Orality Webinar

I have been watching a series of Webinars on the Orality Movement. It is a partnership between Lausanne Movement and International Orality Network (ION).

The focus has been on the recent work of Tom Steffen and Bill Bjoraker, particularly in terms of Oral Hermeneutics and Character Theology.

It is available on Youtube at “Lausanne Orality”—- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7qDsOdAVRN4Z9ravw5ddeg/featured

It is also available in podcast form on some platforms under ‘God Speaks.’

I have watched all of the ones so far, and was able to participate live (although mostly as a lurker). For those interested in Orality, not just as a method for sharing the gospel with those who cannot read, but also in terms of communicating in a world that commonly learns without reliance on print media.

Six Robust Foundations for Contextualized Christian Theology?

One of the big trends in recent years in Christian missions has been to think about contextualization for cultures that place a higher value shame than on guilt. As work in contextualization for honor/shame cultures, three things happened. First, there was a growth in the realization that the Bible not only focuses considerably on honor and shame. In fact, it could be argued that there is more in the Bible on honor and shame than there is on guilt and innocence. Second, there was an increase in realization that the Bible was written within an honor/shame culture by honor/shame prophets and apostles to honor/shame people. Third, there was a growing understanding that much of the theology developed, especially Roman Catholic and Protestant was focused on guilt and innocence, but Biblical theology could quite easily be built off of a focus on, for example, spiritual adoption (a major metaphor associated with honor/shame) rather than justification (the most commonly used metaphor associated with guilt/innocence). I might even go so far as to suggest that honor and shame may be at least as good of a foundation for Christian theology as guilt and innocence.

But that brings up a question of what other frameworks could be used to develop a robust Christian Theology. I think there are at least three criteria to consider. First, it should tie to a major cultural pattern. Second, it should be linked to at least one major theme in the Bible. Third, it should express a common human longing/need that is answered in God’s grace. I would like to suggest a few.

A. I would like to start from the Three Cultural Types from www.honorshame.com. I am not sure who actually developed this. Perhaps Jayson Georges or Jackson Wu… or someone else. The three cultural types are:




Jayson Georges has noted that Fear/Power has been developed theologically, at least somewhat in the Pentecostal and the Charismatic faith traditions. I would argue that Liberation Theology is probably a better expression of Fear/Power since most Pentecostal and Charismatic theology is still built on a foundation of Guilt/Innocence. It does seem like a very robust theology can be guilt off of Fear and Power.

So we are at three robust theological foundations. Let’s add to that.

B. If we look at the Four Frames of the Gospel, described by Tom Steffen in his book, Worldview Bible Storying (in Appendices E and F), the ones listed are:





The first three are already dealt with, but the fourth has not been looked at. I must admit that my first reaction is to rebel against this one. I am not excited by the thought of a theology built off of Pollution/Purity. Still there are major themes in the Bible that inadequately covered by the one’s that have been listed so far. One of these in Uncleanness versus Cleanness. That doesn’t fit at all well with Sin/Innocence. It fits a bit better with Shame/Honor, but still not comfortably. The opposite might be said of Unholy and Holy (Sacred or Set apart). This doesn’t fit well with Shame/Honor, and only somewhat better with Guilt/Innocence. Additionally, from a cultural perspective, it fits a bit better with what David Augsberger calls “Cultural Ethics” which can also be described by the dualistic Unfit/Fit.

So now we are up to four. Are there any others. Well, I think so.

C. Robert and Christopher Strauss in Four Overarching Patterns of Culture describes (unsurprisingly) four patterns found in cultures around the world.





