The biblical basis for understanding culture presented in these devotionals is essential material that you will be expected to understand and on which you will be evaluated. So, the devotionals are key course content. Evaluation of this devotional is graded on a participation only basis. To receive points for the unit devotional, you must write one original post of approximately 150 words in response to your instructor’s prompt. Content of the posting is not graded. However, you need to understand the material presented in the devotionals as it will often be integrated into other writing assignments.
During the final week of this course, we will consider more deeply our cultural lenses and how they affect the reading of Christianity’s most sacred text, the Bible.
Dr. Allen Yeh, professor, missiologist, and author of Majority World Theologies: Theologizing from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Ends of the Earth, presents compelling insight regarding how different parts of the world have different theologies though we all study the same Bible. He posits that truth is God’s perspective, and theology is human attempts to articulate God’s truth which is inevitably filtered through our own cultural lenses and language and experiences.
Yeh uses the term “majority world” to denote the collective name for Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He points out some things that the majority world focuses on in their theology, versus what the Western world tends to focus on.
Western theology often spends a lot of time discussing:
- mode of baptism: paedobaptism vs. credobaptism; dunking vs. sprinkling
- status of the papacy
- Calvinism vs. Arminianism
- complementarianism vs. egalitarianism
- cessationism/dispensationalism vs. the continuing of the gifts of the Spirit
- Sola fide vs. The New Perspective on Paul
- inerrancy vs. infallibility
- which Bible translation is best: KJV vs. NIV vs. ESV
More specifically, the white church in the United States tends to see certain things as normal facets of Christianity: youth pastors, quiet time, overseas mission trips and raising support, acoustic guitars, having a specific calling, with a lot of emphasis on individual identity. If you have spent time in churches outside of the US, you know that church doesn’t look the same everywhere.
Majority World theology might spend more time focused on the following:
- Ancestor worship, evil spirits
- Engaging false religions / power encounter
Dr. Yeh suggests that there are errors in Western theologies that Majority World theologies can help correct such as:
- Excessive individualism
- An excluded middle (Westerners tend to see two tiers: this world (visible) and the other world (invisible), with nothing in between; the “middle” is the unseen in this world)
- Materialism as a key to happiness
- Over-reliance on Enlightenment thinking
- Paucity of pneumatology (study of the Holy Spirit)
- Excessive triumphalism instead of a theology of lament
- Soterian gospel (only focused on “Jesus died for your sins” rather than the Kingdom of God)
- Regarding salvation as just a moment rather than as a process
- MTD (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism)
- Starting the Gospel with us (our own sin) instead of starting and ending with God (he is Alpha & Omega)
- Lack of emphasis on prayer
- Focus more on programs over people
- Being time-oriented over relationship-oriented
- See warfare as political/physical rather than spiritual
- Overemphasis on ecclesiological identity (denominations)
- Focusing on propositional truth over hospitality
- Not valuing the wisdom of elders/parents
Lists used with permission from Dr. Yeh’s workshop presentation at the 2020 SCORR Conference at Biola University.
- Consider Yeh’s list of Western theology “errors” and reflect on the areas you desire to learn more about from a different perspective. Are there areas you are uncomfortable with or perhaps don’t consider an error based on your cultural and/or theological lens?
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