The Uniqueness of Jesus the Christ

No other topic currently is ecumenically so hotly discussed as the exclusive uniqueness of Jesus Christ, not only among theologians but also among ordinary Christians. (I doubt whether other “religions”, ironically, are so interested in dialogue with Christians!) Another book on the subject as representative as that of Paul F. Knitter, No Other Name?, I must still discover. What makes this book of special interest, is the fact that the Catholic Church is behind its publication. No Other Name? is published by Orbis Books Maryknoll for the American Society of Missiology. The Publishers remark, “The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (Maryknoll) recruits and trains people for overseas missionary service. Through Orbis Books Maryknoll aims to foster the international dialogue that is essential to mission. The books published, however, reflect the opinions of their authors and are not meant to represent the official position of the society.” (Not officially of course!)

But let us first quickly glance at the back page of Knitter’s book.

About the scholar, the back page tells us that “Paul Knitter served as a Divine Word missionary before assuming a position at Xavier University, Cincinnati, where he is presently Professor of Theology. He received the Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and studied under Karl Rahner before earning a Doctorate in Theology from the Department of Protestant Theology at the University of Marburg, West Germany (the first Roman Catholic to do so). For the past fifteen years his main interest has been Christian dialogue with other religions, especially those of the East. …

Comments Leonard Swidler of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies on No Other Name?, “Paul Knitter faces honestly the conundrum of what the committed Christian believer does theologically in face of the growing evidence, scholarly and from personal encounter, that there are other ways, religious ways, of leading a full, authentic human life, than the Christian way. Can a person be ‘saved’, that is, come to live a truly human life, by some other name than that of Jesus Christ? Knitter’s answer is one can be ‘saved’ by ‘some other name’, and then he proceeds to show how this affirmative can be equated theologically with a full Christian commitment. / This is first rate creative theology. It is theology done the only way it can be done today: in dialogue with other world religions and with one’s own Christian tradition ….

John B. Cobb, Jr., Ingraham Professor of Theology, School of Theology at Claremont, has this to say about Knitter and his book, “Paul Knitter has surveyed and organized the Christian discussion about the relation of Christianity to other traditions with unusual thoroughness, fairness, and clarity. This presentation serves at the same time as an argument for his own view that the need is to adopt the hypothesis that all religious traditions are talking about the same reality – God, in Christian parlance. Even those, like myself, who are dissatisfied with this hypothesis and who resist the way in which it relativizes Jesus as one saviour figure among others will find this book an indispensable contribution to the ongoing theological debate. They will also find a passion for inclusive truth and a spirit of openness to learn from other traditions that are beyond criticism and that can pave the way for a new Christian consensus.

Christianity is passionately, radically and aggressively exclusive Christian Faith or it is not Christian nor Faith. One can only be dissatisfied utterly with this hypothesis which relativises Jesus as one saviour figure among others. One’s passion for exclusive truth must unashamedly reveal a spirit of openness to teach other traditions that Christian consensus on Christ’s uniqueness and exclusiveness is beyond criticism.

Already we notice the basic point of departure for the possibility of “inclusive” and “open” “Christian parlance”. That point is the understanding of what it is for man to be “saved”. “Can a person be ‘saved’, that is, come to live a truly human life, leading a full authentic human life … by some … name” other than Christ’s?

One could say it is possible. But this is not what it means to be saved according to the Christian Faith! In terms of Christian Faith, a “saved person” is one who with his mouth, that is, with clearly articulated understanding, and with his heart, that is, with his whole spiritual being, believes and confesses that Jesus is the Christ of God. It means that he is justified in the forgiveness of his sins through the atoning death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. It means the same Jesus with his second and final advent will raise him from the dead into eternal life. Of no person who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ only and exclusively this salvation is possible. From this understanding of the salvation, carried through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crystallised the Apostolic Articles of Faith. It is absolutely impossible to maintain these Articles of Faith if “religious pluralism” is accepted. Who but a person of strong Roman Catholic sentiment would be able to interpret for example the First Article so as to be able to divide the Godhead between Buddha and Allah and Mary while supposing Christ just one of the “same realities”? The Scriptures and the Christian Confession will come under consideration again and again as we peruse this book.

