New Wine in Old Bottles

According to some, the ‘new’ wine is the gospel and the old bottles is our Indian (Hindu) tradition. But this is what God is expects us to do in our endeavour to drink and serve the Living Water in an Indian bowl.  Nobody can set aside all the man-made traditions and man-made philosophies, because God himself has used them to convey his will for all of humanity. He never made any fresh start but has to come and work in the man-made traditions and philosophies, which are part of God’s image in us. According to my understanding God created the material world (subjective needs) and gave wisdom and inspiration to create our own traditions and philosophies (objective needs).

Even what the apostles shared is nothing but an old man-made tradition which is preserved in so many other old bottles (Roman Administration, Greek philosophy, German theology, European culture, American Enterprise, British imperialism etc.) to present that new wine for others. Now I and others don’t want run our own marathon with those chains tied on our legs.

For an outsider, every attempt by an insider to drink and serve the Living Water is nothing but preserving their ‘old’ wine (traditions) in ‘our old’ bottle or serving the new wine (gospel) in our old bowls. And for this they will use Muktiveda out of context and give their own ‘new’ interpretation (old wine in their new bottle or new wine in the old bottles) which will serve their orthodoxy, which neither helped them nor will serve others.

I need not point out the context of this saying of preserving old wine in a new bottle. But when it comes to our OLD TRADITION here in India, we are not ‘PRESERVING’ the new wine in any old bottle, but serve it through our own old traditions which is not acceptable to an outsider.

According my limited understanding, God only created the material creation and left the creation of objective needs like tradition to humans. God never created any tradition but only accepted and worked through them. Serving of new wine in an old bowl was started by our Lord as he liberated the narrow understanding of covenant promise from the Israel captivity.  Then Gospel was liberated from its Jewish captivity by Sevanand (Paul), then from Latin captivity by the Reformers, now from its Western captivity by every insider in the non-Western worlds.

As human creation, change and continuity is part of every tradition.  And the purpose of tradition is not to preserve any (old) forms but to reinterpret the old values to the need of contemporaries, thereby creating new views to the old tradition. But when the orthodoxy finds a threat in such attempt, it will say that new wine is preserved in a different old bottle.  For them preservation of their old traditions, view and values are important for their identity and survival—not thinking about the needs of others. But every tradition, thankfully breaking such stereotypes helps contemporaries to serve the views and values in their own bowl.

Preserving the old bottle (form) is not important but serving the new wine in the native bowl is.  Any outsider who misses this point will misinterpret any verse from the Muktiveda that will serve her orthodoxy and form.

Nobody can make new philosophies and traditions. We can only add and remove certain things from them and give new interpretation. Even what the apostle’s share is another such tradition which needs to be interpreted according to our needs. If this new interpretation looks like old bottles to preserve new wine, maybe that is what God wants us to do to serve this new wine in our Old Indian bowls. We are called not to preserve any old bottles but to use them to serve the new wine.

Every other tradition is an old bottle in which alone the new wine can be received and served to their need of the locals (insiders) which will make sense to them.  According to my understanding, not keeping the new wine in the old bottle about which the Lord has said was a theological issue. But serving the new wine in the old bottle or serving in the native bowl is a missiological issue. And we cannot take a theological issue as normative for every approach in presenting the gospel. That is why the separate discipline of missiology was developed.  Forgetting this, if we insist upon applying a theological view uniformly, we will miss the point.  We must reread all the missiological approach of Sevanand (Paul) in presenting the gospel to the non-Jews.

The Gospel cannot be communicated in a vacuum.  The very incarnation is the best example for this about which I need not elaborate. The Gospel has the capacity to incarnate in every other tradition without compromising its core message.  If it cannot then it cannot have a universal appeal or message and even cannot remain a ‘GOOD NEWS’.  But thankfully this is what the gospel has done, beginning with the apostles themselves.

