Christian Theology and Its Christianity?
Christian Theology is human speech about God; it is always related to concrete historical situations. To put it another way, theology is inseparable from social existence. Theology is not transcendent language; it is interested language, always reflecting the goals and aspirations of a particular people in a definite social setting.
Feuerbach proclaimed the concreteness of reality in its social and political manifestations. The clue to the meaning of the real, he insisted, is not found in philosophical abstractions but in concrete life, its feelings, wants, and needs. He continued and said, “the uncovering of truth, therefore is not identical with the rational investigation of the unfolding of the Absolute Idea, but with analysis of the common experience of humanity, and theology initially is anthropology.
Truth is not “a question of theory but is a practical question. In practice man must prove the truth.
Evan-Pritchard noted generations of writers on religion, in their sincere search for truth, were only reacting against the religion of their upbringing. Religion and culture coincide fully in tribal societies practically everywhere in the Third World. Culture is the variegated expression of religion. But because religions meet each other always in and through their respective cultural self-manifestations, there result subtle differentiations between religions and cultures.
Tribal and clan societies, given their strong religio-cultural cohesion, are never immune to the danger of intertribal conflicts. Tribalism—often equated with divisive provincialism—can be exploited ideologically by the enemies of social change. So se need to be realized that the values of religious, social and cultural are inseparably bound up each other. Therefore Christian Theology could not leave such values of the time and milieu.
Consciousness of God is self-consciousness, and knowledge of God is self-knowledge. Thus our knowledge of God is to be identified with our consciousness of God in and through our (Asian’s) Social Contextuality. Ideas do not have an existence separate from life but arise out of a frame-work of reality constructed by people.
Black Theology and White Theology do not lie in the absence of a social a priori in the former. Black theologians do theology out of the social matrix of their existence. American theologians have rarely attempted to transcend the social interests of their group by seeking on analysis of the gospel in the light of the consciousness of black people struggling for liberation. But the influence of social realities on theological reflections was particularly obvious in the Methodist and Baptist churches’ relation to the issue of slavery during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and followed immediately by the Revolutionary War.
Today’s human being live in a matrix of political, ecomomic, and social organizations. There is no individual apart from this organizational system. The Church is commissioned with the divine mission to save such a modern man; and therefore the Church cannot divide salvation into individual and social salvations. This means that salvation today should be the “mission of God” to restore a true human being, liberating him from his predicament within evil social institutions and systems.
Social participation on this religious ground has been a great contribution to national development. The mission of God is a cosmic and universal event that transcends national boundaries. A Christian is a responsible citizen of a nation. But we also believe that mankind, ruled by God, is one family of brothers and sister. On the basis of the ecumenical unity and solidarity of humanity, we reject any narrow nationalism that idolizes a nation [by Korean National Council of Churches, Nov. 18, 1974].
God is liberator and who saved his all creatures (including humankind). This is one of the solid doctrine and affirmation of the Christians. Furthermore, the essence of liberation is not limited to issues of social justice and dealing only with socio-economic and political questions. There is the concern for spirituality, reconciliation and wholeness. It is to engage in the struggles of human existence in its totality. It is to strive for the quality and the dignity of human life in relation with one another and in communion with God.
One aspect of theology is an understanding of God’s mission to establish his relationship with people, for he loved them (John 3:16). The God of love related to us lovingly and expects us to be a loving people. This relationship was best established by God himself through Jesus Christ’s life and ministry. His incarnational life reminds us of our solidarity and critical prophetic living in our given context. K. Koyama says, “Theology is talk that takes one’s neighbor seriously.” Love your neighbor as yourself. Asian theology takes its neighborhood seriously. This is theology as understood by Asians.
Dr. M. M. Thomas, of India, said: “Asian Theology is a response to the challenge to make faith relevant to life in the midst of the Asian social revolution.” John England said: “All theology is a discerning of the divine in the human being—the signs of God-in-Jesus Christ in the world—and is a reflection upon and a response to that. So its source is found in every place, time and level of human life.
It is needed to be added here the approach of Inclusivistic. This approach recognizes that God is present and at work in other religions along with Christianity. It accepts the fact that transformations take place in the lives of the individuals and the community when they are in touch with the divine presence. The grace of God is available to/in all religions. God’s love and God’s grace are not exclusive to any particular historical religion.
This Inclusivistic approach is based particularly on the Acts of the Apostles when the Christian movement encountered the Gentile world. In the story of Peter and Cornelius we hear Peter saying, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:35). In Paul’s speech at Mars Hill, he proclaimed that the unknown God that they worship was a religious act but now they should worship the known God—the resurrected Christ. These particular passages of scripture must be placed within their proper contexts. Here is inevitably and inseparably connected with the society and the truth of Christianity. By limiting humanity to its nature, Feuerbach asserted the social and psychological limitations of all human knowledge. Thus the idea of God is humanity itself projected to infinity. <<< This portion could be a split from other paragraph.
