According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Documentary History of the King James Bible

Linking today's modern artists with the viewing and contemporary understanding of the Bible by Makoto Fujimura continues the work of past publishers, authors, historians and linguists in interpreting the Bible for all to read and enjoy. Here is a brief recount of the Bible's recent 400 year journey....

- skinhead
**********

A beautiful video on the convergance of modern art and
Christian worship, in the work of artist Makoto Fujimura.



Makoto Fujimura - The Art of "The Four Holy Gospels"

 The King James Bible

by Scot McKnight
posted July 11, 2011

Last weekend Kris and I were in NYC, in Manhattan, to participate in a wondrous event commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The event was sponsored by the American Bible Society, and their office is on Broadway, and the invitation came from my old seminary friend, Phil Towner, who is now Dean of the Nida Institute at ABS. Splendid event.

The Reception Friday night began with meandering through an incredible museum-display of English Bibles, beginning with Wyclif and Tyndale and Coverdale and Whitchurch and the Geneva Bible and The Bishops’ Bible to the King James. I had not seen most of these Bibles and here they were — originals — beautifully displayed. Perhaps more attention should be given to Wyclif but I was overcome with excitement to see Tyndale. There it was, probably 83% of the King James, done by a man on a mission, a man on the run, and a man who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. None of us failed to mention this in the events that followed. 



William Tyndale stands against religious authoritiesin order
to present the word of God to the common people.



Though an obscure figure in history Tyndale did more to impact
the English language and English people throughout the world
than would William Shakespeare through translating the Bible,
the most widely read book in English history.

The reception, attended by more than a hundred, finished up with a brief talk by the world’s expert on the King James Bible, David Norton, a professor of English at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. (He didn’t fail to show us his office, a room with a view!)

We had a full day Saturday: it began with a full presentation by David Norton, who strolled through the history of the King James Bible with visual slides to complement his talk. My talk was on the theology of the New Testament translators of the King James as I have been trying to discern specific theological agendas in the KJB, but alas I find very little.

What most don’t know, and it is always worth emphasizing, is that the KJB was a revision, and mostly conservative, of The (already existing) Bishops’ Bible. The KJB sought to find common and acceptable ground between the Bishops’ and the Geneva Bible (the Reformed read this one happily), with some glances at the Catholic Bible (Rheims NT). It did, and that is why we are talking about its 400th anniversary.

My presentation was followed by a splendid sketch of the historical context of the KJB by Euan Cameron, a careful and judicious historian at Union Theological Seminary. Then a stimulating reminder by Marlon Winedt, a native of Curacao, on the significance of the KJB for non-English natives of the Caribbean — so significant I might add that sometimes they say the new translations are in the KJB tradition! KJB means authoritative and original.

The afternoon involved a video on the KJB, and I’d urge you to rent it or get it for your church: KJB – The Book that Changed the World.
(view here)

And the evening meant a special banquet with an oral performance of some KJB passages by Max Maclean and then a stimulating, motivating talk to remind us of the value of Bible translations by Roy Peterson. We were honored to be there, and again reminded of the importance of supporting Bible translations today.

Sunday morning meant a special service, which we were not able to attend, at Calvary St. George’s, with Tom Wright giving the homily on God’s living Word. (Hidden in this was that Tom Wright’s own translation of the New Testament is soon to be published.) On Saturday Tom sat near us and I found him frequently peering into the KJB he was given at confirmation as a youngster. I, too, grew up on the KJB and my first (Scofield notes) Bible sits atop a bookshelf in my library.

**********

History of the KJV - Part 1

History of the KJV - Part 2

History of the KJV - Part 3

History of the KJV - Part 4

History of the KJV - Part 5

History of the KJV - Part 6

History of the KJV - Part 7

 



*To view a historical timeline of the biblical texts and bible translations -





Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=5505987796745947211


Catch some glimpses from the Steve Taylor film, based on the Donald Miller book

Blue Like Jazz Official Trailer #1 (2012) HD Movie

Comments

Looks like a movie about a touchy topic thats is done well. Will be watching for it.

