A commonly-held version of pluralism—the idea that all spiritual paths lead to the same God and are essentially one or identical—is to me a compromise and ultimately erroneous. I have no issue with pluralism in terms of diversity of cultural and religious expressions, where differences and similarities are respectfully upheld in a spirit of mutual acceptance and understanding. But the fuzzy postmodern new-age notion that all faiths and spiritualities are one and lead to the same God or Goal is a fallacy. It is superficial and fails to acknowledge the real and substantive differences between religions. Substantive difference goes right to the core of faith and wisdom traditions, a reality that should never be suavely and cavalierly swept under the theological carpet.
For truth is by nature exclusive—if something is true, it cannot be false. The proverbial five blind men and the elephant analogy is deeply flawed. To say that each blind man only perceives one part of the elephant and thus conceives of the elephant partially is itself a grand truth claim. This grandiose statement presupposes that the narrator has full vision of the elephant and can thus see the whole elephant instead of merely the parts. Is this not an overarching truth claim made by one person in opposition to the other assertions of truth (by the five blind men)? How do we know that the interlocutor is not grasping at their own partial and biased opinion, like every other blind man in question? By claiming to have the whole truth as opposed to partial truths of the five, this interlocutor is indulging in a grand narrative that is in fact one of the many narratives posited. There is no real solution here. As I've said in other essays, inclusivism necessarily excludes. Inclusivism excludes exclusivism!
Hence, it is far more honest and fruitful in my view to admit radical difference right from the start. And despite such difference, we can foster a spirit and attitude of inquiry, reflexivity, dialogue, critique, and communion without smashing all colourful ingredients into one homogenous soup. Neither melting pot nor facile pluralistic identity, we can nurture a robust vibrant context of loving reflexive friendship where there is sharpening of iron against iron in love, allowing for Truth to reveal Himself to us in His time and according to His purpose. We need to start getting real about our spirituality and be confident in affirming ourselves and others, as well as critiquing ourselves and others, in love and wisdom. The time for spiritual and religious illiteracy amongst our population must surely be over, if we want to build a genuine culture of peace.