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Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks

by D. D. Pani

T he Western Missionary Movement (WMM), in its zeal to

impact India for Christ, has inadvertently placed unnecessary obstacles in
front of the gospel, tripping up many who might otherwise have sincerely
sought Him, and turning away far more than have been reached. One
high caste Hindu (who was eventually able to turn to Christ) has traced these
obstacles to the fact that members of the WMM:
[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. … Because of this … all the arduous labors of expansion by
a humane Christendom were frustrated beyond measure and the impact of
Western Christendom in its religious terms remained quite limited.1

Yet the labors of the WMM have not been in vain. It has been observed that
due to their great efforts, “most Indians accept Christ as the greatest manifesta-
tion of redemptive love.”1 However, because of the many ways the WMM
has violated the culture of India, most have been prevented from personally
embracing Him. The Indian Church (the major offspring of the WMM) has
for the most part continued in the example set before it and has itself become a
major source of hindrance to the Hindu in his search for the true God.
Dr. D. D. Pani is an associate Consequently, the gospel is currently advancing far more slowly than it should
of the Institute of Hindu Studies in India. Several major reasons exist, the most significant perhaps being the
(USCWM). He is the author failure of the western effort over the last three centuries to properly engage the
of one textbook and a large
culture of India. Rather than unleash the power of the gospel on the Hindu
number of international journal
articles. During parts of the establishment, the missionary movement has helped to re-ignite, reform and
last three decades, Dr. Pani revitalize Hinduism. Incredible as it may seem, while seeking to free India’s
has spent considerable time in masses through the regenerating power of the gospel, this movement has actu-
India. Though he and his ally strengthened the grip of Hinduism on the hearts of many.
wife are currently residents of
During the 20th century, various elements of the 19th century Hindu renais-
Pennsylvania, he continues to
travel extensively in the Indian sance movement evolved into militant forms of Hinduism. And these fanatical
subcontinent. brands of Hinduism have merged into the most powerful political force in the country today.

International Journal of Frontier Missions 18:1 Spring 2001

24 Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks
Under their rule, there has been a Western Christian influence, to make generations also carried with it an air of
significant rise in the persecution of these same changes. self-believed cultural superiority.2 Only
Christians. Most recently this force has rarely did Western missionaries truly
At present, the West’s greatest need for
begun to mount an extensive and sys- seek to meaningfully engage the culture.
wisdom lies in how it should deal with
tematic effort to eradicate what is left Furthermore, except for the fact that
the issue of the repression of minorities
of the WMM (along with most all non- its “air of superiority” stems more
in India. We (the West) also need to see
technical Western influence). It is also exclusively from its pride in coming
and understand the unnecessary offenses
now seeking to minimize the Indian from more technically and materially
caused by our past and present actions.
Christian Church. advanced cultures from those found in
During my second tenure in India, I India, the current generation of mis-
For all its failures, the Western mission-
identified five of the gospel stumbling sionaries is no different. To the sensitive
ary effort in India has been herculean,
blocks facing the Hindu, obstacles that Hindu, these attitudes neutralize the
involving immense human energy and
still remain nearly invisible to the “demonstration” effort of the WMM
sacrifice on the part of many. The
Western eye. Many (including a number and almost totally negate the Gospel.
vast majority of these missionaries have
of non-believing Hindus) have written Such attitudes have also stifled the will-
been extremely sincere and have left
on the various problems associated with ingness of many Hindu intellectuals
behind much better material lives in
the missionary effort in India and made to engage in dialogue with Western
order to obey their callings. In most all
valid lists of items offensive to the Christianity. Thus, this arrogant
cases, they ministered in the ways they
Hindu. We would do well to study these Western mindset has been and is one of
thought best. Many suffered great loss,
works and humbly learn from them. greatest barricades to the Gospel in the
yet continued undeterred. Most, if they
Hindu world.
could have recognized their actions as However, it is not my intent here to
a source of stumbling, would have been attempt to summarize even a small por- It is amazing to me the number
horrified and would have immediately tion of these works. Instead, I want of Indians who have gone through
chosen to change. to unveil just three particularly serious Christian schools (both Protestant and
stumbling blocks that are not so easy Catholic) without seriously considering
It is not our place here to judge these
to discern and to explore (in somewhat Christ. It is also amazing how little it
great people of the past. Instead, for a
limited detail) their origins. takes to discredit one’s witness in this
better future, we must learn from the
culture. One small display of anger—no
Hindu reactions to the passionate but
culturally flawed efforts of the WMM.
I. The Problem of matter how justified—will terminate
one’s witness, irrespective of the degree
Even today, the Western eye cannot Superiority of Culture of demonstration that preceded the dis-
easily see many of the obstructions that Whereas in Paul’s time, the Jews
play. In such anger the Hindu sees arro-
have been created, as these impediments were best reached through signs—and
gance (in the form of putting down the
flow naturally out of subtle but fatal the Greeks through logic—the Hindu
god-hood of another).
flaws in Western culture itself and in world was (and still is) most influenced
Western Christendom in particular. by demonstration with humility. The advance of the Gospel is signif-
Though admired worldwide for his gen- icantly threatened by those who have
India today is a nation in great tension. eral attribute of tolerance, the Indian been preconditioned to believe in the
Though a form of stability remains for Hindu has little-to-none for arrogance. superiority (and universality) of the
now, many strong forces are at work that
Western form of Christianity and in
could at any time cause the situation Since the Portuguese, there has certainly
the relative inferiority of Indian culture.
to rapidly decline into anarchy. More been much demonstration of Christ in
Unfortunately, this includes not only
than ever before the WMM and the India by the modern West. Sadly this
most of India’s missionary forces (both
Christian West must strive to be more demonstration has been accompanied
Western and Indian) but also the bulk
sensitive to Hindu culture so that they by attitudes of narrow-mindedness and
of the Indian Church. By listening to
can act wisely in their future dealings lack of teachableness. These attitudes
those who advocate such demeaning
with India. To accomplish this, we need extend not only to the various Hindu
views, the West continues in its cultural
a set of major paradigm shifts. Similarly, philosophies and religions, but to
bias. Tragically, most of these spokesmen
the Indian Church must be encouraged, Hindu culture itself. Thriving in the
were then—and are now—unable to
through the remaining channels of wake of imperialism, the bulk of the
distinguish between Hindu culture and
Western missionary effort of earlier
International Journal of Frontier Missions
D. D. Pani 25