Of those four, Justice already has a theological model— Guilt/Innocence. Honor also has a theological model— Shame/Honor. Regarding Reciprocity, one might suggest that Fear/Power is tied to that since Reciprocity deals with flow of power tied to patronage and indebtedness. However, I think that Reciprocity could also be said to link to any of the other models without requiring own separate model. For example, in Guilt/Innocence, one of the challenging aspects of this model is the issue of the issue of “Free Gift of Salvation.” While that is a common understanding among many Christian groups, especially Evangelical Christians, there has often been the question of how it ultimately ties to the working out of our salvation. The attempts (such as in what is sometimes called “Hypercalvinism”) that seeks to divest salvation from works so much that even Faith or Belief is found unnecessary since it might be considered by some as a work, appear t.o prioritize a form of logic over Scripture. However, in Reciprocity, an answer may be suggested. In this pattern, the patron expresses Benevolence to his people, while the people respond with Fealty (or faithful allegiance). Since this also aligns with a number of the (suzerainty) covenants in the Bible, this may inform a middle ground, where God benevolently gives grace without works, but works are the covenantal response to grace given.

I don’t think Reciprocity is a good foundation for a robust theology (despite being useful in theological work), but I think there is much greater potential in Harmony. One might describe this in terms of Chaos/Harmony, or Disharmony/Harmony. I think I will use Dissonance/Harmony. Many cultures idealize harmony, balance, order as opposed to their opposites. Daoism, particularly, embraces this view but Greeks also valued balance, harmony, the Golden mean, and such.

Additionally, the Bible’s Grand Narrative can be described very much in line with this. The Bible starts with God transforming chaos into order, and order into paradise. In paradise (Eden), God, Man, and Creation exist in perfect harmony. But Satan disrupts this, leading to Adam and Even disobeying God, and breaking up the natural order. Now there is lack of harmony. Order goes to disorder, and peace has been replaced by conflict. However, Jesus came to restore order. The Kingdom of God points to the new harmony that will be— Paradise Restored— God, Man, and Creation in Perfect (restored) Harmony. At first, one may wonder whether Dissonance/Harmony could be used since it seems rather high-end and abstract. Christianity is high-end and societal, but it is also personal. I believe that the Dissonance/Harmony theological model would demonstrate itself on a more personal level in terms of conflict. We are in enmity or conflict with God, but Jesus is the one gave Himself over to the enemy so as to make peace and restore harmony. (Note: this view is much in line with Don Richardson’s expression of salvation in Peace Child.)

D. So now we have five possibilities for foundations for robust Theology. Are there any others? Well, one can go in a different direction and look at W. Paul Jones’ book Theological Worlds. In it, he speaks of five different “alternative rhythms of Christian belief.” The five are:

-Separation and Reunion

-Conflict and Vindication

-Emptiness and Fulfillment

-Condemnation and Forgiveness

-Suffering and Endurance

Several of these, however, do fit comfortably within the foundations already mentioned. Condemnation and Forgiveness clearly is tied to Guilt/Innocence. Conflict and Vindication probably fits under Dissonance/Harmony (although Fear/Power might also work). Separation and Reunion lines up, I think, with Shame/Honor. Suffering and Endurance probably fits best with Fear/Power, especially the Liberation Theology side of it. But that leaves one more— Emptiness/Fulfillment.

I feel that this one fits very well with the Bible. It can be seen in more than one way. It can be seen in terms of the Eastern Orthodox understanding of “Theosis.” It can be seen in terms of “Becoming Who We Are”— children of the King. It can also be understood in terms of meaning and purpose. As such, it brings back the metaphor of Jesus as the gate and the way.

There may be others, but let’s look at these six.







Each expresses a major problem in mankind, and how the Gospel of God, made effective through Christ answers it.

I have to think about this more, but as I try to draw it up, it seems right to me to think of these six fitting into two categories.

It seems like three of these relate to issues that are more static or unmoving. These are Guilt/Innocence where one exists in a state of disobedience, Pollution/Purity, where the state is impurity, and Shame/Honor where one is in a state of being shameful.

On the other hand, three feel to me more dynamic, or at least more chaotic. These are Fear/Power where one is in the emotionally chaotic state of fear, Dissonance/Harmony where one is in the relationally chaotic state of conflict, and Emptiness/Fulfillment where one is in the volitionally chaotic state of purposelessness.

