19 Aug Christianity – A Foreign Religion?
The simplest answer to this question is that Christianity is Christ, and He claims to be the Truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” Truth can never be foreign. In scientific matters no scientist has ever spoken of Russian truth, or American truth, or Indian truth. Truth is Truth in every nation: If Newton’s laws of motion are true, they are as true in India as they are in England. If, therefore, there is only one Saviour appointed by God, and only one way of salvation for all men, then this will be true in every nation.
An interesting fact is that according to God’s perfect plan, Jesus Christ is “foreign” to ALL nations. Jesus was a citizen of the small state of Palestine, which is at the meeting place of. Europe, Asia and Africa. Jesus was officially repudiated as a citizen and crucified by His own people. Then for 1900 years from the time Christianity was preached, Palestine ceased to exist as a state. The only people Christianity could have “belonged to” were the Jews, and they lost their national home, were scattered among all nations, and in any case they hated the very name of Jesus Christ. Now that the Jews again have a national. home in Israel, they could claim that Christ and Christianity originated with them, but they still reject their own Christ.
It does not take much study of the Bible to make one realise that the customs and religion of the Bible are much less ‘foreign’ to eastern countries like India than to western countries like America and Britain. The modern American needs a great deal of help from commentaries to enable him to understand customs mentioned in the Bible. It is very much easier for an Indian to understand and live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It has been said that some books of the Bible will never be properly understood till an Indian writes a commentary on them.
Of course it is true that recently Christianity has been preached in India by western missionaries. Some of these have wrongly presented Christ in British or American dress, and some of them (several known to the writer personally) came to India unconverted and found a real experience of Jesus Christ here. Provided their message is strictly according to the Bible, and provided they do not dominate the Indian church, the entry of. foreign missionaries is no more strange than the entry of technicians. In both cases, however, the coming of foreign missionaries and technicians is only a temporary phase. It must be admitted that just as Indian industry had a long period of decline, so there was a tragic decline in the life and witness of Indian churches. Christ was known and served in India long before He was heard of in Britain, and Christianity had declined in India long before America began as a nation. More and more evidence is coming to light to show how widespread were the Christian churches before the, Moslem invasions. Unfortunately their great mistake was not to translate the Bible into the languages of India, so that the Christian faith could never be known or propagated. It seems that the Bible-starved Christians of north India were rapidly absorbed into Islam, which seemed similar to their own faith. In the south the Tamil speaking Christians had already been reconverted to Hinduism by Manikkavachakar in the ninth century (see P. Thomas, “Christians and Christianity in India and Pakistan”, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1954, pp. 209, 210). It is only natural that God should arrange for Christians from the west to have the freedom to come to join the few remaining Christians in Kerala to republish the Christian faith in India.
As was pointed out earlier the nation from which, or through which, truth is propagated has nothing whatever to do with the reality of that truth. Religion can never be national. If we go back in Indian history even Brahminism came in with the early Aryan (Indo-European) invaders of 1500 to 2000 B. C. Going even further back the Dravidians are said to be a Southern Mediterranean race, who invaded India and established the Indus valley (Harappa and Mohenjodaro) civilization which existed before the Aryan invasions. Before the Dravidians it seems that India was populated by Mongoloid peoples, whose descendants may be the hill tribes of Assam, and they were preceeded by a Negrito type of people from the eastern Mediterranean. Whatever theory is held as to national origins, it is obvious that most of the peoples of India are ‘foreign’ and, therefore, to discuss religion in terms of ‘national’ and ‘foreign’ is absurd. True religion is international, and it is inevitably ‘foreign’ to this world, since it deals with other worldly spiritual realities.
Finally, we should note that for many Indians the question, “Is not Christianity a foreign religion,” expresses a real fear that India’s cultural heritage may be endangered by adopting a foreign religion, however true it may be. Culture is the product of the interaction of religion with a nation’s climate, geographical features, and its economic, social, political and educational institutions. As India undergoes a rapid industrial revolution, many features of her culture will inevitably change.
On the other hand a careful study will prove that most of the best aspects of Indian culture are commanded in the New Testament as Christian virtues. These include hospitality, family life, honouring of parents, respect for women, the wife’s devotion to her husband, simplicity of dress and food, non- violence in the defence of one’s own interests, works of mercy, and care for spiritual realities above all.
There are aspects of Indian culture which Christians must abandon, such as the caste system, disregard for inferiors, indifference to human suffering and idolatry, but these are not true to the best of Indian tradition, and they are in any case rejected by the majority of thinking people. It may even be argued that Christ alone can preserve the best of Indian culture in the midst of a disintegrating society.
– Robert Brow