Ask Balajied Nongrum (January 7-11, 2019)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

I’m so encouraged to let you know that Balajied, or Bala, is available to help us think more deeply about our faith - and how to share it with love and compassion with our friends. He has a kind heart - and a sharp mind.

I know you will be blessed if you ask your question to Bala this week. And many hundreds of others will benefit from your courage as well as we follow along.

Please join me in learning from Dr. Nongrum - and invite your friends to participate too!

gratefully,
Carson

Balajied Nongrum’s bio:

Dr. Balajied Nongrum holds a bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Science from the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad. Having completed his MA in Philosophy & Religion, he went on to pursue a master’s degree in Science and Religion from Biola University, US. As a Speaker and Trainer with RZIM Life Focus Society, Balajied has spoken widely and addressed subjects such as ethics, philosophy, culture, science, and religion.

When sharing the love of Christ in schools, colleges, universities, and on the radio, his efforts have always been undergirded by apologetics. Some of his passions are defending his faith and talking on the uniqueness of Christ. He has had the privilege on special occasions to speak at the All India Medical Institute of Sciences (AIIMS), National Institute of Technology (NIT), North Eastern Hills University (NEHU), North Eastern Regional Institute of Science & Technology (NERIST), and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER). His talks “Battle of Origins: Creation or Evolution,” “In Pursuit of Justice,” and “The Matrix of Life” continue to motivate his listeners.

Balajied, his wife, Coniefer, and their young son, Jedidiah, make their home in the beautiful hill-station of Shillong.


(chandra kishore sardar) #2

Hello sir,
I am from Nepal and have been hugely influenced by Indian culture since i stayed there for 6 years as i completed my schooling there.
As far as i believe in my country,Nepal culture is closely intertwined with religion. I often find it diffcult to think of ways to share my faith without poking the culture which i believe only makes things worse even if i wouldnt do it on purpose.
And also I would really appreciate if you could deliver some practical ways to be the salt and the light (the kind that He wants us to be)where i am placed be it educational setup or nonchristian setup.
Thank you !!


(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi Bala,

How can Christians find the necessary boldness to start spiritual conversations?

What wisdom do you have for us in terms of being bold about Jesus in a mature way - vs an annoying and problematic way?


(Albin Siby) #4

Hello Bala sir,

I’m from U.P, India, and as you are from India too, you might be Knowing how hard it is for anyone who’s wanting to share Christ can face huge difficulty, as the hinduism here is surging so much too. Sharing Christ to atheists is far easy as to religious ones, just like Christians love Christ, they love their gods, so a direct rejection of Thier religion in which they’ve grown up in probably backfire.
So could you please advise on how to share Christ to people who are already deeply rooted in some form of religion and are completely okay and settled in it.

Also, my family is catholic also and so far as I’ve tried to tell them about things, they are ignorant, so could you please advise on that too.

Thanks.


(Balajied Nongrum) #5

Dear Kishore,

Your question is a very important one, especially in the context where Hinduism is the predominant worldview. You are right when you say that the culture at large “is closely intertwined with religion”. In my interaction with some Hindu scholars, I have heard them described Hinduism as “a way of life”.

In order for me to do justice to your question, let me stick to the practical ways of engagment and whenever necessary, I shall add the theory as well. By the way, if you need any further clarification then please do not hesitate to ask by means of a follow up question.

First, we must explore ways of making meaningful relationships with our neighbours. Very often, we tend to communicate from a distance and hence we missed out. But the most effective way for the communication of the gospel is friendly through personal relationships. This is precisely one of the main reason why the Church has failed to reach out to Hindus. John Scott speaks of the Incarnational model of Christ as a model for mission. Therefore, you and I need to model our mission after Jesus, our master evangelist.

Secondly, we must always strive towards building bridges and not walls. The apostle Paul is another great example for us. In Acts 17:16-34, Paul while preaching the gospel to the Athenians, he first looked out for some common points of contact he could build with them. He was not afraid to agree when he saw points of agreement. His aim was to direct his audience to accept the truth. However, he was not afraid to point out the truth when it clashed with their false beliefs. Paul’s whole approach or methods can be summed up as reasoning, explaining, proving and proclaiming as laid out in Acts 17: 1-4.

Thirdly, we should ensure that the Christian presence (i.e., both the individual as well as the community as a whole) is establised to make the Christian proclamation effective. Please read John 13:34-35. Again, John Stott while commenting on 1 John 4:12 puts it well when he says, “The invisible God, who once made himself visible in Christ, now makes himself visible in Christians, if we love one another…It is through the quality of our loving that God makes himself visible today”.

