Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christian Apologetic Mission in Asia

This is the last part of Augurlion's article published in Missio Dei, a journal of missions and evangelism of Myanmar Institute of Theology. He argues that apologetic missions is a good and inoffensive method of sharing the Christian faith in a pluralistic Asia.

The Asian countries, especially the developing countries, are greatly affected by Globalization. The global influence of Western cultures is a threat to the Asian cultures which were designed to function appropriately in Asian society. The distortion of the Asian cultures can lead to the moral corruption of the society. In addition, the economic globalization creates a great social gap between the people of Asia. Though there are some aspects of development, poverty has become widespread along with population explosion and endemic diseases. The privileged become rich and the outcast become extremely poor. Violence, exploitation and corruption also weaken the society. The state, the market, and the civil society are the sectors which are functioning in the society. However, without religious influence these sectors can not function properly. There are some religious representatives in these three sectors, but their influences in these sectors are ambiguous. In fact, religious factors are important for the strength of the civil society. Kang Moon-Kyu insists:

Without integration of religious factors and strategic alliances with organized religion, civil society is unlikely to gain sufficient strength to counteract the status quo. Is it possible to bring to life the third-sector's [civil society] proclaimed values such as solidarity, compassion, non¬violence, human rights, peace promotion, and an end to r, oppression without seeking strategic alliances with the major religions of Asia: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam?
As Christianity shaped the culture and mentality of the Western people, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and also Christianity have shaped or enriched the culture and mentality of their adherences in Asia. The religion is an important sector for the cultivation of peaceful and moral society. It can control the social order even when the state fails to govern properly because religious consciousness is a driving force for people to live peacefully and morally. Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions have functioned in the Asian societies since before the arrival of Christianity and the emergence of the Democratic, Socialist, and Communist systems. Thus, it would be unfair to persuade the adherences of these religions to abandon their religio-cultures. In fact, the problems in Asia are too much for Christianity to handle without the cooperation of other religions. Through cooperation other religions can be used as the tools or channels for Christian service to the world. But the cooperation is possible only when the non-Christians put aside their negative views on Christianity and see Christian mission as a rewarding task. Apologetic mission is the only way to change the non-Christians' misperceptions of Christianity and its mission.

Christian apologetic mission in Asia is to defend Christianity from the theological attacks and various accusations of the non-Christians. The oppositions that the church has faced in Asia alert the church leaders to think of Christian mission in defensive terms, instead of aggressive terms. The objective of Apologetic mission is not to conquer or to win but to reduce the prejudice on Christianity. It is a humble explanation of ourselves, our faith, and our mission in a way comprehensible and inspiring to those who criticize and misunderstand us. Our explanation must be the answer to the questions and the informative argument to the critiques.

Apologetic mission can take place both in academic level and grassroots revel. Various models of contextualization and interfaith dialogue can be applied in both levels. But they must be applied not as the tools for proselytizing but as Medias for sharing, clarification and conscientization. The function of apologetic mission in academic level, as it was the case in the apologetic work of Origen, is to defend the theological attacks on Christianity and, at the same time, sharpen the spiritual and moral insights of the non-Christians in the light of their own religious philosophies. This work can be helpful to enhance a mutual enrichment and understanding between the religions and also create a possible way for the co-operation of the religions in Asia for a common service. To allow this to happen, the idea and practice of "unity in diversity" in the ecumenical movement need to be extended to other religions.

As "the unity for service" was an important factor for the churches in West, it is important for the religions in Asia. Religious pluralism and diversity in Asia will not allow any religion to universalize its belief. The attempt to universalize a religious belief will surely end with conflict and hostility as it was the case with the European Christianity in the Reformation and post-Reformation world. Religious and ethnic divisions in Asia are the threats to the integrity and solidarity of humanity in Asia. The mission of the church in this setting is not only to remove the prejudice of non-Christians but also to defend the integrity and solidarity of humanity by developing inclusive theologies and practice the ecumenical theme of "unity in diversity."

To be inclusive or ecumenical, Christianity needs to be adaptable to the every local culture. But, on the other hand, Christianity needs to preserve its uniqueness and distinctiveness. Apologetic mission also includes the defense of our Christian spirituality, morality and commitment to Christ. Robert L. Ramseyer insists:

As Christian we have experienced the fact that it is not always easy to develop deep personal relationships with the non-Christians around us... As Christians we are different. We have committed our lives to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and we want to follow Him. Therefore the ultimate authority by which Christians order their lives is different than it is for other people. This allegiance to Jesus Christ unites us as Christians and divides us from other people. At the same time, Christians have come from the general Christendom was successful from the late patristic period to the dawn of Reformation. Evangelists contributed very much to the growth of the Church in this period. However, the imperial power was the most significant sector for church growth. Under the direction and support of the imperial leaders the pagan nations were rapidly integrated into the Christendom. The use of imperial force in mission was the main factor that helped the growth of Christianity. However, such a kind of church growth can no longer happen.
The Medieval Christendom has become fragmented after Reformation. The rise of modernism and secularism has reduced Christianity to a private institution. Moreover, the rise of democratic rules and the post-modern pluralistic world provide no right for any religion to do proselytizing mission. In the areas, like Asia, where the majority are Hindus, Buddhists, and, Muslims, Christianity is a disregarded religion. There is no imperial power to support Christian mission. The government's support of the national religions and restriction of Christian mission make Christianization or aggressive evangelism impossible. Though the Patristic and Medieval model of Christian expansion is irrelevant to the Asian context, the patristic model of apologetic mission is still useful for the churches in Asia. Because of globalization the name Jesus and Christianity are no longer foreign to most people. Some non-Christians already have a general knowledge of Christian teachings. However, their perceptions of Christianity may be wrong. This is a challenge to the churches to defend Christianity through a humble explanation and clarification of Christian gospel, and by "living out" the gospel to the non-Christian neighbors. The objective of this sort of mission is to promote religious peace and to impose Christian mission spirit into the hearts of non-Christians so that all religions will work together for the success of the civil society and the spread of the Kingdom ofGod in Asia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's sounds just like what Jesus taught. He didn't oppose the religious sects and said we all just need to live together peacefully, NOT! It is one thing to defend the gospel intellectually, another to be a representative and one propelling the truth, building the Kingdom of God. The Word of God clearly states there is only ONE way, JESUS. To accept other religions implies agreement, thus voiding the truth. If I were a nonbeliever and someone told me Jesus is the only way, yet allowed and accepted my current religion (darkeness) I'd question that persons love for me or disregard their religion because it is so easily compromised. Our battle is not with flesh and blood, it is a spiritual battle. If you think that YOU can change the minds of others, you are decieved. Only the Spirit of God can do that. We need to learn to COMPLETELY TRUST GOD. That means teaching, preaching, living the TRUTH. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO THE FATHER, period!! To allow others to go on living in the darkness and finding a way to reason out a compromise, is sin. I agree we need to defend the truth and apologetics is truths that all Christians must know and use to build their faith and others. It is a valuable and awesome way to shine the light (truth) on a those in darkness. However, we can not accept other false religions and live in peace with them.

God's blessing, Ed (Virginia USA)