I ran across an old book today on the The Search for the Twelve Apostles by William Steuart McBirnie (1973). In it, he quotes from a special publication that was "published to commemorate the visit to India of the Patriarch of the Church of the East" (145). This volume was called Souvenir of India, In Honour of the Visit to India of His Holiness Maran Mmar Eshai Shimun XXIII and was written and published by the Editorial Board of the Publicity and Information Committee of H.H. The Patriarch Reception Committee, Enrakulam, Kerala State, India, 1962.
Here is the quote that I found interesting from the foreword of the commemorative volume:
More than one thousand and nine hundred years ago, the holy Apostle St. Thomas, after establishing the first Christian Church among his own people in ancient Babylon, turned to India, led by the Holy Spirit, and with an evangelical zeal traversed this subcontinent preaching the good news and baptising those who believed in Him. His words 'had fallen into good ground, bearing fruit bringing forth a hundred-fold' and spreading to countries all over Asia. But by the vicissitudes of history, through all the centuries, this Church, founded on the blood of martyrs, has become almost extinct, leaving a scattered remnant.
India, in the 30-40 years right after the time of Christ was considered good ground for the gospel and it was planted there and grew rapidly. That is amazing when you think about it. What made India "good ground" for the gospel so that there was a huge harvest? One can only think that God's soveriegn power worked mightily through the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the Word, persecution of believers, prayer, miracles, and faithfulness. God sent Thomas and likely others to India very soon after the Ascension of Christ and many believed. How different this is from the India that we have seen over the past several hundred years – the Hindu India, steeped in Caste and idolatry. (See an interesting article from Time Magazine on St. Thomas from 1953).
If India was once responsive to the Gospel, what happened in history so that the church there was almost snuffed out of existence before the arrival of missionaries from the West in the 1600's? Why did India then rise up and push Christianity out? What made the good ground go bad?
I'll look at this more in depth in another post.