Monday, September 8, 2008

Pluralistic Inclusivism

K. P. Aleaz , the prophet of Pluralistic Inclusivism, is one of the pioneers among the theologians of religion in India, who has recognized the limitations of pluralism in explaining religious truth(s) available in religions (theistic and non-theistic). Pluralism as defined by its major proponents is governed by the general understanding of the universality of truth. The dominant opinion is that truth and wisdom present in various religions are only fragments of the absolute knowledge. For example, the universal theistic religions like Hinduism, Christianity or Islam envision truth as absolute and what we today perceive are different expressions of truth. Hence in order to get an ultimate vision of truth we need to accept and sum up all the fragments of truth, which is possible at least theoretically. This view is problematic when we approach it from our particular experiences as well as from the perspective of postmodernism . Our experiences speak of truths and realities in plural, which are also attested by the uncompromising presence of various religious traditions and postmodern theories of knowledge. How do we account for the plurality of truth is a question that is better answered with the help of postmodern theories, rather than the traditional theory of essentialism or foundationalism.

Pluralistic Inclusivism and limitations of classical Interpretations of theology of religions
Aleaz knew that the classical interpretations of theology of religions in terms of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism are not sufficient to explain our religious experience and personal knowledge. Therefore, he advanced the theory of Pluralistic Inclusivism. By this he rejected exlusivism completely but found some meaning in bringing together inclusivism and pluralism. He found that inclusivism can be camouflaged as exclusivism, therefore, he was more inclined to see himself as a pluralist. Since classical pluralism, as it is interpreted by its major proponents like John Hick , which claims that everything is legitimate and true as expressions of truth, cannot withstand the test of experience as noted above, prompts one to accept what Aleaz has attempted in terms of Pluralistic Inclusivism. In this approach one can get rid of the arrogance implied in inclusivism, the idea that what we believe is capable of accepting all truths everywhere and therefore can escape the slushy state of pluralism, where nothing is solid and authoritative, as truth becomes evasive and a useless piece of argument . In Pluralistic Inclusivism one can arrive at one's own particular understanding of truth and take a particular standpoint, as in the Istadevata concept of Hinduism where one is free to accept a personal deity without denying other deities and thus make our perception of truth meaningful and usable. This is what prompts one to accept the significance of Plurlistic Inclusivism in the theology of religions, and further prompts one to move towards a postpluralistic theory of religions as a more viable approach to the plurality of truth(s) in religions.

As we have noted, Pluralistic Inclusivism is capable of absorbing the merits of both pluralism and inclusivism and it can reject what is not acceptable to our preference of truth interpretation, which is not possible either in pure pluralistic or inclusivistic positions. Pluralistic Inclusivism thus opens the doors to other ways of knowing truth, with the right to accept or reject, avoiding the ambiguity of pluralism and arrogance of inclusivism and exclusivism. As Aleaz views it, Pluralistic Inclusivism allows religions or cultures to draw from one another and enrich one another. It aims at making one pluralistic as well as inclusivistic simultaneously. Here lies the strength and at the same time the weakness of Pluralistic Inclusivism, attempting to hold together what are supposed to be two different positions, two different perspectives, though both are worked out in the essentialist paradigm. Since Pluralistic Inclusivism so long as is based on the essentialist framework it is as problematic as Pluralism. A pluralistic inclusivist is not more than a pluralist. However, the merit of Pluralistic Inclusivism is that it invites us to see the limitations of pluralism as a theological position. Plurality cannot be reduced to pluralism as pluralism cannot account for contradictions, that is, it cannot accept a theory that rejects the theory of pluralism. Pluralistic Inclusivism needs a postmodernist framework in order to achieve what it wants to achieve, namely harmony of religions, even to hold together negations.

The idea of Truth as Hermeneutical and Postmodern Theories

The Linguistic turn in philosophy has made it clear that to understand something is no more to form mental “representations” of it as modernism insisted, rather, understanding is a matter of actively interpreting our world experience—by means of language. The enlightenment belief that reason is neutral and it would lead to truth irrespective of context, tradition, or language has been found shaky. Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger rejected the concept of knowing subject by the “lived experience” of the involved subject which would discover itself. The concept of absolute truth or universally valid knowledge at best remains a myth, but a very convenient and popular one. It has been true that since the time of the ancient Greek Sophists, search for a universally valid knowledge was the passion of philosophers. The Sophist Gorgias argued that nothing could really exist and that if anything did exist it could not be known; if knowledge were possible, it could not be communicated. Protagoras, another major sophist, held that no person’s opinion can be said to be more correct than another’s. However, the Sophists were put to oblivion by the opposing schools of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; all of them held that it is possible to have exact and certain knowledge of world and its “unchanging and invisible forms,” or ideas. They held that what we could see and touch are imperfect copies of pure forms and abstract reasoning would provide genuine knowledge of these forms. Contemporary scientists have also been obsessed with such a search for a theory of everything, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking included. However, it can be also argued that the universe is so vast and we legitimately cannot make any absolute predictions of what is true in the trillions of galaxies raging away billions of light years, quiet independent of our world, or if related, in a way quite unknown to us, though the tendency of the human mind is to reduce everything to an understandable formula, with which one can handle and interpret the world. One must remember that one could interpret the world with any number of paradigms and each has its own validity within the specified time and space. As Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions made it clear, different paradigms can coexist in the world, though some gaps in the old paradigms make new paradigms necessary and the process need to continue. Similarly, theories in religions also have no means of claiming absolute knowledge of truth, if there is any. Therefore, true pluralism must account for plurality rather than reducing it into fragments of one and the same truth. Truth cannot be reduced to singularity. Plurality is the truth about truth.


What we need is a coherent approach to plurality. Plurality is an everyday fact, it is every where. The classical way of approaching the question of plurality by way of essentialism, that there is an underlying unity behind all plurality, is discredited by the postmodern theories. The various attempts to find some foundational truth starting from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant have been challenged since the time of David Hume. To find a universal truth is only a dream as we have pointed out above. We are afraid of plurality and attempt to avoid it as in exclusivism or make it meaningless by arguing that all are the same. Thus we make all religions partial truths of some Supreme Truth. Emergence of monotheistic religions have immensely contributed to this type of mindset. It satisfies our curiosity and delivers us from some dilemma. We feel that we have something solid to believe. Descartes has made mind the universal truth. Religions make God the universal truth. Monotheism has been considered as a triumph in the evolution of religion, by reducing all religious truths into one.

