Postmodernity influences all disciplines of knowledge, and theology is not an exception. Some may think that India has not sufficiently become even modern and how can one speak of the influence of postmodern culture on Indian theology. Though at the first glance this remark may seem to be valid, the reality on the ground is different and there are reasons.
First of all, though the industrial culture has not become the dominant narrative of the majority of Indians, it is a fact that at least 30 percentage of the Indians enjoy the comforts of Westerns in life. The theologians in general are exposed to the same facilities of life of the middle class citizens in India and naturally the postmodern culture makes inroads to their mode of thinking. Secondly, the large majority of those who are engaged in theologizing in India had their higher studies in the Western countries like Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria and France and thereby the latest currents in the Western theologizing affect them also. We will dwell upon two striking features of the new generation of theologians in India.
Theologizing moves Towards neo-orthodoxy What prompted the fathers in the Vatican Council to bring in a sweeping change in Church’s understanding of her own identity and mission and her attitude towards other religions and society was the anthropological theological method which was followed by Karl Rahner and Yves Congar. They introduced a theology from below saying that we can speak about God only as revealed to us and received by faith. Theological reflections are to be done from and within the problems and events of life because theology discusses about God’s plan for human salvation. Consequently, after the Council, the Indian theologians in general began their reflections from the grass root realities and the experience of the faithful. They have been analyzing the issues with the tools of social sciences and have been reinterpreting them based on the Word of God and the ongoing revelation of God in history.
But there is at present a reversal syndrome in the Church with regard to the methodology of theologizing. The new generation of theologians that is formed in some Western Universities especially those who studied under the auspicious of Opus Dei tend to go back to the “golden age” of the medieval Church. These youngsters presume that the classical wisdom will solve the cultural and ethical issues man confront today. Many of them follow the top-down methodology in theologizing: starts from the Bible, journeys through the history from the patristic period to the Vatican II and ends up with some pastoral orientations. They consider the sacred writings as closed texts and interpret them literally. They don’t accept the contingent nature of revelation. They consider secular sciences as anti-divine and don’t entertain any dialogue with the secular sciences. Consequently, the act of theologizing gets reduced to restating the magisterial teachings given in the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Theologizing has become less prophetical Another postmodern feature that has affected those who do theologizing in India is pragmatism. The pragmatists are not worried whether the thoughts they spread are consistent with the transcendental values. They want that their standpoints bring success in life. If their ideas prove to be effective and satisfy the needs of majority they take them true and authentic. In that case, their theological stands are not often in conformity with the fundamentals of Christian life.
Theology developed as a science helping the believers to read the problems of life in the light of faith and to surpass them following the gospel values. The goal of theologizing has thus become to carry on the liberative action of Christ in history. The transformation of world will not take place unless we allow the word of God to play its critical function. Responding to the criticism levelled against the deconstructive methodology of Jacque Derrida, James K.A. Smith said, we don’t need Derrida to deconstruct the manipulative interpretations of Bible, the word of God by its very nature is auto-critical. It is enough to allow the Word to do its critical function.
But unfortunately the upcoming generation of professors and tutors of theology assumes scanty role in the field of prophetic ministry. They make critical remarks against the evils that exist in the political and social domain of our country. In contrast, when the object of allegation is church or its advocators then they refrain from critical comments. They are afraid that the prophetical stands will irritate the pious devotes and cause dissatisfaction to the hierarchy. It is obvious that freedom is an essential requisite for creative theologizing and unfortunately those who exercise this ministry in India enjoy hardly any room for free thinking and experiments.