Autor: Cody C. Lorance
Category: Welt-Glaubensgruppen, Unerreichte Menschengruppen, Social Justice
Good News for the Folk Hindu
A critical task for missionaries is to discover in a given culture exactly where sin has taken hold of the society and the souls of its members. It is precisely at this point—where the Gospel may be understood by its hearers as good news—that the message of Jesus Christ must be vigorously proclaimed. For the innumerable folk Hindus in India and throughout the ever-growing Hindu diaspora, that point is where the Gospel offers deliverance from the fear of a capricious and chaotic spirit-world through the powerful and triumphant blood of the risen Christ.
In this study I will be examining humanity’s interaction with the spirit-world as it is commonly understood among folk Hindus. In so doing, I will specifically explore one of the most common forms of spiritual affliction in folk Hinduism, the phenomenon of pēy possession. I will then suggest how Christian missionaries should attempt to make sense of these types of spiritual afflictions. In a final section, I will present a model for mission advance that relies on holistic spiritual conflict as a primary method for making disciples of Jesus Christ in a folk Hindu context.
The Phenomenology of Spiritual Affliction among Folk Hindus
The fact of Hindu polytheism is one that is well-known. Ranging from the high, pan-Hindu deities such as Siva and Vishnu to those more culturally-specific such as Murugan among the Tamilians and Swaminarayan among the Gujaratis, the Hindu gods populate thousands of temples and millions of shrines throughout the world. Analogous to this pantheon, however, there exists an equally crowded world of local deities, demons, malevolent spirits, and ghosts. It is for most folk Hindus an imminent spirit-world relevant to the day-to-day issues of life and impacting the whole of society. Charles Hoole has explained that the common Hindu understands the world as riddled with spirits, “a world full of chaos and terror” (1997, p. 67). Wayne McClintock characterized the spirit world of folk Hindus as consisting of a “vast army of demons and ghosts” (1990, p. 40). By this McClintock meant only that there were an innumerable amount of such spirit-beings. However, the metaphor is a useful one for other reasons as well.
Like the members of an army, the spirit-beings of folk Hinduism can be said to have differing ranks and jurisdictions with corresponding powers and authorities. This hierarchy is detectable in the various ways folk Hindus deal with each type of spirit-being. For example, at the bottom of this authority structure are the numerous ghosts of those humans who suffered inauspicious deaths such as by murder, accident, execution, or suicide. Known as pēys[i], these spirits can be captured and controlled by shamans who use them to perform supernatural feats and to send various kinds of afflictions upon others (MacPhail, 2002, 148). More powerful local deities are often channeled by mediums in order to drive away pēys in a sort of power encounter. These same gods, however, are powerless against such roaming deities as the Seven Sisters who are thought to “stalk the countryside decimating the population” by inflicting disease and disaster (Hiebert, 1983, p. 95). The only recourse against such powerful and capricious goddesses is to placate them through sacrificial offerings, ceremonial worship, and the construction of shrines and temples. Reigning atop this spiritual hierarchy are the high gods of Hindu orthodoxy who are sought out for protection from a wide range of evils. In the attached diagram (diagram 1.pdf), I have attempted to briefly present the structure of the spirit-world of folk Hinduism.
In addition to its hierarchical and territorial aspects, the folk Hindu spirit-world is like a “vast army” in at least two other ways. For one, its members will attack in order to protect or advance their interests. J.C. Gamaliel, in his study of popular Hinduism, recounted how when residents of a village of southern Kerala allowed a Yakshi demon’s temple to fall into disrepair, the demon harassed a local woman until her husband agreed to finance the temple’s renovation (1983, p. 72). Furthermore, as in most any army, the spirit-beings of folk Hinduism have the opportunity for advancement. Demons living in trees have been known to attack passersby, afflicting them variously until they have agreed to erect a temple and install an idol in its honor. The newly installed demon will often become regarded as a village guardian or local deity. A specific example is found in the case of Murugan, who was a tribal chieftain before his death. His ghost was eventually worshipped as a local demon by the Kurinci people and over the centuries growing popularity led to Murugan’s becoming the favorite deity of Tamilians around the world (Hoole, 1997, p. 64-65).
I must, of course, be careful not to push this “vast army” metaphor too far. In the end it falls short of capturing the complexity, the chaos, and the ambivalence of the spirit-world as experienced by folk Hindus. Gamaliel summarized the folk Hindu experience, providing a glimpse of life in a world teeming with so many ghosts, gods, and spirits:
The Hindu seeks to appease spiritual forces. Fear and uncertainty surround him everywhere. Evil spirits are real to him . . . . Though abstract speculation may give some intellectual satisfaction, it does not answer the quests of his heart and soul. He moves from one deity to another and from one guru to another. In pilgrimage and meditation he seeks fulfillment (1983, p. 85).
