In my latest reading of Paul Knitter’s No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions, I read Chapter V, “The Conservative Evangelical Model: One True Religion”. Although Knitter recognizes that there are evangelical critiques of Karl Barth, he still appeals to Barth to describe a prominent conservative evangelical model of Christian interaction with world religions: to believe that Christianity is right while the other religions are wrong. Knitter acknowledges that, according to Barth, Christianity itself can have the same pitfalls as other religions: self-righteousness, people trying to save themselves, etc. And yet, Barth held that Christianity was where God’s grace and revelation shone. Knitter speculates, however, that God could be present in other religions as well, for there are people in non-Christian religions who do good works, and that could be because they themselves have experienced God.
As Knitter described Barth’s thought, I was reminded of something about conservative evangelicalism that particularly irks me. I’ve heard a number of conservative evangelicals say that, because we as human beings are limited in our knowledge, then we have to accept the conservative evangelical spiel by faith, and we cannot critique it. I don’t think that one follows from another, however. I mean, just because I’m limited in my knowledge, I should accept one group’s spiel about what it considers to be truth? Give me a break! And what do we do when that spiel appears to contradict what we see in the world around us? Many conservative evangelicals would probably tell us that their perspective does fit the world around us, only we may not see how, with our limited knowledge. We just have to trust that their view is right, even if we can list tons of reasons that their view is wrong. Well, Whatever! In my opinion, even if our knowledge is limited, we can acknowledge when things fit and don’t fit!
I did appreciate something that Knitter said on page 88: that, even though our knowledge is limited, it does appear that there are times when people are lifted up by a power greater than themselves. That’s why I don’t give up on the notion that there is a supernatural out there, and that part of it wants to help us. I can’t point to any supernatural experiences in my own life, but I’m encouraged by others’ testimonies that there is a God, and I try to trust that this God cares for me.