What the western Church can learn from the eastern church


There are many fundamental and philosophical changes, challenges, cultural values and differences when we think about life in the west and east. Remember the Christian religion originated not in the west but in the east. When one compare and contrast between the west and east they think about different binary opposites such as black and white, third world and first world, barbarians and civilized, uneducated and educated etc. When it comes to religion in the eastern world religion is integrated to ordinary social and political activities and in the western world religion is separated from ordinary social and political activities. In the east the truth is believed without rationalizing while in the west the truth needs to be approved and based on the fundamental research.
Today we live in a rapidly changing world. Today's global changes affect the church's leadership and the understanding of the world mission. The western church supported the mission work in the world for many centuries with their dollar values. The western church is not in physical need but they are very much in need of spiritual things. Remember the internal or external structural beauty is only skin deep. Non-Western Christians were seen as rice Christians once upon a time and missionaries thought to be as outdated dinosaurs, but this trend is changing. Indigenous missionaries, Bible women, evangelists, catechists, preachers and prophets, social reformers were the most effective interpreters of the faith to their own people and unreached people groups. The strength of world Christianity lies in it’s interweaving of the warp of a world religion with the woof of local contexts. Shifting southward Christianity phenomenon has many great aspects to teach the western Christians.  Please look into the following aspects came to my mind when we think about what the western churches can learn from the eastern churches.
1. American Dream Vs. Eternity Based Dream
Living a life in the light of eternity is a challenge to any Christians not particularly for the western Christians but it has more relevant to the western Christian world. When we grow up in the eastern world our prayers are please God provide us with food, cloth and shelter. Asian perspective and western perspectives are different in lifestyle. The question of how Christ called you to live and make difference in the world of hatred, suffering, starvation and spiritual needs. Millions of Christians in the western world has reached gratification. Many of the Christians in the western world is pursuing fake happiness and reach for immediate gratification. In a spiritual sense the American dream is immediate gratification.
"For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast." -Jeremiah 30:17. Many of the exegetical text have no relevance to the western world or life style. For a healthy American dream need to be understood based on living in the light of eternity.
2. Avoid Being an Undercover Christian
Christians in the eastern world don't have the privilege to lead life as an undercover Christians.  Christianity set boundaries of life in Christ and life in the world, creating distinctive marks. When we live so long as undercover Christians we think that is normalcy.
The undercover boss is a very attractive and popular TV show in the US. The catchy aspect of the show is how the perspective of the employee by an undercover boss views the everyday issues of the employee. In the spiritual world western Christians has the privilege to live life as undercover Christians. Within the family, church, work place, school and even in the social and family context. Christians in the western world live a life that is politically correct, which is a silent slow spiritual suicide. Living a Christian life is the eastern world is not possible through living undercover or the boundaries are not narrow minded lines. The concept of conversation is a visible spiritual exercise especially from other religious traditions.
3. Avoid Trumpism and narrow-minded Isolation
Many people view Trumpism as a backlash to Christian social progress in the western world. Trumpism is just getting started in the world. A lot of people created a comparative analysis between eastern orthodoxy, religious fanaticism and Trumpism. It emerges from fascism and a belief system that encourages pretentious narcissistic behavior to achieve money, power, prestige and fame. It creates isolation and alienation among many different isolated communities. It exaggerates masculinity as a cultural identity.  The root problem of narrow minded isolation comes from economic insecurities, threat of terrorism, fear of the other or different, distrust of institutions like religion, media and political system and rapid confused alienated cultural changes etc. Christian faith always embraced the outsider, the other, isolated and become the voice for the voiceless.  There is no better country in the world than to be in US and once you reach that place and reach your American dream you define your mission in the light of how Jesus moment turn to be a liberative moment for the WHOLE WORLD. We can’t journey back to anti-intellectual cave mentality. The progress of the western world was achieved not through isolation or narrow mindedness but by embracing the different. A balanced perspective is only possible through knowing a wider perspective.

4. Apophatic theology: Know the Strategies of the Devil
A positive centered or negative centered is limited. One of the most neglected subjects in the western church is the perspective of the negative side or demonology. The devil’s primary work is deception and thus the words like wiles, tactics, schemes, and strategies are all appropriate words to describe. D.L Moody once said there is only two reasons why he believed in devil as a real being because Jesus said so and many people do business with him. According to the Bible, the devil is a created, personal, spirit being and just because we cannot see him does not mean that he is not real. This negation of apophatic theology by the western church put us into trouble to deal with the issue of human suffering. When we try to understand God from the framework of cataphatic theology we are limited and it creates cotton candy Christianity. Unfortunately christianity is known not by life but by rituals, by forms and procedures but not by power. In the western world God was understood not as apophatic theology. In other words what God is not? This is opposite to cataphatic theology or kataphatic theology refers to what the divine is believed to be or in contrast to the negative terminology. The divine is not dealt within the western context. I personally think in order to understand God; we need both theologies (cataphatic and apophatic) in a balanced perspective. When we deal with the laws in the Judaistic framework (Torah) we know there are 613 commandments. Out of 613 commandments 365 which coincides with the number of days in the solar year which are negative and 248 commandments are positive a number ascribed to the number of bones and main organs in the human body.

5. Journey from Individualism to collective consciousness: Messianic Hope 

Today we live in the world, which is individualistic in nature especially the western work culture. They are reflected in our workplace, interpersonal life, social psyche of the western world. The biblical times or the eastern thinking are not personalistic in nature and they can be called collective consciousness. It is a set of shared beliefs, ideas, moral attitudes, which operate as a unifying force within a society. The aspects of forgiveness, victory, success, education, formulation of new ideas and the way religion are practiced not from individualistic framework. The eastern world don't see the piece of the puzzle to reach conclusions but they are seen from a holistic framework. When it comes to Christian life the individualist framework is lived out in the western world, but it was not the idea of the Eastern Church, philosophy and way of life. The messianic hope is often viewed in the western world as a self-gratification and self-actualization, but in the original context it was fulfillment of a collective conciseness, a liberation for the community, a messianic hope. Liberation was also not personalistic liberation but liberation of the people group or national liberation from the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Greek, Hellenistic mindset. Today the rest of the world Christianity is fighting against the western influence of Christianity and seeking liberation especially from theologies such as prosperity, materialistic mindset. 
These are some of my personal feed-back please give me your input and let’s engage in a healthy dialogue.

Dr. Binu Peniel

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