This view was elaborated by Justin Martyr. He believes that the grace of God operates outside of the Christian community as well and that all people can receive it. “Christ is the divine Word in whom the whole human race share, and those who live according to the light of their knowledge are Christians, even if they are considered as being godless (I Apology, 46, 1-4).
Up to this point, it is striking that we cannot become Christian without our social contextuality and cultural reality. E.g., in Chinland, in the Kachin, and among Burmese Christians there are social realities and cultural values in their Christianness. Eventhough some / many people do not confess Jesus Christ as Christians do, they are anonymous Christians as Karl Rahner had said, through their meta-cosmic religiousness. It means that being a Christian one cannot abandon his contextual reality. Gandhi had told to one of Christian missionary in India that “Teach your converts to be a little more like your Jesus, and not to be abandoned their Indianness.”
In Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God, it is striking that the whole drift of his teaching is social. It can be said that the Kingdom of God includes the context of social values. To go back to Asian reality and Asian theology to be in accordance with its social contextuality, D. T. Niles saw how in “Asian Christianity is a potted plant which needs to be rooted in the cultural soil of the East.” I would like to add here the social context of Asian realities. The earthen vessel has to be broken and the plant allowed growing in the new Asian soil. And also we are alertly aware of the need for indigenization. Kazoh Kita mori indicated:
“Christianity should not be bound by Western forms. The Incarnation is for all nations, embracing all life and thought. Christianity in Asia should be based not on Greek but on Asian ground and Asian Christian should find their depths in their own way. The task of the Church in Asia is to become indigenous, and it is now time for the Church to be understood by its followers and fruits.”
This is the process of the efforts to “give Christianity in Asia an Asian face,” or “to see Christ through Asian eyes,” or “to provide the gospel with an Asian flavor.” So in India there was the Indianization of theology, V. Chakkarai denoted it as “understanding of the meaning of Christ for our situation and bringing the spiritual treasures of our nation to the feet of Christ.” He further said, “Indianization is neither a change in externals nor a translation of the contents of western Christianity in terms of Indian religious thought. It is not only the outer part but also the inward parts that need to be Indianized.”
Bishop K. H. Ting said that “Christianity needs to be de-westernized for China just as in the first century Christianity needed to be de-Judaized for the whole world.” It was not necessary for the Gentiles to become Jews in order to follow Christ. Likewise, Asians need not become westerners for them to become Christians. We also therefore, need not to be devalued our original social and cultural values to become Christians, but need to contextualize them.
Contextualization is not a fad or catch-word but a theological necessity demanded by the incarnational nature of the word. It has to do with how we assess the peculiarity of Third World contexts; and it takes into account the process of secularity, technology, and struggle for human justice, which characterize the historical movement of nations in the Third World.
Obviously it was wrong to measure the fruits of Christian witness merely in terms of the number of people who join the Christian community or by the size of the Christian Church. One can hardly fathom the impact of the gospel upon Southern Asia in the areas of socio-cultural values or the ideologies that shape the society and human development at large.
The religious heritage of nations of Asia is so deep that people find it very difficult to leave it for Christian faith. Therefore interacting with people of other faiths and seeking to understand them are not optional exercises for us and not to make any criticism of the partner’s experience of his deity. We cannot throw the gospel at people from a self-distance on a take-it or—leave-it basis. We must be willing to expose ourselves to others.
The necessary point is obviously shown by the above statements that our Christianness in Asian soil should not leave Asian realities and values of culture and social milieu; for Jesus came to the world not to destroy the Jewish realities but to fulfill it. Likewise Asian Christians need to fulfill our own (first hand-made) heritages of cosmic and meta-cosmic religiousness of our past religious—should be transformed in the light and ways of trans-contextualization and inter-contextualization. In other word, we should do our own theology in the light of Asian Ray and at the same time we should witness our Christianness in a transformed model of fulfilling and promoting our social and cultural contextuality. To be a true Christian in Asia is to be a genuine Asianness—within Asian contextualness. Here I used the words Asianness and contextualness, and they imply the authenticity and the true reality of being genuine Asians.
As I have mentioned in earlier pages that truth is a practical result; that truth is originated in our social and cultural realities and values, i.e., our cultures, customs, and our social milieu. This is the truth that we cannot abolish when we became/come Christians after we are being Christians. We cannot abandon our past social and cultural values in the light of Christian theology and its ethics; instead they became a bi-dimensional value in accordance with the indigenous contexts.
