Friday, August 5, 2016

Holy Spirit in the Theology of Pandipeddi Chenchiah: An Indian Interpretation

Introduction:
The study of Holy Spirit has made a vibrant move in west as well as in east. We could find some sort of similarities and differences in the teachings of Holy Spirit in west and in east, particularly in India.  At the same time, there are indigenous ways for expressing the concept of Holy Spirit. In this context, we could consider Pandipeddi Chenchiah, one of the pioneers for explaining Holy Spirit from an Indian perspective.

Pandipeddi Chenchiah (1886-1959)

1.1.Methodology and Theological Approach

Pandipeddi Chenchiah was one of the prominent figures among the Indian Christian theologians. The Method and his theological articulation are somewhat different from other Indian Christian theologians. An analytical study on his life background and on the influential factors, which lined up his ideas, would be beneficial for knowing his methodology and theological approach in a better way.

1.1.1.      Life and Career

Pandipeddi Chenchiah (1886-1959) was born in an upper caste Hindu family in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. Chenchiah and his family converted to Christianity and he was baptized along with his father Adinaryanianah in 1901. His father was a prominent lawyer who served in the Legal Department of Tamilnadu and became the Munisiff of Madras in 1901.[1] Chenchiah received his education at Madras Christian College, where he distinguished himself in the study of ethics and philosophy. Chenchiah further pursued his study in law and was appointed as a lecturer at the law college in Madras. He was later designated as Chief Justice of the High Court in Pudukottah. Chenchiah, along with Appasamy and Chakkarai was a member of the group, Rethinking Christianity in India in Madras.[2] Chenchiah and the others shared the spirit of national awakening.

1.1.2.      Background

Chenchiah was a convert from the upper caste Hindu family. During those periods there existed a high recognition of caste and religion. “As a convert from Hinduism and one who had carved out for himself a successful and honorable career in the secular world of twentieth century India, he was anxious to retain to the fullest possible extent his Indian, indeed Hindu, cultural heritage.”[3]Therefore, throughout his writings he had wider side lining with Hindu concepts and tried to relate Christianity with Hinduism. The impact of his designation as a Chief Justice can be seen in his theological thinking, all of which have a social dimension on human life. The philosophical perspectives of Sri Aurbindo Ghose and C. V. Venkatassami Rao attracted him.[4] Aurbindo’s idea of spiritual power, the idea of ‘super man ’or‘ Gnostic man and the idea of “internal yoga” influenced him.[5] Chenchiah was influenced by C V V’s yoga, which emphasizes a spiritual power that descends upon and transforms human life. This influence is evident in Chenchiah’s teaching of Holy Spirit. The French vitalist Philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) also influenced him.[6]

1.1.3.      Theological Method

Chenchiah is one of the most controversial and proactive theologian and has earned many critics. Although he became a Christian, Chenchiah did not serve the relation with his ancestral Hindu faith but he wanted to retain his Hindu, cultural heritage, which he felt to be threatened by the most organized forms of Christianity. G. C. Oosthuizen says that Chenchiah wanted to build a bridge between Christianity and Hinduism but terminated in fusion in order to create a ‘new religion’.[7]Chenchiah believes that Indian Christian theology stands on three pillars- Hindu Heritage, Pratyaksa (direct) experience of Christ, and...the guidance of the Holy Spirit.[8]Chenchiah is against the institutionalized church, the western formulated doctrines and the traditional categories of theologies set forth in propositional truth statement. His objection is that traditional theology impedes the free flow of the spirit in the deeper realms of social and individual personalities. Chenchiah moves away from the church dogmas to what he called the only one theological absolute in Christianity, namely “the raw fact of Christ”. He says that church doctrine and dogma should be tested before we accept. His strong inclination to Hinduism and his antipathy towards the institutionalized Christianity and traditional theology put him in an uneasy relation with the church.[9] One can assume his method which has social dimensions as an inclination to Hinduism by rejecting traditional norms of Christian theology.

1.2.Chenchiah’s interpretation of Holy Spirit

Chenchiah has not developed a systematically articulated Pneumatology. His thoughts on the Holy Spirit are scattered at random in his various writings. In order to understand this, one has to go through his writings and theologize them in a coherent manner. Chenchiah’s doctrine of Holy Spirit is interwoven together with his Christology.[10]Christina Manohar says, for Chenchiah, the statement about the ‘incarnation in the Fourth gospel “the word became flesh” could be interpreted as “the spirit became flesh.”[11] In order to make Christianity relevant to both Indian Christian and Hindus, he sought for a pneumatological foundation of Christology.

1.2.1.      Holy Spirit as Cosmic Energy

Chenchiah never affirms or negates the personality of the spirit. He seems to be content with the understanding of the Holy Spirit as a great creative power and energy, which he calls cosmic energy. It is used in the sense of the power of the Holy Spirit that brings transformation in the political and social structure of the world.[12]Chenchiah tends to see the Holy Spirit as an impersonal cosmic energy.[13]Chenchiah employs several Hindu categories. A more prominent category is mahasakti (great power). But it is not clear that whether Chenchiah identifies the Holy Spirit with mahasakti. He seems to find mahasakti or sakti as adequate categories to express the Holy Spirit as the cosmic energy to the great power, which will be more intelligible to Hindus. Another category Chenchiah used is visvakarma[14]. Rig-veda refers to visvakarma “as the personification of the all creative power and the architect of the universe, sometime identifies with prajapati. Unlike cosmic energy visvakarma refers to a more personalized creative power, the builder of the universe.[15]
In the use of these Hindu categories, Chenchiah does not attempt to identify the Holy Spirit with them, rather he seems to show the creative power of the Holy Spirit, perhaps with a view for making it more indigenous.

