Christian Particularism

Christian Particularism

Articles in defense of the biblical teaching that Christ is the only way of salvation along with responses to critics of Dr. Craig’s proposal.

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Is Uncertainty A Sound Foundation For Religious Tolerance?

Founding religious toleration on uncertainty about the truth of one’s own religious convictions is multiply flawed. It naively supposes that the sources of religious intolerance are primarily intellectual rather than social. It presupposes gratuitously that all religions are on an epistemic par. It fails to take account of the fact that some religions abet religious tolerance. Finally, the proposal is self-defeating because insofar as it presupposes the objectivity of certain moral principles, it actually supplies a defeater of major religious traditions.

In Religious Tolerance through Humility, pp. 13-27. Ed. James Kraft and David Basinger. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2008. Used by permission. Details of the definitive version are available at
http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754661023

Does the Balance Between Saved and Lost Depend on Our Obedience to Christ’s Great Commission?

As a follow-up to my middle knowledge solution to the problem of Christian exclusivism, I ask whether the problem does not recur in another form under that solution: is it not the case that the balance between saved and lost depends upon the degree to which we Christians obey our Lord’s Great Commission to bring the gospel to every nation? If so, then is not that conclusion as morally objectionable as the claim that people’s eternal destiny hinges upon the historical accidents of the time and place of their birth? I argue that such a conclusion does not follow because, given divine middle knowledge and providence, it may not lie within our power to bring about a better balance between saved and lost.

“Does the Balance between Saved and Lost Depend on Our Obedience to Christ’s Great Commission?” Philosophia Christi 6 (2004): 79-86.

Should Peter Get A New Philosophical Advisor?

This article responds to William Hasker’s critique of my article “Does the Balance between Saved and Lost Depend on our Obedience to Christ’s Great Commission?” I argue that while Hasker succeeds in exposing a mistake in my argument, it does not prove fatal. On the contrary, Hasker’s refutation misconstrues certain key counterfactuals, which turn out not to be counterfactuals of creaturely freedom under our control. The objection to the middle knowledge solution therefore remains undefeated.

“Should Peter Get a New Philosophical Advisor?” Philosophia Christi 6 (2004): 273-8.

"No Other Name": A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ

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.

"'No Other Name': A Middle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation through Christ". Faith and Philosophy 6. (1989): 172-88.

Should Peter Go to the Mission Field?

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.

Source: "Should Peter Go To The Mission Field?", Faith and Philosophy 10 (1993): 261-265.

Middle Knowledge and Christian Exclusivism

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.

Source: "Middle Knowledge and Christian Exclusivism." Sophia 34 (1995): 120-139.

Politically Incorrect Salvation

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 having 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.

"Politically Incorrect Salvation." In Christian Apologetics in the Post-Modern World, pp. 75-97. Ed. T. P. Phillips and D. Ockholm. Downer's Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity, 1995.

Talbott's Universalism

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." Religious Studies 27 (1991): 297-308.

Talbott's Universalism Once More

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.

"Talbott's Universalism Once More." Religious Studies 29 (1993): 297-308.