Whether Christianity improves the general morals of its followers is doubtful, but it is certain that it does not widen their intellectual sympathies and does not open their hearts to the larger spiritual wealth of different peoples and cultures. This is also true of Islam, another revealed religion, but in the present discussion we shall restrict ourselves to Christianity alone.
From its early days, Christianity has claimed a monopoly of things divine. It has held that there is no salvation outside of the Church. But the world has considerably changed during the last two hundred years. A wave of rationalism and humanism has reached the shores of Europe. This has made Christian theology with its exclusive claims look pretentious. This has also fostered a new spirit of liberalism and universalism and also a new awareness of a wider human family, including within itself members who are neither European nor Christian and yet are rich in the things of the spirit.
This new intellectual ferment has not left the Christian theologians entirely untouched. In the past, they saw in religions other than their own nothing but the hand of the Devil and it cost them little pang of conscience to send even the best and wisest of the men of these religions to Hell. But in the new intellectual and humanist climate, this will not do. The Christian Devil and Hell have lost their terror; their old monopolistic claims have also become laughable. In the new context, if they are to be heard at all, they must appear somewhat more modest, and must not appear to reject altogether or too summarily religions other than their own.
So under the changed conditions there is a new theology under construction. This does not regard other religions as the handiwork of the Devil. On the contrary, it says that there is a natural religious impulse which has been at work throughout history and throughout the world giving birth to natural religions having their own validity. But, it further adds, that this impulse, so necessary at a particular stage, finds its culmination and fulfilment in the revealed religion of Christianity. Other religions are preparatory to Christianity.
There is also another problem that the new theologians face, the problem of finding a place in their scheme for non-Christian saints and good men. True, they cannot yet be sent to Heaven - Christian theology precludes that - but they cannot also be so unceremoniously sent to Hell as in the good old days. The new intellectual climate does not countenance it.
So some theologians, liberal and ingenious, have been at work trying to find a solution. One of them was the late Cardinal Jean Danielou. In his Holy Pagans of the Old Testament, he observes that even the Bible mentions saints who are not Biblical. Abel, Seth, Henoch, Daniel, Noe, Job, Melchisedec, Lot, the Queen of Sheba are examples of non-Christian and even non-Biblical saints mentioned in the Bible. Abel was anterior to Abraham; and so were Henoch and Noe. Lot was a relative of Abraham but was not a party to the God’s Covenant. Daniel was a Phoenician and Job an Edomite; the Queen of Sheba was a non-Jewish princess.
All these examples show that some sort of saintliness or holiness is possible outside the Christian fold though, according to the Cardinal, that holiness by its very nature “must always be inferior to Christian holiness.” But “nonetheless, the fact remains that holiness of that sort is possible.”
This does not seem to say much or concede much, but considering that it comes from a Christian theologian trained to see Devil in everything connected with non-Christians, it is a great deal. Danielou goes on and makes a further concession. He admits that “there are men who did not know Christ either because they lived before Him or because knowledge of Him did not come their way [presumably because a Christian missionary had not reached their locality], and yet were saved; and some of these too were saints.” But that is all. For he hastens to add that “they were not saved by the religions to which they belonged; for Buddha does not save, Zoroaster does not save, nor does Mohomed. If they were saved, then it is because they were saved by Christ Who alone saves, Who alone sanctifies.” Again, if they were saved, it is because “they already belonged to the Church for there is no salvation outside the Church.”
The new theology will not go as far as to say that the holy men of other religions are damned, though it knows that they are not saved except through the Church.
These holy men are not saved partly because their holiness is not holy enough. There are three levels of holiness, the pagan holiness being the lowest, governed as it is merely by the law of conscience and not by God’s own revealed Laws. Danielou tells us that God’s will is “expressed on the Christian plane by the law of the Gospel, on the Jewish plane by the Mosaic law, on the cosmic plane by the law of conscience,” the last being obviously an inferior agency of holiness corresponding to the inferior religion of the pagan which is merely natural, merely cosmic. According to Danielou, at the lowest level, which is the pagan level, “holiness within the sphere of cosmic religion consists in a response to the call of God made known by conscience.” At a more advanced stage, God makes His will known through a Revelation to Moses. Finally, God comes down into the world in a human form as Jesus Christ completing His Revelation. Hence the three degrees of holiness and three orders of holy men. “The glory which shines from the face of Jesus Christ overshadows, as St. Paul tells us, that which shone from the face of Moses. In like manner, the glory shining from the face of Moses overshadows that which shone from the face of Noe.”
