‘A Paradigm Shift’ in preaching the
redemption of Jesus Christ in India
Holy Writings in various languages:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.(Acts 1:8 )
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16)
and that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15)
The Holy Spirit empowers the gospel to be preached all over the world. Hence, we can see holy writings of salvation through faith in Christ, in the languages of the world where the gospel is preached.
St.Thomas preached the gospel in Tamil land for 20 years and hence, it is quite natural to see the holy writings of salvation through faith in Christ, in Tamil.
In 4th c.A.D. Constantine, the European, Emperor of Rome, compiled the holy writings, which were in Greek, the European language, and formed the New Testament. The holy writings of salvation through faith in Christ, which were in Aramaic, spoken by Jesus Christ, Syriac, Tamil and Sanskrit, the Asian languages were not compiled by Constantine. Hence, the holy writings that were in Greek compiled by Constantine, are considered as scriptures and not that which are in Aramaic, Syriac, Tamil and Sanskrit.
The difference between those who are led by the Holy Spirit and who are led by letters is explained in the following verse,
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)
Those who are led by letters are doing the ministry of division and those who are led by the Holy Spirit are doing the ministry of unity / bringing together, as per the following verse. It is the need of the hour to do the mission of bringing together.
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
As per 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 , we need to test all, hold on to good and reject every kind of evil.
but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.(1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 )
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. Rom 10:1,2)
As St.Paul says, our zeal for God should not be superstitious, but according to Knowledge.
Hence, let us have a clear understanding on the mission of St.Thomas in Tamil land and the holy writings of salvation through faith in Christ, in Tamil, for a dynamic and a fruitful evangelism.
St. Thomas Tamil Christianity:
Church history of India mentions of the following:
European Christianity and
Europeanized Indian Christianity
But doesn’t mention St. Thomas Tamil Christianity because historians were not aware of it.
Recent researches reveals that there is already a Christianity, different from the said three, existing in India, from 1st.c.A.D, which had spread all over India. That is St.Thomas Tamil Christianity.
St. Thomas Tamil Christianity is that which developed in India from 1st c. A.D within the Tamil culture, in Tamil land and in the Tamil language. According to the Tradition of St.Thomas, he was martyred and buried in Mylapore of Tamil land. From there Tamil Bhakthi Movement originated. Religions of Bhakthi Movement such as Saivism and Vaishnavism are later known as ‘Hindu Religion’.
What is the need of understanding St. Thomas Tamil Christianity?:
It is a general conception that,
w India is a Hindu Nation;
w Hindu religion is the religion of the Aryan Brahmins;
w Christians are minority in India;
Though missionaries have all along been striving to bring India to Christ, census report of India shows very frail results. To date, the percentage of Christianity in India is not even 4%. Christians who are considered to be a minority in Indian population are evangelizing Hindus who are the majority in India. Proselytizing Hindus with the feeling of minority yields less fruit. But an in-depth knowledge on Hindu religion i.e., St.Thomas Tamil Christianity, makes St.Thomas Tamil Christians to realize that they are not minorities but the majority in India
In a nut shell it can be summarized as,
w Christians including St. Thomas Christians, are majority by religion in India and
w Majority by population of India since the Dravidians, inhabitants of India, form 90% of Indian population.
Evangelizing Hindus with the feeling of a follower of a foreign religion and foreign God is entirely different from evangelizing Hindus as a Hindu.
Hence, a paradigm shift in presenting the gospel is highly indispensable and a knowledge on St.Thomas Tamil Christianity i.e., Hindu religion is obligatory for evangelism.
Ministry through Research:
In – depth knowledge on St. Thomas Tamil Christianity plays a significant role in understanding Indian spiritual, cultural and literary tradition. Dr. Deivanayagam has done an in-depth study on St.Thomas Tamil Christianity especially on St. Thomas Tamil Christian literature such as Thirukkural, Saivite and Vaishnavite literature for the past four decades.
Thirukkural, one of the ancient Tamil literature that reveals the noble thoughts of the Tamils, had been translated in many languages of the world. In the research realm, Dr. Deivanayagam was the first one to prove that Thirukkural is a first St.Thomas Tamil Christian literature, through research.
In 1972 he established that Thirukkural is a St. Thomas Tamil Christian literature.
Proved that Thirukkural is a St. Thomas Tamil Christian Literature:
In order to explain that Thirukkural, which had been translated into many languages of the world, is the First St. Thomas Tamil Christian Literature,he wrote the following six books:
1. Thiruvalluvar Christavaraa? 2. Ainthaviththaan Yaar? 3. Vaan Yethu? 4. Neeththaar yaar? 5. Sandror Yaar and 6. Yezhu Pirappu?
This new research created a big excitement in Tamil Nadu. Hence, in order to examine the above six monographs, Rev. S. Suvisesha Muthu, Director of Christian Arts and Communication Centre invited 37 scholars from the then existing following four universities of Tamil Nadu and Andhra, for analyzing his research findings:
1. University of Madras
2. Madurai University
3. Annamalai University and
4. Tiruppathi Venkateswara University,
It was the first research conference that was organized in the history of Tamil Nadu by bringing together various scholars of Tamil Nadu to examine the research findings expressed by an individual. This conference was held on 3rd and 4th of May 1972 at Chennai in the Christian Arts and Communication Centre. The book that was published in 1974 under the title ‘Who is ‘Eyalbudaiya Moovar’?, documented the above events obviously.
The statement of Professor Soma Elavarasu about the audaciousness of the author in the conference should be noted here:
“It was indeed humorous on the one side and surprising on the other, to see the author of the books (Dr.Deivanayagam) sitting unmoved like a mountain and with a smile in his face, when arrows of condemnation and questions were hurl at him having him on the stage.”
Scholars from various universities could not deny the research findings of Dr. Deivanayagam.
Thus, he established 39 years ago (in 1972) that Thirukkural is a first St. Thomas Tamil Christian literature.
Finally, in order to analyze, in fact to refute these findings, Dr.N.Sanjeevi, Head of the Dept. of Tamil in Madras University, had given the title ‘Development of the research on Thirukkural in 20th Century’ to T.S. Satyam for her Ph.D. Thesis. Having analyzed the research findings of Dr.Deivanayagam, she had concluded her Thesis as follows:
‘In the research on Thirukkural, M. Deivanayagam seems to have contributed a lot of literature, which give the impression as if the theme of Thirukkural is Christianity.
In the beginning of this century, the research trend had been that the Central theme of Thirukkural had come from Saivasiddhantha. But in today’s context, the research trend has changed as to say that Kural has drawn its inspiration from Christianity.’
(T.S. Satyam, Development of the research on Thirukkural in 20th Century, 1979, pp. 192 – 193)
Proved that Saivism and Vaishnavism are the denominations of St.Thomas Tamil Christianity – Debate and Video recordings
In 1985 in his doctoral dissertation titled ‘Comparative study of Bible, Thirukkural and Saiva Siddhantha Sastras’ Dr.M.Deivanayagam had established that because of the great mission of St.Thomas in India, Thirukkural blossomed. On the basis of Thirukkural, later on Bhakthi Movement originated and the religions of Bhakthi movement such as Saivism and Vishnavism have emerged and developed.
His new Research Findings can be precisely given as follows:
Thirukkural is a St. Thomas Tamil Christian Literature;
- Saivism and Vaishnavism, known as Hindu Religion is the offshoot of St. Thomas Tamil Christianity;
- Saiva Siddhantha Sastras are the Theological expositions of St.Thomas Tamil Christianity.
The International Research Institute of Saiva Siddhantha in Dharumai Aadheena Mutt, near Mayiladuthurai, Tamilnadu, organized a Two Day debate on his book titled, ‘Comparative study of Bible, Thirukkural and Saiva Siddhantha Sastras’ on 5th and 6th December 1986. Dr. Deivanayagam was invited for the debate. The said new research findings have been established in the presence of the scholars of Saiva Siddhantha and the heads of the Dharumai Adheena Mutt, Thiruppananthal Mutt, under the Presidentship of Kundrakkudi Adheenam.
Prof. Dr. T.B. Sitthalingiah, Head of the Department of Saiva Siddhantha of Kamarajar University, summarized the two days discussions in the following words:
“A good Research Seminar took place here for the past two days. Dr. M. Deivanayagam clearly answered all the questions raised by scholars. When new findings were delivered, we still have not attained the maturity to accept them immediately. As Dr. M. Deivanayagam said, it was the beginning of an effort to seek new explanations. As such, this beginning was done well.” (Video recordings of Debate on the dissertation titled, ‘Comparative study of Bible, Thirukkural and Saiva Siddhantha Sastras’ in Dharumai Adheena Mutt, Near Mayiladuthurai, 5th & 6th of Dec.1986)
At the end of the seminar, the Head of the Dharumai Aadheenam Mutt finally honoured Dr.Deivanayagam .The programme was video recorded. (DVD Available)
At this juncture I like to point out how these new research findings on St.Thomas Tamil Christianity i.e., Saivism and Vaishnavism (‘Hindu religion’) are very powerful and useful tools to make the Hindus to realize the Truth. Many of his students, especially scholars are incorporating these new research findings in their research ministry for powerful evangelism among Hindus, in diverse methods.
