Understanding Christian Identity In Terms Of Bounded And Centered Set Theory In The Writings Of Paul G. Hiebert -- By: Anonymous
TRINJ 30:2 (Fall 2009) p. 177
Understanding Christian Identity In Terms Of Bounded And Centered Set Theory In The Writings Of Paul G. Hiebert
Michael L. Yoder, Michael H. Lee, Jonathan Ro, Robert J. Priest
“Michael L. Yoder is a former missionary to Germany and an adjunct professor of missions at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, as well as a Ph.D. candidate in Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Michael H. Lee is a Ph.D. student in Intercultural Studies at TEDS. Jonathan Ro is a pastor and a Ph.D. student in Intercultural Studies at TEDS. Robert J. Priest is Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies and Director of the Ph.D. Program in Intercultural Studies at TEDS.
The conversion of non-Christians around the world has long been an agreed-upon missionary goal. But how to assess the genuineness of Christian conversion has achieved less missionary consensus. How does one know that someone really is a Christian? Can a nonliterate Indian peasant become a Christian after hearing the gospel only once? In his writings Hiebert used the example of Pappaya, an Indian man who hears a presentation of the gospel for the first time, offers a prayer to receive this Jesus, and returns home full of joy and confusion (1994, 107). Pappaya’s understanding of Christianity is limited and inflected by prior Hindu understandings. Illiterate, his knowledge of theology is limited to a few songs he learns. Even behavioral changes are potentially ambiguous. With no church to attend, he only occasionally has contact with a visiting circuit preacher. Pappaya stops going to the Hindu temple and instead offers incense to a picture of Christ. “He carries on his caste occupation, smokes an occasional cigarette, and lives as most other villagers do” (1994,110). Is he a Christian?
Missionaries have often exercised differing judgments about who really is a Christian. Some missionaries rapidly baptized converts that other missionaries would only have baptized after a several-year process of screening and resocialization to ensure the presence of a long list of behavioral and doctrinal commitments in each baptismal candidate. And of course it is church leaders and lay Christians, and not just missionaries, who struggle to answer the question of who is a Christian. Because we are unable to see the human heart as God does, and because we cannot consult the “Lamb’s Book of Life” to see for sure whether a given person’s name
TRINJ 30:2 (Fall 2009) p. 178
appears, the actual reasoning processes that people go through to make such assessments of who is a Christian are fully human, flawed, and culturally variable. They merit careful attention.
Sometimes it is the cultural practic...
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