Cultural Religion vs. Unadulterated Gospel in the Hindu Context

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Do you agree with the high caste Hindu who stated that these missionaries have been totally unable to distinguish between the cultural religion they tried to preach and the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ as seen in the New Testament?

I do not agree with the high caste Hindu who stated that missionaries have been “totally unable to distinguish” between “cultural religion” and the “unadulterated gospel” of Jesus Christ. I think the high caste Hindu is using hyperbole, an exaggeration to evoke strong feelings and create a strong impression. First, I think this is unfair to the missionaries that have left their homes to live out the gospel among the Hindu people. Two, I think this statement vastly underestimates the difficulty in making sense of foreign cultures and discerning how to best share the gospel message. Third, the terms “cultural religion” and “unadulterated gospel” are not defined so the reader can only guess the meaning.

I assume that the Hindu would define the cultural religion of the Pharisees as Judaism, and the cultural religion of Western missionaries as some type of Phariseeical Christianity neither which lead to salvation. If so, I would wholeheartedly disagree that Western missionaries somehow have not been able to preach a saving gospel message the Hindu people. Finally, I would argue that the “unadulterated” or “pure” gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament was because of the messenger not the message. Jesus preached repentance due to the Kingdom of God being upon us, but he lived out the gospel in his death and resurrection (without sin). Missionaries, as fallen people living in a fallen world will most definitely have difficulty in overcoming their personal worldview in order to understand the worldview of the people to which they hope to minister.

D. D. Pani, “Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks” (IJFM, Spring 2001)

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Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks

June 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pani’s three unnecessary obstacles placed in front of the gospel by western missionaries are cultural superiority, rights and rebellion, and control. The problem of cultural superiority is portrayed as Western arrogance, demonstrated by narrow-mindedness and lack of teachableness versus Eastern humility. In Pani’s view cultural bias is demonstrated in the inability to differentiate between Hindu culture and Hindu religion.

The problem of rights and rebellion is depicted as a struggle between Western individualism, demonstrated in personal creativity versus Eastern community which views this individual expression as rebellion. Pani argues that Western protest mentality and imperialistic attitudes work together to build a church in India “liberated” from Hindu society. Pani contrasts what the Hindu sees as “social order”, the Protestant sees as “subjugation and despotism”. The Hindu sees assisting “rebellion”, the Western missionary sees assisting in “liberation”. Pani ends his argument on rights and rebellion by stating that, “the early church was focused on the liberation of the soul, not the exercise of personal rights.”

The problem of control is represented as an opposition between Western self-determinism and Eastern fatalism. The Western mindset intent on external control versus the Eastern mindset of self-control. Pani ends this section on control with the the statement that while, “one system teaches people to expect less of God, the other system teaches people more of self.”

D. D. Pani, “Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks” (IJFM, Spring 2001)

The Greatest Obstacle to a Gospel Witness in a Hindu Context

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

I consider the greatest obstacle to a gospel witness in a Hindu context as realizing our own ethnocentrism to identify personal and cultural idols. Ethnocentrism is judging other cultures by the standards of your own while assuming your own culture to be the best. I think ethnocentrism is most displayed in communication, worship and practices.

Overcomplicating the gospel message, Christian terminology and properly contextualizing language can be a tremendous stumbling block for any unbeliever. How does a Christian explain the great, true, one God apart from the Hindu Brahma? How are vocabulary differences described to the fullest without hindering the truth of Christianity? For example, a Hindu could see words that give totally different meaning, such as “born again” as another form of incarnation.

Ethnocentrism also leads to the danger of presenting the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation too early in the process of presenting the gospel to the Hindu. Ethnocentrism could also lead to a lack of sensitivity to the differences in the way in which women are viewed and treated in the receiving culture. Ethnocentrism can also lead to Western-style worship over indigenous styles; and eating habits that are contrary and offensive to Hindu beliefs and practice.

Finally ethnocentrism by the sending and receiving cultures can distort the necessity for a meeting place, and its meaning to the greater culture. Where to meet for a Bible study when there is no established church and no one in the group will volunteer their home? Some cultures only validate worship by the body if it is in a church building that looks the part. In some cultures the specially blessed building serves as a legitimating force in the culture. Groups that meet outside these building are viewed as sects.

Momentary Experience vs. Worldview Transformation in the Hindu Context

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

A worldview is a set of beliefs, values and/or presuppositions about the meaning and ultimate reality of life (Nash, Kraft and Sire). The Hindu worldview consists of the Brahman (the universal soul); the Atman (the individual soul); reincarnation (cycle of death and rebirth), see; “dharma” (rules of the game); “karma” (actions of the game); samsara (escaping the cycle of reincarnation); moksha (salvation). Hindus can reach salvation (moksha) through works, knowledge or devotion. “Receptivity, all-comprehensiveness and the strength of infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity of human character and human tendencies are the main characteristics of the Hindu worldview (Aiyar, Monier-Williams).

Regarding Hinduism, “…Once someone thinks he has crossed the line into a higher state of consciousness, words from anyone on the other side of that line are automatically dismissed as the mumblings of the unenlightened (Nash).” Even though we can introduce inconsistencies in the Hindu worldview through tests of reason, experience and practice (Nash). If “our goal is more than a momentary experience; rather, a transformation in worldview” we must remember that unless the Holy Spirit comes then neither the Hindu or anyone else will come to embrace the Gospel.

In the Hindu context the missionary must be careful not to pronounce someone as saved due to their intellectual ascent to different truth propositions or by praying a scripted prayer (via decisionalism). The missionary should pray that the Hindu’s heart would change, that the Hindu renounces his old life including his loyalties toward his former religion. Repentance and embracing Jesus Christ in faith, relying on Christ alone for salvation, the former Hindu then walks the path of sanctification, apparent both initially and progressively.

Conversion emphasizing a worldview shift is the goal, and a converted Hindu will no longer seek moksha, but salvation through Christ. Once a worldview shift takes place the former Hindu starts relying on the deeds of Jesus for salvation and stops relying on themselves. The converted declares salvation from the wrath of God over enlightenment. Communion with God now and forever becomes something far greater than being absorbed into an impersonal force (Brahman). We should always emphasize conversion and not just a momentary experience.

A theology of the cross for Hinduism accepts the Hindu position that “suffering visits humans with a vengeance” and builds upon the premise that the Cross of Christ is the end of all suffering. Christians make no claims to being immune nor dismiss the reality of suffering, however those who trust in Christ view their suffering not as punishment but exercise and preparation for renewal. Suffering is not a threat but helpful aid for a person’s spiritual formation. The Christian is able to deal with suffering on a level that does not exist in other religions of the world. Suffering does not overpower but it builds perseverance and hope (Garcia and Raj).

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