Towards a Buddhist Contexualization

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Sharing Jesusin theBuddhist WorldDavid Lim and Steve Spaulding, EditorsFrom Worth Sharing Jesus in the Buddhist World by David Lim and Steve Spaulding, ed. Pp. 71-79. Used with permission by William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104.Copyright 2003 by David Limand SteveSpauldingAll Rights ReservedNo part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrievalsystem, or transmitted in any form or by any means-electronic,mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other-except for briefquotations embodied in critical articles or printed reviews, withoutprior permission of the publisher.Cover design by Rachel SnodderlyCopyedlting: Marybeth TewksburyPublished byWilliam Carey Library1605 Elizabeth St.Pasadena, California 91104ISBN 0-87808-506-8Printed in the United States of AmericaContentsIntroduction viiDavid Lim and Steve SpauldingThe Challenge of the Globalization of Buddhism 1David BurnettElements of a Biblical and Genuine Missionary Encounter 19with Diaspora Chinese Buddhists in Southeast AsiaTan Kang-SanMissiological Implications of the Key Contrasts between 31Buddhism and ChristianityAJuSmlthSuffering and Salvation in Buddhism and Christianity: 57Negations and PositionsJohannes AagaardTowards a Radical Contextualization Paradigm 71in EvangeliZing BuddhistsDavid S. Lim, PlJ.D.An Integrated Model of Evangelism to Buddhists 95Using Theology, Anthropology, and Religious StudiesUbolwan MejudlJonvTowards a Radical ContextualizationParadigmin Evangelizing BuddhistsDavid S. Lim, Ph.D.As we enter the twenty-first century and the third millennium,evangelical missiology faces a critical challenge to craft a "missionparadigm" that is truly biblical and relevant to the issues raised bythe spread of information technology, post-modern thinking, andpluralistic contexts, especially in regard to the resurgence of tradi-tional religions. Some even see "the need to drastically recon-ceptualize a major part of evangelical missiology, if not its entire-ty,"1 hence the boldness of the title and aim of this paper: todelineate what it sees to be a radical (i.e., deep into the basic roots)mission paradigm which consists of the best missiological theory(biblical-theological) and the best missionary strategy (practical),especially in relation to doing missions in Buddhist contexts.-. ,The biggest challenge was presented by Samuel Escobar at theIguassu Missiological Consultation, held last October 1999in Brazil bythe World Evangelical Fellowship Mission Commission, when he crit-icized the "managerial missiology" that served as the main evangel-ical mission paradigm during the last two decades of the twentiethcentury. He called for a "critical missiology from the periphery." "Thequestion for this missiology is not how much missionary action is7172 SHARINGJESUSIN THEBUDDHIST WORLDrequired today but what kind of missionary action is necessary." 2 Heconcludes: "The missiologist in the Third World cannot avoid theevaluative questions not only for the defense of missionary work as itstands today, but also for the formulation of a missionary strategy forthe coming decades" (Escobar 2000, 114). Having grappled with themissiological issues from my Asian (Chinese Filipino) context, I ven-ture to show a mission paradigm {called "radical contextualization"}that I believe fully reflects the best of evangelical missiology.This mission paradigm is then applied to the challenge of resur-gent Buddhism, especially as it is showing much socio-cultural rel-evance to Asian societies today. In the past two years, the Beijinggovernment has had to determine to persecute the quasi-Buddhist,Falungong cult, which claims to have about eighty million followersin China. Since November last year in India, a mass conversionmovement among the Dalits show that they see in Buddhism theirbest hope to find socio-political liberation. In Taiwan, Buddhistshave set up hospitals, universities and welfare programs, which theyhave exported to many other lands, including China, Vietnam, andthe Philippines {d. Ruiz 1998}. It looks like there will be more con-textualized forms of Buddhism, with more generous and compas-sionate faces, promoting tolerance and non-violence in our rapidlychanging world (ct. Seamands 2000, 24-25, 29, 38; M. Tan 2001).The "radical contextualization" paradigm will be shown to cov-er three important dimensions of missions: missiological strategy,Christological