Friday, September 09, 2005

Os Guiness - The Third Mission to the West, a Postscript

A little over a month ago, I wrote a blog report on a talk given by Os Guinness.

DJ Chuang left a short note for me in response.

I was pleasantly surprised to get a comment as I wonder what happens after I hit "publish post!"

Anyway, in surfing around, I found out that he will be a participant at the God Blog Convention to be held at Biola University this October 13-15, 2005. DJ Chuang will be leading the session on "The Emerging Church Blogs."

Among my circle of friends, I have heard the term "Emerging Church" tossed around and usually in connection with pastor and author Brian McLaren.

The response is somewhat mixed. Some really like his ideas and some are more skeptical. I, for now, remain on the fence.

But onto DJ's comment: What do you think of his comments? Agree or disagree?

I think Guinness' observation about anti-Christian prejudice is on target. In some of the hot controversies of the day in the USA (abortion, stem cells, gay marriage, etc), Christians are portrayed quite negatively by those who don't hold to faith in Jesus. It seems as if secularists believe their position is so self-evidently correct that objection is not possible. I think most who hold religious views will strongly disagree with the secularist positions but will usually try to accord them some respect.

Interestingly, in the context of the recent hurricane relief efforts where faith-based organizations are taking a major role, I think people (skeptical of Christianity or neutral) have no choice but to acknowledge the valuable role of volunteers motivated by faith.

Overall, I see Guinness' presentation as providing a good big picture framework as to where Christianity is today in relation to the culture. I feel it was meant more to enlighten and encourage rather than provide very specific plans of action.

Probably, the only point I might quibble with is his discussion on how the ideas of leaders are more powerful than ideas of followers. Thus, we should try to influence leaders. The corollary point he made was that Ideas at the "center" tend to be more powerful than the periphery.

On its face, what he says is true. Leaders can be trend setters. Sometimes people will respond to leaders. Thus, it is proper that some people will be called to work in the fields where the leaders are and where the center is.

However, there are times when working the periphery is where God is moving. I can't help but think of the Chinese underground church. The centers of power in China for the moment remain largely immune to change. But in these little pocket community of believers, a mighty wind is sweeping.

I would also cite the imagery that Jesus used in describing the kingdom as yeast in a lump of dough as being more bottom up than top down.

DJ also commented: I'm most curious to learn what an Asian culture that is transformed by Christianity would look like. Some have said that Chinese culture is largely shaped by Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

Since I'm a molecular biologist by training and born and raised in America, I hesitate to make strong pronouncements in this area. But as a blogger, it is my "job" to expound on ideas for people to see and for you, the reader, to decide if it was worth the click to this site!

I think that because Chinese culture is less individualistic and activity oriented than American culture, the adjustment to Christian virtues like community (Confucian sense of duty to a larger grouping), self-denial (Buddhism's principle that suffering is due to desire) and meditation (Taoism) should be easier.

However, because Asian world-views are non-theistic, it maybe a struggle to accept and enjoy the notion that God is personal. Because God is personal and dynamic with the Spirit working in our lives, it might be difficult for those immersed in Asian culture to respond to the Spirit's prompting because harmony and tradition are so strongly held and may add to the inertia that is inherent to our sinfulness to begin with.

I think another challenge for Asians is that we exist largely in "monocultures." The global scope of Christian faith and God's intent to reach all peoples and for the church to be diverse might be easy to accept intellectually but might be harder to put into practice emotionally for us Asians.

I don't know if there are any "Asian Os Guinness" type leaders who try to pull together the Christian world-view and assess its interface with the culture.

My ties to the Asian Christian community are fairly modest living here in the USA and I am not currently attending an Asian ethnic church.

However, there are some individuals I've heard about who might be such candidates: Dr. (Philemon) Choi Yuen Wan and Dr. Milton Wan.

Dr. Wan will be speaking at this year's West Coast Chinese Christian Conference to be held at Mt. Hermon, California, December 26-29, 2005.

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