Posted By: Mitsubishi 3d Starter Pack
June 24, 2011 7:52 PM

I wonder if criticism of Miller's abstract theology will be as noticeably absent when the film is released as it has been for all his other material.

Posted By: Mark
June 25, 2011 3:19 PM

Donald Miller




Donald Miller (Author)

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (July 17, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0785263705
ISBN-13: 978-0785263708


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Miller (Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance) is a young writer, speaker and campus ministry leader. An earnest evangelical who nearly lost his faith, he went on a spiritual journey, found some progressive politics and most importantly, discovered Jesus' relevance for everyday life. This book, in its own elliptical way, tells the tale of that journey. But the narrative is episodic rather than linear, Miller's style evocative rather than rational and his analysis personally revealing rather than profoundly insightful. As such, it offers a postmodern riff on the classic evangelical presentation of the Gospel, complete with a concluding call to commitment. Written as a series of short essays on vaguely theological topics (faith, grace, belief, confession, church), and disguised theological topics (magic, romance, shifts, money), it is at times plodding or simplistic (how to go to church and not get angry? "pray... and go to the church God shows you"), and sometimes falls into merely self-indulgent musing. But more often Miller is enjoyably clever, and his story is telling and beautiful, even poignant. (The story of the reverse confession booth is worth the price of the book.) The title is meant to be evocative, and the subtitle-"Non-Religious" thoughts about "Christian Spirituality"-indicates Miller's distrust of the institutional church and his desire to appeal to those experimenting with other flavors of spirituality.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Product Description

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. . . . I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened. In Donald Miller's early years, he was vaguely familiar with a distant God. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, he pursued the Christian life with great zeal. Within a few years he had a successful ministry that ultimately left him feeling empty, burned out, and, once again, far away from God. In this intimate, soul-searching account, Miller describes his remarkable journey back to a culturally relevant, infinitely loving God.

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273 of 314 people found the following review helpful:
3.0 out of 5 stars Blue Like Jazz, January 25, 2006
By


This review is from: Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Paperback)

I've been hearing much of late about a Christian author with a rather plain-sounding name: Don Miller. With my curiosity being sufficiently piqued, I set out to purchase and read a couple of Miller's books over the Christmas holidays, one of which was _Blue Like Jazz_.

I have to say right at the start that I like the format of the book. _Blue Like Jazz_ is an essay-style work, each chapter more or less standing on its own. Yet they all tie into the central theme of "nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality," as the subtitle suggests. For these reasons, the book reminds me (ever so slightly) of some of C.S. Lewis' books (e.g. _The Weight of Glory_), which carry a similar format and also deal with Christian spirituality at a grass roots level, sans copious amounts of theological jargon.

I enjoy the way Miller writes. Not only is he readable, Miller often finds the perfect image when describing an event. As one example, he says, "Cusswords are pure ecstasy when you are twelve, buzzing in the mouth like a battery on the tongue." (p. 5) Doesn't that capture the experience perfectly?! And listen to this one: "I am something of a recluse by nature. I am that cordless screwdriver that has to charge for twenty hours to earn ten minutes use." (p. 152) I love it!

For me, Miller is someone with whom I resonate. Being a single guy and living with roommates, I can relate to many of the issues Miller raises (often laced with humor), which are associated with this particular lifestyle. Many times I find myself saying, "I've been there."

Overall, I find _Blue Like Jazz_ to be a fun read, with thought-provoking turns along the way. Miller's self-deprecating manner is effective at these junctures. As the reader, I don't feel like he is sitting in judgment on me for my failures or pointing the finger.

All that said, keep in mind that I'm writing from the perspective of an evangelical Christian. There are a few problems I have encountered with _Blue Like Jazz_, which I want to point out. If you dislike negativity, please skip the rest of this review.

