The Mission of Jesus Christ in India Today

by Dr Ken Gnanakan

Date added: 21/10/2016

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The Mission of Jesus Christ in India Today

Ken Gnanakan

A paper from the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion Conference in ECC Bangalore, 16th - 21st October 2016. For the other five papers from this conference click here.

Christians and other minority communities in India have been facing increasing challenges with pressures from varied forces recently. Our context is multicultural, multi-religious and diverse as far as economic statuses are concerned. And within this we are faced with various pressures, particularly from two sides. On the one hand, the church’s attitude itself is still entrenched in its colonial past, with a rigid attitude to mission and other religions; while on the other, there are increasing socio-political and religious forces directly confronting the church and its community. All this demands a review of our mission strategies.

 Reminders about our multicultural and multi-religious contexts are not new. Asia is not the only place where one is confronted by a plurality of religions.  Christians in the West have been forced to face this reality with millions of staunch followers of other religions right on their doorstep.  In Britain there are vast sections of the country populated by devout Hindus and ardent Muslims, while in the United States of America along with these major religions, one is faced with the growing influence of numerous disturbing trends.  If the Church wants to be effective in its mission, it must increase its awareness of the present context with a better understanding of the beliefs of its neighbours. And then make an intelligent attempt to become a more integral part of the world within which it is called to mission.

No longer do we live in a triumphalistic time when Christian claims to ultimate religious superiority could be taken for granted. Our vantage point needs to be changed so we can meet our hearers on a totally different plane.  Our mission in earlier times was known for presenting the Gospel condescendingly, with no respect or reference to the context. We made condemnatory and judgmental pronouncements of the beliefs of the hearers. This has to be reviewed.  While the fact of plurality is not new, the challenge that comes to us forcefully today is not only to recognize the presence of religions around us but also to take a new stand on our relationship to them. 

How does the Gospel of Jesus Christ fit into this multi-religious setting with conflicting claims? There were some commendable efforts by Western missionaries to conduct mission in our country. There are the legendry efforts of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Studies like those of J.N Farquhar, who attempted to paint Christianity as the fulfilment of the search of the Hindu was a good effort although it brought some mixed reactions.1. Then, the eminent Methodist missionary Stanley Jones attempted successfully to build links with non-Christians in his Sat-tal Ashram. 2   But on the whole there were sufficient grounds for the criticism that the Christian attitude to other faiths was developed generally from an idealistic position of superiority. And this was amidst a glaring ignorance of the beliefs of the adherents of other faiths.

A recent WCC consultation on theology of religions (Baar, Switzerland.1990)) produced an important statement, drawing out the implications of the Christian belief that God is active as “Creator and Sustainer” in the religious life of all peoples:

"This conviction that God as Creator of all is present and active in the plurality of religions makes it inconceivable to us that God's saving activity could be confined to any one continent, cultural type, or group of people. A refusal to take seriously the many and diverse religious testimonies to be found among the nations and peoples of the whole world amounts to disowning the biblical testimony to God as Creator of all things and Father of humankind.” 3 

The theme of the ninth WCC assembly in 2007 “God, in Your Grace, Transform the World,” also called for such an attitude. “We see the plurality of religious traditions as both the result of the manifold ways in which God has related to peoples and nations as well as a manifestation of the richness and diversity of human response to God's gracious gifts.”  The document went on:

“It is our Christian faith in God which challenges us to take seriously the whole realm of religious plurality, always using the gift of discernment. Seeking to develop new and greater understandings of "the wisdom, love and power which God has given to men (and women) of other faiths" (New Delhi report, 1961), we must affirm our "openness to the possibility that the God we know in Jesus Christ may     encounter us also in the lives of our neighbours of other faiths" (CWME, San Antonio 1989). We also believe that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will lead us to understand anew the deposit of the faith already given to us, and into fresh and unforeseen insight into the divine mystery, as we learn more from our neighbours of other faiths.” 4

Whether we believe in such statements or not, one of the priorities for us as Indian Christians is to make a fresh commitment to the transcendent God who remains beyond our finite existence and we cannot comprehend him completely. We finite human beings attempt to do mission. No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? (Rom 11.33ff). We face questions - Is God at work in other religions? Is God present there? Do all religions have equal validity for salvation? These and other dilemmas are beyond the scope of this paper, and perhaps even beyond the scope of our limited thinking.

We must accept our multi-faith context

Becoming aware of and accepting our diverse context is priority. A very controversial challenge came from John Hick, in his book “God and the Universe of Faiths” written in 1973 5   He questioned our commitment to “absolutes.”  There was a period when our commitment to absolutes was taken for granted, Hick and several likeminded thinkers claimed.  However, the situation has changed. With radical changes that have affected our theological thinking, absolutes, they say, have to give way to relatives, and relativity considers everything to be changeable.

The Church’s rigid traditional position is what is referred to as “Exclusivist,” a viewpoint strongly based on certain absolute claims of the “superiority” of the Christian faith and the ultimacy of Jesus Christ.  John Hick, Paul Knitter and a host of others in some very influential recent writings attempted to justify their growing pluralistic stand based on this kind of a commitment. Hick called his readers to accept the “Copernican revolution”- calling for a radical shift in our attitude to Christianity and its relation to other religions:

“The Copernican revolution in astronomy consisted in a transformation of the way in which men                   understood the universe and their own location within it.  It involved a radical shift from the dogma that the earth is the centre of the revolving universe to the realization that the sun is as the centre, with all planets, including our own earth, moving around it. And the Copernican revolution in theology must involve an equally radical transformation of our conception of the universe of faiths and of the place of our own religion within it.  It must involve a shift from the dogma that Christianity is at the centre to the thought that it is [God] which is at the centre and that all the religions of mankind, inclusing our own, serve and revolve around him.”

Hick makes his task clear.  He strips Christianity of any claims to being the superior absolute religion and gives to it a position of equal validity alongside all other religions.  At the centre is no longer Christianity, but ‘God’ -- one, or something, accessible to adherents of all religions.  Committing ourselves to relativity, for him will imply that we abandon our faith in Jesus Christ as God’s final revelation and to accept all religious claims on equal terms.

The critical question arises - Will this be the best attitude within which we can do whatever mission God calls us to perform? There are those who will react rather negatively and say that we must continue to hold fast to our fundamentals. It is possible, as M.M Thomas suggests “for people to build spiritual ghettos in which they may live in isolation from one another.  Or they can follow the path of aggression with a view to dominating others. Both these are destructive and possibly self-defeating options.”7  

We could take a closer look at Thomas’ solution -- “The only creative way out for humankind in the modern context of pluralism, it seems, is for each religion, culture and ideology to recognise that people are in a situation of dialogical existence, and to explore the possibility of cooperation and pro-existence, without in the process losing its own ultimate spiritual basis.” 8 Thomas is careful to say that he does not want to surrender his “spiritual basis.” But to believe that all others have equally valid basis for salvation  is to surrender any firm conviction in the biblical revelation on which our faith rests. It is true that we live today in a much more dialogical existence, but this fact does not necessarily imply a surrender of the biblical claims.

But we are still left with the dilemma. The question to be asked is this: Is it possible for us to get back to the Bible with this renewed understanding of our present context and face the challenge that confronts us in a far more positive way?   Are there some fresh insights from the Word of God, in the record of men and women who grappled with similar issues having had that first hand encounter with Jesus Christ himself?   Will these insights help us to respond more effectively within the dialogical existence that we find ourselves? 

The urgent need that every Christian faces is to relate to a real world of people and an aggravating environmental crisis, and to make these penultimate commitments that will help proclaim the ultimacy of Jesus Christ. We need to relate to the world rather than retreat into isolated islands within which our faith in Christ is protected. Isn’t there a possibility to believe that all sincere adherents of deep religious beliefs are at least pointing to the right direction? Aren’t we all moving in the same direction?  Does the Bible itself open the door for an acceptance of people genuinely seeking God although maybe following whatever path is being made known to them?

