One Way?:
Are the Exclusivist Claims of Christianity Valid in an Age of Inclusivism?

 - Easter may have lost some of its meaning as a Christian holiday, but many still hold it dear. So much of Western culture and history is based on the Christian faith, that Easter is here to stay, it would seem. In fact, increasing numbers of non-Westerners are claiming allegiance to Christ, the main protagonist of the Bible. But what about other world religions? Are their claims as pathways to God and enlightenment compatible with the claims of Christianity?

Christians claim to know the way to God. In fact, Christians who follow the orthodox teachings of the New Testament claim to have found the only way to God. Is this the height of arrogant, intolerant exclusivism in an age of inclusivim and tolerance? Logically speaking, can conflicting truth claims--like those of various world religions--coexist in reality? Or might there be something to the words of Jesus, "...No one comes to the Father but by me"? What is the truth, assuming truth can be accessed and hold ultimately?

We have assembled an in-depth series of resources from a distinctly Christian point of view to help explore this timely, if not critical, issue.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Special Section on Christian Particularism (counterpart of universalism) by renowned debater, professor and author Dr. William Lane Craig:

"No Other Name": A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ
Dr. William Lane Craig
The conviction of the New Testament writers was that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. This orthodox doctrine is widely rejected today because God's condemnation of persons in other world religions seems incompatible with various attributes of God. Analysis reveals the real problem to involve certain counterfactuals of freedom, e.g., why did not God create a world in which all people would freely believe in Christ and be saved? Such questions presuppose that God possesses middle knowledge. But it can be shown that no inconsistency exists between God's having middle knowledge and certain persons' being damned; on the contrary, it can be positively shown that these two notions are compatible.

Should Peter Go to the Mission Field?
Dr. William Lane Craig
In an article in Faith and Philosophy 8 (1991), pp. 380-89, William Hasker related the cases of a veteran missionary, Paul, and a prospective missionary, Peter, who were each reflecting upon the implications of a middle knowledge perspective on the exclusivity of salvation through Christ for their missionary tasks. Peter, in some confusion, wrote to Paul for advice concerning whether he should leave his successful pastorate for the foreign field. Paul's response to Peter's letter has been obtained and is here published.

Middle Knowledge and Christian Exclusivism
Dr. William Lane Craig
David Hunt has criticized a middle knowledge perspective on Christian exclusivism on evangelistic and metaphysical grounds. He argues that from a middle knowledge perspective attempts to evangelize another person are either futile or superfluous and that an omnibenevolent God would have created a post-mortem state of the blessed without ever creating any of the damned. Hunt's evangelistic objection is unfounded because by our evangelistic efforts we may bring it about that people are saved who otherwise would not have been saved. Hunt's metaphysical objection errs in thinking that God judges people on the basis of what they would do rather than what they in fact do.

Politically Incorrect Salvation
Dr. William Lane Craig
Contemporary religious pluralism regards the traditional Christian doctrine of salvation through Christ alone as unconscionable. The problem seems to be that the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God seems incompatible with the claim that persons who do not hear and embrace the gospel of salvation through Christ will be damned. Closer analysis reveals the problem to be counterfactual in nature: God could not condemn persons who, though freely rejecting God's sufficient grace for salvation revealed through nature and conscience, would have received His salvific grace mediated through the gospel. In response, it may be pointed out that God's being all-powerful does not guarantee that He can create a world in which all persons freely embrace His salvation and that His being all-loving does not entail that, even if such a world were feasible for Him, God would prefer such a world over a world in which some persons freely reject His salvation. Furthermore, it is possible that God has created a world havi ng an optimal balance between saved and lost and that God has so providentially ordered the world that those who fail to hear the gospel and be saved would not have freely responded affirmatively to it even if they had heard it.

Talbott's Universalism
Dr. William Lane Craig
Thomas Talbott rejects the Free Will Defense against the soteriological problem of evil because (i) it is incoherent to claim that someone could freely and irrevocably reject God, and (ii) in any case, God would not permit such a choice to be made because it would pain the saved. I argue that a Molinist account escapes Talbott's objections. It is possible both that in no world realizable by God do all persons freely accept salvation and that God alone will endure the pain of knowledge of the lost.

Talbott's Universalism Once More
Dr. William Lane Craig
In the debate between universalism and particularism, three questions need to be addressed: (i) Has it been shown that it is inconsistent to affirm both that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent and that some persons do not receive Christ and are damned? (ii) Can these two affirmations be shown to be consistent? (iii) Is it plausible that both affirmations are true? In this on-going debate with Thomas Talbott, I argue that Talbott has failed to show the above affirmations to be inconsistent, that while one cannot prove them to be consistent, it is plausible that they are, and that it is also plausible that both affirmations are in fact true.

Other Featured Articles:

Do All Paths Lead to the Same Destination?
Keith E. Johnson
Is it possible that Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, etc. represent differing, yet valid, paths to the same destination? This article examines arguments for and against the claim that all paths lead to the same destination.

A Three-Pronged Defense of Salvific Exclusivism in a World of Religions
Brad Johnson
The author defines and examines the basic arguments behind the classical approaches to other religions, exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism. Of primary interest are the validity of inherent "truth claims" in each religion. He concludes that, within a Christian paradigm, a re-defined exclusivisism meets an established philosophical, biblical, and ethical criteria, thus providing reasonability and warrant.

The Christian Attitude Toward Non-Christian Religions
Rick Rood
This article discusses the fact of religious pluralism in our age, the origin of non-Christian religions, and the Christian's attitude toward other religions.

Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History
Edwin Yamauchi
That the Easter faith in the Resurrection of Christ is the core of Christianity can hardly be denied. Whether that conviction is rooted in myth, in hallucination, or in history has often been debated. Some have maintained that the Resurrection of Christ is a myth patterned after the prototypes of dying and rising fertility gods. Others argue that subjective visions of the risen Christ were sufficient to convince the disciples that their leader was not dead. Even those who do not doubt the historicity of Christ's life and death differ as to how the Resurrection may be viewed historically. Let us examine the evidences for these alternatives.

The Necessity for Christianity
Paul Johnson
The truth is that all of us are Jekyll and Hyde creatures, part saint, part beast. The great strength of Christianity is that, while insisting that man is made in the image of God, it accepts that there is a radical flaw in the reproduction.

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