I'm hoping to teach theology and culture here soon. Teaching younger Christian Pastors and leaders about theology here in the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Teaching in the mission field is not an easy task. I can hardly find the time to study and find the materials I needed to teach. I left my notes and books which are handful anyway because I could not really afford to buy imported books for they cost a fortune in Philippine peso. My theologian (younger) sister helped me out of this predicament by sending me the materials she used in teaching theology and culture class in the Philippines. I think it is a good idea to post some of the interesting ideas in here. This one is from Taiwanese theologian, a distinguished Professor of Theology and Asian Culture from Pacific School of Religon, Dr. Choan-Seng Song.
C.S. Song invites young theologians to do theology by using their third-eye, not the first nor second-eye-or a two-dimensional theology. Third-eye theology is derived from the Zen Buddhism in which there is an unheard-of region shut away from believers because of ignorance. Theology need not be seen only from the eye of the Germans as in what the Reformation represents. Theologians should not only see Jesus through the German eyes, nor American eyes but it should be seen also through the Japanese-eyes, African-eyes, Filipino-eyes, Latin American-eyes, Burmese-eyes and through multi-cultural eyes.
Song says that throughout the centuries, Jesus has been presented from the expression of the artist’s concept under the strong influence of their cultural and religious background. The face of Christ in art can be typological study of the cultural, national, and ethnic influences of the different artists: Donatelo’s Christ is marred with excruciating pain appealing to emotions—loneliness, abandonment, and the anguish of the voluntary sacrifice to atone the world from sins; Guido Reni’s face of Christ reflects physical suffering dominating all other pains, exaggerating the sentiments which is considered to be the evil-effects of Counter-Reformation; Giichro Hayakawa pictures the Christ with outstretched arms and nailed folded feet but in his face was no evidence of physical pain but deep contemplation on concentrating his all for the salvation of humankind.
Artists express their comprehension of Christ from their personal, historical, and cultural perspectives or context. This fact is not surprising because even the disciples viewed Jesus differently. Jesus Christ, for Christians, is the concrete expression of “who God is” and therefore, most Christians start doing the task of theology beginning with him. Who Jesus is and how he is relevant to the people of the culture is a good start.
I believe that this concept is true in proclamation of the gospel in a Buddhist country. With the shifting focus on the narrative aspect of theology, the telling and interpretation of the stories of Jesus is a good starting point in doing theology in Indochina where Christ is virtually unknown.