In my latest reading of Paul Knitter's No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions, I read Chapter VII, "The Catholic Model: Many Ways, One Norm".
I was confused in reading Knitter's discussion of Catholicism's stance
towards non-Christian religions was on this: According to Catholicism,
once people hear about Jesus, is their religion any longer good enough
to bring them salvation? The post-Vatican II theologians whom Knitter
discusses believed that people in other religions could be saved, even
though they did not subscribe to an explicitly Christian creed. As
Knitter notes, these theologians overlapped with what certain prominent
ancient Christians averred, for (to use an example) Justin Martyr
affirmed in his apologies that those who partake of the logos (who would
later be incarnated as Jesus Christ) and behaved reasonably were
Christians, even though they did not know about Jesus of Nazareth.
what happens when people from other religions hear the Christian
Gospel? Can they be saved while still following their own religions, or
are they now held responsible for accepting Christianity? As I
read this chapter, I encountered what appeared to be elements of both
sides: there was an element that said that Catholics should encourage
Buddhists to be good Buddhists, and there was an element that treated
other religions as preparatory to Christianity and that seemed to hold
that other religions became inadequate once Christianity entered the
picture. In terms of how Knitter understands Catholicism, my impression
is that he thinks that Catholicism holds that even people who have
heard about Christianity can still be saved in their own religions. He
discusses the relevance of the Catholic stance to inter-religious
dialogue, and the very existence of inter-religious dialogue presumes
that the other religions at least know about Christianity----so Knitter
is talking about a scenario in which Catholics are bringing their
inclusivist stance into a setting in which non-Christians know about
Is the notion that people can be saved in other religions actually inclusive?
I'll grant that it is more inclusive than the view that those who don't
affirm the Christian faith will burn in hell forever and ever. But
there does seem to be a stress on works in the notion that people from
other religions will be saved----that they have to be saved because they
do good deeds or live rationally, and that is evidence that they have
experienced God's grace. In my opinion, though, basing salvation on
works is quite unstable, for how good is good enough? At what
point can I have assurance that my works are good enough for me to be
saved? I can identify somewhat with the Protestant idea that I need to
be covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ because my own
righteousness is not good enough.
That doesn't mean that I want to
dismiss the good works of non-Christians, however. I'd like to think
that God is happy when anyone does something that's good. When it comes to salvation, though, I'd prefer to root that in God's love for humanity, not in any good works that people do.
Am I dying?
2 hours ago