Anyway, these are very preliminary thoughts. In the next few weeks hopefully I can thicken these thought threads. Once I do, I will probably add a new chapter to my book on Missions Theology.

Theology— Faith Seeking Understanding

St. Anselm (1033-1109 AD) had a well-known motto— “fides quaerens intellectum.” This is Latin and translates as “Faith Seeking Understanding.” This can be seen as a good explanation of Theology. I believe that Theology must draw from a place of Faith. One can study Christian Theology without having Christian faith. However, that should be thought of as Religious Studies. To DO Christian Theology, one must have the Christian Faith and thus doing Christian Theology involves one seeking to relate reason and understanding to that Faith.

That works for Biblical Theology and for Systematic Theology. I suppose that works fairly well to Historical Theology and Philosophical/Natural Theology as well. However, in Practical Theology, the description needs to church. This includes Homiletics, Theology of Worship, Missiology, and more.

For these, I would say, it is the Practice of Faith Seeking Understanding. It deals with the Whats of Practice as well as the Whys.

I don’t know Latin, but I tried a translator program for “The Practice of Faith Seeking Understanding” and it said,

Praxis Fidei Quaerens Intellectus

If someone knows Latn, I would welcome corrections or improvements on this. In general, Mission Theology would be The Practice of Faith (relating to Missions) Seeking understanding.

Internationalization and Localization of Theology. Part 1

I am not a video game person. I am pretty much limited to “Match 3” games. I was addicted to Bards Tale back in the 1980s. However, I have been talking to my daughter who is very interested in video games. She is interested in playing them, but also has a considerable interest in their development— especially in terms of the process of voice acting and directing, and the localization of video games. The latter of these, localization of video games, has do with the process of taking a game that was developed in and for Culture A, and make it localized and immersive in Culture B.

As I was looking into that process, I was interested in a number of aspects of it that arguably may relate to the localization (as part of contextualization) of theology. The most interesting part of it, to me at least, is the step called Internationalization. I can see how it could be seen as part of the process known as the “Three Culture Model.” However, I feel like there is enough differences, that it is worth exploring further.

In general, Internationalization is the step that allows easy Localization. Without this step, the development of a localized version of a video game can be laborious. Also, it may open the door for losing key aspects of gameplay that would ultimately ruin what made the game great.

In the next few posts I will explore this process. The image below shows the process very simplistically. In reality, there is nothing really linear about the process.

Anti-Missions Theology Article

I took my latest book on Mission Theology (Go to the Welcome for this website to access the “Beta” Version of the book) and I turned one of the chapters into an article to share on Academia.edu.

If you are interested in reading this topic of Anti-missions theology in Protestant Church History, but don’t want to look at the whole book, you can go to…


Mission Theology Book in “Beta”

I have finished the first draft of my book “Walking With” as Metaphor for Missions Theology.

If you are interested in reading it as it is, you can click on the Download Button above.

Now you might be thinking, “Why, oh why, would you want to put it up unfinished?”

  1. It is basically finished. I have said everything I want to say. There is just clean up of grammar, finishing the sloppy endnotes, perhaps adding index and reference pages, and the final read-through. Informationally it is complete.
  2. This has been a SLOW book for me. I taught a course in Missions Theology back in 2016 and thought putting together a book on this topic would be helpful for my students (good textbooks are hard to find in the Philippines). So I started working on the book. But then, I was moved to teaching Interreligious Dialogue (IRD). So I put together a book for that class, and I cannibalized large chunks of my Missions Theology book for that purpose. I decided I would never complete the Missions Theology book. However, COVID time got me thinking. I have the time and I feel like I have something to say.
  3. My schedule gets rather cluttered in the next few weeks— perhaps next few months. I don’t want to sit on the project for a few months. I would rather put out what I have and then revise and complete when I have time.
  4. If people download it and read it, and then have constructive comments, that would be helpful.

