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Among the Ruins - Dr. Kaj Baago’s Theological Challenge Revisited

by Jonas Jorgensen

Jonas Jorgensen is a theologian from Denmark who studied at the United Theological College, Bangalore, India as an Ecumenical Student, and now works for the International Association for Mission Studies. This article is from the book Bangalore Theological Forum, Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, published by the Untied Theological College, 2001. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


The Rev. Dr. Kaj Baago (1926-1987) joined the faculty of the United Theological College (UTC), Bangalore in June 1960, to which he was sent by the Danish Missionary Society. The decision to accept to work for the Danish Missionary Society had, for theological reasons, been hard to make for Baago although he had felt the vocation to become a missionary for a long time. Baago’s decision was encouraged by leaders in the Danish Missionary Society as well as by the faculty at the United Theological College. by the first in spite of and by the second because of his radical theology, according to an interview with Dr. Chandran (Chandran 2000). Baago was appointed Professor in Church History and lectured for nearly ten years at the UTC before he in 1968 finally resigned from the college faculty as well as from the established church. This decision was gradually formed and formulated during his stay in India, and he himself holds the years at the UTC to be crucial for his "new" theological understanding or insight (Baago 1967a: 113).

In this article I want to point out and systematically identify some of Baago’s theological insights, reflections and reasons, which caused him to resign from teaching as well as from the church. By examining the relevant material from Baago himself and that from some of his contemporary critics and sympathizers. I hope to increase the understanding of Baago’s decision as well as to restate the challenge, which his break with the established church puts forth for contemporary theological reflection in India and abroad. Baago himself points out in several places that the reason for him to give up professional theology is to be found solely in the theology and the ecclesiastical praxis of the Christian church and hence his decision is not caused by other external factors (Baago 1967a). The focus will therefore be on his theological writings published in the period from his arrival in India in 1959 until the beginning of the 1970’s after his decision to leave the church had been made.

Baago was as a theologian foremost a scholar of church-history, and presenting his thoughts in a systematized form can be unsatisfactory. Despite this I think it is possible to give a certain systematic outline of his thinking and his critique on central theological themes such as indigenization. baptism, and Christian missionary work. In doing this some of the consequences in ecclesiology and indigenization of his theological thought can be seen and evaluated, and this is the outline which will be followed here.

1.0 Short Biographical Sketch

Baago started his theological studies at the Theological Faculty in Aarhus, Denmark, after the end of the Second World War, and went after seven years of training for studies abroad. He completed his Master of Theology in 1953 at the Union Theological Seminary, New York. His thesis dealt with Paul Tillich’s criticism of the concept of truth in neo-orthodoxy and liberal theology (see Baago 1954). Tillich’s continued influence on Baago’s theological thinking, especially the forming of Baago’s concept of indigenization. should not be underestimated and in several places he refers directly to him (Baago 1967f; 1967g; 1971; see also Mundadan 1989:95). After completing his M.Th. at Union Theological Seminary he went to Cambridge for research work, after which he finally returned to Denmark. Here he was appointed an assistant professor at the Theological Faculty in Aarhus, Denmark. He submitted his doctoral dissertation in 1958, choosing religious revival movements and social changes in 19th century Denmark as his subject. In 1959 the Danish Missionary Society offered him a chance to go to India, and it was decided that he should teach at the United Theological College (UTC), Bangalore. Baago and his wife, Kirsten, and their children arrived early in 1959, and did their Tamil studies in the Language School, after which Baago joined the faculty at the United Theological College in June 1960, as mentioned above (see Chandran 1959:3). There had been other Danish scholars at UTC (among them one of the first Principals L.P. Larsen) and when he joined the faculty Baago became the colleague of such well-known Indian scholars as Dr. J.R. Chandran and Dr. S.J. Samartha.

A brief look at Baago’s scholarly achievements in his time at the UTC reveals his interest in his subject, namely Church and Mission history. He was among the founders of the southern branch of Church History Association of India in 1963, founder of the valuable archives at the UTC, editor of several bulletins and a pioneer of the new historiography of the Indian Church (see Baago 1963,1965, 1966c, 1967d, 1967g, 1968, 1969, 1971). Among his best known books are Pioneers of Indigenous Christianity (Baago 1969) and his A History of the National Christian Council of India (Baago 1965). But his more controversial theological thoughts are found mainly in the form of articles, sermons and letters, with an outburst in the years 1966-1967 (see Baago 1966a, 1966b, 1966d. 1967a. 1967b, 1967e. 1967f. 1967h).

After he resigned from professional theology Baago remained in India 2 and took up a ‘secular’ job in the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). In 1985 he became the Danish Ambassador in India, and held this office until his untimely death on the 21st of November 1987 (Mundadan 1989:96). After having resigned from professional theology he practically stopped his theological writing. His later writings deal primarily with political and social matters (see bibliography in Mundadan 1989). which is outside the scope of this article, and will therefore not be considered. His later social engagement can in a certain sense be seen as the ‘logical’ extension of his theological view.

2.0 Baago’s Critique of His Present Day Indian Church

As Baago came to know the context for the Christian theology in India, he grew more and more critical against the mission, baptism, and the ecclesiastical structures. The church and its goal and mission is closely related (Baago 1965:17) and they mutually effect and impinge on each other (Baago 1966c:30). The true meaning of baptism, mission and the ideal for church-structure must, according to Baago, be the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament3 and it is from this ideal that Baago criticizes his contemporary church.

2.1 Baago’s Critique of Baptism in the Indian Context

Baago criticizes the praxis of baptism in the Indian context, as mentioned above. This issue addressed most clearly in his article "Must Hindus be Baptized to become Christians?" (Baago 1966a) and in the article "The Place of Baptism in the Christian Mission in India" (Baago 1967h; see also 1966e:438; 1967e: 148). The nucleus of the problem is that baptism, according to Baago, has come to mean something different in the Indian context than what was intended in the New Testament. As the Christians got recognized in India as a political body the claim for political rights followed (Baago 1967h:49), as seen for e.g. in the so-called ‘politics of numbers’ under the British rule. Baptism thus became a baptism to the Church and not to Christ, it became a political act rather than a sacrament.4 Baptism came together with conversion to signify the transition from one religious community to another (Baago 1967b:99) rather than signifying repentance and forgiving. Baago holds that the separation of the believer from his community which baptism involves in the Indian context, has never been intended in the Christian understanding of baptism, and he gives in "The Place of Baptism in the Christian Mission in India" a theological critique of the Indian understanding of baptism. According to Baago the baptism in India is not the baptism spoken of in the New Testament (i.e. forgiveness, a dying-with-Christ, and a becoming-one-with-Him) but rather it has become a socio-political rite. Should it be compared with a biblical concept then it would be more precise to understand baptism in India as ‘circumcision’: a community mark, a social rite admitting persons to a specific community (Baago 1967h:50). Paul’s well-known critique of circumcision seems to be appropriate for this understanding of baptism.5

The question of baptism is closely linked with the understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other religions and the Christian attitude towards the other religions. According to Baago there is no longer an easy, confirming answer to the question whether God intends all people to be included in the Christian church (Baago 1967h:48). But seen together with the question of baptism, Baago extends Paul’s critique of the necessity of the Jewish communal mark, the circumcision, for the (pagan) Christian believers. Just as the early Christians according to Paul did not have to become circumcised, i.e. to become Jews, to belong to Christ, so also with the followers of other religions (Gal. 5:7-12). The followers of other religions do not need to receive the Christian communal mark, baptism, to belong to Christ, and to be Christians.6 Furthermore, Baago finds himself in agreement with several Indian Christians’ critique of the baptism (Baago 1967e: 149; 1968:27). According to Baago identifying the baptism primarily as an entrance rite to the institutional church will cause a confusion, as it has happened, between the kingdom of God and the church as an institution (Baago 1967f:219). This leads to Baago’s critique of the existing ecclesiastical structures, to which I will now turn.

