Introduction

The words in the title are deliberately chosen. Those who know the famous phrase 'the water of life in an Indian cup' attributed to Sadhu Sundar Singh, one of the most well-known lay theologians of India, would realize the twist. It challenges straight away a few traditional assumptions about the nature of the so-called Indian Christian theology. First, to claim that there is a single theology or even a cluster of theologies produced in India is far from the truth. Partly, such a claim is the result of imitating the western way of naming theology, which is basically a reasoning or talking about God. Although there are particular theological constructions made in the west within defined frameworks of certain philosophies, today we realize the variety of methods and plurality of perspectives from which theology is approached. Second, 'the water of life in an Indian cup' suggests that the 'water of life' has come from elsewhere and the cup, a single cup, is only a receptacle. If Sundar Singh's other image 'channels' is preferred, again it means what India has is nothing more than an instrumental value. Third, in spite of several attempts having been made, India has yet to produce a systematic theology that is constructive, consistent, coherent and relevant.

It is rather modest to say that some Indian Christian thinkers have made serious attempts to reflect the Christian faith in the context of challenges facing their country. As it will become clear in this chapter, most of them were fresh converts from the major religious tradition called Hinduism. They were evangelistic and apologetic while reclaiming their national heritage with a sense of protest against western ways of thinking and the western image of the church in India. This unique fact raises questions about definitions of theology in relation to mission. In fact the

Indian theological reflections obscure, if not obliterate, the boundaries between missiology and theology, including what is known as contextual theology. What is theologically significant, however, is that they have been indirectly revolting against the Syriac captivity of the Syrian Church, which has been in existence from the early centuries of the Christian era and which appeared to be a special caste without any passion for sharing the gospel with their Hindu neighbours; so also against the Latin captivity of the Catholic Church, which started to take root in Indian soil from the beginning of the sixteenth century, although some radical attempts (for example by Robert de Nobili) were made to indigenize the mission in the seventeenth century. Such a captivity gripped Protestant traditions also which operated within the colonial and cultural domination of the west; the only difference was that theological formulations and liturgical forms were available in European languages, mainly English.

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