Man’s religion, like holiness, has progressed from the natural or cosmic to the Jewish, to the Christian. “All Christian liturgy - Easter, Pentecost, Christmas - have at the back of their Christian significance, a Jewish significance; and behind the latter there is a cosmic significance.”
This three-level development is evident in all spheres and aspects touching on religious life. For example, there is a three-level development in the mode of worship. On the lowest level, the pagan level, there is a cosmic temple. The house of God is the whole Cosmos, heaven His tent, and the earth His footstool. In the Old Testament, this primitive atmosphere still lingers. Abraham has that parrhesia with God - that freedom of speech which in ancient Greece was the right of free citizens.
This gave way to the Temple of Moses. The establishment of the Tabernacle, whose ultimate form is the Temple, is the fundamental mission entrusted by God to Moses. The Covenant was Abraham’s mission, the Temple that of Moses. Up-till then, God was everywhere but from the time of Moses till the death of Christ, when a still higher stage begins, the Temple is the dwelling in which the glory of Yahweh abides. Up to the time of Moses, sacrifices could be offered to God anywhere. But after that only those sacrifices were pleasing to God that were offered in the Tabernacle. “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree.” (Bible, Deuteronomy 12.2)
In a divine plan, we are assured by Cardinal Danielou, this was a necessary stage, for the great danger was polytheism; the singleness of the sanctuary was, as it were, the sign of the Oneness of God.
Thus a second great step is taken. The religion of Sinai creates a gulf between God and man. No longer does Yahweh talk on easy terms with the patriarchs. Henceforth, He dwells in the secrecy of the Holy of Holies. Separating man from God marks an advance, for it draws attention to two things: first, to God’s transcendence, His incomprehensibility, that He is wholly Other; no easy-going anthropomorphism any longer; second, to man’s sinfulness, his essentially fallen nature. Without this, the next and third step was not possible.
In the next stage, the abode of Yahweh is no longer the Temple, but the Manhood of Jesus. “The glory of the lord dwelt in the Temple until the coming of the incarnation. But from that day it began to dwell in Jesus. ‘Me divine presence is no longer to be found in an enclosure of stone, it dwells in Jesus Himself. With Him the Mosaic order comes to an end.” There is a qualitative leap, as the Marxists would love to call it, for Jesus is not just “a higher kind of Moses. Moses and the Temple are figures but Jesus is the reality.”
From this to the Temple of the Church was a most natural and easy step. In fact, it was no new step at all. It is a mode of saying the same thing. “It is the Manhood of Jesus that is the Temple of the New Law, but this Manhood must be taken as a whole, that is to say, it is the Mystical body in its entirety; this is the complete and final Temple. The dwelling of God is this Christian community whose Head is in the Heaven.” God now resides in the Church.
There are other variations but the above is the essential theme of the new liberal theologians. For example, there is Henry de Lubac, the author of Catholicism: A Study of Dogma in Relation to the Corporate Destiny of Mankind (Publishers: Bums, Oates & Washbourne, London, 1950). In this book, he says: “Outside Christianity humanity can doubtless be raised in an exceptional manner to certain spiritual heights, but the topmost summit is never reached, and there is the risk of being the farther off from it by mistaking for it some other outlying peak. There is some essential factor missing from every religious ‘invention’ that is not a following of Christ. There is something lacking, for example, in Buddhist charity: it is not Christian charity. Something is lacking in the spirituality of great Hindu mystics; it is not the spirituality of St. John of the Cross. Outside Christianity nothing attains its end towards which, unknowingly, all human desires, all human endeavours, are in movement: the embrace of God in Christ.”