If “leading a full, authentic human life” means to be “savedanyname” would be superfluous. To still cling to “some name” would simply be show. For such “saving” benefits one would retain the semblance of allegiance to any “saviour-figure” and for no reason but social (and academic) pressure. To be openly a humanist and nothing but a humanist in the present day will be difficult simply because it would be out of fashion. Religion – of any sort – has become an obvious, practical and profitable psychological and social comfort zone and status symbol. No one can lead “a full, authentic human life” in our day and world as the odd one out who cannot fit into popular political and religious trends. The ideological comfort zones of modern day living – in the traditionally Christian as much as in the traditionally non-Christian worlds – need no “name” but for social conformity. There is no community in this world that does not thrive on complacency based on conformity even were such complacency and conformity nurtured on hatred for competing religions. It may even be true of Christian society.  It certainly is true of the religions of Agnosticism and Atheism. They only invent a metaphysical “name” or “lord” where “other traditions” have objectified theirs.

The concept to “be ‘saved’ ” in the sense of “to come to live a truly human life” can do and must do without one specific Name, that of Jesus Christ! Jesus calls no one to a comfort-zone, but to suffering. Christ’s Lordship is a tangible reality experienced in suffering! At the same time this experience of Christ’s Lordship is not to be mistaken for Christ the Lord in his own Person and Godhead – which two things in all “other ways” or “traditions” are invariably identified.

The Christian believer is called to “the suffering of Christ”. Not to asceticism or such idolatrous “severity against the flesh”, but to the suffering of a lonely and isolating faith in Him the Lord and God of one’s life. Jesus does not share with “some name” no matter which. He opposes and bans any other “name” for He is the only, the only true, the only living, the only saving Name given under the heavens on earth among men. (We talk Scriptures or we have nothing to say. We explain by quoting the Scriptures therefor.) The “saved” too, believe and confess Jesus as Saviour and ban any other “name” or “way” or “tradition” or “reality”. God is a “jealous God”. And they who believe in Him are also jealous of His honour. “I am the way”, Jesus said – the only way or not at all. Therefor “the saved” are certainly not those “leading a full, authentic human life” in the realm of rule of “some name”. It is not even a case of synergism between the saved and the saviour. It is Christ alone. Therefor the “saved” are those “few” – the very special “many” whose God is this the electing God in Christ Jesus only.

Let it therefor first be established what it means to be “saved” through and in and for Jesus the Christ before He is made of equal prize as other “names” and they are made “God”. Humanising salvation can only mean humanising the Name God’s elect are saved by. It can only mean man must be saved of Christianity and not of sin. It can only imply the deification of idols. And it can only result in where it from the outset required the nullifying of the Scriptures.

What exclusive Biblical Truth is not destroyed for the “passion for inclusive truth”? The question, No Other Name? immediately becomes a complex of questions. For example, from mission has come the “need to adopt the hypothesis that all religious traditions are talking about the same reality – God”. What is the nature of the Scriptures if the Name it is “talking about” isn’t exclusive? “All religious traditions” – their writings included and especially – must be “inspired” like Christianity claims the Bible is – which means there isn’t much in the Bible’s “Inspiration”! Then sure as expected, we find not one thinker along the lines of “religious pluralism” who takes the Bible seriously! We shall confirm this allegation as we take a closer look at them one by one.

Another example is the Christian concept of sin. For a false sense of guilt Christianity has decided itself is to be blamed for all the ills of the world – itself and not “sin”. Now guess how the “other traditions” interpret sin? Christianity uses sin to show how inferior the “lesser revelations” are. That will also be illustrated as we go along.

The “evidence”, according to Leonard Swidler, is “growing, scholarly and from personal encounter, that there are other ways, religious ways … than the Christian way.” There is nothing tangible or true about this “evidence … that there are other ways … than the Christian way” – Swidler simply imagines it. And he must presume the “other ways” in the plural. If “the Christian way” cannot be the exceptional and exclusive, singular “way”, on what grounds should anyother waynot be included and accepted (as just as valid a “way”)? Would Knitter or Swidler still have held to their claim if they honestly faced the truth hidden in the conundrum of all the juggled religions? Where are they going to draw the line between truth and the claim of truth? No wonder Knitter’s “main interest has been Christian dialogue with other world religions … especially those of the East” because his preference implies at least the part the size and perhaps the age of a religion play in its qualification to be a “way”. Would Knitter besides have been interested mainly in the religions of the East because other Western religions are manifestly anti-Christian? I refer here to Islam and Judaism, the two if not onlyother ways” of the modern Western world.

