Friday, November 19, 2010

The Mind and Worship

For the past three weeks I have been teaching at the South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India. This morning in chapel one of the professors reminded us of our Lord’s answer to the religious person who asked how one gains eternal life.

(Jesus) answered, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself'" (Luke 10:27).

Though SAIACS is an academic institution where students are enrolled to enrich the heart as well as the intellect, when it comes to worship Christians generally enter devotion with the heart, not the mind. The speaker’s theme today was that learning, growing intellectually is also, or should be, a form of worship.

I grew up in a household that did not highly value education. Historically the denomination in which I have been a member for many years also had a dim view of scholarship, believing that mankind only needed the preaching of the Word so that Holy Spirit could convict the “heart” of man unto salvation. Scholarship, as I was conditioned to believe, was primarily the wasted energy of eggheads and people who spoke beyond their level of intelligence. God’s true work, as the argument goes, is measured in shoe leather, and blessed are the feet of those preach the gospel (Romans 10:15), not those who sit in the ivory towers of academia.

My thoughts wandered to those refrains of disdain as I sat in a weeklong consultation gathering of intellectuals who debated the topic - Indian and Christian: Changing Identities in Modern India. The participants were principally evangelical scholars, but there was also papers presented from Catholic and Hindu professors. For Christians in this country, not more than 4% of a population of 1.3 billion people, identity is an important issue to the minority. Are they Hindu, Christian, Christian/Hindu and however they define themselves, what should their role be in community and government? From morning to night papers were read, respondents challenged and some of us tried to keep up.

At the end of the week one wonders what was accomplished? Conversion was not of the lost without Christ, but rather to a point of view. A church was not established, but perhaps prestige was. And, though no shoe leather was lost in the process I was reminded of another saying from my youth, “A river will only rise as high as its source.” Or, as Forest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Though the eggheads do sometimes talk above and past others, I’m sure the venue of dumb and dumber is not the answer in reaching this country for Christ.

Obviously, the balance between poiesis and praxis is needed in missions and ministry. Let us not slight one for the other. It’s also good to remember that to love the Lord our God with all our mind is truly an exercise in worship.


Amrita said...

I have hear d about about this institution, its quite radical in its curriculum.

India needs to see Christ in the lives of Christinas - that is our true identity.

There is no such thing as a Hindu Christian or a Christian Hindu. We are Indian Christians.

RG Lewis said...

I will have to disagree with you a bit here, Amrita. I do believe the discussion of identity is worthwhile. Why is it okay to refer to Jewish Christians and not Hindu Christians? Ethnicity and culture matters.

As to the institution being radical, only if by radical you mean that it attempts to go beyond traditional and safe thinking. That's why they invite me to teach!

I do agree with you, however, that it is the hope that people will see Christ through us, no matter our background, culture or ethnicity.

Amrita said...

Dear Dr Lewis ,

I am uncomfortable with the term Hindu Christian because it not only denotes culture and ethnicity but religion very strongly.

I accept the term Jewish Christian because it is ethnically, culturally and religion-wise integrated. Judaism and Christianity have the same roots. Jesus was a Jew.
Christians accept the Jewish Holy Book - the Old Testament as part of their scriptures.

Jewish Christians have accepted Jesus as Messiah whom their ancestots rejected .

To me , a 4th generation Indian Christian ,Hinduism and Christianity cannot be welded together. It gives the impression that I am upholding the tenets of both religions simultaneously.

I would like to be called an Indian Christian or Bhartiya Christian or Hindustani Christian.