American evangelicals are moving away from orthodox understandings of God and Scripture. This year’s State of Theology survey revealed the top five misconceptions that US evangelicals hold, as follows:
- Jesus isn’t the only way to God.
- Jesus was created by God.
- Jesus is not God.
- The Holy Spirit is not a personal being.
- Humans aren’t sinful by nature.
CT reached out to three Christian leaders from Bengaluru, Chennai, and New Delhi to learn what modern heresies are widespread in India and how believers can address them.
Jacob Cherian, dean of faculty at Southern Asia Bible College, Bengaluru, Karnataka
Unfortunately, Western evangelicals do not possess a monopoly on modern heresies, which I’ll loosely define as deviations from commonly held orthodox teachings. Popular and unhealthy theological trends quickly find welcoming minds in India.
While believing in the authority of Scripture, we often struggle to parse out what that entails and how Scripture could be appropriated in the nitty-gritties of Indian contexts. A pernicious problem of using random bits of Scripture (such as Christian healers quoting “By his stripes we are healed”) remains a pet weakness of far too many.
While we do see a plague of blatant and flashy prosperity teaching, many evangelicals and charismatics have succumbed to a soft-prosperity gospel, imagining that God owes the believer a long and comfortable trip through this world, apart from a wonderful future in heaven. This ill-prepares believers to courageously face illness, tragedy, and death.
Leaders must instead teach the church both the harsh vulnerability of life and the bold hope we have in Christ, even as we courageously engage in kingdom work.
John Simeon, pastor of Christ Methodist Church, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Not everyone in the church would say out loud that the Bible is not literally true. But in their lifestyle, they show that they choose what is convenient in the Bible. I would say 60 percent would say that the Bible is to be treated on par with the other Hindu mythologies like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The current reconstruction of the traditions of so-called ancient India, [which has very little historic basis], is also having an adverse impact on the Christians. There is a sense Christianity is from an alien culture, and these feelings of inferiority and rejection make one hesitant to share the Good News of Christ with others.
About half of Indians would probably say that Jesus isn’t the only way to God. They’re more likely to say that Jesus is the way to God for Christians.
As I observe the reaction of people under 40, we need to give Christians a strong theological education by teaching them how to read Scripture systemically and use terminologies and idioms that are familiar to them. We should show them the relevance of Scripture for their lives and use mediums they are familiar with.
Samuel Richmond, resident of New Delhi and director of the Centre for Advanced Religious Studies, North East Christian University, Dimapur, Nagaland
The church as the body of the Lord Jesus Christ has faced challenges within (heresies) and outside (persecution).
One of the present challenges that is confronting the church is New Age spirituality. The New Agers are trying to find God within themselves rather than looking for him who is transcendent.
Atheists believe there is no God. Christians, on the other hand, believe there is a God but deny him in their actions. We end up contradicting what we proclaim and how we live. Christian leaders preach about dependency on God but accumulate wealth, crave power, and look out for positions. Practical atheism has led to corruption where we are depending on ourselves and not depending on God.
Finally, many in the Indian church today teach and practice that if you do not have the gift of tongues, you are not saved.
Lack of education has caused people to receive whatever is served to them. In-depth teaching of God’s Word and education will help them question what is taught to them.
In the pluralistic New Age and immoral society, the proclamation of the Word of God should become the central theme of our mission. It will take the church’s boldness for the world to identify the power of the revelation of the triune God.