Simon Chan’s Grassroots Asian Theology is not the typical East meets West dialog where the West dominates the doctrinal outcome. Instead, Chan’s Ecumenical focus promotes a Biblical theology for the development of an “amazed recognition” by Christians and theologians. My goal is to examine Chan’s work for ideas, themes, and links to further my study and understanding into the problem with spiritual warfare. This post will look at three reviews, explore how Chan’s perspective contributes to leadership, and discuss ancestor worship in the Asian context.
Three reviews of Chan’s work include Nguyen, Woo, and Tran. First, Nguyen says that Chan “brings Asian grassroots Pentecostalism as an authentic flavor” into the scope of the global church to help contrast the ways of thinking between East vs West Christology. Second, Woo discusses how the center of gravity for Christianity has shifted from Europe and North America to the Global South including Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Furthermore, Woo claims that China will be the largest Christian nation in the world. He credits Chan for offering a text that describes how to “do theology” from the ground up. Third, Tran summarizes Chan’s work into a Pentecostal theology that focuses on family, dealing with honor and shame, and the “engagement with deceased ancestors.”
Chan’s perspective on Asian leadership is based in honor and shame as opposed to the Western theme of guilt and sin. His viewpoint on the “hybridization” of spiritual warfare by the more contemporary idea of “prayer walking” was valuable to my research. I was also intrigued with his application of the honor-shame template to interpret Paul’s use of righteousness. For example, the breastplate of righteousness in Ephesians 6:14 viewed from the Western guilt-sin motif represents the supernatural imputing of Christ’s justice, morality, and virtues into our account with God. Applying the honor-shame lens to the same verse helps the believer save face, relieves family stress, and restores honor with God through Christ’s work on the cross. I also liked how Chan reinforces that Satan was defeated by Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. The cross was not a theological mouse-trap where Satan took the bait under the guise of His humanity. Instead, Chan systematically details how Christ’s victory over Satan was both legal and ontological. I relate this to the armor of God doctrine because putting on Christ in our daily walk is how we, wearing Christ, can exercise his authority and power in an ongoing and active resistance toward Satan’s use of principalities and powers.
Ancestral veneration, according to Nguyen, is a controversial practice that may need further exploration and discussion for the larger Christian audience; but it aptly fits the Asian context. Tran believes Chan is trying to create discussion for Asian contextual issues, like ancestor worship, that face ordinary believers in their daily experiences. I reflected on our Cape Town Advance and Winston Mahlatse’s conversion story and breakaway from his tribe’s practice with ancestor worship in South Africa. He was brought up believing prayers had to go through his dead ancestors first. He described Ancestorism a as place where the dead reside and exist until enough family rituals are fulfilled to help them move into their final spiritual realm. Much like the Asian ancestral veneration system, which believes the dead can influence “fortune of the living,” those who practice this belief are left paralyzed in shame and fear.
I think Chan could use Winston’s new worldview that he shared at the LGP Advance, “I was born to God before I was born to my parents.” While I do not support the idea of worshipping ancestors, I remember Dr. Clark’s advice to LGP8 that was given right after Winston spoke to our class. Dr. Clark challenged LGP students not to get so caught up in their academic advances by asking us to reflect on the idea that the DMin program could be dangerous for our doctoral health. He encouraged us saying, “Don’t become so Heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” I thought of that when I was ready to throw out Chan and his position on giving the new Christian some space to still deal with the cultural challenges of their dead ancestors. I prefer the Biblical principle that Paul uses to describe what happens to a Christian when they die before Christ’s return saying, “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” I also like Christ’s final exchange on the cross when he told the penitent thief that he would be with Him in Paradise today, literally meaning that as soon as they both died, Christ would take him to heaven with him.
In summary, Chan gives a good Asian biased type of systematic theology that tries to unite, or at least create space, for religious diversity on some Biblical doctrines. While they may not be negotiable to most of us in LGP8, Chan gives us strong contextual views that will help prepare us for the Hong Kong 2018 Advance. I found some helpful ideas and recognized theological differences in how the Eastern Christian must prepare for spiritual warfare. I think Chand does a good job helping challenge the DMin student. I look forward to being stretched again as we try to stand firm in our personal theologies while making some spiritual white-board space to draw up some Biblical strategies. While most of these might be outside our theological comfort zones, we may yet find some spiritual tactical options that lead to Gospel solutions.