Ask Charles Joseph (August 10-14, 2020)

Greetings, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM family! (…particularly those @Interested_in_Hinduism, @Interested_in_Sikhism and @Interested_in_Islam)

The Ask RZIM Q&A forum is back open this week with speaker and writer @Charles_Joseph at the proverbial mic. :studio_microphone:

Charles has served on the India team for the last 10 years. He is an alumnus of the renowned Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore. With a post professional masters in cardio-pulmonary physical therapy, he served as both a lecturer and Lead Clinical Therapist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. In over a decade of illustrious clinical practice, he distinguished himself as an expert in soft tissue pain management and haemophilia rehabilitation. He has publications in peer-reviewed medical journals and his clientele included heads of Indian States, prominent members of the society, and the poorest of the poor. Charles also holds a master’s in psychology.

Answering the call to rehabilitate the soul and not just the body, he made a major career shift in 2010 and joined the RZIM team fulltime and serves as an itinerant speaker and writer. He is also the Editor of Engage, RZIM India’s online apologetics quarterly. He has also helped in co-editing the book Life and Teachings of Maha Satguru Yeshu published by the Bible Society of India. Charles has spoken in various settings in India and abroad and has enjoyed his engagements with college students and corporates alike on a variety of topics. He enjoys public and private Q&A sessions and delights in discussing faith one-on-one with both seekers and skeptics.

His areas of interest include the uniqueness of Christ, comparative religion, contemporary issues, holistic health, and conversational apologetics. He makes his home in Mumbai with his wife, Priscilla, and daughter Mishaelle.

As always, reply below with your questions for him! :question: :arrow_down:

4 Likes

Like Sir Charles, who has a master in psychology, how Christians should balance Judeo-Christian values with their scientific psychological knowledge/education attainment?

Thank you so much!

What is the greatest lesson Dr. Charles learned on serving Christian Apologetics and Evangelism while serving in India, where there are a lot of faiths/deities?

Thank you so much!

How Christianity is unique to a lot of pantheistic worldview? How a Christian share the truth of the gospel to a pantheist?

Hi Domingoosabel:

Firstly, thanks for knighting me. I quite like it :wink:
Jokes apart, Psychology is a study of the mind (psyche). So a study of the mind per se is a noble Christian pursuit and not otherwise. However in Psychology there are different schools, Freudian, Positive, Negative, Evolutionary, Nouethetic etc.

Some of the approaches, principles and inferences from these different schools of Psychology might at times be contrary to Biblical worldview and understanding. It’s only here that we need to be cognizant of the deviations and assess their implications on our faith and practice.

As long as we tread this space carefully and develop a healthy framework to understand the mind taking advantage of the knowledge Psychology offers us, while being clearly grounded on Biblical principles for our frame of reference, there can be a very healthy interplay and enhancement of our understanding of people and the ways their minds and emotions work and the associated biochemistry that augments or disturbs it.

All knowledge pursuits that seek to explore and understand, God’s creation - from microbiology to astronomy, and even language and art, and everything inbetween, ought to be seen as a way of loving the Lord with our minds (Mark 12:30)

Hope this helps!

5 Likes

India is a land that’s seeped in religiosity. Indians have always been spiritual seekers from ancient days. Though the trend might be changing among modern Indian youth. India is the cradle for several major world religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Jesus in India is a very venerated figure. It’s very uncommon to find an Indian who dislikes Jesus. But Indians following other mainstream faiths, might take issue with stereotyped Christianity, but never with Jesus.

Gandhiji, the Father of the Indian nation, famously said, “I like your Christ. But I don’t like you Christians.”

The stereotyped Indian Christian is seen as someone who’s divisive, an anti-national (pledging a greater allegiance to his God than his country), anti-cultural (aping western culture at the cost of despising his), morally degraded (eating meat, drinking and dressing immodestly), currying favour from colonialists (westerners in general) and trading our values and tradition and converting for material gain - amounting to betrayal and hipocrisy.

So these become serious barriers and like an onion, there are several layers to these, which need patient, careful and loving engagement and redressal, by the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Logical convincing, doesn’t help much here. As Indian pantheistic logic, is amply comfortable and advocates “both-and” thinking.