It is the exclusive viewpoint that really does justice to monotheism: one may either accept or reject the truth. One cannot hold the two together. It also enforces a dualistic mind setup - things are viewed in black and white, truth and non truth, good and bad light and dark, at least penultimately. In monotheism, there cannot be duality in the ultimate sense as truth is singular and nothing else has any absolute existence. In monotheism untruth or evil is a negation of truth, a non-being. In postmodern thinking good and evil are not dual entities or even binary opposites, that is, graded realities, but they are interpreted truths that make existence meaningful. One has no meaning without the other. So we cannot speak of truth in religion or about fragments of truth in all religions since what we call as truth is our way of interpreting what we experience. In postmodernist view truth is hermeneutical, not a subjective or objective entity, but something that exists only in relationships. We can only say that in religions truth and its negation exists and one cannot accept the truth and reject the untruth as conceived in Pluralistic Inclusivism. What we need is a theory that does justice to our experience of plurality in its contradictions and negations.


In his Meditations (1641) Descartes identified “clear and distinct ideas” as the foundation for knowledge. He made the foundation of all knowledge the certainty of the self and as a corollary of the existence of God. He has been following the mathematical ideal of certainty to know that “something is so and can’t be otherwise” and has asserted, cogito ergo sum, I cannot doubt that I who doubts exist. The result has been a theory of dualism between mind and matter, thinking thing (res cogitans) and extended thing (res extensa), which made mind as the source of knowledge and not empirical evidence as empiricists argued. In the postmodern world knowledge is considered as the production of various factors "such as the demand for it, creative capability to satisfy the demand, facility to access the existing knowledge bases, ability to make use of the associated knowledge from several disciplines and the degree of societal acceptability of the new knowledge"

If the tendency in science is to hold that truth is available to the future through scientific researches, the religions view it the other way round, that truth has been known or revealed to the founders of religion and as time passes on it gets degenerated and the very necessary thing is to realize the truth by going back to the golden past, whether it is back to the Bible times or to the pristine Vedic times of the Rishis or to the times when Quran descended to the earth. The common human tendency is to generalize one's experience as universally true and make oneself believe that what one holds is true and all other opinions can at best be only partially true. Pluralists are sure enough that different religious experiences are valid expressions of one and the only truth, although each religion would insist that its own interpretation of truth is more comprehensive and closer to the absolute truth. Even the so called pluralistic religions become intolerant when their interpretation of pluralism is rejected and there by prove that they cannot accept some truth different from that of their own. Pluralism can accept only that truth which does not reject its theory of truth and thus makes pluralism less than capable of accepting plurality of existence, in its contradictions.

The emergence of hermeneutical truth goes back to the time of David Hume , when empiricists like him found it difficult to establish knowledge on any sure foundations. George Berkeley held that one cannot have absolutely certain knowledge of the physical world, a position which was contrary to what was held by rationalists. All the classical philosophical schools such as the Cartesian rationalism, Lockean empiricism and German idealism accepted the criteria that knowledge is valid if it is universally true and accepted beliefs that are self evident, incorrigible and “evident to the senses” as foundations of sure knowledge. Immanuel Kant too agreed with the rationalists on the possibility of getting exact and certain knowledge, but he was willing to agree with the empiricists that such knowledge is more informative about the structure of thought than about the world outside of thought. He was able to make room for faith by setting limits to reason, by establishing the finiteness of knowing.

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s linguistic analysis, further elaborated the nature of perceived reality in terms of language games. His Philosophical Investigations marked the shift in linguistic analysis. He held that no truth is possible outside the language. Language is inextricably woven into the fabric of life. Language determines our knowledge. Languages are shaped by cultural systems and traditions into which we are born. For Hans-Georg Gadamer the text itself was the product of particular history and culture. All these developments finally led to the realization that no absolute knowledge is possible as the enlightenment conceived.

Rejection of Essentialism in the postmodern world

Further, the resurgence of identity politics among the submerged or subaltern groups challenged the unitary notions of human kind as false universalism that blocks substantive differences such as race, gender, or ethnicity, and contested all traditional knowledges. Poststructuralism and the strategy of deconstruction addressed this growing concern. Jacques Derrida’s notion of decentred universe challenged all fixed or absolute notions of centre and periphery and has conceived universe as a free play. There is no authoritative centre, which makes validation of knowledge necessary. Derrida by his concept of the “differance,” has rejected the structuralist theory that meaning is produced in the difference of words and establishes that truth is known from its absence, somewhat similar to the advaitic concept of "neti" or the apophatic position of the Cappadocians. The poststructuralist strategy of deconstruction by Derrida has categorically established the absolute impossibility of attributing to any text one single ultimate meaning. Here objective truth is replaced by hermeneutic truth. Truth exists only in interpretation. There is no final or arbitrary truth as such. Derrida's deconstructionist approach helps us to recognize the politics behind the construction of meaning. That means, sacred texts, such as the Bible, do not have a single ultimate meaning nor are such texts necessarily authoritative. Deconstruction is a rebellion against absolute truth claims. It contests the given knowledge absolutized through hierarchical dualities which Derrida has termed as binary oppositions, that creates superiority and inferiority structures of thought and social practices. Deconstruction disrupts and displaces the hierarchy and dismantles its authority and creates space for the “marginals” to present themselves as social agents. The web of relations outside the text may determine both the meaning of the text and the nature of its authority. It is no more necessary for truth to rely on some “extralinguistic” reality in order to exist as in the essentialist, foundationalist position. Instead, the legitimacy of plurality of stand points and interpretations over an absolute or a contextual conception of knowledge or truth is affirmed. The linguistic turn has led to the postmodern argument that there are no truths, but only rival interpretations. There is no need of any foundation, either by way of intuition or by experience and there is no universal truth for religions to rely on. This way of looking at things saves us from the burden of reconciling the differences in order to tailor contradictions into harmony. Contradictions contribute to our understanding and awareness of it makes us humble to accept life in its manifold expressions, as life itself is the product of various factors.


Postliberal theology as propounded by Goerge Lindbeck and the Yale School of Religions has made some strides toward a postpluralistic approach to religions. The postliberal theology has as its premise a postmodernist nonfoundationalist thinking in its rejection of the modern project of metanarratives and essentialist view of reality. It rejects the foundationalist claim, “that knowledge is grounded in a set of non-inferential, self-evident beliefs.” For Lindbeck there is no way for us to check our experience against any uninterpreted experience, or ultimate truth. The nonfoundational or antifoundational character of Postliberalism goes back to Karl Barth or even to Aquinas. Barth held that there could be no “foundation, support, or justification” for theology in any philosophy, theory or epistemology. Karl Barth affirmed the self-authenticating Word of God as the foundation of theology. The truth of this Word is self evident to the believer. It may not make any sense to those who do not share the faith. This Barthian approach to Bible has influenced the Yale postliberalist thinking that other religions or schools of thought can have their own valid set of foundations with no need of authentication from any outside authority. Lindbeck also is open about his indebtedness to Aquinas who wrote that the Christian language about God is true, but we do not know how it is true; we know God loves us, but we do not know what love would be like for God. We cannot go beyond our experience; we can only work within the rules the community has provided to talk about God. As the title of the William Placher’s book suggests, Christians need not "apologize" for their theology, that they don’t have to conform to the non-Christian standards of rationality, or satisfy somebody outside the community about its validity. In expanding this theory, one can say that no religion is bound to explain its rationality to any other religion. Religions are self-validating. To find the meaning and validity of one's position in an outside authority is unnecessary in postmodern thinking. Each religion, each individual is unique and each position is validated internally.