Hindu religion. As a result, Hindu cul- the rights of the younger ones. I did to radiate his personality, I had created
ture is viewed as evil, because the Hindu not however repeat their “injustice” by a negative witness.
religion does not bring salvation. chasing them off. My son watched and
A great tragedy today is that much of
then listened in the local language to the
the WMM work (both past and cur-
II. The Problem of Rights discussions that followed among these
rent) among low caste and no-caste
and Rebellion older boys. Some greatly appreciated
Hindus represents “rebellion move-
After I had spent two and a half years my chastening and further admonished
ments” against the Hindu social order.
serving professionally at an institution the others, but most felt that the little
Both the Western “protest” mentality
in India, a very perceptive friend and co- children were not important and main-
(which in the West has made
laborer told me why I was not having tained their privilege to chase them
Protestantism itself a movement that
a greater impact in the Hindu commu- off. Their beliefs followed from the cul-
cannot be united) and Western imperi-
nity. He related it to the attitudes this ture of the home life that had reared
alistic attitudes have worked together—
community could see in my eleven year- them—as did my son’s.
and are still working together—to build
old son. Until the 14th century, the personal a Church in India that is “liberated”
At first I was taken aback, but I rights of the common Western from Hindu society. In some cases
listened and strained hard to understand European and common Indian alike directly and in other cases indirectly
without being defensive. My son was were still heavily subjugated to the (unintentionally), Indian Christians are
well behaved and a very good student. needs of the community. Thus, the taught to abhor Hindu culture and to treat
He was well immersed in the activities individuality and personal creativity with contempt what is considered to be
and social life of this community, as were of most remained greatly suppressed. the normal social order.
my wife and I. But because of the culture Soon, however, the combined and
Providing “liberation” is sometimes jus-
of my home, he had become an intense interactive energies of the European
tified based on a belief in the injustice
individual and his strength of personality Enlightenment and the Protestant
of the oppressive control and exploita-
“exuded” from him. And this, my friend Reformation set in motion forces that
tion of the lower castes by the higher.
explained to me, was the problem. began to “liberate” the individual in
There is no denying that the caste
Europe. In the West, the pendulum
In Indian culture, children normally system is unjust and exploitative. The
began to swing from the priority of
remain very docile in the presence of lower class peoples are being subjected
community (in moderating one’s own
adults and exhibit little personality in to much injustice. However, this justifi-
actions) to that of the individual (i.e.,
the presence of youth even just slightly cation is in no way in line with the
from what is best for the whole to what
older than themselves. In the company spirit of the early Gentile church.
is best for the part). For a time, this
of adults they behave as if they have Here is where the dogmatism of the
brought balance, and was accompanied
no rights and are very submissive to Western Church and the reactive nature
by rapid advances in Western culture.
the unspoken social pecking order. On of the Protestant movement make it
the other hand, I had taught my son Currently in the West the pendulum extremely hard for the preconditioned
(through the way he saw me react has swung to a new and far more dan- Western Protestant missionary to exer-
to others in the society) to respect gerous extreme. Yet in India (despite cise wisdom. For both similar and dif-
those who proved themselves worthy of the invasion of values from the secular ferent reasons, the same is true to for
respect—and to express his personality. West, community) what is best for the Roman Catholic missionary.
the whole still moderates most of
In Indian culture age, position, caste and The oppressed of the early church were
the actions of individuals, even in
gender form the basis for respect. When taught by their leaders to accept suffer-
the major metropolitan centers. The
a boy one year older than my son was ing and loss at the hands of the culture
vast majority of Indian minds are still
bullying him because of his “seniority,” I (and its norms) for the sake of their
shocked by the rebellion of an indi-
taught my son to stand up for himself. faith and witness. The early church
vidual (or group of individuals) against
Once, my son and his friends were play- did not challenge many of the evil prac-
the social order, because such behavior
ing cricket when a group of older boys tices of the day (such as slavery) but
is out-of-sync with community. What
chased them off the field and began to taught its followers to be pro-active
they would see as rebellion, we in the
play. Upon learning this, I went and when trapped in such oppressive cir-
West would see as the expression of
rebuked these boys for not respecting cumstances. The real power of their