In any case, what is there to be discussed (whether with East or West) but what we are seeing is effectively discussed, namely the compromise of the exclusivity and uniqueness of Jesus as the only Lord and Christ of God? That’s what “the promotion of scholarly dialogue” between religions is about! Christianity talks incessantly while the “other ways” look on amused and unperturbed. What we have, in fact, is the mouse in monologue with the elephant. (With apology to Henry Maurier, in Knitter, p. 142.) Has Christianity or the Christian Faith gained by the discussion? Has the Lordship of Jesus Christ gained or did it loose?

“Mission” is a self-endowed task and title. “Mission” is man’s own law – not that of Christ. All the energy put into “Mission” is like the plenty Israel offered Dagon. The shining sanctity “Mission” surrounds Christian virtue and duty with is pretence. Mission so to speak has replaced indulgence. Mission makes of Christianity a religion of works and merit like all the other idolatrous religions.

Mission is supposed to be the flow of spiritual goods from those who have to those who have not. Why then should Christianity attempt “mission” if the “other traditions” already possess everything Christianity could dream of having to disperse among the peoples of the world? Is Christianity so poor it must receive alms from other religions?

International dialogue is essential to mission” but definitely not to Proclamation – not to the Gospel. Therefor the issue, No Other Name?, involves not only the “Name”, but the totality of Christian Faith, Congregation, Doctrine, Object of worship, way of worship. If it is not asserted, No Other Name! (The intent of the Text is to assert.), but asked, No Other Name? Christ in His own Divine Person for the sake of Mission and “religious pluralism” is denied and betrayed. In Proclamation though, Christ in His own Divine Person is The Worshipped. A “theocentric”, “newly experienced Reality”, took over from Christ. It surprises not to find it revered within a “tradition” where idolatry in every form has been rife for ages – Roman Catholicism! Unfortunately Protestant theologians also promote a religion that could no longer “adhere to Christ as the full and final expression of divine revelation”.

For … twenty years or so”, says Knitter, “I have felt no small problem in integrating what I have learnt and experienced from other faiths with what I have learned from traditional Christian doctrine, especially concerning the uniqueness and finality of Christ and Christianity. … This book, I hope, will help … to find answers that will be faithful both to contemporary experience and to Christian tradition”.

Note where Knitter’s “experience” and loyalty lay and where not. Does he try “to find answers … faithful” the Scriptures? Or is the Scriptures hid behind “Christian tradition”? The normative for Knitter is “contemporary experience”. Note also the direction of his experience and learning. Was there a flow from Christianity to the “other faiths”? He doesn’t say so.

The structure of the book (and the content surely) reflects the path I have followed in confronting and trying to resolve the question of Christ / Christianity and other religions. Chapter one sets the problem: the new experience of religious pluralism in the world today, the vision many persons have of a new kind of unity and dialogue among religions, and the perplexing question Christians encounter when they feel themselves drawn toward such unity and dialogue …”.

With this Knitter says it all. There is first dissatisfaction with and confrontation of “Christ and Christianity”. Then, “I tried to resolve the question” but of course with no avail. I start wooing other religions or rather now openly follow my brave relationship with them. Then a new movement is started – a sort of “sect” – to accommodate the unhappy seekers after truth, in this case: The New Experience of Religious Pluralism. Voila! Many persons find their peace and happiness in such unity and dialogue! Finally comes formal apology, “in all (conservative Christian models) the problem appears to hinge on the traditional Christian claim for the superiority and normativity of Jesus Christ”. The faction, Confession of Faith included, is complete. May we propose to rather call it The Anti-Christ Christian Church?

Knitter’s is typical subjective and emotional “religion”.

We would do better to leave Knitter’s Preface – which actually is more of a summary – and to follow on from the First Chapter. But that is for BSA April 2001.


No Other Name? - Second Delivery

     Religious pluralism is a “new Christian awareness of other religions” – an awareness that forgets and in fact refutes its Christian “superiority and finality” and that claims nothing less than “superiority and finality” for “other religions! Knitter “argues” that even the liberal conviction, “to hold to a necessary completion of other religions in God’s historical revelation in Christ”, “must be open to revision”. In other words, he would not allow Jesus Christ even a comparative position among “religions”, what to say a position of exclusivity.