If this is true, then his conclusion is a fair one: “So long as the Church does not extend and penetrate to the whole humanity, so as to give it the form of Christ, She cannot rest.”
F. H. Hilard in his Man in Eastern Religions finds that to the question what is man, the Christian answer is the best. According to Christians “man is to be understood as primarily a person and not a mere manifestation.” In this view man is “an individual,” while the others, “Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, agree in thinking of man primarily as an aspect of ultimate Reality.”
Nicolas Berdyaev, in his Spirit and Reality (Publishers: Geoffery Bles, Centenary Press, London, 1939) says: “Theosis makes man Divine, while at the same time preserving his human nature. Thus instead of human personality being annihilated, it is made in the image of God and the Divine Trinity. The mystery of the personality is intimately related to that of freedom and love. Love and charity can flourish only if there are personal relationships. Monistic identity excludes love as well as freedom. Man is not identical with the cosmos and with God; man is a microcosm and a microtheosis.”
Again, he says: “in Hindu and Platonic mysticism everything is diametrically opposed to the dialogical and dramatic relationship between man and God, between one personality and another. Spirituality is interpreted as being opposed to personality and, therefore, as independent of love, human freedom and a relation between the plural and the one. The mystical way is that of Gnosis rather than that of Eros.” According to him, Hindu spirituality “is an austere and unloving mysticism. The absence of love is explained by the fact that this mysticism is unconscious of personality; it is concerned with abdicating rather than preserving the personality.”
Evelyn Underhill, the well-known author of Mysticism (Publishers: Methuen & Co., Ltd., London, Reprint 1952), too seems to share this scheme. She says: “In Christianity, the natural mysticism which like natural religion is latent in humanity, and at a certain point of development breaks out in every race, came to itself; and attributing for the first time true and distinct personality to its object, brought into focus the confused and unconditioned God which Neo-Platonism had constructed from the abstract concepts of philosophy blended with the intuitions of Indian ecstatics, and made the basis of its meditations on the Real.”
She repeats similar sentiments at another place. After making the statement that a mystic is “willing to use the map of the community in which he finds himself,” which means that mystical experience is compatible with different theologies about it, she continues to add that “we are bound to allow as a historical fact that mysticism, so far, has found its best map in Christianity,” and that “the Christian atmosphere is the one in which the individual mystic has most often been able to develop his genius in a sane and fruitful way.”
In India, too, there is a group of Christian theologians working in the direction of liberalism. These theologians have become noticeable after India’s independence. While Christian money and missions continue to work by and large in their old style (see the Report of the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh), there is a group of Christian theologians who want an encounter with Hinduism on a different plane.
Here their greatest difficulty is the rival slogan that is fashionable among Hindu intellectuals that all teachers preach more or less the same things and that different religions are just different paths to the same goal. The problem of these new liberal Christian theologians is how to salvage their religion from this demolishing, equalizing slogan. So they preach that every religion is unique and that we should all meet in our individual richness in a fruitful dialogue. While secretly hoping that this dialogue would prove that they are unique in a superior way, they invite us all to this encounter. And this should be welcome.
Some of them have taken Hindu names, live in Indian style and have put on Indian dress. Some of them have even donned the habits of Hindu Sanyasins. The motives are mixed. Some may be following St. Paul’s practice “to become all things to all men, by all means to win over some of them” (1 Cor. 9.22); others because they find this style more informal and under Indian conditions more comfortable; still others, as they argue, in order to understand and enter into the Hindu psyche better. For some it may be no more than a change of tactics and fronts, but there are genuine elements too. They simply don’t have the heart to send a whole people to eternal perdition which their orthodox theology demands.