There is no need for us to feel threatened.  After all we have not yet exhausted the truths of the Bible, and therefore its relevance to us for our present day situation needs to be discovered even more as we deal with newer questions. In fact, our theologies have been constructed on a very limited selection of biblical texts, and these have been coloured by presuppositions that have been handed down to us. In some cases these are perhaps more traditional and denominational rather than biblical. However, even if we have to underline the same facts that we already have done, we will discover the need for a totally different attitude to our own claims, as well as to the claims of other religions.

I believe that mission conducted with this openness will yield far more positive results that our inflexible, exclusivist positions that have shut the door for people to enter. Mission in the Indian panorama needs to take into account our multi-faith context and present Jesus Christ who must relate to these realities. We need to get to grips with what the Apostle said to the Athenians on Mars Hill – “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”(Acts 17.23) Our mission could become far more relevant.

Our mission should be Holistic

As we consider critical factors that influence our mission in India, there are is one fundamental change that we must make.  This foundational perspective is a commitment to “holism.” Over the last centuries we have succumbed to the Enlightenment influence and sacrificed our distinctive holistic philosophy which has fashioned much of our traditional Indian approach to life and living - whether it is religion, society, medicine, foods or whatever.

And, what holism?  The general principle of “holism” was succinctly stated by Aristotle: "The whole is more than the sum of its parts"9.  To start, we can go right back and build from its Greek origins. Holism (from Greek ὅλος - holos meaning "all, whole, entire") is the concept that systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties should be viewed as wholes. They are not collections of parts.

Holism comes through forcefully in the Old Testament Jewish setting. The Hebrew word “shalom” is popularly translated to mean peace. But peace is only a small part of the meaning of the word. One dictionary uses synonyms such as completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare (well being), safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. 10 

It is in ecology that we find the most important approach to holism, as the science tries to integrate biological, chemical, physical and economic views in micro and macro environments.  In more recent times, the term was first used by J C Smuts in his path breaking study in “Holism and Evolution”. 11 While Smuts first employed the term in the biological context speaking of the intricate interconnections in plant life, he went on to underline that it represents the wholes in the wider universe.12

A commitment to holism could unlock some closed doors. In India, we know of the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, one of the classic Indian paths to spiritual realization.13 There is a holistic unifying interpretation of the Atman and Brahman and this trickles down to much of popular thinking. It is an integration of all of life and true meaning is discovered within this. Our mission must find itself actualized within these rich traditions and practiced in terms of relational wholes rather than fragmented units.

Holistic mission is what the Bible is all about. Creation is a whole, and we will go on to discuss his later. The prime concern of Jesus Christ in his opening words recorded in the Gospel of Mark is the good news of the kingdom (Mk. 1:14f). This was not some geographical territorial claim, as it is the reign of God rather than the realm of the Kingdom being underlined.  This reign meant that all of God’s power is to be demonstrated through the centrality of Jesus in our mission. If God is Lord of all, his lordship must be actualised through Jesus Christ in the entire world today.

The Apostle Paul, particularly writing to the Ephesian and the Colossian Christians developed this understanding of God’s total Lordship very explicitly. For instance, he writes: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”(Col 1.19f) When we speak of God’s mission, it will therefore need to be this whole all-embracing mission.

The influential missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin wrote: “The Christian mission is…to act out in the whole life of the whole world the confession that Jesus is Lord of all” 14 For Newbigin - this “implies a commitment to make good that confession in relation to the whole life of the world – its philosophy, its culture, and it politics no less than the personal lives of its people. The Christian mission is thus to act out in the whole life of the whole world the confession that Jesus is Lord of all”15  

Holistic Mission is mission to the Whole Person

One of most important passages that address the whole person is Luke’s description of Jesus’ growth into adulthood and in preparation for his ministry: ...”Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.” (Lk 2.52) The reference is to our Lord’s complete growth - mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. It is holistic. No wonder when it was time for his ministry, he declared his mission manifesto in Luke 4:18-19 : “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” His mission was whole.