1.2.2.      Holy Spirit as New Creation

The most important interpretation of the Holy Spirit is found in Chenchiah’s teaching about the new creation and the yoga of the Holy Spirit.  D.A Thankasamy comments about Chenchiah’s understanding of new creation that “New creation is not just a matter of individual men and women being ‘born again’ in the evangelical sense of the term, but it is a further stage in the planetary life of mankind brought about by the release of fresh energy through a new and tremendous creative act of God”.[16] The new creation is closely linked with the kingdom of God. Jesus is the manifestation of a new creative effort of God, in which the cosmic energy is the Holy Spirit; the new creation is Christ and the new life order. A Christian became a new creation through a faith-union with Christ, a mystical union with Christ. Therefore Boyd says that all who are united with Christ become new creations and their life “becomes the yoga of the spirit and the sphere of that life is the kingdom of God”[17]. The Christian task is to realize this kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.[18] The new world order, the kingdom, cannot be ushered in through the cross and repentance[19], but through the Holy Spirit. So he laments that this concept of the power of the spirit is neglected by the church.
Therefore, for Chenchiah, Holy Spirit makes Christianity different from other religions. Therefore, he calls for the recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit and a return from the dependence on human energy to the power of the spirit. The exercise of this power is oriented to the realization of the kingdom of God, the new world order on this earth.

1.2.3.      The Holy Spirit and Yoga

Chenchiah perceives yoga in the Christian view as the transformation of oneself into the figure and image of Christ. Chenchiah does not fully accept the Hindu yoga; he finds the concept of yoga appealing for the task of new creation. He was particularly drawn to the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and Master CVV and their teaching about the divine power that comes from outside. Aurobindo speaks of a spiritual power that descends on a person outside, bringing about renewal and strength, which leads to a “new and better type of humanity. This new life can be practiced, and that “there can, in fact, grow up a new fellowship, where the new life of ‘integral yoga’ empowered by new spiritual force, is a daily reality.[20]Aurobindo calls this power as Supra mind and Chenchiah understands this as Holy Spirit.
Master CVV teaches about a new quality of life, which he calls ‘merry life’ that God brings into being in the world. This new life is given as practical expression in community by means of a special yoga of discipline of life whose main feature is the reception of a new kind of spiritual power. According to this teaching, the divine power comes into a person from outside and brings transformation. Chenchiah finds this thought of Master CVV as being closer to the Christian understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit.[21] The following two passages are a clear reference of Chenchiah’s idea of the Holy Spirit coming from above as a divine power.
Jesus was an earnest of the new order and brings into the biological streams a new cosmic power-personality, the Holy Spirit. Just as animal order begins with life, the human order with mind, the new order of life commences with the Holy Spirit. It descends on man and transforms him from the very roots- body and soul.[22]
The Holy Spirit descends on humanity and begets the son of God, thus making an entry into human beings permanently as a new order in evolution... the Holy Spirit presides over the new creation and lives in the sons of God as their atman.[23]
Taking two thinkers, Chenchiah proposes the Christian yoga, which he thinks will take Christian to a higher spiritual experience of Christianity and transformation of oneself into the figure and image of Christ.
Chenchiah finds the experience of Holy Spirit as equivalent to Hindu experience of yoga. But it should be clear that Christian Understanding of Holy Spirit is far superior to Hindu concept of yoga. Chenchiah was lined up with philosophical ideas of Aurobindo and CVV that the spirit is descending on human from above. However, when we critically examine, Aurobindo proposes a many steps have to be taken by the seeker before the supramental decent is possible.[24] It is not identical with the teaching of the Bible.  This is also similar in the case of CVV. Chenchiah was against church for seeking human effort to realize the kingdom of God. But the Hindu concept of yoga is a human effort to seek God.[25] In his teaching, he was much reluctant to speak about the cross. Without the cross, there is no forgiveness of sin, which is the first step to receive the Holy Spirit. (cf. Acts 2:32-33) and Holy Spirit is given to those who experience the forgiveness of sin through the death of Christ (Acts 2:38)

1.2.4.      The significance of Holy Spirit in an Indian Context

One of the significant things about Chenchiah’s Pneumatology is his conviction of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Indian church. He was concerned about making the gospel intelligible for Hindus. He believed that Christianity could be presented through the Holy Spirit to meet the spiritual needs of India. He says two reasons for that, firstly he identifies Holy Spirit with Jesus and calls Him the universal Jesus. He believes that earthly life of Jesus is limited to space and time but as the Holy Spirit transcends all human limitations. Jesus, as the Holy Spirit is relevant to meet the spiritual needs of India. Secondly, the Holy Spirit is the energy beyond the creation. Jesus, through this energy recreates a new heaven and earth. This offers hope for Hindus who seek to escape from the wheels of samsara.[26]Chenchiah seeks for a change in the outlook of Christians towards Hindus. For that he underlines the need to present Jesus to Hindus as the all enfolding Spirit rather than a man. A Hindu does not require a reform through a change of environment but by a transmission of the spirit. So Chenchiah is convinced that the Holy Spirit alone can lead a Hindu to Christ.[27]

1.2.4.1. Enable Interfaith Dialogue

Christian theology may bracket certain assumptions in specific projects, basic faith commitments cannot be bracketed forever. In the case of Christian faith, the good news is that God has acted through Jesus Christ by the power of Holy Spirit to save the world. This Soteriological conviction cannot be bracketed in the interfaith encounter, at least not over the long haul. According to Amos Yong, disengaging with Christological paradigm and engaging with Pneumatological paradigm will robust the interfaith relationship.[28]What if the Spirit of God became a starting point for our conversations instead? What might the Holy Spirit be doing in the midst of people who believe in other gods? Eventually conversations will turn towards Jesus and feathers may get ruffled, but why not begin with something other than division? Why not start out with something that most faiths can relate to in one way or another? Talking about the Holy Spirit is an access point into a deeper dialogue and a deeper connection with people of other faiths. If people are open to the spiritual realm, (spirits, angels, demons, etc) then the Holy Spirit in that context can easily come into conversation as the Spirit that towers above all others. Conversing about the Spirit may be a channel to interfaith dialogue.

