Thursday, January 26, 2012

Corduan on Sudduth

I have a lot of respect for Prof. Michael Sudduth and his philosophical work, but like many Christians I'm saddened to see him leave Christ for another love.

However I don't know much about Hinduism let alone the Hare Krishna movement. Hence I thought it'd be worthwhile to ask Prof. Win Corduan for his thoughts and comments. Among the many other hats he wears, Prof. Corduan has done a lot of work in the philosophy of religion, as well as comparative religion, and is knowledgeable about Hinduism. Prof. Corduan has kindly granted me permission to post his response, which I've done below.

I hope Prof. Sudduth will consider this post in the humble spirit in which it is given. I pray he'll return to Christ.

Moreover I pray this post helps others.
This is not intended to be a full response, but I don't want to leave you hanging. The group to which Professor Sudduth has converted to is, of course, ISCKON, commonly known as "Hare Krishna." Prior to its becoming publicly known in the West, it was often called Gaudya Vaishnava, where "Gaudya" is essentially a synonym for "Bengali" and "Vaishnavite" means "devotee of Vishnu." So, this is the Bengali version of Vishnava. Since Chaytanya in the early sixteenth century, it has focused on Krishna as the supreme personal godhead. This description entails that, in contrast with other forms of Hinduism, the highest form of God is personal, and that such conceptions of God as Brahman, an impersonal, pantheistic Reality, are subordinate to the personal theism of GV. In fact, adherents of ISKCON maintain that, in contrast to standard textbook descriptions, Vishnu is an avatar of Krishna, rather than the other way around.

It appears to me that Prof. Sudduth overemphasizes the apparent inclusiveness of GV. This inclusiveness obtains only in the sense that all other forms of religion and conceptions of God are subsumed by Krishna. In other words, being a Christian will maybe help you accumulate some good karma, but will not release you from the bondage of reincarnation. For that, you have to become a devotee (which, btw, in English they pronounce with the accent on "vot," just as in the verb, "devote"), which entails following the yoga (rigorous practice) prescribed by Krishna. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is, at times described as extending his grace, and he says things like, "cling only to me, and I will release you" (paraphrase), but it all comes down to salvation by works.

The similarities between Krishna and Jesus are vastly exaggerated, to say the least. People point to his birth, children being slain at his birth, life's mission, and death, but the similarities vanish pretty quickly when you look at the details. The lofty description of the B.G. notwithstanding, Krishna as described everywhere else was an adulterous drunk (his adherents excuse these descriptions under the heading of this behavior being "transcendental," whatever the heck that means). Even though he was married to a number of other women, two of whom are understood to be different incarnations of the goddess Lakshmi, his true "love" was Radha, a human being who, like him, was married to another man. This is the woman with whom he is usually pictured, and that representation is called "Radhakrishna." I note that the professor refers to her as Radharani, lila of Srimad Bhagavatam, which means literally, "Queen Radha, the toy or plaything of the epic of the Lord." What follows in his paragraph is an absurd rationalization of Krishna's adultery. Personally--and I have said this in India to an audience of Christians and Hindus--I find the identification of Krishna and Jesus in general highly unconvincing, and on this point I am downright offended.

Anyway, I find the conversion of someone to ISKCON, professor or whatever, essentially a "dog-bites-man" story. He is neither the first, nor will he be the last, I'm afraid, who finds an idolatrous Eastern religion preferable to salvation from sin in Christ.

Let me direct you to a few writings of mine in relation to this topic. Obviously, ISKCON is included to a small extent in my survey book Neighboring Faiths. I discuss the nature of "grace" in Hinduism in the article "Words for Grace in Hinduism," which is currently parked at SCRIBD. I just noticed that my article "Jesus, the Avatar I Never Knew" is published on-line by, who want to charge me $50.00 a year to get access to it. I don't remember giving them the rights to do that. So, I'll give you a personal on-line version, which is a little rough, but has all the same content.

Obviously, there's a whole lot more that can and needs to be said on these issues, but I trust these will get you started.

Thanks for writing. Please feel free to pass this little bit of information on as you see fit.

Have a great day!

In Christ,



  1. Thanks Patrick for soliciting Professor Corduan's thoughts on the matter of Professor Sudduth's embrace of Hare Krishna Hinduism.

  2. Just to let everyone know. I have received an e-mail from Professor Sudduth informing me that my inference that he converted to ISKCON is false, and that, consequently, I draw further false inferences concerning inclusivism among other matters. His closing salutation was "Hare Krishna." I responded to him, apologizing for the mistake, which I suspect does not go much further than the question of organizational succession, and asked him for a source that would clarify the distinction. It may not be ISKCON, but it is very obviously closely related. All other comments stand. Win