Our mission is not just to one part of the human, whether it be physical or spiritual, but to the whole person. The underlining of Jesus’ manifesto, not only widens our definition of salvation, but also broadens our perception of sin. We have concentrated on personal sin and ignored the whole context within which the spiritual or even the whole of the human personality operates. If our Lord Jesus himself showed his being and his relationships to be holistic, we too need to be demonstrating our wholeness within ourselves, as well as our interconnectedness with people around us, and also to the environment.

The Enlightenment, we saw, made Western cultures to think in terms of parts rather than the whole.  Our bodies, minds, emotions and spirit were implicitly considered to be separate components rather than belonging to totally interconnected wholes.  Science took things apart and dealt with them in isolation of the whole. Medical practitioners focused on localized symptoms rather than considering the whole the body. And little wonder that this fragmented, disintegrated approach has influenced our whole mission, separating the spiritual from the physical. All this needs to be urgently corrected.

Mission is to the whole person. Our body, soul, emotion, mind, and all else forms the whole person.  This whole person is part of a whole context – a family, a community, a society, the environment around us and influenced by various other aspects of our history and culture. No longer is it possible to deal with individual entities in mission, they are smaller wholes that belong to larger wholes.  This makes our mission to be holistic, stressing the whole person rather than focusing on fragmented spiritual or physical needs.

A significant section of the church seriously considers the whole Bible as being God’s revelation. But we perceive that many have limited their interpretations of mission to narrow sections and have not covered the whole Bible - the Old and the New. We need this whole panorama in order to establish what the Bible states about a whole Gospel. It is this Gospel that will make our mission complete and to the whole person.

God’s mission starts with Creation

If it is the whole Bible we must read, then we must begin with reference to our Creator God who is also our Redeemer God. And the two combine to make the powerful Creator-Redeemer who is not Lord of just one part of our lives, or the church, or even a particular section of the world. As God, he is Lord of all – all humanity and the whole of creation. This is the God we worship and this is the God who calls us to act on his behalf in the world. Undoubtedly, mission started in the heart of God even before the foundation of the world, but we are limited, and because of the finiteness of our knowledge as human beings, we can only see creation as the starting point where God reveals his plans for our world.

Creation offers us an appropriate start for the foundation for God’s total dealings. There is an intricate interconnectedness in all that God has created, and this network of the energy and resources in God’s creation builds into a splendid synergy or holism to undergird our mission. There is much we can say about our Creator God, but sufficient to affirm that our mission in order to be whole must span the whole scope of God’s concerns. And this means recognizing that God’s mission started with his dealings in the world in his creational act.

By and large, there has been a negative attitude towards creation and the created world and this has hindered us from fully appreciating God as Lord of all. Lynn White Jr issued a scathing attack - “Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.”16  White, a professor of medieval history, delivered the lecture in 1967 arguing that the Christian influence in the Middle Ages was the root of ecological crisis in the 20th century.

The Biblical doctrine of creation teaches, he suggested, human dominion over nature and establishes this attitude of anthropocentrism. Whether White is right or wrong, we remind ourselves, the first thing to do is to recover a positive attitude towards creation and in doing so will need to widen the horizons we have set for the Gospel and mission. If God is Creator, there should be an ongoing relationship between God and his redeemed people from whom mission flows to all of the created community.

India is reeling with the impacts of the severe environmental crisis.  The intensity is alarming as our population rapidly grows in colossal proportions, and it may seem irrelevant to ask the question - “Should we be concerned?” What an opportunity this is for Christians to show their concern for God’s creation. Sadly, it is the poor who suffer most. And hence what an occasion this is to demonstrate God’s compassion for the poor and do everything we can to lift them out of their pathetic plight. This is the message of salvation we have to offer to a world in dire need.