1.2.4.2. Enable Mission in the Pluralistic Context

Multiplicity of religion is the other challenging issue in which the Pneumatological theology of religions is tackling with. It is important to see that how the Pneumatological category is dealing with the pluralistic context of religions. The apt example to discuss about the Pneumatological engagement in the pluralistic realm can be from the Indian context itself, where there are plurality of religions and diversity and unity within it. Yong finds that Holy Spirit makes possible a wide range of attitudes, posture, and practice for the Christian encounter with those in other faiths precisely because the Spirit makes present, and enables Christians to embody, the hospitality of God. This kind of perspective is vivid in the works of Chenchiah. Chenchiah in his work towards Pneumatology employs several Hindu categories of Spirit. Here, the works of Samartha seems as an amendment to the work of Chenchiah, where he was trying to develop a kind of dialogical approach within the Pneumatological paradigm. For Samartha, John 3:8, (The wind blows where it chooses …you do not where it come and where it goes) is a significant verse for his view that the essence of Spirit as “bondless freedom”.[29] Through this, he justified that the Holy Spirit cannot be confined to the Christian church but is present in and among all the communities of India. Kirsteen Kim observes that Samartha’s theological basis for dialogue includes a Pneumatological foundation.[30]The reason behind the development of Pneumatological theology of religions is for enhancing evangelism in a pluralistic context. Amos Yong convinced that the economy of Spirit was more adequate for mission in a religiously plural society.

Concluding Remarks

Chenchiah’s thoughts were profound and stimulating; they were provocative too and did not gain a broad hearing within the church of his time. Therefore, it is no wonder if the significance of the Holy Spirit that Chenchiah attempted to impress upon the Indian church did not meet with success. For Chenchiah the new creation and kingdom of God are the arenas for the operation of Holy Spirit. This work of Holy Spirit he understood in social dimension and not recognizing the role of the spirit in the wider salvafic plan of God. He was against in subscribing the work of Holy Spirit to individual piety. He finds the spirit is active in all sphere of the life. There is something good in the understanding of Chenchiah that, often there is a tendency for the Christian to separate the role of Spirit from the rest of the creation. There is a difference prevalent in the understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission. On the one hand, mission is reduced to mere social concerns. On the other hand, there is tendency to see mission in terms of individual piety and salvation. Chenchiah seems to fall into the former. The work of Holy Spirit must have to be seen in a balanced synthesis of these two different approaches.
Chenchiah’s thoughts are challenging and often incompatible with the scripture. This study reveals that Chenchiah made some serious attempts in his proficiency of Pneumatology. Despite of the critical approach of Chenchiah, which we have observed in his Pneumatology, his services to the church are not less important. Pneumatological emphasis should give sufficient room for the explorative and analytical way of seeing the work of Holy Spirit, which enable us to understand Holy Spirit in every sphere of the human life, both social and spiritual.