individuality. Through training my son
witness lay in their radiance in the face
18:1 Spring 2001
26 Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks
of unjust suffering; this was the cutting people) is losing the war (involving the III. The Problem of
edge of their witness. Martyrdom was vast majority).
common and persecution and oppres- Control
In some regions in Northern and When I first came to India, I didn’t
sion were the norm for many in various
Central India, where larger pockets of immediately mix with many Western
parts of the early Church.
low caste and no castes have been missionaries, because I wanted to form
Focusing on their great status as chil- enticed to the gospel through the independent opinions of the culture.
dren and heirs of the creator God, they free provision of money and com- However, I did seek some associations.
were thus free to give up their rights modities (and liberation tactics), the The one I became most fond of was
for the sake of their witness. They regions themselves have become polar- an individual about my father’s age.
could choose with joy to be true fol- ized against the gospel. Even many Over the next several years I came to
lowers of a Master who “like a lamb from the same social status as those appreciate this man’s great vision and
that is led to slaughter…. did not open being liberated are sickened at seeing burden for India. During his tenure—
His mouth.” their own kind separating from and and with almost no Western financial
defying the social order under the influ- support—he had raised up one of the
In contrast, the liberation effort in
ence of foreigners (or South Indians). finest Christian institutions of its kind
India today is reactive (rather than pro-
Of equal concern is the faith response in the country.
active) and is resulting in the polariza-
of those being “won” under such cir-
tion of Christians and Hindus. What However, as my years of association
cumstances. Most are responses to a
the community-oriented Hindu sees with this good friend continued, I
soft gospel. Such a faith beginning does
as “the social order,” the reactive and became convinced that he should have
not often lead to deep commitment.
rights-oriented Protestant (and Roman retired much earlier. In time I con-
Catholic) sees as “subjugation and des- In a land of one billion, mostly without cluded that his retirement was more
potism.” What the Hindu sees as Christ, the progress of the Gospel than ten years overdue. For the sake of
assisting in “rebellion,” the Western needs to be accelerated, not hindered. her health, his wife had left the field
and Indian missionary sees as assisting There is a need both to consider an many years before to prepare for their
in “liberation.” Because of the present overall strategy that is appropriate and retirement. I became unsettled when I
day Western Protestant and Roman sensitive to the masses, and to subjugate finally realized that he was never going
Catholic rights-orientation, submitting these “short cut agendas” (that can so to join her. Despite a generation differ-
with joy to unjust oppression is not effectively win the few for the glory of ence in age, I began to gently probe this
a viable or even possible option. the WMM) to “reason” for the good of concern with my friend. Eventually, I
Consequently, in the face of the whole. Because utopia is not for this realized two things. The first was that
persecution in India today, Bishops life, the early church was focused on the he could never let go of the institution
protest and Christians march. liberation of the soul, not the exercise of he has raised up; the second was why.
Meanwhile the Western Christian personal rights. In their spirit of humil-
community attempts to exert forms of ity, the Roman Empire was rapidly con- Besides being a typical Western con-
external pressure. quered for Christ. trol-freak, he had raised up an institute
that required a Western administrator
The Hindu, who might have become Although we could, we will not take to keep it going. It was a Western insti-
a seeker, becomes permanently turned time now to consider the degrading tution running on Western principles.
off upon seeing such displays. When effects of the problem of rights and Though he’d already hired a series of
Western intrusions turn small pockets rebellion on the effectiveness of the Indian administrators to make the insti-
of the lower castes against the ancient Western Church in reaching the West tution “look” Indian-run, he still had to
order, the high-caste peoples of a itself. I’ll simply state that, in part remain on site (behind-the-scenes) to
region become appalled. While tem- because of this very problem, the ensure its function. Though a man of
porary strides are perhaps being made Western Church (though it is not yet great faith and commitment, he knew
among those groups being “liberated” ready to admit so) has lost its cutting deep inside that soon after he perma-
by the WMM, the progress of the edge in its home terrain. nently left the scene his work would
Gospel is being impeded overall. The begin to decay.
expense of winning these intermediate
battles (with these small pockets of His institution was bearing much fruit.
But to me it became a symbol and mon-