First of all, from the subtitle, the book is about Christian spirituality. Yet Miller never bothers to define the term in a clear way. The closest thing to a definition is found first on page 57. Miller says, "And I love this about Christian spirituality. It cannot be explained, and yet it is beautiful and true. It is something you feel, and it comes from the soul." At the end of the book, Miller says, "I think Christian spirituality is like jazz music. I think loving Jesus is something you feel. I think it is something very difficult to get on paper." (p. 239) Not only is Miller's understanding of Christian spirituality nebulous, as an evangelical Christian I think it's incorrect. Here's what I believe Christian spirituality is: "Spirituality in the New Testament sense is a means to the end of righteousness. Being spiritual means that we are exercising the spiritual graces given by God to mold us after the image of His Son. That is, the discipline of prayer, Bible study, church fellowship, witnessing and the like are not ends in themselves, but are designed to assist us in living righteously." (R.C. Sproul Sr., _God's Will and the Christian_, 1984, Tyndale, p. 20)

Secondly, Miller makes a few theological statements along the way that are cause for concern. Check out these statements: "Love, for example, is a true emotion, but it is not rational." (p. 54) "I don't believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reasons. Who knows anything anyway? If I walk away from Him, and please pray that I never do, I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons, the same reasons that any of us do anything." (p. 103) "...Christianity spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained." (p. 115) "There are many ideas within Christian spirituality that contradict the facts of reality as I understand them." (p. 201) "...Jesus didn't just love me out of principle; He didn't just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me." (p. 238)

I know what the standard response is: "Miller isn't a theologian. He's an author." That's fair enough. Notwithstanding, lacking expertise in an area doesn't grant one immunity from criticism when (s)he ventures into that area. Though Miller is not a professional theologian, he certainly makes theological statements from time to time. When he does, he should be held to the theologian's standard. If I were to write a book in which I made statements about health and fitness, I would expect to be held to the standard of those experts in the health and fitness field.

Thirdly, for someone who claims that Christian spirituality is nonpolitical (see quote above from p. 115), Miller manages to make some political statements. At one point, he says, "Can you imagine what Americans would do if they understood over half the world was living in poverty? Do you think they would change the way they live, the products they purchase, and the politicians they elect? If we believed the right things, the true things, there wouldn't be very many problems on earth?" (pp. 106-7) Ignoring the issue of whether Miller is naïve at this point, the statement clearly carries an underlying socio-political assumption.

Please note that I'm not being negative for the purpose of bashing Miller. I'm simply pointing out some concerns that I have as an evangelical Christian. Perhaps others of a similar persuasion will find these caveats helpful.

**********

227 of 266 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars The diary of a "born again" Woody Allen, February 26, 2005
By


This review is from: Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Paperback)

I really enjoyed this book. It is written in a conversational tone throughout, and the author is a genuinely likable guy. This book is autobiographical in that it depicts his journey through a phase of life, and his gradual awakening and acceptance of his faith within the larger context of the society he lives in, and the people with whom he interacts.

There are several high points. The first is the level of honesty. This book does not pull punches. If Donald is struggling with something, he just lays it out there. There seems to be little attempt at positioning himself in a more positive light. That is refreshing and makes for a very engaging read.

For example, he states that "every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself" (Page 20). He depicts how his own world is turned upside down when he realizes that despite his moral views about helping others, he is doing next to nothing for anyone else.

He also depicts his own journey into a sort of fundamentalist control freak, and starts focusing solely on external actions. He basically becomes a complete hypocrite because he doesn't follow his own resolutions. (Page 80). He kind of lost me here though as he seems to find fault with the intent and takes a rather judgmental view on anyone who is more disciplined than he is. Which is about everyone, it would seem.

In a sense the book allows the reader to see Donald Miller in a clearer light than he sees himself. He acknowledges that many of his rather liberal friends have no substance behind what they feel; it is all just for show and to fit in with others. He describes his anti-Bush friend as "She decided what to believe based on whether other people who believed were a particular fashion that appealed to her". The irony here is that this is the same approach that Donald himself takes on nearly every decision he makes. He time and again relies on his perceived value to others and on what others around him reflect to decide who he is and what he should do. He seems to genuinely value fitting in more than his faith.

