Living out the faith in a Christless culture
Scott Gillis talks with Indian creationists Joy and Leela George
Joy George has a B.S. in Physics from the University of Kerala, and a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary. He has been President of Asian Christian Academy for 32 years. Leela George earned a B.S. in Nursing from Delhi University, was the Assistant Director of Nursing in the Dallas Osteopathic Hospital (Texas, USA), and for the last 24 years has been the Director of Agape Hospital in Jeemangalam, India.
It was amazing to hear Dr Joy George and his wife Leela chronicle their lifetime adventure in their homeland of India. I was honoured to spend time with this dynamic couple recently. I asked them about the challenges and victories they have experienced in serving the people of southern India.
Centuries ago, Joy’s and Leela’s forefathers migrated from Syria to India. Joy’s great-grandfather became a born-again Christian through the ministry of missionaries from England. This Christian legacy was passed down to Joy’s parents, from whom he heard the Gospel. Joy told me, “I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour around the age of 7.”
Hinduism and the evolution connection
Joy was born and raised in a Christian home—his family never practised the Hindu religion so prevalent in India. The worldview that is based upon it is in stark contrast to that based on the biblical account of creation. Joy says, “Hindus believe that everything emanated from the god Brahma. They also believe in incarnations of the god Vishnu: as a fish, turtle, pig, half-human half-lion (nara-simha), a pygmy-type human called vamana, and the sixth incarnation as a full human (purusha).”
The Hindu mythologies of various creatures ‘evolving’ to higher incarnations, and the Hindu worldview that the earth is millions of years old, make it easy for Hindu students to accept evolution.
Joy says, “In India, evolution is widely accepted as real science. Evolution was taught in my high school science class from early on and we were asked to reproduce evolutionary ideas for science papers.” Though he clearly realized the conflict between the Christian worldview and evolution, Joy says, “I never had a problem believing in the Bible and a literal six days of creation as taught in Scripture.”
Joy went on to earn a degree in physics with a minor in chemistry. “In college, science was taught within an evolutionary framework. Most of the students accepted evolution and millions of years as true science.” But having been equipped with creation resources, Joy says, “I was easily able to see how the physical evidence actually supports the historical account of origins in the Bible.”
The journey begins
After graduation from college, Joy attended seminary in the US. There, he met another Indian student interested in starting a seminary back in India to train local believers to effectively lead ministry. Joy and Leela told me that when they partnered with this friend to start their ministry in 1986, there were no Christians in the mostly Hindu and Muslim community where they planted their school. Jeemangalam, the site of their ministry, is in the state of Tamil Nadu, some 40 km from the megacity Bangalore (Bengaluru), the capital of the neighbouring state of Karnataka.
However, since breaking ground for the seminary, their organization has built a large multifaceted campus, providing hope in their community. In addition to the seminary, it features a Christian secondary school (Asian Christian Academy) which serves 3,200 students, along with boarding facilities.
It also contains ‘The House of Joy’ which empowers the poor by giving full care to destitute children, plus the fully equipped Agape Hospital and Health Center, and many other facilities that serve the community.
The Georges have also been instrumental in helping develop many new churches, all making a tangible Christian impact on the region.
Their next project is a Christian College of Liberal Arts and Science, with a view “to teach college students in this country science and history based on the framework of biblical creation.”
The vast majority of the students that attend their Christian school come from Hindu families. Their school’s overt mission is nonetheless “to educate the children of the surrounding areas, to instil Christian moral values, and to teach all subjects (including science and history) from a biblical framework.” And of course this is automatically going to be evangelistic; the exciting result is that “the majority of the graduating students now openly confess a belief in the Bible and Genesis creation.” Leela told me how heartening it was to hear the testimonies of these students, now committed to Christ and living transformed lives in the midst of a non-Christian culture.
Interestingly, Leela said they receive very few complaints from Hindu parents in the community because not only are their children receiving a high-quality education in the school, but they realize the ministry provides care to the community through the hospital and its efforts to empower the poor. Today, about 5% of their students come from Christian families, where only a few decades ago, there were none.
The Hindu view of human value
Based on the concept of karma (in which present suffering is a duly earned punishment for misdeeds in some past incarnation), charity work to benefit those who are ‘lowly’ and in need is not a natural feature of Hinduism. Joy shared that “due to Christian influence, some Hindu organizations are now involved in humanitarian work,” but that effort stands in ironic contrast to evolutionary/Hindu principles.
Joy shared that, “Our goal is to manifest the love and compassion of Christ to all, based on the principle that we are all created in the image of God.” Of course, evolution has no basis for human rights. But, says Joy, “The Hindu belief system in reincarnation and karma values animals as our incarnations. They have a hierarchy of animals, where some are revered as sacred.” This mindset causes economic and social problems in India. The current ban on cow slaughter causes economic havoc, because unproductive stray cattle wander on the streets and also destroy food crops.
Joy shared that the discriminatory ‘caste’ system in Hinduism “comes from their view of man as an emanation from Brahma (the ‘creator’), where different races come from different parts of Brahma, the lower castes emanating from the feet.” But, Joy added, “Believing in biblical creation changes our worldview and how we treat fellow humans. We believe that the idea of human rights and equality of all races comes from the fact that God created us all in His image. Though fallen, we are all descended from Adam and Eve.”
Joy concluded, “Understanding the Bible’s global Flood and the subsequent Babel also helps us to have a proper understanding of anthropology and history.”
Despite the many challenges presented by an evolutionary, Hindu-saturated culture, it is amazing to see what an immense impact God has had on this region of India through the faithfulness of Dr Joy and Leela George. Being equipped with a defence of our faith (1 Peter 3:15), it is well for all believers to remember that we are called to courageously share the Bible’s truth. As Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … ” (Matthew 28:19).