2.2 Baago’s Critique of the Ecclesiastical Structures

Baago makes it clear that the church as an organization cannot be directly identified with the Body of Christ (Baago 1966a:18) as the Spirit of Christ is working outside the church (Baago 1966d: 14). Baago does not find anything essentially better or worse in the Christian church than in the Hindu society, but there can, according to Baago, be no doubt that Christ is working inside as well as outside the Christian Church, and the Christians can therefore not claim to have a monopoly on Christ (Baago 1966d: 14; 1967e: 149). Baago highlights in "Honestly Speaking Again!!" the distinction between Kingdom of God and the church, and speaking of the spread of the church he says that "it might very well be that these two have nothing to do with each other" (Baago 1967f:219). To be a true disciple and follower of Christ overrules all former distinctions 7 and frees from the compulsion that one must be religious, i.e. to hold "the true religion", to save oneself (Baago 1967f:221), i.e. what P. Tillich called the "yoke of religion".

The critique of his present day ecclesiastical structures is sharpened in the two articles "Honestly Speaking!!" and "Honestly Speaking Again!!". In "Honestly Speaking!!" Baago writes that he does not see any justification for the present ecclesiastical structures in the New Testament and he finds it ‘thoroughly incredible’ that Jesus should have intended the present church.8 Further, Baago cannot agree with the aim of the church and its mission which, according to him, is to "get people into our westernized churches and to persuade them to accept our ideas and manners" (Baago 1967e: 148). Baago writes on the first page in his booklet The Movement around Subba Rao (Baago 1968) that there are "Hindu devotees of Christ, who in spite of (or because of?) their faith in Christ, stayed outside the Church" (Baago 1968:1). Starting his investigation in this way, Baago proceeds to describe the man Subba Rao, with whom he finds himself in fundamental agreement in questions on ecclesiology and discipleship, and who in different ways have affected Baago’s own understanding.9

At this point Baago expresses one of his rather rare visions of the present meaning of Christ and contextual meaning of the gospels -- a just society.10 When Baago later joined the secular humanitarian work, it can therefore be seen as a consequence of his new theological understanding. At another place Baago describes his vision of the future church as an ‘informal group’ where people can gather and share their experiences and thoughts. Baago seems here to be drawing on the ecclesiological understanding of Charles Davis11 as well as the Indian theologian P. Chenchiah, which I will return to later.

2.3 Baago’s Critique or the Christian Mission in India

Baago’s critique of the understanding of mission, and of his past and present day missionary praxis, is his best known and probably hardest critique. Baago himself holds that his view expresses the emerging realization of Christianity as one among other religions, but at the same time a religion with a built-in claim to universal relevance. Already in one of his first articles from India, written in 1962, he writes that the task of the missionaries is today ‘. . . not to introduce a new God in India, the Jewish God, but to proclaim to Hindus and Muslims that the God whom they know, and yet not know, has revealed Himself in Christ" (Baago 1962a:2). In his article "The Post-Colonial Crises of Mission" Baago is addressing the problem of present day mission directly and he describes the situation as uncertain in the sense that the old goal of mission as the victory of Christianity in the world is now breaking up (Baago 1966b:322). Baago identifies three reasons for the crises: (a) the resurgence and renaissance of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam; (b) the revival of these religions and the connected claim for national independence; and finally (c) ". . .it is obvious that the traditional western missionary outlook . . . was filled to the brim with western colonialism and imperialism" (Baago 1966b:324). The embarrassing close connection between economic, military, and missionary forces made the Christian mission a matter of a religious conquest, driven by what Baago calls the ‘crusade spirit’. In the article "Jesus and the Heathen" (Baago 1966d) Baago is describing the missionary enterprise of the past, liberal as well as dialectical theological approaches, as driven by a feeling of superiority and western imperialism.12

In the two articles "Honestly Speaking!!" (Baago 1967e) and "Honestly Speaking Again!!" (Baago 1967f) Baago explains the reason for his resignation from the missionary society as well as from teaching (see Baago’s letter to the Danish Missionary Society, Baago 1967a). These two articles sum up his earlier critique of the lack of indigenization and the now former missionary Baago concludes, as mentioned above, that: ". . .the Western missionary work in India is a misunderstanding" (Baago 1967e: 147). The present Christian approach towards other religions and cultures as well as the present ‘medieval’ understanding of mission is an offence to other people -- not because of the gospel but because of the Church’s misunderstanding of mission, context, and the gospel (Baago 1967e:148). The offence stems from the missing understanding of the need for indigenization without which mission all too easily becomes cultural imperialism and not evangelization.

2.4 Baago’s Comment on ‘Indigenous Doctrinal Formulations’

Baago was also critical towards the different attempts to formulate the Christian faith. In his 1962 article, Baago criticizes a doctrinal statement from the C.S.I.-Lutheran Inter-Church Commission and ironically comments that it "may be too dangerous for the Indian Church to repeat the experiment of the Early Church taking the religious language of the country and using terms like Karma, Avatar; Bhakti, Moksha, [and] Dharma in a ‘confession’ like this . . . ." (Baago 1962a:2). But, according to Baago, to omit the use of an indigenous language is to essentially miss the whole point in any confessional statement, i.e. to formulate the faith in a given context. The very formulation and conceptualization of the significance of Jesus in indigenous concepts is the starting-point for a contextual and relevant theology as the Indian theologian V. Chakkarai argued already at the beginning of the 20th century (see Boyd 1998:185). Baago is at the same time critical towards the classical (western) concepts used in christology and soteriology. which "gives no sense any longer" (Baago 1967e: 149), and he is also at this point in agreement with Chakkarai (see Boyd 1998:171). These concepts are filled with Greek philosophy and based on an impossible metaphysical worldview 13, and also this critique can be seen as a critique of the lack of indigenization of the church and its teaching, as indigenization and formulation of the faith must take the living cultural expression into account. This insight led Baago to a study of the Indian Christian theologians of the past.

What Baago discovered in the writings of the Indian theologians like V. Chakkarai, P. Chenchiah, K.M. Banerjea, P. Andi, and A.S. Appasamy Pillai who were concerned about indigenous Christianity, was that they were critical of the western church and that they often advocated an inclusive understanding of the relationship between Hinduism and Christianity. Far from being a foreign insert in Hinduism, Christianity was the fulfillment or ‘logical conclusion’ of the original Hinduism (Baago 1969:13, 17, 19; 1971:33-35). Together with Panikkar’s understanding (see Baago 1966e) this was in harmony with Baago’s own view of the relationship between Christianity and other religions, which can be rightly termed as inclusive (see Baago 1967b:l00; 1967e:148). Baago expresses his understanding of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism as paradigmatic for the understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other religions (Baago 1962a:2; 1966b:332; 1966e:437; 1967b:100) which is typical for an inclusive understanding. At the same time Baago’s Christo-centrism leads him to an understanding of Jesus as the unifying point between Christianity and other religions (Baago 1962a:2). According to Baago the unifying point is not to be sought in ‘religion’ or sacrificial systems but in the truth itself, personified in Christ.14 Baago does not take the argument further, and hence does not discuss how Christ is present in other religions, nor how to recognize his Spirit in the world. Talking about the dialectical tension and distinction between all religions and the truth, Baago comes in several places close to using arguments and rhetoric which resembles Hendrik Kraemer’s understanding of Jesus as ‘the only, personalized truth-criteria’ (e.g. Baago 1966d: 14). What Baago intends though, could be a form of ‘religion-less’ faith as it is known from Bonhoeffer.15 where all the rites and outward expressions of the nucleus, the faith, can be altered or left out.