message, and ecclesiological structure. This paper alsosuggests that this is a "whole package," for a biblical missiology thatis truly Trinitarian:3As the Father sent the Son into the world (as themodel of incarnational missions), as the Son became the Savior of theworld (as the message of the gospel), and as the Holy Spirit empow-ers the church to be his witness in the world (as the servant of hisKingdom), so all these three (missiology, Christology, and eccle-siology) make up a consistent whole. Any missing componentbecomes a deficiency in a radically contextualized "Trinitarian rnis-siology." Further, in showing how these apply in Buddhist contexts,we will also refer to examples, similar to this paradigm, in missionwork among other religions, like animism," Islam (Love 2000; Par-shall 2000; Woodberry 1989), Hinduism (H. Richard 1999; HedlundTowards a Radical Contextualization 732001; d. Sunder Raj 2001), and folk Catholicism (Bjork 1997; Boff1986; Bonino 1995; Padilla 1999; P. Richard 1987).This paper shows that "radical contextualization" (RC) consistsof incarnational missiology, dialogic (or dialectic) Christology, anddiaconal (or servant) ecclesiology, reflecting Jesus Christ as the way(that saves the world, John 1:29), the truth (that enlightens the world,John 1:9), and the life (that his bodyI church shares in the world,Eph. 3:7-13). This threefold paradigm calls for quite a shift indeedfrom the dominant evangelical "managerial missiology" to a truly"contextualizing (or incarnational) missiology."1. Incarnational MissiologyThe first dimension of RC is in the area of mission strategy:"As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Iohn 20:21 NRSV).What are the ways or means of mission that best fit the incarna-tionaI model of our Lord Jesus? We suggest there are three basicways: friendship evangelism, church multiplication, and a Simplelifestyle, all of which reveal a low-profile approach to missions.1.1. Friendship EvangelismThe clearest verse on evangelism is 1 Peter 3:15, which teachesthat we should treat our contacts "with gentleness and respect"meaning "as persons or human beings." Since people are multi-faceted, and each person is unique, this means the evangelistshould take time out to get to know the person and as much ofher I his background and situation as possible, and not intrude pre-maturely or aggressively into her/his (inner and social) world; oth-erwise an h o n e ? ~ "heart to heart talk" becomes almost impossible.Establishing a personal friendship with the other person is pre-requisite in evangelism, since the messenger becomes a veryimportant part of the message, at least for the unbeliever. Peoplebecome more receptive to the gospel when they see and experiencethe love of God before (or as) they hear about the love of God. 5Though the religious background of our contacts is veryimportant in our evangelism, we should be concerned with theirtotal life, not with the religious systems they represent. People arefirst of all human beings, then Buddhists (or Muslims or Hindus).74 SHARINGJESUSIN THE BUDDHIST WORLDAlthough Asians live in a very religious continent, filled with relig-ious peoples (including all kinds of Buddhists), "there is no suchthing as a purely religious encounter in Asia" (K. Tan 2000, 296-299). On the personal level, there are concerns of health, familyrelations, financial survival or upward mobility, and so forth. Onthe social level, there are issues of ethnic identity, political affilia-tion, legal restrictions, modernity (versus traditionalism), socialclass, historical prejudices, and so forth. As societies modernizeand urbanize, for more and more people religion becomes less andless a primary concern. Thus, to these people, turning to religiousdiscussions would immediately turn them off.Yet we also know it is possible and "relatively easy" to shareour faith, since there is a universal "common ground" based onour human nature and existence. Fundamentally, all people arealike. We have the same religious consciousness, needs, longingsand aspirations. All have the same physiological needs, the needfor security, a need to love and be loved, to belong and be accept-ed, and the need for self-actualization. Spiritually we need mean-ing in life, strength to overcome temptations, faith to face death,forgiveness of sins, and communion with God. So the gospel canhave universal application to these different needs and interests.But often the gospel has not been shared effectively merelybecause it