The book has some really great moments of clarity though. I was at times inspired by his willingness to be honest, and truly put himself out there selflessly for others. In the end he is the walking definition of how God uses imperfect people for good in the world. Overall, I recommend the book as you too will enjoy the journey, if you are at all introspective. While Donald hardly puts out a model life to aspire to, he is at least honest about it.

**********

145 of 171 people found the following review helpful:
1.0 out of 5 stars A quest for coolness, May 6, 2007
By

Nigel (Oregon, USA) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Paperback)

I recently told a close family member that I had completely lost my Christian faith, after a lifetime of being a believer. He recommended "Blue Like Jazz", as a testimony from a Christian who has struggled with their faith.

Unfortunately, Donald Miller's book is not very helpful for someone like me, a person that has lost their faith because they no longer believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Miller's collection of self-indulgent essays is long on feelings and emotion, while entirely lacking in doctrine and all but the most rudimentary apologetic for why he believes what he believes.

There are literally dozens of instances in the book of Miller proving his liberal bona fides by railing against "fundamentalists", Republicans, and just ordinary Christian folks who are so dull and unthinking as to attend a church in the suburbs. Miller takes pains to let us know that they're Christians, too, and therefore he has no choice but to love them. But at the same time, Miller and his circle of highly enlightened friends clearly think that ALL white suburban churches are dens of mediocrity.

Miller loves telling us about the wisdom he's gained from his friends, both Christians and non-Christians alike. The problem is, all of these people share the exact same liberal, bohemian world view, and seem stuck in a perpetual state of extended adolescence. In Miller's world, Christians drink beer, smoke, swear, and attend anti-Bush political demonstrations while they ponder the meaning of existence and the nature of God's love. My problem isn't necessarily that Miller's Christian friends do these things. The problem is that Miller never fails to tell us what he and his friends are drinking and smoking during every conversation they have, reminding us just how "real" they all are IN SPITE OF their shared Christian spirituality.

Miller condemns mainstream Christians for being pawns of the Republican party, simply asserting that Republics = Greed = Bad and expecting the reader will agree. Likewise, anyone who holds these views---regardless of their spirtitual beliefs---are demonstrating the love of Christ, and are therefore the best sources of wisdom in the world.

Blue Like Jazz is not without insight; it's hard to fault Miller's call to live one's faith. But for Miller at least, this faith is all about feelings and vague "can't we all just get along?" expressions of Christian love. But Christianity without doctrine is hardly any different than any one of several half-baked new age belief systems.

Ultimately, Miller comes across as a whiney Gen-Xer trying to reconcile his faith with his socio-political worldview. It's a task he doesn't quite pull off, because his brand of liberal Christianity has it's own orthodoxy that is as narrow-minded as the fundamentalists of whom he is so critical.






India's Grassroots Revival


With its people turning to Christ in waves, India hosts more believers now than at any time in its 4,000-year history.

Tim Stafford
posted 7/08/2011

Shivamma stands in front of her house, braiding her little girl's hair. Her feet are bare, her sari is simple, and she is rail thin, but she speaks to visitors with boldness. She is the face of the new Christianity in India.

Shivamma's home is nestled inside a concrete storm sewer discarded by the factory where she and her husband work. The neighborhood, hidden in an overgrown back lot, consists of huge pipes lined up like mobile homes. Her family of four lives within 84 square feet.

For a Dalit and a woman, Shivamma is doing well. In traditional Hindu thinking, Dalits are not quite human, lacking the right to enter the temple, read, or eat with members of other castes. A person who touches a Dalit must immediately purify himself. (One church planter notes the awful exception: "When it comes to social life, they are untouchable. For rape, they are touchable.")

To be Dalit is much worse than being poor, for no matter how much education or wealth a Dalit accumulates, he or she remains polluted, a shame on the face of the earth. Dalits are like biblical lepers, except that in mainstream Indian culture, they cannot be healed. "Not even God can save them from pollution," the Catholic Dalit advocate A. Maria notes sarcastically.

But although Shivamma comes from generations of people accustomed to bowing and disappearing, she does not cringe any more. She came to the pipe village as a new bride 11 years ago, seeking to escape the jobless poverty of her home village. She and her husband together make $5 a day, more than most Dalits.