Baago’s critique of baptism in the Indian context, his critique of the existing ecclesiastical structures, of mission, and of the formulation of indigenous doctrinal statements can all be seen as expressions of a deeper concern. In various ways all these points of critique are generated by Baago’s understanding of the concept of ‘indigenization’, and his understanding of the relation between faith, religion, and culture. Accordingly I will concentrate upon this understanding in the next paragraph as this understanding forms the basis for the rest of Baago’s critique, and an evaluation of his critique of baptism, existing ecclesiastical structures, and mission is only possible with Baago’s understanding of the concept of indigenization in mind.

3.0 The Concept of ‘Indigenization’ in Baago’s Theological Thinking

The basis for Baago’s critique of the Christian missionary work and of the ecclesiastical structures is his understanding of the concept ‘indigenization’. It is therefore essential to understand what Baago means by this concept before one proceeds to evaluate his critique of missionary-work and the church-praxis of the Indian Church. Being a Church- and Missionary-historian by profession Baago was aware of the situation and the history of the Christian Church in India. Despite the economic, military, and ecclesiastical power of the west and the presence of a large number of missionaries for more than a century, Christianity hardly seemed to have scratched the surface of Hinduism. This fact gave reason for doubts among Christians and according to Baago this doubt came "in high time and with good reason" (Baago 1967h:48). For anyone to be able to think and speak about this problem, it should have been an existential and not merely a speculative problem for him or her, and Baago, being sent as a missionary to India, was more aware of this than many of his contemporary Christians. As it is already mentioned, Baago’s own conclusion of his new theological awareness was to resign from his missionary work as well as from teaching, but was this the solution of a disappointed man? Or is his decision rather to be seen as an attempt at indigenization of the Christian gospel in the present context of India? In order to answer this question Baago’s understanding of indigenization must be explored.

The complex question of what "indigenization" means is treated directly or indirectly in a number of places in Baago’s writings. Despite this it is difficult to say what Baago expected to meet in the Indian church; already at the time of his arrival in India in 1959 he noticed what can be termed as ‘the lack of indigenous Christian worship’16 He criticizes in 1962 for the same reason the C.S.I.-Lutheran Inter-Church commission’s attempt to formulate a doctrinal statement for the constitution of the United Church.17 Baago was sensitive to the changes which the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) brought in terms of an understanding of Christianity as a truly universal religion, i.e. not limited to the Western European patterns of theological formulation of the faith. This new understanding of Christianity will "force us to reformulate" the teachings of the church, says Baago,18 but what this change in formulation consists of, he does not yet formulate. In his 1963 article "On the Teaching of Church History in India" Baago gives a reason for the importance of Church History in the indigenization of the Church in India. According to Baago an emphasis upon the history of the Eastern churches is "the only way we can root out the myth that Christianity is a western religion" (Baago 1963:27). Christianity must be more than a western religion if it is to have any relevance for India, and Christianity is neither historically nor ‘spiritually’ (in the deepest sense) foreign to India.

In 1966 a more radical tone entered Baago’s writings and some of the not fully expressed earlier critiques are now spelt out. In the quite polemic article "Must Hindus be Baptized to become Christians" (Baago 1966a) the question of indigenization is the underlying question. But first in "The Post-Colonial Crises of Mission" (Baago 1967b) he is directly addressing the problem, when he carefully distinguishes between Christianity as a ‘religion’ and the Christian "message", Christ.19 This distinction allows, according to Baago, the possibility, and even necessity, of a "Hindu Christianity" or "Buddhist Christianity", just as one can talk about "Western Christianity".20 This new ‘Hindu Christianity’ or ‘Buddhist Christianity’ is, in Baago’s point of view, the task of the Christian missionaries in the post-colonial period, as it will eventually arise from a successful indigenization of the gospel.21 The successful indigenization is here seen and understood in incarnational terms, referring to the incarnation of the gospel in the culture.

Later Baago refers to the successful indigenization as ‘syncretistic’ in its relationship between religion and culture22. It is not clear why Baago uses a term as "syncretistic", which, for the Christian theologian, has got rather bad connotations. Further it is unclear what he means by "syncretistic": does Baago claim that Christianity is, or ideally has to be, a new construction out of parts of existing religions and philosophies? Stated positively though, it seems that Baago intends to underscore the close relationship between culture and religion with the usage of the term ‘syncretistic’. According to Baago, the ability of Christianity to undertake a ‘successful syncretism’, i.e. to apply itself to other cultures and religions, was gradually lost during the middle-ages (Baago 1967d:21), and hence Christianity was unable to include other cultures, religions and people in the providential rule of God.23 Baago gives in the article "Indigenization and Church History" the theological reason for his ‘syncretistic’ understanding when he says the following:

". . .because Christ is not a foreign insert in history, but both as the historical Jesus and as a living Christ, a part of history, Church History cannot be limited to a history of the Christian religion or the Christian community. He belongs to the history of all cultures and religions that he has touched" (Baago 1 967d:26).

Baago unfortunately does not develop this idea further, but the cited passage clearly indicates a theological interpretation of the human history, inside and outside the established church, in what could be called "an attempt to see profane- and salvation-history as related in the closest possible way" (Rahner). Anyway, it seems that it is in this interpretation of the relationship between the eternal and the temporal that Baago finds his theological basis for his understanding of indigenization. According to Baago, Christ is not "a foreign insert in history", and this legitimizes an understanding of the intimate relationship between culture and religion -- the "truth is one" (Baago 1954:98, my translation). It is along the same line of thought that he uses the term ‘incarnate’ for indigenization, as noted above (Baago 1966b:332; 1967b:100), which again shows his theological valuation of the indigenization as the closest possible relationship between religion and culture.

