on promoting theological education

theological famineIF you need an example of how NOT to do it – read this.   I find this approach not one that I could recommend.  I think maybe it has noble intentions as there is great need in the world for better resources for pastors and teachers in less developed areas of the world and especially in the global south where the church is growing faster then it can keep up with.   At the same time I think it somewhat misrepresents what theological education and “training for the ministry” is supposed to be about.  And perhaps unwittingly devalues the staunch realities and problems AND pain of true famines from which real people suffer.  It basically turns its back on the poor, the suffering, the oppressed.

As I see it, it is based on false juxtapositon of physical hunger and spiritual hunger.  They are not mirrors of each other.  They are worlds apart.  Many in the Western world are a far cry from true physical hunger and yet ALL human beings, rich or poor, free or slave, white or non-white are spiritually depraved and in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  It trivializes real hunger, real poverty, real suffering.

I think it reveals some ignorance (either they just don’t understand don’t know or are just not paying attention to it) of larger missiological contextual issues that are face in cross-cultural work.  It is a imposition of Western values on to other cultures which is a big big no-no in cross-cultural missions.  It reveals ignorance of the changing role of Westerners in world missions and or evangelization.  While there are plenty of places where westerns can be and are quite effective in evangelizing the lost where the national might be less effective (for a whole host of issues and reasons) the increasing responsibility of the Western Missionary is that of PARTNERSHIP, a coming along side nationals to reach the lost and to teach, tran, equip men and women for teaching/preaching roles in their own contexts.  The end goal of mission is not transference of one set of cultural values to another, it is TRANSFORMATION of the target culture to the glory of God.  I think it is not a good way to go about it and in my personal opinion, it would be best not to support this movement either financially, emotionally or any other sort.

It is true, there is a DERTH of theological and or ministerial resources for pastors, teachers, and leaders in the now dominant Christian world.  They are really truly asking for and desiring materials for them to tach and train folks in the Word to be sure the Bible is being well understood and followed  and adhered to in their own contexts.  But see even that raises issues as to the idea that they are looking to us for resources because (and I happen to have just enough world experience to know) they see us as successful and good and blessed by God so they want to learn from us and to emulate us.

Instead I think it would be good to help the best we can but not from the point of view of “theological famine” necessarily but in partnership in obedience to the great co-mission.  Partnering with them to teach and train their own people and maybe even from their own cultural perspectives – seems to me like a kind of theological colonialism to think we should go there and train them from our view so we know they are getting it right.

This is why I am a HUGE advocate for promoting Inductive Bible Study and that in a community context much like what we see in Mike and Tim’s book: People of the Book: Inviting Communities into Biblical Interpretation (Wipf and Stock).  That way we are working best to not IMPOSE our theology on them, but instead EQUIPPING them to study the Bible and draw their own conclusions in a way that is faithful to the Bibilcal text.  That way, we could learn something too!  🙂

Well I think that is enough of that!


the church in China

is really growing!  God is on the move!

Over at the Gospel Coalition website: Matt Smethurst interviews (via translation) Liao Yiwu, whose book God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China (HarperOne, 2011) won the Books & Culture 2011 Book of the Year award.

It is pretty interesting to read.  There was one segment that stood out to me about how Christianity in China has or is beginning to become distinctively “Chinese.”   Here it is:

You observe that in China “there is now a new Christian identity that is distinctively Chinese.” What do you mean?

One hundred fifty years ago, the London-based China Inland Mission started to send missionaries to China. Many of those brave Christians set their sights on the villages hidden up in the mountains. Because modern transportation was lacking, they journeyed for many days to reach them, arriving just in time to save the mountain people from a devastating bubonic epidemic with Western medicine and their knowledge of modern hygienic practices. They also preached Christianity, which, to the locals, was as foreign as their own appearances.

Gradually, these brave men and women won the hearts and minds of villagers, who for generations had found solace in the chanting of local shamans and the worshiping of pagan gods. Over the past century, the Christian faith has passed down from generation to generation despite the government’s brutal persecution against Christians in the 1960s and 1970s. In those villages, Christianity has taken root and become a part of the local heritage. It is as indigenous and life-sustaining as qiaoba, a popular buckwheat cake. During my visit there, I never felt that the locals had embraced a foreign religion. It blended seamlessly with the local cultures. Villagers held their services led by local leaders in their native tongues, and celebrated their Eucharist or Christian holidays in a way that they knew the best—local delicacies. It definitely had a distinctive Chinese identity.