Clearly, folk Hinduism provides its adherents with a life that is precarious at best. The folk Hindu is in constant danger from malevolent spirits of various kinds. Spiritual afflictions are frequent as thaumaturgical explanations are given for everything from marital problems and alcoholism to fever and small pox. “Every trouble, every suffering we have,” said one Tamilian man, “we get only through the evil spirits” (MacPhail, 1999, p. 171). The reality of this precarious life can be seen in one of the most common forms of spiritual affliction, the phenomenon of pēy attacks.
The Phenomenology of Pēy Possession and Affliction
As has already been mentioned, the term pēy refers to the spirits of people who have suffered inauspicious deaths such as by murder, execution, suicide, or accident. Isabelle Nabokov explained that the word “usually characterizes the spirits of people who remain indefinitely in this liminal state” (1997, p. 298). Such beings are frequently thought to be the culprits in a wide range of afflictions but different explanations are given for why and how pēys attack. Different kinds of attacks often result in different kinds of afflictions and call for distinct methods of deliverance. I will examine three of the major types of pēy attacks below.
The wandering and neglected spirits of Nepal.
In the villages of Nepal, folk Hindus know pēy spirits by the name bayu. There the victims of inauspicious deaths are thought to be imperfect sacrifices whose cremation rituals are thus inadequate for transferring them into the realm of the ancestors (Gray, 1987, p. 184-185). Consequently, the bayu remains in this world, “wandering from dusk to dawn around his former house” (Gray, 1987, p. 179).
The bayu’s condition means that it is neglected in his or her family’s annual rituals of ancestor worship. This can only be tolerated for so long before the spirit will begin to take action in an effort to remedy the situation. John Gray’s study of bayu exorcism cited an example of a bayu who, six years after his suicide, began to afflict his family. Gray noted that the family suffered “a string of misfortunes—sick cows, poor crop yields, and frequent illness among the children of the household” (1987, p. 179).
The solution for bayu attacks is usually a bayu utarnu ritual. A shaman is contracted to perform a serious of séances in an effort to make contact with the spirit. After family members verify the identity of the bayu—as deceitful spirits have been know to impersonate the deceased—a “second cremation” is performed in which the bayu possesses a close relative who then dances upon the burning coals of a sacred hom fire (Gray, 1987, p. 179). As a result, the bayu is apotheosized, becoming a household deity that is worshipped on a daily basis (Gray, 1987, p. 179, 187).
Vulnerable spirits and sorcery.
A second type of pēy attack is related to the concept of liminality among folk Hindus. Like pubescent youths or the bride and groom at a wedding, the deceased person is thought to be in a state of transition—a liminus stage. Liminality refers to the “in betweenness” of these periods of life, when persons finds themselves lodged somewhere between the familiarity of the past and the uncertainty of the future (Hertig, 2000, p. 579). Such individuals are considered to be particularly vulnerable to spiritual afflictions (Hiebert, 1999, p. 305), and pēys are no exception.
The vulnerability of pēys makes them an easy target for shamans who are able to catch and manipulate these spirits through various rituals and incantations. The shaman, known by Tamilians as the mantiravāti, may then use the spirits either curatively or, as often is the case, maliciously—in cēvinai sorcery—to attack individuals through possession and cursed objects (Bergunder, 2001, p. 104-105; MacPhail, 2002, p. 148). Victims of cēvinai manifest any of a wide range of symptoms, as is illustrated in the words of one popular pēy exorcist who prayed for her clients to be delivered from the spirits that were:
causing pains, hand pains, leg pains, nerve and sinew pains, stomach pain, headache, toothache, chest pains . . . preventing them from doing any work, making them weak, causing them loss of money, financial problems . . . . blocks to family progress, blocks to making money, blocks to family unity, blocks to peace and harmony, blocks to good memory, blocks to studying well, blocks to writing examination, blocks to knowledge and wisdom . . . blocking the coconut trees from bearing fruit, blocks to making money, blocks to accounts receivable . . . blocks to good proposals, blocks to proposals from abroad (MacPhail, 1999, p. 193).
