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Name: Sikhism (pronounced "seek-ism")
Founder and key figures: Nanak (1469-1539) and nine successive leaders
(gurus) through 1708.
Origin: India, with greatest success in the Punjab region
Scriptures: Adi Granth (Guru Granth Sahib)
Adherents: Worldwide—est. 23 million; U.S.—est. 300,000; Canada—est.
Sikhism is a recent religion (15th century A.D.) and represents a syncretism of
Hindu devotional elements and the monotheism of Islam. However, its adherents
claim it constitutes a fresh religious start. Nanak believed God commissioned
him to spread a new redemptive revelation to humanity-that all people should
believe in the true God. Nanak and the other Sikh gurus taught the basic value
of devotion, brotherhood, charity, obedience, patience, humility, and piety as
the path to spirituality in life. Nanak's followers called themselves Sikhs
(disciples). Sikhism does not consider itself an active missionary religion
because it accepts other religious traditions as valid.
Sikhs first came to North America in 1897 when Sikh soldiers from India
serving in the British Army arrived in Canada. They came to the United States
in 1908, when several immigrants from the Punjab region of India entered
California. They built their first place of worship in 1912. Migrations since
World War II have added to the Sikh population. In 1969, they built the largest
Sikh temple in the world in Yuba City, Calif. Sikhs have established several
organizational bodies in the United States, including the Sikh Council of North
America, the chief instrument for coordinating Sikh work. One prominent branch
of Sikhism in the United States is Sikh Dharma. Its head-Yogi Bhajan (b.
1929)-has been the major propagator of Sikh ideas in the United States.
Sikhism holds that God is one. There is no Trinity. He is Creator, sovereign,
all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal. They believe God both transcends and
indwells the universe. God is the abstract principle of truth and has never
known an incarnation. Neither can He be defined. However, God is personal in
that He can be loved and honored. Nanak called God the "true name" (Sat Nam)
because he wanted to avoid any term implying God could be limited.
Christian Response: God is the only eternal being in the
universe, and He is supreme. God has revealed Himself personally to humanity as
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The incarnation of Jesus Christ epitomizes God's
love for fallen humanity. Christianity affirms Jesus' unique place as Savior
and Lord of humanity (John 1:1- 14; 3:16).
Place of Humanity
Although humans are the highest order of creation, they are separated from God
because of self-centeredness and willful ignorance of God. This separation is
the source of all human misery and unhappiness. Consequently, people are bound
up in the process known as transmigration of the soul-continual birth, death,
and rebirth (reincarnation). Position in the next life is dependent on the law
of karma, a notion that one's thoughts, words, and deeds have a direct impact
on future reincarnations. Current circumstances were determined by past
behavior and current conduct will shape the next life. The goal of Sikhism is
to break this cycle.
Christian Response: Human beings were created in the image
of a loving God and are the crowning achievement of His creative acts. God
endowed humanity with free choice, but people chose to disobey God and
introduce sin into the race. The chief fault of humanity is rebellion against
God. As a gift from God, human personality is sacred and unique; every person
is of great value. There are no reincarnations, and people have only one life;
afterward, all must stand before God's judgment (Gen. 1:26-31; Ps. 8; John
The endless cycles of reincarnation are caused by selfish desire and ignorance
of God, but they may be ended by renouncing self and becoming devoted to God.
Consequently, the ultimate goal in life has a twofold aspect: liberation from
continual birth and rebirth and union with God. Salvation is achieved through
God's grace, who reveals Himself and allows humans to meditate on His name and
Christian Response: The future destiny of people is not
determined by karma, but by acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior
and Lord. Salvation is defined as being born again, or receiving the new birth
(regeneration) through personal faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the
cross. The afterlife is not union of the soul with God, but a resurrection of
the body and conscious worship of the Lord forever with other believers (Eph.
2:1-10; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 21:1-7).
Grace is understood as God's kind recognition or notice of a person. This
endowment of grace enables people to follow a path that will free them from
karma and reincarnation. Full surrender to God's will is most important for
those who want to receive God's grace, because grace comes when people
eliminate self from their minds. The effects of grace include constant
meditation on the repetition of God's name and good works to other humans.
Christian Response: Grace refers to God's redemptive love
toward sinful humanity. Grace is unmerited on the part of humans. Grace is
supremely represented in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who seeks to save
sinners and maintains believers in proper relationship with Him (Eph.
Witnessing to Sikhs
1. Establish positive and cordial relationships with Sikhs. Let them see
Christ's love in you. Give New Testaments to your new friends so that they may
inquire further about your faith. Help them understand what they read.
2. Be aware of aspects of the Sikh religion that are similar to
Christianity-for example: monotheism, need for relationship with God, and good
works resulting from religious values. Lead them to God's teachings about the
uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Savior.
3. Be prepared to share your faith and God's Word concerning the human
predicament and God's desire for humanity. The "Here's Hope Roman Road" tract
(see Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9,13; 12:1-2) is one witnessing tool that has
been used effectively by many Christians.
4. Invite Sikhs to attend a Christian worship service, and explain what each
part of the service signifies in relation to Christian theology. Clarify such
terms as salvation, faith, new birth, and conversion.
5. Underscore the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as humanity's Savior and as
God's perfect revelation of Himself.
Written by Don Dowless, Louisburg, N.C.
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