For three years she was barren.

Then, a young Dalit Christian named Bangarraju (most Dalits are known by a single name) came to Shivamma's home to pray for her. "I didn't know why he came or to whom he prayed. I thought Jesus was one of the gods." She conceived and gave birth to a son, and later had a second child, a girl. When her daughter was three months old, the girl became severely jaundiced, passing blood. Bangarraju came to them and prayed again, and the daughter was healed.

"I realized that Jesus is the living God," Shivamma told Christianity Today.

"We used to drink and every day we would fight, fight, fight. Jesus Christ brought peace to our family. I have no fear, because I have come to know the living God. I trust him."

An evangelist and church planter, Bangarraju began outreach in the pipe village in 1996. He taught illiterate children in an informal school that met under a tree. He arranged for weekly medical visits through his sponsoring organization, Operation Mobilization. For his first year visiting the village, Bangarraju said nothing about Jesus. It was three years before he baptized a convert. Now a large proportion of the pipe village follows Christ.

Over the years, Bangarraju did more than preach Jesus. He helped Shivamma and her husband learn the discipline of saving. The couple has managed to buy a house in their ancestral village. For the foreseeable future, Shivamma is happy to live in her pipe, rent free.

Yet for her children she dreams of much more: the education neither she nor her husband received. She is determined that they learn English and rise above the pipe village. "We don't want them to suffer as we have."

Opportunities Abound

With a new India rising up, a different kind of Indian Christianity is rising up with it. During a three-week journey across India, I discovered a vibrant, growing Christian community unfolding at the grassroots—a church thoroughly Indian, not Western.

The new-economy India is found in gleaming office towers where techsavvy Indians compete in a global market and climb the corporate ladder. The newly Christian India is found mostly at the bottom rung of society, among men and women like Shivamma, typically poor and illiterate "broken people" (the literal meaning of Dalit). Numbering 140 million or more, Dalits and Tribals (a grouping similar to the Dalits) have begun to shake the foundations of India's social order. They think in ways their ancestors never could have imagined. More of them are following Christ than at any other time in India's history, ministry leaders told CT.

India's church has grown and is getting larger. It now comprises over 70 million members, according to Operation World. That makes it the eighth largest Christian population in the world, just behind the Philippines and Nigeria, bigger than Germany and Ethiopia, and twice the size of the United Kingdom. Unlike believers in those countries, however, India's Christians live among one billion Hindus.

Opportunities for spreading the Good News seem to be everywhere. Operation World counts 2,223 unreached people groups in India, over five times as many as there are in China, the next most unreached nation. "India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan make up the largest concentration of unreached humanity in the world," says Operation World's Jason Mandryk.

Across the vast nation, a visitor hears of unprecedented numbers of people turning to Christ. Operation Mobilization, one of India's largest missionary groups, has grown to include 3,000 congregations in India, up from 300 in less than a decade.

A hospital-based ministry in north India has seen 8,000 baptisms over the past five years after a decade of only a handful. Operation World's detailed statistics show that the Indian church is growing at a rate three times that of India's Hindu population.

Many Indian Christians say that doors closed
for centuries are swinging open.

The 2001 Indian census placed Christians at just over 2 percent of India's population. But currently, Operation World puts the figure near 6 percent and notes that "Christian researchers in India indicate much higher results, even up to 9 percent." Many Indian Christians say that doors closed for centuries are swinging open.

No one can be certain of such trends in this vast and complicated country. Religion statistics are poor, and enthusiastic reports from mission organizations may reflect only local conditions.

Todd Johnson, director of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Center for the Study of Global Christianity, says he has opted for more conservative estimates than Operation World's. The center's Atlas of Global Christianity estimates 58 million Indian Christians, not 70 million. Most of the difference lies in Operation World's "unaffiliated" category. The unaffiliated may be part of independent fellowships, or be "insider" Hindu or Muslim followers of Christ.