[1] P. V. Joseph. Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit (Delhi: ISPCK, 2007), 67.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Robin Boyd, Indian Christian Theology (Delhi : ISPCK, 1989), 145.
[4]Master CVV(Kanchupativenkata RaoVenkatasami) as he known to his pupils, was the guru of a school of yoga at Kumbakonam on the banks of the river Kaveri. His teaching which was wholly directed to practical living, was a reversal of the major stream of Hinduism which teaches non-attachment as the means of attaining salvation. So one need not to detach himself/herself from this life in order to discover the full manifestation of life. See in Robin Boyd,
[5] Ibid. 69-70.
[6] O. V. Jathana, The Decisiveness of Christ Event and the University of Christianity in the World of Religious Plurality (Bethe: Peterlang Pub., 1981), 353. For Bergson, reality is constantly becoming, and it is creative and moves upwards. This can be grasped only by intuition and not by intellect since intuition is in direct touch with reality.
[7]G.C Oosthuizen, Theological Discussion and Confessional Development in the Church of Asia and Africa (Franeker. T Wever, 1958), 39 cited in P. V Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit...,68.
[8] M. M. Thomas, The Acknowledged Christ of the Indian Renaissance (Madras: CLS, 1991), 163.
[9] P.V. Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit..., 68-69.
[10]Ibid., 72.
[11]Christina Manohar, Spirit Christology An Indian Christian Perspective (Delhi: ISPCK, 2009), 153.
[12] P.V. Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit...,72.
[13]Ibid., 73.
[14] It is also a Hindu concept associated with power, the creative power. Chenchiah connects God the father which represents what has not passed into creation. God the son represents what of him has passed into creation. He is AdiPurusha of a new creation while Holy Spirit is Visvakarma of a new world. See Christina Manohar, Spirit Christology..., 156.
[15] P.V. Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit...,74.
[16] D. A Thangasamy, The Theology of Chenchiah with Selection from his Writings (Bangalore: The Christian institute for the Study of Religion and Society and Y.M.C.A, nd) cited in P.V Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit (Delhi: ISPCK, 2007), 74.
[17] Robin Boyd, Indian Christian Theology..., 155.
[18] P.V. Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit...,75.
[19] Chenchiah was critical towards the traditional idea of the doctrine of salvation. For him the Christianity is grounded on the experience of life, that why Frank Whaling says “Chenchiah’s emphasis was switched from Jesus as the saviour of the individual from sin, for a future in heaven, to Jesus as a term in the creative process’ who is at work within the cosmic and historical process now, preparing a new future for man here on earth”. See in P. V Joseph
[20] Robin Boyd, Indian Christian Theology...,146.
[21] Robin Boyd, Indian Christian Theology...,146 and P.V Joseph, Indian interpretation of the Holy Spirit..., 80.
[22] P. Chenchiah, “ The New Creation”, D. A Thangasamy, The Theology of Chenchiah with Selection from His Writings (Bangalore: The Christian institute for the Study of Religion and Society and Y.M.C.A, nd) cited in P.V Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit (Delhi: ISPCK, 2007), 80.
[23] P. Chenchiah, “ An Indian Christian Spiritual Discipline”, D. A Thangasamy, The Theology of Chenchiah with Selection from his Writings (Bangalore: The Christian institute for the Study of Religion and Society and Y.M.C.A, nd) cited in P.V Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit (Delhi: ISPCK, 2007), 80.
[25]Yoga’s goal is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The goals of yoga are varied and range from improving health to achieving Moksha.[14] Within the Hindu monist schools of Advaita Vedanta, Shaivism and Jainism, the goal of yoga takes the form of Moksha, which is the liberation from all worldly sufferings and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), at which point there is a realization of identity with the Supreme Brahman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga cited on 30/08/2014.
[26] P.V Joseph, Indian Interpretation of the..., 84.
[27]Ibid., 85.
[28]Amos Yong, “Can We Get Beyond the Paradigm…,29 for further reference see, Amos Yong, Frank D. Macchia, Ralph Del Colle, and Dale T. Irvin, "Christ and Spirit: Dogma, Discernment and Dialogical Theology in a Religiously Plural World," Journal of Pentecostal Theology 12/1 (2003): 15-8

[29] Stanley J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures…, 73-74.
[30]Kristeen Kim, Mission in the Spirit; The Holy Spirit in Indian Christian Theologies (Delhi: ISPCK, 2003), 31. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Significance of Pneumatological Theology of Religions


