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The Emptiness of Christ: Mahayana Christology

Jesus in Meditation

The Christology of the Western Church has, with few exceptions, developed in dialogue with the categories of Greek philosophy. As fruitful as the dialogue has been, however, it has created problems for our articulation of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and it is now problematical for those Christians who do not share the philosophical tradition of the West. This article begins the development of a Christology of emptiness, derived from one of the philosophical traditions of Buddhism.

Mahayana theology is a Christian theology which attempts to understand the Christian faith through philosophical concepts developed in Mahayana Buddhism.

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Minjung Theology: A Korean Theology of the People

Dream of a Female Worker

Dream of a Female Worker

How do you find the hope for freedom after centuries of oppression from four different world powers? What spark is there to transform the pain that you feel within and the emptiness of the world around you? Minjung theology is borne out of these questions and finds a response in a unique understanding of Christ and how to follow him faithfully.

Minjung (민중) is a word derived from the Korean pronunciation of two Chinese characters: “min” (the people) and “jung” (the masses). The combination of the two creates an image of the majority of people, the poor, the oppressed. The term originated as a descriptor in contrast to the Yangban, or ruling elite class.

Although it is similar in some respects to liberation theological movements, it is an oversimplification of the Korean context to lump in with Latin American, African, or other movements. There is less of an emphasis upon economic injustice and more attention to institutional oppression from colonial and hierarchical structures. These forms of injustice are partly due to geography, as the Korean peninsula is situated between China and Japan, and also (much more recently) politically between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Minjung theology derives from the experience of the minjung– the people who are exploited by the elite. Initially conceived as an interpretive source by leaders of the Urban Industrial Mission who volunteered for labor camps in the early 1960s, the term has taken on added significance in successive generations. A similarity to the minjung can be found in the gospels’ use of the term ὄχλος (ochlos) to refer to the crowds (of commoners, outcasts) following Jesus.

There are two distinct features of minjung theology: 한 (han) and 단 (dan).
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Finding Asian American Preaching Online

preaching_webDJ Chuang was asked recently about how best to access Asian American influenced preaching available in podcasts. His page links to a “list of Asian American pastors that regularly preach and teach at their churches and particularly contextualize the Gospel for all peoples, those who are bicultural, interracial, and multiethnic (in contrast to some who may speak from a generic Gospel perspective, not that there’s anything wrong with that… //…to be listed, there needs to be podcast feeds that can be subscribed in iTunes and Android, as well as contextualizing Gospel to cultures.”

LINK: Leading voices among Asian American preachers

I have followed DJ Chuang online and admired his gift for networking, especially among multicultural strands of the North American church. I encourage you to click through and listen to some of those podcasts (I only know one of of the pastors personally, but I am acquainted with several and have grown personally through my interaction with their writing and speaking.)

For more from DJ Chuang about the North American church and Asian American influences, find his website here.

Exploring Peace (excerpts from ‘Living Buddha, Living Christ’)

In this excerpt of “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” Thich Nhat Hanh explains how we can impact the world by changing the way in which we understand and practice peace.

We often think of peace as the absence of war– [we think] that if the powerful countries would reduce their weapons arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds– our prejudices, fears, and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of the bombs are still here, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs.

To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war– to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts– is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.

(pp. 76-77) (more…)

Studying Chinese Christianity: From a Transplanted Foreign Religion to an Indigenous Chinese Religion

     “Numerical expansion in Chinese Christianity in the last couple of decades has occurred at an unprecedented rate. A rate which continues to surprise and alarm some of those observing it. It’s surprising partly because of the ambiguous history of Christianity in China, a history marked both by a high level of cultural and political engagement by the Jesuits in the 17th century, and by a very unashamed alliance with foreign interference and colonial power in the 19th century. In spite of that, China is moving towards having the largest Christian population in the world. A safe guess would be 50-80 million Protestants in China today.”*
     Contemporary China is experiencing a big revival of Christianity, despite strict governmental controls on religions. At its current pace of rapid growth, China could have the world’s largest population of Christians (more…)

Tibetan Christian Thangka Storytelling

Jesus’ Life on Earth

One year ago I wrote a post about Tibetan thangkas and mentioned therein a Christian ministry that was selling Christian thangkas, though at the time I didn’t know anything more about how they were being used.  In today’s post, I am excited to provide some more information about them.