Isn’t this really good news?  Isn’t how things should be?  That the nations receive the gospel and make it their own?  Now I could see a bunch of conservative Christians getting their pants in wad over the people using local delicacies to take communion as though it “must” be bread and wine specifically.  But hey?  Where does it say that in the Bible?  Sure Jesus says the bread is his body and the wine is his blood, but would that not be a case of contextualization in that setting?  Getting in a fuss over this, I think, would be to miss the point and miss out on the fact that the many peoples of China are taking on this ordinance as their own, they are taking on the person and work of Jesus Christ as their own and applying it and I think that is and should be the ultimate goal of the Christian missionary task.

Good things are happening in China and the Far East!   And do take note, Liao Yiwu does say China is still in great need of missionaries, those who will go to the vast number of isolated (and unreached) villages to bring the gospel to those peoples!

Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Good J. Gresham Machen quote

as quoted in a book I am reading that given to me by a friend when we were down in Yuma a couple weeks ago:

The truth is that liberalism, has lost sight of the very center and core of the Christian teaching…. one attribute of God is absolutely fundamental in the Bible…. in order to render unintelligible the rest.  That attribute is the awful transcendence of God.  It is true, indeed, that not a sparrow falls to the ground without him.  But He is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and upholder of it.  Between the creature and the Creator, a great gulf is fixed.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 62-63, as quoted in Peter Jones, One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions), 53.

I appreciate that my friend gave this book to me – we shared with him about what’s going on here at the Canyon and it made him think this book and I guess he had an extra copy – it has helped me see that New Age Philosophy is on the way out in terms of its influence and instead warns us of the rise of what Jones calls Neopaganism.  Jones argues that “Western culture . . . is being hijacked by a spiritual ideology that I call Neopaganism” (p. 11 of the book).  Jones is effectively showing how and why this  Neopaganism is at the heart of radical environmentalism, various quests for spirituality, the more extreme elements of the social justice movement, and theological liberalism.

It’s a helpful book for me and will help me better understand some of the issues we face as we do ministry here in the Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim.   I think you might want to give it a look see yourself some time.

In essence there are only really two worldviews one can take on – the one-ism view that all is one and one is all and that through the one we can save ourselves and the creation – the old time pagan lie that began at the garden and which led to the fall of man.

Or two-ism, which is that there is the Creator and the creation and that the Creator (YHWH) is not the creation and vice versa – the God of the Christian Bible (YHWH) is the only true God and he is transcendent and apart from the creation.  He alone is to be worshiped, not the creation, which is the problem of one-ism and the neopagan belief about the world and creation.  We are not God or gods – only God is God.  If we deny the reality of the one true and transcendent God – we will fall susceptible to the lie of the devil and modern day pagan beliefs.  Plain and simple.

ps., the problem of neopaganism is why I won’t and don’t encourage people to participate in yoga.  It was predicted in the 1950’s by Carl Jung that Christians would be doing a baptized form of yoga and now we see it happening.  Sorry, not going to go there.

Evangelicalism only declining among White Christians?

go check out Greg Boyd’s latest note on how only White American Christianity is dyingThe book he cites sounds interesting and may comport well with statistics, at least in the Assemblies of God, that the fastest growing segment of AG churches are multicultural congregations.   So, maybe the American church isn’t dying afterall?

[here are some pertinent quotes to consider]:

First, it confirms a point driven home by Alan Hirsch in his great book Forgotten Ways: namely, that the Jesus-movement always tends to thrive in “luminous” situations (that is, in marginal social contexts). Conversely, it tends to grow stagnate once it gets embraced by those within the dominant culture.

As the history of the Church repeatedly shows, as soon as Christianity comes into power and respectability, it starts to decay.  The church invariably stops contrasting with the dominant culture — manifesting a radically different, Jesus-looking, way of life.  Rather, as it gains acceptance, respectability and power within the dominant culture, the church invariably starts to blend in with the culture.  Indeed, it is eventually reduced to the role of providing religious legitimization of the culture.  For example, rather than showing a different way of life by opposing all violence, the Church that has been acclimated to the dominant culture has more often than not served to assure people that their nation’s use of violence is divinely sanctioned.

White American Christianity has tended to exemplify this trend throughout its history.

What say you?