on MM Thomas, a book chapter’s recap

Hello. Good morning.

The attached pdf file in this post was a paper for an Oberseminar in SS2011. It has been officially graded by my professor. The source-document was a big chapter and I wrestled a sweeping 2-page recap from it. Experts on the subject will easily see the inadequacies. The final file has 4 pages because I had wanted to include a substantial introduction of the author, Madathilparampil Mammen Thomas (1916–1996).

At the end of the attached pdf file written is : “This article is sacadalang’s recapitulation (written on July 16, 2011) of the aforementioned book’s chapter and was uploaded on August 1, 2014 at: the author’s name, and her professor’s, who accepted the informal paper as excellent work. 🙂 Just please excuse any obvious error I did not spot! Thanks! Originally uploaded in this URL:  https://sacadalang.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/on-mm-thomas-a-book-chapters-recap/

[Good evening. I took the file down for editing. Peace. Hello again. I have returned it to its place! Welcome!

Please click HERE to download the PDF copy of the original document.

This is the same document that was used to be found in https://sacadalang.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/mm-thomas-a-chapter-recap.pdf BUT WHICH NOW ENCOUNTERS AN ERROR SEARCH RESULT—it’s gone after I took down the file, but no worries, it’s available again. Cheers!]

Just a quick description of the source-chapter, and is also an excerpt from the recap:

“Our chapter is a sort of a gathering-together of what the prominent Christians of renascent India said about (their) societal upheaval in the early decades of the 20th Century as representative voices of their country’s Christian population, while being fully conscious of their being “Hindu”.”

Update August 10, 2021. In the end, I was not able to edit it after all. I put here my summary, below, and the entire document can be downloaded via the link I gave you above. It consists of this summary plus substantial notes about MM Thomas, but, alas, it is already 10 years old! Still, it is good notes. Have a great day, Everyone!

Used for: Oberseminar 31758, SommerSemester 2011

Universität Regensburg (under Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Schwarz)

Document Author: Mona Lisa P. Siacor.

“The Theology of National Renaissance” is the ninth chapter of M. M. Thomas’ book “The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance” first published in London in 1969 by SCM, and which he dedicated to his wife who urged him to finish the book as she was dying of cancer.

The book is a survey of “how some of the foremost spiritual leaders of the Indian renaissance … sought to understand the meaning of Jesus Christ and Christianity for religion and society in renascent India” (Preface).  Eight of the book’s ten chapters each discuss (a) particular prominent person’s sweep of views, and not all of them were Christians.  Mahatma Gandhi, who considers Jesus as the “Supreme Satyagrahi”, is on the chapter before ours.

Our chapter is a sort of a gathering-together of what the prominent Christians of renascent India said about (their) societal upheaval in the early decades of the 20th Century as representative voices of their country’s Christian population, while being fully conscious of their being “Hindu”.

The religions of India (collectively called Hinduism), so their culture as well, is said to have dated back 6,000 years ago.  The British Empire colonized India in 1857 and she became independent in 1947.  This independence was achieved through resistances channeled primarily through the arts, academics, literature, music, and the people’s spirituality, the most popular of which was led by the Mahatma Gandhi.  The revival of many aspects of India’s culture as led by various leaders is the reaction against the domination of Western culture through the British.  This is the Indian Renaissance.

The book is a response to Panikkar’s “The Unknown Christ of Hinduism”, but “not of Traditional Hinduism but of Renascent Hinduism” (Preface).  It is the culture of India, in Hinduism, that the revival happened.  This revival is parallel to the nationalistic movement, which is a political movement.  The connection in these three threads is this:  the elite leaders of the nationalist movement were mostly Brahmins educated in Western schools, and many of them were either Christians or appreciative of the event of the British rule.

Against the oppression by the British were several degrees of reactions generated, from moderate to extreme.  The views embodied in most of the leaders discussed in our chapter can be said to be “moderate”.  They want India to remain as India but they also welcome the influence of the West.  “Extreme” would be by those who consider Britain to be “evil”, who see the moderates as “mendicants…too enamoured of things British to be healthy” (<http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~hbrasted/kipling/topic10.html>  accessed July 15, 2011).