The late Dr. Jacques-Albert Cuttat, the Swiss Ambassador to India in the 1950s, poses the problem and invites us to this dialogue. He says in his The Spiritual Dialogue of East and West (Max Muller Bhavan publication): “The West inclines to exclusivism, the East to syncretism. The view that salvation is only possible within the visible Church - a view expressly rejected by the Catholic Church - has been sustained by missionaries and eminent theologians even today; such blindness for the spiritual riches of the East, for its mystical depth and intuition of the transparence of the cosmos to higher Realities, such blindness always implies a blindness for some basic aspects of Christianity itself. The East is tempted by the opposite extreme, syncretism; it consists in wrongly equating biblical values with Eastern religious categories. Such universalism is undoubtedly more tolerant, less violent than Western Exclusivism, but equally blind to the specific inner visage of Christianity and other biblical spiritualities.” Dr. Cuttat teaches that each religion is unique and different religions should meet and encounter each other in their individual uniqueness. He is a philosopher of uniqueness, encounter, dialogue, and exchange.
Another eminent name which has to be mentioned in this connection is that of the late Fr. J. Monchanin. He was attached to India and settled in Tiruchirapalli. He built for himself a retreat to which he gave the name Sacchidananda Ashram. He himself assumed the name Swami Param Arubi Anandam and put on the dress of an Indian Sanyasin. From these facts one should not assume that he became a Hindu monk. He understood his own mission differently. As the editors of his papers said when he died in 1957, his “mission here was not so much to become fully an Indian or to realize in himself the final synthesis of West and East as to bring to India in a pure form, yet with a remarkable sympathy and understanding, the riches of a Christian soul.” He himself defines his mission in these terms: “I have come to India for no other purpose than to awaken in a few souls the desire (the passion) to raise up a Christian India. I think the problem is of the same magnitude as the Christianization, in former times, of Greece (the Hellenization of Christendom modelled on the forms of Greek sensibility, thought and spiritual experience). It will take centuries, sacrificed lives, and we shall perhaps die before seeing any realizations. A Christian India, completely Indian and completely Christian will be something so wonderful; to prepare it from afar, the sacrifice of our lives is not too much to ask.”
Just two years before his death in 1957, he was writing: “I believe more in ‘exchange’. India must give the West a keener sense of eternal, of the primacy of Being over Becoming, and receive, in turn, from the West a more concrete sense of the temporal, of becoming, of the person, of love (of which India alas! knows so little).”
Fr. J. Monchanin found a good deal in Hinduism which he appreciated. But let us see what all this ‘appreciation’ amounts to. All the merit Hinduism has accumulated is only a pointer to her conversion to Christianity. We give in his own language what he says on the subject:
“India has received from the Almighty an uncommon gift, an unquenchable thirst for whatever is spiritual. From the Vedic and Upanishadic times, a countless host of her sons have been great seekers of God. Centuries after centuries there arose seers and poets, singing the joys and sorrows of a soul in quest of the One, philosophers reminding every man of the supremacy of contemplation: upward and inward movements through knowledge to the ultimate.
“Communion with Him and liberation from whatever hinders that realization, was for them the unique goal.
“Hundreds and thousands of men and women have consecrated themselves entirely to that end We may rightly think that such a marvellous seed was not planted in vain by God in the Indian soul. Unfortunately, Indian wisdom is tainted with erroneous tendencies and looks as if it has not yet found its own equilibrium. So was Greek wisdom before Greece humbly received the Paschal message of the Risen Christ. Man, outside the unique revelation and the unique Church, is always and everywhere unable to sift truth from falsehood, good from evil.
“But once Christianized, Greece rejected her ancestral errors; so also, confident in the indefectible guidance of the Church, we hope that India, once baptized to the fullness of her body and soul, will reject her pantheistic tendencies and, discovering in the splendours of the Holy Ghost the true mysticism.
“Is not the message she had to deliver to the world similar to the message of the ancient Greece? Therefore the Christianization of Indian civilization is to all intents and purposes an historical undertaking comparable to the Christianization of Greece.”
Hindus may have the necessary underlying spiritual qualities like a sense of the holy in abundance, but the Church has the Truth in its possession. Therefore, “India has to receive humbly from the Church the sound and basic principles of true contemplation. The genuine Christian contemplation is built on the unshakable foundation of revealed truths concerning God and men and their mutual relations.” The mystic East should be led by the doctors of theology of the West, the forest-sages by the university men.
