So I’m studying for yet another exam. Religion education.
One of my probable exam questions will be: “explain the hindu conception(s) of God”. The lecturers have been pretty clear about their liberal views, so I’m pretty certain about what they want. The broader and more inclusive the answer the better. My answer should be something like:
“Hindu conceptions of God are incredibly diverse and enigmatic. Elements of pantheism, panentheism, polytheism and monotheism are evident…”
This would be followed by long explanations which I wont bother you with, except to make some observations about the nature of ‘holy’ texts:
The Upanishads depict God in Pantheistic terms in a few places:
“Now if a man worships another deity, thinking that the deity is one and he another, he does not know.”
“He who is this (Brahman) in man and he who is that (Brahman) in the sun, both are one.”
Then, in the Bhagavad Gita, we have statements strangely similar to the sort of ‘jealous’ monotheistic God expressed in the Judeo-Christian traditions:
“Give up then thy earthly duties, surrender thyself to me only.”
Finally, especially in the rural areas of India, there are many hindu devotees who jealously worship only their own deity among all those they recognise in the hindu pantheon. Theological and apologetic approaches to explaining the relationship between the deities and Deity itself matter very little to them.
Now, all this is very interesting from an external reference point. I’m sure my lecturers will be very happy with the breadth of my conceptualization of hinduism… I’m not so sure that practicing hindus would be so enthusiastic.
Which brings me to my point:
If I asked a hindu student to have a quick, inclusive study of Christianity, using only the biblical text, what would they come up with to answer the question: “How do Christians understand God?”
The answer to this question might make proponents of evangelical conceptualizations of biblical sufficiency a little uncomfortable.
Here’s what I think: I love the bible. I believe that the bible is inspired by God… But I’m starting to doubt that the bible is sufficient to bring us to knowledge of the full story of God’s story. Christ is the one who reveals God to mankind. Only a personal disciple-relationship with Christ can bring us into a meaningful knowledge of God. He is God’s Word to humankind. The life, words, and continuing ministry of Christ is the foundation of the church. Not the Bible.