Israel Wayne: What led you to begin your Apologetics ministry in India?
Pankaj Parmar: India is country with varieties of religions and philosophies. The deep seated religiosity which prevails and the pride of cultural and religious uniqueness of Hinduism is deeply embedded in the psyche of Indian mindset. In fact, ideas and concepts like God becoming man are not at all new concepts as our nation abounds with many stories of God becoming man and such stories are dynamic in the sense that they keep on adding. Unlike in western context and culture where atheism, materialism and humanism are the primary worldviews, where once you establish existence of God, it is easy to present Jesus as God, whereas here in India people already believe that many gods and goddesses exist and all are deemed to be true.
India is also philosophically strong as we see the influence of Indian philosophy in the forms of New Age movement in the western world. Hence in such context it was very much a need to start apologetics ministry. In fact a nation with more than 1 billion people to reach, led us to start apologetics ministry.
Israel Wayne: Which authors / speakers have influenced you the most?
Pankaj Parmar: As far as defending the Christian faith and answering the objections is concerned, I am indebted to the writing of Dr. Norman Geisler, Dr. Paul Copan, Dr. Ron Rhodes and Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Josh McDowell. But when it comes to doing apologetics offensively and culturally in the context of India, I am indebted to writing s of Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi and Apologist L.T. Jeyachandran whose writing are tremendous useful in doing apologetics in the Indian Context. Yet at the same time I maintain still lot of work is needed to be developed in the context of Indian Culture which is needed to be worked out in the terms of developing contextual apologetics.
Israel Wayne: What are some of the Apologetic topics that are vitally needed today in India?
Pankaj Parmar: Indian context is quite diverse and complex. In fact every person you encounter has different worldview. Even within Hinduism there are multiple worldviews, sects and schisms, hence when you encounter different people you have to approach differently. So No one methodology can be absolutised. However there are many topics which are needed to be addressed apologetically which I will delineate below at the same time.
- The Problem of Evil & Suffering in relation with Karma and Reincarnation in the context of Theistic worldview existing in Hinduism. Very often this problem is dealt in the context of Pantheistic Worldview which is only one of the part of Hinduism.
- Political issues
- Religious Pluralism and Exclusivity of Truth
- Epistemological challenges in contriving the nature of truth.
- Cultural Superiority attitude of Hindus.
Israel Wayne: Is India Pantheistic or Polytheistic in its worldview?
Pankaj Parmar: Pantheism is in Hinduism but Hinduism is not only pantheism. Similarly Polytheism is in Hinduism but Hinduism is not only Polytheism. Hinduism as far as I understand comprises all the “isms’ of the world. In fact, even Atheism is part of Hinduism in the sense that there is a whole school of philosophy termed as Carvaka which espouse atheism and materialism is part of Hinduism but with little significant influence. Let me reinstate in the words of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, “You can be Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and even atheist and still be Hindu. Most Hindus behind the polytheistic concept of gods and goddesses see them as only different forms of One God. So Compartmentalizing India to be Pantheistic or Polytheistic is not right way to do as Western scholars, philosophers and even apologists assume. So I would term India to be Multi-Faith as well as Hinduism to be Syncretistic generally.
Israel Wayne: What arguments do you use to counter Pantheism?
Pankaj Parmar: Pantheism is quite complex but contradictory system hence many arguments are useful to Counteract Pantheism. Let me share with you one such argument.
If according to Pantheism all is Divine therefore all is God and hence no ultimate distinctions and diversity exists while only Unity is true then there is problem. They have stressed only unity at the expense of diversity, which has removed all the distinction between creator and creation and I /You. If such distinction does not exist then the problem is there is no need for Vedas or any scripture to tell about pantheistic worldview, as there is no real I and You. And how does such system incorporate the whole idea of avatars or God becoming Man or whole idea of Guruism. If such ideas are embraced than it follows, God in Enlightenment is teaching God in ignorance about to how to get enlightenment. With regards to avatars God is becoming man to save the righteous who are also God and destroy the Unrighteous who again are God. But if all distinction are not existent then the distinction between dharma and adharma or righteous and sinners also evaporates, then what’s the need of avatars?
Pankaj Parmar: I want to admit at the outset as you talk with Hindus in these issues it is not easy to challenge this tendency. But there are many arguments which has been useful in my discourse with Hindus. While comparing and contrasting the Avtars (God incarnated in Hinduism) with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ often I have used eight points presented in a chapter 10 by Josh McDowell in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict which are as follows:
- If God Becomes Man then He should have an utterly unique entrance into human history
- He would be without sin
- Manifest Supernatural acts – miracles
- Live more perfectly than any human who has ever lived
- Would Speak the greatest words ever spoken
- He will satisfy the spiritual hunger of humanity
- He will have a lasting and universal influence
- He will overcome humanity’s most pervasive and feared enemy Death.
Apart from that when you read mythological stories you find lot of contradictory and illogical stories which can be shown to be inconsistent. Let me share with you one such encounter. A colleague of mine where I was working was sharing the story of his god Ganpati (the elephant God known as Lord Ganesha). He was telling How this God came up with a head of elephant. The story goes something like this. Once upon a time the Mother of this god, Parvati was taking a bath, she told her son, Ganesh (Ganpati), to stand outside and keep vigil and see no one enters. While he was standing, His father Shankar (Hindu God) came. So this son did not know the man was his father. So when father insisted to let him come and see Parvati, the son tried to stop him and in anger his father cut off his head. So when the mother came, she told Parvati “This was your son, why did you do this?” So they decided to put on their son the head of anyone who came first in the next morning. So the next Morning the elephant came first, hence they cut off the head and put the head on the son and hence this elephant god. So I asked my friend, “If Shankar is God and if he could replace the head of elephant then why he could not place and put the same head. Why kill an innocent elephant?” So my friend could not answer and then I presented the Gospel. So there are many such stories which need to heard and then show them the inconsistencies. Once showing them inconsistencies and inadequate definitions of God and then present Biblically revealed Nature of God and how that God became man to the save Humanity from Sin and the consequences makes sense.
Israel Wayne: What are your future goals for your Apologetics ministry?
Pankaj Parmar: We want to create more awareness of using apologetics in Indian Churches and take apologetics at grass-root level. Apart from that want to develop contextual apologetics curriculum and trainings so as to meet the challenges of Indian Mindset.
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