Combating cēvinai usually involves a type of power encounter that mixes in elements of interrogation and negotiation. [ii] Typically, a cēvinai victim will be brought to a mantiravāti (presumably one other than the mantiravāti who had caused the affliction in the first place) who, for a fee, utilizes mantras and tutelary spirits to exorcise the pēy (Bergunder, 2001, p. 104-105). The power encounter should be understood as primarily between the mantiravāti who initially caused the problem and the one who has been contracted to solve it, as a successful exorcism usually depends on the skill level of each (Bergunder, 2001, p. 104). Also worth mentioning is the fact that it is common during these exorcisms for mantiravātis to interrogate the offending pēy in order to find out its identity, who it was sent by, and why (MacPhail, 1999, p. 180). At this point, the spirit will often try to argue its case for continuing to afflict its victim, sometimes prompting a negotiation which may lead to efforts to placate the pēy through sacrifice or offering (MacPhail, 1999, p. 180; cf. Singleton, 1977, p. 187-188).
A final category of pēy attacks involves the spirits of men who committed suicide due to some sort of romantic disappointment. Motivated by an irrepressible desire for intimacy, these pēys will invariably attack and possess newly married young women, and, in effect, claim them as brides (Nabokov, 1997, p. 298-301). Although the afflicted woman will rarely be aware that an attack has actually taken place, she will begin experiencing symptoms of the possession that are usually directly related to her marriage. Mental illness, refusing the sexual advances of her husband, and infertility are common (Nabokov, 1997, p. 298, 301).
Isabelle Nabokov documented several cases of pēy possession among Tamil women and noted that the pēys will often try to guard their victims by inciting them to kick and bite their husbands in order to prevent sexual intercourse (1997, p. 301). Nabokov tells of one woman, “Shanti,” who after being possessed began to experience mood swings, depression, and a loss of appetite (1997, p. 302). Shanti became “withdrawn, apathetic, anaemic, aggressive, incoherent and barren” (Nabokov, 1997, p. 302). At times, she would even run away from her husband (Nabokov, 1997, p. 302).
Treatment for this type of spiritual affliction is usually quite a difficult experience for the possessed woman. It is not unusual for women to be required to stay at a temple or shrine for several days or weeks, participating in various purification rituals before undergoing an exorcism ceremony (Nabokov, 1997, 303). Nabokov recounted how some women were “whipped with freshly-cut margosa leaves to ward off the pēy” and required to fast and walk around the temple 108 times a day in the days leading up to the exorcism (1997, p. 303).
The exorcism itself may take a number of forms. Nabokov describes the pampaikkarār, troupes of men who use percussive instruments and singing in their exorcism rituals (1997, p. 303). The pampaikkarār’s rituals rely on using music to induce a trance-like state in the possessed woman so as to more easily communicate with the pēy. Communication will center on interrogating the spirit—asking it to reveal its identity, why it had attacked the victim, and under what conditions it would release the woman. In Shanti’s case, it was discovered that the pēy who attacked her had committed suicide because his parents refused to arrange a marriage for him (Nabokov, 1997, p. 305). Below is an excerpt from that interrogation. Notice how elements of power (in the form of threats) and placation were mingled together by the pampaikkarār who performed Shanti’s exorcism ceremony:
Pampaikkarār: How did you die?
Pēy: I hanged myself.
Pampaikkarār: On what kind of tree?
Pēy: A tamarind.
Pampaikkarār: Why did you hang yourself?
Pēy: They did not want me to marry.
Pampaikkarār: So you died. But you must have had a name. What was it?
Pēy: Yes, they gave me a name. But I don’t know it.
Pampaikkarār: Come on, the people here will thrash you. Tell me your name and I’ll arrange a proper funeral marriage.
Pēy: Will you arrange for my marriage?
Pampaikkarār: Yes, I promise.
Pēy: My name is Shankar.
(Nabokov, 1997, p. 305)
Shanti’s exorcism climaxed with the pēy finally being “chased away” and ceremonially nailed to a tamarind tree. Nabokov suggested that this last act actually had the effect of marrying the pēy to the tree (1997, p. 311) and thus the spirit was both overpowered and placated.
A Holistic Analysis of Spiritual Affliction Phenomena
When Christian missionaries are confronted with the phenomenon of spirit attack in the folk Hindu context, how are they to make sense of the experience? Are they simply to uncritically accept the emic interpretations of such events? Or should they regard the indigenous explanations as wholly irrational and mere superstition, seeking instead a more “enlightened” understanding? Is there an alternative hermeneutical approach that will assist missionaries in reaching a more thorough and truthful analysis of spiritual affliction? Anthropologists and missiologists have usually taken one of two basic approaches.