There is no objectively existing datum that can be called religion -- there is no “true religion” as such. Neither are we able to discover truth. We only become real only in relation between objectivity and subjectivity. Since we cannot understand ourselves or others wholly we must focus on what we are made for—relationship. So the encounter with other religions must focus on the relational aspects of the encounter, not in search for authoritativeness but for self-understanding. The relational character of human existence, the network of existence, need to be the common ground between people, defined by way of religions, ethnicity, race, language or gender. This postpluralist approach liberates Christian mission or any missionary religion from the burden of establishing its supremacy or truthfulness against others. Mission becomes establishing relationship. Harmony is relationship. Relationship is possible only when we acknowledge the uniqueness of the other. Essentialism violates the rightful existence of the other, it reduces the other to itself. Religions and ideologies today must overcome the sin of idolizing themselves, idealizing own positions. As Augustine has noted sin is "curving in" on ourselves, either in self confidence or in self-despair.

Defining the world as relationality and the Plural end as Salvations

In order to accept the other, to accept difference, theology should change its universal, fixed, absolute categories of knowledge and values and reorient its theoretical basis to accept the validity of multi-foundational faith, values and practices. If we redefine our world views it is possible to see that we each individual or religion exists as stars in relation to galaxies, or galaxies in relation to the universe or universe in relation to multiverse which are not necessarily centred on any particular point outside of it; the world organism, even the atoms and the subparticles exist only in relationship, one keep the other in its place with their simple presence, mutually influencing and shaping other’s identity. If that relationship is broken the entire universe will collapse. That means, John Hick needs to modify his paradigm of the “solar system of faiths” with sun as the centre and accept a new paradigm of the contemporary universe or multiverse which has no centre at all. One need to transcend the paradigm of Copernican revolution to that of a Quantum revolution in order to do justice to our religious experiences as well as scientific knowledge. Hence our theologies need to be relationally reoriented with respect to individuals, communities, genders, races, and all creation, resisting all efforts to subsume the difference or drift away from one another. If we are willing to accept the relationality as a mode of existence we don't have to define ourselves in terms of exclusivism, inclusivism or pluralism.

The world is what we make. Truth is what we accept. Faith is what we believe. Search for absolute truth leads to totalitarianism and fundamentalism, intolerance and disharmony. What we need to learn is to let others live as we live. Accept the other as neighbour. Coexistence is the ethics of plurality. Love and respect the neighbour. To make the neighbour other than a neighbour is either destroying the neighbour and ourselves. Coexistence need to be extended to the plurality or religions. Pluralism need to be transformed into coexistentiality. Plurality is coexistence. Anything that destroys co-existence, the right of the other to be the other, neighbour to be the neighbour, is violence. Pluralism and inclusivism can be more violent than exclusivism. Pluralism and inlusivism reduces the other in a subtle covert way which exclusivism only rejects openly. Any thing that destroys otherness is sin, violence to existence. True dialogue is possible only when we all believe in the right of other's to exist. When we go to dialogue with the view that we are right and they are wrong then dialogue has no relevance. Today dialogue is practiced with wrong premises. Mark Heim's concept of "Salvations" in plural make expressions of truth more legitimate and conducive to harmony and dialogue than any artificial attempts to bring together contradictions or explain away contradictions.
Pluralist theologians need to be challenged by Mark S.Heim’s rejection of the pluralistic assumption that there can be only one religious end. For the pluralists the singular concept of salvation is universal, a cross-cultural constant in interpreting religious end. A truly pluralistic hypothesis should find space to the different end descriptions for life in different religions. They should give account for the various theories of salvations in religions as valid simultaneously as well as distinctively valid alternatives to our end perceptions, that there is a diversity of realizable religious aims. We need a theory of religions which would make it possible for us not to quarrel with one another on account of different religious goals, then only we can think in truly pluralistic terms. As Mark Heim writes, “The refusal of pluralist theologies to address this question is their primary failing, a manifestation of the very exclusivism they reject.” To import the notion of a singular salvation into interreligious discussion amounts to developing false harmony. To argue that all religions mean the same thing when it comes to salvation is in fact an act of violation of the right of each religion to be distinctive and unique. According Heim, Pluralists need to recognize the integrity of the religious traditions in their own terms rather than to denature them.
Religious aims and fulfillments are various. Pluralist theologians generally deny this. There are a number of proposed religious aims given in various religious traditions and these are of ultimate significance to their adherents. When we credit various religious claims validity of their aims, we presume their difference. In our life we come across alternative possibilities and we make some rather than others concrete. We need to take religious traditions more seriously than the pluralists who subordinate the traditions to a postulated absolute. The hypothesis of multiple religious ends indicate that more than one religious tradition may be truthful in its claims. Each truth claims remain distinct and their experience different as these are constituted by their particular contexts.
So in a postpluralist strand one may argue that religious fulfillment is available to all, but not one identical fulfillment. The thesis that there are different religious fulfillments seems to meet concern of pluralists much more effectively in postpluralism than in the classical pluralist or inclusivist positions. Christians need to recognize that some traditions encompass religious ends which are real states of human transformation, different from that which Christians hope for. Different religious traditions lead their adherents to alternative fulfillments. As Mark Heim has pointed out, the crucial question among the faiths is not "Which one saves?" but "What counts as salvation?" not "Which religion alone is true?" but "What end is most ultimate, even if many are real?" and "Which life will I hope to realize?"
A religious end or aim is defined by a set of practices, images, stories, and conceptions. For instance, for Christians, salvation is in continuing relationship with the Triune God, which was made possible with faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the incarnate God. For some Buddhists the dharma way is indispensable to attain selflessness, the nirvana. "Salvation" or religious fulfillment for any religious community is integrally related to a comprehensive pattern of life developed by the particular community. Someone is "saved" so much as he or she follow a pattern of life prescribed by the community in its ritualistic and sacramental acts. Nirvana is neither an achievement nor is “enjoyed" by one unless that person is prepared by the community for that end. Our religious practices and choices distinctly shape our futures. In order to participate in the distinctive dimensions of Buddhist religious fulfillment in this life, there is no path but the Buddhist path. The same is true of each tradition. Nirvana and communion with God are contradictory only if we assume that one or the other must be the sole fate for all human beings. True, they cannot both be true at the same time for the same person, but for different people, or for the same person at different times, such multiple ends do not create any conflicts in both being true. We love our mother, brother, wife and children. The nature of love is different in each relationship, but there is no contradiction. In V. Chakkariah’s assertion that Hinduism is my mother and Christianity is my wedded love, though there are two different types of love, there is no irreconcilability. On the other hand multiple religious ends become more congenial to human experience and make life more meaningful, without being succumbed to any for establishing one the other for the sake of harmony in relationships. Religious ends are constituted by the meanings that the faiths bring to them. Religious objects or ends are meanings constituted by human culture. Truth and meaning are cultural creations and they are real so far as human existence is concerned. Giving due recognition to the multiplicity of religious means and ends only enhance human experience of life in its plurality.

