Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present

By Semple, Rhonda A. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present


Semple, Rhonda A., The Catholic Historical Review


Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present. By Robert Eric Frykenberg. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2008. Pp. xxxii, 564. $165.00 cloth, ISBN 978-0-198-26377-7; $45.00 paperback, ISBN 978-0-19957583-1.)

From the 1990s Robert Eric Frykenberg has increasingly focused his historical attention on Christianity in the Indian subcontinent, and in this latter work in particular Frykenberg's South Asia expertise reflects his upbringing in southern India, his identification as a Christian who believes in the positive influence of that belief system on the subcontinent, and his professional training. The text covers the immense period between the first century to the 1990s with varying depth of coverage. It also introduces the varieties of Christian expression in the subcontinent- Thomas Christians, Roman Catholic, and "evangelical" as each became manifest within the myriad of "Indian" ethnic and socioeconomic identities across the past 2000 years.

Frykenberg organizes what is by necessity a complex study in a manner that both follows linear historic developments and that is partially organized around the critical analysis of Christianity within the interface between the subcontinent and its neighbors. After offering contextual arguments on the physical, ethnographic, and religious environment to which Christianity was introduced, he develops his history around the "nodes" of the genesis of the Thomas Tradition- the introduction and development of Pfarangi and Padroado Catholicism of the early-modern era, the developments of evangelicalism from early-modern continental pietism to the broad array of modern evangelicals that traveled alongside modern European empiresand finishes in the postcolonial era focusing on developments in the various Indian Churches and Pentacostalism. Chapter 6, "Evangelical Christians as Missionary Dubashis Conduits of Cross-Cultural Communication," is of particular value in its analysis of Christian practice and belief as embedded in the ethnic identities and historic specifics of a modernizing Europe- traveling alongside and sometimes in opposition to formal imperial economic, political, and military networks- and as re-embedded in and variously accepted, modified, and rejected in the three communities discussed in this chapter. …

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