On another occasion, he says:
“In that mystery, Hinduism (and specially Advait) must die to rise up again Christian. Any theory which does not fully take into account this necessity constitutes a lack of loyalty both to Christianity - which we cannot mutilate from its essence - and to Hinduism - from which we cannot hide its fundamental error and its essential divergence from Christianity.
“Meanwhile, our task is to keep all doors open, to wait with patience and theological hope for the hour of the advent of India into the Church in order to realize the fullness of the Church and the fullness of India. In this age-long vigil, let us remember that love can enter where intellect must bide at the door.”
He hopes that “India cannot be alien to this process of assimilation by Christianity and transformation into it.” But “should India fail in that task, we cannot understand, humanly speaking, how the mystical body of Christ could reach its quantitative and qualitative fullness in His eschatological Advent.”
The discussion will gain in fullness if we referred to two colloquies organized by Christian theologians of this approach. These were held at the invitation of Dr. Cuttat who attended them both personally. The first one was held at Almora in April, 1961; the second one at Rajpura, Dehradun, in the same month, next year. A general and sympathetic account of the second one is given by Bede Griffiths in his Christ in India: Essays Towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue (Publishers: Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York). We ourselves shall discuss here only the first colloquy at Almora. It was attended by individuals connected with various Christian institutions, Catholic and Protestant, like Asirvanam, Kenkeri; Snehasadan, Poona; Santi Bhavan, Calcutta; Vrindavan, Kottagiri; Jyotiniketan, Kareli. One Hindu, Shri Viveka Dutta, was also present at the discussion for the first few sessions. The summary of the papers and discussion was prepared by Fr. J. Britto C.M.I., of Dharmarain College, Bangalore, himself one of the participants. The summary is titled Indian Interiority and Christian Theology.
All the participants in this colloquy advocate a dialogue with Hindu India on a deeper level. But let us see what kind of mind they bring to the proposed dialogue.
As the Indian Interiority and Christian Theology tells us, the participants start with the assumption that “Christianity as the one revealed religion for all men, cannot be lacking in any truth necessary for the salvation of man; it has the guarantee of the Divine testimony.”
But their procedure is not to be to denounce Hinduism forthright; on the other hand, it is to take different categories of Hindu thinking and “after exhausting all the positive points that Hinduism provides as solutions, proceed to show that Christianity gives fuller and ultimate solution to those and all other problems.”
The intention is also not to inquire whether “Hinduism has some positive religious values which are wanting in Christianity”; for that is “not logically tenable”, believing as they do that Christianity is “the true revealed religion for all humanity.” But they are prepared to look at particular values more intensely realized by some Hindu sages which may direct “the Christian back to his own religion, in which he finds the same values more naturally embedded.” This position is not without its modesty. It seems that Christians, if not Christianity, too can learn a few things even from the heathens, though these things are nothing but the neglected truths of their own religion.
But the participants soon forget the learning part and assume the teaching role, probably due to compulsion of habit. They become polemical. According to the procedure they laid down for themselves, they take different Hindu categories of thought and spirit and show that Christianity offers a better answer. One such category is Teacher-Disciple or Guru-Shishya relationship, an important spiritual institution in Hinduism. After discussing it, the participants find that “the only person in whom the positive values of the Hindu Guru are best verified is Christ.”
Similarly, after discussing the Hindu concept of history, the colloquy finds that the positive values found “in the Indian view of history have their full meaning and natural setting in the Christian concept of history.”
The participants discuss Yoga too, its positive as well as its negative aspects. At the end, they find that while in Christianity the negative aspects are avoided, the positive aspects of Hindu Yoga “find their natural setting and full meaning in Christianity. Non-dualism, and dualism, Yoga absolutism and Bhakti personalism, Sankara and Ramanuja are in different ways related to Christianity. The Christian worships the Absolute of Sankara with the devotion of Ramanuja.”
The Hindu concept of Avatarhood is discussed. It is found inferior to the Christian one. “Christ’s incarnation is a unique fact, and not repeated in every age… He is true Godhead in true humanity.”
Hindu symbolism and idol-worship have some positive points but the dangers are far greater. “The fundamental defect of Hindu idol-worship is that it is purely a human attempt so to say to trans-substantiate the material things into the divine without a prior incarnation, namely, without a-divine guarantee which assumes the human symbol, into the divine economy of self-communication to man. Man cannot by his own powers raise himself to the divine level, which far transcends him. Hence the Hindu conviction that when the priest recites the prayers over the idol it becomes inhabited by the deity is gratuitous assumption and hence superstitious.”
But it is different with Christian symbolism. For example, “the Eucharist marks the culmination of human symbolism. In it the food of man is turned into the body and blood of God. There man’s attempt to trans-substantiate the material world into the divine is wonderfully realized - the Eucharist may be taken as a summary and completion of all human endeavour to grasp the divine Reality in human symbols. Hence it should form the converging point of all religious cult.”
Hindu Bhakti too has more demerits than merits. Its chief defects are that (1) “the notion of love itself is not perfect;” (2) “there is no integration between knowledge and love,” - one has to choose between them; and (3) it lacks a “perfect concept of alterity and there is no proper concept of sin.”
Nevertheless, the Bhakti of a Hindu could still be a “preparation for the final confrontation with the personal God who manifests Himself in the Christian Revelation.”
Discussing jnanamarga, the colloquy finds that the Hindu doctrine of Advaita is irreconcilable with the Christian doctrine of Trinity, but even that could become a step to the understanding of the doctrine of the three Persons in One. How? First, by opposing polytheism. Second, by its strong metaphysical bias for unity: “Only against the background of the unique and absolute of God can the doctrine of the Trinity and the immortal personality of man be properly understood. God in his providence insisted on the strictest monotheism, and uncompromisingly exterminated all tendency to polytheism, in the chosen people in the Old Testament, before revealing against the background of the monotheism the Trinity of Persons in that one God, in the New Testament. Hence Advaita with its strong metaphysical basis can be a proper preparatio evangelica for an understanding of the Christian message.”
Once it is admitted that Christianity is the uniquely true religion, the summit towards which all religions are advancing, the liberal theologians will not mind conceding certain subordinate spiritual qualities and attributes and values to Hinduism. In this expansive mood, they generously admit that some European Christians “have felt the wealth of India’s religious past.” The deep inferiority which India has inculcated has even “led some of them to deepen their-own Christian inferiority.” Some of them have been “struck by the vision of the spirit of poverty preached by Christ (but) so fully and cheerfully practised by millions in India.” The religious outlook in which everything of every event is looked upon as a work of God, a manifestation of the divine, has impressed many. Many have noted with admiration “the so to say national aptitude for deep prayer and the contemplation of divine things which Indians manifest.”
When the Pope came to India in 1964, he “praised” India’s deep spirituality. But it is in the fight of the above approach that this praise should be understood. It was not anything spontaneous or genuine. It was diplomatic and deceptive. In fact, it amounted to cheating, if cheating includes a double-tongued approach, half-truths spoken and full aim unstated. The Pope’s “praise” concealed more than it revealed. It meant to say: Hinduism is very good. It is a useful preparation for Christianity. The Pope praised Hinduism for its secondaries, hiding a condemnation of its primaries.
His deputy in India, Cardinal Gracias, could afford to be more candid in putting forth the unstated aim. He bemoaned: “It is a matter of grave concern for us that hardly three percent of the local population in India could so far be drawn to receive the Grace of Christ over the last several centuries.” The strategy may change but the aim remains fixed. It may be a soft-spoken approach now, but the goal is unaltered. Liberal Christianity is like Euro-Communism; the tactics and the slogans have changed but the mind remains the same.
