by Various authors
The story of Taiwan’s miracle of modernization and progress is well-known. Just a casual glance in American department stores and shopping malls illustrates the fact that Taiwan continues to be a major supplier of consumer goods.
Relevant Cultural Counseling: The Reshaping of a Viable Institutional Structure Towards Social Reintegration
The story of Taiwan’s miracle of modernization and progress is well-known. Just a casual glance in American department stores and shopping malls illustrates the fact that Taiwan continues to be a major supplier of consumer goods. This technological sophistication and its accompanying tendency towards materialism have had a great impact upon the society of Taiwan. Family disharmony, marital conflict, an increasing divorce rate, and sexual permissiveness, both before and within marriage, are creating large cracks in the once solid Chinese social structure.
There may be other institutionalized efforts or agencies developed to alleviate such conditions, but this dissertation addresses itself primarily to such functions within the limited context of Taiwanese-Christianity.
While the society is undergoing a transition of major significance, the church in Taiwan is undergoing a form of "social shock," the cure for which seemingly depends upon the initiative of other agencies specially prepared and trained to solve such maladies. The result has been the constant introduction of new ideas, models, programs and principles whose success ratios are measured in terms of Western orientation. Thus, ministry in many Asian nations continues to be guided by principles whose origins are outside of the local situation, A result of "guidance" is neglect of the development of adequate Asian models for certain conventional roles within the Christian ministry in the Asian context, one of which is the personal counselor’s role that has come only from the West, This fact was emphasized by the director of an Asian counseling center when he related that, "No Asian model for counseling exists, and currently, no Asian-based Asians are writing on counseling theory." This dearth of relevant counselor models, coupled with the demands of a transitional society, have rendered the church of Taiwan impotent at the place of one of the society’s greatest needs.
Traditionally, it was the entire social structure, integrated functionally with every aspect of life (rather than a single institution) which orchestrated the cultural expectations of social interaction. Christianity, as in many non-Western cultures, was seldom transmitted with the expectation of its integrating functionally with every aspect of life, but was accepted by individuals and later by "congregations" only within the Western conception, of the "sacred." Thus, the church of Taiwan is not prepared to deal with the fundamental issues involved in cultural and community reintegration. These issues, as expressed by 35 pastors in personal interviews with this writer, include: socially unacceptable behavior of children; premarital sex bringing into question the "purity" of the family line; growing isolation of elders from the mainstream of family affairs; increasing use of pornographic materials for home use; the increasing sexual difficulties in marriage due to extra-marital affairs; broken marriages; and a host of other social ills. It is not the fact that any of the above mentioned are new to the Asian context, but it is the scope of these difficulties that is the cause of alarm.
The following community model is offered as an approach that is culturally relevant to the church. It anticipates but does not necessitate a positive working relationship between local church leaders and foreign support personnel. This model proposes to incorporate three existing elements of the Chinese society into a workable and working relationship that will promote family and societal integration and also provide a means of group and individual problem-solving. These three elements are: the community center, the local school system, and the local Protestant assembly.
The Community Center: Reinforcing Chinese Ideals, This first phase envisions a qualified leader lecturing on issues of community concern, e.g., filial piety, modern-traditional marriages, relationships and communication, and family unity. The important aspect of this type of interaction is that the Chinese specialist relates from a culturally-recognizable viewpoint of Chinese ideals and not necessarily from a Christian orientation. The object is to be recognized as an authority on social issues with growing individual credibility and "face."
The Local School: Building Social Expectation. This phase of the model envisions not only teaching social issues and thereby possibly generating counseling opportunities, but also interacting with the educational elite of the area. In this phase the foreign supporting person might be able to assist the foreign language department of the school.