One characteristic of “Intra-religious Dialogue” or “Religious Pluralism” – call it what you like – is its utter disrespect for the Scriptures. Knitter scarcely if ever uses Scripture, and when (rarely) quoted, conservative theologians originally did the quoting (e.g. pages 94, 96). Scripture is treated as were it of no consequence not because there is no Scripture with bearing on matters. It is not one or two texts that demand the uniqueness and exclusivity of Jesus Christ. It is the law and strain of all Scripture and especially of the Christian New Testament. The Scriptures are against the ideals of religious pluralism; the two are absolutely irreconcilable. Therefor the propagators of religious pluralism dislike and do not accept the authority of the Scriptures.

     Another general observation about religious pluralism is its basic acceptance that Jesus Christ is not divine – God of God, as Christians have always confessed. Again one could have guessed that the propensity to share the honour of Christ with idols should be found in Roman Catholic Christianity – a Christianity that does not think it idolatry to worship Mary, images, or saints. To add another few “gods” just as well may include Allah and Buddha.

Therefor it is not surprising that the “traditional” Christian Confessions and especially Protestant Confessions receive no respect at all in religious pluralism. The last thing one will find defended in religious pluralism are the doctrines of election and free grace for these imply the proclamation of Jesus Christ exclusively – to be found in Him or be lost.

For no other reason could Knitter base his “theology” “in (auto)biography”. He personalises or subjectivises theology. Religious pluralism is not really broadminded or open to truth but is restricted to personal opinion that would not submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ particularly or to Creed and Church generally. (Religious pluralists, like Knitter and “Alan Race … share many concerns and conclusions especially regarding the uniqueness of Jesus.Religious pluralism offers fertile soil for the proliferation of so many “problems” where the “central Christian doctrines or convictions are at stake” as there are “intelligent questioning” minds.

     One Confronts Many”, Knitter heads his first chapter. To the Christian mind that would immediately evoke the picture of the Christ “confronting” the many gods of idolatry, heathendom, paganism and Catholicism. But Knitter doesn’t so mean it. He thinks the opposite. He thinks the idea “One Confronts Many” to be a “truly great question”, and therefor a truly great idea that Jesus Christ is just one among or only one of many.

     Knitter from the outset disregards the Bible, the God of the Bible and the work of the God of the Bible. Knitter and thus fellow “concerned, intelligent Christians”, “want to take up the question of one confronting many in the context of world religions – of the many world religionsinstead!

     From the clouded origins of the human species, as the spark of consciousness broadened and gave rise to the burning concern for the meaning of life, there have always been many religions …”. Obviously Knitter thinks of the origin of the human “species” as evolutionarynot as created by God, nor created as a responsible creature from the first moment of life. Therefor Knitter thinks of man not as in need of a personal Creator or Saviour. All these “creators” and “saviours” are the creation of man’sburning concern for the meaning of life” and the broadening of “the spark of consciousness”. In fact the only sure way the Christ-concept could have “evolved” as only one of many similar concepts would have been IF only the Creator God could be doubted and it could be said, IF man had not been created and is the product of evolutionary processes. Then only his religions must be the product of man’s own “consciousness”.

     That Knitter approaches the problem of “religious pluralism” from the standpoint of the evolutionary origins of religion and religions is evident already in his idea of the “completion of religions”, referred to above. For Knitter it is not even acceptable to believe that Christianity is that “completion of other religions”. It for us also is an unacceptable notion but for the very different reason that Christianity isn’t the product of human consciousness or experience. Christianity isn’t the end-result of human development or evolution. It is the sudden appearance in this world as the direct creation of God through his Holy Spirit by the Power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In other words, Christianity is miraculous because its origin is divine because its Lord is Divine and has nothing to with or in common with “other religionswhich are not divine.

The whole concept of and Knitter’s treatise on “religious pluralism” is only possible from a “clouded” evolutionary standpoint of origins. The clearcut truth (call it naïve if you will) that God created and that therefor He should be revealed exclusively in his Word Jesus Christ simply cannot fit into a scheme of spontaneous “origins” through a process of evolution.

     There have always been many religions, each with its own “ultimate” answers”, says Knitter. What he insinuates is that Christianity also has its “ultimate answers”, which for no reason could claim superiority or incomparability with the other religions’ “ultimate answers”. All religions’ “ultimate answers” are equal. One confronting the other, the many are all the same. Now it needs no great intelligence or concern to discern these implications of Knitter’s assumptions. But it demands faith in Jesus Christ not to mistake Him for the many, or the many for Him. And that faith no man has ever developed by himself no matter how well he has evolved.

