Today it is a crime to despise your neighbor as unclean, “untouchable” because he was born in a lower caste. Yesterday, it was your “dharma” or sacred duty. Although militant Hindus have taken over India’s governance from “secular” Hindus, they have not had the courage to re-establish “Sanatan Dharma” — eternal religion.
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In recent years a myth has been invented that Christian missions failed to win India because of Hinduism’s inherent inner strength. The irony is that what is called Hinduism today is itself an effect of the Bible’s impact upon India.
It is true that when measured by the yardstick of conversions to Christianity, Colonialism was a complete flop. For it is a myth that the British Raj used political power to try to convert Indians. Anti-colonial missionary movement succeeded in creating modern India, even if its record in “converting” Indians remained minuscule.
During the colonial era, the factor that prevented “conversions” to Christ was Western Rationalism, not Hinduism. Rationalism that opposed divine Revelation was brought to India by Thomas Paine’s book “The Age of Reason.” The Bible convinced Indian reformers that what their religious culture considered “sacred” was in fact diabolical darkness. Rationalists agreed, but they encouraged Indian reformers to put human reason above God’s revelation.
Swami Dayanand’s “Sathyarth Prakash,” for example, Re-hashed “The Age of Reason” in the vernacular. In the Year of Our Lord 2,000 Arun Shourie incorporated a revised version of Paine’s attack on the Bible in his book “Harvesting Our Souls.”
Shourie had less excuse than Dayanand — the founder of Arya Samaj. For by the 1960s, the Humanist Age of Reason had already degenerated into the West’s current “Age of Nonsense.” Public intellectuals such as Arun Shourie were angry because in Swami Dayanand’s Punjab, it has become hard to find an Arya Samaji today. Whereas now — two generations after colonialism — it is hard to find a village in Punjab which does not have an unashamed follower of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Ashish Alexander writes, “Whether it was Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833) in Bengal, or Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824–1883) in Gujarat, or Jotirao Phule (1827–1890) and M. G. Ranade (1842–1901) in Maharashtra, or Narayan Guru (1856–1928) in Kerala, thoughtful Indians of the nineteenth century had come to the conclusion that regeneration of India needed a thorough re-evaluation of India’s religious traditions.
Monotheism, rejection of idolatry, challenges to caste system, campaign against socio-religious evils like Sati, constituting new religious organizations, highlighting or creating new canonical scriptures, launching journals and periodicals, all became a mission of India’s new generation of young men and women. They understood that religious reform must precede social transformation.
As our reformers reflected on the nature of God, Creation, Human Beings, and so on, they consciously or unconsciously allowed the biblical theology and missions to shape their consciousness. No wonder many of these reform movements led to a “Protestant” form of Hinduism. The Bible had a deep impact on India’s religious consciousness, which is felt till today.”
Please zoom with us to continue our journey exploring how the Bible created modern India.