The supernatural hermeneutic.
One tendency is for cultural observers to focus primarily on the supernatural aspects of spiritual affliction and to see such phenomena as being genuinely thaumaturgical in origin. When Christians take this approach, they will usually reinterpret the experience in light of Biblical revelation; however, there is often much from indigenous interpretations that is retained. For example, South Indian Pentecostals generally accept folk Hindu beliefs about the existence of evil spirits, the power of cēvinai, and that most forms of suffering are the result of spiritual affliction (Bergunder, 2001, p. 104; Hoole, 1997, p. 59). The Christian exorcists at Kōvai Tūya Mariyannai Cepakulam in Tamilnadu even accept the notion that pēys are indeed the disembodied spirits of the inauspicious dead (MacPhail, 1999, p. 189). Even many prominent missiologists would agree with several folk Hindu concepts such as the belief in spirit-beings that have authority in certain territories and the importance of interrogating spirits during exorcisms in order to obtain important information about the spirit world (Greenway, 1995, p. 21, 23; Weerasingha, 1995, p. 54; Hoole, 1997, p. 60; Wagner, 1989, p. 279).
An obvious strength of this approach is that it takes seriously the reality of Satan and demons and the fact that they can and do attack human beings. No less an authority than the Apostle Paul wanted Christians to clearly understand that they were called to take part in a war against “the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12). Roger Greenway has rightly pointed out that Paul “regarded his mission work as an engagement in spiritual warfare . . . . a frontal assault on Satan’s dominion” (Greenway, 1995, p. 23; cf. Acts 26:17-18). Missionaries working today among folk Hindus cannot afford to neglect the essential relationship between Christ’s call to global disciple-making and the genuine need to engage in spiritual conflict.
The naturalistic hermeneutic.
A second major approach to understanding spiritual affliction phenomena is to interpret these experiences naturalistically, usually in terms of the physiological, psychological, or sociological factors involved. Nabokov’s study of pēy possession among Tamilian women is a good example of this approach. Noting that most cases of pēy possession in women follow periods of marital conflict, Nabokov argues that the possession and exorcism experience should be understood both as a personal psychological construction and as a social mechanism designed to reinforce certain cultural norms. She sees the possession itself as the result of “female distress,” a creative way of indirectly voicing “feelings of loneliness, abandonment, and marital disappointment” (Nabakov, 1997, p. 311). On the other hand, the exorcism ritual is an invention of the culture that forces women to publicly renounce such thoughts by attributing them to malevolent spirits (Nabakov, 1997, p. 312). The ritual thus reinforces “the safety and structure of the patriarchal family fold and women’s proper role in it” (Nabakov, 1997, p. 312).
Naturalistic interpretations of spiritual affliction phenomena are valuable because of their ability to identify the underlying social, psychological, and physiological factors that often precipitate such experiences. A careful examination of these factors enables the missionary to see to a fuller extent the brokenness of a culture as doing so inevitably uncovers examples of social injustice, marital dissatisfaction, disease, mental illness, or other forms of suffering.
Towards a holistic evaluation.
What is imperative for Christian missionaries is that they not strictly reduce their interpretative approaches to either the supernatural or the naturalistic hermeneutic. Rather, a holistic approach should be taken that recognizes that Satan, demons, disease, injustice, familial dysfunction, and mental illness are all painful realities that result in human suffering. It is usually the case that a combination of factors precipitates a given case of spiritual affliction. Only when all of these factors are identified and the Gospel has been applied to each can true hope and wholeness in Jesus Christ result.
In the attached diagram (diagram 2.pdf), I have applied a holistic approach in evaluating the previously mentioned case of the possession and exorcism of Shanti.[iii]
From the diagram, it is clear that simply driving out the possessing spirit will leave many areas of brokenness in Shanti’s life. Equally problematic is to address physical, psychological, or social issues without dealing with the spiritual strongholds in a her life, an approach which provides relief for temporary problems while leaving Shanti bound under the power of sin and Satan.
Holistic Spiritual Conflict and Mission Advance
I began this article by stressing the importance of proclaiming the Gospel precisely at that point where it may be understood by its hearers as good news. Indeed, for Christian missionaries ministering in the context of folk Hinduism, the realization of the good news about Jesus Christ by folk Hindus is an absolutely fundamental goal. This will not occur apart from a Gospel message that presents Christ as the one who has come in matchless power to defeat malevolent spirits and to set people free from sin, fear, and slavery.
