Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thailand bans YouTube

We don’t have access to YouTube. The Thai government blocked our access to it and other internet sites containing materials that denigrate the country’s monarch. The ban came after Google, YouTube owner refused to remove the video clip that depicts the most loved and honored monarch with clown features painted onto his face and an image of feet pasted over his head. This gesture having the feet over one’s head can be considered as an insult in Thailand.

I am not a Thai, but I admire the King just like the Thais do. I believe the King deserves the honor, love and adoration that his subjects are giving to him. Thailand is what it is right now because of the character and the influence of its monarch. It is hard to imagine Thailand without its King. The King loves freedom and it is because of his benevolence that Christians today are enjoying so much freedom preaching the gospel and doing their social ministries.

There is certainly free speech in Thailand but there are two subjects that should be avoided to be discussed openly and those are the Royal family and Buddhism. Nobody should publicly denigrate either institution. Recently, a Swiss national was sentenced to 10 year imprisonment for spray painting over images of the King and Queen while drunk.

Thailand Hospitality Tattler rightfully says that:

The ban on YouTube seems to have touched off a wave of retaliation with Thaifreespeeches’ video leading the way, according to one newspaper report we read. Whether or not this will play out as they predict is subject to conjecture. The next few days will probably tell. But why does anyone have to do something like this in the first place? It is just because they can? Or does showing disrespect to the Thai King serve some greater purpose, and if so what could it possibly be? We have no answers to these questions and even though we’re journalists and believe strongly in the right to free speech we cannot condone this sort of mindless disrespect for someone who does not deserve it. Some things still should remain sacred and while we don’t believe there are a lot of them remaining in this day and age, the Thai monarchy is certainly one of them.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bonhoeffer on True Prayer

True prayer is done in secret, but this does not rule out the fellowship of prayer altogether, however, clearly we may be aware of its dangers. In the last resort it is immaterial whether we pray in the open street or in the secrecy of our chambers, whether briefly or lengthily, in the Litany of the Church, or with the sigh of one who knows not what he should pray for. True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our heavenly Father knows our needs. That makes God the sole object of our prayers, and frees us from a false confidence in our own prayerful efforts.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 183

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Asian Theology

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:

"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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Theological training

In three weeks we will start our Mission Training School. Our goal is to train seven people who are called by God to be church leader or church planter. We hope and pray that after nine months they will return to their respective tribal villages equipped to share the gospel, plant a church and shepherd the flocks.

Together with other missionaries and a local pastor, we form a team of teachers that would facilitate the training. We struggle initially with the curriculum. Our questions are, what courses should be included or excluded? What are the needs and how are we going to meet the needs? Is consultation among local theological educators and pastors needed to come up with a curriculum that would be useful in the particular context?

We have copies of curriculum from different Bible school and seminaries. These are good guide in developing our own curriculum. However, as we study these we found out that most of the courses would be irrelevant to tribal context. It is agreed that intellectualization of Christianity, its theological abstraction is not essential. How would Augustine, Calvin and Barth fit in the picture? Do they need to know the debate about inerrancy of the Scriptures or the different theories of atonement? For a while, we think that it is better if we would not bring them in the picture.

So we came up with an agreement that we should start it focusing on the Bible. All theological reflections and articulation should start from the Bible. Perhaps this is the peril of many theologians. They attempt to do theology apart from the Bible and this could not be done.

The work of the missionaries or development workers is not only to feed people of knowledge but to give them skills to take charge of their own live and theological articulation. Through deep study of the Scripture we are providing them a theological discipline that empowers them to be the people of God. Our goal should be to enable them to read and obey Scripture for themselves. Theologies have their own relevance only from particular context that they have been developed. Outside of it, they may contribute to learning but for the most part making them relevant to a different culture and context is difficult if not impossible. And this is most especially true with Western theology.

As Christian, we should have the conviction that the Gospel has inherent power to be understood across cultures. It is God’s power for salvation. It is the means of delivering people from all kinds of bondage and leading them to enjoy the freedom appropriate for his children.

Because of this, we are not copying any curriculum at all. We (together with the locals) will be developing our own as we go on. Bible first then we will allow them to tell their own stories, to tell us what they need and we will proceed from there. By telling their stories they have a voice and it is the first step not only in Christian growth but in more conscious theological reflection.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quotes on the Holy Spirit

After three weeks of not having read any book I could not think of something to blog about. I'm still surprise that our place have become the place of choice among the short term missionaries from the Philippines. We like it though. Our family friend back home will visit us this week, a family of six. Nonetheless, I will try to post (may it be quotes or something else) here to give my readers a hint that I'm still around and eager to blog.
My own complaint against most writers on the Holy Spirit is that they know too much
Quoted by Ramm, The Witness of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit in the New Testament sense is the presence of God which bears witness to, and makes effectual, the historical Christ as a living personal presence. The operation of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the Word about Christ to become the Word of Christ for us, and for the Word of Christ to become the Word of God.

Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith and the Consummation

Only if they were not God could a definition be given at this point, such a definition as would be more than a description of the fact that God himself is to the fore of His revelation. But what is the fore in God's revelation is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. A first-class definition of these three could thus only be given if the Father, the Son and the Spirit are not God.

Barth, Church Dogmatics

Copied from D.M. Roark, The Christian Faith

Friday, May 18, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award Meme

Trying to catch up reading my favorite blogs, I am delighted to find out that Mission & Theology has been nominated for Thinking Blog Award meme. Being nominated by Ben Myers of Faith & Theology makes it more delightful. Also a fellow Asian blogger from Malaysia Keropok Lekor (until now I’m still wondering if that is his real name) of weight lifting? give this blog a nod.

It is now the time for me to return the complement. This post response might be a little late but here are my nominations for Thinking Blogger Award.
  1. Ben’s Faith & Theology. This blog never failed to stimulate my thinking. I learn a lot from Ben on how to run a good blog. His theological posts almost always fuel up a lively discussion from a large diversity of people. Guest posts by Kim Fabricius et al add to the fascination that this blog has to offer. Moreover, his friendliness, generosity and humility radiate from his blog which I guess is what makes his blog more interesting.

  2. Dr. Jim West and his self titled blog. I have my own questions with the fundamentalism of my own denomination. I need some answers. I stumbled upon this blog and it seems he has answers to things that question the stance of the majority of people in my own denomination. A lot of people disagree with him, but I found myself agreeing to most of his posts especially posts that challenge the established SB doctrines.

  3. Patrik’s God in a Shrinking Universe. This blog actually inspires me to start my own blog. . His ideas like Theology World Cup and Canon of Theology Books are really helpful. His theology of decline series is relevant. He gives me motivation to read Paul Tillich which I always think is impossible to decipher.

  4. Frank’s Freedom Log. He blogs about his ministry and theological studies. He blogs about his personal experiences in worship. He posts his reflections about theologies and theologians. Jurgen Moltmann is his favorite theologian and we share this interest.

  5. George’s That Strange Feeling. A fellow Filipino. He writes about anything. His critical thinking about the system of education and politics in my country is something that made me think all the time. For a layman, he has a deep and profound theological thinking that surpassed the most trained pastors. For me, he is a good thinker and he is a keen observer of Philippine culture and current issues.
Perhaps most blogs I listed above are already nominated elsewhere but I have included the rules that go with the nomination.
  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blog backlog

It’s been a while since I last posted here. I even had to catch up in responding to my emails. Busyness should not be an excuse for not blogging, it is a lame excuse anyway. I know of some people who are busier than me and yet never missed a bit in updating their blogs. I guess their advantage is that even though they are busy they can work with a computer within their reach. I never have that luxury; our work sometimes put us in a situation when a computer is not available much more internet access.

Nonetheless, here are my lame excuses for not blogging in a while.

First, I did a voluntary work for the last Asian Baptist Congress. I was part of the communication team. Our job was to produce a newsletter every morning and report what had been happening within the congress. The newsletter also includes special features about the workshop and plenary speakers. For this, we have to stay awake the whole night. I never thought that writing a 200-word newsbeat takes 3 hours and another 3 hours to edit. Plus we had to do the layout and sent the PDF files to the publisher who had just a few hours to publish it in the morning before the day’s activities start. Wifi connection was available I just don’t have the time and energy to blog.

Second, right after the congress we had an English camp. It was actually an evangelism and discipleship camp for the children and young people here in Mae Sai, Thailand and Tachilek, Myanmar. The only reason it was called an English camp was because all the speakers are mission workers who were English-speaker. It was a successful camp. Workers came literally from different parts of the world. Three American couples, one Singaporean family and four Filipinos. The children enjoyed the camp and many tears were shed when parting time came. The children were blessed and we are praying that they felt love and cared for the whole week and hope that these experiences would change their lives forever.

Third, stream of Filipino short term missionaries are visiting us for the last weeks and we are looking forward for more next week. More than 20 people visited us this year. They have a glimpse of the ministry that we are doing here. Needless to say, we are thankful to the Lord that most of them go home challenged to do cross-cultural ministry.

Now, I have to catch up reading my favorite blogs and see what’s happening in the blogosphere.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Up to 1700 Delegates!

