Light from the West: What the Eastern church can learn from the western Church

Light from the West: What the Eastern Church can learn from the Western Church

Church in the East has a very rich heritage of practiced religion, philosophical rootedness and historical foundations. The formation of the beliefs, doctrines and faiths came to existence within the counter cultural movements. The church in the East understands the spiritual truth much better because they are in the battleground fighting with truth, reason and traditions of other beliefs and systems. Even though there are many things we can learn from the East the biblical expositions or exegesis mostly lead us to Eastern way of thinking or eastern way of interpretation to know the deeper truth of the WORD. Recently I also happen to watch one of the video from my friend called Light from the East. He was brining my personal tradition called St. Thomas traditions and its influence to the Christianity in the world.

Living in the western world for the last half a decade I realize the following fundamental truth about the way the religion is lived out every day. When I refer to faith and religion I often refer to Christianity and Christian way of life. The following are my personal viewpoint and I welcome your feedback and opinion. The West influences the world in many forms. The following are some of the ways we can understand and collaborate between the western and eastern church.  

Western world Create God at the Center

For the existence of God the existence of devil is not a necessity. For the existence of the creator a creation is not a necessity. In order to create God at the center you don't have to create devil anywhere. I have attended 100's of worship services in the western world without mentioning the word or term devil or satan even once. In the eastern Christian world on the contrary I have attended one Christian worship service with the mention of devil or satan 100's of times. Devil is an attention seeker. If he is not getting that in a positive way he loves to receive it in a negative way.  Do you give him what he asks for? Get out of the game the church is in. This is not the plan of God for your life. NEVER AGAIN MENTION SATAN OR DEVIL in your gathering of worship. Glory and honor to Yahweh and HIM alone. Make your life, your home, and your church holy and one of the ways to do that is through ignoring the presence of evil in the world and mentioning intentionally the presence of God in the world.  

Aspect of fear and Fear of God

Fear of God and fear for devil are not binary opposite. Fear of God comes through your respect and reverence and not out of fear of punishment. Pleasing God is not a fundamental way to understand Christian religion. Christian religion can only understand from a relationship standpoint. Jesus calls you as friends. In the Eastern understanding the fear of evil/gods comes as a matter of pleasing the evil power. You respect the missile man and give him the homage to keep him out of your way to do what you want to do in many contexts in its territory. No one can stand against God. Every knee shall bow every tongue confess JESUS CHRIST is LORD.  The name of Yeshua is the most powerful name. So it is not two equal powers. It is a battle between the week and powerful, between the comparable and incomparable. It is a battle that is already WON. There is no such battle in the world.

From Defensive mode to Strategic Mode 
Mission is often understood by the western church as a strategy. The way of life in the western world also can be understood as a strategy.  For everything there is a strategy. We can understand this very much from a parenting frame work. I had clients whom I work with are in the defensive mode. Defensive mode is when we are over active, fight or fight response that is triggered by a threat which results in forfeit our higher human functioning. In other words defensive mode can make you paralyzed or a cognitive shut down and less blood flow in your brain. This is also the same reason when people are in defensive mode they commit crime other wise they don't do it. The overall the mental capacity is dysfunctional when a person is in defensive mode. The constant terror will not motivate our positive relationships. All we know when we are terrorized is fear and discomfort. I would like to ask this question how to take the church of Jesus Christ from a defensive mode to strategic mode?

Strategic mode is a shared principle based decisions or plan of action that drives the spirit and motivation. There are many derivatives connected with this term like strategic relationship, partnership, influence, information, intention, intent, leadership, goals, marketing, plan, group, analysis, cost, agility, time, alignment, allegiances, balance, assets, behavior, change, contingency, control, decision, directions, fit, drive, human resource management, implementation, finance, objective ete. The world leaders won many war not based on their power but based on their strategies. There is more time needed for planning than executing. In the eastern church there is no much planning taken place especially in the charismatic and Pentecostal traditions. Your significance of success is based on your strategic perspective. This will help one to consider past, present and future objectives. One of my mentor use to say this, you can spread the gunpowder on a platform and fire it and the effect will be very minimum. With the same gunpowder you can titter in pistol and fire it and the person will die or the targeted object will be distorted. The strategic perspective, formulated by strategic thinkers, puts information into its proper context. This is what is expected in our mission field. 

Religious Fanaticism and Conservative Faith are not equals
When we live in the Eastern context we misunderstand the word fanaticism and fundamentalism/conservative faith. Religious fanaticism is the uncritical obsessive irrational enthusiasm rooted in one’s own faith. Fundamentalism on the other hand is one’s religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible historic beliefs. In the west, the church encountered the religious fundamentalism or conservative faith. The church in the East often encounters the issue between the religious fanaticism of different religions. Islamic, Hindu and other religious fanaticism is a threat to the common existence of religious traditions in the East especially the minority faith traditions or religions.  What we need to understand is that they are not equals or binary opposite. 

Secular Vs Sacred

In the western world I have not found much gulf between secular and sacred. The fundamental teaching of the Bible does not differentiate between secular and the sacred. The work and worship is same in the presence of an omnipresent God. In the Judeo-Christian world view that difference is not very visible.  In the eastern religious thinking I have seen that gulf very visible among the Christian community and may be that is because of the minority feelings and fear. 

Local (Tribal) Vs. Universal

In the Eastern Christian thinking there are many aspect of tribal or local culture which is part of the overall development of Christian thinking.  The theological development of faith is not expressed keeping the global community in mind.  As one of my friends preaches when you are in the western world or live as part of the American dream we don’t have any better place to think about. We think from a universal framework. We try to solve the global problems, innovation for the humanity, evangelism for the unreached world and supporting the global mission.  When we deal with the mission in India we often see the use of tribal vocabularies, tribal community based researches. The majority of the North East Indian Christian communities think from the narrow minded framework and it is not much different from Christianity in the southern India. There are so many studies done within the tribal religious context. I am here not ignoring the beneficial fact of those researches but the concern here is most of it is not approached from a universal framework or has less universal significance. What Eastern Church can learn from the western church is the emphasis of universality of religion and mission spirit.

Evangelistic mode to a holistic model of mission 

Recently I was developing a mission model that is holistic in nature. Most of our historic mission models in the East are in a evangelistic mode. The criticism from the eastern religions are that Christianity is converting people of other faith. We have not yet free from evangelistic mode and I am not personally against conversion and it should freely happen. Christian mission approached the personal, social, cultural and spiritual context only from evangelistic frame work. The impact of that model is very limited.  It takes the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The western church mostly understands mission from a holistic model. It not only deals with the spiritual aspects of a soul but economic, health, hunger and relief etc. There is no biblical dichotomy between the Word spoken and the Word made flesh in the lives of God’s people and they are interconnected.  Feeding the poor, educating the public, justice, compassion, human right, economic justice, providing protection for the refugees, dealing with developmentally disabled etc. are some part of the holistic mission.

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(C) Binu Peniel


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