Notes

Dr. K.P. Aleaz developed his theory of Pluralistic Inclusivism in several of his books and articles. This essay is a humble tribute to my esteemed friend and Guru whom I knew for more than thirty five years.. Aleaz has devoted all his life for the harmony of religions. The theory of Pluralistic Inclusivism represents his sincere efforts to give concrete academic expression to his life’s passion. This article is not a scholarly research in his theology of religions, but a friendly review of his contribution to the theology of religions, but at the same time an attempt to go beyond the essentialism that underlies the theory with the help of postmodernist theories. Wherever I have gone wrong in understanding Aleaz I seek his pardon. I am thankful to the Bishop’s College for asking me to contribute to the Festschrift in honour of Dr. Aleaz..
John Hick is the best known interpreter of religious pluralism. All his major works are republished during the last decade which shows the continuing influence of his writing career which started with the first edition of Faith and Knowledge in 1957. It was reply to Hick’s God and the Universe of Faiths (Macmillan, London, 1973) M. M. Thomas published Man and the Universe of Faiths ( Madras: CSL, 1975). M.M.’s argument has been that “God is not a relevant framework for a situation where the search of all religions as well as secular ideologies are for defining and realizing true humanness in the context of a modern technological society. Our argument in this essay is that Hick’s pluralism is not pluralistic enough. Hick’s theology became popular in India with The Myth of Christian Uniqueness (Orbis, 1987), which he jointly edited with Paul Knitter and the rejoinder to it by Gavin D. Costa’s edited work, Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions (Orbis, 1990)..
Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), who is considered as the "father" of the philosophical movement known as phenomenology, In his Logical Investigations argues that the best way to study the nature of propositional systems is to start with their linguistic manifestations.
Martin Heidegger in his classical work , Being and Time (Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1953, original pub.1927)., emphasized language as the vehicle through which the question of being could be unfolded.
Thomas S. Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1st. ed., Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1962.
Padmashri Prof. M. Anandakrishnan, "Interdisciplinary Approach to knowledge: An Ethical perspective," Key-note Address in the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, 22 July 2008 on the occasion of Festschrift Release Function in honour of Prof. Felix Wilfred).
David Hume , in his philosophical writings, took to showing how ordinary sentences about objects, causal relations, the self, etc., were semantically equivalent to sentences about one’s experiences and these have no objective value outside one’s own world view.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1989-1951) in his early work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) argues that the world consists of independent, simple facts out of which complex ones are constructed. The role of language is simply to state facts by picturing them. Any attempt to find out meaning or relationship of facts by language is nonsensical. In his later work, Philosophical Investigations (posthumously published in 1953) he abandoned the earlier idea that there is in principle a perfect language and language is here seen as a set of social activities, each serving a different kind of purpose, and each language is "language game," governed by its own rules., true only within their own rules. There is no absolute truth beyond the rules of each language.
Hans-Georg Gadamer (1990-2002) was profoundly influenced by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, In his most famous work, Truth and Method published in 1960 he rejected subjectivism and relativism as well as any simple notion of interpretive method. He grounded understanding in tradition mediated by language.
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) developed a strategy called deconstruction which challenges the Western philosophical textual and political traditions. It sought to expose and subvert the various binary oppositions that undergird our dominant ways of thinking. While the search of Descartes' was for a “firm and permanent foundation Derrida’s attempt was to deconstruct any such foundation of unified self ; he negotiated a divisible limit between oneself and ones self as an other. That is , in deconstruction, appearance is more valuable than essence, a reversal of Platonian essentialism. His theoretical frame work is present in his three works published in 1967: Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, and Speech and Phenomena.
George Lindbeck, developed a “cultural-linguistic” approach to theology based on the anthropological studies of Clifford Geertz and the “ language game” of Ludwig Wittgenstein. He wanted to correct what he called the traditional “cognitive-propositionalism,” which holds ecclesial doctrines as propositional truth claims, and modern “experiential-expressivism,” which considers doctrines to be non-discursive expressions of inward experiences or existential orientations. He rejects the attempts of Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan to combine these two traditional approaches . His postliberal theology conceives theology as grammar following Wittgenstein, that enables him to validate the truth claims of different religious traditions as true for themselves accordance with their grammar. The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984) contains his basic arguments for developing a postmodern approach to theology.
William C. Placher , Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation, Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989 .
Mark Heim, Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995.
Mark Heim, “Salvations: A More Pluralistic Hypothesis,” Modern Theology y (10:4 October 1994).