Baago discusses in several places the attitude of Jesus towards religions (Baago 1966b:327; 1966d) and though the question can seem to be stated wrongly insofar that the modem concept of religion is not presupposed in the New Testament, Baago makes some interesting points on the "missiology of Jesus". According to Baago, Jesus was not the founder of a new religion as he remained inside Judaism.24

He accepted Judaism as his religion but at the same time he reformed the faith of the people, constantly attacking the self-assurance and self-righteousness, taking non-Jews as examples of faith (e.g. the Roman centurion) and compassion (e.g. the Samaritan). As Christ related himself to the Jewish religion the Christian must relate to Christ, and not the Christian religion, and to the other religions. Practically this means, according to Baago, that the Christian must accept Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam as his or her own religion, letting "the Gospel which we have been given and must in turn give, purify them from within" (Baago 1966b:332.). In the article "Jesus and the Heathen" (Baago 1966d) Baago is describing the Roman centurion (Matt. 8) as a man who saw Jesus as the disclosure of what the centurion recognized as the "innermost truth", rather than seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. But this did not in the least alter Jesus’ response to him, as he described the centurion as a man of faith (Matt. 8:10). In the same way Christ is doing his work among the so-called non-Christians, unexpectedly and transcending the patterns put forth by the so-called Christians, i.e. the Christian religion and teaching (Baago 1966d:15). The true mission does not point at the Christian religion but at Christ himself, the personalized Truth.25 This thought is deeply rooted in Baago’s writings and is found in various places (Baago 1966d:14, 1967c:39). The failure of the Christian missionaries to convert any major number of Hindus in the past might exactly depend upon the fact that the missionaries tried to convert the Hindus to the western Christian religion, while they at the same time were like Don Quixote fighting windmills, unaware of the fact that the Hindu at one and the same time awaits Christ but is unwilling to accept the Christian religion.

Baago’s remarks indicate that he holds what seems to be a christological, incarnational ground for his understanding of the necessity of indigenization but the actual statement is not spelled out. This understanding resembles what has been termed as an inclusive understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other religions and to which Baago had a strong inclination as mentioned above. This presupposition is further confirmed when Baago writes on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism as paradigmatic for the relationship between Christianity and other religions (Baago 1962a:2; 1966b:332), and when Baago writes about the task of planting the gospel inside other religions, "transforming these from within" (Baago 1967e:148; 1966e:437).

From the above it could be supposed that Baago, beside the influence from the contemporary Indian theologians, had been deeply influenced by Paul Tillich’s well-known understanding of the possibility and necessity to mediate between contemporary, living culture and historical Christianity. A closer inspection confirms this: Baago’s understanding of the concept ‘indigenous’ seems to draw upon the understanding of religion and culture as a whole, religion being the content or substance of the culture, which in turn gives and must give form to the religion (see Baago 1954:118; 1963:27, 1966b:332, 1967b:100-101, 1967e:148, 1967f:220, 1967g:71).26 At the same time there must be, what Baago calls "a dialectical tension between the truth and its religious expressions in symbols and rites" (Baago 1967f:221). 27 The Christian message must not be considered as something ‘foreign’ but it is at the same time ‘something more’ or new.28 This ‘surplus’ in the Christian message is not the church, neither its western liturgy or formulation of creeds, but -- Christ. Exactly is this the core of Baago’s critique, as anything else than Christ will pervert the Christian mission into cultural imperialism? Baago states this on the closing page of Pioneers of Indigenous Christianity where he writes:

"Real indigenization means the crossing of the borderline. It means leaving, if not bodily at least spiritually,29 Western Christianity and the westernized Christian Church in India, and moving into another religion, another culture, taking only Christ with oneself. Indigenization is evangelization. It is the planting of the gospel inside another culture, another philosophy and another religion. The crossing of the borderline has only just begun in India" (Baago 1969:85; see also 1971:43).

What caused this new, more radical tone and usage of terms such as ‘leaving Western Christianity’. ‘syncretistic’, ‘Hindu Christianity’, and ‘Buddhist Christianity’ in the articles after 1966 is difficult to say.30 Baago himself does mention the influence of several Indian theologians and from what has been called the ‘Rethinking Group’, namely Brahmbandhav, Manilal Parekh, V. Chakkarai, and P. Chenchiah (Baago 1967e: 148). A large part of Baago’s new theological understanding seems in fact to draw upon the writings of Chenchiah and Parekh (see Boyd 1998:271; Thomas/Thomas 1998:172) and especially Baago’s critique of the established Church and of baptism follows the lines which were laid Out by Chenchiah, as mentioned above. It is well-known that Chenchiab felt that the institutional Church was trying to usurp the place of the Kingdom of God. Chenchiah believed that the Spirit-filled fellowship of ‘new creatures’ would be more in accordance with the will of Christ than his present day visible Church with its ecclesiastical structures (Boyd 1998:159). As a consequence of this he felt that the western idea of the Church totally failed to appeal to Hindus and so the Church became "one of the greatest hindrances to evangelism in India" (Boyd 1998:160). Chenchiah did not regard the Church as equated with the Body of Christ, but as a purely historic and human institution. This allowed him to hold an ecclesiastical ideal of a ‘religion-less’ Christianity, without sacraments, doctrines, and organized life,31 which was noted in Baago’s writing as well. Only a living, Spirit-filled fellowship which helped people to live the life of the Kingdom of God, i.e. ‘to preach Christ through living Christ’, would be acceptable (Thomas/Thomas 1998:175).

All this seems to have been very influential on Baago’s theological reflection, and together with Chakkarai’s attempted indigenization through the use of Sanskrit terms, and Parekh’s critique of the baptism as a social rite, it forms the nucleus of Baago’s own new theological understanding. Baago did also show sympathy towards Subba Rao’s theological understanding although he does not seem to draw upon Rao’s understanding to the same degree as on Chenchiah and Chakkarai (Baago 1968).

Another stimulating factor could have been Baago’s reading of the first edition of Raymond Panikkar’s highly influential book The Unknown Christ of Hinduism (originally published in 1965). Baago reviewed this book in Student World (see Baago 1966e), and wrote enthusiastically that . . . . "there are few books, which I, as a missionary in India, have found as stimulating as this one" (Baago 1966e:438). Hugo finds himself in basic agreement with what he understands as Panikkar’s (at this time) inclusive understanding of the relationship between Christianity and Hinduism, even if ‘many points are far from clear’, and Baago refers later to The Unknown Christ of Hinduism, for instance in "The Post-Colonial Crises of Mission" (Baago 1966b:328). Together with Hugo’s own experiences as a missionary and theologian in a foreign culture this can have formed his critique of the ecclesiastical structures and the understanding of church’s mission. Eventually, this critique caused Hugo, for the sake of his personal integrity, to resign from his missionary vocation as well as from teaching. But, as mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, the question is, whether this was the solution of a disappointed, disillusioned man or whether his decision is to be seen and interpreted theologically as an attempt at indigenization of the Christian gospel in the present context of India.

In India there has been a tradition of conversion and experience of the atonement and redemption in Christ, which is significantly different from the western Christian theological reflection, and thus can provide some patterns for an indigenized response to the Christ. There have been responses to Christ without commitment to him e.g. S. Radhakrishnan, M. Gandhi; responses to Christ and commitment to him alone, but with indifference or rejection of the established church e.g. M.C. Parekh, Subba Rao; and finally response and commitment to Christ and an open entry into the Church through baptism, but with criticism of the church e.g. Chenchiah, Chakkarai (for this division see Aleaz 1998:349). If one were to place Baago in one of these categories, it seems that he started in the third category but moved from the third to the second category, as he became increasingly critical towards the established Church.32 It was mentioned above that Baago understood the successful indigenization in incarnational terms, referring to the incarnation of the gospel in the culture, and that only Christ was to cross the border to the other culture. This insight made Baago move from the third to the second category, as he became aware that the existing ecclesiastical structures did not provide a sound basis for the transformation from western to Indian Christianity.