Why Christianity could not succeed in India?
Missionaries have all along been striving to bring India to Christ. To date, the percentage of Christianity in India is not even 4%. According to the census report of India of 1991, the percentage of Christianity was 2.6 % which has dropped down even further to 2.3%, declares the census report of India of 2001. Some years ago, nearly 10 lakhs of people belonging to the Scheduled caste community embraced Buddhism. It should be noted here that when Dr.Ambekar decided to give up ‘Hindu religion’ since it was under the clutches of ‘Hinduism’ i.e., caste discrimination, spent 25 years to analyze religions, before he could decide as to which he could embrace. When evaluating Christianity, he found that there was caste and racial discrimination deeply rooted in Christianity also, and hence finally embraced Buddhism. Because of his conversion to Buddhism, a large number of his followers are embracing Buddhism till today.
Careful analysis on this issue makes it clear that the practice of racial and caste discrimination in Christianity is a big barrier for embracing it. Unless the practice of racial and caste discrimination in India is extirpated, evangelization in India will not be successful.
Why Christians couldn’t identify St.Thomas Tamil Christianity?
If Saivism and Vaishnavism are denominations of St.Thomas Tamil Christianity, why Christians then (Europeanized Indian Christians) in India find it difficult to identify Saivites and Vaishnavites? In the Christian realm, we find followers of particular denomination difficult to accept and identify themselves with the other denominations; hence, understanding St.Thomas Tamil Christianity that is entirely different in culture and language is very tough for the Europeanized Indian Christians to understand.
There existed a vast difference between the European Christianity and the St. Thomas Tamil Christianity in both material and practical points of view, and differences are glaring Vernacular, Cultural, Social, and Geographical elements. No religion had ever originated in Europe! Nevertheless, in India, which is one of the countries of Asia, many religions came to existence. Therefore, it is natural for the Indians to call their land as a sacred land.
Because of the differences in the features of civilization and culture as mentioned above the west and East looks at Christianity clothed in different attires.
Therefore it is of is no wonder that the European Christianity, which is in the European attire, is not able to understand St. Thomas Tamil Christianity, which is in the Indian attire. As there is no place for Jesus’ and Paul’s method of evangelism, in the European Christianity, St. Thomas Tamil Christianity is not identified easily.
Let us stand together:
From this brief summary it can be seen that Christianity is deeply rooted in Tamil land in Tamil culture and in Tamil language from 1st c.A.D. and developed as St.Thomas Tamil Christianity, later known as ‘Hindu Religion’.
Having realized the fact that, Hindu religion is the offshoot of St.Thomas Tamil Christianity, understanding it in ‘Oriental perspective’ rather than in the ‘European perspective’, is the need of the hour
Hence, a paradigm shift in presenting gospel is highly indispensable and a knowledge on St.Thomas Tamil Christianity i.e., Hindu religion is obligatory for evangelism in India.
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
As St.Paul says, our zeal for God should not be superstitious, but according to Knowledge. Why does St.Paul write like this? Previously he had a great zeal for God with religious fanaticism. Hence he degraded the faith of the Christians and persecuted those who were following the Christian faith, which was against the system of his belief. However, after redemption, he had zeal according to knowledge and instead of attacking and degrading the faith of others, he appreciated the faith of others (Acts 17) and slowly brought them to Christ on the basis of their understanding through their literature. Earlier he persecuted others and after redemption he surrendered himself to God and was later persecuted by others for the redemption of others.
Mission of St. Paul and St. Thomas is a role model for evangelizing the world Society. Since the mission of St. Paul and St. Thomas is play a significant role in bringing everything together under Christ, Let us stand together in this mission according to John 10:16.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be ‘one fold, and one shepherd’ is obligatory for evangelism.
– Dr .D.Devakala M.A., M.Phil.,Ph.D.
Organizer -International Movement on Soulology of the Tamils
278.Konnur High Road, Ayanpuram, Chennai – 600 023.