Word and World: Logic of Plurality

“Founded on the Word and Focused on the World” was the theme of the Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam for the Platinum Jubilee year, 2007. I was asked to share my thoughts on the theme on two earlier occasions, at The Gulf Mar Thoma Conference in Bahrain, and at the World Mar Thoma Youth Conference in Kochi. Now I am glad to share my views on the topic in this Jubilee memorial volume. What has first struck me while reflecting on the theme is the relationship between the terms, “word” and “world.” Even though the world has only an additional letter “L” added to “word,” in our general view both are far apart in meaning and implications. Word is Word of God and world is Creation of God. When we start to reflect on these categories we become more aware of the intrinsic relation between the two. Examining their intrinsic relationship will challenge our understanding of God’s relationship to the world and the implications of it for our theology and social practice. Hence I have worded the title as : Word and World: logic of plurality.”
Certain dualism has always governed the thoughts of the Western world and the theology we inherited from the West. The Platonic view that distinguished the world of ideas radically from the world of experience has overshadowed our concepts of God and world as well as our morality, making idea the ideal and events insignificant. The New Testament affirmation that the “Word became flesh” was a radical affirmation of the importance of history in God world relationship. Though the biblical and major Indian philosophical schools were free from the Platonic dualism of matter and form, the Indian Church was not able to articulate its own theology, understanding of God world relationship, independent of the Western categories. Though the Indian Advaitic philosophy has been free from any dualism, its denial of any ultimate significance to the world, made it unable to challenge the social evils like caste system. For thousands of years the sufferings of people under caste system was interpreted as maya or ignorance and never a real problem. In the Aristotelian correction of Platonism the world derived such a significance that the present experience of inequalities and injustices were interpreted as the justice of God in terms of natural theology. The theme, “Founded on the word and focused on the World” should not lead us to think that the Word exists outside the World. The doctrine of Incarnation, “Word becoming flesh” rejects such a view. It must also be remembered that Karl Barth, the renowned theologian of the 20th century, has written a book called, the Humanity in God which affirmed : "It is precisely God's deity which rightly understood includes his humanity." In this article I deal with only one aspect, “Word of God” as presented in the Bible and its relation to the culture and religions of the world as it is one of the most sensitive and volatile area of Word-World relationship. Theologically speaking other areas such as science and technology, economics and societal ideologies are equally significant.
World of God – God’s people in the world
The Bible starts with the affirmation that God has created the world and thus it affirms the integral relation of God and the world. Genesis chapter one has been written against a Babylonian world view after the return of the exiles from Babylon where the elites of Judah were captives. Though the Babylonian religions have influenced the biblical theology in several ways, Biblical writers made it clear that everything God has created is good and there is nothing that is not the creation of God. It is the emphasis of the Bible that God who created the world is involved in the very development of history, directing the world in accordance with the will and purpose of God through individuals and communities, through secular as well as religious institutions. Even the story of Paradise is God’s attempt to rescue human beings from self destruction. God even ensures the safety of Cain so that the human race will continue to go on. In the story of building the tower of Babel God intervenes in human affairs and saves them from their inflated pride which would have led them to total destruction by accumulating unbridled power and knowledge. God’s way of redeeming the accrual of resources and power was by enabling the development of different languages and cultural groups. Through out history God challenges the grouping of communities to build unified world bodies, by challenging individuals and groups to form small communities. Not only Abraham, but Lot, Ishmael and communities like Israel as well as others like Ethiopians, Philistines, Syrians - Arameans (Amos 9:6) were chosen and led by God in their histories and helped them to resist the hegemonic super powers of the period like Assyria or Egypt. God had his people in Salem where Melchizedek priest and King (Genesis 14:18) and in Midian where Jethro Exodus 3:1) was the priest and administrator (Exodus 18). God had appointed Moses to liberate people from the power of the Egyptian Empire and anointed the Cyrus the Persian to be the Messiah of the captives of Babylon (Isaiah 45:1). In Jesus Christ God again selected a small community to be the beacon of God’s work in the world. As Paul has pointed out God’s election of the Church does not mean that God rejected all other people (Romans 11.1) just as the election of Israel never meant rejection of other people. Jesus himself said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold” (John10:16 cf. 11:52). When the early disciples were beginning to settle down in Jerusalem God scattered them to different countries (Acts 11:19). Christian tradition gives evidence to several other such re-groupings of Christians in terms of fellowships and denominations to serve some historical purposes. We need not idealize schisms in church history as inevitable or eternal, however, they have somehow served the purpose of God in the world. Today’s revolutions and liberation movements of people groups could be expressions of human freedom by the exercise of which the purpose of God is fulfilled.

Word of God – Plurality of God’s word
The Greek word used by St. John to refer to the word of God is Logos, which means wisdom, logic and, rationality of God. Many early Christian theologians like Justin the Martyr believed that the universal logos, the word of God, seed of the logos (logos spermatikos), permeated not only the entire universe, but also present in a special way in all intelligent beings, homo sapiens. Justin considered Socrates and other philosophers as Christians before Christ. Therefore, today’s Christians need to reaffirm the presence of God in all creation and we need to be humble when we claim to be Christians, following the will of God, so as not to make monopolist claims to the word of God. We need to find the spark of God in all people and all creation. Therefore, pluralism needs to be interpreted in terms of plurality which is a universal experience, not that the truth is universal, but rather plurality of truth is universal. So plurality is the universal truth, that is, each person is different, time is different, experience is different. Thus religions have their own independent meaning and validity and the mission of the church need to be refocused to the needs of people, to free them from the demons that enslave people, in the form of ignorance, poverty, cruelty, violence and not to convert them to what we believe. Conversion needs to be a conversion towards God and not to the different denominational and selfish spirit that tarnishes all our mission enterprises. One of the Christian responsibility in today’s world is a refocusing of the mission of the Church to the needs of the people, not to our own defective understanding of God’s purpose of the world.
Word or Logos is not monolithic. Word is a combination of many sound bits; logos is the rationale behind the thought process. Whether the ancient Vedic concept of OM or the Greek concept of Logos, or the Hebrew concept of Dabar (Word), all refer to the expression of what is thought, the meaning of experience of our existence. It is the logic of thought , purpose and action, a sign and symbol. Word is symbol of consistent deliberation and experience. Bible says, God spoke to Godself: Let there be … Let us make humankind in our own image, male and female…(Genesis 1:26-7). God’s name is given in Genesis 1 is in plural form: Elohim. One who got many names is our God. And people have the right to know God in many names. If the Hebrews understood God as the Lord of their future, other people can know God in one of the many names. The name Yahweh was unknown to the earliest generations (Gen 4:20; 6:3) Jesus is the name of that God and Lord in the New Testament. The Christian affirmation of Jesus as God and Lord has made it necessary for the Church to accept Godhead as Trinity, not as monarchy. Christians have to witness to this Trinity of Godhead with full conviction; then only our mission will be saved from the arbitrary monopoly of authoritarianism and monotheistic absolutism, against which the early Church fought so fiercely. Trinity is the safeguard for the plurality of God which makes plurality the truth of everything. Any kind of absolutism in the name of God, religion or ideologies is rejected by the doctrine of Trinity . Modern researches in quantum physics as well as astrophysics make it clear that plurality is the basic structure of the atom as well as the megaverse, viewed in terms of Super strings or the star dust-cloud. The very life itself has been conceived as a wonderful combination of different elements.
Plurality of languages, culture and Religions
There are many languages in the world and we consider them as a blessing for the particular expression of our identity and culture. In the same way we need to consider the existence of other religions. Religion is an integral part of culture and culture is what we cultivate and both culture and religion need to be reformed, refined for the benefit of each community. God in the Bible is involved in such a reformation of religion and societies. The religion in which we have grown up means so much to us. Any forcible intrusion upon our language and culture will be naturally resisted, similar is the case with religions. We need to be open to new languages as well as to religions, that will only increase our horizon and lead us to an appreciation of God’s glory in human creativity and imagination. If we are not open to other religions and if we do not like other religions to be preached to us how can we expect other people to be open to our preaching. Jesus taught us: “In everything do to others as would have them to do to you: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Christian mission is not preaching a new religion. It is to help people to understand all religions better in its spiritual nature, so that they may be open to human needs, human rights: Christian message is, religion is for humans. Christian mission is a secular mission. Spirituality after all is ability to transcend one’s selfish nature, freedom from egoism. We need not conflict with other religionists on account of changing their religions. True conversion is true self realization, transformation of mind. It is nothing to be forced upon people.
Each language has its own rules. People from one culture many not understand another culture or language as the rules of grammar differ from one another. Unless we are willing to learn the rules and grammar of another language we will not properly understand that language or the mind of the people. Similarly religions also need to be respectfully approached and patiently studied. In the past many languages and cultures of people are destroyed by more powerful language and culture groups. This cultural violence has deprived the world of so many gifts carried by those cultures and destroyed the identity of people. Such cultural gifts are very much valued by God and accepted in the “City of God” as envisioned by St. John in the book of Revelation (Rev. 21:24). Similarly many missionary religions have destroyed the culture and religions of many weak cultures because they falsely believed that they thus would bring glory to God; they failed to know that they have in fact made irreparable loss to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God belongs to the least and the lost. So one of the responsibilities of the modern Christians is to participate in God’s mission to restore all the lost heritages of humanity. Our mission is not destruction of the religious and cultural heritage of people but revealing the universal logos present in all cultures and religions and disciple them in the truth of the Gospel.
The Gospel of God in Jesus compels us to “Go out into the world and make all people my disciples,” that is, to gather “the dispersed children of God in all nations (John 11:52). The Church many a time misunderstood the meaning of the preaching of the gospel to bring together people in all nations, into something of an imperial programme of conquest and annexation. God’s invitation to all people was modified to something of a necessary mandate that can be resisted only at the peril of eternal damnation thus making the freedom God has given human beings to nothing; God’s loving act was changed to divine wrath and punishment; the message of the cross, love and forgiveness, was deprived of its meaning. Various Christian denominations began to understand mission as a colonial mandate to add members to its own community by destroying other national communities or even the disciples of Christ in other folds. In the world history much blood has been shed, much treachery has been played, by different Christian groups against one another. Even in the early centuries there were excommunications and banishments of Christian leaders and communities who lost the fight by those who won the doctrinal battles under the protégé of the political authorities. Church history would give ample evidence of the persecuted Christian groups in Palestine, Syria and North Africa inviting the Muslim rulers to come and protect them from their Christian masters. In the history of the Kerala Church the “Coonan Cross” in Kochi gives evidence for the struggles of the local Christians to protect themselves against the onslaught of other Christians who have pressurized them to leave their traditional faith with the help of foreign powers. The story still continues in other forms with independent preachers armed with tons of money predating the traditional churches, as well as national communities. The Christian Church today is in need of a re-understanding the purpose of God in the creation of the world and the role of the Christian Church in the execution of Divine plan in the world. In our relations to other religious communities the Christian denominations share the view that all religions should ultimately be destroyed for the glory of God. This is a defective theology. All religions need not be destroyed rather need to be redeemed in Christ including Christianity.
The world has to be seen as a process, a journey, towards an unending future, aided by God in its struggles for freedom, through divine interference in historical events and the life of the individuals. World history should not be interpreted as a journey to one world, one religion, one government, rather it must be viewed as a journey to future to discover the development of all people, to the birth of new communities so that emerging aspirations can find their fulfillment in new earth communities no one would “hurt or destroy” another “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah:11:9). The prophetic vision of people in the new communities is that they “shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees and no one shall make them afraid” Micah 4:4). Isaiah (19:24) conceives of a time when God makes Israel, who believed that they are chosen by God to be “a blessing in the midst of the earth,” by making them (God’s heritage) the third with Egypt (God’s people), and Assyria (the work of God’s hand). Bible does not conceive a single religion or culture as the ideal one. A world with a monolithic culture and religion or government would be unbearable to humanity. One should see different religions and cultures to be a blessing to keep human life human and free. A truly divine community or person is one that makes others blessed first and accepts a lower or third position for oneself. The desire to be the first and foremost is not to be considered as Christian vision. To make disciples of all nations is not demanding the destruction of them rather to work for the enrichment of their life with the values of the Gospel, making religion (Sabbath) for humans and not humans for religion. The mission of the church is to follow the life and ministry of Jesus wherever people are in need.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Book Review --Y. T. Vinaya Raj. Re-imagining Dalit Theology - Postmodern Readings.