International Journal of Frontier Missions

D. D. Pani 27
ument of the failed strategies of the pre- reducing one’s attachments to desired However, despite all the noise about
vious generations. Such strategies have outcomes. In the Western Christian contextualization and Church planting,
resulted in dead-end institutions that system, the focus (despite the rhetoric) I continue to see new ministries spring-
can neither be sustained nor replicated. is really on self-expectations. Further, ing up that are operating from Western
These only enhance addition (rather than in the Western system, the burden for motivations. From the reference point
multiplication) in a country which now sees a desired outcome ends up resting (in of faith, the “control” emphasis of the
practically the population of Canada added reality) on the agenda holder(s)—not West continues to involve degrees of
to its ranks every year. God. One system teaches people to unbelief—especially the emphasis of
expect less of God, the other to expect control through the use of Western
I began to ponder the reason why
more of self. The end result is the same financial support.
so many of us in the WMM (myself
for both systems: reduced faith. Yet, the
included) have remained so committed Today, with the tremendous emphasis
intermediate results are very different.
to strategies that continue to fail in placed on church planting in India,
In the West, for example, the intermedi-
India. This, in time, lead me to come to Western organizations need to com-
ate result is the propagation of control-
the following observations. pletely rethink their strategies in light
centered structures.
of these realities. Time is too short and
One major characteristic of the West
These are gross generalizations, and in the task too large for us to continue to
that distinguishes it from the East is
light of the advance of Western culture invest in structures and methodologies
its need for control. The fatalism of
and technology into many sectors of the that are foreign to the mental processes
the East stands in stark contrast to
East, certainly lack universality. and cultural inclinations of the Indian
the aggressive self-determinism of the
disciple. Continuing down the current
West. The Western mindset is focused The failure of the Western missionary paths will only sustain the present mar-
primarily on the need to attempt to movement to fully (or even partially) ginal “addition” rate of adherents to the
control the external—leaving little to appreciate these great fundamental dif- faith in a land were a decisive “multipli-
chance. We Westerners attempt to con- ferences between East and West is a cation” rate is instead needed.
trol our own environments and time major hindrance to the progress of
usage, our security and health, our the Gospel in India. This failure helps
involvements and theology, to the extent
explain why the West continues to try In the previous three sections, we
that we don’t really need God. We ana- to establish institutions and movements explored some of the less easily per-
lyze Him to the point where He no in India that require their own struc- ceived reasons why the Western mis-
longer has many mysteries. tured and control-oriented mindset to sionary movement has failed thus far to
maintain and why, in most cases, these entice the core of the Hindu masses to
By contrast, the Eastern mindset is
works fail miserably when turned over embrace Christ. Again, because of these
focused primarily on the need to
to Eastern stewardship. There is also the and other reasons the missionary move-
attempt to control self—leaving the
problem of replication. Most of these ment has fanned the flame of Hinduism
external to chance. For this reason, the
works, even if they do provide some suc- and greatly strengthened it. Thus, in
culture of the West is far more struc-
cess, prove to be ends in themselves. many regions of India, the gospel is not
tured and systematic than that of the
East. India, for example, has not chron- Fortunately, I see a new breed of making measurable progress.
icled most of its own history. Indians Western missionary coming to India Though it is important for us to under-
are far more relational, spontaneous and that is no longer focused as much stand the cause and effect sequence that
open-ended. Hindu religious practices on raising up Western institutions. has produced these catastrophic devel-
are far more individualistic and ascetic.
By contrast, Westerners are more rigid
in most aspects of their lives. The failure of the Western missionary
The outworking of both the Eastern movement to appreciate these fundamental
(fatalistic) and Western (aggressive-self
deterministic) systems have fatal flaws differences between East and West is a major
when it comes to faith. Simply stated,
in the Eastern Hindu system, little is hindrance to the progress of the gospel in India.
expected of God and the focus is on

