This festival is a deeply integrated part of Indian and Hindu culture, both in India and overseas. The prominence given to it within the community means that Christians with a Hindu background need to ask themselves important questions about the compatibility of their participation with Christianity.
It’s important to note that within Christianity there is also a belief in a light which can legitimately be said to bring peace, dispel darkness, give guidance, and bring a knowledge of the mysteries of the infinite etc.. This light is an essential part of the Christian faith. It is this light we read of when Simeon picks up the infant Jesus and declares him to be “a light to enlighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32), and the same light we see set out at the beginning of John’s Gospel. It’s the account found in John 1:1-14 which we’ll discuss today – and we’ll do so with special reference to Diwali and the Atman:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
In words echoing the start of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-3), we see the Word, Christ, from the creation of the world – through whom all things were made. This same Christ is God, and within him alone is life. This life, which is within Christ alone, is the only light for mankind. So, the light of Christianity is not an internal light, but an external light; it is not of one’s own being, but of God’s own being.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
We are in darkness, and it is the light which shines into the darkness; thus we do not find the light within ourselves, for it comes from God and is of God where it shines into our darkness.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (John 1:6-8)
See how even when God has acted in a man to bear witness about the light, still he is not the light? The light is not a part of man, the light is not a part of his being, the light cannot ever be found from within. The light which shines into the darkness is the light of God, Jesus Christ – a light for man not a part of man.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:9)
Again, how can the light come into the world, if the light here discussed is akin to the atman? This claimed atman is a part of a man’s own being and self, which needs to be discovered – it is not the external light of God but an internal light of man. Clearly, atman cannot be the true light – and as the true light is the true God; then atman is a false god – an idol – and thus the festival is a festival of idolatry.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:10-11)
That so many will spend so much effort in the worship of this false God, atman, the impostor pretending to be the light which enlightens man, pretending to be God, should not be a surprise. John 3:19 explains “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” Our evil deeds are great; consider we are even conceived in sin and raised in iniquity (Psalm 51:5), each one of us knowing the revelation of God (Romans 1:19) yet turning away from him to worship false gods and idols (Romans 1:25). Although God made us, we refuse to acknowledge him as the one God.
Note this well:
- Christ is the only true light that shines into our darkness
- This same Christ who is the true light of the world is also fully God
- Sinful and wicked man created a lie that the true light is the atman, a part of man’s own being
- Thus, the lie puts man in the place of God – the archetype of all idolatry
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Regard the great grace of God, his immense mercy to mankind – for he has torn a people for himself, ripped us from the darkness of hell by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who is the light of the world, the same Christ who alone is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
This very Christ, the only Son from the Father, who became man and took on our human flesh, also died for our sins and was raised again in glory. He alone is our light – and no other. Brothers, let us take great care never to give to any other the honour and glory which belongs to God alone. It is clearly the worship of a false God to celebrate, remember, parade, praise, or display this inner light of Atman to which Diwali refers.