Bradley Malkovsky. God’s Other Children: Personal Encounters with Faith, Love, and Holiness in Sacred India. New York: HarperOne, 2013. See here to buy the book.
Bradley Malkovsky teaches comparative theology at the University of Notre Dame. God’s Other Children is about his spiritual pilgrimage and his experiences in India. Malkovsky as a teenager became a Catholic after looking for the meaning of life, but he would later observe a confidence and a wisdom among teachers and practitioners of other religions. Malkovsky came to believe that God reveals himself to people in other religions, even though he also holds that Jesus Christ was a unique revelation of God and God’s love, that it offers the hope of God renewing the cosmos, and that liberation theology provides important insights on God’s love for the poor. Malkovsky went to India for academic research purposes, and he interacted with Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims while he was there. It was also there that he met the woman who would become his wife, a woman from a Muslim family who converted to Catholicism after meeting him.
The book had a number of interesting stories and items. It talked about the practice of the caste system even within Indian Christianity, the discrimination against the Muslim minority in India, the existence of miracles (or things that are difficult to account for naturally) within Indian Christianity and Islam, and the difference between earlier and later yoga. According to Malkovsky, earlier yoga was about shedding the ego and getting in touch with the part of the self that was not subject to the changing material world, whereas later yoga was about getting in touch with the divine, the ground of being that pervades and underlies all.
Malkovsky contrasts yoga and meditation with Christianity, saying that the former two emphasize hard work, whereas Christianity is about God’s gracious revelation. Malkovsky believes that meditation can cleanse the mind, get one in touch with certain truths about oneself (even bad memories), and heighten one’s focus and sensitivity towards others and to God; at the same time, Malkovsky also attempts to justify the idea of God’s grace, that God reveals Godself freely to whomever God chooses, not necessarily in response to people’s hard work. In addition, Malkovsky thoughtfully addresses the claim among evangelicals and some Catholics that yoga can open one up to demons. Malkovsky does not casually dismiss that claim, for he does acknowledge that people can become spiritually proud as a result of their success with yoga, and that this can be a response to the demonic. Yet, Malkovsky sees spiritual value in yoga.
There were two parts of the book that I particularly appreciated. First, Malkovsky was explaining why he partakes of food that has been sacrificed to Vishnu, something that some of his fundamentalist relatives believe is wrong. He states on page 60: “But the God to whom the coconut was offered, according to this Hindu theology, was the supreme Lord and Creator of the universe, an infinite and eternal God of mercy and love, a God who, Hindus believe, periodically incarnates into the world to relieve humanity of its suffering and to guide it to the peace of liberation…In many ways, Vi[shn]u was my God, the God of Jesus Christ.”
Second, Malkovsky discussed the views of the late Father Bede Griffiths. For Father Bade, all are saved in Christ, and all in some way receive the benefits of Christ’s work. Father Bede said that “The grace of Christ is present in some way to every human being from the beginning to the end.” This is an intriguing concept, and yet I wonder if it can mesh with the opposition to idolatry throughout the Bible, or the traditional Christian practice of trying to persuade others to convert to Christianity. Still, I do believe that non-Christians and non-Christian religions can manifest wisdom, peace, love, and humility, and that they may very well be attesting to an experience with a power greater than themselves.
This is a well-written book, and it has other stories and reflections that I have not mentioned. Malkovsky writes as a Christian who has been informed and edified by other religions.