I know, it’s been a while, and no, I haven’t been idle. Between church, home & tent-making, and an adorable 9-month-old in the house, a lot of prioritizing is what’s happening. As I’ve written on my blog, I have a lot of things on my plate and they all matter, but they do not matter at the same time. Having said that, I do need to get better at this, and your prayers are most welcome.
Obviously, some of you who’ve heard this segment before are probably wondering if it even matters that this episode comes out after such a long gap. And all I have to say is, I hope so.
In the previous episode, for those of you who cannot remember it any longer, I responded to an article that was published in The Gospel Coalition, India Edition. In that episode, I was trying hard not to read too pessimistically between the lines of what I would call a vague, yet otherwise biblical article. However, in this episode, I feel quite the opposite. Here, I’m trying very hard to sound optimistic while slipping over the slippery slopes of a series of confusing statements. If you hear me yell as I fall, know that I tried.
There is a reason why this episode is part 2. My concern about TGC-India arose from two resources that they put out recently (relatively speaking) – an article (which I addressed in the last episode) and a video (which I address in this one). And now that I think about it, if either of those two came out without the other, I wonder if I would have even addressed it.
But after going through both resources repeatedly, I was unable to shake off the feeling that there’s a lot of dirt under the rug surrounding this talk about the ‘dream of a new India’. Therefore, to get a complete picture of my concern, I urge you to listen to both of these episodes and consider them a single discourse.
I know, that was a long qualification, and I’ll make sure not to repeat it.
I suppose the thing that has me most confused is this notion of the dream of a new India. What does that even mean? What kind of a nation will that be? Are we talking about a Christian nation? Or are we talking about socioeconomic reform? The strangest phenomenon here is that ‘unbelievers’ apparently have the same dream of a new India as the believers.
The Video in Question
On the 8th of April, TGC put out a video titled ‘The Gospel and the Dream of India’. In it, we have four pastors (who are also council members of TGC India) discussing the same theme as that of the article I addressed in the previous episode. Now, it will be obvious to those of you who do the due diligence, that the common factor of most of my concerns come from statements made by Anand Mahadevan, pastor at New City Church in Mumbai, who is also the author of the article I addressed in the previous episode.
However, the reasoning he brings to justify the already troubling ‘the dream of a new India’ talk, is problematic. If I came away from the article as though it was all a vague kaleidoscopic dream, this video does better in that regard, but not by much. To boil it all down, the men were talking about the aspirations and dreams of this generation of the Indian people, and how the Gospel can help shape those dreams. They talk about how people’s outlook changes when they are saved, from taking things away from the city, to serving the city. A Gospel people should want to live out those Gospel realities in their vocations, neighbourhoods, and office spaces.
Overall, I get the sentiment of what they’re trying to say, and I agree with that sentiment. The Gospel must penetrate every aspect of our lives.
Having said that, the entire discussion however was a view of the Gospel’s influence on culture as seen from 40,000 feet above sea level. Consequently, one can’t be too critical about much that’s being said, but at the same time, it’s not like you can see much of anything from that high up.
Therefore, if the takeaway is that the Gospel must shape all our aspirations and dreams, I’ll say amen! But more on the relationship between Gospel and dreams a little later.
Wipers with faulty Fulcrums
The Bible is to the Christian opinion, what fulcrums are to the windscreen wipers on our cars. Imagine driving on the edge of a steep cliff in a thunderstorm where you can barely see the road, and your wipers are connected to faulty fulcrums that allow them to wipe the rain off a tiny section of your windscreen. Or worse, imagine wipers so bent that they are entirely detached from the screen, trying to wipe the rain off the air. In this analogy, Bible = fulcrums, and wipers = Christian opinion. And a lot of the comments, especially by Pastor Anand were not connecting where they should.