So many people come to embrace Christ, through supernatural encounters - healings, deliverances, visions, dreams, miracles etc.

So an average Indian who doesn’t have need for any of these, doesn’t feel the need to embrace Christ exclusively. But he’s happy to include him, in his pantheon of gods.

So getting an Indian to go against the grain and to come to Christ, trading his people, culture, traditions, gods, beliefs is a missiological challenge that has to be won on our knees, our authenticity, our relationality, our patience, sensitivity, sensibility and perseverance.

This is my observation and understanding, thus far.

5 Likes

You mention above how Indians who come to Christ are trading their people, culture, traditions, etc. Is having the saving faith of Jesus Christ incompatible with eastern culture in general or can some, or even many, cultural identifiers (for example: dress, holidays, enjoyment of art) be maintained after salvation in the eastern tradition?

@Charles_Joseph thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I would love to learn more about why holistic health is one of your inrerests. Would you please share your thoughts on this as it is an area of interest to me also?

2 Likes

Thank you so much for such kind and incredible response!

How Christianity is unique to a lot of pantheistic worldview? How a Christian share the truth of the gospel to a pantheist?

Allow me to answer this in a generic way first and then perhaps pick out and narrow down on the points that may resonate well with a pantheist.

Here are some reasons why I think Christianity is unique:

This is a personal list and is sure not exhaustive.

1. Jesus as Saviour - Sorrowing, Suffering and Scarred Saviour

Edward Shilito’s,
*"The others gods were strong, but thou wast weak, *
They rode, but you stumbled to a throne,
And to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And a god has wounds, but Thee alone!"

The idea of a Saviour who’s uniquely qualified to experientially empathize, with the suffering world is really existentially powerful, as the idea of maya, the pantheistic solution for the problem of pain and suffering is existentially highly insensitive, and ever rude or irrelevant.

  1. God as Trinity - The relational, composite oneness of God, can be creatively used to explore and draw at least distant parallels to the ideas of Dvaita and Advaita and can become a point of contact and conversation.

  2. God’s Profile
    The greatest conceivable being, has to have the greatest conceivable virtues and none, is demonstrably perfect in being as the God of the Bible, reveals himself through its pages and history. The idea of God’s attributes (guna) - nirguna (no attributes) and sarguna (all attributes), would be a good conversation point, too.

  3. Human Profile
    The Bible is the most accurate descriptor of the human potential to reflect the divine and also the depravity that we can all identify with and makes the best representative - logically consistent, empirically adequate and existentially relevant point and is worth exploring with a pantheist, who has the idea of divinity (imago dei) within, though is distant and associations have to be drawn to it.

  4. Missional God
    God who initiates, God who invites, God who rolls up his sleeves to get into the muck and mire is compelling.

  5. Strange Salvation
    Do Vs Done
    There is nothing for us to do, no mountains to climb, no rivers to cross, no self-mortification, no pilgrim/holy centres to visit, nothing to earn. It’s all done for us, and we receive it, solely by grace.

  6. Sure Faith
    Tested and reasonable faith and not superstitions or a blind leap in the dark. Not a philosophy, but a Person!

  7. Modelled Morality
    An outflow of the character of God, a transcendent unchanging reference point to hold on to. And a God en-fleshed Who modelled it in real time, flesh and blood for us.

  8. Assured Destiny
    A clear assured destiny, as opposed to the cycles of rebirth, until a final escape into nothingness.

  9. Non-dichotomous
    No dichotomy between dogma and praxis. Belief and behaviour are see as a composite whole and can’t be incongruous.

  10. Worldview Champion
    Answers all major worldview question, the best, given all the other options, acing the test of truth, like none other worldview.

  11. Verifiable-Falsifiable
    The only that encourage and invites people to verify its claims and falsify it too!

  12. The Book
    The inerrant and infallible Divine-human project, that fits like a zig-saw over 1500 years with the golden thread of Jesus running seamlessly from Gen 1 to Rev 22!

  13. Resurrection
    The only Saviour that predicted his death and resurrection and showed up to 500. The ultimate test of Truth and demonstration of victory over the final enemy death!

I’m sorry for making the points sketchy. but I hope these could serve as a grid to explore a point of contact and initiate conversations.

