Friday, March 7, 2014

One Big Soul

Does our dedication to mission and evangelism derive from the theology that those who are not Christians are "enemies of the gospel"?

If it does, then, according to the late missiologist Kosuke Koyama, we have based evangelism on a faulty theology. This raises a question:

How can we appeal to Christian congregations for support of "overseas mission/evangelism work" if we do not tell them that "people over there" are living in darkness, and need their help?
Koyama's answer is as follows:

Our appeal to congregations for support of mission/evangelism work must be presented in terms of the theology of "extending hospitality to strangers," which is the essence of the gospel, and not in terms of the damnation of the heathens who are seen as the "enemies to the gospel."

So beings my next piece of work on inter-religious dialogue, paying particular attention to Christian-Buddhist relations as understood by Koyama, and relating all of this to a quote from Lindbeck, which, for better or worse, has stayed with me since I first read it nearly three years ago: can be argued in a variety of ways that Christian churches are called upon to imitate their Lord by selfless service to neighbours quite apart from the question whether this promotes conversions. They also have scriptural authorization in passages such as Amos 9:7-8 for holding that nations other than Israel -- and, by extension, religions other than the biblical ones -- are peoples elected (and failing) to carry out their distinctive tasks within God's world. If so, not everything that pertains to the coming of the kingdom has been entrusted to that people of explicit witness which knows what and where Jerusalem is and (as believers hope) marches toward it, if only in fits and starts. It follows from these considerations that Christians may have a responsibility to help other movements and other religions make their own contributions, which may be quite distinct from the Christian one, to the preparation of the Consummation. The missionary task of Christians may at times be to encourage Marxists to become better Marxists, Jews and Muslims to become better Jews and Muslims, and Buddhists to become better Buddhists (although admittedly their notion of what a "better" Marxist," etc., is will be influenced by Christian norms). Obviously this cannot be done without the most intensive and arduous conversation and cooperation.

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