Fourth, we should make an intelligent presentation of the gospel and give reasonable answers to the objections and questions people raise. After all, people (irrespective of their backgrounds and beliefs) are created in the image of God, meaning that we all have the capacity of reasoning. J. P. Moreland says that the gospel message should be presented to people primarily because it is true and not because it works, though the practical benefits of knowing Christ are certainly important.


(Matt Western) #6

Hi Bala,
Our family dog has died, and while this is a difficult time, it has caused my daughter (15) to ask some very good questions such as:
Will we see our dog in heaven?
How are animals different than humans?
We are able to have some deep conversations on how to deal with suffering, how suffering can point us to heaven because ‘somehow death and suffering is wrong’. It’s also interesting as we try to comfort just how different God has made men and ladies - we think differently, we grieve differently. I’ve learnt to not try to ‘fix it’ but just listen and be there. :slight_smile:

On an unrelated note: I’m currently reading through Tim Keller’s book ‘Walking with God through pain and suffering’ - only up to chapter 3. I’m learning that in Western culture, we shield ourselves away from any suffering and secular humanism is the least equiped to deal with suffering. Life is about pleasure, and when suffering gets in the way of that, then meaning is lost and there is no hope.

A pastor once mused to me long ago that he wonders if God has designed dog’s lives to be about 1/5 of our lives so we are gently reminded that we will not last forever either.

My question is, as you have studied both Veterinary Science, and Philosophy and Religion I wondered if you had mused on any of the following points

  1. Why does it seem on normal TV in documentaries that it is ‘assumed knowledge’ that evolution is true, and that we are just monkeys - and by evolution I mean without any Creator.
    David Attenborough, for example constantly is amazed at how Nature using evolution designs animals to work so well. It seems that he is blind to what he is saying: unguided processes + time + chance = amazing design that works perfectly

  2. According to Genesis, we humans are created in God’s image, and we exclusively get to decide on the value of one animal over another. I’ve often wondered why do we humans put so much value in a ‘good animal’ such as a family dog, cat, pet etc. But then we, without even thinking about it, squash a scorpion, or poison rats, or spray spiders and insects with pesticide. We as a society, assign great value to say a dolphin because it is highly intelligent and it should be saved as a ‘moral right’ thing to do… Interestingly, a Christian would have the exact same conclusion as an atheist in this area. A Christian is called to be a good steward of God’s creation. An atheist thinks this planet is all we’ve got so we need to save it to ensure our species survival.

  3. It seems that there are great efforts to prove that we have the almost the same DNA as say monkeys, but when looking at the plain facts - there appears to be a very vast difference between humans and animals. The line (of difference) between animal kingdom and humans appears very wide.

  4. I’ve watched a series with my family recently on Netflix called Animal Hoarders, where it appears that people who have been through either loss of close family members by death, struggle to deal with a deal of a child of their own and unable to have more, or have a severely traumatised childhood (distant abusive parents, foster care) - collect animals over time in a somewhat addictive behaviour.
    I find it interesting in several episodes that the people having to have their animals removed always say that ‘the animals give me unconditional love’, and that ‘humans can’t be trusted because they let you down’, and in particular ‘the animals need me and I’m not going to let them down like I’ve been let down’.
    I wonder, if they are filling their deep longing for relationship - which we all have. I think our deep desire is to know and to be known deeply by another or other people but in fact our deepest desire is to know God and be known by Him.

Sorry this is long - I tried to be brief - and understand that I’ve raised 4 large areas of discussion and even if you had time to talk about one that would be appreciated. :slight_smile:
Thank you for your ministry at RZIM as an itinerate speaker - I’m personally very blessed by this ministry.

All the best to you and your family in the year ahead.
Kind regards
Matt


(Balajied Nongrum) #7

Hi Carson,

Thank you for raising this question because I think it is important that in our ‘spiritual conversations’ we ought to do so in a mature and respectful manner (1 Pet. 3:15) rather than in an arrogant tone or a problematic way. The starting point for us as followers of Christ is that we ought to always remind ourselves (in light of the Scriptures) that our salvation “is the gift of God, not by works, so that no-one can boast” (Eph. 2:8b-9). Hence, our ‘boldness’ or our confidence should be deeply rooted in Christ. To deviate from this pattern is not only to go astray from God’s way but to embrace the pattern of the world which denies God, hence paves the way for Unchristian behaviour.

Having said that let me make a few suggestions on how to be ‘bold about Jesus in a mature way’ so that our conduct would inturn help us spark spiritual conversations.

