The Missionary Contribution To Indian Christian Theologizing

Western missionaries came to India with a definite mandate to preach the gospel of light to heathens. But some of them had startling experiences when they encountered natives who had a high sense of morality and undertook fascinating acts of religious devotion. This happened to the first Protestant missionary, Barthalomaeus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719), who was sponsored by a Danish king, sent by the pietistic Halle Mission, and landed on the east coast of southern India in 1706. Startled by the religious life of the Hindus around him, even before he brought out the first New Testament in the Tamil language in 1714, he made a field study of their beliefs and practices. Although he uses phrases like 'foolish heathenism', 'heathenish darkness' and 'blind heathens', he appreciated the Hindu belief in one Supreme God Almighty. In this regard he wondered 'how much further they have gone in his knowledge, by the light of nature, than the heathens of Rome'. But the light, he continues, 'has been quite obscured by their ancient poets and Brahmins, who have written many fabulous stories, and introduced a confused idol worship, out of which they cannot easily extricate themselves'.6 This initial appreciation of positive elements in Hinduism, while pointing out the negative side, later gave way to more accurate perceptions.

Of the missionaries, G. U. Pope (1820-1907)7, Thomas Slater (1840-1912)8, Robert Hume (1847-1929)9, John Jones (1847-1916)10, Bernard Lucas

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