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Memoirs of Dr. Johnson C. Philip

Systematic Theology: The Birth of a Classic 002

JCP_Around_1993

Photo: A Pic taken slightly before we got into writing  the Systematic Theology

When Saneesh and Shibu told me that they wished to write a book on Systematic Theology, I only encouraged them. However, when they requested me to join them as a fellow-writer, the equations changed. If a writing project by students fails, then nobody would find it strange. But if a project by a teacher fails, things would be different.

After pondering over the issue for a whole night I decided that there is no success without taking risk. Even if the project fails, at least I would have encouraged two of our young men to write. As far as I was concerned, I decided that the potential risk of failure was worth taking for the sake of two enthusiastic young me.

That evening I told Saneesh and Shibu that I would be happy to join them as a fellow writer. Their faces lit up as though they were on top of Everest. Meanwhile I had done my own homework so I told them that I will be the project leader and that things should go as per my specifications. They were only happy to hear that.

I then spent a day in assessing things further. I discovered that all books on Systematic Theology used in India till then were written either by American or by British writers. There were some translations into Indian languages, but they were not original Indian works. There was not a single Indian writer who had produced a totally indigenous work. I also analyzed the Malayalam doctrinal books available because this work was to be in the Malayalam language.

By next evening I told them that Lord willing we would produce an 800-page Systematic Theology in Malayalam. We fixed 12 months for this work with the additional stipulation that their studies and their average grade should not suffer. Both of them were A grade students, and this stipulation meant that they would have 12 months of sleepless nights. I told them all the pros and cons of taking ups such a project and both of them said they were willing to take such a major step in life.

A books is written to be published. The next step was to negotiate with a publisher. So I went to the Gospel Literature Service (Kerala) office which was situated in the same town (Pathanamthitta). My good friend and the accomplished writer George Koshy was the manager at that time. I mentioned to him that this was going to be an 800-page book project in the Malayalam language. He was stunned. He said that it was an impossible task for a person like me who did not have sufficient fluency to write in Malayalam (in spite of my good understanding of Malayalam) and two students. He also said that even if we succeeded in our project, there was no market for a Systematic Theology written by Indians. He said that the majority of customers wanted books only by American or European writers. With that the GLS chapter was closed for Systematic Theology.

I know that other than GLS Malayalam Division, nobody in India had the resources and market-connections to make such a project successful. Worse, the most voluminous book in Malayalam at that time was Brother KC John’s commentary on Psalms, and it was only 400 pages long at that time. Thus getting a publisher for an 800-page books was an impossibility. By this time the news leaked out to other students and the condition of the trio (me, Saneesh, and Shibu) was like comedians in a circus ring. Everyone was laughing at our seemingly stupid antics. Yet something inside me told me to keep going.

I left for home that weekend after encouraging both of them to keep working. On my way I dropped at Sathyam Publishing at Thiruvalla.  [To Continue].

 

 

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