First of all, let us remember that God’s calling on our lives is not merely to PROCLAIM the truth about Jesus but also to WALK in a way appropriate to our position as His representatives. The apostle Paul says in Phil. 1:27, “Whatever happens, CONDUCT yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” These two (pillars of God’s calling upon our lives) ought to be held together and also lived out in our lives. Once this becomes a pattern of our lives then I am convinced that this would paved the way for evangelism as a life-style!

Secondly, one of the most effective way I have found in initiating conversations is asking questions. Well, questions can range from things concerning their beliefs in God or the lack of it, their story etc. Everyone likes to talk… :slight_smile: or in other words everyone has a story to share. It is only in doing so that you will earn the right to be heard. When its your turn then limit yourself to your own experience and not others. We need to learn to share our testimonies in less than two minutes otherwise we are unlikely to witness effectively.

Thirdly, we should be sensitive meaning we should know when to stop. Say too much and you will lose their interest, and perhaps risk making them hostile and unreceptive. Listen for the Holy Spirit saying, “Time to change the subject”.

Fourth, we should cultivate the habit of using ordinary language. Avoid using jargons that we might be using within our communities or Churches because friends from outside the church may find the jargon meaningless and off-putting. Why let our language be a barrier to faith?

Fifth, we should provide the space for truth to speak for itself. E. Stanley Jones, a missionary to India and a very good friend to Mahatma Gandhi once recommended that we invite our friends from other faiths to share what their beliefs had done for them. Very often, we assume we understand and consequently never ask the questions. Listening sincerely to their response, help us to build a genuine relationship. An open ended search for the truth should eventually lead people to be open to the revealed truth of the Bible.

Please feel free to get back just incase there is any need for clarification.

Thank you.


(Balajied Nongrum) #8

Hi Albin,

Your diagnosis of the context (India) in general and of Uttar Pradesh in particular is spot-on. The rise of radical (or militant) Hinduism in the recent past is very much palpable across the nation. However, in the midst of this change, the positive thing is that there are a few dissenting voices from within the Hindu fold that is challenging the radical view of the given majority. For example, last year (2018) Dr. Shashi Tharoor published a book titled as “Why I am a Hindu” wherein he not only gave reasons as to why he is a Hindu but he also distanced himself from the radical hinduism. We would do well to read this book and others too in order for us to understand the nuance of Hinduism.

Anyway, coming to your question of how do we engage meaningfully with our neighbours who are predominantly Hindus. Before I do so, may I also encourage you to kindly read my other responses to Kishore and Carson about some of the general things, I have included on how to build bridges with others.

Given below are some of my suggestions:

  1. Begin with something you can agree with. For instance, unlike an atheist who does not believe in God, I would agree with a Hindu because He believes in God (although, different from the Triune God). Similarly, a Hindu believes not only that God exists, but that God is ultimate, infinite and above all God is active in this world. Of course, in our discussion we should eventually and gently try to draw the distinction between the two world-views.

  2. I am sure, you would have also noticed by now their deep desire or hunger to relate with their respective deity (which ever they chose to embrace). Furthermore, they also believe in the law of Karma and somehow deep inside craves for liberation (or moksha) which is salvation from the Christian point of view. Hence, their emphasis is in doing the good while on the other hand some would recommend yoga, the path to ultimate liberation. However, apart from the long duration of time that it requires, there is also no assurance whatsoever that one would ever attain success.

Now, at this point, we should highlight the distinctiveness of the gospel of Christ where salvation is not by works but it is a gift of God and not by works. Above all there is assurance of salvation too, based on what Christ has accomplished for all of humanity.

  1. Most importantly, while witnessing you must also pray that God would intervene by opening their heart to what you are sharing. All we can do is to try to convince them, but conviction comes from God.

  2. I would also like to encourage you to attend our two weeks training program which takes place three times in a year in Chennai. Through this program you would be further equipped in the whole discipline of Christian apologetics. Just incase you are interested you can reach out to me at [email protected]

  3. I would highly recommend that you read the book, “Jesus talks to Krishna” authored by Ravi Zacharias. It is an excellent book that would give you more insights on the subject.

Blessings.


(Balajied Nongrum) #9

Hi Albin,

Here is my response to your 2nd question.

You mentioned that your family is catholic. Well, I have friends who like you (are from Catholic backgrounds) have received Christ and are now being used by God to reach out to others. I have personally learned and benefited immensely from their ways of witnessing. Here are some of those lessons:

  1. First thing first, as a strategy please refrain from speaking ill against the Pope, Mary, Mass or some of the things that they practice. Bottom line is try as far as you can not to start with the controversial issues.