I have decided not to sell this book (most likely) but I hope it puts some ideas out there in thoughtspace that will be of value to missions.

Again, click on the title of the book at the top to download a pdf version of this book.

Contextual Theology Diagrams

I have SLOWLY been working on my book on Missions Theology. I am putting here a couple of diagrams that are associated with the sections related to Contextual Theology.

  1. The first one is the one related to Models of Contextualization. I am using Stephen Bevans six models.

I try to relate the six models of Stephen Bevans to the focus on the Word of God, Human Context, and Individual Reflection. Of course, all six models take seriously, to some extent, all three areas, but there is a tendency to lean towards one of the poles.

Translation and the Countercultural model emphasize the Word of God over the others. As such, they tend to be appreciated more by Evangelical groups. The Anthropological model gives greatest weight to Human Context.

The Transcendental and Praxis Models I have put as closest to Individual Reflection. Both are intentionally iterative. The Transcendental Model is related to David Tracy’s model for theological reflection. The Praxis Model is the iteration between action and reflection, which is also the general pattern for Practical Theology.

This leaves the Synthetic Model. I would love to place it at the Human Context end of things to make the diagram symmetric. However, the Synthetic Model takes human tradition, praxis, and the Word of God and intentionally synthesizes it. Since those three each point to a different pole, that means that the Synthetic Model fits best in the middle.

2. The second on is Tests for Sound Contextual Theology. This also draws, more loosely, on some work by Stephen Bevans.

These tests help determine whether a contextual theology should be seen as a healthy localization of the Christian faith or not (or as Bevans would say, “in bounds” or “out of bounds”).

The tests are from Divinity, Community, and Function. For previous descriptions of these categories, one can go to a previous post of mine:


I thought about adding more tests. These include:

  • Test of Cultural Relevance (Does it draw from local symbols?)
  • Test of Cultural Resonance (Does the theology speak to the unspoken concerns and passions of a culture?)
  • Test of Aliveness (Does it identify its need to change as culture changes, or does it see itself as “having arrived at ultimate truth”?)

However, upon further reflection, it does occur to me that while these may be good benchmarks for good theology, they are not really tests of orthodoxy.

Biblical Theology Presentations

I taught a short-course on Biblical Theology back a few years ago. Actually, it was two short-courses— one for Old Testament and one for New Testament. Biblical Theology is not my strength, but I was excited to teach it at Maranatha Bible College because it is a passion of mine. I used, primarily “An Old Testament Theology” by Bruce K. Waltke (2007). I also used Walter C. Kaiser Jr. “Toward an Old Testament Theology” (1978), and Christopher J. H. Wright “The Mission of God” (2006).

I suppose my interest in Biblical Theology is partly because of the poor Biblical Theology that underpins most Missiology. It is a frustration of mine.

Anyway, I decided to put two of my presentations on Slideshare that relate to the OT Biblical Theology. They are the first and last presentation of that course— actually the two presentations that are the least related directly to Biblical Theology. On is foundational to an understanding of Biblical Theology, and the other is more historical and transitional towards NT Biblical Theology.

The Cheshire Church

The following is a quote from the book by James F. Engle and William A. Dyrness, “Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong?” (InterVarsity Press, 2000).

Who can fault legendary evangelist Dwight L. Footnotes: The Cheshire CatMoody, who captured the mood of evangelicals at the end of the nineteenth century in his declaration, “I look upon the world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.'” In other words, all hopes of transforming society with the gospel were dashed, in his eyes, until Christ’s return in glory, leaving only one option, the lifeboat— a single-minded focus on evangelism as the mission of the church.

While few would echo the words of Moody and his contemporaries today, we still hear a distinct but largely unrecognized carryover. Ever since the late 1800s, dominant evangelical voices have called for accelerated church planting to evangelize the maximum number of unreached in the shortest possible period of time. The return of Christ became the dominant motivation for missions— only this return would bring about the transformation that the gospel required. The only human effort required was an announcement of the message. ….