     Today our inter-communicating planet has made us aware, more painfully than ever before, of religious pluralism and of the many different ultimate answers.” The “ultimate answers” given by “the many” that make up “religious pluralism”, one is supposed to believe should eventually all agree for are they not all one (and the same)? But here Knitter is “painfully aware of the fact that they are all “different”. All being different, they cannot all be “ultimate”. The “ultimate” can only be one. As long as all the answers differ, the one possibility remains that at most just one “answer” could be the “ultimate”. The only other logical possibility is that not a single one is “ultimate”. Notwithstanding the painful fact that all religions with each its own “ultimate answers” are different supplies good reason not to take any seriously, not to trust any, except for its contradictory characteristics, that is, for its untrustworthiness. 

Not even the only logical possibility that the “ultimate” can only be one, can indicate the Christian Faith. The Christian Faith falls outside any categories and outside categorising. The Christian Faith cannot be the “ultimate” in relation to other “religions” because it cannot be put in relation to other “religions”.

     The Christian Faith is no religion at all. It falls in a “category” of its own. It is The Faith of Jesus. It is the Christian’s fortress against the quantity and quality of today’s knowledge, causing him to face undaunted the barrage of questions religious persons of the past never had to face. The Faith of Jesus “secures”. “The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Christians may today as ever before “face” “the many other religions … secure in their own isolated religious camps”, “holding fast unto” The Faith of Jesus. Christ does not only have the “ultimate answers” – He is The Ultimate Answer. He is the ultimate – “ultimate” not in comparison to other religions and other possibilities, but “ultimate” extra the ordinary and in relation to the impossible. The same cannot be said of Christianity as over against The Christian Faith though. It is not permissible to claim for Christianity what is claimed for Christ, there is this great difference between Christ and Christianity!

     Knitter suggests some of the questions that spring from “the quantity and quality of today’s knowledge:Why are there so many different religions? If God is one, should there not be one religion? Are the religions all equally true, equally false? Do they all share in something common? How should they relate to each other? Are the many religions really one? …”. These are all questions as old as religion. Not one of these questions belongs to “today’s knowledge”. Not one demands “quality of knowledge”. And, notably, not one question stems from a greater “quantity of knowledge” of religions. There might be the odd case of the academic whose interest in the subject of world religions overshadows general knowledge of religions. But even the best of today will have to have advanced beyond imagination to compare with the old philosophers and holy ones, “common” of world religions of yonder times. We fancy we’re clever and know a lot, but we shall never reach the heights the pioneers of world religions scaled with such grace and elegance. They were good. They had knowledge. They had insight and understanding – “intelligence”. But they lacked The Faith of Jesus!

     Knitter talks about “intelligence”, “quantity” and “quality” of “knowledge” that “today” confront “anyone who takes religious faith seriously”. He talks of “knowledge” and “questions” “that religious persons of the past, secure in their own isolated religious camps, never had to face”. Now again it doesn’t ask for great intelligence to see that Knitter points to religious persons of today, Christians, who, secure in their own isolated religious camp of the Christian Faith, cannot face these intelligent questions – Christians, who, in Knitter’s opinion, do not take religious faith seriously but hypocritically cling to that old time religion called the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

     Knitter continues his list of questions that “today” confront “religious persons”, “How should my religion relate to the others? Can I learn from other religions? Can I learn more from them than I can from my own? Why do I belong to one religion rather than another?” One might guess Knitter asks these question as a Christian. But there’s no contextual guarantee that he does. He makes – let’s assume – of the Christian “religion”, “my religion”. He doesn’t regard it as the Faith OF Jesus – Jesus’ Faith. He can do what he likes with his own things, clearly. He could put “my religionon par with any other “religion”. These questions each and all amount to this question, What is mine better than yours? Can I learn from your religion? Can I learn more from you than I can from my own? (There’s not much for you to learn from mine!)  Why do I belong to Christianity after all? Between the lines one reads Knitter’s conclusion, ‘It seems rather senseless to me to be a Christian!’ One cannot escape the “ultimate” conclusion, that Knitter’s every word and thought in effect subverts The Christian Faith.