The strong link between creation and salvation is well captured by Gustavo Guttierez, who appropriately points out that they do not point to two “orders”. Creation and salvation refer to two dimensions of God’s redemptive action in history.17  Creation, for him, as recorded in Genesis,   is the “first salvific act and part of the whole process of salvation. And hence in Exodus, it is Creation language that is used - “The exodus is the creation of God’s people.” 18 Hence, Creation is bound up with God’s saving action; and vice versa, God’s saving action is creative. For Guttierez, even in the New Testament, creation and salvation intertwine: “The redemptive action of Christ, the foundation of all that exists, is also conceived as a re-creation and presented in the context of creation (cf. Col 1,15-20; 1 Cor 8,6; Heb 1,2; Eph 1,1-22) as with the work of Christ, presented simultaneously as a liberation from sin.19 

So again, God’s mission extends to all creation. Abraham Kuyper said - “It is impossible, Bible in hand, to limit Christ's Church to one's own little community. It is everywhere, in all parts of the world; and whatever its external form, frequently changing, often impure, yet the gifts wherever received increase our riches.” 20  But we remind ourselves that this is no triumphalistic expression from the Church or us the Christian community. It is a call to humbly serve God as kingdom servants in every way possible wherever he has placed us.

God’s mission is incarnational

God’s mission starts right from creation as recorded in the Bible, and we find that even the New Testament recognizes this starting point. While God continued to reveal his plans to Israel, it is in our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ that we find the clearest expression of this revelation.  John tells us in very graphic terms that Jesus is the “Word Made Flesh”. God himself dwells in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel… God with us, and this means that the Creator has entered into a created world and revealing plans that have been around from eternity.

The Incarnation dynamically encapsulates the holism we have discussed above - the Father sending the Son to live amongst us; a complete, self-expression of God giving himself fully and identifying with creation. The Incarnation is part of God’s unique redemptive plan of salvation at work in Christ. In fact, without the Incarnation, the fundamental truth of the gospel would not have appeared in the world for us to behold.

The Indian theologian Chakkarai’s Christology is his view of the dynamic nature of the incarnation, referring to that which is still growing into new depths of meaning.21   In other words the incarnation is not temporary or static, but is permanent and dynamic. The Hindu concept of avatara is that gods appear in the world from time to time, and then return to be reabsorbed in God. But the Christ event, for Chakkarai, is singular, once and for all. God having become man in Christ remains as “God-man forever”, and is not simply absorbed back into God with the discarding of his human nature. The dynamic avatara does not cease with the cross or ascension, but God in Christ still continues to be man, living and working in the lives of believers.22  

This understanding of the incarnation of Christ strongly recognizes of the presence of Christ in the believer, and portrays the powerful presence of Christ that continues to empower the believer in mission today. We are partners with God in mission representing Jesus Christ who sends us (John 17:18). This means that we really embody the Gospel, which put in plain language means that we have Christ living in us, and our presence in the world is itself what mission is all about.

Mission is empowered by Jesus’ Resurrection

We preach a Resurrection Gospel. The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 15 – “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures... this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” This, by far, is the most essential aspect of our message. It is the resurrection that makes the whole Gospel exercise power over our lives wholly here and now, as well as for the future.

A significant perspective comes from the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann who builds a case for the resurrection being “history making”. “We view the Resurrection of Christ as history making because the belief in it did change history, the doctrine of it has made history, and belief today shapes the basis of all Christian doctrine.”23 The resurrection has changed history. Jesus Christ brings newness to life, and this is an important aspect of our message for a world that needs to see history moving in the right direction.

Remembering our past historical traditions we now stand in hope of future fulfilment. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the event that opens up the certainty of a future for us. Our mission is to a world that is groping in darkness, dying in despair and hopelessly anticipating change in their empty grind of life. The whole Gospel based on the assurance of the resurrection is to be proclaimed and demonstrated. It is this emphasis on the resurrection in our lives that will exhibit our faith as not only being historical, but holistic.

God’s Mission is a Declaration of the Whole Gospel of God

We speak of God’s whole Gospel, even about God wholly present in Jesus who brought this good news. But, we have clarified that God is not to be identified totally through his Gospel, or even more only through his mission. The Bible is about God, a transcendent God, not just about his Gospel or about mission. It is God and his whole Gospel that we have tried to unravel in order to get clearer on what we may call God’s whole mission. Hence, all we can say is that God has given us the whole Gospel, and it is our duty, perhaps better our heartfelt response, to declare this Gospel, as we discover more and more of wholeness.