In the context of Myanmar today, Nat worship provides the raw material for world-view to the Christians and Christianity has just to polish it. The Nat worshippers in Myanmar have a unified and integrated world-view. They perceive things in one unit, as they have no dualistic concept of world-view. There is no division of life into the secular and religious but everything is seen as one under the control of the spirits, Nats, which are active in the human world.
There is no rigid separation between the material and spiritual world, the temporal and the non-temporal, time and eternity; the cosmic and meta-cosmic, the “here-and now” and “the here-after.” This original world-view of Nat worship is fundamental to the right understanding of Christian concept of salvation.
Likewise, in Chinland, Nat worshippers have a three-tiered world namely, Vantung (heaven, above); leitung (earth, the intermediate layer); and leinuai (the underworld, or the nether world). Heaven is supposed to be the abode of the Supreme Being, the earth is designed as the place of human beings.
The Karens have a very established and wisely accepted God tradition called Ywa, tradition, (YwaYwa tradition is very similar to the Hebrew concept of Yahweh, both in terminology and concept, it paved the way for the Karens to accept the gospel.
The Kachins also have a concept of a Supreme Being who is completely different from other spiritual beings. They call this Supreme Being by three different names which are self-explanatory of the Supreme Being’s attributes. The first name is Karai Kasang, meaning the Supreme Creator; the second name is Hpan Wa Ning Sang, meaning the Glorious One who creates; and the third name is Chye Wa Ningchyang, meaning the One who knows or Omniscient. The Kachins had a strong belief in the Supreme Being long before they became Christians and the belief enabled them to accept the gospel easily.
The Chins also have a concept of the Supreme God whom they called by several names like Pasian, Pathian, Khuazing, Khuapughi and Pu Vana. These names of God were so well known and so well accepted before Christianity came into the Chins.
In considering the above factors, Christians in Myanmar today have to learn the Theology of human nature relationship from Nat worship. This is the challenging prophetic mission of the churches in Myanmar to the world at large, which they have to learn from Nat worship. If Myanmar needs a theology of her own which is liberated from the Euro-American oriented theology, then it must take Nat worship as a paradigm since it has been saturated in Myanmar soil ages ago.
means God) which is the belief in the existence of the Supreme and Eternal God who is the creator of all things. The <<[[Please take note this portion. It might had split from some paragraph]] However, you may wish to see and check for the correct the document Here.
Contemporarily all Asian countries (except Japan and S. Korea) are under uncivilized situation, and under darkness before compare to the western developed countries. Meanwhile God is acting among us and promote us in the surface of the whole world now. He uses some Asian theologians as He had used the Jewish prophets and Western theologians. God’s heart is aching now for the sake of Asian darkness. This makes God the theologian par excellence. God’s heart aches because of the deep darkness surrounding the formless and void earth (Gen 1:2). Likewise God’s heart is aching through the hearts of Asian theologians today. This aching of heart is the beginning of theology.
In answering the question of this subject, the two versions of religious socialism in Asia: 1) Animism or cosmic religiousness and 2) The more sophisticated form represented by the monastic communities of Buddhist (and Hindu, Taoist) origin—a meta-cosmic religiousness are to be related and transformed to Christian theology within the realm of Asian context. To clarify the fact I have mentioned earlier the situation in Myanmar context.
Initially God had placed every humankind in each of our land, soil (i.e., each of our own Garden of Eden) and blessed us with all our contexts. God placed the Jews in the Middle land to be a true Jews; the Westerners in the West to be Westerners; and the Asians in the East to be Asians.
God placed the man [Adam] in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it (Gen 2:15). Likewise God placed the Asian people in the garden of Asian soil to cultivate it and to guard it. This is the greatest task of us that Asian people to witness the Supreme Being and to establish (to cultivate) his Kingdom (i.e., God’s Kingdom) with our identity of Asianness and our socio-cultural values in our contexts.
Definitions of Phrases & Terminologies
Greek term for action, practical ability or practice, used in Marxism and adopted by Latin American Liberation Theology to denote a combination of action and reflection aimed at the transformation of an oppressive situation. [David F. Ford, The Modern Theologians Vol. 1(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992), p. 324]
In the theology mentioned usually some elements are underlined. First, the contents of the Christian praxis envisaged is defined by “an option for the poor:” i.e., both social and spiritual) in history and society which defines a “horizon of knowledge.” Second, it is a Praxis of faith. Third, it is communal Praxis, lived and acted out and critically revised within the community of faith. Fourth, it verifies the Christian message in so far as it makes it reality in human society. Finally, since the Spirit of God is present in history, Christian Praxis is an act of discernment and, therefore, a form of knowing (see John 7:17) with dogmatic significance. [Dictionary of Ecumenical Movement (Geneva: WCC, 1991), pp. 815, 816]
Etymologically, “Inculturation” means the insertion of new values into one’s heritage and world-view. This process applies to all human dimensions of life and development. Within contemporary Christianity, inculturation signifies the movement which takes local cultures and their values as the basic instrument and a powerful means for presenting, reformulating and living Christianity. [Dictionary of Ecumenical Movement
3. Soteriology: The doctrine of salvation.
4. Bi-dimensional Soteriology
A doctrine of salvation that maintains a healthy tension between the cosmic now and the meta-cosmic beyond.