The Local Christian Assembly: Demonstrating Biblical injunctions. The final phase of this model envisions the local assembly functioning in its most effective social role: the redemptive community. As the church models the harmony and security of yesterday’s generation, school ‘and community center visitors (due to cultural conditioning) will from time to time make their way to the local assembly. As kindness and comfort lead to trust, and provide opportunity to embrace new values and methods of social integration and problem solving, the church will be able to assume a counseling function in Taiwan’s modernizing society, and Taiwanese pastors will recognize their roles in a more holistic ministry to family, congregation, and community.
The Problem of Methodology in African Christian Theologies
Life is full of assumptions. Academic life is no exception. So, in this study I assume that theology, regardless of definition, occupies a strategic position between biblical studies and preaching. The task of the preacher or gospel communicator is to make the message of the Bible specific to his audience. Theology should help him achieve that goal, because theology helps us make Scripture address questions raised by our contemporaries. This is especially so if we define theology as disciplined reflection on the Word of God. Sound theology always bridges the gap between the text of Scripture and its hearers. Consequently, theology is always context specific. That is why we speak of "African Christian theologies."
In one way, the debate on African theology is a classic case of getting the cart before the oxen. I am not suggesting that methodological considerations were absent from the writings of the various theologians until now. Rather, I am sharing with you my surprise at the discovery that methodological discussions are recent in African Christian theologies. One would have thought that this would be the starting point. The first realization was, for me, that methodology is indeed a problem in African Christian theologies. Then what?
There are, of course, many ways of responding to discoveries such as the one just mentioned. One way is to say: "Isn’t that interesting?" But, then, big deal. Others have discovered that, too. Another way is to investigate further by asking the question: Why is this so? I chose the latter route. I proceeded to answer the question: Why is methodology a problem in African Christian theologies? by looking at the wider intellectual context of contemporary Africa. After all, African theologians do not theologize in a vacuum. They are influenced by their times, whether they realize it or not, whether they like it or not. I examined the general intellectual context of current Africa in Part One of my dissertation under the heading "Methodology in Context." Interestingly, the major concern of African intellectuals is the problem of defining African identity or specificity. This, of course, relates to theology, for one cannot make theology specific unless one knows what "specificity" is being addressed.
The quest for African identity has been greatly influenced by the discipline of anthropology and by anthropologists in general. The problem, however, is that the findings of anthropologists concerning African religions and philosophy are more useful to foreigners. This is so because the discipline of anthropology seeks to make outsiders understand "strange" cultures. Consequently, the indiscriminate use of anthropological data by African theologians cannot produce a Christian theology arising from African contexts. Such a theology is always a little foreign. You would agree, I hope, that this is a serious methodological weakness.
Part One, then, is a rather general statement. But, can the above criticism be proved in the writings of contemporary African theologians? I think so. That is what I tried to do in Part Two. I selected four theologians from. sub-Saharan Africa: J. S. Mbiti, T. Tshibangu, J. S. Pobee, and A. T. Sanon. Mbiti, a well-known African theologian, is a Kenyan and an Anglican churchman. Tshibangu, a Catholic bishop and academic theologian, is from Zaire. Pobee, from Ghana, is a professor of religious studies and a Protestant. Sanon, Catholic bishop of Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), has focused on African theology and the relationship between Christianity and traditional religion. As you can see, the four authors represent a large spectrum of African Christianity. Their methodological approaches to African theology have similarities as well as differences. One main similarity is the use of data supplied by anthropological studies of African societies. So, despite the strengths of each methodological approach, they all tend to operate in the realm of abstract generalizations. Given what I said above about the role of theology, these abstract and generalized systems of ideas cannot deal adequately with specific problems encountered by African Christians. This points to the need for an alternative methodology. I tried to develop a tentative alternative methodology in Part Three of the dissertation.
