State of the Church

To get some idea of the high stakes in the drama now being played in Third World countries, we must first get a picture of the current state of the Church - a secular empire that is crumbling in Europe that now sees expansion in Asia, India in particular with its teeming millions, as its main hope for survival. The so-called 'Thailand Report on the Hindus' - or the Report of the Consultation on World Evangelization: Mini-Consultation on Reaching the Hindus - has chapters like 'Biblical Framework for Hindu Evangelization', 'Hindrances to the Evangelization of Hindus', 'Strategic Planning for Evangelization of Hindus' and others in a similar vein that give a clear idea of its scope and intentions. The report goes on to observe: 10

We rejoice in the fact that the saving Word of God preached faithfully by God's servants has brought about a Christian population of 19 million people in India

10 The fact that the Church sees India as a major target is amply attested by many reports. For instance. the so-called 'Thailand Report on the Hindus' from which the passage cited is taken, was published in 1980 by Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisalion based in Wheaton, Illinois. There are other similar studies but the Lausanne report is fairly typical of the genre.

alone. However we are conscious that God longs for the whole Hindu people to know Jesus Christ and live under his Lordship... (p 5; emphasis added.)

We regret that, after so many years of sincere effort by so many faithful people, the number of Christians in India is still less than 3% of the population. Further, the dispersed Hindus in other parts of the world have been largely neglected by the Christian communities. (ibid.)

No further comment is needed to recognize that the Church is greatly interested in evangelizing the Hindus of India. What is not widely known is that without expansion in countries like India, Christianity may be doomed. This is the concern of Church officials at all levels, including the Pope. Missionaries find India particularly attractive because of the freedom they enjoy in an open society and the Hindus' history of tolerance. This is obviously not an option in Islamic countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, patrolled by 'religious police'. For this reason, religious entrepreneurs, like Pat Robertson, also see countries like India and Sri Lanka as fertile grounds for their activities as we shall have occasion to see in due course.

To grasp the complexities of the drama being played we need to recognize that the crisis confronting the Church today is only partly doctrinal. The real problem facing organized Christianity today is the increasing irrelevance of its message. It helps to bear in mind that for all its religious trappings, the Church has always been a secular institution, more concerned with its economic and political viability than the saving of souls. This has been the case throughout its two thousand year history: all of its so-called 'reforms' have been power shifts brought on by political circumstances. This is how it appears to the present author, who, thanks to the accident of his birth, is in a position to bring a pluralistic, non-Christian perspective to the study of the Church and its present crisis. At the same time, having spent most of his adult life in the 'Christian' West, he has some understanding of Christianity as well.

Seen from the vantage position of one who was born into a non-theocratic Eastern tradition, the Church does not seem much like a religious entity. The 'Christian' West today is in a deep spiritual crisis. But leaders acting in the name of God and Christ -like Pat Robertson, Patrick Buchanan, and even Pope John Paul II - are interested mainly in political and economic expansion. Robertson and Buchanan seek the presidency of the United States in the name of 'Judaeo-Christian values', while the Pope is concerned mainly with expansion in Asia - especially India - to compensate for massive losses in the West. These losses, as we shall see in the next chapter, are much greater than the general public is aware.

Throughout history, whenever confronted with a problem the Church has invariably reacted like a political or a commercial organization rather than a spiritual one. It is no different today. It does not look into the soul for the source of the problem and its solution, but seeks to use its formidable economic and political resources to try and smother it.11 Money and power - both secular, and both destroyers of the soul - are the prime concern of the Church today as they have been throughout its eventful history. And this - a total lack of spirituality - is what really lies at the heart of the problems facing the Church today as we shall discover in the next chapter.

11 One can see this quite clearly by comparing the rise of Buddhism in response to problems in orthodox Hinduism and the history of Europe following Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. The former gave a new approach to the problems of human existence, while the latter led to religious wars.

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