18:1 Spring 2001

28 Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks
opments, it is more important to make frontational letters (II Corinthians, In India, after many fruitful years of
the changes that logically follow from Galatians, etc.), and prayer reaching high castes, E. Stanley Jones,
this understanding. To have any value, (Philippians). In time, his efforts—com- exhorted the West to let go of its con-
this paper must now investigate not only bined with the efforts of like-minded trol-based reformation agendas and to
plausible solutions to the problems out- apostles and leaders—prevailed, influ- again simply unleash the power of the
lined briefly above, but must also inves- encing the whole of Christendom. One gospel, by letting it go free.4
tigate ways to accommodate some of the generation after Paul’s death, Mathetes
Jones was distressed by the work of
Western and Indian cultural tendencies could write to a seeker:
his fellow missionaries because he could
that have served to produce these prob-
For the Christians are distin- see the difference between regeneration
lems. The alternative approaches sug-
guished from other men neither and reformation. Because most Western
gested below may at first prove hard for
by country, nor language, nor the missionaries in his generation were not
the West to implement, but being com-
customs which they observe … able to distinguish (in their own experi-
patible with Indian culture, they should
and following the customs of the ence) between what was scriptural and
ultimately serve to accelerate the Gospel
natives in respect to clothing, what was cultural, they were hindered
in India.
in communicating the Biblical Christ.
food, and the rest of their ordi-
It may be of some comfort to know that So they, for the most part, proclaimed
nary conduct.3
the problems we face in India today are a Western Christ instead. Without (in
very similar to those the Apostle Paul So the Church grew like wildfire in both many cases) even realizing it, his co-
faced during the early days of the Gentile the East and the West. Everywhere the workers—and those who had preceded
Church. Though Paul’s preliminary cul- Way went it adapted to the cultures of him in North India—had taken on a
tural and religious experience had led him the peoples; it did not take on a dis- job description not given to them: social
to murder Christians, it was primarily tinctive culture of its own. Kingdom reform rather than gospel regeneration.
to him that the task of forging the subjects were to stand out—not by cul-
To properly unleash the gospel, one
foundation of the European Church was tural distinctives—but by the fruit of the
must live in proximity to those people
assigned. Not only was he chosen to Spirit and by lifestyles of commitment
with whom the gospel is to be
establish many new paths, he was given and character.
unleashed. This means living in sub-
the task of spending much of his time
Paul had a proper view of culture and of mission to the culture, not trying to
fighting the preconditioning of the Jewish
his responsibility to it. He did not judge outwardly reform it. With such an
Christians. Because of their cultural roots,
the cultures of the lands he lived in, nor approach, the missionary cannot offend.
these brothers had been programmed to
did he attempt to reform these cultures The gospel carried by the missionary
believe in the superiority of Jewish Culture
externally. Instead he lived to regenerate may offend, but certainly his life should
and were thus seeking to export their cul-
individuals and to train them (as Jesus not unnecessarily offend. Certainly also,
ture—along with their new faith—to those
did His own disciples) “to live in the the gospel itself will in time reform,
who were responding to the gospel outside
world, but not be of the world.” but only after it has first regenerated a
of Israel. Some of these Judaizers followed in
number of individuals within the culture.
Paul’s wake, attempting to bring the Gentile We need men like Paul today, who
Christians under submission to the form can and who will stand against the mis- The gospel, together with the rest
of Christianity that had been appropriately sion sending agencies and missionary of Christian truth, work together like
adopted by the believers in Israel itself. educational and funding sources of the leaven in a culture to improve it. In
West, and convince them to stop mixing bread batter, leaven starts out slowly,
Had Paul not fought this particular
Western culture into the agenda of the but eventually it thoroughly permeates
battle so effectively, the churches he
Western missionary movement in India. and transforms the entire mixture. Thus,
established would have taken on many
Paul viewed it his job to simply let the while regeneration takes place in an
elements of Jewish culture and would
gospel loose on the people of these cul- individual at the point of first true
soon have become irrelevant to the
tures, to let it (together with the Holy belief, the reformation of a culture may
Great Commission in the localities in
Spirit) do its work. First it would regen- take many generations. For example, it
which they had been planted. Thus,
erate. Then in time—God’s time—it took the leavening effect of the Gospel
Paul fought this battle at the top
would reform. His focus was on regen- over 1800 years to bring the issue of
( Jerusalem Council, conflict with lead-
eration, not reformation. slavery to an honest head in the West.
ers), through proper discipling, con-
The change came ultimately by majority
International Journal of Frontier Missions
D. D. Pani 29
consensus after much of the population shown in the gospel accounts) than ways more righteous than the
had been regenerated. But to impose those of their countrymen. With the godless culture of the secular
reform on a culture before it has extreme attitudes of bigotry held by the West today. (For some this may
been regenerated is to impede—possi- Jewish race toward the Samaritans and mean taking time to “tune-in”
bly even kill—the rate of regeneration Gentiles at the time of Christ, this train- to and acknowledge the real
in a culture. ing effort was an immense task indeed. moral condition of the West
Yet, if he had not completed it, it is today.)
Proposed Solutions to the unlikely that a proper vision of Christ
b. The error in the supposition
Problem of Superiority of would have ever been taken outside the
that superiority of technology
Jewish nation.
Culture always equates to superiority of
Earlier we highlighted the impact We found that, by using a harmony of culture.
of Evangelical Protestantism’s negative the gospels, it is possible to observe in
c. The error in the supposition
predisposition toward the culture of detail what Christ did to remove the
that military supremacy or
India. From the dearth of response negative preconditioning of His disci-
domination always equates to
of thinking Hindus to the gospel, we ples toward the Gentiles and to make
superiority of culture.
can only conclude that as long as the these men perpetual learners in the face
Western missionary remains unteach- of new information. Christ was so suc- d. The intensity and degree of
able concerning the virtues of Indian cessful in this venture that Peter could philosophic development in the
culture and persists in an attitude of cul- one day call Paul’s difficult writings Indian subcontinent compared
tural superiority, the Hindu world will “scriptures” (II Peter 3:17) and doubting to Europe (and later in North
continue to stumble over Christ. Our Thomas (if legend is correct) could America). Also, the relative
rigid spirit in this matter flows from establish a rigorous Church among the sophistication of the philoso-
