God's Mission as Word Event in an Age of World Christianity: An Asian Linguistic-Transcultural Model

By Chung, Paul S. | International Review of Mission, November 2009 | Go to article overview

God's Mission as Word Event in an Age of World Christianity: An Asian Linguistic-Transcultural Model


Chung, Paul S., International Review of Mission


Abstract

Christian community lives according to the Word of God, inspiring the church to be in ecumenical fellowship and to be amenable to the act of God's speech in an age of world Christiania. The Word of God is able to be translated transculturally in different times and places, while keeping the transversal, irregular horizon of God's discourse. In view of the rise of world Christianity much has been said about the indigenization of the Christian narrative that challenges the western concept of missio Dei. To renew God's mission in an East Asian configuration, a linguistic-transcultural model is proposed for a public theology of mission that promotes the full humanity of those on the underside of history and acknowledges religious outsiders. A public mission of God's narrative takes seriously the project of interculturation and emancipation in the post-western Christian era.

Introduction

At the turn of the third millennium, it has been argued that the Christian world's centre of gravity has shifted from Europe and North America to Africa, Asia and Latin America. The phrase "a white Caucasian Christian" begins to sound like an oxymoron in view of the expansion of the church in the southern hemisphere. In the North American context the term "a Caucasian Buddhist or Confucian" is making inroads into the public sphere.

We may recognize the assembly of the World Council of Churches in Zimbabwe in 1998 as an acknowledgement of the increasing significance of the churches in Africa in an era of world Christianity. The rise of this new Christianity is characterized by the decline of European Christianity and a shift in the demographics of the Christian population to the southern hemisphere.

This phenomenon of world churches necessitates the renewal and extension of a Christian theology of God's mission in a wider global spectrum. This broader theology must seriously consider the non-western formation, distinctive character and direction of the Christian religion. World Christianity radically breaks from the Enlightenment framework which has been and is still influential in western Christianity. The Barthian concept of missio Dei is grounded in a trinitarian idea of God's election. However, this concept of missio Dei is abstract, even vulnerable when it is disconnected from the human experience of God's Word event in one's own linguistic-cultural life setting. Human experience of God's Word is linguistically mediated and socially-existentially understood in a polyvalent, multiple-meaningful and open-ended direction.

Thus, a missiological reflection on God's discourse is localized and driven in by a linguistic-transcultural model while open-ended in the ecumenical and global exchange of the Christian narrative, cooperating with religious outsiders and emphasizing an intercultural theology of world Christianity. Creating a new way of interpreting the mystery of God's narrative must engage the reigning "plausibility structure" according to which patterns of belief and practice are accepted within a given society and are diversely expressed in different times and places. (1) Given this fact, it is essential to propose a linguistic-transcultural model of God's mission as Word event in a global context.

Word Event and Translation in World Christianity

The term world Christianity implies a variety of indigenous expressions of Christianity that are not rooted in a European Enlightenment model, notably visible in Africa and Asia. Colonial annexation and subjugation expatriated native and indigenous cultures and languages under Christendom. However, in the emergence of world Christianity, indigenizing Christian faith calls for the decolonization of western Christianity and theology. Here, a post-western Christianity comes to light. The metaphor of "taking off one's shoes" in approaching the cultural-religious place of the other because it is a holy place shows a new appreciation of others. …

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