In Part Three I have attempted to show how a proper methodology can lead to the development of a theology that is both specific and Christian. Such a methodology involves, at the very least, three main elements: the wider community in its cultural and religious dimensions, the church that is being addressed, and the interpretation of biblical revelation. You will note that this methodology deliberately focuses on a limited area. It does not attempt to produce a general Christian theology with an African flavor or color. Rather, it emphasizes the need for Scripture to continually correct the life and thought of Christians in specific contexts. The method suggested here is similar to what Lewis S. Mudge calls a theological ethnography. By this he means that we must know the church’s thinking before we can address its needs meaningfully. (See Mudge’s article, "Thinking About the Church’s Thinking: Toward a Theological Ethnography" in the Spring issue, 1984, of Theological Education.) If this were done, especially in cross-cultural situations, theology would fulfill its strategic role. In that way African Christian theologies would be truly African and truly Christian.
No doubt some of you wonder about the implications of a dissertation on African Christian theologies for your own immediate concerns. You will notice that I did not say that African theology must be non-Western in order to be African. Indeed that is not the crucial matter. We should rather ask: Does our theology allow the Bible to speak to the concerns of African Christians? If that enterprise leads to a different theology, so be it. If it only leads to a different emphasis in theology, we should also rejoice. That is why I have suggested that the alternative methodology proposed here means that theology must be prescriptive.
The term prescriptive is, of course, an analogy taken from the field of medicine. No doctor prescribes a remedy without a diagnosis. Likewise, theologians and gospel communicators cannot assume that what they say and write is the appropriate remedy unless they know the receptors and their "diseases." That requires that theology move from the realm of systems of ideas to the arena of the practice of piety. The practice of piety is what all of us, cross-cultural workers as well as mono-cultural servants, are called to inculcate to the people under our care. May God help us to always view this as the final goal of our theologizing.
An Investigation into the Current Zulu Worldview and Its Relevance to Missionary Work
G. Dal Congdon
In exploring what a people’s beliefs are today, we acknowledge that the traditional ideas of a former time may have changed. Has the modern Zulu abandoned 19th century traditional thought patterns, or has he, despite modern influences, retained his historic spiritist worldview?
South Africa is commonly held to be the most predominantly Christian country on the African continent. The great majority of the blacks in southern Africa are church members. Might missionaries to the Zulus, then, be clinging to an antiquated perception if they believe they are still dealing with animists?
Examining a current worldview requires that we find its historical background for a starting point. Then, once a body of tradition has been compiled, care must be taken in interpreting it. Different genres of literature, such as fiction, scientific treatise, or whatever, have much to do with the various ways the reader understands them. So the ancient oral tradition of Zululand was of different sorts. While worldview formulation may surface in folk tales, proverbs or praise songs, these also contain humor and nonsensical ideas. The safest references to worldview content are expressions of plainly sober subjects. Even here the Westerner may misjudge the material, so I discovered that the counsel of Zulu teaching colleagues, students, and pastors was necessary in determining where earnest opinion was reflected in source materials.
In the project undertaken the major interest was in how present-day Zulus view their universe, both those who profess the Christian faith and those who do not. What effect has Christianity had in this regard? The foundational research question was this: In a test of belief in traditional worldview, is there a difference among Zulus with various levels of involvement in Christianity? Objectives of the study were to examine (!) what a sample of Zulus surveyed had to say about their culture and beliefs; (2) what their response may indicate about their religious views of the entire Zulu population, especially where evangelical Christianity is concerned, and (3) what it may suggest about more effective missionary service.
The Conflict. An excerpt from Table 1 will indicate responses on two matters of importance to the missionary:
Question Asked: Does an ancestral spirit accompany a person to protect him and bring him good fortune?
Yes – 69.6%
Indefinite – 18.3%
No – 12.1%
Yes – 88.6%
Indefinite – 6.8%
No – 4.5%
Question Asked: Was Jesus Christ who lived on the earth the Supreme Being?
Yes – 58.9%
Indefinite – 17.7%
No – 23.4%
Yes – 40.9%
Indefinite – 36.4%
No – 22.7%
These two items are fundamental to the issues dividing spiritism and Christianity. Notice that fewer professing Christians affirmed the deity of Christ than expressed dependence upon the ancestral spirits for problems connected with daily living.
