Wednesday, February 03, 2016

"Wealth, Women, and God" + "The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters"

In the past few days a couple books came in the mail for which I wrote a blurb and a forward, respectively.  If you're interested in the Gospel around the world, you may like to take a look.  

Yesterday arrived Wealth, Women & God, by Miriam Adeney and Sadiri Joy Tira.  Miriam, an anthropologist who teaches at Seattle Pacific University, has in the past been kind enough not only to write a generous blurb for my How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test, she also wrote a wonderful chapter for Faith Seeking Understanding, a deeply personal account of how the Gospel relates to other religious traditions.  So I was happy for the chance to read her book, and to recommend it to you.  (It should also come in handy on my next writing project, on How Jesus Liberates Women.):

"'Come, see a man who told me everything I did.  Can this be the Christ?'  An unnamed woman in the First Century asked that question.  Miriam Adeney and Sadiri Joy Tira show, through a series of deceptively simple stories, how women in the Middle East today are meeting Christ, then introducing him to others, just like that First Century seeker did.  To marginalized women Christ still offers living water, especially guest workers from the Philippines, Africa, and India.  This is happening in an improbable place: the wealthy, orthodox Muslim Arabian Peninsula.  Told with characteristic grace and understated insight, these accounts exude the warmth of testimonies shared around a fire on the last night of camp."  

Take a look if the topic interests you!

A week or two ago, a very different but equally fascinating book showed up in the post office across the road from our house.  This one was by Tim Boyle, whom I have never met personally, but corresponded with for some years.  The book is entitled The Gospel Hidden in Chinese Characters.  My forward explains what's inside, and why it's important: 

Product Details"According to the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is both a time to "cast away," and a time to "gather."   Indeed, science teaches us to seek truth not just by cutting up fact and discarding bad theories, but also by synthesizing converging truths.  Thus James Thrower, a scholar of religions, argues that one of the key tests of religious truth must be whether a given spiritual or secular model of how religions fit together, manages to explain, include, or even anticipate what is true in "rival" traditions or philosophies.  
"Since 635, when the Nestorian Christian Alopen arrived in the Chinese capital of modern Xian and was welcomed by the great Li Shimin, co-founded of the glorious Tang Dynasty (who wrote a "blurb" for the Christian books he brought), Christians in China have tried to meet this challenge by relating Christianity to Chinese tradition.  The "Nestorian stele" inscribed in 781, which tells Alopen's story, in fact touches on some of the very concepts you will find in this book.  A millennium later, French Jesuits and Chinese Christians noticed that Chinese characters themselves often carry theological connotations that fit remarkably well with the message of the Bible.  The Kang Xi emperor, educated in part by the Jesuits and equal to Li Shimin in greatness, listened with some exasperation to a Jesuit who found Christ throughout Chinese culture, and told him, in effect, "Your great learning is driving you mad."  
"Tim Boyle is not a madman.  Neither do I think is he engaged in a frivolous ink-blot type exercise in free association.  He has, I think, written the best modern book on how Christianity relates to Chinese characters -- more restrained, and based on more credible premises, than alternatives.  Of course the specifics can be questioned: Tim does not claim to be a professional linguist, and many interpretations are admittedly subjective.  Still, pour over the details, and prepare to be startled.  It appears as if the ancient Chinese culture that produced the very language shared today by one and a half billion people of the "Far East," cut off by tradition beliefs as well as by vast deserts and mountains, fits the biblical account rather like a hand in glove.  
"What is the proper explanation?  Did the ancient Chinese deliberately inscribe truths from Genesis, or else parallel traditions that they somehow preserved?  Or, as seems more likely to me, did God prepare the hearts of the Chinese from within their own culture, as Christians from St. Matthew to Augustine to Pascal to Plantinga have said He prepared the hearts of the Jews through the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament?  Or do these numerous, often detailed, parallels somehow reflect similar stages of two societies, both God-haunted, ancient peoples to whom truth was somehow manifest through creation?  
"Whichever theory you subscribe to, or even if you prefer to believe this is all a subjective figment of the imagination -- and Tim's argument is strongly suggestive, not compulsive -- I think most readers will find room for amazement here.   Symbols that Chinese and Japanese use every day, sacred for centuries also in Korea and Vietnam, stand up and point pretty clearly to Christ.  It is as if an American were to look at a quarter for the first time, and be surprised to find the words "In God we trust" on them.  Only the currency of these words is vastly more ancient, and arises in a "pagan" society that had never heard of the Bible.  Thus truth in far-removed cultures gathers together, East and West, to call us to praise God.  In the light of Christ, as Clement of Alexandria put it, broken fragments of truth, scattered within different 'pagan' schools, are joined and brought to life.  However you understand that process, here, surely, we can collect many of those fragments."

Dr. David Marshall, author, True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture; How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test: The Inside Story

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