Even though the book is only less than 100 pages, it is rich and solid in its contents. The attempt of the author is to construct an Indian Christian theology based on Dalit experiences along postmodern lines. Vinaya Raj views caste as an epistemological problem. Caste as an episteme positions Dalits in a “subordinate” social status and renders them as “lesser human beings.” The category, Dalit, is interpreted as epistemological, political and plurivocal discourses He reexamines the classical Indian Christian theology which is heavily biased towards Brahministic ideology. Vinaya Raj devlops his theme analyzing the stories of Kerala Dalit leaders like Habel (Daivathan), the first Dalit Christian convert in Central Travancore, Poikayil Kumara Gurudevan (Yohannan) who declined his membership in the Mar Thoma Church to start his own Dalit movement, Pratyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha (Church of God of Realized Salvation). Kumara Gurudevan developed alternate liturgical traditions against the casteist liturgies of the traditional Christian communities. . Vinaya Raj finally engages in a Dalit hermeneutics which would foster an “embodied spirituality” against the prevailing spirituality which neglected the significance of the body in human spirituality.

Dr. Sanal Mohan, Profesor at the School of social Sciences of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, wrote a Forward and Rev. Sunny George has contributed an introductory study note. Both of them place the book in the context of Postmodernism. Sanal Mohan in his forward wrote that the use of postmodern theories have enabled the author “to identify the liberatory aspects of Dalit histories or narratives of life worlds.” Sanal Mohan highlights the contribnution of Vinaya Raj in rejecting the essentialist notions of identity and his attempts to construct an identity through discursive formation, through its historical, sociological , linguistic and cultural discourses. He observes that the Dalit body is “in a position to transgress the restrictions imposed” upon it and “to transform itself in a radically different manner which enables it to enter into the new social body” (pp. 9-10).

There are some striking observations Vinaya Raj makes: “Dalit,” for him is not a caste category, as conceived by majority of the scholars; He observes that it is a category through which the “Dalits reject the notions of caste and its formation of casteist subjectivity. It is a category by which Dalits envision a renewed social status and social space” (p.25). Making use of of the post modernist theories of Steven Seidman he argues that “Dalit” is contested knowledge category which rejects the dominant Brahminic epistemology which conceives knowledge as “situated in the soul and disseminated through ritualistic practices”(27). His main thesis is that the dominant epistemologies rejects the role of body in the knowledge system. For him body becomes the hermeneutical tool of Dalit theology. The reconstructed Dalit body can only transform the Indian social body by shedding its casteist constrictions and thus Dalits can serve as the platform for a dialogical pluriform social existence.

Vinaya Raj is very critical of the traditional Indian Christian theology which has been built upon the modern colonialist frame work. He challenges the Dalit theologians to go beyond the modernist paradigm and carve out a new identity, not in terms of the binary “other,” but as “contested knowledge” (Steven Seidman) or in terms of what Michel Foucault identified as the subjugated “low ranking knowledges.” The discursive formation of the new Dalit subjectivity through the open ended historical , social economic process can create new languages, meaning systems and social and cultural capitals.