Nearly all reports of rapid growth come from independent mission and church groups. "I'm waiting to see how they settle," says Johnson. "It's a very volatile situation. Exciting things are happening. That's real. Our methodology is to wait and see, and do our best to track it. But it is remarkable. Everybody agrees with that. It is something new in the last ten years, especially in the north."

"Everybody knows about the massive scale of growth among Dalits," says Mandryk. "That was most of the growth for a few years. Now we see signs of growth in the middling castes and among the under-35s. There's a new dynamic for the urban, educated generation. There's growth happening in upper castes as well."

Though growth rates have not reached what they did in China during its peak growth period of the 1970s and '80s, "it could accelerate," Mandryk says. "It's shifting through the gears and starting to pick up speed. The diversity of castes, areas, and backgrounds is a big factor. Church growth is no longer locked in to Dalit and Tribal groups."

Pushed to Plant Churches

Whatever the growth rate of India's church, India is unquestionably in the midst of rapid social and economic changes. Such transformations contribute to the breakdown of religious traditions, especially India's caste system.

"Hinduism is a tool to keep us oppressed," says T.V. Joy, a church planter in north India. "The gospel is a message of deliverance, not just for heaven. It is a message of freedom. The truth is that God made man in his image." That claim, Joy asserts, undermines traditional conceptions of caste.

Caste, what scholar Kancha Ilaiah calls a "spiritually constructed social system," remains omnipresent in India. At the top are the Brahmins, the only people traditionally allowed to serve as priests. Below them are traditional castes for soldiers and businessmen. These "upper caste" groupings comprise only 15 percent of the population but their members dominate society.

Under them are the Other Backward Castes (OBCs), poor farmers and servants who make up almost half the population.

Below the OBCs are the Dalits, condemned to polluted occupations and lives. Dalits and Tribals make up almost a quarter of the population, and most remain destitute and illiterate. They, more than any other group, have found their way to Jesus.

Through community development, Indian missionaries
demonstrate that Jesus is more than another god to worship.

Somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent of Christians in India are Dalits. When Dalits become believers, they reinforce the stigma of Christianity as a Dalit religion, worthy of contempt from all other groups.

Caste discrimination exists among Christians too, even between Dalit sub-castes. "The Brahmins have a religion that has gone into the minds of the victims," says Y. Moses, a Dalit activist." 'All one in Christ' is theoretically correct, but practically it is not true. We are not all one in Christ."

Most Indian Christians indicate that their churches have great challenges. Materialism, discrimination, leadership quarrels, and lukewarm faith are all evident. When asked why Indians are coming to Christ in remarkable numbers, leaders point to the work of the Holy Spirit. Then they mention critical factors that undermine traditional Hindu beliefs while making more Indians open to change:

Urban growth: India has 43 cities that are home to over 1 million people. (The U.S. has 9.) Two-thirds of Indians still live in rural villages, but even villagers are touched by cities, because their children migrate to cities to work. Cities have social fluidity. People of all castes mingle in new ways, and caste identity is less important. Prejudice endures, but it is subtler. Dalits, Tribals, and OBCs can and do rise to the top in urban areas.

Globalization: Upper-caste Brahmins still dominate business. But multinational corporations hire Indian nationals based on their skill and education, not caste identity. The service sector is growing quickly. A Christian ministry in north India trains air conditioning technicians. Its graduates, nearly all from lower castes, land jobs with multinationals more interested in effectiveness than caste and family ties.

Education: "Thanks to the missionaries, because they democratized education," says Dalit advocate A. Maria. Many of the best schools in India are private Christian institutions founded by missionaries. No surprise: wealthier (and thus high-caste) students often dominate these schools. Still, many Dalit, Tribal, and OBC students have profited from Christian institutions. Indian mission agencies are starting new schools, including English-medium schools, and students are flooding in. In the new India, mastery of English and high academic credentials trump caste. After the United States, India has the world's largest number of English speakers.

Democracy: India has had more than 60 years of multi-party elections. In 2009, nearly 60 percent of the 714 million electorate cast ballots to elect a new parliament. Some Christian areas had huge turnouts. For example, northeast India's Nagaland, home to a high percentage of Christians, recorded a 90 percent turnout.

