Intentional operator and inconsistent reasoning

1. A Christian netizen says: “there is within exclusive religions the claim that theirs is the only way to God (that claim can be true or false). There is in inclusive religions the claim that there are several ways to God and that it is quite possible that one of the exclusive ones (or many of them) are also ways to God. Both these statements cannot be true at the same time iff the logical law of excluding the middle holds. I don’t think that I have come across a way around this except through it — i.e. one of the claims must be false or worst case both are false (there is no God or there is no path yet).”

Let me try to provide you with a species of reasoning, which assumes that the law of the excluded middle holds and yet is not inconsistent just because it affirms the truth of both statements.

2. Consider a Christian affirming the following: “Only through Christ could a human being hope for salvation.” This is the exclusivist claim that proclaims the unique nature of God’s revelation in Christ, affirms further too that salvation is not something that a human being earns but one that depends on the Grace of God. (And any and all other things that a Christian needs to believe in, in order to be a Christian.) To the Christian, this is a claim about the world. That is, it is capable of being either true or false and, quite obviously, the Christian believes it to be true. (We will bracket aside the reasons why the Christian believes it to be true.) Because of the truth of this claim, the Christian believes further that the Indian heathen is headed for hell.

3. The Indian heathen believes in the truth of the following claim (let us say): “There are many paths to heaven.” He believes this to be a claim about the world as well. That is, it is capable of being either true or false and the Indian heathen believes it to be true. Because of the truth of this claim, the Indian heathen is willing to acknowledge that the Christian’s belief could be true as well. Question: Is the Indian heathen being inconsistent? Answer: no!

4. Here is how the Indian Heathen reasons: (a) Because there are many paths to heaven, I believe that it is true to say that there are many paths to heaven. (b) The Christians claim that their path is also a path to heaven. (c) Therefore, the Christian path is also one path to heaven as well. (d) The Christian believes that his path to heaven is the only path to heaven. (e) I assent to the truth of (d). (f) However, because of the that clause, my assent to the truth about what the Christian believes in does not make the Christian belief true. (The that clause is not truth-functional. My admitting to the truth that Christians hold some beliefs to be true does not make these Christian beliefs true, of course.)

5. In other words, in the hands of the Indian heathen, the Christian object-level claims about the world get transformed into claims about the beliefs of the Christians. This transformation is entirely justified because each claim the Christian makes about the world is preceded with “I believe that…”. So, what the Indian heathen does is prefix the claims of the Christians with the intentional operator (or the that clause).

6. When this happens, the Indian heathen has two types of claims about the world: one about the different paths to heaven; the second about the belief-world of the Christians, which is also a claim about the world because it is about the fellow-human beings. The law of excluded middle is not abrogated; the Indian Heathen is consistent but he does not say that the Christian religion is false. The same avenue is not open to the Christian.

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