Week 7: Theology Behind Culture Specific Evangelism (part 2) May 24-30


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    Some painful background for canada


    I know this isn’t about Japan, but this just came out in the news today and highlights some of the big issues underlying Christianity and the church and views on colonialism in Canada from our Indigenous people! Some “biases” or “impressions” come from some very legitimate experiences!

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    A lesson from Africa


    I really found this a powerful testimony out of Africa some decades back. I love that the new indigenous believers wanted to dig into this and decide for themselves what was God-honoring and what wasn’t:

    Pg 71 – “We can lie to deceive the white man, but few of us can fool one another and none of us can fool God. … God knows our hearts, and both He and we know whether these old things have passed out of our lives or not.” Then he turned to the missionaries. “You have examined us. Do you have any objection if we examine ourselves?” “Of course not,” the missionaries replied. Desita turned to the story of Annanias and Sapphira and read it to the group When they learned how the judgment of God came upon those who claimed to be followers of Jesus, they were deeply impressed. During the questioning that followed, the underlying concern of the Christians proved to be the matter of circumcision.
    In the cultural and social customs of the Wallamos, circumcision was more than a physical hygienic measure. It was the most important part of the initiation ceremony whereby a boy was recognized as a full-fledged male member of the tribe. Its religious significance was indicated by the fact that no uncircumcised male was permitted to participate in or partake of a sacrifice to the spirits.
    Because of its cultural implications, the believers agreed to require of every candidate for baptism that he promise not to submit to circumcision for any purpose related to the ancient Wallamo custom.
    (Fire on the Mountains by Raymond Davis)

    • Brandalyn

      Pg 77 – This radical break with the old way of life, coming at the beginning of the church in the Wallamo area, effectively set the pattern to follow. It did not come at the white man’s instigation, but arose naturally from the confrontation of Christianity and Wallamo culture. And the discipline of standing by principle strengthened the young believers.
      At the same time, however, it created great embarrassment, considerable difficulty, and was often misunderstood – even between friends. In some cases, old friends who had not believed were willing to help build without the rewarding provision of drink. But many others refused. They said that any house built without beer would not be successful. The people would not be free from the outraged ancestral spirits who had been shown such disrespect by the omission of ancient Wallamo customs.
      From the very first, Christianity became a natural thing to the Wallamo Christians, and they did not consider it as something introduced from the outside. This was what the missionaries had hoped for – they wanted to leave as much of the Wallamo way of life as untouched as possible. This meant trying not to introduce Western cultural patterns into the Wallamo church, patterns which were extraneous to essential Christianity.
      So it was the natural thing for the Wallamos to build their churches like their own houses…. Their own houses were circular, and made of logs and branches.
      (same book)

    • Brandalyn

      Pg 155 – Sitting there with trousers in hand, squatting on the grass scattered on the floor, slowly dressing, these men, church leaders all, were deeply engaged in discussing a most serious and far-reaching matter which could come before a church council.
      “I smiled to myself as I thought of the dignity of similar gatherings held in the homeland. Here we had a man with his trousers off, examining them carefully for any possible livestock right in the center of the whole conference. It was quite new to me that God should work in this way. I marveled that God should be among these people, and that this group of men should be the Holy Spirit-filled leaders, working out the policies of the church under His guidance. … Here in this faraway, hidden and unseen place, the Holy Spirit in all of His fullness was equally able to conduct the business of the church in circumstances that were equally proper to Him.
      (same book)

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    Criteria for an indigenous name for God


    I don’t remember which book or source I read this in this weekend, but it was relating to missionaries trying to sort out if the indigenous name of “God” that the people were relating to the God of the Bible was the same. I thought that it was worthwhile that they evaluated the personality and character of that God and also how and why the people were worshipping that God in the way that they were. In the end, it was decided that it was not an indigenous name for the God of the Bible because this god of the people as malevolent, angry and had to be appeased. He was not loving or showed any characteristics of mercy. This “God” had more of the characteristics of the fearful, controlling demons/spirits than of the creator and father God.

    • Joze

      This one is a tough one. I remember having to wrestle with this question with several work groups on whether or not to use “Allah” in translations for God among Muslim people groups. Some have argued that Allah is the proper name of a god who is malevolent, fickle and unjust (or insert other derogatory terms here). Others would say that’s just the referent for a deity and does not reflect on that deity’s character. This was the case where the indigenous name for God is more complex. Muslims are also divided on this issue as well. Muslim-background believers who think Allah is the proper name have opted for another term, like Joomiradho “one how is owner of everything” among Guinean Fulani. Other Muslim-background believers (MBB) who think Allah is just a referent to God would continue to use Allah, like MBBs in Malaysia or in the Middle East. They would distinguish themselves by saying that they are “Followers of Isa al-Masih” instead of “Followers of Prophet Mohammed.”

      For me, Allah is not a proper noun, but a referent to the One Creator God. I think it’s acceptable to use any referent for God, as Kikawa-sensei’s article says, in order to use it as a bridge to be able to more fully flesh out the identity, values and mission of the God as described in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament Gospels and Letters.

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    Joze (Week 7) Reflections


    In a previous entry, I noted that I’ve organized the huge topic of “contextualization” into 3 distinct areas: contextualization of the messenger (to facilitate bridge-building and acceptance into an established group), contextualization of the message (to facilitate clear and comprehensible communication of the Good News that Jesus is King), and contextualization of the believing community (to facilitate culturally acceptable practices that would allow the community to remember their identity, values and vocation).

    This week I was challenged by the “Reflections on Churchless Christianity” article on the contextualization of the believing community. While I agree with most of what the article says; however, I wondered if it would be good to teach and discuss (with the culture) the importance of rituals. Perhaps in our North American worldview, we’ve gotten used to the “grace alone, Scripture alone, faith alone, etc. alone” mottos of the Reformation that we’ve taken for granted the effects and importance of rites and rituals in the liturgy and practices of the Hebrew Bible and of the Early Church. I think it would be good to be reflect on how rituals are not “works righteousness” but a means to reflect on the identity (who they are), values (how they are meant to be) and vocation (what they are meant to do) collectively as a “people of God.” Rituals were a means to pass down from one generation to another what was important as followers of YHWH and as followers of Jesus.

    Once there has been a discussion on the importance of rituals in the Jewish practice and in the Early Jew-Gentile Church, then it would be the time for the indigenous church to reflect on what rituals and cultural practices to continue practising that would allow them, as a newly formed people of God, to remember their identity, values and vocation as followers of Jesus.

    I think this might be a better mindset for us as outsiders and for indigenous followers as insiders of the culture because if we take, for example, the 3 advice of the sannyasi, while faith spreads more rapidly I wonder if it loses some essential aspects of what it means to be the Church (not lower case “c” church) as a community of followers of Jesus. How do the sannyasi principles remind them of their identity, values and vocation? Again, they would be able to discern whether or not these 3 principles do indeed successfully answer this question.

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    Patrick - assemblies of God in Canada: so few!


    I was curious after looking up a bit about your denomination during our call why I wasn’t very familiar with it. I was so surprised by how few there are in Canada! And only in BC (all Vancouver area), Quebec and Ontario!

    If you are at all interested