The Hindu Renaissance had “three expressions”, the names of the movements and their tendencies to be:

(1.) Brahmo Samaj (c. 1820 by Rammohun Roy), “select from past texts, religion[’]s attributes that show Hinduism as monotheistic and socially reformist”;

(2.) Arya Samaj (c. 1870 by Dayananda Saraswati), “a movement of Cultural Offence…Resurrecting ‘Indian’ Pride in Hindu past…Select from Vedic texts to show that all worthwhile knowledge contained in them”;

(3.) Ramakrishna Movement (c. 1890 by Vivekananda), “West has nothing to teach India.  In fact India should teach West …Movement, in a sense, of cultural arrogance”

… “Conclusion: Hindu renaissance not overtly political, but runs parallel with nationalist movement and fertilises it in the process.” (<http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~hbrasted/kipling/topic10.html>  accessed July 15, 2011).

Our chapter is divided into 5 parts, the title of each summarizing a part of the national renaissance.  Part 1 says that although India’s Christian leaders can accept that it was God who has ordained that India be colonized by the British Empire, and through Christianity embedded in its system of education, for “India’s good” (p. 240; Preamble to the Constitution of the Servants of India Society founded by Gokhale, “…frankly accept the British connection, as ordained, in the inscrutable dispensation of Providence, for India’s good.”) there is the question of whether the providential British raj is in harmony with nationalism.  Most “missionaries” do not think so (p. 242).  Nevertheless Thomas summarizes the struggle to bridge this gap in page 244, “There are in India ‘certain valuations of things and events which are more approximate to the mind of Christ than what obtains in corresponding matters among nations who have borne the name of His religion’.  This makes the Christian nationalist ‘enthusiastic in his patriotism’.”  He seems to be saying that Hindu nationalism and Christianity may not be antagonistic whenever it is “the mind of Christ” that is considered, and not the “Westerness” of Christianity.

The 2nd part says that missionaries were not entirely correct when they thought that “educating” India, providing the Western system of education, would prepare her to receive the Gospel of Christ.  The quote that follows may summarize what the Indian Christian leaders thought instead of “Preaparatio Evangelica”:  “…the Christ in the Western culture awakening the Christ in the Indian culture and preparing India for the new life and the Gospel of Christ.” (page 251).  A nationalist Christian may therefore say that: “…Indian nationalism calls for a more correct thinking about the distinction and interrelation between Christ, Christianity and Christian civilization for the disentangling of the message from religion and culture to enable it to become indigenous to the religion and culture of India and speak to the universally human.” (page 252).

In Part 3 the issue of dealing with the caste system is discussed, commenting that there had been 3 ways of the Church’s having dealt with it: (1.) ignored it, as if it not an important issue and so not even discussing it (p.253);  (2.) absolutely wanting to be rid of it (p.254);  (3.) recognizing that it’s too strong to be dealt with head-on and so a compromise at first is best, leading to gradual change (p.254).  The call, though, is for a koinonia, “’a casteless brotherhood in Christ’” (p.261).

As to Christ’s relevance (Part 4), India has no problem accepting Christ as Incarnate God, as the center of (her) faith.  The tendency to this mentality is already present in Hinduism.  The relevance can be pointed out in the fact that in India it is only through religion that people can be directed toward a “great Indian nation” (p. 264);  “That living Person in the plenitude of His spiritual power embodies in Himself all the moral forces which go to create a vital and progressive organism – an organism which may find its goal in a united and independent Nation.” (p.265).

As to the “Structure of the Church for Service and Missions” (Part 5), “The Christian ideal will find acceptance just in proportion to its embodiment of all that truly belongs to the heart of India. … The Indian Church must find roots in the Indian national life, especially link itself with the new cultural renaissance taking place in India.” (p.280).

The spirituality of India does not condemn systems of faith different from (theirs).  This is a big part of the reason why it cannot agree with Western Christianity’s drive for “total conversion”.  This is why India is not averse to “assimilation” from other systems of faith.  To the Hindu way of thinking embracing Christ can be done without embracing Christianity, or the Christianity that is not theirs.  This is how Mahatma Gandhi and many more has done it.


Used for: Oberseminar 31758, SommerSemester 2011

Universität Regensburg (under Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Schwarz)

Document Author: Mona Lisa P. Siacor.

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Viel Spaß und alles Gute. Ciao.

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