Significance of Pneumatological [1] Theology of Religions
  1. Introduction
Pneumatological theology of religions is one of the interesting turn in the stream of theology of religions. Pneumatological theology of religions has made a radical change in the thinking pattern of the traditional Christian view on theology of religions. Pneumatology in the wider sense has spread extensively in different spectrum of theology of religion.[2] However I would like to limit the scope of this paper in regarding significances under Soteriological, pluralistic and evangelical perspectives.
  1. Theology of Religions
In order to understand Pneumatological theology of religions one has to know, what is theology of religions all about? Theology of religions is that discipline of theological studies which attempts to account theologically for the meaning and value of other religions. Christian theology of religions attempts to think theologically about what it means for Christians to live with other faiths and about the relationship of Christianity to other religions.[3] A path was paved for the emergence of theology of religions from the beginning of the twentieth century by the rise of the study of comparative religions. Christian theologians became aware of the nature and distinctive features and beliefs of other religions in a new way. Implied in the emergence of Christian theology can no longer develop in isolation from the opinions and views of other religions. Wilfred Cantwell Smith has suggested a “world theology” instead of a particular Christian or other theology of religions. According to him, this type of theology is the only one that does justice to the new global awareness of religious pluralism. A world theology would be one “for which the religions are the subject, not the object; a theology that emerges out of all the religions of the world. For Smith that kind of world theology would mean not diluting Christian faith but rather transcending in the sense that it would become “faith of all of us.”[4] But Veli-Matti karkkainen opposes this kind of view because it will ignore the distinctive features of each religion and it will lead to a “general religion” apart from all existing religion.[5]
In the recent years theologians have recognized that the relevant issues are wider than the doctrine of salvation, and so it has been developed a theology of religions by which to account for the depth and breadth of what religions are about. That is, religions are more about the ways of human living. This recognition has the effect of driving ones attention to theology of religions. But the challenging issue related with the salvation cannot be taken lightly. The Christian theology and the church’s mission are related to the salvation of humankind inseparably. Therefore universalism and particularlism have prominent role in talking about theology of religions.
  1. Why Pneumatological Theology of Religions
There are several approaches or typology where one can speak about the theology of religion. It can be Ecclesiocentrism[6], Christocentrism[7] and Theocentrism[8]. In a general sense both Ecclesiocentrism and Christocentrism supplement each other.[9] Therefore among the scholars they used to maintain two approaches, namely Theocentric and Christocentric approaches. These two approaches revolve around two axioms, namely universal revelation of God and its particular manifestation through Jesus Christ. Theocentric model directly supports the universal love of God to all, inspite of their respective religious experiences. It functions with a presupposition that every religion is a potential bearer of the knowledge of God, a position maintaining that other religions also provide salvific paths to the one God. Therefore the Christian claim of itself as the “the only way” is rejected. Paul F Knitter says that, God’s love is universal and God wills salvation of all. He contends that, “all realities of revelation and salvation cannot be confined to the Christian church or history.”[10] John Hick develops Theocentrism on an analogy with the “Copernican revolution”, where it brought a shift from the dogma that Christianity is at the center of the realization, that is, God who is at the center and all religions serve and revolve around Him.[11] On the other hand, exclusivistic Christocentric model maintains commitment to Jesus Christ as being the full and final revelation of God. Salvation is available only through Jesus Christ. Hendrick Kraemer stresses the relationship of Christ with other religions as one of the discontinuity rather than fulfillment and mutual appreciation.[12] Kraemer maintained that in the world of religions the Christ and the Cross cannot be compromised. Lesslie Newbigin also comments that, “the search of humanity for salvation is only through Jesus Christ”.[13]
In this context, many scholars came come with the argument that why can’t we speak about Holy Spirit as the starting point or the base to deal with other religions. Samuel Rayan, based on the Vatican II formulation on other faiths suggested that, God is present in the world “in the Spirit”, it is because the historical particularity of Jesus has been a difficulty in the way of accepting him as the universal Spirit and the saviour of all. Stanley J. Samartha in his book, Between Two Cultures[14] ,he draws attention to the promise of Pneumatology in interreligious dialogue because the Spirit provides the expanse of wider space where people of different religions can move more freely than within the structure provided by institutions. Starting with Theocentric approach is being in a safer ground, but this approach may lead to extreme pluralism and Christocentric approach may lead to wider exclusivism. So theologians[15] commented that Pneumatological starting will be much better in relating with other faiths. It is important to note that Pneumatological theology of religions is not replacement of the existing approaches like Theocentric and Christocentric, but rather mutually supplementing each other in a qualified manner. Scholars have used Pneumatocentric dimensions both in Christocentric and Theocentric approaches.
  1. Significance of Pneumatological Theology of Religions
4.1.A paradigm shift on Soteriological Perspective
 Soteriological aspect is one of the challenging issues in the all spectrum of theology of religions. There is an ongoing tension between the universalistic and particularistic aspect of salvation. Of course the central purpose of any religion is to attain salvation or mukti. Knitter observed that while traditional emphasis on soteriology had produced almost unbearable tension in theology of religions as evidenced in the intense dispute between the advocates of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism, an emerging Pneumatological paradigm was suggestive of the way forward in the debate.[16] Amos Yong also proposed a Pneumatological turn towards the theology of religions. Yong believes that in order to understand the religions seriously on their own terms, a Pneumatological approach to theology of religions must equally understand the Spirit on its (his) own terms, that is, terms that are not shaped by Christology. According to Yong's view, the Spirit is universal in his ministry and his action is broader than that of the Son.[17] "The Spirit's economy," says Yong, "liberate theology from the categorical constraints of Christology.[18] Thus, for Yong "a Pneumatological starting point for Christian theology of religions provides this kind of alternative categorical framework , allowing for the religions to be heard on their own terms.[19] In his book Discerning the Spirit(s), he shows the hindrance of the Christological approach to the question of a Christian theology of religion. What he attempts to show are the limits of a Christological starting point, which finally leads to exclusive particularlism.[20] So Yong’s project seems to be freeing Pneumatology from the influence of Christology and he concludes that Holy Spirit is the primary theological symbol for the presence and activity of God in the world. According to James R. A. Merrick, Yong must advocate a Pneumatology that is somewhat, if not entirely, divorced from Christological constraints.[21] But critically viewing on Merrick observation, Tony Richie comments that Yong proposes a temporary disengagement of Christology and Pneumatology and advocates a delayed attention for Christ.[22]