Vinay Raj is not very sympathetic to the Marxist categories which are modernsit and essentialist which make people the object of the social process. Rather, he conceives, following Anthony Giddens, Dalits as a social agency establishing a discursive consciousness through the life process. Dalit identity is not a fixed identity, In fact there is no such fixed identity anywhere. However the dominant epistemologies place the marginalized groups in binary categories with fixed secondary status in relation to the dominant ones. Vinay Raj’s attempt is to destroy this basic methodological flaw that infests the major traditions which push Dalits to the margins of society. He is very much indebted to Derrida’s deconstructionist model in developing his Dalit biblical hermeneutics. Dalit reading of the Bible is not simply reading of the text, but reading of themselves. Derrida’s theory of deconstruction helps him to discern the power play behind the construction of meanings. Dalits, for him, constitute a social agency and social space. As a political discourse it provides for the Dalits the “possibility of determining themselves” (28).

The final essay in this book envisions an embodied spirituality. for the author, “spirituality is fundamentally a relational and communal commitment” (67). In Dalit spirituality body becomes the locus
and anti-caste social practice becomes an act of worship and forms its liturgy. Vinay Raj writes: “Labouring in the land, ffor Dalits, is participation in the divine intention of creation” (68). Modernity desacralized nature, marginalized people who lived in a symbiotic relationship with nature and ridiculed their knowledge as irrational and unscientific. What the author tries to do is to reverse this “disenchantment” and cultivate a spirituality of “re-enchantment.”

The author’s attempt to develop a Dalit theological methodology making use of the postmodern theories is commendable. The author needs to weigh carefully the different shades of postmodernism and consider the possibility of these theories being replaced by other theories. However, the attempt to keep theology relevant to the context is to be appreciated.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bachelor of Christian Studies Contact Classes in Chennai

Bachelor of Christian Studies Contact Seminars were held at ICSA, Egmore, from July 7 to 11, 2008. The new Dean of the Serampore Senate Extension Programme, Dr. Wati Longchar, organised the programme. He visited Gurukul also. Facutly memebers from Gurukul and Madras Theological Smeniary Chennai, UTC, Bangalore and ACTC, Hyderabad acted as resource persons. Dr. Merci Rani who was in Gurukul for her M.Th and Ph. D. studies and now a faculty member at MTS also was a resource person. About 40 students in four batches attended the classes. Most of them came from secular fields -- one person was an MS in Neurosurgery, two were university professors, others were teachers, IT professionals, missionaries and house wives. They mainly joined this programme to get some deeper understanding of Christian faith and the degree they would get will of course qualify them to effectively participate in the Church's ministry along with their secular jobs.

Wati Longchar took charge as the Dean of the Senate Centre for Extension and the Pasotral Theological Research (SCEPTRE) after serving the Eastern Theological College, Jorhat, Assam for several years. He was also the Asia_Pacific Consultant for Ecumenical Theology, a joint programme (now defunct) of the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches.

Longchar took over the charge of the SCEPTRE programme from Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad who joined the Mizo Theological Seminary at Aizwal as its Principal. Dr. Gaikwad did a remarkable job in popularizing and effectively conducting the programmes.

SCEPTRE offers various diploma and degree programmes like Dip.C.S. (Diploma in Christian Studies) B.C.S.(Bachelor of Christian Studies) and D. Min. (Doctor of Ministry). B.C.S. is a four year graduate programme. The students can register for this course through a a seminary or college which offers this course or they can register directly with Dean of Extension Programme at SCEPTRE (Shrachi Centre,74B,AJC Bose Road, Kolkata 700016). Now Dr. M.T. Cherian, an alumnae of Gurukul, is serving as the Administrative Assistant of SCEPTRE. Contact classes are usually conducted in four centres in the North and South India every year. In the South contact lasses are held in Chennai and Kottayam. There are about 800 students enrolled at present. This year alone around 200 students joined the programme. Any one who has a basic degree from a recognized university is academically for admission.

B.C.S. Programme was started in 2001. The BD Syllabus was followed then with out the Biblical language requirement. The new syllabus was introduced in 2004.
One of the problem the students face with regard to all the extension programmes is difficulty to get adequate study materials. Many of them have no access to a theological library. The Senate has prepared a study book containing articles collected from various sources. It needs to be revised and tailored to suite the needs of the students since many of them are working people and they need handy and reliable materials. Syllabus also needs to be revised so as to meet both the ministerial needs as well as the academic interests of the students. Some of them would like to pursue advanced studies. Also the present evaluation system needs to revamped with focus more on assignments than examinations. The reading materials need to be made available in the Serampore website. There are some sites which student can browse for materials, like www.ntgateway.com; jtfa.blogspot.com; jtpwc.blogspot.com. We need to produce more internet materials that meet the Serampore academic requirements. For related views see: Theologia Viatorum: Theological Education

Monday, July 7, 2008

Commentary: Letter to Galatians

Indian Bible Commentary

Paul’s Letter to Galatians

Introduction

Book of Galatians has profoundly influenced Christian history. It is considered the "the Magna Carta" of Christian freedom. The epistle to Galatians pictures the early church's struggles to free itself from the so called "Judaizers" who would have made the Christian Church a Jewish sect had they been successful. The Judaizing faction, based in Jerusalem, had their missionaries sent to Pauline congregations to teach them the necessity of observing the Mosaic law for their salvation. They had the support from the Jerusalem Church headed by James, brother of Jesus Christ. Even Peter and Barnabas were misguided by their arguments and stopped eating with Paul's gentile converts. Paul defended the freedom and equality of the gentiles and argued that no law is applicable to them for their salvation as they are justified by faith in the Christ of God. The Judaizers on their turn attacked the authenticity of Paul’s apostleship. In the letter to the Galatians Paul defends his credentials as a true apostle of Jesus Christ and upholds that the freedom the gentiles enjoy is on account of their faith in Christ and not based on any observance of rituals or the Law. In discussing his theological position with regard to the Gospel of God in Christ Paul touches upon the equality of races and genders well as the significance of religious traditions like Judaism. The major themes selected for study in this article are the meaning of Gospel, importance of faith for salvation, meaning of God's promise or covenant, place of non Christian traditions in relation to Christian faith, the question of circumcision and baptism, and human freedom. To continue readingAlemmax: Indian Bible Commentary Paul’s Letter to Galatians

Challenge of Nonfoundationalism to Indian Christian Theology

Challenge of Nonfoundationalism to Indian Christian Theology

T. Jacob Thomas

Introduction
The basic nonfoundationalist position is that there are no fixed or absolute universal foundations for knowledge. Knowledge exists in particular cultural and linguistic communities and such knowledge does not need any validation from out side its community. The nonfoundationalist approach would help us to think about reality in a different way, not in fixed categories but in an interconnected, independent web of existence. With regard to theology of religions nonfoundationalism can justify the truth claims of different religions and make religions coexist in a galactic world, rejecting a monistic and centred world. It can also provide sufficient strategical validity to contextual theologies in India like Dalit or tribal theology in their struggle to find a place in the vast spectrum of knowledge formations. To continue reading go to Challenge of Nonfoundationalism to Indian Christian Theology

Friday, July 4, 2008

Theological Education

Senate of Serampore College (University) is revising its curriculum. It has conducted several seminars and consultations in different parts of India inviting academicians and church leaders. Theological education in India needs serious re-thinking. Primarily we need to be clear about the aims and objectives of theological education in the Indian Context.

