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My book is now available! Believing Without Belonging?

Believing Without Belonging by Vinod John

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This study examines an indigenous phenomenon of the Hindu devotees of Jesus Christ and their response to the gospel through an empirical case study conducted in Varanasi, India. It analyzes their religious beliefs and social belonging and addresses the ensuing questions from a historical, theological, and missiological perspective. The data reveals that the respondents profess faith in Jesus Christ; however, most remain unbaptized and insist on their Hindu identity. Hence, a heuristic model for a contextualized baptism as Guru-diksha is proposed. The emergent church among Hindu devotees should be considered, from the perspective of world Christianity, as a disparate form of belonging while remaining within one’s community of birth. The insistence on a visible church and a distinct community of Christ’s followers is contested because the devotees should construct their contextual ecclesiology, since it is an indigenous discovery of the Christian faith. Thus, the “Christian” label for the adherents is dispensable while retaining their socio-ethnic Hindu identity. Christian mission should discontinue extraction and assimilation; instead, missional praxis should be within the given sociocultural structures, recognizing their idiosyncrasies as legitimate in God’s eyes and in need of transformation, like any human culture.

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“Hindu followers of Christ have constructed a perfectible post-colonial alternative to believing and belonging. With historical and cultural precedents, such a missiological construction may offend normative western Christianities imported into India without violating biblical and historical emanations of local Christianities. While the resulting Hindu ecclesiology may not fit inherited standards, it accounts for local personal and communal experiences of Christ and honors Christ’s trans-local family building within the socio-cultural and spiritual frameworks pertinent to Hindu identity. What a treat from Dr. Vinod John!”

Dr. Sègbégnon Mathieu Gnonhossou, Seattle Pacific University

“Believing without belonging? welcomes the reader into the fascinating world of how Hindu converts mediate their faith within North India. Vinod John combines first-rate ethnography with theological rigor to provide original scholarship into the dynamic, negotiating identities of Hindu believers and what this means for understanding ecclesiology in such a context. This is precisely the kind of critical micro-steady needed to comprehend the emerging state of world Christianity.”

Dr. Gregg A. Okesson, Asbury Theological Seminary

“Do Hindus have to deny their birth identity in order to affirm their second birth identity as devotees of Christ? To wade into this thorny missiological briar patch, Vinod John conducted anthropological and ethnographic research in the Hindu stronghold of Varanasi, unearthing the emic perspective of what it means to be a Hindu devotee of Christ.”

– Dr. Darrel Whiteman, Global Development

“This fascinating Indian steady exposes the complex cities of Hindu responses to Christ in what can be a hostile environment. Vinod John issues a timely reminder that the way other believers express their newfound faith is not for us to say but for them to work out by the power of the Holy Spirit an in conversation with world Christianity.”

Dr. Kirsteen Kim, Fuller Theological Seminary



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