     For anyone who takes religious faith seriously, these are painful questions”, says Knitter. This statement reveals Knitter’s basic approach departs from the supposition of the equality of all mankind. There’s no real difference between peoples or thought-worlds. So how can there be real difference between their religions? Again Knitter supposes the evolutionary appearance of these peoples’-religions. There is nothing special, nothing other-worldly, “divine” or miraculous about any. For any Christian who takes The Faith of Jesus seriously, these therefor are painful questions. No Christian will “run away from such questions, not if their own faith is going to be honest” and the commonplace thing it after all is.

Honest Christians will face these questions. They will, but in faith, and after they have faced these questions they will not “learn for ever but never come to the true knowledge of Christ”. They won’t get confused, begin to doubt, and loose perspective. They will keep on focussing on Jesus sharper, stronger and nearer, every step. If their faith is going to be honest they will stop asking such questions and start asking questions about the surprise of grace: How could God so have loved the world that He could send his only begotten Son Jesus Christ for its salvation?

Again one unfortunately finds suspicious and accusing innuendoes in Knitter’s argument. “If their own faith is going to be honest (they will not) run away from such questions.” Knitter suggests “they” will always be running away as long as “they” do not assent to the generalisation of Christianity. “They” will always be dishonest as long as “they” object to making the uniqueness of Christ at best the equal of the common in other religions. The scenario likens children playing and one threatening to no longer play if everybody doesn’t play his way. If you don’t agree that Christianity is but one of many and its “ultimate answers” are only the beginning and that one must learn from the other religions before one knows anything, you’re a coward who cannot face these questions and dishonest because you run away from them. That is Knitter’s foregone conclusion. (I’m no longer playing!) “This is especially true for Christians”, says he, “perhaps because they have always felt or been told that theirs was the only true religion …”. (I’m no longer playing if I cannot have it my way!) They were all the time spiteful! Knitter could have omitted the word “perhaps”. The reader can surely see that he doesn’t really mean that word. And the Christian would not mind if the accusation applies to him. Fortunate is the man who has always felt or been told that Christianity is the only true religion. The unfortunate thing “today” is that often this is not the case, and Christians are told and taught that Christianity is and always has been just one of many true religions. There even are those who teach that “other religions were destined … eventually to become the “one” Christian religion”. Pray God that that day will never come. It will mean the end, not of other religions, but of Christianity.


Paul Knitter, No Other Name?

Third Delivery

     Many factors have worked together to make the age-old fact of religious pluralism a newly experienced reality for many today. The most significant factor is also the most obvious: knowledge. Today we in the West know more about other religions than ever before. The science of religion has come a long way since it was founded and given scientific respectability by Max Muller with his publication of Comparative Mythology (1856) and, especially, his Introduction to the Science of Religion (1873). What was at first esoteric material for the delight of the ivory-towered philologist, lexicologist, phenomenologist, or comparative philosopher has become the popularly written and beautifully illustrated religious paperbacks that fill the shelves of American and European bookstores. Translations of Bhagavad Gita, the Tao-Te-Ching, the Dhammapada are to found alongside the Bible. Commentaries on the meaning and value of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism by Huston Smith, Alan Watts, Mircea Eliade are selling just as well – if not better – than the works of Christian theologians. More and more persons have more and more opportunities to learn about religions other than their own. And they are taking advantage of these opportunities.”

     No one could deny what Knitter here writes with the possible qualification that “knowledge about other religions” although more readily available and more appealing presented, can scarcely be viewed as more factual or of deeper insight than the knowledge of the past. “Religious pluralism” is an “age-old fact”. But what is Knitter aiming at? Why does he tell us what we already know and understand? While it must be admitted that what Knitter here writes is reasonably true, it supplies no justification to accept his innuendoes. For although commentaries on the meaning and value of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism are selling just as well – if not better – than the works of Christian theologians, it doesn’t show or prove they are of greater – or of even comparable – value and truth than the Christian Faith. Regrettably, however, we must admit it shows the spirit of the age that may estimate the value of these religions above that of the Christian Faith. It proves the lamentable state of Christian faith but not of The Christian Faith. The value of the Christian religion (if we can call it that) is not its adherents’ achievements, but the accomplishment of its Founder. 

     In the desire to know more about others, Western Christians are motivated by the growing awareness that “they who know one, know none”. Widespread interest in other religions has evolved, it seems, beyond its enthusiastic, less critical early phase, in the 1950s and early 60s, when many looked to the East as a panacea for all their personal and religious frustrations. Today, for the most part, religious consumers are much more critical: they do not buy a new product without carefully checking the ingredients. Yet the desire to learn about other products persists.

