A Personal Experience with Covenantal Pluralism with LYNC's representative in Kazakhstan, Arman Arenbayev

Arman Arenbayev


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Arman Arenbayev
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My name is Arman Arenbayev, and for the last 13 years, I have been serving as a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Kazakhstan.

When I first came across the idea of covenant pluralism[1], it seemed to me that this approach had several problematic issues. One of which, in my opinion, was a kind of ecumenistic approach.

Ecumenism is an approach of universal unity, which is associated with the rapprochement and unity of various kinds of theological positions. Many theologians and religious leaders today consider this ecumenistic approach quite heretical in its foundation.

The second thing that seemed problematic about covenantal pluralism in interreligious relationships was that, at first glance, the pluralist approach is very similar to the relativist approach. When everything becomes relative, unity and cohesion are achieved.

And herein lay my biggest misconception about covenant pluralism. Let’s start by defining covenantal pluralism and then see why such an approach is not an attempt at ecumenical or relativistic unity.

The very idea of covenantal pluralism presupposes equality of rights and responsibilities and inclusion of diverse cultural interactions based on mutual respect and goodwill despite theological, religious, and cultural differences. In other words, within covenant pluralism, we do not build relationships based on theological or cultural differences. We also find many other important and significant values in our lives, which are the basis for the development of strong relationships.

This means that we are not looking for a unified theology, so the idea of ecumenism disappears by itself: on the other hand, we do not ignore or belittle theology – the building of relationships occurs on a completely different basis. This means the pluralistic approach has nothing in common with the relativistic approach.

Just like with my neighbors next to whom I live, next to whose houses my house are located, I do not build relationships based on my theological convictions. I build relationships based on our proximity: we live next to each other, our houses are built on the same land, we breathe the same air. We are good neighbors.

Any sensible person would defend a person who was attacked by hooligans on the street, regardless of his/her religious beliefs – simply because protecting the weak is a natural sign of humanity.

Thus, covenantal pluralism is a natural human approach to developing relationships with each other, including interreligious relations. At the moment, I am personally involved in this kind of development of relations with representatives of different religions and confessions here in Kazakhstan.

1 Covenantal Pluralism is a robust, relational, and non-relativistic paradigm for living together peacefully and productively in the context of deep difference.

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