4.0 A Critique of Baago’s Understanding of the Concept ‘Indigenous’

Baago was not the first theologian to be critical towards the mission or the church in India. Many Indian theologians have been highly critical towards the organized Church in India, chiefly on account of its ‘foreign-ness’, both in terms of order of worship and order of thought. There have been a number of cures recommended for this by different theologians, but not all attempts are welcomed by Baago. An indigenization in terms of a nationalistic "Indianisation" is of course not the answer, and Baago never supports such an understanding. Probably his own experience during the Second World War of the mixing between nationalism and Christianity in Germany prevented him from any such thinking. Baago’s understanding of indigenization in terms of Tillich’s concept does not conflict with the openness toward the universality of Christ. The very understanding of indigenization presupposes that there is something universally relevant, that truth ultimately is one (Baago 1954), and that this can and must be indigenized. If indigenization is lacking then the message will be distorted, lost or not understood, because culture is not taken into account when exposing and explaining the meaning of the Christ-event. All this is now familiar thought-pattern and does not cause any big theological fuss.

On a superficial level, therefore, the arguments of indigenization presented by Baago against the church in India can be very convincing indeed and in several places is his critique of the ‘westernized Indian church’ affirmed by Indian theologians (e.g. Moses 1968; D.A.T. Thomas 1968:65). But there might be more to his argument that meets the eye; a critique from the point of ‘indigenization’ involves first of all a tremendous task in the necessity of spelling out the context for the indigenization, e.g. Hindu-ness. If this is omitted it could weaken the critique to a question of holding the same unmentioned convictions as Hugo when it comes to understanding the context. Secondly, on a deeper and even more important methodological level the question of the whole concept of ‘culture’ must be asked in so far as the concept of ‘indigenous’ and ‘context’ is tangled up with the understanding of ‘culture’. And it could very well be that the concept of ‘culture’ in itself is nothing but a new ‘colonial’ concept in the ongoing (western) explanation of ‘other-ness’(33). This question would unmask the perspective of Baago’s critique - is it really an Indian, theological critique? Or is Baago’s critique itself, to use Bango’s own words, just another (missionary) attempt "filled to the brim with western colonialism and imperialism" (Baago 1967b:324) because of its structuring concepts such as ‘culture’ and ‘religion’? An uncritical or unconscious use of the concepts ‘indigenous’ and ‘culture’ could lead to the latter, and one must therefore be cautious to define the meaning and use of these concepts. Finally, living in a postmodern age one must confront the question of the ultimate unity of truth. This, of course, is an ongoing task and discussion but it can be felt that Baago on this point, is in deeper conformity with the Biblical message than many contemporary theologians.

4.1 Critique of Baago’s Understanding of the Church and Baptism

As noted Baago seems to draw upon Chenchiah’s critique of the church, and just as Chenchiab, Baago’s own critique seems to be almost entirely negative. Baago felt that the true discipleship of Christ could only be possible in small, informal groups where people could share their spiritual experiences. A more positive and constructive critique of the church in the modern Indian society can be found among other Indian theologians, as for instance, Devanandan’s idea of the transforming community34. This demands both renewal and healing of the existing church but can we, like Baago, really say that this is not possible for the church, which owes its very existence to the Holy Spirit? The more correct question could be whether is it possible for the church to become an instrument for God’s transformation of the society. It is, I think, possible only for a truly Indian church to be an instrument for God’s purpose in the Indian society. On the other side, it is highly doubtful whether the western church could fill the same role in the Indian society. Therefore, the question of indigenization is still a burning question; and it is not impossible that the western Christian patterns of thought, tradition, and rite will have to fall into the ground and die, before the Indian church can grow and bring forth grain, increase and yield the fruits of the Kingdom. The western church has shown to be very slow in this process, and from time to time even resistant, and this became increasingly clear to Baago during his stay in India. Baago’s own decision on giving up his missionary-and teaching-vocation, may thus be interpreted theologically as his own attempt of the ‘mortification’ of the western church for the sake of the Kingdom -- but not necessarily the only possible and theologically consistent solution.

Considering Baago’s understanding of the ecclesiastical structures we must ask: did Baago really think that it was possible to be a true follower of Christ without any outward expression of this faith, i.e. a possible ecclesiastical structure? Baago admits that no religion can exist without outward means of expression (Baago 1967f:221), but sees the choice between ‘something new’ and not yet defined or even thought of, and the old symbols and, doctrines. Baago does not explain this further, but limits himself to say that "only he who has the courage to face that necessary question will find the truth" (Baago 1967f:221). But is this a satisfying solution to the question of the ecclesiological structure after his severe critique? This author would have appreciated a more clear-cut expression of the ideal church, as well as a deeper investigation into the compatibility of a ‘religion-less’ Christianity and an ecclesiological structure. Of course, it might be that these two concepts are so far from each other that any compatibility is impossible, but if that is the case this must be stated.

The objections against the Indian praxis concerning baptism need to be faced and addressed. As Baago points out, there are people in India who are devout followers of Christ, but who refrain from baptism because of its social implications (see also Aleaz 1998:345). At this point solid exegetical and bible-theological work is needed,35 but I will limit myself to a few comments for the Indian context.

P.K. Aleaz points out in his book Theology of Religions (Aleaz 1998) that there are distorted contemporary meanings of baptism in the Indian context, which must be corrected through the dominant motifs of baptism in the New Testament.36 If baptism works against the love and unity in Christ, it is no longer the Christian baptism in the New Testament understanding:

"Separation [the separation which is implied in baptism] can only be from sin and not from one’s community and so baptism brings unity and not division. By baptism one belongs not to a narrow inward looking community, but to the whole humanity" (Aleaz 1998:346).

What is important to consider in the Indian context is therefore, that there must not be a cultural rejection implied in the Christian baptism towards Hindus or Muslims. This would subsequently imply a break with the believer’s traditional community and a contradiction to the vocation to "be in the world". This does not mean, however, that the Christian baptism does not break some former boundaries and social structures. As all the believers are united in Christ the old caste and color boundaries are necessarily overruled by the new, loving, and inclusive Christian community. Therefore, in the Indian context, baptism must not mean breaking away from the believer’s traditional, cultural and religious home, as this would only lead to personal rootless-ness and rejection of Christian witness to the indigenous culture, but must at the same time mean something genuinely new, the ‘New Creation’.

5. Conclusion

It was mentioned in the presentation of Baago’s understanding of the concept of indigenization, that his stay in India, and the confrontation with the Indian context and theological reflection, made him change from response and commitment to Christ through the Church, to a position where he restricted his commitment to Christ from commitment or membership of the established church. But there is no indication of Baago moving away from the commitment to Christ, i.e. moving himself to the first of the three above mentioned categories, leaving his commitment to Christ as well as the western culture behind. Therefore Baago’s decision must be seen, as he himself insists, as a theological and existential decision and as one possible answer to the question of the present significance of Christ, Christus Praesens, in the Indian context. It might be to overstate the case to say that Baago reached the only possible solution, but it seems that his decision has got relevance for the present day situation, in so far that he stated the problems of indigenization and Church praxis in a lucid and provocative way. And foremost, he did not stick to the lingering structures but had the courage to act according to his theological considerations. What seems to be needed for the present day theological reflection in India is to review Baago’s historical and exegetical work in order to continue the struggle for indigenization of the church as well as the ‘mortification’ of the western church, which would result in an attempt to state Christus Praesens in the present day society. This would hopefully also make the role of baptism clear and state whether baptism in the present day Indian context works against the formation of a united and loving life, or if the Christian baptism breaks the secular and social boundaries and natural structures of caste and color, and thus is the true Christian baptism.

