Global Gospel

An Introduction to Christianity on Five Continents

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6. Asia

Discussion Questions

  1. When the Jesuits went to Asia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they allowed converts to continue to participate in various local rituals such as the veneration of the ancestors. The Jesuit argument was that these were cultural, not religious, rituals and therefore they were allowable for Christians. This Jesuit policy was condemned by Pope Clement XI in 1715 and was later reversed in the twentieth century. The underlying question remains: Is it possible to separate cultural rituals and practices from religious rituals and practices, or do the categories of culture and religion always blend into each other? What kinds of activities do you see as merely cultural, and what do you see as distinctively religious?

  2. Christians have always been in the minority in Asia. How does being a member of a social minority group influence religious faith in contrast to being a member of a social majority group? Christians experience more persecution in Asia than anywhere else, partly due to the fact that they are social minorities. Can Christians who live in places where they are in the majority ever experience persecution? If so, does the word persecution mean the same thing as it does in situations where Christians are minorities?

  3. Asian cultures tend to emphasize social harmony, while Western cultures tend to emphasize standing up for what you believe even if it makes others uncomfortable. How much emphasis do you put on social harmony in your own life? Are you more stereotypically Asian in your attitudes and actions or more Western?

  4. Many Asian Christians stress the importance of civic loyalty—emphasizing the good things in the cultures in which they live and supporting government policies. They tend not to be outspoken social critics. Should Christians point out errors or simply emphasize the good that exists in society? How much loyalty do Christians owe to the state?

  5. As religious-social minorities, Asian Christians interact with people of other faiths every day, and interfaith etiquette (learning to live peaceably together) often takes precedence over evangelism (trying to convert others to faith in Jesus). How should Christians balance interfaith etiquette with evangelism? Would you answer this question in the same way if you were living in Asia as you would if you were living in the West? How might different social contexts influence your attitudes and actions?

  6. Various Christian “insider movements” now exist in Asia. These are groups of people who personally believe in Jesus, but who continue to follow publicly the majority cultural and religious practices of their society. (For example, being Christian on the inside but Hindu on the outside.) Is this genuinely possible? Or does conversion to Christianity require a public break with other forms of religious faith? To what degree do the beliefs, practices, and values of Christianity overlap with the beliefs, practices, and values of other faiths? Is it possible to be both a Christian and a partial follower of some other religion as well?