A very interesting debate that shows how intolerant pluralistic religions like Hinduism can be – so intolerant that they are willing to ban free speech that is supportive of Christianity. In the pluralist East, you can ban the public practice of Christianity, but in the exclusivist West, we have free speech and freedom of religion for Hindus. Is it possible that the view that “all religions are equally true” is far less tolerant than the view that “only one religion is true?”. What if the one religion that thinks it is true also believes that it is a moral good to tolerate free speech and open debate about which religion is true?
Here is the MP3 file. (64 minutes)
Unbelievable? 24 Oct 2009 – Christian conversion of Hindus – 24 October 2009
In light of Premier’s Faith Without Fear campaign, this discussion between Anil Bhanot and Sunil Raheja addresses the tensions that exist when Christians seek to evangelise Hindus in India.
What is acceptable? Is the response of some Hindus justified? Is it wrong for Christians to state that Jesus is the “only” way to God?
To sign the petition for Justice for Christians in Orissa State, India go to www.faithwithoutfear.org
Below you can find my play-by-play summary of this debate.
What does the Bible say about evangelism?
The relevant passage from the Bible in which Jesus commands Christians to share their beliefs with non-Christians is found in Matthew 28:16-20. This is the part that the Hindu scholars disagree with.
16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What does the Bible say about salvation being exclusive of other other religions?
A few verses from the that teach the exclusivity of salvation.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 16:30-31 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Luke 12:8-9 I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
So Christians are required to preach to non-Christians, and they are required to preach what Jesus said about himself – that trust in Jesus’ claim to be God stepping into history is the only way to be rightly related to God, the Creator of the universe.
Are Hindus tolerant of the public practice of authentic Christianity in countries where Hinduism dominates?
Summary of the debate
My snarky comments are in italics.
– explains Hinduism: impersonal unknowable Brahma, incarnations
– all religions are paths to the impersonal divine (pantheism with polytheistic elements)
– former Hindu, convert because of lack of meaning and purpose, describes conversion
– changed from works-based salvation to salvation by grace
– there is a capacity for grace in Hinduism, not just works based
– Christian campus groups do a better job of explaining their religion than Hindus
– well for me, I did it on my own dealing directly with God, no assistance from Christians
– I object to Christians going out to convert others to your religion
– i don’t like the turn or burn style of evangelism
– but asking people the big questions, that’s good evangelism
– we Hindus don’t evangelize
– we think of Jesus as another deity (an incarnation of Brahma)
– i oppose Christians for saying in public that I am wrong and they are right
– Christians are wrong, and I (a Hindu) am right!
– but persuasion and conversion is everywhere in the marketplace
– Christians are mean and they go out plundering countries and killing other people
– converting people to Christianity is the stealing of souls from other countries
– Christianity is an evil religion and Christians are evil people
– I know better what Jesus would do than Christians do, Jesus would not proselytize
– I am against the use of coercion in evangelism
– sharing your faith in Jesus as your favorite incarnation among many incarnations is fine (polytheism – the Hindu view)
– but missionaries say that only Christ is the true God and they have no right to say things that are incompatible with Hinduism
– Christians have no right to say that Christ is the true God, that is incompatible with Hinduism
– you need to keep your exclusive views to yourself, but I will force Hinduism on you in public
– you should be prevented by law from expressing your exclusive Christian view in public
– Hindus like me are very very tolerant of other views, so you should agree with Hinduism, not Christianity
– Christianity teaches that Jesus is a son of God, not God himself
– Christians are wrong about the doctrine of the Trinity
– efforts to convert should not involve any good works like giving food or medical treatment
– Mother Teresa met peoples needs for food and medical care, but she did it as a public Christian
– but this would break your rule about conversion using good works and charity
– so is Mother Teresa a bad person for doing good works as a public Christian?
– Hindus believe that there are many ways to achieve union with God
– they are all equal, you can follow the path you like to be united with God
– we Hindus are very very inclusive, every other path is a right path to God
– the right to freedom of religion does not allow you to say that Christianity is correct
– Jesus did not say that you go and condemn people of other religions
– but I convert people by my love and self-sacrifice, not through coercion
– it’s ok to be a Christian if you keep it to yourself and don’t tell anyone else that their religion is wrong
– are you trying to force your view of religion on me? in public?
– to say that my religion is false is to breach my human right to exist
– it’s coercive to offer people food and then try to evangelize them
– how do you define secularism?
– living as though this life were all there is, that religious meanings don’t matter in public life
– Hindus have no problem with that view, it’s in the Vedas
– India is becoming secular as it grows into part of the global economy
– secularism has the goal of being happy in this life without any accountability to God
– in opposition to secularism, all faiths should unite on the Hindu concept of the impersonal divine
– the solution to secularism is found by a personal encounter with God
– I became a Hindu as a result of performing Hindu rituals as I grew up in a Hindu background
– a person’s decision to become a Christian is a result of their own inquiry and free decision
– the purpose of Hinduism is to make people happy and to achieve achieve world peace
– Hindus believe that God is indescribable and unknowable (pantheism)
– everyone has to choose the Incarnation they like to make themselves happy (polytheism)
– Christianity is one incarnation of the Hindu doctrine of impersonal divine (pantheism)
– so all religions are valid because everyone chooses the incarnation they like, we have billions and billions to choose from
– that’s how we will get world peace, by having everyone agree with my view of religion (pantheism and polytheism)
– isn’t it terrible that Christians can tell Hindus that they will go to Hell without Christ
– Jesus said himself that it’s wrong to judge others, although I’m judging you right now!
– well we should certainly try to be gentle and respectful
– you can’t say that I am wrong about my religious views, freedom of speech doesn’t cover that speech
– everything that is in the Bible is in the Hindu Scriptures, and the Hindu Scriptures has even more
– anything in the Bible that contradicts Hinduism was invented much later by deluded people
– the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is the only true path to God, if you throw out the non-Hindu parts
– i was once a Jain but now I’m a Christian, and Christianity makes my life meaningful
– a person can be a Christian, so long as they accept that Christianity is actually Hinduism
– actually, Christians believe that people are sinful and that Jesus’ death atones for that sin
– oh Hindus don’t believe that!
– in the Bible, the jews are trying to stone Jesus, and Jesus says that they are all Gods (this is not in the Bible unless he means what Satan says)
– that’s consistent with Hinduism
– am I allowed to say that I disagree with your beliefs?
– the discovery that washing hands reduces deaths during child birth was ridiculed, but it’s true
– my understanding of Christ is different from what Hindus believe about Christ
– these questions are matters of life and death
– if my research is correct, then this world is in a terrible state without Christ
– because I love other people, I need to do what I can to share Christ with others
– I need to be able to discuss and disagree about it in public
– well, you can’t say that my religion is false – that’s going too far, but I can say your religion is false
– i’m not saying that I am better than you, just that my view is true, based on the evidence
– no you don’t have the truth, that is just your personal preference FOR YOU
– i have a personal preference, and my personal preference is true FOR ME
– you can’t say that you have the truth to me, and laws should prevent you from saying that
– Jesus said nothing contrary to Hinduism
– it’s only much much later that people added Christian doctrines to the Bible
– everything Jesus taught is consistent with Hinduism, even if the Bible doesn’t say that