Yet, God and his mission cannot be separated, and therefore all of God needs to be demonstrated in everything we do in the name of God’s mission. Mission, therefore, is God at work completely. And this is nothing less than God’s whole mission. This is not merely spiritual messages to bring solace for suffering souls of human beings offering hope for a reality in the distant future. Mission is all about proclaiming and demonstrating the whole Gospel to the whole world for an experience of God right now as well as life in the future. Lesslie Newbigin states: “The Christian mission is thus to act out in the whole life of the whole world the confession that Jesus is Lord of all” 24

God’s Mission is mission to the Whole Creation  

Christians are only now waking up to their responsibility to conserve creation, and this after many of decades of deliberate resistance. The hope of God’s new creation is central to biblical Christianity, for here we see the completion of God’s whole purpose of creation and redemption. This is made clear in Ephesians 1:9-10: “He has let us know the mystery of His purpose…that He would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.” In a similar passage of Colossians (1:19-20), Paul describes God’s purpose in Christ as reconciliation with everything in heaven and earth.

A careful look at the Bible will reveal that ecological and environmental concerns are very much central to its message. The Word of God starts with the glorious account of God’s creation.  God promised the best of created things to the people he made to be his own. The prophets looked forward to a renewed creation. Jesus displayed a very positive attitude to all that was around him. Paul spoke about creation groaning for redemption, just as much as human beings are groaning.

And should this not make us better stewards fulfilling God’s mission to the created order?  Stewardship is an urgent responsibility for us to fulfil. John Hall, in an excellent book entitled “The Steward” stresses the “stewardship” metaphor “because it encapsulates the two sides of human relatedness, the relation to God on the one hand and to nonhuman creatures of God on the other.”  If this is accepted, the steward metaphor would provide the corrective for the flawed relationships that have caused devastation. “The human being is, as God’s steward, accountable to God and responsible for his fellow creatures.”25  

In the Old Testament a steward is the one who is ‘over a house’ (Gen. 43:19; 44:4; Is. 22.15, etc.)  In the  New Testament there are two words translated steward : epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2), i.e. one to whose care or honour one has been entrusted, a curator or a guardian and this could appropriately describe our role in the world. Another word is oikonomos (Lk. 16:2-3; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10), i.e. a manager, a superintendent. Taken from the word oikos (‘house’) and nemo to “dispense’ or “to manage” there is reference to the relationship within the home, an ownership with which this responsibility must be performed.  However, the words are used to describe the function of delegated responsibility, as in the powerful parables of the labourers, and the unjust steward.  “More profoundly, it is used of the Christian’s responsibility, delegated to him under ‘Christ’s kingly government of his own house’.  All things are Christ’s and Christians are his executors or stewards.”  (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25).26

We as individuals need to use our gifts to be engaged in whatever way we can. Churches need to motivate their congregations to act responsibly in their communities. We set out to do whatever way we can, and God uses these acts to bring his plans to completion. “Mission is concerned with nothing less than the completion of all that God has begun to do in the creation of the world and of humankind. Its concern is not sectional but total and universal”

The Whole Church on God’s Whole Mission

There is wholeness in the church being the community of God. This whole church is both a people in worship as well as a people in mission. This is powerfully portrayed as the Apostle Peter declares – “ are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2.9) We find the two fold dynamic of the people of God – on the one side called to worship, as priests and a holy nation, and on the other hand called to witness, declaring his praises. The whole church is only complete when both these aspects are held together tightly.

So it is the whole church talking the whole Gospel to the whole world. Although we have only in recent years begun to employ this statement, we need to know that it was the Dutch theologian Willem Adolph Visser ’t Hooft, the first WCC General Secretary,  who made the  appealing assertion at the WCC Assembly in 1961:

 “The command to witness to Christ is given to every member of His Church. It is a commission given to the whole Church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world. When the Church recognises that it exists for the world, there arises a passionate concern that the blessings of the Gospel of Christ should be brought to every land and to every man and woman.” 27

So mission is the task of the whole Church to share the whole Gospel, accepting the wideness of God’s mission for the whole world not just in words that speak of the wideness of his mercy but in deeds that demonstrate the depth of the desires of God. It is when the people of God come to grips with the whole Gospel that our mission will truly become whole in keeping with the greatness of God and the vastness of his compassion for the whole created order.