     Western Christians are motivated by the growing awareness that “they who know one, know none””, Knitter presumes. His observation is totally subjective. Nothing but prejudice prevents Western Christians to be motivated by the uniqueness and incomparability of the Christian Faith. Western Christians might in fact be fewer by the millions but they in the face of the “growing awareness” of other religions could to the same degree be surer that they, who know The One, know the only. The conviction is a matter of faith – the belief in the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ – a revelation that from its very nature cannot have occurred but in The One.

     Widespread interest in other religions has evolved, it seems, beyond its enthusiastic, less critical early phase, in the 1950s and early 60s, when many looked to the East as a panacea for all their personal and religious frustrations.” One wonders what but “personal and religious frustrations” could have caused Western Christians to look at the other religions, “in the 1950s and early 60s”, as well as today. Knitter’s observation that “for the most part, religious consumers (of late) are much more critical”, is highly over-optimistic. The contrary, unfortunately, is true, that for the most part, frustrated Christians are far too uncritical when it comes to others’ religions and much too critical when it comes to their own Faith. For instance, this whole book of Knitter’s contains only negative frustrations about Christianity and the Christian Faith, and little if anything in kind about other religions. It has become but too true that the West has become a “consumer”-society with “religion” just another “consumer”-commodity. But that says nothing about The Christian Faith. In fact, which society today is not a consumer-society? Where on earth is materialism not the god of the age? Were it not for The Christian Faith though, what would have become of the world? If Christ Jesus did not rule the age and the world despite, what would have become of it? The very thought of Jesus Christ would have perished from the earth! We would not have spoken of “two thousand years (after Christ)”! There would not have been such a thing as “Comparative Studies” of Religions with Christianity one of the “religions”. But the living and actual truth of Jesus the Christ is evident despite the good state of the many religions and the poor state of the Christian Faith. Its seeming decline detracts not the least from the glorious Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom of Jesus Christ! In fact, by this very status quo and development of the world and its many forces of religions and materialism, God is working out the final “Revelation of Jesus Christ”! This is the Kingdom of heaven still ruling with an iron rod the nations of the heathen – much to their dislike perhaps, but no less true.

     One thing becomes clearer by the day of actual experience of the interrelationship between the Christian “Religion” and “the other religions”, and that is that Jesus Christ cannot be proclaimed in any way that might bring peace and agreement between them. The more such a peace might be agitated for, the more it resists. For the rod of Christ shall brake to pieces like clay pots the vessels of iniquity and idolatry. Jesus Christ shall bring division and the sword. The peace He offers is not the peace of compromise and consolidation but the peace of commitment at “the price of discipleship”. (Dietrich Bonnhöfer died for his faith, the Christian Faith during an age many “intelligent Christians” thought the Christian Faith could discourse and co-operate with the religion and god of Nazism.)

     More and more persons have more and more opportunities to learn about religions other than their own. And they are taking advantage of these opportunities”, says Knitter. Does this fact cancel out the vanity of religion and religions? More and more persons have more and more opportunities to learn about irreligious things and infidelity than ever before. And they are taking advantage of these opportunities. Does that make these things the acceptable and normative? For many if not for most, it does. For the majority Christians, popular and powerful can never be the  yardstick of truth and genuineness. So the fact that “more and more persons have more and more opportunities to learn about religions other than their own … and … are taking advantage of these opportunities”, is reason for the Christian to hold the faster the unique Faith of Jesus Christ that from its very start had to conquer and survive as many foes and contenders as there were ages and saviours and gods.

Paul tells the Christians of his times, “You have not contended yet to blood” while so many actually laid down there lives for the Faith of Jesus. When were they for their own liberation supposed to begin to pay attention to the opposing religions of their time? But in our age of comfort and indifference Christians if they persist in their faith in “the uniqueness of Jesus”, must be less critical and enthusiastic beyond intelligence. They must be ill informed, dull and slack to reckon their Faith is so unique and precious it is worth suffering for! And the only thing that could possibly give their Faith that exclusive value that will make it worth suffering for, is the Object of its worship, The Only Name of Jesus Christ!

Everything Knitter says, he basis on inevitable yet disguised presuppositions that cannot in the least be to the credit of the Christian Faith.

     This is not something new.