Baptists from 27 countries all over Asia gathered to celebrate the 7th Asian Baptist Congress with this year’s theme “Jesus Cares!” in Chiang Mai, Thailand. About 1,700
delegates registered to take up the challenge of bringing Jesus’ love and care to the diverse cultures and peoples of Asia.

India tops with the largest number of delegates in this conference, followed by Thailand with 371 registered people. According to Rev. Poonsook Setsoponkul, Committee on Local Arrangement (COLA), being the host country it is but natural and convenient for the Thai Baptists to support this event. On the other hand, Rev. M. San Maung from Myanmar Baptist Convention said that they were able to send delegates because of Thailand’s accessibility in terms of its location.

Myanmar has a total of 181 enthusiasts ready to give their support. The Congress is expecting the 1,700 delegates to come within the day. We are expectant of God’s goodness and greatness in the upcoming days! Welcome everyone to the 7th Asian Baptist Congress. Indeed, Jesus Cares!

Asia, Jesus Cares !

I'll be posting some of the articles we have been writing and putting together on the daily newsletter of the 7th Asian Baptist Congress 2007. I don't have the time to post this on time, so posts here might a day late.

Anyway, I'm posting here the message by the Asian Baptist Federation Secretary General Rev. Bonny Resu.

Asia, Jesus Cares ! This is the theme for the 7th Asian Baptist Congressbeing held here in Chiang Mai, Thailand starting today, May 2 until May 6, 2007. Our Lord Jesus Christ embodies care. Care is love in action! Our God, who cares for theworld and its people, cares for Asia! Surely God cares for Asia – where you find 2/3 ofhumanity; where you can see the largest number of unreached people groups (with only 8 percentof the population claiming to be followers of Christ); where 70% (or 700 million) of the world’spoorest— having less then 1 US Dollar a day— and some of the world’s richest are; where naturalcalamities are regular features and are expected every year without fail; where economic problems,levels of pollution and ecological damages are reaching breaking point; where the levels ofcorruption and human rights abuses in some Asian countries are at worst; where many churches(including Baptist churches), despite their age,stagnated and haven’t grown as they should, ratherare stuck in the swamp of their ‘traditions’ or petty church politics.

Because God cares for all, He also bids us to care!

Our AssuranceFor us who believe in Him, it is comforting to know that He knows us and cares for us! It was forthis reason King David felt secure even when he ‘went through the valley of the shadow of death’! (Psalms 23).We have a loving God who is also almighty, powerful and sovereign. This is why Paul had the courage to say that‘all things will work for good to those who love the Lord’(Rom. 8: 28). In sorrow or in joy, in poverty or in riches,in sickness or in health, we know that God cares and that His covenant with us (Heb. 9:15) will not falter!

In Response

In the words of Paul, our grateful response should then be to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom.12:1),which means we should make Him Lord of our lives and pledge to obey and do His will. This goes beyond whatwe do in a church service or evangelistic rally. It must permeate and affect our daily lives. It is a commitmentto do the things that are important to Jesus Christ! In God’s words through the prophet Micah (Micah 6:8) “Ihave shown you what is good. O Men! To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God!”One way of responding to Jesus is to be willing to do something to address the needs of people in practicalmanner, just like what He did! (Matthew 11:5). Over and above man’s soul, He cared for the whole person. Thegood news therefore must be the goodness of God being demonstrated in tangible terms, and we, being Christlikeshould also touch the lives of real persons in real terms. This could be the reason why the early Christiansgained favor from the people during their day and age, despite persecutions and sanctions!

Institutionalizing Love

Therefore, we must plan and ensure that we have a mechanism set in place to enable the church, as aninstitution, to respond to the needs of others around us.This could mean encouraging every church, associationand convention to have a department or committee to address the practical needs of the needy in their context.In the context of the ABF, I believe we already made a small progress with our effort to institute theAsian Baptist Aid. This was sparked by the Asian Tsunami disaster, which required a response by theBaptist family of the Asia Pacific region. In doing Tsunami relief and rehabilitation, we realized thatthere are also many calamities and human needs which we termed as ‘silent tsunamis’ (e.g. diseases and povertythat cause the deaths of thousands!). Such world demands our response. We cannotafford to be mere spectators!

Are the Baptists of Asia willing to take the challenge? Are we willing to do something usingour own resources even without depending on partnership from the outside? We have in many casesreduced ourselves to being mere channels of ‘foreign help’. While we must welcome partnership from theworldwide Christian family in doing good, we must be cautious of becoming a NGO that exists only when themoney is available from another source.

The ABF Congress is a good opportunity to ponder over these questions. Let us be inspiredand challenged to become more caring! Because we ourselves are recipients of God’s love and care (1 John 4:19)!