Therefore it should be noted very clearly that we are not trying for isolated Pneumatological approach towards salvation, rather Pneumatological approach is a platform in which salvation through Christ Jesus is achieved. This approach may help in differentiating the earthly Jesus and the resurrected Christ through the power of Holy Spirit. Therefore it helps to overcome this dualism. The proper bridge or a resolution between universalism and particularlism is achieved.
4.2.Pneumatological Theology of Religions Engages in Pluralistic Context
Multiplicity of religion is the other challenging issue in which the Pneumatological theology of religions is tackling with. It is important to see that how the Pneumatological category is dealing with the pluralistic context of religions. The apt example to discuss about the Pneumatological engagement in the pluralistic realm can be from the Indian context itself, where there are plurality of religions and diversity and unity within it. Chenchiah in his work towards Pneumatology employs several Hindu categories of Spirit. A more prominent category is mahasakti (great power). But it is not clear that whether Chenchiah identifies the Holy Spirit with mahasakti. He seems to find mahasakti or sakti as adequate categories to express the Holy Spirit as the cosmic energy to the great power, which will be more intelligible to Hindus.[23] Chenchiah was not able to give a fuller length of contribution towards Pneumatological theology of religions. S. J Samartha’s work of Pneumatology can be considered as the amendments to the work of Chenchiah. Samartha, in his theological journey we could trace a shift from his Christomonistic level to Theocentric and finally some glimpse towards pneumatocentric approach.[24] We are not much sure that how long he was consistent towards the pneumatocentric approach. The presentation of Samartha at one of the WCC conference, he was trying to develop a kind of dialogical approach within the Pneumatological paradigm. For Samartha John 3:8, (The wind blows where it chooses …you do not where it come and where it goes) a significant verse for his view that the essence of Spirit is “bondless freedom”.[25] Through this, he justified that the Holy Spirit cannot be confined to the Christian church but is present in and among all the communities of India. Kirsteen kim observes that Samartha’s theological basis for dialogue includes a Pneumatological foundation.[26] In Samartha’s view the Holy Spirit “not only makes it necessary for us to enter into dialogue, but also to continue in it without fear, but with full expectation and openness.[27] Samartha was opposing the salvation historical approach of Karl Barth, that is limiting the work of Spirit to Israel and then the church and he turned towards the orthodox theological tradition which stresses the procession of Holy Spirit from the father, rather than from Jesus Christ.[28] Samartha is finding parallels between non duality philosophy of Hinduism with the concept of Spirit in Christian theology. Samartha claims that Spirit is one who brings about the unity of Father and Son and the oneness of the believers in Christ. So Samartha described the Spirit as advaita, the Spirit of oneness.[29] Regarding Spirit of dialogue, Samartha finds Spirit, which creates the openness to cross over to the shore of another’s experience that is necessary for interfaith understanding in the pluralistic context. Samartha warns Christian that, there need not be hesitation about cooperating with people of other faiths in whose lives the signs of the Spirit are present, and who also are struggling against all kinds of evil in society. The discern for the movement of the Spirit is not only in the church but also in the communities of people outside the visible boundaries of the church. It is also not focusing only on the ethical in the delicate task of discerning the presence of the Spirit but the profound marks of the Spirit are inwardness, interiority, the power to root people’s lives in the depths of God’s being.[30]
So Pneumatological theology of religions will help the divine presence and agency pneumatologically in the interreligious context. It can be assured that contrasting vision of God can be minimized. The Christian task in particular is to discern the presence of Spirit in other religious traditions.
4.3.Pneumatological Theology of Religions in the Evangelistic Context
Pneumatological theology of religions in the evangelistic context may not be a significant feature, but it might be a real challenge for the evangelical[31] context of Christians. Most of the evangelical communities are exclusive in their approach towards the theology of religions. According to Karkkainen, “most of the Pentecostal limit the saving work of the Spirit to the church and its proclamation of the gospel expects convincing people of sin. He adds that, it is because of the literal reading of the Scripture and the suspicion toward the ecumenical movement.[32] It is at this point, the work of Amos Yong brings its impact on presenting Pneumatological theology of religions within his Pentecostal background. Since the Roman Catholic scholars and other protestant theologians have presented much of Pneumatological theology of religions.[33] Amos Yong put forward three hypothesis for Pneumatological theology of religions, that 1) God is universally present by the Spirit, God in this sense sustains even the religions for divine purpose, 2) Spirit’s work is to usher in the kingdom of God, the Spirit is active in and through various aspects of the religions insofar as the signs of the kingdom are manifest and 3) Spirit’s universal presence and activity presume a resistant and retarding (against the) presence and activity that work against the kingdom of God.[34] Here the Yong Pentecostal basis of theology of religions cannot be connected with the classical understanding of theology of religions.[35] The other most significant appeal for a truly pneumatological theology of religions among the evangelical charismatics comes from Clark H. Pinnock[36]. Pinnock comes with “cosmic range of the operation of Spirit”. Thus he affirms that Spirit’s work which is in creation cannot be denied in its work in preparing for the hearing of gospel. So if the Spirit which is universally accessible in God’s creation, including human being is also accessible to other religious traditions.[37] The religious tradition is not merely the ritualistic aspect; rather it is much related to human experience in several religious traditions. It is not important about what the religion is? But it is the way one live. The existing Christian church structure is not also important in the evangelical framework. Pinnock finds his way in which it would not discourage evangelism and on the other hand does not make salvation unavailable to most people. Therefore, there should be Pneumatological turn which is mediating with universalism and particularlism. At evangelical point of view one thing should be noted clearly that it is only focusing that building a theology of religions on Christology alone is not the most promising, but neither a theology of religions on the expense of Christology.