First, we need to start with defining the Indian cultural context.
Who is an Indian is question raised by several national leaders. For a long time India was claimed by the Brahmins as Aryavarta, the land of the Aryans. Historically the land was occupied by indigenous people now called adivasis and dalits, most possibly, belonging to the Dravidian family. The Aryans occupied the land surrounding the Indus River and farther to south and east. The people of the land, the Indus Valley people had to flee their cities or surrender to the invaders. Those who escaped the Aryans found their shelter in far away hills while the fertile valleys were occupied by the Aryans. Those who were conquered by the Aryans were forced to slavery and kept outside the caste hierarchy, the Varnasrama Dharma, and were treated as outcastes and untouchables, and became Dalits, broken and crushed people. The north-eastern part of Indian subcontinent belonged to the Mongoloid people of various tribes and newer groups from Mongolia and China traveled to this area during different periods of time. Thus the present day India has become a land of composite people groups and culture - that of the adivasis and the dalits, the Dravidians, the Aryans and the Mongoloids. The composite population Of India are the real Indians and the composite culture of India is the Indian culture. There were several attempts to hijack the Indian culture by the Guptas and later by the Mughals. The colonial powers from the West also tried to establish their culture through the introduction of western education and colonial systems. Indian Christian theologian should start with identifying various colonial forces that claim Indian soul and need to articulate the presence of God in India by analyzing the various trajectories that shape the cultural anthropological world of India. In other words, cultural anthropology must be a primary focus of theological education, so as to clarify the identity of the Indian Christian as the heir of this composite culture.



Second, we need to aim at defining the socio-economic political context of contemporary India. Indian Christian Theology needs to search the meaning of God, not only in the composite culture which is being continuously evolved on account of its interaction with contemporary scientific, technological and market forces but also in the context of the the effects and affects of these forces upon the life and faith of the people of India. The theological curriculum should address the challenges raised by the impact of contemporary global forces upon the Indian context: the increasing marginalization of a large number of people, especially those who belong to the adivasi and dalit communities. That is, a socio-economic analysis must become part of the curriculum, so that students of theology should get a focus for their theological education.

Third, the religiously pluralistic context of India need to be understood and theologically interpreted. Traditional Hinduism certainly plays a bigger part in defining the spirituality of Indians. However, that is not the only spiritual influence in India. We have theistic as well as non-theistic spiritual traditions as well as contemporary secular ideologies that define or redefine our spirituality. Therefore, the curriculum should address the spiritual-ideological forces in India, so that the Christians in India will be equipped to tackle the challenges of conservative, fundamentalist, communalist casteist forces in India.

Fourth, the Church in India is not only the product of western missionary movement. There exists a rich tradition spanning from the arrival of St. Thomas and his travels to different parts of South India. Hence, one of the aims of theological education in India must be to understand the dynamics of the traditional Christianity as well as the missionary movements.Christianity in India is not a foreign religion as it is made out to be by some quarters. For a strong grounding of Indian Christian theology, the theological students in India need to be exposed to the factors that strengthen or destroy the faith and witness of Christians in the caste cultural background of India.

Fifth, theological education should aim at developing original forms of ecclesiology and spirituality, relevant to the modern Indian context. Many Indian Christian theologians have attempted at a critique of the existing forms of Indian Church and envisioned a non-hierarchical ashram-type, liberative, and open Church models which can do justice to the aspiration of people for equality and freedom. The western, hierarchical clerical model is neither liberative nor conducive to the dissemination of the good news of Jesus in India. Theological communities must encourage experimenting with newer forms churches which can overcome the caste, denominational and religious boundaries and can accept people of different persuasions. The church in India do not need rigid boundaries that prevent people traffic from one community to another. Churches need to be educated to accept believers outside the four walls of the Church as genuine Christians and strengthen their spirituality by giving them the right hand of fellowship. Believers outside the denominational and baptismal boundaries need to be acknowledged and encouraged in their search for meaning and newer forms of spirituality.

Sixth, we should aim at developing a new missiology that is committed to the mission of Christ in making people free from all kinds of enslaving powers of religion, language and culture that threaten their given human rights. The Church should be a place where people find a liberating God and empowering spirituality, and not one entertaining number games and proselytization.

Seventh, the curriculum should be aimed at developing a relevant hermeneutics for India. A re-reading of the scriptural texts of all traditions, inter-textual hermeneutics, need to be encouraged. Western critical methods have their positive contribution in understanding the process of the formulation of scriptural texts, but they are wanting in nurturing the spirituality of the people. Indian hermeneutical questions need not be limited to epistemology but need to be open to the emotional, psychological needs of the readers.This may not be possible within the existing departmental structures of theological systems. New inter-religious departments for World Peace, Ecology (Green Theology), Human Rights and Justice, Food Security and Viable Energy need to be introduced in order to address the life threatening challenges of the contemporary world. Such common human concerns cannot be tackled by one religion or spiritual tradition in the multireligious context of the world, especially like that of India.


Eight, theology should encourage the development of new inter-religious texts and inter-cultural myths that can address the postmodern aspirations of the people. There should be a dynamic encounter with new forms of knowledge as well as the the hither to unexamined oral traditions of people. New forms of spirituality and orality need to be encouraged in order to overcome intellectual ghettoism and colonial adherence to Western modularity. Postmodern, postcolonial, postfoundational texts need to be produced to meet the spiritual needs of the contemporary world.

Nine, the curriculum should encourage new searches of truth; courses need to be open ended; teachers and students need to be permitted to explore and experiment with new courses of study.The churches need to be educated about the need of academic freedom in seminaries. Periodical assessment of the relevance and feasibility of the courses must be held. Several of the present courses are outdated and must be removed from the syllabus.

Ten, the early church's concept of theology as sapientia (saving knowledge) must be reinstated. Brahma jijnasa of Sankara, the role imagination and intuition (thuria) as well as the oral traditions of Adivasis and the Dalits need to be acknowledged and incorporated into the structure of the theological curriculum. We need to bring together various avenues of human prowess to serve the creation of God in the world,promoting life and peace among all the organisms of the universe, which is the ultimate purpose of any theological education.