New missions: India stopped giving visas for foreign missionaries in the 1950s. This decimated Christian hospitals and schools, which relied on foreign skills. But gradually the number of Indian mission agencies has grown. In 1971, there were fewer than 20 Indian mission agencies. Today there are at least 200. An Indian missionary often must learn a new language and an unfamiliar culture far from home—a task as daunting for an Indian as it would be for an American. Yet Operation World counts more than 80,000 Indian missionaries, most serving cross-culturally.

Persecution: When Hindu fundamentalists won national elections in 1998, they brought an assertive Hinduism that fostered anti-conversion laws and persecution of Christians. Public evangelism became nearly impossible. Indian missionaries retreated from street preaching and public rallies, and instead settled in single locations to open schools, offer economic development and training, and plant house churches.

"God pushed us into church planting," says Operation Mobilization's Alfy Franks. But church planting often goes with other activities like microfinance, education, and medical care. India has thousands of gods and plenty of spirituality; a purely spiritual appeal does not necessarily communicate.

Through community development, Indian missionaries demonstrate that Jesus is more than another god to worship. He is the Lord who transforms life. For poverty-stricken and oppressed Indians—indeed, for Indians of all castes—that message of transformation appeals powerfully.

Health Plus

Newly formed indigenous Christian missions are turning fresh attention to traditional Hindus, many of whom live in the Hindi-speaking heartland of northern India. This north-central region of India has highly fertile land that supports a population of 340 million people.

In Uttar Pradesh, M. A. Raju, a Christian neurologist, heads the Mujwa Mission Hospital. Raju is convinced that this most densely populated region of India is the key to its future. His strategy for spreading the gospel is centered on providing quality health care and basic education for the poor.

Raju has a deep brown face fringed with an ice-white beard. Born in south India to a family of Christian doctors, Raju trained at Vellore, a well-known Christian hospital. Doubting his childhood faith, Raju spent years searching for a belief system that would sustain him. He pondered the great Hindu epics, practiced yoga, worked a stint with Mother Teresa in Kolkata, and studied Islam. His greatest influence turned out to be Francis Schaeffer, the late Christian author and apologist whom he first read in medical school and later spent a summer with at Schaeffer's retreat in L'Abri, Switzerland.

Raju carried his questions on to Israel, where he worked in a Christian hospital for Arabs. There he met a Scottish nurse who was struck by his kindly way. "He was the first really Christian doctor I had ever met," Rani says with a smile. Raju settled his remaining doubts, married Rani, and moved to England. He became a highly successful neurologist while working on the side to integrate psychology with Christian faith. He offered seminars on pastoral counseling to groups all over the United Kingdom.

He was pulled back to India, first raising money for missions, then becoming involved in planning and strategy. Finally in 1991, he and Rani moved to India with their four English-born children. Seven years ago, he took over Mujwa, a sprawling mission hospital that was about to shut down after a long decline. Raju could not bear to see it lost. "Wherever missionaries have gone, whatever their mistakes, the Holy Spirit is there. It's very difficult to get a beachhead. I didn't want to give it up."

The hospital's buildings were in disrepair, and local hostility was high. Several times fundamentalist mobs invaded the grounds, beating up staff. But Mujwa, while still ramshackle, is on the upswing. The hospital first concentrated its resources on basic medical care for the most poor. Soon, other ministry opportunities popped up. The grounds serve as a training center, preparing hundreds of primary school teachers and church planters, and offering vocational training—for electricians, air conditioning technicians, tailors, dental technicians, and others.

Holistic Model

Today, everything at Mujwa is geared to spiritual, social, medical, and economic transformation.

A visit to a nearby village takes me to one of Mujwa's informal primary schools. Traveling on narrow roads through lush fields, we reach an unpaved track that ends at narrow streets snaking between mud houses. On open land next to the village, boys play cricket with handcarved bats. Since this is a school day, their presence indicates how little the village values education.