Of course, this is not a Gospel message that can be adequately proclaimed merely through preaching. Folk Hindus who are daily burdened with the fear of an imminent spirit-world will understand the Gospel only as they see and experience the power of Christ in the midst of their own spiritual struggles. Therefore, it is as the missionary confronts the phenomena of spiritual affliction with the power of Christ that God’s mission of salvation is advanced. Spiritual conflict, in effect, becomes the primary means of spreading the Gospel.
I have already argued that spiritual affliction phenomena should be evaluated holistically in order to thoroughly understand how a given person has been gripped by brokenness, sin and evil. This understanding is essential to the development of truly effective approaches to deliverance and healing because it helps the missionary to know where people are bound to demonic powers, where personal and cultural sin has produced brokenness, and what factors hinder people from believing and living according to the Gospel.
Once these questions have been answered, every area of suffering must be confronted with the Gospel. This requires a holistic approach to spiritual conflict. Holistic spiritual conflict consists of at least three major components: power encounter, therapeutics, and spiritual formation.
Breaking bonds through power encounters.
People who have been possessed or attacked by evil spirits are in need of the power of Christ to deliver them from their spiritual slavery. A power encounter is an event that is intended to do just that. It is the pitting of God’s power to liberate against the power of Satan to keep people in bondage (Kraft, 2000, p. 775). An example of a power encounter in a case of spiritual affliction is seen in the context of the South Indian Pentecostal movement where one man testified:
I had a nervous problem on account of witchcraft [cēvinai]. This spoiled my education . . . . As the pastor was praying for me, I felt something coming out of my stomach. It was a lemon, a big lemon. While he prayed, I felt I ought to vomit it out. As they prayed, it came out. Then they prayed and controlled the evil power. (Bergunder, 2001, p. 104).
Scriptural examples of power encounters abound throughout both testaments (e.g. Ex. 7-11, 1 Kg. 18:16-40, Dan. 2:1-49, Mk. 5:1-20, 9:14-29, Acts 16:16-18). No single pattern for them can be identified; however, common elements of Biblical power encounters include displays of supernatural power, prayer, authority statements, a focus on God’s glory, restoring of health or dignity to those afflicted, and the stimulation of faith among those witnessing the event.[iv] A final point for missionaries to keep in mind regarding power encounters in the Bible is that the people God used in such ministries were always individuals of deep spiritual discipline and Christ-like character.[v]
Healing brokenness through therapeutics.
Victims of spiritual affliction often suffer from long-term and deep-seated brokenness. Sickness, injury, emotional trauma, or marital problems may either have directly resulted from the attack or else precipitated it. While missionaries should not exclude the possibility of God removing all such brokenness instantaneously through a power encounter, neither should they neglect the fact that God often brings healing through therapeutics.
By “therapeutics,” I am referring to so-called “modern” systems of healing. Such systems tend to bring a naturalistic perspective to issues of pain and suffering, focusing on issues related to biological diseases, mental and emotional illness, and social dysfunction. Examples of therapeutic approaches to dealing with affliction include allopathic or homeopathic medicine, psychiatry, and psychotherapy. Therapeutic systems that are integrated into a holistic system of spiritual conflict should not be criticized as “unspiritual.” On the contrary, when therapeutic systems are understood as part of God’s created order over which He exercises complete sovereignty, they are wholly Biblical.
Promoting spiritual formation through discipleship.
The last component to the holistic model of spiritual conflict is built upon the presumption that God and Satan have diametrically opposed goals for humanity. It may be said that God’s purpose in the world is to glorify Himself by making from sinful humanity objects of His grace and products of His workmanship—a people conformed to the image of Christ (Eph. 2:1-10). Thus, God has committed His Church to the task of global disciple-making (Mt. 28:18-20). Satan opposes this purpose, seeking instead his own glory (Mt. 4:9, 1 Cor. 10:20, 2 Thes. 2:4-9, 1 Jn. 3:8-10, Rev. 13:4). Every demonic attack against humanity must therefore be understood as essentially an effort to impede spiritual formation and thus rob God of His glory.
The Christian missionary must evaluate a case of spiritual affliction in order to discover how the persons involved are being hindered from knowing and growing in Christ. Power encounters alone are temporary fixes and therapeutic treatments essentially superficial unless they are accompanied by a strategy for permanent life transformation (c.f. Lk. 11:24-26; Jn. 5:14). The following excerpt from a statement by Pentecostal pastors in Tamilnadu illustrates the problem of spiritual conflict approaches that fail to incorporate long-term programs for spiritual formation:
If they experience a healing they stay a while in the congregation but if there is no system to hold them, they go away again . . . . They come just to be healed and then they go . . . . After the healing is over they again are back in their own temples. (Bergunder, 2001, p. 111).