Interpretation. Not all the 88 opinion questions can be given here, nor can we present the demographic influences that appeared in the answer patterns, but certain interpretations of the study will be suggested.
The project results should not be taken as inferring that there are no orthodox believers in Zulu churches; there certainly are. But the responders to this survey constituted a random sample (as regards religion), and represented the large public majority who are not only referred to statistically as Christians, but who also answer in the coding questions that they have indeed trusted Jesus Christ.
The outcome of the survey challenges the word "Christian" as it has been popularly used of Zulus. There is no question of South Africa’s role within conventional Christendom. The evangelical concept of "Christian," however, relates to persons whose Savior and divine Lord is Jesus Christ. His identity stands in total conflict with all forms of idolatrous practices and beliefs that assign his offices and prerogatives to others. This does not question the sincerity of the many Zulus who profess to be Christians; it does deplore superficial evangelism and unscriptural teaching that can. lead to invalid and premature confessions.
South African syncretism has been explained in several ways: (1) Western-type evangelistic forays, irrelative to Africa, have presented an inappropriate message, (2) Where formalized Christianity has proved powerless, African church members have resorted to nativistic religion in seeking to meet felt needs, (3) Christianity has become secularized under the civil system, A baptismal certificate serves as an identity document for obtaining other, more essential certification for employment or application for residence. (4) A resurgence of cultic magical arts and witchcraft in black townships has been associated with the desire for protection from crime and violence.
However, the chief reason that a nominal Christianity has been encapsulated within paganism may ultimately prove to be the Christian advocates’ failure to deal with worldview. A catechumen may give a good account of himself on the tenets of Christianity without receiving a meaningful explanation of how these truths relate to his set of core values and beliefs.
Application of the Project’s Findings to Missionary Work.
All of us must struggle with the relationship between what Paul Feinberg has described as the normative pole of Scripture and the relative pole of culture. A major part of the project outlined here was to relate bipolar "directional" or "dialogical" models that prove effective for gospel presentation within the Zulus’ frame of reference. The approaches illustrated by these bipolar models help to bring the spiritist to a "basic change of allegiance" wherein he looks to God, and not to spirits, for his "life force."
Donald Jacobs has written that "a cosmology of power sources is at the very center of a group’s existence" and that "if Jesus is not a part of a person’s cause and effect concepts, he remains an interesting but irrelevant figure " If we propose that Christ enter a life with authority over the powers presently in control, we must identify those present powers. Naturally, it requires sensitivity to deal with beings which the people mistakenly revere as family members. That process constitutes another of the concerns of this project.
The Savior can, and must, be shown as relevant to the Zulu worldview. He has abundantly transcended all the Zulus have sought in ritual cleansing, sacrifice, spirit meditation, and the services of diviner and priest. The heart of the matter is the enthronement of the Almighty where a mythological pantheon of creators and sustainers has been enthroned, and the raising of converts toward a power dynamic unimagined in Zulu tradition.
Christopagan peoples come to a vital faith only when Christ is encountered as Lord at the core of their world-view. The promotion of this encounter by relating Christ effectually to the respondents’ worldview must be a controlling objective of missionary work, if it aims to establish a truly Christian church.
1. Paul D. Feinberg, "An Evangelical Approach to the Contextualization of Theology," paper presented at the Third Consultation on Theology and Mission," Deerfield, III. March, 1983.
2. Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical ‘Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1979), p. 363.
3. Donald R, Jacobs, "Culture and Phenomena of Conversion: Reflections in an East Africa Setting," Gospel in Context, July 1978, p. 9.
Films for Teaching Missions
Harvie M. Conn
Teachers of missions in every context can enhance their ministry by the use of films such as those below. Our purpose here is not primarily to comment on the films per se, but to evaluate their usefulness for the missions instructor, especially in the Bible college or seminary. Users in conferences and classes in the local church may also find this evaluation useful. The films in this column are 16 mm motion pictures, in English, and currently available on a rental basis in North America. The rental and purchase prices quoted are subject to change. Prices may also differ from one outlet to another.