It does not seem, then, that one should understand Baago’s decision in terms of disappointment or disillusion, agnosticism or mere anthropology, but in relation to Baago’s understanding of Christ. The kind of humanity which Baago wants to see established on earth is in the pattern of real life established by the one whom Chenchiah called the "New Creation". The mission of the Church and humanization are integrally related to each other, maybe even to an extent where they can be considered more or less identical in the ‘New Creation’, and thus the mission of the Church cannot be limited to Church-growth. Rather, Baago’s ideal ‘religion-less’ Christianity seems to be made possible through his decision to work by the most practical means in bringing about this change, and for Baago, that was the humanitarian and diplomatic work. What for Baago could be said to have begun with Tillich’s critique of the ‘double understanding of truth’ and Baago’s understanding of the unity of truth, ended in India with his humanitarian work. The theological challenge from Baago originates in his radical attempt to contextualize the Gospel, which made his resignation from academic theology a necessary sacrifice for the discipleship of Christ. And in this lies the real challenge to contemporary theology -- to be not merely an intellectual exercise but to be an existential undertaking in living the truth.37

 

Bibliography and Sources

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1962a "C.S.I.-Lutheran Inter-Church Commission (a Comment)", South Indian Churchman September1962, ed. Muliyil, (C.S.I), Bangalore, p. 2. 1962b "The Vatican Council and Christian Unity". National Christian Council Review vol. LXXXII no.11/ November 1962. ed. Bhatty, Christian Council. Lodge, Nagpur, p. 418-426. 1963 "On the Teaching of Church History in India", The United Theological College Magazine vol. XXXI December 1963, ed. Patterson, UTC, Bangalore, p.25-31. 1965 A History of the National Christian Council of India, Christian Council Lodge, Nagpur. 1966a "Must Hindus be Baptized to become Christians?". The United Theological College Magazine vol. XXXIII March 1966. ed. Can, UTC, Bangalore, p.10-18. 1966b ‘The Post-Colonial Crises of Mission", International Review of Missions vol. LVno.219, ed. Brash, WCC-publications, Geneva, p. 322-332 [also published in The United Church Review, vol.37 no.12/1966 [?] and vol.38 no.1/I 967, p.5-8].

1966c "‘Sheepstealing’ in the 19th Century", Bulletin of the Church History Association of India November 1966/number 10, ed. Christadoss, [Masha?l Printing Press, Kharar], p.17-38.

1966d "Jesus and the Heathen", The United Theological College Magazine vol. XXXIII! December1966, ed. Thomas, UTC, Bangalore, p. 12-16.

1966e "The Unknown Christ of Hinduism [review]", Student World vol. LIX no. 4/ 1966, ed. Galland. World Student Christian Federation, Geneva, p.436-438.

1967a Letter of resignation, written to the Danish Missionary Society, dated 23rd January 1967, printed as appendix in Mundadan 1989:110-114

1967b "The Post-Colonial Crises of Mission - A Reply", International Review of Missions vol. LVI no. 221/January 1967, ed. Brash, WCC-publications, Geneva, p. 99-103.

1967c "Ram Mohan Roy’s Christology - An Early Attempt at Demythologization?", Bangalore Theological Forum 1967/1. ed. Baago, UTC, Bangalore, p.30-42.

1967d "Indigenization and Church History", Bulletin of the Church History Association of India, Special Number; February 1967, ed. Christadoss, Serampore, p.16-27.

1967e "Honestly Speaking!!", The United Church Review vol.38 no.7, ed. Sojwal, United Church of North India, Punjab, p. 147-150.

1967f "Honestly Speaking Again!!", The United Church Review vol. 38 no.10. ed. Sojwal. United Church of North India, Punjab, p. 218-222.

1967g "Recent Studies of Christianity in India", Religion and Society, December 1967, ed. Devananandan/Thomas, C.I.S.R.S. Bangalore, p.63-74.

1967h "The Place of Baptism in the Christian Mission in India", Dialog, vol.6. winter 1967, ed. Knutson, Dialog Inc., Minnesota, p. 48-50.

1967j "The First Independence Movement Among Indian Christians", Indian Church History Review vol.1, number 1, June 1967. ed. Christadoss, Serampore, p.65-78.

1968 The Movement Around Subba Rac, CLS. Madras.

1969 Pioneers of Indigenous Christianity, C.I.S.R.S, Bangalore/ CLS, Madras.

1972 "Jesustotkninger i moderue hinduisme", Nordisk Missionstidssknft, 83. drg. 2. hft. (1972), Dansk Missionsrâd, p. 91-96.

1974 "The Discovery of India’s Past and Its Effect on the Christian Church in India", History and Contemporary India, ed. Webster, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, p. 26-45.

BEASLEY-MURRAY, G.R.

1963 Baptism in the New Testament, Macmillan. London.

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BOYD, R.

1998 An Introduction to Indian Christian Theology, (org. 1975), ISPCK, Delhi.

CHANDRAN, J.R.

1959 "The Principal’s Letter to the Old Students", The United Theological College Magazine vol. XXVI June 1959, ed. Thomas, UTC, Bangalore, p.3-4.

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CULLMANN, O.

1950 Baptism in the New Testament, trans. Reid, SCM Press. London.

DOUGLAS, I./ CARMAN, J.B.

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MCGRANE, B.

1989 Beyond Anthropology, New York, Guildford, Surrey, Columbia University Press.

MOSES, D.

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MUNDADAN, A.M.

"Dr. Kaj Baago (1926-1987) Pioneer of the New Era of Indian Christian Historiography", Indian Church History Review vol. XXIII, no.2, ed. Downs, CHAT, Delhi, p.93-114.

THOMAS, D.A.T.

1968 "Mission, Baptism and the Church". Religion and Society, vol. XE no.4, December 1968, ed. Thomas, C.I.S.R.S, Bangalore, p.61-74.

THOMAS, M.M.

1971 "The Post-Colonial Crises in Mission - A Comment", Religion and Society vol. XVIII, no.1, March 1971, ed. Thomas, C.I.S.R.S, Bangalore, p. 64-70.

THOMAS, M.M./ THOMAS, P.T.

Towards an Indian Christian Theology (org. 1992), Christava Sahitya Samithi, Tiruvalla.

SCHNACKENBURG, R.

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End Notes

1. The title ‘Among the Ruins’ refers to Baago’s own choice of words from an article where he describes his theological situation: "One has to live among the ruins of the former system for a longtime, before the new building may rise on the old site. But at the same time: the feeling of liberation is so great, and the task of building a new theology is so challenging. that one does not long back for the ‘safety’ of the lingering structures" (Baago 1967f:222).

2. Baago continued to live in India from 1959 to 1987, with three short breaks in 1964-65, 1968-69, 1972, and a longer break between 1973-84, when he worked as deputy head and head for the Danish International Development Agency’s Asia Division and head for the Danish International Development Agency (Mundadan 1989).

3. "I am convinced that. . . Jesus never anticipated a missionary activity like the one which we have established, and never imagined a church-institution like the one which we have setup" (Baago 1967f:220).

4. ". . .Baptism became a rite whereby a person not only changed religion and community, but even political affiliation" (Baago 1966a:16). ". . .In India, due to the peculiar social structure of the country, it [baptism] has become more of a community mark...a rite that seems to make mission a matter of drawing people into the "Christian party". And when this has happened, the Hindu followers of Christ have rightly maintained that such a baptism Jesus would never demand" (Baago 1966a:18).