For the Gospel to bear lasting fruit, missionaries who confront spiritual affliction phenomena should prescribe evangelistic discipleship plans as part of the healing process. Furthermore, these plans should be customized so as to address the needs of a specific person. In a folk Hindu context, discipleship prescriptions could focus on helping people to discover the power of Jesus Christ over the spirit-world, to learn God’s design for a loving marriage, to hear God speaking through the Bible, to develop a Biblical view of suffering and evil, and to know the love of Jesus Christ that casts out fear and brings liberty (1 Jn. 4:18).[vi]
Making spiritual conflict holistic
Holistic spiritual conflict utilizes power encounters, therapeutics, and discipleship prescriptions in an integrated approach to sharing the Good News of Christ. When this approach is informed by a holistic analysis of spiritual affliction phenomena, the two work together to proclaim the Gospel as “good news.” See the attached diagram (diagram 3.pdf).
Paul Hiebert and Daniel Galat have rightly said, “We fail if we do not show that the Gospel has meaning for every dimension of life” (1998, p. 16). That failure grows more acute when we miss the dimension of life most in need of Christ’s salvation. In the context of folk Hinduism, holistic spiritual conflict informed by holistic phenomenological analysis is the means by which Christian missionaries proclaim the Gospel as good news where it is needed most.
[i] Tamilians use the word pēy which is derived from the Sanskrit word pretameaning “departed” (Nabokov, 1997, p. 299). Other names used in the Hindu world for these or similar spirit-beings include bhut, bhootam, and bayu. Because most of my experience with folk Hindus has been among Tamilians, I have opted to use the Tamil word in this article.
[ii] In addition to the exorcism method described here, many other efforts will commonly be made to arrive at a solution. For example, seeking the favor of a more powerful spirit such as a local deity or a high god is very common in cases of spiritual affliction. Paul Hiebert notes, “If the case is serious, the villagers may turn to several remedies simultaneously in hopes of saving the situation. Thus it is not uncommon for them to seek treatment for an illness from a modern allopathic doctor, a local ayurvedic doctor, and the local village magician or astrologer at the same time and also stop at the local temple to offer a prayer and make a vow” (1983, p. 91).
[iii] My diagram is based on one by A. Scott Moreau in which he suggested that factors influencing a supernatural experience fall into the categories of physical, psychological, cultural and social, and spiritual (1995, p. 31). What I have done is simply apply his analytical structure to Shanti’s experience as reported by Isabelle Nabokov (1997, p. 301-302).
[iv] Examples for the elements I mentioned include: Ex. 7-11, 1 Kg. 18:38, Dan. 2:30-45, Mk. 5:13, 9:26-27, and Acts 9:13 for displays of supernatural power; Ex. 10:18, 1 Kg. 18:36-37, Dan. 2:18-23, and Mk. 9:29 for prayer; Ex. 7:4, 1 Kg. 18:32, 36-37, 39, and Dan. 2:20-23, 27-28, 47 for a focus on God’s glory; 1 Kg. 18:31, Dan. 2:24, Mt. 9:33, 12:23, and Mk. 5:15 for restoring health or dignity to people; 1 Kg. 18:39, Dan. 2:46-47, Mt. 9:33, 12:23, 17:18, Mk. 1:27, 5:18-20, 9:24, and Acts 8:12 for stimulating faith or life change; and Mt. 8:32, 17:18, Mk. 1:25, 5:8, 9:25, and Acts 16:18 for authority statements.
[v] The human agents through which God worked in the power encounters I have cited are Moses (Ex. 7-11), Elijah (1 Kg. 18), Daniel (Dan. 2), Jesus (Mt. 8, 9, 12, 17; Mk. 1, 5, 9); Phillip (Acts 8), and Paul (Acts 16).
[vi] A theology of suffering will be desperately needed for missions among the folk Hindus. Folk Hindus view suffering as essentially evil and its alleviation essential. For this reason, it is common for an afflicted person to try method after method and healer after healer until a cure is found. The Biblical worldview provides for healing and restoration but does not guarantee it. Instead, we see God using suffering as a part of the unfolding of His redemptive purposes. Part of the discipleship process among folk Hindus must provide the disciple with the ability to envision Christian suffering as an opportunity for godliness.
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