The other day, I was happily surprised to see that The Gospel Coalition had published an article on Hinduism. Although there are over a billion Hindus in the world they are largely misunderstood and ignored. And among followers of Christ that translates into a serious lack of prayerful interest. So to see an article on "9 Things You Should Know About Hinduism," by Joe Carter, was encouraging.
I was also pleasantly surprised that it wasn't complete rubbish. Sadly, when evangelicals write on Hinduism their articles and books are nearly always shot through with inaccuracy and naive interpretive miss-steps.
So to read that, "Although Hinduism is often treated as a single religion, it is more accurate to describe it as a family of religions..." was refreshing.
But to read on that, those religions, "share common beliefs and characteristics" was a big let down. Although there are certain similarities among many of the groups that make up this great 'family' there really is not one doctrine that one can say all Hindus believe. When an atheist can be a good Hindu, you know that something else provides the common factor. And that factor is that all these beliefs and practices share a common civilisational heritage. That's all.
The author makes further mistakes. I will list some of there here:
- Carter asserts that, "The sacred texts of Hinduism outline four primary, though not mutually exclusive, paths to experience Brahman, or ultimate reality, and obtain Moksha" and lists these as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga. As you can see for yourself if you click on the link you are not directed to the sacred texts themselves but to a pro-Hindu polemical web site - not exactly a reliable way to do research, as I would have thought a TGC writer would have figured. Scholarly writings on Hinduism invariably list three paths to experience the divine, not four, the last being in a different category of altogether. Raja yoga, also called samkhya, is an attempt to reverse the effects of evolution on the soul, not a path of liberation to moksha.
- He also states that, "The postural yoga often used as a form of exercise in the West is derived from raja yoga." Again, this is just plain wrong, as has been pointed out on this blog before.
- Again, "Hinduism has no concept of sin" is simply mistaken. Wrongdoing is well understood by Hindus. Let me quote an authority, K. K. Klostermeier: "Notions of guilt and sin play a great role in Hinduism, and devices for righting wrongs and atoning for sins occupy a large place in the life of many Hindus" (A Survey of Hinduism, p. 146). This idea that Hindus have no concept of sin is trotted out ad nauseam by Christians. The concept may not be the same as the concept we have but it does not mean there is no semantic overlap. Attempts at sharing Christ with Hindus are not so hampered that one cannot talk about failure, impurity, transgression. Indeed, as Paul tells us, "Indeed, when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law fro themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the righteous requirements of the law are written on their hearts..." (Romans 2:14-15). Listen to this poem of the seventeenth century Hindu Marathi poet, Tukaram:
I am a mass of sin;
Thou art all purity;
Yet thou must take me as I am
And bear my load for me.
Me Death has all consumed
In thee all power abides.
All else forsaking, at thy feet
Thy servant Tuka hides.
Carter's big problem is to rely on web sites, some of which are clearly second-rate, for his information. I hope that in future the TGC will represent the Hindu tradition as it really is, rather than as poorly-informed missionaries and polemicists would have us believe.
At school, my report always said that I 'must try harder'. And my assessment of TGC (and IMB for that matter, as their web site was one of the sources) is that they too must try harder. The eternal destiny of over a billion souls depends on it.