Of course it has the capacity to transform those aspects of a tradition that are not compatible with the gospel message. Then the natives should allow it to transform it or even to abandon it.  But in the name of not serving the new wine in an old bottle we cannot throw out the baby along with the bath water.

But unfortunately this is what the outsiders have done so far applying theology where they need to apply missiology. The outsiders in the past brought their new wine in their old bottle and tried to serve it in their own bowl.  When they saw that it was not working, then by brainwashing the new converts they created a new hybrid Christian tradition which neither remained local nor was western. And following this new hybrid tradition, at least in India these Christian converts neither remained Indian nor could they become western Christian and they become what we call ‘washerman’s dog’ which neither belongs to his house or to the river side in which he washes his cloths (dhobi ka kutta naraha garka yaa ghatka).

Here I would like to show what this hybrid tradition is created by the outsiders brainwashing the new converts.

As I am not comfortable with the word “Jesus” or its anglicized words in every Indian language (yesu, Ishu, Isamashi, Jisu, etc.) I introduced ‘Muktinath’ for the Lord and ‘Muktiveda’ for the Bible. But most of the hybrids Indian Christians are not comfortable with it.  And many new converts are doing the same.  But I am happy with these words in my tradition.  But one should understand all the controversies that arose while translating Muktiveda in Native languages.  For example take the word ‘God’. Which word should be used for it created a big controversy.  Ishwar, Parameshwar, Nath, Bhavagavn, dev, Devata, etc. have strong religious traditions and Hindu theologies behind them.  But the natives have no other alternative but to choose one word from them.  Others terms like ‘communion, baptism, sacraments, gospel, etc. have similar problems. It will take so many pages for me to mention all the controversies and finally the way natives settle with some hybrid technical terms as their outside bosses never allowed them to use their own traditional terms with which they (the outsiders) are not comfortable. The way they created certain new terms and words which become ‘Christian terms or words’ won’t communicate the message to the locals.

In Tamil, for ‘communion’ they use ‘Narkarunai’ [nar=good, karunai=compassion], raabhojanam [raa=night, bhojanam =meal], Thiruvirundu [Thiru =honoric , Virundu =feast].  But in their personal talk they use the English word itself not using any of these terms. Of course inside the church during the service they will use it, but outside the church only the English word ‘communion’ is used.

But I prefer ‘Mahaprasad’ [maha =great; Prasad=grace] as we Hindus are already familiar with the word ‘prasad’ in our worldview. For the bible they use ‘Parisutha Vedaagaman’ [Holy veda and agama]. But Muktiveda cannot be both Veda and Agama, as in our Hindu tradition Veda belongs to Sruti (authoritative) whereas ‘agama’ belongs to Smriti (non-authoritative). But I don’t know who introduced this hybrid Protestant Tamil.  he word ‘Viviliam’ is the worst one as this word is a new hybrid Tamil word. In Hindi though some use the word ‘dharmagranth’ on the cover, yet most of the Muktiveda comes with the word Bible itself in devanagari script and the same word is used in common use. Whereas dharma + granth, according to my understanding cannot be the proper word for Muktiveda.

When Vedanayagam Sastri try to use the local Tamil words for so many Muktivedic concepts [even Sivam, Om etc.], he was opposed and finally thrown away from the mission. Then he was patronized by his Hindu friend and prince of Tanjore for so many years. Not allowing the natives to think independently, the outsiders always impose their own views, values and traditions in the name of God and Gospel or new wine and old bottle. But I am not going to allow them to do the same to me.  I think God allowed us to use our mind to create our own tradition and he is willing to incarnate the gospel in our tradition using our own man-made traditions and philosophies.  And I won’t create another hybrid tradition because outsiders are not comfort with it. Better you do the theology and missiology properly and try to understand Muktivedic teaching in their given historical, textual and theological and missiological contexts. The best example that comes in my mind is the very ‘baptism’ (of repentance) which is borrowed by the Jews from other tradition.  But Muktinath did not rejected it but even went through it as he has to do considering his local tradition of his time.