By Ravi Zacharias

I often think back with nostalgia to growing up in India and the late-night conversations we would have about Hindu play or some event that featured Hindu thought.  Now, through the lens of Jesus Christ, I have learned to see how deep-seated culture and religion can be and how only the power of the Holy Spirit can reveal the error of an ingrained way of thinking. Consequently, whenever we speak with someone from another faith, it is essential to remember that we must not attempt to tear down another’s belief system but rather to reveal the hungers of the human heart and the unique way in which Christ addresses them.

For the Hindu, karma—the moral law of cause-and-effect—is a life-defining concept.  Life carries its moral bills, and they are paid in the cyclical pattern of rebirth until all dues are paid in full.  Hinduism here conveys an inherited sense of wrong, which is lived out in the next life, in vegetable, animal, or human form.  This doctrine is nonnegotiable in Hindu philosophy. Repercussions of fatalism (that is, whatever happens will happen) and the indifference to the plight of others are inescapable but are dismissed by philosophical platitudes that do not weigh out the consequences of such reasoning.  Thus it is key to bear in mind that although karma is seen as a way of paying back, this payback is never complete; hence life is lived out paying back debt that one cannot know in total but that must be paid in total.  That is why the cross of Christ is so definitive and so complete.  It offers forgiveness without minimizing the debt.  When we truly understand that forgiveness, we develop a loving heart of gratitude. There is a full restoration—in this life and for eternity.

The Christian should also understand the attraction of pantheism, the Hindu view of seeing the divine in everything.  It superficially appears more compatible with scientific theorizing because it presents no definitive theory of origins.  Life is cyclical, without a first cause. Pantheism also gives one a moral reasoning, through karmic fatalism, that one is trapped in the cycle until one escapes, without the need to invoke God.  But in the final analysis, it is without answers when one needs to talk about the deepest struggles of the soul.  Hindu scholars even admit this in their creation of a path of bhakti (love, devotion) to satisfy the inescapable human hunger for worship.

It is here that a keen understanding is needed.  Krishna’s coming to earth as an avatar—that is, one of the incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu—in a way brings “God to man.”  But a huge chasm still remains.  How does one bring man to God?  For this, there is only one way—the way of the Cross.  A profound and studied presentation of the Cross, and what it means, is still the most distinctive aspect of the Christian faith.  Even Gandhi said it was the most unexplainable thing to him and was unparalleled.  For the Christian, the Cross of Jesus Christ is the message “first to the Jew, and also to the Greek”—to the moralist and the pantheist, to the religious and the irreligious.  We can communicate this message with a Hindu acquaintance or friend only through a loving relationship.  The love of Christ, a patient listening and friendship, and the message of forgiveness provide the path to evangelism.