'Jesus came in a dream and said to me, "Don't worry, I will make your
people come up." '—Tissani, a Dalit teacher

But the government schools are terrible, everyone says. The teachers are often absent and show little interest in students' welfare. Mujwa offers to help villages start a school if they provide a teacher—a villager who has a high-school education and a good reputation.

Mujwa does not seek Christian teachers, because the few who identify as Christians are often alienated from the village. Rather, Mujwa offers two months of teacher training that includes immersion in Christian teaching and worship. Most of the time, they say, teachers begin to follow Christ during their training. The 220 teachers who have stuck to the job get tremendous respect in the village because of their role. And they begin to bring others to Christ.

Such inclusive approaches have met a tremendous spiritual openness. Evangelists saw only a handful of baptisms around Mujwa in the previous generation. They have seen 8,000 in the past five years. 
The school meets in a mud-brick, tin-roof shed that cost $1,200 to build. Most of Mujwa's 100 schools meet under a tree. They all want a building like this one.
Outside the building, 50 ragged children sit on plastic mats, learning their alphabet by chanting out letters. Inside, two more classes are at work. They use simple paperback workbooks provided by the government.
The head teacher, Tissani, is a young woman who finished high school and is pursuing a bachelor's degree. Tissani is a Dalit who married into the village from another village three miles away. She has two boys under age 3, and has taught at the school for three years.
Tissani says many children in the village are not attending school. During teacher training at Mujwa, she developed a deep burden for them. "I had a dream," she says. "Jesus came in a dream and said to me, 'Don't worry, I will make your people come up.'?" She came to believe there is one God, Jesus, whom she seeks to follow.
Asked about her hopes for the school, she has a ready reply. "I want to see all the children become educated like me. And when the girls get married into every village in this area, I want them to start schools like this one."
A smaller village a few miles away is primarily Muslim. Local Muslims do not object to their school teaching Bible verses; they are pleased that their children receive a moral education.
The head teacher is a Brahmin widow who volunteered to help. "But we only work with Dalit children," Raju told her. She said she would be happy to teach Dalits, and started her school under a tree. The woman was baptized as a Christian and now leads the local house church. "This is the new India," Raju says.
Spirit of Change
According to Christian tradition, the apostle Thomas brought his faith to India in the first century, and an ancient church certainly existed in south India centuries before European missionaries arrived in the 1700s.
For generations, Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries have witnessed to their faith. Yet despite much hard labor and many hopes, the Indian church has remained a tiny percentage of the population.
Sometimes, because of abuses, Western Christians shy away from social programs. They take for granted the possibility of economic progress and think it has little to do with faith. In India, however, such programs make the full implications of Christian faith visible. If God made every human being in his image, and if he loves the world, then humans are surely meant to thrive—just as they did in the Garden.
Today, broad economic and cultural reforms are sweeping Indian cities, and villages feel the spirit of change. Indians are choosing new ways of life—and many more are embracing the gospel and following Christ. Researchers agree that India has more Christians now than at any other time in its 4,000-year history.
Tim Stafford is a senior writer for Christianity Today based in northern California. John Stott Ministries has provided a grant to Christianity Today for reporting on international issues.
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Related Elsewhere:
A Christianity Today audio slideshow on India is available via YouTube.
Previous CT coverage of India includes:
Dead Space: Christians Demand Burial Land in Crowded Kathmandu | Nepal's Supreme Court due to rule Monday on Christian and Hindu lawsuits. (April 8, 2011)
Radicals Rejected | Orissa Christians breathe easier after election defeat of Hindu extremists. (June 22, 2009)
Terror in Orissa | It's time for India to start acting like the world's largest democracy. (October 9, 2008)

Additional coverage of India from Christianity Today's blog Hermenuetics includes:
The Lost Girls of China and India | Why so many baby girls are being killed in the world's two largest countries. (June 29, 2011)
India: It's Complicated | By sticking to her ashram, Elizabeth Gilbert misses out—and so do her readers. (August 12, 2010)
First Dalit Woman Elected to India Parliament | Christian groups hope Meira Kumar will raise profile of India's Untouchables. (June 15, 2009)