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Worlds Apart: Hinduism and the Gospel. ACMI 2014 Presenter: Rev. Chuck Emerson Equipping Leaders International / RUF International (Ga Tech). International students in US:. 97,000 students from India in 2012-13.

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Worlds Apart:

Hinduism and the Gospel

ACMI 2014

Presenter: Rev. Chuck Emerson

Equipping Leaders International / RUF International (Ga Tech)

International students in US:

97,000 students from India in 2012-13

Source: Institute of International Education. (2013).Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from

  • INDIA:

  • 1.3 Billion population

  • 28 States

  • 14 major languages

  • 1000+ minor languages & dialects

  • Religion: ~80% Hindu


Society is divided on the basis of caste

Nation is divided over geographical distribution

Population is divided over races

India does not have one common language, no common food, no common festival etc.

However, the only thing that is common in India is the game “cricket.”


  • Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion behind Christianity and Islam. 

  • There are approximately 800 million Hindus worldwide. 

  • The majority of Hindus live in India, in which 80% of the population is Hindu.


  • What is it?

  • “Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and the realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshiped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of the Hindu religion” (Definition by B. G. Tilak . The Supreme Court of India approved this definition).


  • Hinduism is a conglomeration of numerous worldviews that:

    • exist side-by-side by not infringing on the claims of others

    • do not claim to have one absolute truth

    • do not have a single founder, a common dogma, or common scripture


  • Hinduism is like a mall where various worldviews, folk-religions, and pre-literary religions exist side-by-side.

  • Hinduism consists of pantheists, polytheists, monotheists, agnostics, religions of Satan, and atheists.

  • Therefore, Hinduism is popularly known as Sanatana Dharma, eternal religion.


  • Characteristics of Hinduism

    • No exclusive claims, but extremely inclusive. Therefore, Hinduism is in the process of evolving and morphing.

    • Highly pluralistic

    • Highly superstitious (religion and real life cannot be separated)

    • Extremely tolerant (intolerant towards truth claims)

    • Elaborately ritualistic

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Hinduism has commonly been viewed in the west as a polytheistic religion - one which worships multiple deities: gods and goddesses. Although a widespread belief, this is not particularly accurate.

  • Some have viewed it as a monotheistic religion, because it recognizes only one supreme God: the panentheistic principle of Brahman, that all reality is a unity.

  • * panentheism: a view of the God-world relationship that portrays God and the world as essentially interdependent although God’s essence is not contributed by the world

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Some view Hinduism as Trinitarian because Brahman is simultaneously visualized as a triad -- one God with three persons:

    • Brahma, the Creator, who is continuing to create new realities

    • Vishnu, (Krishna) the Preserver, who preserves these new creations. Whenever dharma (eternal order, righteousness, religion, law and duty) is threatened, Vishnu travels from heaven to earth in one of ten incarnations.

    • Shiva, the Destroyer, is at various times compassionate, erotic and destructive.

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Strictly speaking, most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic; they recognize a single deity, and recognize other gods and goddesses as facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of that supreme God.

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Six Principles

    • Brahman - "the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world", which "cannot be exactly defined"; the highest reality.

    • Atman - the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual.

    • Karma - "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Six Principles

    • Samsara - the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth (reincarnation)

    • Moksha - liberation from cycles of rebirth or samsara

    • Maya - the limited, purely physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled. Māyā is held to be an illusion, a veiling of the true, unitary Self—the Cosmic Spirit also known as Brahman

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Salvation: Release from Karma & Samsara: Atman merging with Brahman

  • Four ways for release:

    • Karma marga – the way of action

    • Bhakti marga – the way of devotion

    • Jnana marga – the way of knowledge

    • Raja yoga marga – the way of meditation

Philosophical Hinduism

  • Philosophical Hindus do not have many gods; instead, only an ultimate reality.

  • Ultimate reality can be their atman itself.

  • Therefore, the highest form of spiritual maturity is “Aham Brahmasmi” i.e., “I am god.”

BhagavadGita 4:1: Whenever a devotee wishes, with unwavering faith, to worship me in a particular form, I will take that form.