In the past, in the heyday of British imperialism, fanatic Christians like Carey and Wilberforce were telling their people something like this: “The natives live in the sin and superstition and darkness of paganism. Surely God has not granted us their charge for nothing. He wants us to bring them to the light of the Gospel, to convert them to Christianity.” But it seems the rulers were less convinced about the benefits of Christianity to the natives. But in a Christian country, they could not express this feeling or belief too openly. So they took to a more equivocal course. They pretended to agree with the crusaders but counter-argued thus: “You are very correct in your judgement of the natives. But precisely because they are superstitious, we must go slow with them and their religious beliefs; if we touch their religion, it would become a law and order problem and we may lose the Empire itself.” This attitude of the British rulers saved India from the worst ravages of Christian missionaries.
But now the political equation has changed and also the ideas have changed. What was possible a hundred years ago is no longer possible now. The Church is also less powerful now even in countries nominally Christian. Its pretentious claims jar on the more sophisticated ears and minds of the age. So a new liberal - or at least liberal-sounding - theology is in the offing, which is trying to give up the old method of forthright denunciation and taking the new method of partial praise, a grudging (and sometimes even genuine) appreciation of the values of a religion they aim to supplant.
Behind the praise of the neo-theologians, we can hear, if our ears are attentive, another message expressed sometimes openly, sometimes sotto voce. They are saying something like this: “You are too good to remain what you are. Your destiny is to become Christians. We see in your country spiritual things deep and uncommon. But God could not have planted these things amongst you in vain. He must have been preparing you for Christianity, for blessing you with the truth he blessed us with; in short, he must have been aiming to make you as good as we are.”
The neo-theologians admit that the Hindus have lived a life of dedication and constant quest, that they have pondered over things spiritual from times immemorial. But, in spite of that, somehow, the Truth eluded them. Why? Because, as they seem to say, while the Hindus had the seeking, they lacked the key. They did not know Jesus Christ. God has to be found not in God but in Jesus Christ and the Church.
The Bible says: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. But to the Christian theologians, seeking and knocking, however dedicated and sincere, are not enough. For don’t we meet the strange phenomenon that while the Hindus asked, as the neo-theologians are ready to grant, God gave it to the Christians; while the Hindus sought, the Christians found; while the Hindus knocked, it was opened unto the Christians. A mystery, perhaps a Trinitarian mystery, perplexing to the heathens but easily understood by the Christians.
The Christian theologians call pagan religions natural, while their own they call revealed. In this they pay to pagans an unintended compliment. The opposite of the natural is not the revealed, but the artificial, and there is something artificial about the Christian religion. A natural religion means that it is about things inherent and intrinsic; that it is about a seeking of the heart which is innate; that it is about man in his deeper search, and not about a particular person or a church; that it does not deal with the accidental but with the universal. Its truths are not adventitious, added from outside by a sole leader or institution; on the contrary, these reside in the “cave of the heart,” to put it in the Upanishadic phrase. These truths are also not fortuitous, happening by a lucky chance consisting in the appearance of a particular individual, or in the crusading labours of a church burdened with a self-assumed role. On the contrary, these truths happen because man in his innermost being, by nature, is a child of divine light. Man grows from within, by an inherent law of his being, responding to That which he already is secretly. The purusha or person within responds to the purusha without. Tat tvam asi; tat aham asmi; sah tadasti. (You are That; I am That; he is That.)
Christianity has two pillars: a narrow piety and a word-juggling theology. What is true in it is also found in other religions which it supplanted in the past and which it continues to do in the present as well; what it claims to be unique to it is merely intellectual bluff.
Christian theology, as it has developed, is not a product of a tranquil and purified heart; rather, it derives from a mind prejudiced, self-centered and self-righteous, a mind contentious and cantankerous, out to prove the other fellow in the wrong. It is an artificial mental construct with very little spirituality in it. Above all, like Islam, it is inwoven with bigotry and fanaticism and lacks charity, understanding and the deeper vision of the spirit.
First published in a New Delhi quarterly, Manthan, Volume 4. No. 3 (May 1982), and subsequently reprinted as a chapter in Hinduism vis-a-vis Christianity and Islam, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1982,1984, and 1992. ↩