That was a lot to type!!!

3 Likes

Thank you so much for the effortful and incredible answer.
It helps a lot!

Hello,

One of my childhood friends who is an atheist recently told me it would’ve been better for him not to have existed because the circumstances around him being born (there was no marriage, not out of love but more out of transaction) were terrible. I am particularly sensitive to bible-thumping but I was just being supportive in a secular way. How would you have responded/counseled him?

(Maybe something from Genesis where families born from terrible circumstances are still loved? I don’t know how to phrase this…)

Thank you

David

Recently, my dad died an excruciating death from mesothelioma. Despite my ministering the Gospel to him and asking him if he would surrender his life to Jesus, the Lord clearly showed me he refused to the last and I won’t see him again. My mother and siblings are similarly set against God, even asking me not to mention Him when I gave the eulogy at dad’s funeral. Since, I have been unable to intercede for others like him, so adamantly rejecting Jesus. What is the point of intercession? It won’t change a hard heart like my dad’s.

Hi Alan!
It a very good and deep question and worthy topic for a doctoral research and many have in the past researched it academically and missiologically. Despite that its hard to agree on where to draw the lines.

As India is a deeply spiritual civilization, most of our traditions and cultures are seeped in and stem from deeply religious, spiritual and philosophical ideas. It is very enmeshed and hard to segregate.

So for a Hindu, who embraces Christ, the point of renunciation and integration become a very nuanced challenge. That changes from person to person. Missionaries in the past have done good and bad in this space and made problems worse for the new disciple and in some worthy cases (not too many) tried to ‘contextualize’ and integrate too. Often times this could be perceived as being too compromising or liberalizing the orthodox positions.

Ex. Diwali, in a broad sense is the ‘festival of lights’, symbolizing at the core, the victory of good over evil. But its the victory for a Hindu of his deity winning over evil. Now as a born-again disciple of Christ, can a Christian celebrate Diwali, along with the rest of the family or community, who are doing it to specifically celebrate Ram (Deity/Avatar) defeating Ravan (evil king)?

Some of us would say that we need to redeem, this festival, and could still celebrate it, but unto Christ - the others would disagree, about the possibility and debate about the extent and the specifics of how this could be done, still others will flatly refuse, saying that it amounts to sacrilege.

So there is a lot of need for sensitivity and sensibility in this area and there’s no one-size-fit-all solution here. It play differently for different people, based on their maturity and based on their conscience condemning them or encouraging them.

However, the larger Indian Christian community needs to understand these and affirm and support and not be judgemental and legalistic and yet, see that in the name of contextualization, we to the weaker ones, don’t appear as too compromising and become a stumbling block.

A lot of wisdom is needed for the first-generation disciple of Christ from the Eastern faith, to process all these and get the balance right and it could take a life-time! Even more wisdom is needed for those that spiritually invest in first generation disciples and this is often the challenge.

So Alan, this is much deeper than what meets the eye. Perhaps you should visit India and have a feel of these things to really get a grasp of it.

Please do pray for the 1.37 billion Indians, the majority of whom need the Saviour in their lives!!!

Hi Brian!

Thanks for asking and nice to know of our common interest.

Mark 12:30 is a verse that is indeed very deep and gives me a framework to understand the idea and scope of Person-hood as the Bible teaches us.

“Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” I’m aware of the nuances and limits in understanding and treading a thin line in ‘exegeting’ this verse.
Popularly the heart is the seat of emotions, the soul - seat of the will/decisions, mind - seat of intellect and strength - physicality (seat of energy), so the Lord wants us to love him with our all! With our emotions, decisions, intellect and actions.

So the idea of the whole person is not limited to but includes, these different faculties, the effect of the fall, should have ramifications in all these areas - emotional health, will-powers (ability to make and keep to decisions), intellectual health (healthy thought-life/mental health), physical health are all domains that could be affected by the fall and would need redemption.

Hence I think, scriptures have a lot of support (there are several other passages that one could find) and emphasis and recommendations for flourishing as a disciple in all these domains and live out the abundant life, that Jesus invites us to.