There never has been a dispute that evangelism is indispensable as the first step in making disciples in all nations, but now voices were heard calling for the first time for completion of world evangelization in this generation. It would almost seem as if the future world and the ultimate victory of Christ had become dependent on human initiative. Little wonder that evangelicals were quick to embrace the wonders of a technological age and to mobilize Christian resources in an unprecedented way. In the process, it became tempting to disregard the essence  of the Great Commission …. where it is abundantly obvious that human efforts are futile, or at least inadequate,without the convicting, regenerating and sanctifying role of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, among those who referred to themselves as evangelicals, there was almost total silence in response to God’s call for social justice to alleviate the burdens of ignorance, poverty and hunger, racism, the loss of cultural identity, and other forms of oppression (Amos 5:21-24, Luke 3:10-14; 4:18-21). Oss Guinness prophetically observed that the outcome of this silence is a church that has lost its impact by becoming “privately engaging, socially irrelevant.”

Guinness uses the analogy of the Cheshire Cat in the famous story Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In this fable, the cat gradually loses its identity until all that remains is its famous lingering grin. So it is with the church, which by and large now has only the ‘lingering grin, ‘ a surface indicator of a privatized faith without moral and social impact. In so doing, the church has dug its own grave, while the smile lingers on.

(Pages 64-65.  Os Guinness quote is from “The Gravedigger File”)

The IMB Mission Statement and Holism


I facilitated a lecture on Social Ministry. The students’ readings were:

  • Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishing, 2009).
  • Jerry Ballard, “Missions and Holistic Ministry” in World Missions: The Asian Challenge: A Compendium of the Asia Missions Congres, ’90 (Asia Missions Congress, 1990), pages 340-348.
  • J. Jeffrey Palmer, Kingdom Development: A Passion for Souls and a Compassion for People (Chiang Mai, Thailand, ARLDF Publishing, 2004).

Ballard spoke of four Evangelical perspectives on Social Ministry as it relates to Christian Ministry. I will add a fifth one— one that was suggested to me by Dr. Dan Russell. These are:

  1. Convenience.  Christian ministry really is NOT about doing social ministry. Christian ministry is really about “spiritual ministries”— converting people to Christ, baptizing, church formation, training up religious leadership, Bible study, prayer ministry, etc.  However, if one can meet a physical, social, or other sorts of needs in people, it is not a bad idea… as long as it is “convenient.” In other words, as long as it doesn’t distract from “real” ministry. IT IS NICE TO BE NICE.
  2. Social Gospel. Christian ministry IS social ministry. The so-called “spiritual ministries” listed above are downplayed or at least seen not as central concerns.
  3. Ulterior Motive. Like Convenience, Ulterior Motive sees “Real” ministry as spiritual ministry. However, it diverges from Convenience in one major thing. Ulterior Motive does not say simply that “it is nice to be nice.” Rather it says “it is more effective to be nice.” In other words, social ministry can be leveraged to more effectively do spiritual ministry.
  4. Holism. Holism says that Christ’s call to ministry is holistic. Humans are holistic and so compartmentalizing and prioritizing types of ministry is a mistake. Christian ministry IS SPIRITUAL AND SOCIAL. Our call to bless is transformational in all spheres of human existence.
  5. Spiritualistic. This is like Convenience in that it sees “real” Christian ministry as spiritual, not social. However, it sees social ministry as a distraction from spiritual ministry. Thus, in practice, it is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO BE NICE. Evangelical missions in the 1960s seem to have embraced that as has some small group multiplication strategies today.

Speaking of today, I would say that I generally support the Holism stance. I understand the logic of the Ulterior Motive stance, although I would probably add a bit of a John Stott spin to it suggesting that while social ministry can be leveraged to support spiritual ministry, spiritual ministry can likewise be leveraged to support social ministry. The two are synergistic. Still, I would say that doing good does not really need a spiritual justification.