Back in 2001, some expatriate workers in the Himalayas puzzled over the repeated lack of effectiveness of more common approaches to reach Tibetan Buddhists for Christ, so they began to seek alternative ways of presenting the Gospel that would connect more directly with Tibetan Buddhists.  They formed a group called The Tibetan Storytelling Project (TSP) to address this concern.  The group eventually decided to produce an evangelistic DVD which would utilize traditional Tibetan art, songs, choreography and rhythmic speech in presenting the Gospel.
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Japanese Theology: What Can Be Learned (Part 2)

JAPANESE THEOLOGY

(You can find part one of this essay here)

Christianity is often presented as the religion of the superpowers, and it has become a visibly dominant religion in many leading nations. From the 4th century onwards, Christianity became the religion of the Greco-Romano world, with the consequence that Greek and Latin became the “language” of God. Thus Hellenic views on Christianity overruled other forms of Christianity elsewhere. Continuing into the 15th / 16th century, the rise of the Spanish and Portuguese nations expanded Roman Catholicism across the entire colonized world, and thus Spanish/Portuguese Christianity became visibly dominant on the surface of the planet. The emergence of the reformation in the 16th century, and its collaboration with the Western and Northern European governments, caused a reformed and protestant theology to dominate certain parts of the world.

For the past two hundred years or more, Anglo-American Christianity and its relationship to the expansion of British and American territorial interest has had important results. English became the language of evangelical religion. Christianity took a commercial course and dominated the worship and literature industry worldwide. Today, anyone who wants to study theology anywhere in the world cannot bypass American and English Christian literature and writers. Church history means reformation history; theology means Anglo American Evangelical or Dutch Reformed theology. This dominant manifestation of Western Christianity has caused two different major reactions in the non-western world; 1) Almost total acceptance and implementation of this Western Theology with slightly native cultural influences. For instance, Evangelical Christianity in the Philippines is simply an American-influenced Christianity, and the Korean Protestant Christianity is based on Reformed Theology; in Africa, American prosperity teaching preached by the satellite TV stations inspires the Pentecostalism. 2) Instead of total surrender to imported Christianity, the second reaction is the creation of Christianity with an indigenous theology. There are relatively few countries that have created their own Christian theology. Japan tried to belong to the second group. In his book Japanese contribution to Christian Theology published in 1960, Carl Michelson indicated that even though Protestant Christianity was relatively young in Japan, Japan was apparently the first country to develop its own significant theology (more…)

Christian Tirthankara: Ford Finders

This morning I was having a great conversation at Starbucks with Pastor Chris Coffman, the associate pastor of outreach at our church.  We were talking about pastoral sin. (now THERE’S a fun topic for you!)

We talked about the tension between the need/desire for church members to know that their pastors are human, but their fear that they will be “too human”.  Historically when pastors have been shown to be “too human” they are figuratively crucified and drummed out of ministry.   The burden of proof in finding this balance does not lie on the lay person, however. The burden of proof (as it were) lies on the leader.  He or she has the responsibility to make an effort to make the fact of his weaknesses known, without destroying her credibility among the people of the congregation.

I don’t exactly know why, but the concept of tirthankara came to my mind.  (Of course, I’m sure the same thing came to YOUR mind!) Winking smile (more…)

Japanese Theology: What Can Be Learned? (Part 1)

Prior to understanding Japanese Christian theology, it is important to know how the Japanese view religion in general. In Japan there are basically two distinctions when it comes to religion: the revealed and the natural religions. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and some new religions are considered to be revealed religions, because they have specific books and scriptures to live by and upon which religious life is practiced. In contrary to revealed religions, the natural religions are more tradition and folklore-based religions, followed with few or no specific books or scriptures. Even though Shintoism does have texts and scriptures to a degree, it is considered more as a natural religion.

It is important to emphasize that in Japan, when people talk about religion, they generally mean the revealed religions, and in particular Christianity. When Japanese people mention that they are nonreligious, it means they do not commit themselves to a revealed religion or religious organization. Japanese people often see all the religions as one entity, and not separate from one another. It is often said that the Japanese are born Shinto, marry in a Christian (western) style and die Buddhist, as many Japanese are buried in the Buddhist way. Japanese do not have the urge to be committed to any particular organized religion. In Japanese, this mindset is called mushukyo, meaning “non-religion” or even “non-religious.” (more…)

KARAI KASANG: Rebirthing the Non-Patriarchal Image of God in Kachin Culture

Throughout our Feminist Ethics class, I have been thinking about Mary Daly’s concept of “Goddess” in her Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.  I don’t believe that there is any sound theological argument that the term “God” itself represents patriarchy. Theologically speaking, if we study the Bible systematically, particularly Genesis 1:27, it is unquestionable that God is associated with both feminine and masculine imagery.  God is imaged as both mother and father. In contrast to this nature, Mary Daly does not merely seek to erase masculine imagery from the term “God,” but the word “God” itself.  However, “Goddess” without the masculine imagery can no longer be the Perfect Goddess, just as “God” without the image of the feminine also remains imperfect.

As I see it, the problem lies not with using the term “God” itself, but how we understand and interpret God with our knowledge and languages. In short, we need not eliminate the word “God”—we need only change our traditional understanding of God.

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