bigotry (cultural bias). The following are uncircumcised high castes of southern phies developed in each loca-
suggested ways to help ourselves (and India (which, despite centuries of semi- tion (independent of the only
prospective new missionaries) overcome isolation, has survived to this day). authentic source of revelation).
cultural bias. Though we cannot conclusively either One must consider the degree
confirm or deny the legend of Thomas of Indian progress in the
First, study the training method Christ (even with modern analysis leaning absence of the Judeo-Christian
used for eliminating cultural bias from His slightly toward confirmation6), we can scriptures relative to the degree
own disciples. follow the lives of Peter and John into of Western progress helped
One year I slowly worked through a the Gentile world through both the along by these revelational
complete harmony of the gospels with New Testament and the writings of texts. Not to bias this inves-
an Indian scholar in order to look at the Early Church Fathers. What comes tigation (but to guide it), one
this topic in depth. To our amazement, through in these sources is that Jesus must come to grips with the
we found the harmonized gospels to be was successful. Using Christ’s compre- failure of the West’s fixation on
a training manual in how to empower hensive method, we must reprogram “systems” to deliver anything
others to overcome bigotry in their own ourselves (and others) with the same tangible or lasting in the area
personal lives. attitudes the Master imparted into His of philosophy. The “brilliant
men. conclusion” of this process is
For Jesus, the need to overcome the that no answers can be found.
problem of the negative preconditioning Secondly, take time to research and seriously
Also, one must consider that
(bias) of His disciples in relation to consider a number of counter-facts related
modern science is in part (if
other cultures was paramount. The to this Western bias. Among those that
not more) a baby of the
twelve would soon be called upon to should be studied in detail are:
Reformation 6, 7 and not the
love the Samaritans and later to love a. That the past roots of Indian result of a philosophical search
the Gentiles of many different cultures. culture are in many ways more that took place outside the
However, at the beginning of Christ’s righteous than the past roots of influence of Christian truth.
private ministry with these men, their Western culture (Roman civi-
attitudes toward the non-Jew and the e. The pure and near perfect logic
lization), and that the present
outcast were clearly no different (as of the Sanskrit language and
day culture of India is in many
18:1 Spring 2001
30 Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks
the major technological devel- Proposed Solutions to the enable his men to understand the root
opments ancient India has and spirit of their traditions in light of
provided the world (such as problem of Rights and the priorities of devotion to God and
our power of ten based num- Rebellion compassion toward man. By His words
bering system). The Evangelical Protestant “protest” and deeds, Christ taught His followers
mentality, coupled with Western impe- not to submit blindly to traditions but
f. The fact that in community
rialistic attitudes, has fostered (and is to regulate their submission to tradi-
vs. individualism, the West’s
still fostering) an effort to build a tions by the priority of loving God
emphasis on personal rights
Church in India that is “liberated” from and neighbor. Thus, He slowly stripped
is now rapidly destroying
Hindu social structure (culture). To the away the legalism that the culture’s pre-
Western culture, just as the
Indian psyche, the priorities of commu- conditioning had built into His follow-
community focus of India
nity and maintenance of social structure ers, replacing their bigotry with a spirit
has limited personal creativity
are absolutes. Thus for the Hindu, dis- of love and compassion.
and the rate of technological
plays of arrogance and rebellion against
advancement there. (Note that It is important to observe, however,
these absolutes are abominations of
both emphases are out of that in the process of stripping away
the highest order. And when these dis-
step with the Scriptures and their prejudice and legalism, Christ was
plays accompany the WMM’s outreach
that Evangelicals are essen- not attempting to make social rebels
efforts among the low and no castes,
tially following the current out of His followers. For example,
they can only mobilize anti-Christian
Western drift.) one day Christ asked Peter: “What do
and anti-foreign sentiments. Regardless
you think, Simon? From where do the
Thirdly, require all missionaries to focus of the Hindu reaction (which some can
kings of the earth collect customs or
exclusively on Hindus, not the bigoted negate as the Hindu’s problem only),
poll-tax, from their sons or from strang-
Indian Church. rebellion aimed at oppression is not jus-
ers?” Then in response to Peter’s correct
tifiable. Though it is in keeping with
There are several rationale for this: answer Christ added, “Consequently
the protest spirit of the Reformation,
the son’s are exempt. But, lest we give
(1) to protect the new Western it is completely out-of-sync with the
offense, go…” And on the wings of a
missionary from being further spirit of the early church and the exam-
miracle performed only in the sight of
negatively preconditioned by ple of Christ.
Peter himself, the Master paid their
Indian Christians;
Often the proponents of what I must yearly temple tax (even though He
(2) to prevent the Western mis- label “Evangelical Liberation Theology” Himself was the temple!) There are
sionary from further western- find their justification in Christ’s exam- many other examples of Christ’s sen-
izing the Indian Church; ple of “rebelling” against the legalism sitivity and submission to the culture
of the oppressive and corrupt religious of the Jews. It is also important to
(3) to enable the Western mis- system in Israel in His time. However, note that the Jewish Christians of Israel
sionary to really come to grips I must again encourage aspiring mis- remained zealous for their culture and
with Indian culture; and sionaries to take time to work through continued to be nationalistic.
(4) to allow the Indian Church to a good harmony of the gospels on this
The delicate balance that Christ main-
come to grips with its own cul- issue of personal rights and social rebel-
tained during His training of the twelve
ture without the distraction of lion to see what He really did. For
enabled Him to strip away their bias
continued Western influence. those so aspiring, let me suggest in
and legalism while at the same time
advance that one will find quite a differ-
Fourthly, allow new missionaries to bond empowering them to be appropriately
ent example.
to their ministry cultures by shielding submissive and sensitive to their own
them from the oversight of missionaries of In my extensive study on this issue, culture. The effectiveness of this train-
the old (negatively preconditioned) school I was amazed by the balanced way ing is well demonstrated through the
—especially during their first several years in which Christ taught His disciples follow-up ministries of the Apostles and
in India. the importance of accommodating their their disciples.
own culture, while not remaining bound
Additional principles to ponder
to the letter of all its traditions and
Our job is simply to unleash the gospel
ways. In doing so, He worked hard to
by giving people a proper vision of Christ,
International Journal of Frontier Missions
D. D. Pani 31

