A. J. Appasamy and his Reading of RāmānujaA Comparative Study in Divine Embodiment

A. J. Appasamy and his Reading of RāmānujaA Comparative Study in Divine Embodiment

Brian Philip Dunn

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780198791416

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

This book is a comparative study exploring the writings of an Indian Christian theologian named Ayadurai Jesudason Appasamy (1891–1975) and his comparative theological interaction with the twelfth-century Śrivaiṣṇava reformer, Rāmānuja. The doctrinal focus is Appasamy’s four-fold Johannine application of the ‘Body of God’ analogy—the ‘Universe’, ‘Incarnation’, ‘Eucharist’, and ‘Church’ being his four divine embodiments. Critics in Appasamy’s day described his theological project as ‘bold heresies’, a ‘synthesis of Christianity and Vedānta’ that has ‘shifted the axis’ from Christianity to ‘Hindu religion’. By reading Appasamy in the context of his devotional tradition, however, this study demonstrates that his application of the embodiment analogy is rooted, rather, in the sacramental theology of early twentieth-century Anglicanism. His embodiment theology, in fact, closely reflects the theological developments that took place in Anglican scholarship between the time of Charles Gore and William Temple. Methodologically, what is being argued for is the need to understand theological discourse as being already semiotically and traditionally situated. In doing so it is further argued that, just as Appasamy’s detractors have failed to read him in his devotional context, so too has Appasamy done with Rāmānuja. Reading Rāmānuja more as a Vedāntic philosophical theologian than as a Śrivaiṣṇava sectarian practitioner, the Ācārya has been abstracted from his temple-based devotional practice. On this basis, challenging Appasamy’s use of Rāmānuja’s analogy, a better reading of John’s Gospel is proposed, a temple Christology that emerges from the narrative shape of the text itself.