On Wednesday we took our youth to a lecture held at St John’s Presbyterian Church. The speaker was a professor from Tyndale University and Seminary in Toronto. He was Indian and spoke on Hinduism and Sikhism. It was interesting learning about these two religions, but what I thought was even more intriguing, was the light that they threw on Christianity.
The first thing that he shared was that there is a difference between normative and operative religion. In other words, the theology of the religion is not necessarily understood, nor lived out by those who claim to be its followers. I could see a few people shake their heads at this, but is it really any different than Christians today? How many go to church every Sunday and could never explain a doctrine like the Trinity, or even sanctification? I know that we can all think of people (if we are not looking at ourselves) who live very differently 6 days a week. Or perhaps, they don’t even live differently, their faith just makes no difference in their lives. They might look like “good” people, but nothing suggests that they believe that an Almighty God created them for a purpose, for His kingdom, for His glory. Our operative religion is often very different than the normative!
The professor’s second point, was that Hinduism has 4 sacred books. Unfortunately, no one reads them, no one owns them, they are simply told that they contain many great writings. Their books are even written in Sanskrit so no one can read them. Again, heads in the room shook, that people could believe something based only on what someone has told them. He quickly addressed the head shaking by reminding us that not so many years ago, prior to the Reformation, no one could read the Bible either, no one owned it, they were simply told what it said from a few priests who could read Latin. Did you know that according to the Barna research group, only 45% of Christians read their Bible, and only approximately 10% have ever read the entire thing! I’d bet that half of our church going population doesn’t even bring a Bible to church with them. Instead, so many of us rely solely on what our Pastor or elders might teach. I even have to bribe some of our youth to bring their Bibles with them to BIBLE STUDY. We have access to unlimited resources, every translation you could ever want to choose from, electronic ones, audio ones…yet who is reading it? That’s something to shake your head at.
The last thing that stood out to me was when he said that Hinduism has approximately 33 million gods. That’s right, 33 000 000. They have gods for everything and idols to represent them. If they are worshipping something, or someone, they make its image and have it in their home. Perhaps that seems archaic to some of us, but I thought, “how refreshing”. They don’t hide their idols like we do. We say that we will have no other god but God… but how many of us worship things, sports, spouses, friends… we just hide our idol worship so well. We make it look presentable. “I just really admire this person”, “they are my kids, I’m just loving them”, “he’s my husband” … oh it is so easy for us to mess up our priorities. Even this morning in our Bible study on David, Beth Moore shared how a deep emotion like love can mix up our perception. Out of a “good” emotion, the enemy so subtly leads us into wrong priorities, and ultimately idol worship. Perhaps if we actually carved images out and displayed our idols we’d have a lot easier time seeing the ridiculousness of replacing the Most High God with anything else.
Perhaps I didn’t get what the intent of the lecture was, but the Lord challenged me; that if I truly believe what I say I believe to be the truth, my life should look remarkably different. If I was called to explain Christianity to another group of people, would I have to make excuses for why we don’t act out what we believe? Why we don’t read our Holy Scriptures? Why I might as well have idols around my house? I pray that we can truly be set apart,”… a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people…” 1 Peter 2:9