The book “Christian Gurus: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India written by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann was introduced in part 1. The empirical enquiry of the author into the phenomenon of the “Christian guru” was highlighted in part 2. In this 3rd part I have reproduced the section on the author’s enquiry of Joshua Daniel.
This is a very long post, probably the longest that I will ever post. The reproduction of this complete section un-edited on my site does not mean that I agree with every sentence but it is amazing how the author has made such excellent enquiries into the phenomenon of the “Christian guru” while many of us were blinded. I hope that blind eyes may be opened. Later I hope to give my formal comment on some important issues regarding the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and Mr. Joshua Daniel highlighted by the author.
We continue with the book “Christian Gurus: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India written by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann which I introduced in part 1. To study the phenomenon of “Christian Gurus” the author undertook an empirical study on such leaders. As the author often spent time in Tamil Nadu, it became the most convenient area to carry out the necessary field studies. The author felt that the greatest number of “self sufficient Christian groups” were found in Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Tanjore, Madurai, Coimbatore and the metropolitan area of Madras (Chennai). To keep it manageable, the author concentrated on one urban area (Madras) and one rural area (Tirunelveli & Kanyakumari). He selected “Christian groups outside and independent of the Church, led by individuals who claimed exclusive authority in matters of doctrine and community life.” Discussions and observations took place via visits to group meetings, interviews with group leaders, interviews with members of the groups and interviews with outside informants (if available). 4 “Christian Gurus” from earlier years, 8 from the urban area and 8 from the rural area were selected. The list of 20 potential “Christian Gurus” researched is given below. Details will not being provided except for the section on Joshua Daniel which will appear in part 3 of this series. Although many of us have been influenced by Joshua Daniel of Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship, there are other Christians who have been influenced by leaders of other groups. This list is published with the hope that it may be of use to people from other Christian groups. Just because a leader or church appears in this list, please do not assume anything. Buy the book and check them out for yourself. I am interested in studying other Christian groups if possible and if there is a need. So do respond with your comments.
Although I went to the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship from childhood, I gradually began to realise there were spiritual problems in the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and with Joshua Daniel himself. It was almost impossible to find critical information on LEF but later I came across references to a book which I then purchased and have been reading. I want to introduce to our readers the book “Christian Gurus”: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann. I have already quoted from it and some readers are earnestly waiting for more from this book! The author was a pastor for the German speaking congregations in South India and Sri Lanka and a part time lecturer at the United Theological College in Bangalore from 1969 to 1974. During his stay in South India, he came across 40 German speaking followers of a “Christian Guru” (Lawrie) which included a German who had deserted her husband and child and refused to return. Realising that this was not an isolated case, he researched the phenomenon and wrote this book. Indians seem to be so used to Gurus that Westerners seem to be more alert to such deviations. I believe that we can learn a lot from this book and so I wish to share thoughts and excerpts from this book. It was published in German in 1977 and an abridged English version was published in 1998 by Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. If you find this useful please purchase the book from the publisher.
The author has coined the term “Christian Guru” in order to define the phenomenon of charismatic leaders of independent, indigenous Christian groups in South India. He explains the environment from which this phenomenon has evolved comparing and contrasting India’s social and religious context, analysing Church history in the sub-continent especially the Pentecostals and using examples of Indian (non-Christian) charismatic personalities. Then 20 Christian leaders including Joshua Daniel are described with reference to a predefined outline. After that the author tries to systematise this phenomenon, compares the “Christian guru” with Hindu charismatic personalities and evaluates this phenomenon. The actual and possible impact of this phenomenon on the Church and society is described. Finally a conclusion is given along with some open questions.