5. ". . . I am personally more and more convinced that in missionary work in India, baptism, at least in its present form will have to be given up for the sake of the gospel. It is that rite which makes ‘being a Christian’ a matter of membership in an organization’ . . .[a] rite which in Indian situation becomes a denial of the universality of Christ’ (Baago 1967h:50).

6. "Must Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims become Christians in order to belong to Christ? . . .The answer is obviously, "No". The Christian religion, to a large extent a product of the West, cannot and shall not become the religion of all nations and races" (Baago 1966b:331; see also 1966b:328).

7. Baago offers a contextual interpretation of Rom. 10:12, writing: "For there is no distinction between Christians and Hindus, Muslims and Jews. white and coloured, caste-people and outcasts -- for the same Lord is Lord of all" (Baago 1967f:220).

8. ‘To me it seems thoroughly incredible, however, that Jesus should ever have intended any such organization with paid clergy and pastoral committees, with synods and elections, with subscription and membership lists. I simply do not believe anymore that Jesus had anything to do with all this. lam sure his power of love is at work in the world, inside and outside the church among those who try to follow his word in all weakness and humility; but he is not at work in the church organization" (Baago l967e: 149). Baago therefore finds it". . . inconsistent to continue as a minister of the church, when many of its doctrines, its liturgy and its sacraments in their present form give no sense any longer for me" (Baago l967e: 147).

9. "1 agree with most of what Subba Rao has said or written about the Church, and I have long maintained that baptism in its present form is a contradiction of the gospel itself. I am convinced that he is essentially right in his understanding of Christ, namely that Christ is a living ‘guru’ who never wanted worshippers of himself or believers in his divinity, but followers who serve God by serving others" (Baago 1968:27). As it might be recalled, Subba Rao originated from Andhra Pradesh, and became well-known for his devotional meetings and his work as a divine healer. At the same time he was most critical towards the established, institutional church and made the most sarcastic comments upon the institutional church. A brief example from his pamphlet Retreat Padri, quoted in Baago’s booklet, will suffice to show his style: ‘Dear Padri, we are at our wits’ end to understand the curious lives of your tribe. You have made religion a fashionable thing. Change of names, taking oaths, daily prayers, Sunday gatherings, putting on attractive garb, observing festivals and several such things you do, except what the Lord preached and practised...don’t you realize that all of them [the rites] are quite useless and even harmful?" (Baago 1968:9).

10. ". . .[P]recisely this emphasis upon Christ’s teaching about living for others convinces me that he also wanted a society where the uncared-for are taken care of, where the downtrodden are raised up, where the hungry are fed. He who lived for others did care for all those who were despised, rejected, pushed away, kept down; and therefore lam to do the same, not just by living for others in my personal life, but also by creating a society which, at least to some extent, fulfils this task of service" (Baago 1968:27).

11. "I think Davis [the Roman Catholic theologian Charles Davis] is right that the future ‘church’ will come to consist in such informal groups, as little organized as possible, not bound to a particular confession or liturgy, with no paid clergy and hierarchy. It will simply provide an opportunity for people to gather around the gospel of Christ and share with each other their thoughts and experiences" (Baago l967e:150).

12. ". . .[The missionary enterprises] have their root in Western imperialism and feeling of superiority: "We have the truth" or "Our truth is the highest truth" or "God works among us and through our religion" (Baago 1966d:13).

13. Baago gives his personal account on the classical concepts saying: "I simply cannot understand the value of that, and lam finished with these forced and feverish attempts to give the traditional Christian doctrines and symbols a temporary artificial respiration" (Baago l967e: 149).

14. According to Baago "Christ is not the founder of Christianity; He did not wish to set up a new religion different from that of his people . . . but He rejected all attempts by men to come to terms with God by the way of the law" (Baago 1966b:327), and there is a difference between the church’s teaching about the truth in Christ and Christ himself: "neither the Bible nor the teaching of the Church are the truth. The truth is a person, Jesus Christ himself...The Christian religion is not the truth; He is the truth" (Baago 1966d: 14). "Here we have to remind ourselves that none of the religions, Christianity included, is the truth. The truth is never a system which we can learn by heart and bind in books and put on shelves. It is a living power that liberates us from slavery under false ideas, and in particular frees us from the compulsion that we must be religious to save ourselves..." (Baago 1967f:220). Writing on Subba Rao Baago comments that: "The ‘God’ of Religion, whatever religion it be, is a creation of man" (Baago 1968:14). 15. Bonhoeffer’s understanding of ‘religion-less-ness’ does not mean ‘non-Christian’ but should be understood on the background of the dialectical theology, ‘religion’ being the human’s attempt to justify itself.

16. "One of the things that strikes a new missionary coming to India is the foreignness of the Indian Church service. I remember my surprise when on the first Sunday after my arrival in India I attended a Tamil service of the Arcot Lutheran Church in Madras and found that almost the whole order of service, including the lessons, was exactly the same as in Denmark. It was like coming ‘home’ (Baago 1963:25), and again: "It is somewhat of a shock for a missionary to come to India and discover how westernized the Indian Church is in its organizational forms, its liturgy and theology. . ." (Baago 1967e:148).

17. "It seems to me, however, that the Commission in its eagerness to be ecumenical has forgotten to be Indian. In its form and terminology the statement is so utterly un-Indian that it might just as well be a product of an American or European theological committee. . .our task is not to introduce a new God in India, the Jewish God, but to proclaim to Hindus and Muslims that the God whom they know, and yet not know, has revealed Himself in Christ" (Baago 1962a:2). Bango criticizes the National Christian Council for the same reasons in A History of the National Christian Council (Baago 1965), writing that: ". . .one wonders why the N.C.C. in the past fifty years contributed so little to the indigenization of the Church in India" (Baago 1965:85). In "Recent Studies of Christianity in India" (Baago 1967g), Baago writes: "The Christian Church in India is definitely surrounded by a certain aura of foreignness and it has been extremely slow, or even resistant, to any indigenization of its worship and theology" (Baago l967g:63).

18. In his article "The Vatican Council and Christian Unity" Baago writes: "Christianity is no longer primarily a religion within the Western world, it is a world religion...This will force us to reformulate our doctrines" (Baago 1962b:422). It must be mentioned the Baago at the same time was in agreement with the more critical catholic voices, such as Hans Kung, when it came to the actual merits of the Second Vatican Council.

19. "We have met other religions with the Christian religion, and when this happens there will never be a meeting between Christ and those religions but only a clash between cultures" (Baago 1966b:329) and again "The Christian religion, to a large extent a product of the West, cannot and shall not become the religion of all nations and races" (Baago 1966b:331).

20. "The missionary task of today cannot. . .be to draw men out of their religions into another religion, but rather to leave Christianity (the organized religion) and go inside Hinduism and Buddhism, accepting these religions as one’s own, in so far as they do not conflict with Christ, and regarding them as the presupposition, the background and the framework of the Christian gospel in Asia. Such a mission will not lead to the progress of Christianity or the organized Church, but it might lead to the creation of Hindu Christianity or Buddhist Christianity" (Baago 1966b:332). In the article "Honestly Speaking Again!!" Baago returns to this point, explaining the necessity of these forms of Christianity to develop, if the Christian gospel is to become relevant for Hindus and Muslims (Baago 1967f:220).