Here’s an excerpt from the discussion where Anand says, “Every time we think about engaging in public spaces, I think we’ve got to really take hold of this doctrine of common grace.” For those of you who are not familiar with the term, the doctrine of common grace is the biblical teaching that God sovereignly bestows a common measure of grace to all mankind regardless of if they’re Christian or not. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45), or “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9), or even the likes of Luke 6:35 and Acts 14:17. This, is the doctrine of common grace.
Anand continues, “I think if we truly understand this, the way we engage with non-Christians can become so much more richer.” Ok, how?
Let me read you the bulk of his statements that followed before we address the issue in its entirety. “We’ve got to recognize that this dream of India is not exclusively owned by only Christians. This dream of India is owned by every citizen of the country. And as Christians, I think we have the joy, the privilege of really collaborating, engaging, working together with every citizen of the country, irrespective of faith, to build this dream of India. And I think as we work with people who are not Christians, who may not be Christians, we’re also going to become aware that even in their hearts, in some subconscious way, they do have a longing to go back to the perfection of creation before sin. They do have a longing of the perfect world to come. So, in an intuitive way, they are also part of the gospel story in very different stages in the journey. So, I think if we really understand and embrace this doctrine of common grace, that can really bring us together with every other citizen in the country as we together pursue the dream of India”
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty”
The warning that Scripture gives us when it comes to the believing and the unbelieving world is that there is a significant gap in partnership, fellowship, accord, portion and agreement. And this gap exists because of a fundamental separation between righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, the share of a believer and that of an unbeliever, and between the temple of God and of idols. The doctrine of common grace does not bridge this gap and certainly does not encourage you to dream for the new India as they do.
The point here is not that there is no overlap of desire or dreams between non-Christians and Christians, especially on subjects common to them like the advancement of a nation. But the unifying that the men suggest in this video is just fiction.
The Key Distinction
We need to understand the difference between co-belligerence and an alliance. Co-belligerence is the waging of a war in cooperation against a common enemy without a formal treaty of a military alliance. I can stand alongside an atheist in a march against abortion and share my bottle of water with him, while entirely recognizing the stark differences that separate us. The unity we have is temporal and the division between us is permanent until he repents of his ungodly beliefs and turns to faith in Christ.
Are the brothers in this video suggesting an alliance with the unbelievers of this world who, according to Paul, have set their minds on the things of the flesh and are hostile toward God in their hearts, and are unable to please him (Romans 8:7-8)? This entire thought that we’re going to be aware that even those who may not be Christian are in their hearts, in some subconscious way, longing to go back to the perfection of creation before sin” is a charade.
Now, you might ask me why I consider this stretch of identifying the Gospel dream for a new India with the worldly dream for a new India such a big problem. Well, because this trajectory does not Christianize the world’s dream, it secularizes the Christian dream. It does not make the world more like Christ, it makes Christians more like the world.
In order to realize the fictitious unity between those who are not in Christ and those who are, many Christians are compelled to compromise on the very issues that separate us for the sake of bridging the gap between us and them. This does not produce a dream, but a nightmare of confusion and compromise.
The Gospel & Dreams
Let us then talk about the relationship between the Gospel and dreams, especially for a new and reformed India. The Gospel dream is bound up in that great commission of Christ to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
The true dream is birthed by the victory of Christ, who now is King over heaven and earth. His authority is the power that wields our dreams. What is this dream then? It must be a dream to preach Christ crucified, to take the Gospel to our nation, baptizing our nation in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This nationwide revival is created not by sword or force but by preaching and service, by shining the light of Christ, a revival that comes from the hearts of our people compelled to see the truth of Christ. The dream is not to join forces with the unbelievers but to have the unbelievers see the light of believing. We are called to make disciples. Our dream is to see all men observe the commandments of Christ, in every aspect of their lives. To see Christ glorified in our media, our politics, our entertainment, our workplaces, our homes and our churches.
The Gospel doesn’t just shape our dreams, it births true dreams. Dreams beyond our ability to dream. In closing, let me quote Lewis who said,
“Our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”