This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
I read with great interest your discussion of Christian particularism and how/if/why Christ is the only way to God, and my question deals with something I feel is missing (I could be wrong). If we accept that there is no reason to support religious pluralism just to be nice, or out of some unjustified concept of being "fair," or some other politically correct motive, aren't we still left with a loophole in your argument? If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why could He not have decided to intervene in human affairs more than once, and in more than one place, and create more than one vehicle for accessibility to His grace? True, we would then have to examine each such claim critically, but why is it a priori impossible?
The fact that Bible says Jesus is the only way is circular in that it relies on itself to prove itself. But if we accept your understanding of God (I am not in any way an atheist), isn't a stretch for you to insist on limitations of what God may or may not decide to do in interacting with mankind -- i.e., only at this point in history and in this way and no other. It seems contradictory to the idea of infinite possibilities (which must surely be allowed for), and also seems a bit convenient, frankly, for Christian particularism.
I enjoy your site greatly and have read a great deal of your work, and appreciate your time and possible consideration of my question. Thanks!
Dr. William Lane Craig's Response
I think you’ve been inattentive, David, to my explanation of my views on this topic, which are much more nuanced than your question suggests. (See on this site Scholarly Articles: Christian Particularism or Popular Articles: Christianity and Other Faiths). But because people often voice such misunderstandings, I take your question this week.
To begin with the second objection first, there is no circularity in the biblical view. In defending his view before a sceptical audience of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in Athens, Paul says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17.30-31). Notice that God has given evidence of Christ’s exclusive claim, namely, He has raised him from the dead. What amazes me is that this same evidence is still available for us today. The question, then is not what God may or may not do, but what He has in fact done. He has acted decisively in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to achieve our salvation and has even provided evidence of that fact by raising him from the dead.
With respect to the first objection, you ask, “If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why could He not have decided to intervene in human affairs more than once, and in more than one place, and create more than one vehicle for accessibility to His grace?” He has! As I explain, God’s saving grace is universally accessible, even for those who never hear the Gospel, through God’s general revelation in nature and conscience. Moreover, He has revealed Himself specially to historic Israel through His saving acts. Today many in the Muslim world report dreams and visions whereby God has revealed to them the truth of Christ. The fact is that everywhere throughout history God has been revealing Himself to people in various ways to draw them to a saving knowledge of Himself. That neither implies nor requires religious pluralism with respect to salvation. There is no reason to think that, say, Buddhism or polytheism is one of the vehicles through which people access salvation. There can be roads of error as well as roads of truth.
If you still wonder why God did things in the way that He has rather than in some other way, I’ve argued that it’s possible that the way God has chosen will bring the optimal number of people freely to salvation and is therefore preferable.
This Q&A and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website.