Several passages in the Bible speak about redeeming our thought/heart life (emotions), transforming our minds (intellect), re-orienting and controlling our affections (heart), being good stewards of our bodies (physical) and has several antidotes to transformation. The nine aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are all antidotes for flourishing holistically - in emotions, intellect, relationships, decisions, behaviour, etc., a journey to holistic and spiritual fullness.

2 Likes

Hi @Charles_Joseph! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions this week. I would like to ask, as a medical practitioner, would you recommend yoga for mind and physical therapy or not? Thank you in advanced😊

1 Like

Thank you for the well thought out reply. Currently I work and live among a number of people with eastern backgrounds including India . I am interested in the interaction between culture and faith so your comments are very insightful and helpful. Thank you again.

Hi Dave!

Appreciate your heart to reach out to your aching atheist friend. The rule of thumb in attempting to minster to people with stories of pain and suffering is to fight the urge to give them quick intellectual responses. Though the question itself might appear like one that demands a good rational response, the questioner behind (as Raviji, taught us) is crying out for emotional comfort, especially if its a personal question and not one posed on behalf of others.

So listening and allowing them to empty their chest goes a long way in helping them to start with. Since this is a childhood friend I’m sure you’d have done that amply. I also like the fact that you started with some ‘secular’ answers and didn’t immediately start supplying Scriptures.

When they know we care enough to listen, they know we care. And such people never care how much we know, but clearly know how much we care. Be compassionate, be consistent, be committed, be patient these things come in multiple layers and are not overnight projects. Never give them the impression that you are doing all this, to convert them to Christ. Be clear that you are with them, regardless,

Now coming to the use of Scriptures. Sensitivity and Sensibility are key words and attitudes here.

Your friend is struggling with issues of injustice, unfairness, rejection, lack of sense of belonging, lack of love, issues with identity - so these are some of the areas that you might want to touch upon and establish gently through the scriptures.

The idea of belonging, to the Father, created with intentionality, care and purpose are very big and comforting ones (Psalm 139). The idea of being made infused with value and worth in the image and likeness of God is another big one. The need for not having to do work or earn or shape identity and the affirmation that come from realizing the, ‘who I am?’ question tied and rooted in the ‘Whose I am?’ are all very powerful and life defining motifs. The idea of Salvation, as son-ship through adoption is very deep too. Also the idea that our parents here, are stewards and God indeed is our Father in the real sense, could be hugely helpful.

Some scriptures;
Psalm 27:10 - Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
Isaiah 4:15 - Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.

And your own approach of the Genesis families, is a helpful one too.

I pray that your friend finds meaning and value in what you share about the (his) good, good Father in heaven, who sent his only begotten Son, to redeem him (you friend) back to life and given him fullness, purpose and joy would strike a deep chord, in Jesus’ name! Amen.

Bravo!

2 Likes

Hi Andrea:

I’m so sorry to hear about your dad and your family’s aversion to Christ. Wonder why? I’m sure it must be very heart-wrenching for you.

Regarding intercession, evangelism, free-will and people’s response to the Gospel, these are very complex and mysterious interactions. And thankfully we can’t rule out their scope,until the very end. There are numerous stories of the most unlikeliest of transformations and each of ours is one such too!

So faith and hope should be the two constant under-girding principles of intercession. While we do intercede to see results, we also intercede out of obedience. And even while we don’t perceive result in the object of intercession perhaps,yet, God sure must be perceiving results in the subject that intercedes!

God also specializes in achieving multiple ends simultaneously in the ways that he deals with his creation.

The true story of George Muller’s 5 friends is helpful here. There’s not been one day land or sea that George Mueller hadn’t prayed for his 5 friends. Eighteen months into praying the 1st one came to the Lord, 5 years for the second, the 6th year, the 3rd one
After several years he writes, 30 years or so these two are still not in your fold!
After 52 years at his death (funeral), his fifth friends embraced Christ.

On a liter note, they say heaven will have 3 surprises; all the ones that we thought would be there may not be there. All the ones that we thought won’t be there, might be there and the big one finally is that we ourselves, would be there!

So cheer up and keep at it, with faith and hope, leaving the outcome to the perfect and just Judge.

We are called to be faithful, not successful in our ministries to people on behalf of God!

Hope that helps in some small ways, Andrea.

2 Likes