  1. Appraisal on Pneumatological Theology of Religions
We could see several unfavouring positions towards Pneumatological Theology of religions. It is not to state that turn to Spirit in Christian theology of religions was a mistake. The turn to Theocentrism offered a wider room of theology of religions. Then many of the scholars from the ecumenical spectrum, a turn to Spirit was initiated. The point of argument is that, how far the Pneumatological framework was able to tackle with universalism and particularlism, Does Pneumatology handle the trap of blind exclusivism and flirtation of pluralism. Karkainen says that Pneumatology was “inadequate under theology of religions and much coherent framework may be turn to the trinity itself.”[38] Some of the existing Trinitarian approaches were dealt by Raimon Panikkar[39], Jacques Dupuis[40], S. Mark Heim[41], Gavin D’Costa[42]. Karkkainen upholds with Jacques Dupuis that trinity will avoid three errors, namely, the first puts Christ and God in opposition, as if one could choose either a Theocentric or a Christocentric option. The second error that the Trinity helps us avoid is either the idea of the kingdom of God at the center or salvation rather than a Savior at the center and the third error is to champion the kind of Pneumatological approach that tends to diminish the role of Jesus Christ as more limited than that of the Spirit.[43] But I would say that it is not upholding one on the expense of other or negating the existence of trinity in the framework of theology of religions. The only claim is that it is temporally disengaging the Theocentrism and Christocentrism (as Yong proposed). Regarding the idea of Salvation and savior at the centre is not contrasting each other. Definitely Pneumatological theology of religions can aid the Trinitarian approach towards theology of religions. But the valid question which should be appreciated is that how far Pneumatological theology of religions is able to find its solution under the traits of universalism and particularlism. I could argue that Pneumatological approach which was attempted from many scholars to find a mediating framework between the universalism and particularlism, favored towards either to universalism or to particularlism. The claims such as Spirit are universally present and it is active in other human experiences and temporary disengagement with other two articles has parallelism with universalism and particularlism respectively. The Theocentric approach has found some of its parallel with the Pneumatological approach while dealing with universalistic model in theology of religions and Christocentric approach in dealing with particularlism.
  1. Some Implications
In order to trace the implication, there are multi dimensional context in which Pneumatological theology of religion can engage. It is not necessary to have only single dimension of application which will narrow the scope of Christian ministry. Theology of religions has to engage with the human realities. There is not only plurality of religions existing but also the plurality of culture, history, political and social contexts exist. As per the Indian context is considered the Pneumatological approach can contribute much for engaging in dialogue with Hindus. As I have already mentioned, some parallels drawn by Chenchiah towards Spirit which portrays the Indian acceptance of Spirit with religious traditions has to be recognized. Therefore, 1. A wider space for dialogue is facilitated. 2. Good way of interreligious relations can be developed. 3. An alternative method of mission can be formulated. 4. Certain exclusivistic claims can be minimized.
  1. Conclusion
The turn towards Pneumatology in the spectrum of theology of religions has made an impact upto certain extend in the Christian theological world. As per the pluralistic context is concerned Holy Spirit can contribute and impact much because it finds its correlation with other religious traditions. And to sum up, Pneumatological theology of religions has given an extensive space for giving an alternate Soteriological paradigm which will encourage evangelism and values the other religious traditions. And the conservative groups can find their position with much favorable conditions. The Pneumatological turn also aided the Trinitarian approach towards theology of religions.
8. Bibliography:
D’Costa, Gavin. The Meeting of Religions and Trinity. New York: Orbis Books, 2000.
Dupuis, Jacques. Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. London: Orbis Books,  1997.
Heim, S. Mark The Depths of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub Co. 2001.
Hick, John ed., The Myth of God Incarnate. London: SCM, 1977.
Joseph, P. V. Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit. Delhi: ISPCK, 2007.
Karkkainen, Veli- Matti. Toward a Pneumatological Theology: Pentecostal and ecumenical Perspective on Ecclesiology, Soteriology and Theology of Mission, Amos Yong ed. Lenham: University Press of America, 2002.
Karkkainen, Veli-MattiHow to Speak of the Spirit Among Religions: Trinitarian ' Rules" for a Pneumatological Theology of Religions”.International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 30/ 3 (July 2006): 121-127
Karkkainen, Veli-Matti An Introduction to the Theology of Religions. Downers Grove: IVP: 2003.
Kim, Kristeen. Mission in the Spirit; The Holy Spirit in Indian Christian Theologies. Delhi: ISPCK, 2003.
Kim, Kirsteen “Theologies of Religious Pluralism: Foundation and Conversion in India” in Global Renewal, Religious Pluralism, and The Great Commission: Towards  a Renewal Theology of Mission and Interreligious Encounter Amos Yong and Clifton Clark, eds. Lexington: Emeth Press, 2011.
Knitter, Paul F Theology Toward the Third Millennium: Theological Issues for the Twenty-first Century, edited by David G. Schultenover (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991), 90.
Knitter, Paul F. “A New Pentecost? A Pneumatological Theology of Religions” Current Dialogue 19 (1991): 32-41.
Knitter, Paul F. “Stanley Samartha’s One Christ –Many Religions Plaudits and Problems” Current Dialogue 21 (December, 1991): 22-36.
Kraemer, Hendrik. The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World. London: Edinburgh House Press, 1938.
Merrick, James R. A. “The Spirit of Truth as Agent in False Religions? A Critique of Amos Yong's Pneumatological Theology of Religions With Reference to Current Trends” Trinity Journal 29/1 (Spr 2008): 107-126.
Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in the Pluralistic Society. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1989.
Panikkar, Raimon The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man. London: Orbis Books 1973
Pinnock, Clark. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1996.
Samartha, Stanley J. Between Two Cultures Ecumenical Ministry in a Pluralist World. Bangalore: Asian Trading Cooperation, 1997.
Samartha,Stanley J. One Christ-Many Religions: Toward a Revised Christology. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991.
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Towards a World Theology. London: Macmillan 1981
Yong, Amos Discerning the Spirit(s) A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.
Yong, Amos The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2005.
Yong, Amos. Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions. Grand Rapids: Baker/Paternoster, 2003.




