Can an Orthodox Jew believe that other religions have their own unique and positive value? Is it possible to be a religious pluralist without collapsing into some sort of post-modern rejection of absolute truth? These are questions that any thinking Jew must confront when considering the relationship between our religion and the faith of other people.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l advanced a distinctive set of answers to these questions, but they have often been attacked and misunderstood. Indeed, his book on these topics, The Dignity of Difference, was the cause of a major controversy. The extent to which he was willing to see truth expressed by other religions made it seem, to his critics (and even to some of his supporters), as if he were undermining the extent to which our own tradition is in possession of the absolute truth. He was misunderstood to be endorsing a form of relativism or post-modernism. In his recent TRADITION essay, Samuel Lebens seeks to set the record straight. In Lebens’ reading, R. Sacks’ pluralism was completely consistent with his strident rejection of relativism and post-modernism. His religious pluralism was in complete accord with his firm conviction in the absolute truth of the Torah. This essay, now open-access, explains how that could be.
Read Samuel Lebens, “One God, One Truth, Many Languages: Rabbi Sacks’ Pluralism Reexamined,” TRADITION 54:2 (Spring 2022).