Global Christianity: What Does It Look Like?

One of my lectures this week was about Christianity around the world. It was only one lecture, and really it could be a whole course, but the little we covered was very interesting. We read various articles by author’s of different nationalities, and it was clear that their Christianity reflected the culture they lived in.

One example was the work of Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889—1929 ).[1] He lived in India, and you could hear chimes of the Indian culture in his writing—which was beautiful. He wrote that God is in everything, and unless we ‘see’ God in the natural world, we cannot fully appreciate what we have. God is reflected in creation. He wrote that prayer prepares the soul for God’s gifts, and we shouldn’t be praying in order to ‘get’ things. When we approach God in prayer, our thirst is quenched. He painted a picture of God using examples from nature.

At times, it was fairly close to pantheism (the idea that God is everything, and everything is God—which is roughly the teaching of the Hindu religion). But he didn’t actually say that, and instead gave an example of a sponge being filled with water—the sponge and the water are intrinsically different substances, but one is able to completely absorb the other.

His title of ‘Sadhu’ means ‘holy man,’ and he taught many people. There are stories that he left society and went to live in a cave, and he is still there now, waiting until the world is ready for him to emerge. Other reports (I suspect more reliable) are that he died in 1929.

We also read some of Richard Young’s work, about Christianity in Africa and Asia.[2] He writes about the role of ancestors in China. He suggests that the spirit of ancestors should be regarded as a force—either to help in the Christian journey or to flee from their influence—but they cannot simply be ignored. Chinese people cannot be expected to suddenly think ‘with a Western mind’ when they become Christians.

I’m not sure what I think about this. However, I do wonder if there is an example in the New Testament. If you read the Gospels, there were an awful lot of evil spirits/demon possession. And in today’s society, there seem to be less. I do not actually know anyone who has been possessed by evil spirits—do you? Yet we read of the disciples encountering such people regularly. Were they just unlucky? Or are we not noticing? Or, is it possible that those people were not possessed by spirits, they were simply ill, and erratic behaviour due to things like epilepsy was wrongly attributed to evil spirits? In which case, it is interesting that Jesus did not correct the wrong assumption. He met the people within the culture/thought-context of the time, and he knew that if he told the person they were healed, but ignored the ‘evil spirit’ then they would continue to suffer—because placebo is very strong, and a belief in an evil spirit would be enough for them to continue to suffer. Therefore, in kindness, Jesus did was what necessary, he appeared to ‘cast out’ spirits, so the person would be healed. If I am correct, then what Young suggests would fit with this example. Sometimes we expect people to change who they are before they can come to God, but this is a human requirement, not a Godly one. If God wants to change them, that’s his business, and that will happen later.

We also spoke to a Coptic Christian from Egypt—but I’ll tell you about that in my next blog. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading.
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[1] Sudhu Sundar Singh, At the Master’s Feet, (Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1922).

[2] Richard Fox Young, ‘Christian Spirituality in Africa Asia, Latin America and Oceania’, in Author Holder (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2011).


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