Three Commonly Held Objections to the Gospel in India

Every culture and nation has its own unique objections to the gospel. Here are some of the most commonly held objections to the gospel in India.

The gospel of Jesus Christ always encounters objections from people in the world. In the first century, Jewish and Gentile people objected to the gospel for different reasons. It was a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles. The Jews demanded signs while the Gentiles sought wisdom (1 Cor. 1:22-23).

The early Christians had to respond to each group’s objections accordingly. The apostolic church had to confront the Jewish objection to a crucified Christ and show that Jesus was indeed Israel’s Messiah. They also had to confront the vanity of Gentile paganism and philosophies to proclaim Jesus as the only true and living God.

Even in the modern world, the gospel faces objections that vary across cultures. It is vital that we identify our culture’s commonly held objections so that we can rightly respond and present the gospel in a relevant and winsome manner. Here are three commonly held objections to the gospel in India.

Objection 1: Jesus Cannot be the Only Way to God

One of the biggest objections to the gospel in India is the exclusive claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation. India is a melting pot of ancient religions that is quite accustomed to pluralism, which is the belief that all religions are equally valid in their truth claims.

In India, people actually do not object to the claim that Jesus is God. However, they consider it arrogant to say Jesus alone is God and that the Christian faith alone is true. They would say this is intolerant because it “excludes” other religions.

Pluralism is illustrated by the ancient Indian parable of the blind men and an elephant. In the parable, each blind man touches a part of an elephant and assumes what it is, based on his subjective experience. One man touches the elephant’s trunk and thinks it is a snake. Another feels the legs and thinks it is a tree, while yet another touches the tail and thinks it is a rope. The story posits that all religions have some truth. So any claim that Christianity alone is true is simply foolishness.

Christianity is no white man’s religion. It is for all people.

Often it is posited that God is one person, whom we know by different names. Yahweh, Allah, Ram, Jesus are all the same God but with different names. In recent times, such pluralism is visible in Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi where the protagonist, “Pi” Patel chooses various elements from different religions to make his own syncretic faith.

Such pluralistic views of religion run contrary to Jesus’s claim, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Unlike the story of the blind men and the elephant, God has not left us to grope about in the dark and arrive at truth by subjective experience. Rather God has revealed objective truth to us in the Bible. It declares there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). Salvation is in Christ alone, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Objection 2: The Gospel is Western Colonial Propaganda

In recent years, the objection that the gospel is Western colonial propaganda has become popular. Thus, people see the gospel as a tool of oppression. They regard Christians as sympathisers of colonialism and anti-nationals and view Christianity as a white man’s religion that is foreign to India.

However, Christianity is not a Western religion. It originated in the Middle East. Jesus lived his whole life under the colonial yoke of the Roman Empire—from his birth during an imperial census to his death by crucifixion. Christianity came to India with Saint Thomas reaching the shores of Western Kerala, centuries before any European nation began the colonial project.

It was primarily profit-making, not the propagation of Christianity that drove the colonial project.

In fact, it was primarily profit-making, not the propagation of Christianity that drove the colonial project. The East India Company which ruled over much of India from the early 1600s to 1858 largely prohibited missionary activities. This was why the Baptist missionary William Carey departed from Calcutta and relocated to the Danish colony in Serampore.

Christianity is no white man’s religion. It is for all people. God freely offers salvation in Christ Jesus to people of every tribe, nation, and tongue (Rom. 1:16; Rev. 7:9). The gospel of Jesus is not a political tool to advance the secular powers of this world. Rather, it is the spiritual kingdom of Christ. The way of the gospel is not violence and oppression. It is love and service.

Objection 3: Salvation by Grace Alone is an Unjust Concept

The Hindu emphasis on karma (works), the Buddhist insistence of the eightfold path, Islam’s obligation to the five pillars, and Sikhism’s stress upon seva (active selfless service), all promote relating with God based on the merit of a person’s works.

In contrast, Christianity proclaims that salvation is wholly of God. It is a gift of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9). The gospel declares that God freely bestows salvation upon a sinner, without requiring any good works that contribute to it. In India, people hold worldviews that emphasise good works to earn divine favour. Therefore, they object to the conception of salvation by grace alone as unjust.

No doubt, through the gospel God freely offers salvation to the sinner. But it is not without cost. Man does not work for salvation but in Christ Jesus, God himself does this work on man’s behalf. This is not to say good works do not matter to God. He demands that we do good works (Eph. 2:10). But our good works do not earn our salvation. They serve as the proof of our salvation (1 John 2:3-6, James 2:26).

By his active obedience, Jesus perfectly kept the law on behalf of sinners. By his passive obedience, he suffered death on the cross as punishment for the guilt of sinners who broke God’s law. Thus, it is the merits of Jesus Christ’s life and death that is freely imputed to the sinner who believes (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9-10; Rom. 1:17, 4:5). All of this is a demonstration of God’s grace for the sinner, for Christ acts on his behalf.

So God does not act unjustly. He exacts from Christ the just righteousness and retribution which he demands from sinners. It is this fact, that Christ stands as a substitute for the sinner before the judgement seat of God that ensures that God always acts justly. He is both just and the justifier of sinners who believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation (Rom. 3:26). Thus, the sinner gains everything by faith without doing anything by works. That is the beauty of the gospel.