not to externally mold people while ped- seems able to shed his tendency for high Again, the reader is directed to study
dling a Western version of Him. 4 self-expectations. the life of Christ (using a good har-
mony of the gospels) to discover the
In summary, if the gospel is to be In relation to faith, Christ’s ministry Master’s method for imparting faith.
properly unleashed, one must live near with the twelve and seventy had at However, because of our Western bag-
those to whom the gospel is to be least two simultaneous aims: (1) raising gage, this can only be a start. In
given, in submission to the culture, not God-expectations and (2) destroying dealing with growing Indian disciples,
trying to reform it. This also means all self-expectations. Because of his we will have to resist any temptation
engaging the culture in constructive fatalism, the Indian starts with (a) to demonstrate and motivate high per-
and real (meaningful/practical) ways, low God-expectations and (b) limited sonal expectations. It is only as our
not just peripheral ways. By extension self-expectations. Thus, because of his personal self-expectations go down that
this mandates that the aspiring mission- Hindu roots, the Indian disciple only our God-expectations can rise. “When
ary seeking to impact the mainstream needs his God expectations to be raised. the Son of Man returns, will He find
of India should come with something But while the Western mentor rigor- faith on the Earth?”
other than just ministry skills (and, ously attempts via teaching and preach-
before coming, should have been able ing to accomplish (1) in light of (a), he In addition, let me suggest that the
to engage the mainstream of the secular inadvertently (either consciously or sub- WMM immediately drop all Western