This leads me to the mission statement of the International Mission Board (of Southern Baptist Churches). I am not IMB, but I am sent by a Southern Baptist Church, and I teach in a (Philippine) SBC seminary. As such, their mission statement is of at least academic interest to me.

IMB partners with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting, and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.

It sounds pretty spiritualistic. It has many of the categories of “spiritual ministry,” including evangelizing, discipling, churchplanting, church multiplying, and leader training. My suspicion is that the statement was actually written by people of the Convenience stance or Spiritualistic stance (or more likely a combination).

However, as I am reading it, it occurs to me that one could have a more Holistic stance and still agree wholeheartedly in it. (Actually, the one term I don’t like is the word “limitless.” It seems to be chosen to sound visionary to potential donors, but is actually vague… immeasurable… meaningless.)

But let’s consider the other terms:

-Evangelism. This term sounds quite spiritualistic. It suggests taking on the role of a messenger of God to serve as proclaimers of the good news of Christ. This draws naturally from the Greek that emphasizes its link to a “good message.” However, David B. Barrett in his book “Evangelize: A Historical Survey of the Concept” notes that both in the Bible and the early church, the term was used and applied very broadly. Sometimes in the Bible the term is used simply for verbal proclamation. Other times it describes the total activity of Christians to make known God’s message of peace to all people. Since Southern Baptists place great emphasis on the Bible as authoritative (and perhaps less commendably their tendency to idealize the primitive church) presumably they are using the term as it is used in the Bible and early church, rather than how it is commonly used today (and rather than based on its etymology). If so, that would be commendable. Good Biblical theology draws from usage, and “evangelize” is used quite broadly in the Bible.

  -Discipling.  Again, there can be a question of what the term means. In its common usage, it is often limited to a form of indoctrination— learning to read the Bible, pray, memorize Scripture, and so forth. However, if it is understood in its Biblical-Historical sense, we draw back to Christ and his process of discipleship with the Twelve (and others). Baptists are Christocentric and so see Jesus as both our example for practice, and our goal. As such, we would look to Christ to understand how to disciple and see that being like Christ would be the goal for a disciple. Again, discipleship in this sense is much broader than the cognitive-dominated sense we use it today. It could quite reasonably be argued that Jesus discipled holistically (whole person, whole need, whole context). Additionally, a disciple arguably should have more than simply the same doctrines as Jesus, but have similar behavior, motivations, priorities, socialization, and spiritual focus as Jesus.

-Healthy Churches. The mission statement speaks of planting and multiplying healthy churches, but that begs the question of what constitutes being healthy. Perhaps the creators of the vision statement were thinking of being “3-self” (or perhaps 4-self). Since, however, self-propagating (one of the 3-selves) could be seen as redundant (seeing that the term multiplying is just prior), it seems unlikely. I might suggest that healthy means having healthy members in healthy relationships. This draws back to the work of Stan Rowland and Medical Ambassadors (now Lifewind). They define health in Christian ministry in terms of four healthy relationships. These are God (spiritual), Others (social), Self (psychoemotional), and Physical World (own body, ecological, and economic). I don’t know if the creators of the statement thought through the use of the term “healthy” that much. However, it seems reasonable that if any of the above four areas of healthy relationship are bad, one cannot really saying that one is planting and multiplying “healthy churches.”

-Training Leaders. I don’t really know what is meant by this. However, if it is correct to understand the other items previous in holistic terms, then certainly training leaders must certainly mean to train leaders to recognize both spiritual and social ministry as vital to the church, and both as parts of God’s total call to serve.

Again, I don’t know what the creators of the IMB mission statement meant but I certainly hope that a holistic broad (God-sized?) vision can be its interpretation in the future.

(Just get rid of the word “limitless”…)