  2. Secondly, let all your reasoning be from the Scripture because it can serve as the common ground for your discussion. You see, they seem to lean upon two sources of authority, one is scripture and the other is tradition. So you can bank on the scripture alone, and use it wisely and sensitively to question tradition (only if necessary).

  3. Thirdly, do emphasise on the nature of sin or that man is sinful and that Jesus alone is the saviour. Nothing else can save man except Christ. Do focus on the work of Christ as clearly stated in scripture.

  4. Lastly, pray and trust that the Lord would speak through their conscience.

Thank you.


(Albin Siby) #10

Thanks sir, for your advice.


(Balajied Nongrum) #11

Hi Matt,

Wishing you and your family too a blessed new year.

Well, I am so sorry to hear about your dog. During the course of my Veterinary practice, I have met many who have gone through similar experiences. So I understand the feeling. Thank you for raising the question.

First of all, as a matter of fact, all animals are conscious living beings. They were created with capacities such as emotions e.g., fear, desires etc. Of course they vary from one to the other. Also the degree of expressions may also vary. Some may appear more intelligent that the others (depending upon training) as in the case of dogs and dolphins etc. However, there are certain capacities that they do not seem to have. Especially, when you compare (all the creatures that God has created) them with man (the Imago Dei as described in Gen. 1:26-28).

The soul of man is not only different but also unique from the rest of God’s creation particularly animals. From a Biblical point of view, man is not only unique but also has a destiny. No wonder Christ in the incarnation became a God-man (and not God-animal (Narishimha) as is often described in the Hindu mythology). Man is uniquely created with the capacity to have a relationship with God. So much so that when man goes astray from God’s blueprint, he is warned not to become like the ‘horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you’ (Psalm 32:9). Man (unlike the beast) would not simply perish but have a future (Psalm 49:20). We clearly se the distinction between man and the animals.

To your question, “will we see our pets in heaven?”

Well, all I can say is, if at all they (animals or in this case pets) are there in the new Heaven and the new Earth as mentioned in Isaiah 11: 6-8, then there presence is not necessarily in the same sense as man. For man’s presence in heaven would be through the resurrection by the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is God’s desire that man’s delight should be only in God and nothing else. In our spiritual pursuit we ought to be cautious as to ensure that nothing else (except God) takes a prominent place in our heart to be our delight for eternity.

Concerning your first question, here is a link (https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/9284-faith-and-science) a write-up titled ‘Faith and Science’ wherein I have written to answer three important questions:

  1. Does belief in God make sense in an age of Science?
  2. The case for the creator
  3. The case for Biblical creation.
    They are just one page each and through these write-up I have tried to deal with the issues you have raised. Once you read it, please feel free to ask me any follow up questions if you have.

Thank you.


(chandra kishore sardar) #12

Thank you so much sir for taking the time to answer. Your answer very well does justice to my questions. I read your answers to other people questions as well which kinda answers my possible follow-up questions. God bless!!


(Matt Western) #13

Thank you Bala, I’ll definitely read those resources.

As my daughter asked the question “Will the family dog be in heaven?”, my response was simply, I don’t think so as only humans have three parts, body, soul and spirit - as we are made in God’s image. Dogs only have two parts, body and spirit (emotions / life force/ instinct and those type things which God has given) She countered, “oh, I thought that humans have body soul and mind, and then the Holy spirit comes in when you ask Jesus into your heart”, and we were able to have a very basic conversation about what we thought the difference between mind and soul, who God is (Father, Son and Spirit). I did say that there will be animals in heaven, where the lion will lie down with the lamb, and the child will play on the asps nest and not be stung (whether this passage in Isiah 11:6-8 refers to heaven, or the millennial kingdom, or is poetic prophecy I’m not completely sure) - and shared the passage in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that “However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God has prepared for those who love him–”.

As with most 15 year olds, you have a short time to discuss, then the conversation moves on to other things. :slight_smile:

Thankyou again for your response, I’ll go and do some further reading.


(Bill Brander) #14

Thanks. This is question that I to have to field in SA.


(Balajied Nongrum) #15

Hi Matt and Bill,

For your further investigation on this subject, just incase you are interested, I would like to encourage you to read a small book written by J. P. Moreland titled, “What is the Soul? Recovering Human Personhood in a Scientific Age” This is one of the question taken up under the “RZIM Critical Questions Series” published by the RZIM Educational Trust (RZIM). In Chapter 4, Moreland takes up the important question of what is “the Nature of the human and animal soul”. Thought you might be interested.

Thank you.

Blessings.


(Carson Weitnauer) #16

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