In light of the potentially explosive … social movements currently

sweeping through the oppressed classes of India, it is particularly
important at “such a time as this” that the Western Christian
community and the Indian Church relate in a culturally appropriate
manner to these movements.
culture of his/her own country, to the consciously) by demonstration serves structures and major on protocols natu-
point of bearing fruit). to accomplish the opposite in relation ral to the eastern mindset and culture.
to (2), thus raising the Indian’s self- For example, rather than planting com-
The gospel will revolutionize a culture
expectations. And because the power of munity churches with mixed castes
after (and only after) it has regenerated
demonstration is more powerful than present, works should be established
many within it, but the former takes
preaching and teaching, the Western which expand along extended family
much longer.
mentor (with high-self expectations of lines and are governed within these
his own) can only raise the self-expecta- families themselves (without Western
Proposed Solutions to the tions of the Indian and cannot accom- funds and with minimal Western influ-
Problem of Control plish (1). Because of the struggles the ence). Also, rigorous efforts of labor
During nearly two and a half decades Indian disciple faces with attaining and prayer should be focused on raising
of study on how Christ built faith into high God-expectations (by virtue of his up many Indian prophets with Eastern
His followers, I have come to see that Hindu roots) he ends up with: (I) only mindsets (not Eastern philosophy) in
the current Western models for building moderately raised God-expectations and different sub-regions and among the
faith can only fail in India. I have also (II) greatly raised self-expectations. The various people groups. These must
come to see that the cultural back- result is a very legalistic disciple with be extremely well-equipped individuals
ground of the Hindu makes him more very little faith. Apart from following who can serve in an unstructured
fertile ground for great faith if he is Christ’s method for building faith, the manner similar to the god-men and
properly discipled. He has far less bag- mix of the Western-trainer and the gurus of Hinduism, in order to mobilize
gage than the agenda-centered Western Eastern-trainee can usually only end in large people movements.
disciple, who, despite much effort, never this (I and II).

18:1 Spring 2001

32 Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks

A Tentative Description of Mission Frontiers

by Ralph D. Winter
Mission frontiers, like other frontiers, represent boundaries or barriers beyond which we must yet go, beyond which
we may not be able to see clearly and which may even be disputed or denied. Their study involves the discovery
and evaluation of the unknown or even the reevaluation of the known. But unlike other frontiers, mission frontiers
is a subject specifically concerned to explore and exposit areas and ideas and insights related to the glorification of
God in all the nations (peoples) of the world, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from
the power of Satan to God.

In light of the potentially explosive 4

E. S. Jones, Christ of the Indian Road,
nature of several of the social move- Lucknow Publishing House, 1977.
ments currently sweeping through the
Conclusions 5
S. H. Moffett, A History of
oppressed classes of India, it is particu-
Today the population of India is Christianity in Asia, Volume 1, Orbis
larly important at ”such a time as this”
increasing at an absolute rate of approx- Books, 1998.
that the Western Christian community and
imately 2.3% per year and is already
the Indian Church relate in a culturally 6
N. Pearcey and C. Thaxton, The
at 1.02 billion. Yet, despite the West’s
appropriate manner to these movements. Soul of Science, Good News Publishers,
incredible investment of finances and
To fail to do so in the name of “libera- 1994.
manpower into India over the past two
tion” and “social reform” is to invite an
centuries—and the continuing presence 7
P. M. Gregorios, Enlightment East and
unprecedented backlash from the anti-
of foreign and Indian missionaries West, B. R. Publishing Corp., 1989.
foreign and anti-Christian forces that
today—the absolute growth rate of
are already polarized against the West 8
P. Johnstone, Operation World, 5th
Christianity in India is still only 2.8%.
8 and its form of Christianity. The leaders Edition, Zondervan, 1993.
If the differential between these
of the early Church learned not to bring
two rates were to remain the same,
persecution on themselves by causing
nearly two additional centuries would
unnecessary offense. They did not stand
be required to completely reach India
as judges of the pagan cultures of their
for Christ. Hope lies in the observation
day, but rather were the well-wishers
that because of the great efforts of the
of those without Christ, even as they
WMM, “most Indians accept Christ as
were martyred. They sought release for
the greatest manifestation of redemptive
all from the prison of Satan and showed
love.” 1 If we from the West can retool,
unconditional love to oppressor and
this grave situation could be magnif-
oppressed alike. Therefore also, let those
icently salvaged to the great glory of
who stumble in India, stumble only over
the gospel itself—not over snares laid in
In this paper I have attempted to iden- their paths by the West. IJFM
tify several of the stumbling blocks
facing the Hindu, which the West REFERENCES
seems to have trouble seeing. I have also 1
K. V. Paul Pillai, India’s Search for the
tried to explore the Western mindset Unknown Christ, India Inland Mission,
at the root of these obstacles in order 1978.
to help make the offenses more visible.
Finally, I have suggested a number of Stearns, Schwartz and Beyer, World
difficult but practical solutions to help History Traditions and New Directions,
minimize these stones of offense, so Addison-Wesley 1991.
the Gospel can start to move at high 3
A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, Editors,
speed through this land of one billion to Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I, Hendrickson
regenerate and reform its great peoples. Pub., 1995.

International Journal of Frontier Missions