On Thursday 28th February Wotton’s Society hosted professor Gavin D’Costa, who came to deliver a lecture on “Christian exclusivism in inter-religious dialogue.” As one of the most influential writers in this area, with his arguments about exclusivism commonly appearing in the A-level theology textbooks, Professor D’Costa based his talk on the numerous years of research he has done in this field.
Professor D’Costa started the talk with some autobiographical details describing how at university one of his teachers was John Hick, one of the proponents of pluralism, and how eventually he had to come to disagree with Hick’s ideas. Afterwards he told the Hindu story of an elephant and six blind men in a room, which Hick originally used to justify pluralism, as the only right way to view salvation and religions more generally. However, Professor D’Costa on to argue against Hick’s views demonstrating a number of faults in his arguments in favour of pluralism, subsequently doing the same thing with Karl Rhanner’s arguments that form the basis of inclusivism. To conclude his lecture Professor D’Costa explained his take on exclusivism suggesting the Catholic concept of Purgatory as a way of reconciling the exclusivist idea that the only way to salvation is through Christ and the fact that some people might not be aware of Christ in their lifetimes, thus claiming that after death people can continue learning about God and eventually decide if they want to embrace God or not.
A Q&A during which a number of ideas were discussed followed the lecture, covering issues such as the requirements of a moral life and whether people who know of Christianity but chose to follow other religions can still achieve salvation.