1.         John Nicol Farquhar (1861 – 1929) was a Scottish educational missionary and an Orientalist. He served in to Calcutta, and is one of the pioneers who proposed the Fulfilment theology showing that Christ is the crown of Hinduism,  

2.         Sattal Christian Ashram established by Stanley Jones (1884-1973), the evangelist and missionary. He was a good friend of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  The word Sat Tal means “Seven Rivers” in Hindi and is a town in Nainital District of Uttarakhand, India.

3.          Baar, Switzerland, 1990, January 9-15, Theology of Religions Meeting, Holy Spirit, Inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, Jesus Christ, Religious plurality

4.         Religious plurality and Christian self-understanding, 14 February 2006 . Faith and Order, Geneva, Switzerland, 2002, August 26 - September 3, WCC Central Committee, Inter-Religious Relations and Dialogue, Mission and Evangelism, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2006, February 14-23, WCC ninth Assembly

5.         Hick, John. God and the Universe of Faiths. Oxford: Oneworld Publications Ltd., 1973, pp.109–110

6.         John Hick ,God Has Many Names, London: Macmillan, 1980, pg. 36

7.         Thomas, M.M. Risking Christ for Christ’s Sake, (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1987), p. 3.

8.         ibid

9.         Smuts, Jan Christiaan (1927). Holism and Evolution 2nd Edition. Macmillian and Co.

10.        Strong's Concordance 7965

11.        J.C. Smuts (1927). Holism and Evolution.

12.        The first publication of Holism and Evolution was by MacMilian and Co. in 1926. Smuts published a 2nd edition in 1927 and there have been at least three subsequent reprints; Compass/Viking Press 1961, Greenwood Press 1973, Sierra Sunrise Books 1999 (a version edited by Sanford Holst). The full text of the 1927 2nd edition is available on the Internet Archive site and this is the source used in updating the Holism page

13.        For classical Advaita Vedānta, Brahman is the fundamental reality underlying all objects and experiences. Brahman is explained as pure existence, pure consciousness and pure bliss. Śaṅkara promoted of Advaita Vedānta but the philosophy existed much earlier.

14.        Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.

15.        ibid pg 17

16.        1966, titled, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis" delivered at the Washington meeting of the AAAS - American Association for the Advancement of Science, and later published in the Journal of Science.

17.        Creation and Salvation (TL pp. 86-91) Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation. Perspectives: History, Politics, and Salvation, rev. edn. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1988

18.        Salvation and Liberation in Gustavo Gutiérrez: A Reading Guide p 90

19.        Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Abraham Kuyper.  Henri De Vries, Trans. 2007 by Cosimo Inc. Oroginally published in 1900.

20.         V. Chakkarai, Jesus the Avatar, Madras: C.L.S., p. 112

21.         Jesus the Avatar, pp. 138-139

22.        Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, 1968

23.        Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission.. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995. p 17

24.        Douglas J. Hall, The Steward: A Biblical Symbol, Come of Age, OR-Wipf & Stock 2004 pg. 46

25.        The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1962.

26.        Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.  p 56.

27.        Willem Adolph Visser ’t Hooft. 1900-1985. From WCC documents.

Dr Ken Gnanakan

Dr Ken Gnanakan


Articles by Dr Ken Gnanakan

The Mission of Jesus Christ in India Today (21/10/2016)

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Rev Dr Christopher Wright (05/12/2016 at 15:17)
Langham Partnership
I agree with the whole thrust of my old friend Ken Gnanakan's paper here. I argue for a similarly wholistic understanding of the gospel and the Bible and the mission of God. However, I think there is a disturbing lack of reflection on the meaning of the cross in relation to God's mission in all its fullness. The article moves directly from Incarnation to Resurrection. But Paul's understanding of the cross embraces all that Ken is passionate to connect with the gospel - personal salvation, the reconciliation of enemies, defeat of evil powers, and the reconciliation and liberation of all creation.
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