"Theological ideas are created on the European continent, corrected in England,corrupted in America, and crammed into Asia," said one theologian. Because of rising nationalism and reassertion of traditional values in Asia, shoving "the white man's Christianity" upon Asians is no longer advisable.
In order to understand Asian theology one must examine distinctions between Eastern and Western cultures. Since the end of World War II, Asian theologians have been seeking liberation from Western theologies in order to make the gospel more relevant to their own life situations. Historically, the development of Asian theology is closely related to the development of indigenization in the early twentieth century and to the recent development of the concept of contextualization in missions. The International Missionary Council in Jerusalem in 1930 stressed that the Christian message must be expressed in national and cultural patterns with liturgy, church music, dance, drama, and building structures accentuating national features. This emphasis on using indigenous art forms and structures was carried over into the area of theology.
For example, Kanzo Uchimura, founder of a noted Non Church Movement in Japan, emphasized a Japanese theology: "If Christianity is literally just one, then what a monotonous religion it is." He stated that just as there are German, English, Dutch, and American theologies, Japan should have a Japanese theology. He wanted Christianity expressed from the viewpoint of the Japanese; he wanted a Japanese Christianity.
In the early 1970s the Theological Education Fund introduced a new term, "contextualization," during the Third Mandate Period (1972 - 77). The concept of indigenization was taken one step further by applying it in the area of mission, theological approach, and educational method and structure. Contextualization takes into account the processes of secularity, technology, and the struggles for human justice which characterize the history of nations in Asia. Asian theologians, therefore, have used the concepts of indigenization and contextualization to justify the development of Asian theologies.
Many theologians argue that God's revelation came to us in the Scriptures through a specific cultural form, such as in the NT when God used the Jewish and hellenistic cultures to record his revelation. Therefore the gospel must also be translated today into the particular forms of Asian cultures, and consequently numerous Asian theologies claim to represent Asian cultural forms: pain of God theology (Japan), water buffalo theology (Thailand), third eye theology (for the Chinese), minjung theology (Korea), theology of change (Taiwan), and a score of other national theologies such as Indian theology, Burmese theology, and Sri Lanka theology. The proliferation of Asian theologies has escalated markedly since the 1960s and will continue to multiply in the future. This will undoubtedly produce enormous impact on as well as conflict and confusion in theological institutions and Christian churches in Asia.
The major proponents of Asian theology have been liberal theologians of mainline denominational seminaries. An increasing number of evangelical theologians have sharply reacted against the concept of Asian theology. Other evangelicals are insisting on the necessity of it.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
BELIEVE Religious Information Source has an interesting article about Asian Theology in Ellwel Dictionary of Theology The article concludes that "liberal theologians" are the one who are helping Asian theologians to develop their own indigenous theologies rooted from their own experience of the saving power of the gospel and their native cultures. Of course the other side of it is the implication that evangelical (read: conservative) theologians are reacting against the development of Asian Theologies. Here is the excerpt: