Archive for the ‘gospel and culture’ Category

The Gospel would reverse Western moral decay and save our civilisation

May 10, 2013

Far more significant than economics and demography are problems of moral decline, cultural suicide, and political disunity in the West. Oft-pointed-to manifestations of moral decline include:

  1. increases in antisocial behavior, such as crime, drug use, and violence generally;
  2. family decay, including increased rates of divorce, illegitimacy, teen-age pregnancy, and single-parent families;
  3. at least in the United States, a decline in “social capital,” that is, membership in voluntary associations and the interpersonal trust associated with such membership;
  4. general weakening of the “work ethic,” and the rise of a cult of personal indulgence;
  5. decreasing commitment to learning and intellectual activity, manifested in the United States in lower levels of scholastic achievement.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Samuel P. Huntington. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, p.304

Do we not see all these characteristics in Britain and throughout the West?

 

What Would a Cultural Relativist Do?

September 10, 2009

When Wesleyan missionaries arrived in Fiji in 1835 they found a society “in which infanticide, human sacrifice and cannibalism were endemic”…in 1868 out of a population of 120,000 almost 106,000 were reported to be in regular attendance at public worship.

Brain Stanley, Bible and the Flag, Apollos, 1990, p.112

Presumably this ‘cultural imperialism’ was a terrible thing and the natives should have been left to engage in their ‘infanticide, human sacrifice and cannibalism’

What Would a Cultural Relativist Do? Time to make a few WWCRD bracelets?

(it is an illusion) that indigenous cultures prior to the missionary impact were in a condition of static perfection. This mythical view is itself a peculiarly arrogant form of cultural imperialism, founded on the notion that non-Western societies knew nothing of change or innovation until brought into contact with the modernizing West. On the contrary, almost all cultures exist in a state of perpetual flux, and represent an amalgam of diverse and often contradictory influences. The choice confronting  indigenous cultures has not ben between change and no change, but between a number of possible directions of change, som evidently more beneficial than others.

ibid., pp.170-171

Benefits of the gospel

September 10, 2009

…in the histories of Asia and Africa over the past 200 years, it is Christian medical missionaries who have frequently been the pioneers of rural health care systems, medical education for women, and other under-privileged groups, and the development of special medical techniques (for instance, reconstructive surgery for lepers) which 3rd world conditions required.

Vinoth Ramachandra, Recovery of Missions, p.57

The Gospel preserves indigenous culture

September 10, 2009

When we take the measure of Christian missionary involvement in translation work, we discover a new frontier of the modern world. More than 1,800 languages have been employed in translating the Scriptures. In many significant cases, these languages received their first breath of life from Christian interest. This is true whether we are speaking of Calvin and the birth of modern French, Luther and German, Tyndale and English, Robert de Nobili or William Carey and the Indian vernaculars, Miles Brunson and Assamese, Johannes Christaller and Akan in Ghana, Moffat and Sichuana in Botswana, Ajayi Crowther and Yoruba in Nigeria, and Krapf and Swahili in East Africa, to take a random list from many examples. A glance at the world map shows that the spread of Christian renewal overlaps significantly with the development of the vernacular. There is scarcely a language or culture of any significance that does not have some portion of Christian materials available in translation.

It is important to spell out what is the particular, specific Christian understanding of culture in the context of other world religions. It is clear that in their different ways Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism have a different status for culture, or at any rate regard the culture of origin as the universal paradigm. In so far as Buddhism conceives an ultimate reality which transcends human words, culture is of transitory value. For Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism, the founding culture becomes itself the sacral mode of encountering ultimate reality. Consequently, Arabic, Hebrew, and Sanskrit have become inseparable from the truth as seen by adherents of these religions. It follows from this that translating scriptures for canonical purposes in these religions is considered invalid, for the tones and sounds cannot be reproduced in other languages. Of these three religions, only Islam has emerged as a major missionary religion, with converts spread across innumerable cultural frontiers. It is, therefore, right to compare Christianity with Islam on this issue of translation. One fact is clear, namely, that the missionary success of Islam has never been fueled, or followed, by the translation of the sacred Qur’an for the purposes of salat, the prescribed five daily prayers. Since approximately 75% of the world’s 850 million Muslims are non-Arabic speaking, this implies a major downgrading of the mother tongues of these Muslims in the decisive acts of faith and devotion. For these non-Arab Muslims, Arabic is also the exclusive mode of religious orthodoxy.

Lamin Sanneh source

Becoming all things to all men

August 25, 2009

Surely no follower of this meek and lowly One will be likely to conclude that it is ‘beneath the dignity of a Christian missionary’ to seek identification with this poor people… Let us rather be imitators of Him (who washed His disciples’ feet).

We have to deal with a people whose prejudices in favour of their own customs and habits are the growth of centuries and millenniums. Nor are their preferences ill-founded. These who know them most intimately respect them most; and see best the necessity for many of their habits and customs – this being found in the climate, productions, and conformation of the people. There is perhaps no country in the world in which religious toleration is carried to so great an extent as in China; the only objection that prince or people have to Christianity is that it is a foreign religion, and that its tendencies are to approximate believers to foreign nations.

I am not peculiar in holding the opinion that the foreign dress and carriage of missionaries – to a certain extent affected by some of their converts and pupils – the foreign appearance of the chapels, and indeed, the foreign air given to everything connected with religion, have very largely hindered the rapid dissemination of the truth among the Chinese. But why need such a foreign aspect be given to Christianity? The word of God does not require it; nor I conceive would reason justify it. It is not their denationalization but their Christianization that we seek.

We wish to see Christian (Chinese) – true Christians, but withal true Chinese in every sense of the word. We wish to see churches and Christian Chinese presided over by pastors and officers of their own countrymen, worshiping the true God in the land of their fathers, in the costume of their fathers, in their own tongue wherein they were born, and in edifices of a thoroughly Chinese style of architecture.

It is enough that the disciple be as his master (Jesus Christ).

If we really desire to see the Chinese such as we have described, let us as far as possible set before them a correct example: let us in everything unsinful become Chinese, that by all things we may save some. Let us adopt their costume, acquire their language, study to imitate their habits, and approximate to their diet as far as health and constitution will allow. Let us live in their houses, making no unnecessary alterations in external appearance, and only so far modifying internal arrangements as attention to health and efficiency for work absolutely require.

James Hudson Taylor addressing a letter to all who would seek to join him in this new work in 1867. Source

It is wonderful to see God’s providence in granting Taylor’s wish for ‘churches and Christian Chinese presided over by pastors and officers of their own countrymen’ through the forced eviction of foreign missionaries by the communist regime. Could he have imagined that tens of millions would worship the true God in China as they do today?