Religious truth-claims and the diversity of religious traditions

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




William Alston


Pluralism, Epistemology, Truth-claims

Subject Categories

Philosophy | Religion


In this dissertation, I examine some of the arguments advanced in support of what I refer to as the Doctrine of Religious Pluralism, the claim that each of the various religious traditions or practices has the same focus of worship, and that each leads its respective devotees by different paths to one and the same salvific goal. I contend that such arguments are less than convincing.

In the Introduction, I simply state the distinctive issue posed by religious diversity, namely, the problem of the mutually conflicting systems of truth-claims of the world religions.

In Chapter I, I argue that the problem of religious diversity is not one of reference. I examine from referential, soteriological, and theological perspectives the central arguments for the Doctrine of Religious Pluralism advanced by various Hindu religious pluralists. The aim of this chapter is to contend that these arguments do not give a convincing account of the central claim that the various religious traditions are different paths to one and the same Reality.

In Chapter II, I examine John Hick's epistemology and soteriology, raising some difficulties for his resolution of the issue(s) of religious diversity.

In Chapter III, I make an examination of responses to religious diversity proposed by some Muslim scholars, namely, Theological Inclusivism and Salvific Exclusivism. I respond to the principal considerations made by Joseph Runzo against unqualified Salvific Exclusivism of which Sunni Islam is a representative. I argue that Runzo's criticisms are not as compelling as he would have us believe.

In Chapter IV, I build upon the Islamic exclusivist claim to a single salvific path, arguing that the potential of eschatologically verifying a particular religious tradition provides epistemic grounds for openness to religious traditions other than one's own.

In Chapter V, I address the following epistemological claim: religious diversity should diminish the confidence one has in the reliability of one's religious doxastic practice, and should diminish one's justification for engaging in a given religious practice.

In the Conclusion, I reiterate my claim that the arguments for the Doctrine of Religious Pluralism are less than convincing. I conclude that it is not required that all religious traditions have the same sort of elemental apprehension of Divine Reality to be in direct experiential relation with the divine. I also conclude that the arguments against Salvific Exclusivism are not convincing.


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