21. "He [Christ] is to be born, so to speak, in all the religions and cultures and only as this takes place is the incarnation fulfilled. . . If we want to work with Him, therefore, we are to accept these religions as our religions, letting the Gospel which we have been given and must in turn give, purify them from within" (Baago 1966b:332).

22. Because the early church held that salvation was a universal, cultural history, it allowed them, according to Baago, to absorb elements from the surrounding religions and philosophies, creating "the gigantic and wonderful syncretistic religion which came to be called Christianity. . . the greatness of the Early Church consisted most of all in its ability to be syncretistic without betraying the Gospel" (Baago 1967b: 101). Baago writes in another place: "In order to express itself, religion has to make use of cultural forms, and every religious act is formed by the particular culture of the country . . .Western Christianity must therefore be classified as a syncretism of Greek and Hebrew thought" (Baago 1971:26).

23. Baago treats this subject in his article "Indigenization and Church History" (Baago 1967d), and discusses here the possibility of a new form of writing Church History, a very interesting ‘theology of Church History’. Being inspired by the early Christian theologians, such as Augustin, Eusebius, and Orosius, Baago argues for the possibility and necessity of relating the history of the Church to the universal history (Baago 1967d:17-21). One of the reasons for doing this is to unmask the ‘colonial philosophy’ which is underlying the writing of church-history: "The Western political dominance of Asia and Africa which began five hundred years ago, is now gone. And with it is gone also the philosophy which dominated most of the Church History writings since the Middle Ages. In its place we have to find a new philosophy which may serve as a new basis for our Church History writing today, and it is at this point that the question of indigenization comes in" (Baago 1967d:25).

24. "Christ is not the founder of Christianity; He did not wish to set up a new religion different from that of his people; He remained within Judaism. This does not mean, of course, that the Jewish religion was to Him the only true one. He did not absolutize it. . . Neither did he abolish religious law, but He rejected all attempts by men to come to terms with God by way of the law" (Baago 1966b:327). "Christ did not denounce religion, in His case the Jewish religion, but He denounced all attempts by men to use religion to save themselves" (Baago 1966b:328).

25. ". . . neither the Bible nor the teaching of the Church are the truth. The truth is a person, Jesus Christ himself. . . You only become a Christian if Christ makes himself known to you and creates faith in you. The Christian religion is not the truth; He is the truth" (Baago 1966d: 14).

26. That Baago was influenced by Tillich stems from early studies, and already in his article from 1954 (Baago 1954) he is using Tillich’s critique of the "double concept of truth" in neo-orthodoxy and existential theology, to criticize his contemporary Danish colleague Regin Prenter: "The sacrifice of rationality on the altar of the Church is the intellectually good deed which is to secure salvation" (Baago 1954:103, my translation). In opposition to neo-orthodoxy and existential theology and in accordance with Tillich, Baago insists that". . . truth is one" (Baago 1954:98, my translation), Furthermore, says Baago, a consequence of the neo-orthodox theology is that "[t]he difference between human and divine has become the dichotomy between human and Christian" (Baago 1954:105, my translation). Finally in the article Baago cites Tillich where he writes: "There is no approach to religion at all without what we call theological ontology, the understanding of the Unconditioned or Transcendent as that which gives being to the being, as the transcendent power of being" (Baago 1954:121). In my opinion one should not underestimate the continued influence of ‘Tillich on Baago’s own thinking. This is of course not the same as saying that Baago did not evolve his theological understanding but only to point out the systematic underpinning and base of Baago’s further reflections.

27. The dialectical tension between truth and its symbols is explained in Baago’s article from 1954 (Baago 1954) where he writes that "In the essence (i.e. where the sinful character of the existence is solved) is the rationality united with its own hidden ground, the rational knowledge united with the idea of the myth and the myth outbalanced. Essentially truth is one" (Baago 1954:115, my translation). The meaning is a bit obscure but one possible meaning is that if truth is one (as reality is one) there can be no dichotomy between a true myth and reality.

28. Baago writes for instance that "If Christianity had nothing to offer but a new avatar and a new sacrificial system, it had nothing to bring India" (Baago 1967c:41, see also 1967f:221).

29. The intended dichotomy seems to be between the conceptual or mental/spiritual and the physical, as one is not to give up Christ in order to adopt this new spirituality. The meaning would then be that it is clear that one cannot leave one’s own body but an almost equally difficult transformation has to take place, namely the one into another culture and tradition.

30. According to D.A.T. Thomas it is "possible to trace a logical development in his [Bango] thought" (D.A.T. Thomas 1968:61) from the articles "The Post-Colonial Crises of Mission" (Baago 1966b) to "Honestly Speaking Again!!" (Baago 1967f). As it is shown in the text, the same ideas are present from the time Baago arrived in India and thus it is doubtful whether it is appropriate to talk of a ‘logical development’ in Baago’s thinking. But there is certainly a new and sharper tone in Baago’s writings from 1966 onward.

31. "There will be no baptisms, no confessions of faith, no credal profession. . . [The Hindu] will slowly and in different degrees come under the influence of the Spirit of Christ, without change of labels or nomenclature" (cit. in Boyd 1998:161).

32. A final statement on this issue is found in Baago’s article of 1972 where he writes: "One still feels that the life of Jesus and the words of Jesus are relevant whereas the Christian creed and the traditions and customs of the Christian Church are alien to the Indian worldview" (Baago 1972:94, my translation).

33. The explanation of ‘other-ness’ as a ‘difference in culture’ is, as the reader will probably know, a fairly recent attempt to understand and explain the basic human experience that people in another place are eating, behaving and speaking differently. Older and less satisfying explanations of the experience of other-ness are explanations as ‘barbaric’, ‘demonic’, ‘superstitious’, ‘primitive’, or ‘less developed’. The understanding of other-ness as ‘difference in culture’ prevails largely from the beginning of the last century when the discipline ‘(cultural) anthropology’ grew stronger. For a thrilling monography on this subject, B. McGrane’s book Beyond Anthropology (McGrane 1989) is highly recommended.

34. According to Devanandan the task of the Christian community is to witness, work in and for the modern society. But only those who are themselves reconciled to God and have become new creatures in Christ, bound together in the relationship of love and truth, are empowered to carry out this ministry, bringing about the renewal of society and the world in accordance with God’s purpose (Boyd 1998:198-202).

35. A vast number of books are published on this subject and among the classical treatments one finds O. Cullmann’s book Baptism in the New Testament (Cullmann 1950) and Beasley-Murray’s Baptism in the New Testament (Beasley-Murray 1963). A classical monographyon baptism in the Pauline theology is R. Schnackenburg’s Baptism in the Thought of St. Paul (Schnackenburg 1964) which contains a good bibliography as well.

36. According to Aleaz, "Baptism was primarily the sacrament of identification in its direction towards humans and a sacrament of commitment to Christ, the pioneer of new creation, and with him to the total community. Baptism was primarily the sacrament of identification in its direction towards humans and a sacrament of commitment to God’s kingdom in its direction towards God. In brief, the corporate baptism with Christ in his death and resurrection is the ground of a united, loving and peaceful life together in His community" (Aleaz 1998:345).

37. This article has also been published in Swedish Missiological Themes, Vol. 89, No. 1(2001).


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