At 8:55am a colleague passing me a paper informing me that I was supposed to be co-leading devotion today at 9:00am!!! Thankfully I was not alone, so the other person read a passage and I prayed. I was a little concerned about my phraseology… because the previous day the prayer refered to God as “Father and Mother” (which curiously didn’t disturb me at all.) I refered to God as “God of heaven and earth”.

I was looking forward for today’s presentation… I really like Dr. Kiran. In fact, it was he who urged me to do this course.

His paper was entitled “Intertwined Interaction: Methodological Issues in Interrogating Trinity, Church and Civil Society in India Today” I know. I know. It sounds confusing. I’m not sure we all understood what he was trying to say through the title anyway. But I don’t think that’s because we couldn’t understand, but because Dr. Kiran’s writing style is like that. There were many gaps in his argument, and he (too) made sweeping statements that we were expected to accept, and often he spoke through other people’s quotes… not clarifying (in his paper) what his own personal position really was.

Some of his basic assertions went like this.

Religious identity is not the only identity of a person. In fact to prioritise religious identity above other identities including social, gender etc suggest cultural/political biases that need to be challenged.

Our dialogue within society is on multiple levels, and includes social interrogation (ie… questioning what society stands for).

The Trinity needs to have conceptual priority in our public discourse, since it is a key idea that challenges society and at the same time keeps us closely rooted with Christian truth. Hence he says, “For the Christian partners in the dialogical enterprise, what is needed in ‘imagination’ in interpreting the reality of the Trinity as the orienting symbol for Christian faith, life and practice …”

Key in this idea is that theology is not/and should not be dissociated with the political/civil ideologies/identities prevalent. Our discourse/diaologue must be on multiple levels in society (not simply religious). (To support this he uses patristic theologian Gregory of Nazianzus.) Hence he states, “How can we theologize in India without taking into consideration the reality of caste distinctions, exclusion, inequalities, privilege and opportunity?… Theologizing in India is a ‘sweaty’ business. It cannot be a matter detached from the life and struggles of the people.”

*I know this sounds like UTC propoganda… but actually Dr. Kiran’s case is a methodological requisite. And while ‘evangelicals’ may not say it in quite the way he says it, actually it is still quite similar to the idea that theology needs to be relevant for Christians and non-Christian communities. *

Dr. Kiran goes on to say that in terms of religious discourse, the trinity challenges us particularly in holding on to the highest Christian truth in constrast to the ‘dumbing’ down that usually happens in interfaith dialogue. Usually, when people of multiple faith meet, they avoid the truly essential/important/living questions and only talk about ‘love’, ‘justice’, ‘peace’… all ‘safe’ ideas that appeal to the lowest common denominator. However, since theology is meant to interrogate/challenge society… trinity is one idea that is not a dumbing down, but an ultimate challenge.

*This is something like David Samuel’s emphasis that our dialogue in India needs to be in terms of who God is (the Trinitarian God) rather than simply who Jesus is.*

To conclude he says, that “our struggle… to understand the promise and peril of life together in a globalized world cannot conclude with the affirmation of a social reality…. the plurality of the Trinity and the plurality of voices within the discourse of civil society should lead us to … [a] detailed and sustained interrogation of the conceits of civil society.”

I know there is more to the article, but in a quick re-glance I think this is roughly his stress.

In a separate note, Dr. Kiran publically praised SAIACS, not simply for a ‘beautiful campus’ (which everyone does), but also for having a better library for ‘new books’ than UTC!!! He said it twice, attributing it largely because SAIACS has a bigger budget for new books acquisition than UTC, though UTC has an indespensible ‘early’ literature collection. We were all quite surprised and amazed to hear that.

Later in the after we had a student response to the paper and some discussion. Dr. Kiran is the kind of ‘teacher’ who answers questions that are in his mind… more than questions that students ask. And in fact… his answers are not really answers but further challenges and questions pretending to be answers. I can’t relate all that transpired… though it was always enjoyable to listen to him.

He ended his presentation with affirmation that we deserved to be PhD students, we didn’t need to feel guilty that we were so blessed. He told us to believe in ourselves and our ability, “this is a special stage in your life… a threshold of great things… give your best… and receive the best of the Lord.”

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