The gods of Popular Hinduism

Popular hinduism
Popular Hinduism

  • The eternal triad

    • Brahma: the creator (born of Hiranyagarbha, the golden egg from the primal waters)

    • Vishnu: the preserver (Vishnu defines the principles that rule existence and destiny. He sleeps soundly in the coils of a serpent with Lakshmi.)

    • Shiva: the destroyer (his wife: Parvathi)

Popular Hinduism

  • Ten incarnations of Vishnu

    • (boar, tortoise, fish, man-lion, Vamana the dwarf, Rama with an ax, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Kalki)

  • The Pantheon of Hindu gods

    • Durga, Ganesh, Hanuman, Indra, Kali, Lakshmi, Parvathi, Saraswathi, Murugan, Mariamman, Iyyappan

Popular Hinduism

  • For a popular Hindu, gods are mere benefactors.

  • Most gods of popular Hinduism hold a specialized portfolio.

  • Therefore, a popular Hindu can be loyal to scores of gods.

  • Popular Hindus are highly superstitious and elaborately ritualistic.

  • The deities are actively participating in the physical world.

Hindu devotion
Hindu Devotion

Hindu Temple (mandir)

Home Altar

Hinduism quotes
Hinduism: Quotes

"You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself." - Swami Vivekananda

"That which we call the Hindu religion is really the Eternal religion because it embraces all others." - Sri Aurobindo

"Giving is the secret of abundance." - Sivananda

"There is only one religion, the religion of love. There is only one God, the light that shines in your heart." - Satya Sai Baba

Hinduism vs the Christian Faith

  • Christianity

    • Very specific canon of scripture

    • Makes exclusive truth claims

    • Only one specific Savior: Jesus Christ

    • Many dogmas and creeds, based on Scripture

  • Hinduism

    • Not necessarily based on one specific scripture

    • Highly pluralistic and inclusive

    • Does not have one specific savior

    • Does not have dogmas or creeds

Pointers For Relating to Hindus

  • Pray for Hindus specifically. If you don’t pray for them, who will?

  • Build relationships with each individual Hindu and make them your friends.

  • Live a pure life. They are searching for reality!

  • Show true joy in all of life’s situations.

  • Work into your life the traditional biblical values of simplicity, spirituality, and humility.

  • Seek to have a good working knowledge of Hinduism.

  • Love and serve Hindus.

  • Share your testimony.

  • Treat the Bible with respect. Hindus revere literature as being almost “holy”.

  • Use the Gospel of John.

Pointers For Relating to Hindus

  • Learn a couple of words from their language.

  • Be hospitable. Invite them into your home and family circle for a meal and conversation.

  • Respect their customs. Concerning food and drink; ask beforehand if they are vegetarians. If they are, do not offer them meat.

  • Be a good listener.

  • Empathize with Hindus.

  • Communicate the Gospel in a clear manner

  • Keep God's personal nature in mind. An "impersonal oneness" cannot forgive. A person can.

  • Offer Jesus' forgiveness. Karma means that sins are accumulated without forgiveness or mercy.

  • Be quick to acknowledge mystery and lack of full understanding of the Bible.

Pointers For Relating to Hindus

  • Do not criticize or condemn Hinduism. Hindus are proud of their religion and ancient culture. If we pose ourselves as superior, we will turn them away.

  • Do not argue and debate on points of disagreement. Hindus rarely come to Christ because of a philosophical argument.

  • Do not begin your relationship by talking about hell, or about the fact that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Hindus hear these things as triumphalism and are offended unnecessarily. Speak of hell only with tears of compassion.

  • Do not be in a hurry to push for a decision or conversion. The Holy Spirit must draw them.

  • Do not present Christianity as a Western Religion. The Gospel reached India some 1500 years before it reached North America. Indians, however, equate Christianity with Western Culture.

Worlds Apart:

Hinduism and the Gospel

ACMI 2014

Presenter: Rev. Chuck Emerson

Equipping Leaders International / RUF International (Ga Tech)