Our rating system is as follows:
*** Very Good
** Average *
To Every People ****
This color film series was originally produced for Urbana ’81. It makes a creative and informative use of graphics and photography. The films contain excellent introductions to the four major cultural settings that represent the majority of the world’s "unreached peoples," The limited time run of all four films makes them useable either together in one class hour, or as separate presentations in a brief chapel time.
The four films are: "Good News for the Tribal World" (10 minutes); "Good News for the Hindu World" (14 minutes); "Good News for the Muslim World" (13 minutes); "Good News for the Chinese World" (13 minutes). Twenty-one Hundred Productions.
A color dramatization of the sending of the first two Moravian missionaries from Herrnhut, Saxony, to St. Thomas, West Indies, in 1732. Excellent attention is given to historical detail in costuming and backgrounds. The photography is well done. As with too many Christian films, however, this film is extremely weak in acting and script. There is too much use of overvoice narrative. Nevertheless, "First Fruits" received five awards, including the "best film"’ category by Christian Film Distributors Association in 1983. It can be helpfully augmented for class discussion by a 16-page resource guide prepared to accompany the film (Christian History, Vol. 1, No. 1, $2.50).
Length of film: 70 minutes. Gateway Films.
Glass House ***
This is a color film parable in Swedish with English sub-titles. An affluent man attempts to aid the hungry with faulty remedies and finds it necessary to build a "glass house" to protect himself from the hungry people surrounding him. The film is best used in initiating class discussion on Christian social responsibility. It is very weak in its attention to the role of evangelism. Note, then, that this film is not to be relied on to provide remedies for the problem it presents; it only seeks to highlight the problem. Suggested collateral reading: Lausanne Occasional Papers No. 21: Grand Rapids Report-Evangelism and Social Responsibility, an Evangelical Commitment (Wheaton, IL: Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and the World Evangelical Fellowship, 1982).
Length of film: 11 minutes. Teleketics.
The Healer ***
"The Healer" is a documentary of an American Mary-knoll priest working among the Aymara Indians of Peru. It portrays in a strongly sympathetic way the effort of the priest to understand the Christopaganism of the Indian culture through the development of a friendship with a traditional healer. The film can be used in several ways-as an illustration of one Roman Catholic approach to traditional religion; as an introduction to animism in South America; or as a lead-in to the whole issue of contextualization and the relation between the gospel and culture. In connection with this last purpose, it will need some preshowing warnings and an extensive debriefing by the instructor. All in all, it constitutes a very stimulating case study.
Length of film: 24 minutes. Maryknoll World Films.
Islam: Unlocking the Door ***
A documentary with overview narrative by Don McCurry of the Samuel Zwemer Institute, this film makes extensive usage of footage from the Iranian hostage crisis. This dates it somewhat and can tend to leave the uninstructed viewer with a picture of contemporary Islam as a violent system. But overall the film is still very effective. It explores the myths that have hampered Christian-Muslim relations, and suggests an approach to sharing’ Christ with Muslims. Suggested collateral readings; Phil Parshall, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980); Don McCurry, ed., The Gospel and Islam (Monrovia, CA; MARC, 1979).
Length of film: 35 minutes.World Vision International.
Peace Child ****
In my judgment, this is the best missionary film in many years. It is a semi-documentary account of the work of Don Richardson among the Sawi people of Irian Jaya. It focuses on the discovery of the "redemptive antilogy" as a bridge for sharing the gospel through the Sawi myth of the "peace child." The film constitutes an excellent case study of important aspects of contextualization. It requires some debriefing by the instructor in drawing this lesson out of the film. The narrative power of the film can easily overpower its pedagogical value for the classroom.
Length of film: 30 minutes Christian Cinema, Inc.
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