M. M. Thomas, The Secular Ideologies of India and the Secular Meaning of Christ (Madras: Christian Literature Society-CISRS, 1976), pp. 241-84.
A. J. Appasamy, Christianity as Bhakti Marga: A Study of the Johannine Doctrine ofLove (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1930); What is Moksa? A Study in the Johannine Doctrine of Life (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1931).
of Ramanuja. Accordingly, the oneness between Jesus and his Father was not ontological but moral, 'a union in love and work and not an identity in their essential nature'.20 Such is the harmony of the individual soul with the Divine soul in liberation.
Appasamy used the word antaryamin for the immanent Word (logos) and indwelling Spirit, which pervade the whole universe always. The popular Hindu word avatara he found a useful conceptual category for interpreting the incarnation of Christ but stressed the distinctive nature of it as a onetime manifestation of the wholeness of God in a concrete human form in a particular time in history. He emphasized that 'The sacrifice on Calvary is the uttermost expression of the love of God', the supreme power who 'forgives and redeems, exerts its irresistible influence' on every human being.21 To the three-fold basic sources of authority (pramanas) held by Christianity and the Hindu traditions in common - scripture (sruti), reason (yukti) and experience (anubhava), Appasamy adds the source of church (sabha), where there is authoritative teaching revealed by God in contrast to Hindu religion, which is very individualistic. And he finds the Upanishadic idea of Brahman as food (anna) to be a useful tool to interpret the Eucharist through which 'the living Christ enters into us and forms a part of our inmost self in the same organic way in which food and drink become a part of our being'.22 This interpretation suits Ramanuja's idea of Brahman as the inner controller of the whole universe, which is his body, including the human souls who realize him in absolute surrender in loving devotion. However, Appasamy never fails to recognize the church as Christ's body in a special way, where the reciprocal relationship of divine revelation and devotees' obedience to God's will continue.
Chakkarai, whose conversion was effected by the inspiration of Jesus' cry of dereliction on the cross, was a key member of the Madras group known for Rethinking Christianity in India. He combined his commitment to sharing the gospel with educated Hindus with active participation in the nationalist movement, social service as a lawyer, and at one time being mayor of Madras. He introduced 'the Christhood of God' in the sense that Jesus typified the real nature of God. He believed the immanent God (antaryamin) took a special form in Christ's incarnation and now the new experience of his devotees is having his whole person seated in their hearts as teacher and inspirer. More than anyone else
A. J. Appasamy, The Gospel and India's Heritage (London: SPCK, 1942), p. 38.
A. J. Appasamy, Christianity as BhaktiMarga (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1930), pp. 125,112.
A. J. Appasamy, Christianity as Bhakti Marga (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1930), p. 142.
Chakkarai made a thorough study of the Hindu understanding of avatara and contrasted it with incarnation. Christ's avatara was not a theophany, nor was it static, but 'the Incarnation advanced from stage to stage, from the historical to the spiritual, from the external to the internal, from time to eternity'.23 Chakkarai applied to Jesus several terms known in the Hindu tradition to signify that Jesus was the true and supreme person. While he acknowledges the descriptions of the Holy Spirit in John's gospel as the comforter and indweller, in a strange way, Chakkarai identifies Christ with the Spirit and declares that 'the Holy Spirit in human experience is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ'.24 His book The Cross and Indian Thought25 represents a brilliant study bringing together Western and Indian interpretations of the cross and stressing it as signifying the perpetual and sacrificial love of God. By sacrificing his ego to the Being of God and merging into the Spirit, Jesus revealed a new kind of oneness which was based not on a mystical experience but on a historical event. In the ongoing dynamic movement of this oneness, the Christian devotees too have a share.
Chenchiah, brother-in-law of Chakkarai, a chief justice and the most distinguished member of the group 'Rethinking Christianity', stood on the threshold of linking the Hindu tradition and modern scientific thinking. His was the first critical review of Kraemer's famous book, The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World, prepared for the third World Missionary Conference held in Tambaram, Madras, in 1938.26 He showed in this review that most of the Barthian theology represented by Kraemer was totally irrelevant to the Indian context of many religions with Hinduism as a major one. He also criticized the ecclesiastical battles of the West fought in India in the name of church union. For him loyalty to Christ did not contradict a reverential attitude towards Hindu heritage. He gave primacy to the 'raw fact' of experience of Christ and tested church tradition, including creeds and doctrines, in its light. Drawing from Aurobindo's integral yoga and theory of evolution, Chenchiah affirmed Jesus Christ as not simply a perfect man but as the New Man and True Man produced by God and Man. As he saw it, a new quality of life and a new energy has been injected into the world and human life, as Jesus was the first man (adi-purusha) of a new creation and order, that is,
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