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Religious Trends in India—No. 2

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Archives / 1937 / December

 

 

Religious Trends in India—No. 2

R.B. Thurber

By R. B. THURBER, Editor, Oriental Watchman

 

Not all the untouchables are waiting for Doc­tor Ambedkar. It is estimated that fifteen thousand every month are nominally espousing Christianity. There are already, in the Andhra Desa district of the Telugu country alone, about a million of these professed Christians. If the reader would like more data on the facts of this whole Christianward movement, let him follow reports of it in recent numbers of the Missionary Review of the World. Read Dr. J. Waskom Pickett's "Christian Mass Movements in India," or a very comprehensive summary of his book entitled, "Movements of the De­pressed Classes Into Christianity," by Holmes Smith, which sells for about ten cents here in India, and is procurable at the Lucknow Pub­lishing House, Lucknow.

The Christian Program

What is Christianity doing about this great trek toward Christ? Comparatively small num­bers of the sixty million outcastes are choos­ing Christianity for their new religion, but even at that they are coming in numbers that completely overwhelm all the missionary facil­ities at the disposal of the church. Seventh-day Adventists have been meeting the problem for some years. In certain sections of the Punjab and South India we are in contact with thousands of these religiously nomadic people. As a rule they are wretchedly poor and igno­rant, and our insistence on individual and true conversion necessarily makes work for them slow. We could not expect anything else but that at first they would be "rice Chris­tians," seeking the "loaves and fishes;" but in India to have thousands even susceptible to Christianity and free from mental prejudice is something over which to rejoice.

Unfortunately, from our viewpoint, many Christian missionary bodies are letting down the bars, and "conversion" by wholesale is common. As a consequence, caste is being brought into the Christian fold, and has created in some churches a problem that is well-nigh unsolvable. Caste is deeply entrenched in the fiber of Indian being; and absolutely nothing but the transforming grace of God can dis­lodge it.

We would expect that Modernism, which has made such a schism in Western Christianity, would show its hand in India. Recently there has been published by a large and influential group of Modernist missionaries a tract setting forth their view of "The Christian Program of Reconstruction." This leaflet, which is written by E. Stanley Jones, is based on Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18, 19. It emphasizes the setting up of the kingdom of God "on earth." We quote, with the author's parenthetical inter­pretations:

"This, then, is our program: Good news to the poor (the economically disinherited) by the banishing of poverty itself. Release to the captives (the socially and politically disin­herited) by wiping out all caste and all classes, and making a human brotherhood under the fatherhood of God. The opening of the eyes of the blind (the physically disinherited) by the banishing of disease through the power of God and the technique of science. To set at liberty them that are bruised (the morally and spiritually disinherited), by giving them re­lease from all inward guilt and sense of moral failure—a new birth in this birth. The possi­bility of the coming in one generation of the Lord's Year of Jubilee, a fresh world begin­ning. And finally, the laying of the resources of the living God who wills this new order, and will back it with His power."

Doctor Jones reveals again and again in this publication that his program visions a new order in this old earth, to be brought about by human planning and effort. Following the practice of Modernism, he uses Biblical phrases to mean something the Bible writers never dreamed of. He thus explains one vital item in his "program:"

"Concerning the next item in the program, the coming of the Lord's Year of Jubilee'—a fresh world beginning—we would say that we will give ourselves to the production of a world order in which these basic injustices, coming out of competition, will be replaced by an order based on justice, love, sharing, and equality. We would therefore strive to embody in the political order the basic prin­ciples of the kingdom of God on earth. We would not do this by capturing the machinery of government by a minority and imposing a dictatorship, but when there is sufficient ma­jority, we would not hesitate to embody the ideas of the kingdom of God in legislative action." (Italics ours.)

It is unnecessary for me to point the readers of the Ministry to the significance of the fore­going bold plan. The "image of the beast" looms in the East. This is an outgrowth of Modernist "rethinking missions" that leads not only to revamping missions, but also to preaching "another gospel" which destroys missions.

Thanks be, the reconstruction scheme of the new-order group has not gone unchallenged. Among other opposers of this "social gospel" is a group of eleven Christian leaders who have come out with a tract which analyzes the Jones stand, and denounces its premises and conclusions in no uncertain terms. They close their statement thus: "After this brief exami­nation of Doctor Jones' pamphlet, it emerges that he (and others elsewhere) is seeking to set up a kingdom with the Lord Jesus Christ a spiritual, but not a returning, visible presence; and since they thus eliminate Him from His kingdom, they are forced to invent for that kingdom a program of their own de­vising that envisages good government over a decent, comfortable world in which to live. That includes making the natural man a better man naturally to live in the world, and a better world for the natural man to live in. The whole emphasis is upon this world, not a word is said about the next; and, after all, eternity is the principal concern of the Christian, how­ever little it may interest the communist."

It may be seen that India is not a whit be­hind other parts of the world in the universal struggle between Christ and Satan. And with the East's predilection for subtlety in religious thought, we may expect the last battle to be fought out here with a strategy that will baffle all but the elect.

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