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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Community Theology

Written by: on June 7, 2018

   “Miriam-Prophetess and Sisters”  http://www.asianchristianart.org/art_d’souza.html

Author Chan explored the views, culture, philosophy, tradition, and theology of faith and beliefs in the Christian community. His discussions focused on how Asian Theology should be developed.  He also included the views of other religions including the Muslim, Catholics, and Jewish. He stated that the Church and tradition need to be inclusive of its role in the Scripture. (12) As a Church, we often have drifted from our purpose and traditions identified in the scriptures and slightly embellished the church with our cultural experiences. For example, the church has substituted the membership with a Church organization as an indication that you are a believer in Jesus Christ community. Some churches are blind to those who are not members of their church body. Chan says, “theology is ratified in the church by the laity’s ‘amen’; without it, theology is merely the imposition of the theologian’s own ideas.” (16) He believes that the theologians must consider the ecclesiastical, as well as, the contextual theology in presenting their position. He made reference to the Chinese theologian, Archie Lee, on contextual theology that it can challenge the culture in discerning its own sins and weaknesses. Jackson Wu review of Chan’s book was similar to my thoughts. He summarized saying “He reminds us that theology is a community activity. Theologizing requires us to depend on the Spirit and listen to the local, global, and historical church. Furthermore, he challenges us to humbly reconsider how our own cultural lens influences the way we read the Bible.” [1]

Chan spoke on the Asian theologians. He felt that the elite theologians did not give high opinions on these theologians: Watchman Nee and Wang Ming Dao. He says they are ignored because they are not in alignment with their work presentation. (56) He makes a point to describe Asian Theologians as nonprogressive in their view and presentation. Discernment needs to be apart of their presentation. Kristeen Kim states there are “four criteria’s for discernment: the ecclesial, ethical, charismatic and liberational which constitutes conclusive proof of the Spirit’s presence.” (25).

Chan spoke on Folk Christianity – Pentecostal Charismatic Movement. “It embodies an ecclesial experience that could be found in practically every ecclesiastical body.” (30) I shared thoughts on the outward acts of those in the movement. According to Singaporean sociologist Daniel Goh, “the Pentecostal worship ritual of ‘the raising of hands with palms facing out and up’ as an example of transfiguring the Chinese ritual of baishen (worship) in which the palms are always brought together. The practice of the ‘prayer walk’ understood as ‘spiritual warfare’ is an example of hybridization. Here, the ritual is similar, but the tools of ‘enemies’ (Chinese religion) are now turned against them. To understand the changed practices and beliefs as transfiguration and hybridization are not to deny the need for discernment, but rather to recognize the need to fine-tune the discernment process.” (32). He believes that the folk Christianity has more of an effect on theology than the elite theologians want to acknowledge.

Chan’s view on the Asian theology is that “Saphir Athyal, in an important essay on theological methodology, proposes that Asian theology must be systematized around contextual issues in Asia.” (41) In addition, “A more adequate way of organizing an Asian theology is to center it in the doctrine of the triune God as the divine family.” (42) He points out that the First two persons identified in the Triune God is the Father and the Son. The believers in the Triune God are families. The scriptures say that we are all members of one body.  Bob Trube believed Chan’s book discussion on the Asian theologians contribution are important. He summarized it saying:

  1. An understanding of the Trinity as “divine family” provides both challenges and attractions vis a vis other religious beliefs including the personal versus the impersonal, and the model of an ordered family that serves as a grounds for the culturally important human families of Asian cultures.
    2. An understanding of human sin as bringing dishonor upon the divine family and resulting in shame.
    3. An understanding of Christ as the one who bears shame and re-orders and reconciles disordered family relationships, between people and God and people with each other, as the one who delivers from illnesses, poverty, and oppressive spirits. Particularly interesting was the understanding of Christ as the “ancestor-mediator” addressing the questions of ancestor veneration that are so central in much of Asian family life.
    4. A pentecostally informed understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit who unites and empowers the church to face both the world of spirits and human brokenness, bringing, healing, wholeness, and relationship with God.
    5. Finally, he articulates an idea of the church as a community of “contrast” and yet one that lives in “the communion of the saints” that extends to the dead. In this last, and on the basis of the discussion of Christ as the “ancestor mediator” he allows for the possibility of prayers for or even preaching to the dead that they too may be reconciled to Christ looking toward the day of the marriage feast of the Lamb when that communion will be visible to all and fully realized. [2]

Chan’s book is a good conversation starter towards one to consider discernment and other criteria’s in developing a theological platform.

 

 

1 Jackson Wu, The Melios -The Gospel Coalition, Volume 39 Issue 3, accessed June 6, 2018, http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/review/grassroots-asian-theology-thinking-the-faith-from-the-ground-up.

[2] Bob Trube, Emerging Scholars Blog, September 2015, accessed June 6, 2018,  https://blog.emergingscholars.org/2015/09/book-review-grassroots-asian-theology/

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

3 responses to “Community Theology”

  1. Mary says:

    Lynda, this is such an important point, “Some churches are blind to those who are not members of their church body. ” Looking at this after reading Haidt’s book really drives home the point that we must not think our own theology is the only correct one. Like Stu pointed out, there is one set of orthodox truths, but every culture is going to express its life in Christ in different ways.
    Like you I appreciated Chan’s emphasis on grassroots theology. Top theologians comprise a small group – the rest of us make up the majority and we’re busy taking the gospel of love and healing to the everyday people.
    I love your picture of Miriam!

  2. Jim Sabella says:

    Thanks for your post, Lynda. I agree that Christianity has more of an effect on theology than the elite theologians want to acknowledge. Practice has more impact on theology than most realize. Contextualization is always taking place whether we realize it or not. You make a good point. Thanks, Lynda.

  3. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    “He reminds us that theology is a community activity. Theologizing requires us to depend on the Spirit and listen to the local, global, and historical church. ” Yes what a great point. Theology cannot happen in isolation but must include laity, the Spirit and the church as a whole.

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