5. Cosmic Religiousness
An open-ended spirituality that awaits a transcendented orientation from the meta-cosmic religion. Cosmic Religion: Revolve around cosmic powers—normally rendered as “gos,’ “deities,” “spirits” in English. They refer to natural phenomina (often personified) as well as the spirits of the past heroes and one’s own ancestors, not excluding “departed souls” and “saints” in popular Christianity. [Aloysius P. Pieris S. J., Theology of Liberation in Asia, p. 98.]
6. Meta-cosmic Religion
The salvific beyond attainable within a person through gnosis. It defines its soteriology in terms of a meta-cosmic “beyond” capable of being internalized as the salvific “within” of the human person, either through the agapeic path of redeeming love or through the Gnostic way of liberative knowledge. [Aloysius P. Pieris, S. J., Theology of Liberation in Asia (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Ltd., 1988), p. 98]
7. Dialectical Process
Critical analysis of mental process / of method of producing something in a series of operation.
8. Gnosis: Knowledge (of Greek origin).
The ruling method / system of holding land of the Middle Ages in Europe.
Contextualization is a dynamic process of the Church’s reflection, in obedience to Christ and his mission in the world, in the interaction of the text as the Word of God and the context as a specific human situation.
It is not a passing fad or a debatable option. It is essentially to our understanding of God’s self-revelation. The incarnation is the ultimate paradigm of the translation of text into context. Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnates as a Jew, identified with a particular culture in history through transcending it. In His life and teaching he is the supreme model of contextualization. [New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester, England: Intervarsity Press, 1988), pp. 164, 166]
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Geneva: WCC, 1991), p. 506]<<< This is a split portion from somewhere
1. Song, Chong Seng, Doing Theology Today. Mysore: The Christian Literature Society, Wesley Press, 1976.
2. S. J., Aloysius Pius Pieris, Theology of Liberation in Asia. Edinburgh: T & T Clark Ltd., 1988.
3. Anderson, Gerald H., Asian Voices in Christian Theology. Mary Knoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1976.
4. Hao, Yap Kim, Doing Theology in a Pluralistic World. Singapore: Kin Keong Printing, 1990.
5. Scott, F. Ernst, The Kingdom of God in the New Testament. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1931.
6. Phillips, James M., & Coote, Robert T., Toward the Twenty-first century in Christian Mission. Grand Rapids, Machigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993.
7. Asian Journal of Theology, Vol. 4, No. 1 (January), 1990.
8. Asian Journal of Theology, Vol. 8, No. 1 (April), 1994.
 Chong Seng Song, Doing Theology Today (Mysore: The Christian Literature Society, Wesley Press, 1976), 17.
 Ibid. 18.
 Ibid. 20.
 Aloysius Pius Pieris, S. J., Theology of Liberation in Asia (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Ltd., 1988), 97.
 Ibid. 100.
 C. S. Song, Doing Theology Today, 18.
 Ibid. 24.
 Ibid. 28.
 Gerald H. Anderson, Asian Voices in Christian Theology (Mary Knoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1976), 247.
 Yap Kim Hao, “Intercontextualization: Releasing the Theological Frog from underneath Coconut Shell” Asian Journal of Theology Vol. 4, No. 1 (January, 1990), 42.
 Ibid. 45.
 Yap Kim Hao, Doing Theology in a Pluralistic World (Singapore: Kin Keong Printing, 10 Mount Sophia, 1990), 86.
 Ibid. 87.
 Ernst F. Scott, The Kingdom of God in the New Testament (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1931), 54.
 Ibid. Asian Journal of Theology, 37.
 Ibid. 38.
 James M. Phillips & Robert T. Coote, Toward the Twenty-First Century in Christian Mission (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 60.
 Ibid. 63, 64.
 Simon P. K. Enno, “Nat Worship: A Paradigm for Doing Ecumenical Theology in Myanmar,” Asian Journal of Theology Vol. 8, No. 1 (April, 1994), 46.
 Ibid. 47.
 Ibid. 48.
 Ibid. 49, 50.
 C. S. Song, Doing Theology Today, 47.