A time such as ours calls for a self-understanding of the church different from the past. Is this not what the Reformation in the sixteenth century compelled the church to do?
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A season such as this challenges us Christian in Asia to reexamine the faith we have inherited from our forebears. Is this not what the Reformers in the sixteenth century set out to do? And the era in which we find ourselves demands Christian theologians to be engaged in reshaping and reconstructing Christian theology open to what God is doing in the world, not of yesterday, but of today.
Is this not the way reformed theologians should go about their theological task? Some Christian theologians in Asia, particularly some of us from the reformed tradition, have taken upon ourselves the arduous task of doing Christian theology in this vast part of the world historically and culturally shaped by religions other than Christianity. We find ourselves questioning the ways in which traditional theology has gone about its business for centuries. We have no alternative but to listen to the voices from the world we share with our fellow Asians.
Some of us have discovered that critical interactions between the message of our Bible and the world of our Asia can deepen our experience of God's saving activity in the human community as well as in the Christian community. These "theological" experiences of ours are bound to bring about some fundamental changes in the way we do Christian theology, understand the nature and task of the Christian church, and paractice our Christian faith in Asia.
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We have embarked on a theological journey that, though still not clearly charted, promises surprises and fresh insights. What follows is an effort to show how the course of Christian theology is taking shape in Asia. It is no secret, I must point out at the outset, that most of us Christians in Asia "have different dreams with our fellow Asians in the same bed" thun chhuan yi meng , to paraphrase a Chinese expression, when it comes to the matters of faith and religion. It is our belief, for example, that out God is different from their God.
But if it is the same God? It is our conviction that the truth of God is revealed to us only. But if it is also revealed to others? We do not compromise on the faith that salvation is for those who believe as we do.
But suppose there is also salvation for those who do not believe as we do? Suppose if what we believe as salvation is mistakenly conceived, or at least not what Jesus intended? This last question is the most critical of all questions for us Christians. It hits the nail on the head, so to speak, We in the name of God; but is it the God of Jesus?
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We invoke the name of God; but is it the name of God of Jesus? We pray to our God, but is it to the God of Jesus that we pray? We pronounce blessing on those who believe as we do and judgment on those who do not by the authority of God; but is that divine authority the authority by which Jesus spoke and taught: We believe that God is always on our side and not on the side of other; but is it not possible that God of Jesus may sometimes be on the side of other rather than on our side?
Most of us Christians do not always think in this way, nor do we raise such question often.
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Here is a typical case from India:. Once a Gandhian leader came to Kohima and we had fellowship with him As I was sitting by him, he started conversing with me about religious matters :"There are some extreme Christians who say that human being can be saved through Christianity only and thee is no other way. What your view? What will be their fate? He angrily departed. My conviction is that whether we like it or not we cannot compromise the truth. We talked about many thing, from the role Buddhism played during the Vietnam War to the translation of Buddhist texts from Pali and Sanskrit into Vietnamese to social and Political changes in Vietnam.
Inevitably we touched on the relationship between Christianity and Buddhism. Quietly and without showing emotion, the head of the Institute, a venerable monk of more than eighty year old, asked: "Why are Christians so aggressive in their effort to convent Buddhists to Christian faith?
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How could respond to him? Quietly but with pain in my heart I replied and said: "Some Christians are aggressive, but not all Christians are. The Gandhian leader, in the story quoted above, must have thought that the Christians who received him were friendly sort. After all, they offered him a fellowship. They struck him to be open-minded and kind-hearted Christians. He struck up a conversation with the Christian who later told the story, and said to the latter: "There are some extreme Christians who say human being can be saved through Christ only and there is no other way.
The tone of his voice seemed tentative. He was not seeking a confrontation, a debate, a controversy. Like that venerable monk in Ho Chi Minh City, he was just making an observation. He qualified his remark by saying "some extreme Christians. This Gandhian leader would perhaps be the first to admit that there are "extreme Hindus. But not all Hindus are extreme, just some of them. Nor are all Muslims extreme, also just some of them. It must be the same with Christianity. Some Christians do believe that, most of us in fact. This often is the cause of Christian intolerance towards people of other faiths and religions.
Perhaps he was looking for an explanation from the latter, an illumination even. Surely there is a lot to explain. For many Christians this is the heart of their faith. They owe an explanation to others whose "salvation" they hold in their hands. But the Christian in this conversation did not seem to see it that way. He seized the occasion to state his conviction, to reaffirm his faith, to "evangelize" the Gandhian leader. The conversation took a different turn. His "missionary" conscience was aroused.
He forgot he was one of the hosts at the welcoming party for the Gandhian leader. It did not seem matter to him even if the party had to end in hostility. This is what happened. The reply of the Christian did not seem to surprise the Gandhian leader. He must have heard it said more than once.click here
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This is how most Christians talked to the men and women outside the church. But is such view tenable? Is such conviction realistic?
Is such faith reasonable? The Gandhian leader wanted to know. According to one statistic taken in , "there are 1. What is going to be their fate? This is not an insignificant question. It is a kind of question that can be described with Chinese phrase, yu chung sin ch'ang , meaning "one's words are serious and one's heart is heavy. If there is salvation only for those who believe in Christ, as "extreme Christians" affirm, and salvation for them means eternal life in God, then what will be the fate of the great majority of the people of Asia, or more than two-thirds of the human race?
This is not just a matter of curiosity. Nor is the question raised to rebut the Christian. It is a reasonable question. He must have been genuinely concerned, if not alarmed. His concern should be addressed. His anxiety must be assuaged. Is it not only right that his question be discussed charitably and with sensitivity?
But the Christian in the conversation seemed only interested in getting to the point. The case is closed. The decision is final. No further discussion is needed. No appeal to a higher authority is permitted. There the matter stands, not only on earth but in heaven. The Gandhian leader must have first been shocked, then furious. He "angrily departed. At least he did the right thing to avoid further confrontation.
But which part of the Bible? Whose interpretation of that part of the Bible? Is it "quoted out of context" tuan chang chu yi in Chinese or not? The fact of the matter is that the Bible is almost always quoted and interpreted out of context by those who insist that there is no salvation outside Christ, meaning outside Christianity. Christians who make such an assertion do not stop to think whether there are other passages in the same Bible that speak quite differently. It is very irresponsible too. How can on be so general and irresponsible when it has to do with serious matters such as salvation and eternal life?
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