[1] The term can be Pneumatocentric or Atma-centric theology of religions.
[2] Pneumatological theology of religions has dealt with certain streams of Christian theology. Such as Trinity, soteriology, ecclesiology, mission, pluralism, evangelical approach, etc.
[3] Veli-Matti Karkkainen, An Introduction to the Theology of Religions (Downers Grove: IVP: 2003), 20.
[4] Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Towards a World Theology (London: Macmillan 1981), 124-25.
[5] Veli-Matti Karkkainen, An Introduction to the Theology...,22.
[6] Ecclesiocentrism is the traditional position which maintains that God has revealed himself in a unique manner in the scripture and preeminently in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ , and that apart from the gospel preached by the Christian church there is no salvation. Roman Catholic Church also claims that there is no salvation outside the church.
[7] In this approach, it means that salvation is available in and through Jesus Christ, and not only through the limited sense of ecclesiology. There is the sense that Jesus Christ is superior to any other religious figure. It is also an exclusivistic approach.
[8] Etymologically it means, ‘God centered‘, it is also termed as pluralistic approach in which salvation is not limited to any religion, ecclesiology and religious figures. Salvation is a universal aspect.
[9] Ecclesiocentric approach was much more related with Raman Catholic faith. After Vatican II council, the claim of salvation outside the church is not that much over emphasized.
[10] Paul F Knitter, Theology Toward the Third Millennium: Theological Issues for the Twenty-first Century, edited by David G. Schultenover (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991), 90.
[11] John Hick, ed., The Myth of God Incarnate (London: SCM, 1977),131.
[12] Hendrik Kraemer, The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1938), 444.
[13] Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in the Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1989),158
[14] Stanley J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures Ecumenical Ministry in a Pluralist World (Bangalore: Asian Trading Cooperation, 1997), 1-201
[15] Amos Yong Clark H. Pinnock, Veli Matti Karkainen  and  S.J Samartha are some of the prominent figures who has talked about Pneumatological theology.
[16] Paul F. Knitter, “A New Pentecost? A Pneumatological Theology of Religions” Current Dialogue 19 (1991) 32-42.
[17] Amos Yong, Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions (Grand Rapids: Baker/Paternoster, 2003), 167
[18] Ibid.
[19] The inclusivist category is more concerned with the question of salvation with regard to those who have not heard the gospel than with the question of religious others and the world’s religion, it also proceeds from a Christological starting point and is therefore closely intertwined with Christological assumptions. See  Amos Yong, Beyond the Impasse…,27.
[20] Amos Yong, Discerning the Spirit(s) A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000 ), 33-51. Cf. Amos Yong, Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions (Grand Rapids: Baker/Paternoster, 2003), 1- 190.
[21] James R. A. Merrick, “The Spirit of Truth as Agent in False Religions? A Critique of Amos Yong's Pneumatological Theology of Religions With Reference to Current Trends” Trinity Journal 29/1 (Spr 2008): 9.
[22] Tony Richie, “The Spirit of Truth as Guide into All Truth: A Response to R. A. James Merrick, “The Spirit of Truth as Agent in False Religions? A Critique of Amos Yong’s Pneumatological Theology of Religions with Reference to Current Trends”” accessed  from http://pctii.org/cyberj/cyberj19/richie2.pdf on 15/11/2011.
[23] P. V. Joseph. Indian Interpretation of the Holy Spirit (Delhi: ISPCK, 2007), 73. One of the significant things about Chenchiah’s Pneumatology is his conviction of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Indian church. He was concerned about making the gospel intelligible for Hindus. He believed that Christianity can be presented through the Holy Spirit to meet the spiritual needs of India. He says two reasons for that, firstly he identifies Holy Spirit with Jesus and calls him the universal Jesus. He believes that earthly life of Jesus is limited to space and time but as the Holy Spirit he transcends all human limitation. See also Clark. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1996), 188.
[24] Paul F Knitter “Stanley Samartha’s One Christ –Many Religions Plaudits and Problems” Current Dialogue 21 (December, 1991): 25-30. Knitter pointed out, Samartha’s thought gradually changed its focus from “ the unbound Christ” to the wider movement of the Holy Spirit.
[25] Stanley J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures…, 73-74.
[26] Kristeen Kim, Mission in the Spirit; The Holy Spirit in Indian Christian Theologies (Delhi: ISPCK, 2003), 31.
[27] Stanley J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures…, 1-14.
[28] Samartha’s Pneumatological approach was theocentrically oriented. See Kirsteen Kim, “Theologies of Religious Pluralism: Foundation and Conversion in India” in Global Renewal, Religious Pluralism, and The Great Commision, Towards  a Renewal Theology of Mission and Interreligious Encounter Amos Yong and Clifton Clark, eds. (Lexington: Emeth Press, 2011), 122.
[29] Stanley J. Samartha, One Christ-Many Religions: Toward a Revised Christology (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991), 83.
[30] Stanley J. Samartha, Between Two Cultures…, 200.
[31] The evangelical group which is under our discussion may be limited to charismatic and Pentecostal sphere.
[32] Veli- Matti Karkkainen, Toward a Pneumatological Theology: Pentecostal and ecumenical Perspective on Ecclesiology, Soteriology and Theology of Mission, Amos Yong ed. (Lenham: University Press of America, 2002), 232-233.
[33] Karl Rahner is Roman Catholic Scholar have studied on Pneumatological theology of religions. S J Samartha is the other prominent protestant scholar explored on this topic
[34] Amos Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2005), 250.
[35] In the Reformed- Pentecostal dialogue, the Problem concerning the existence of salvific elements in other religion and the role of the Spirit here was left an open question, but in general or classical Pentecostal expressed serious reservations.
[36] Pinnock has for years written extensively on a responsible inclusivist position. He started his move toward inclusivism mainly on a Christological basis but then later shifted to a definite Pneumatological view.
[37] Clark. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit ( Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1996), 63.The conceptualization of religion is merely a man made endeavor, colored by manmade inclusion of divinity. Religion at the specific sense has nothing do with divine presence. Therefore speaking of spirit’s presence in other religious tradition is not be diverted to the ritualistic aspect. In the divine agency human being is much important than the religious framework.
[38] Veli-Matti Karkkainen, “How to Speak of the Spirit Among Religions: Trinitarian ' Rules" for a Pneumatological Theology of Religions”.International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 30/ 3 (July 2006): 122.
[39] Raimon Panikkar, The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man (London: Orbis Books 1973).
[40] Jacques Dupuis, Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, (London: Orbis Books,  1997)
[41] S. Mark Heim, The Depths of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub Co. 2001).
[42] Gavin. D’Costa, The Meeting of Religions and Trinity (New York: Orbis Books, 2000).
[43] Veli-Matti Karkkainen, “How to Speak of the Spirit…, 122.