No #3 – Vasanthi Gnanadoss

Vasanthi, one of the eight who voted no to the motion on the Uniqueness of Christ, has replied to my request for an understanding of why she voted as she did. Here is what she had to say:

I could not possibly have voted for this motion because the underlying claim was not that Christ is unique but that Christianity is superior. This claim was supported in the debate only by internal Christian sources such as the bible and by a series of personal anecdotes. There are, of course, plenty of anecdotes to the contrary that were not mentioned. Objectively, we Christians and Christianity as a whole will have a lot to answer for on the day of judgement. In the meantime it is our responsibility under God to act towards other people of faith with humility and a sense of realism about our own shortcomings. We should stress our common humanity and our readiness to learn from one another and be open-minded about what God is doing in our multi faith society.

Interesting, but surely if Christ is unique then Christianity is by its very nature superior? Feel free to comment below.

12 Comments on “No #3 – Vasanthi Gnanadoss

  1. How did someone who doesn’t believe Christianity is a superior religion wind up voting at the Synod.  Why would one be active in a Christian denomination if one did not believe it was a superior religion? The only reason I can imagine is to infiltrate so to gain power to use to  subvert the religion.

  2. First of all, Christianity isn’t a superior religion – not if you look at what the New Testament says. It is the only true religion. This does not mean that as a Christian you cannot be respectful of other people’s faith, nor does it mean that there is no truth to be found in any other religion – look at the fascinating writing from Simon Tillotson. However, it is obvious from Vasantha’s statement that a claim that Christianity is superior is anathema to her – it is also clear that she regards this as something different to the uniqueness of Christ.

    That ought to give you a clue as to her motivation. Equality – gender equality and racial equality – is her prime concern, and she has interpreted a statement about religious belief as a statement about ethnic and cultural oppression. What she has done is not taken the motion at face value but interpreted it in the light of her own particular world-view, and that’s something that we are all prone to doing. It doesn’t make it a tenable position, but in its own way it is no different to Perpetua’s immediate assumption about her motives.

    How did she get on to Synod? The same way the rest of us did. People voted for her. Why did they vote for her? Because they saw value in her campaigning spirit, I suspect, and because we live in a world of much prejudice – and they see her as fighting against that prejudice.

    Incidentally (but leading on from some of what I am suggesting) has there been any discussion of ‘rights’ here? Personally I’m with Jeremy Bentham on the subject of fundamental human rights, but I’m curious to know Peter’s views on the subject – and some of the rest of the contributors here.

  3. If you’d read the original post, you would have seen that the intent of these posts is to give those who voted no an opportunity to interact with others on the reasons why they voted no. All three who have allowed their responses to be published have done so entirely out of their own free will. There is no “inquisition”.

  4. I think there might be a confusion between thinking a religion is superior and thinking that the practitioners of the religion are superior. I think Christianity is the superior religion, but I do not think Christians are superior to practitioners of other religions. That is because Christianity emphasizes that we are all sinners and that we are not saved through our own merit. However, practitioners of other religions may make the leap that because their religion is superior, they as members are superior to the members of other religions.

    I make this clarification because I notice that in Austria right now, there is a new study out on the teachers of Islam in the public schools. One disturbing statistic was that “44 per cent said they had to make their students understand they were better than non-Muslims.” This is very different than making their students think that Islam is the superior religion. It is teaching that Muslims are superior people.

  5. “I could not possibly have voted for this motion because the underlying claim was not that Christ is unique but that Christianity is superior. This claim was supported in the debate only by internal Christian sources such as the bible and by a series of personal anecdotes.”

    Words fail… What is this woman doing in Synod?

  6. Superior – is not at all a helpful word to be used in speaking of Christianity or any belief system. I suspect that it’s use, as has been touched on already, stems from Vasanthi’s pre-existent sensitivities.
    I tend to agree with those who’ve expressed concern about her as the basis of such a sensitivity is often an indicator of a more fundamental slipperyness when it comes to core doctrinal points about Jesus, His uniqueness, etc.
    In as much as Vasanthi is representative of not insignificant numbers of people who would identify as Christians and members of the Church of England, it’s perhaps mis-guided to attack her personally. Rather, we should cry out to God for the health of those who profess to be His people and yet seem to have turned from Him or are rejecting Him (plenty of biblical precendent for that). Furthermore, we need to be looking at the leadership of the Church and asking how it is that bankrupt teaching has such a platform in so many churches; bishops need to take responsibility and colleges/training courses need to be examined for their commitment to the creeds/formularies/etc of the Church and more importantly, to scripture.

  7. The use of  “superior” when applied to religions comes from the Quran 48:28, often referred to as “The Great Prophecy”:

    “He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) superior to all religion(s). And All-Sufficient is Allah as a Witness.” [48:28]
    He is the One who sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth; to make it prevail over all other relgions. God suffices as a witness.

  8. A further little point here, picking up on Justin’s stating that Christians “can be respectful of other people’s faith”. ‘Respect’ is another difficult word to use because our application of it is, in my opinion, quite lazy. What I mean is this: I respect a Muslim’s right to believe what they believe. However, I do not respect what they believe because I (as a Christian) understand it to be wrong. In saying this, I am observing democratic freedoms whilst being careful to uphold the singular truth of salvation through Christ alone.
    To draw a very simplistic analogy, I respect my 7-year old daughter’s right to disagree with me that she should go to bed at 7pm. However, I do not respect her opinion itself because I know that she is wrong. I think that the principle at play here is an important one because ‘respect’ is a word that our society uses in a very loose way such that the moment one challenges a set of beliefs (whether those be religious, political, moral or whatever) the immediate retort is often an accusation of prejudice or worse. As Christians, we need to speak carefully but clearly. When we were all so concerned about the legal changes of recent years that suggested a threat to free speech, we campaigned to preserve freedom for all (Christian, Muslim, Hindhu, etc) and in this way we showed respect for the right of the individual and retained fervour to speak boldly as Christians.

  9. I totally agree with you Tim.
    If we say all faiths have equal validity, or that another faith can be equally true when compared with Christianity,  then we undermine the work of  Christ on the cross. THat is why, despite the appearance of me being a liberal (if you have followed the other blog) I am certainly not over the area of the unique revelation of Christ and how the death of Christ on the cross is not a way to God but is the way to God, and to water that down is to undermine the whole gospel message. Hence in dialogue with other faiths we must present our case with confidence, respecting the other’s persons right to disagree (as we love them) but also standing up for what we believe is the truth (also because we love them and want to share that truth).
    Hence  – the only reason why I voted against the Paul Eddy motion was the tone of the motion which I felt was not sufficiently missionary friendly in its wording.

  10. Tim – thank you. As it happens that’s what I meant by respect, too, but I take your point that the word is not always well used. I think it’s also worth saying that part of ‘respecting’ another person and the fact of that person’s beliefs – even if not the substance of them – is to understand that even if we profoundly disagree with them, nevertheless they are worthy of engagement and not simple dismissal. In other words if, as Christians, we believe that we have got the right answers, we have to be prepared to explain to those who don’t share that opinion exactly why we believe what we believe. Respect should be all about treating others as we would wish to be treated ourselves – sounds a bit like the sort of thing we’re supposed to do to our neighbours, really…!

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