslims are said to worship the same God on the basis of their common monotheism, they are not able to address the pressing issue that ultimately unites and divides them. This pressing issue is not under their control, but provides the controlling factors that make possible the recognition of the truth that alone can and does unite Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It will be argued that, while eschatology is important, this matter should not simply be postponed to the future but should be answered at least provisionally now in a way that supports the solidarity and mutual cooperation of all three Abrahamic faiths. The argument will proceed by way of a comparative analysis of the thinking of Reza Shah-Kazemi, Research Fellow, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Executive Director, The Elijah Interfaith Institute, and Christoph Schwöbel, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK.  Insights from the theology of Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance will be employed in addressing the subject of worship and monotheism.

  An Evangelical Journey Down the Rabbit Hole of Pluralism By John W. Morehead

Religious pluralism represents one of the greatest challenges of our post-Christendom era, and one that Evangelicals should carefully navigate. Some of the more popular reactions to it have included a denial of deep religious differences, and the assumption that exclusivism is equated with intolerance. This essay considers Stephen Prothero’s thesis in his book God is Not One, that the world’s religions include real and irreconcilable differences, and then from that starting point contrasts approaches to pluralism in the area of difference and exclusivism. The essay then suggests that while exclusivism has been associated with intolerance, this is not necessarily the case. A positive form of Christian exclusivism is presented as the best way forward for Christians.


  • The Palgrave Handbook of Radical Theology, edited by Christopher D. Rodkey and Jordan E. Miller

    Reviewed by Josh de Keijzer

  • For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, edited by W. David O. Taylor

    Reviewed by Derek Grant Martin

  • Karl Barth en zijn theologische weg door de tijd [Karl Barth and His Theological Path Through Time], by Alan P. R. Gregory

    Reviewed by Clifford B. Anderson

  • Kierkegaard’s Theological Sociology: Prophetic Fire for the Present Age, by Paul Tyson

    Reviewed by Jennifer Knox

  • Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), by Wm. Andrew Schwartz, John B. Cobb, Jr., Francis J. Beckwith, Gerald R. McDermott, Jerry L. Walls, Joseph L. Cumming, and David W. Shenk

    Reviewed by John W. Morehead