Vinay Samuel and Christopher Sugden, 'Evangelism and Social Responsibility: A Biblical Study on Priorities', in Bruce J. Nicholls (ed.), In Word and Deed: Evangelism and Social Responsibility
40 (Exeter: Paternoster, 1985), pp. 189—214 at p. 195. 411 Ibid., p. 211.
Vinay Samuel and Christopher Sugden, 'Towards a Theology of Social Change', in Ronald Sider (ed.), Evangelicals and Development: Towards a Theology of Social Change (Philadelphia:
history of the Bible to that of the histories and cultural identities of all nations. Despite the historical differences recorded in the biblical account between God's relationship with Israel and God's relationship with other nations, Samuel insists that both sets of relationships took place within one history, in the sense that God was equally concerned with all nations. When 'gentiles' were invited into the community of God's people, they did not lose their particular histories by becoming Christians; rather: 'They were incorporated into the people of God and took the history of Israel and their Messiah as theirs also, not as a replacement for but as an addition to their own national history.'43 Consequently, neither the early Jews nor later western Christianity has the monopoly on salvation history and, therefore, the histories and cultural identities of nations and peoples are vital for affirming and recovering their own Christian identities, which is 'crucial for the discovery of African, Asian, or Latin American Christian identity'.44
Thus, while Samuel has stayed within the evangelical circle, his strong affirmation of holistic mission has taken him beyond the traditional western conservative view of mission that focused primarily on the spiritual. In so doing, he has sought consistently to advance evangelical social thought, criticizing traditional western evangelical theology when necessary, in this respect as well as in relation to contextual theology and inter-religious dialogue. He maintains that the Bible is distinctive, whilst asserting that the fear of syncretism, being misunderstood and the decline of evangelism have led to too much hesitation surrounding inter-faith dialogue. Hence, he chides the evangelicalism in the 'Lausanne Covenant'45 for having little or no inclination to question whether God is at work in other faiths. Samuel argues that serious inter-faith dialogue is necessitated by the current religiously plural context, both for the sake of social transformation and the effectiveness of evangelism.46
David (Paul) Yong-Gi Cho
David (Paul) Yong-Gi Cho (1936- ), a Korean, trained at the Assemblies of God Bible College in Seoul and, except for a brief stint in the army
4^ Samuel and Sugden, 'God's Intention for the World', p. 133. 44 Ibid., p. 135.
LCWE, The Lausanne Covenant, Declaration of the International Congress for World Evangelization, Lausanne (1974), para. 3, available at http://www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=i289i 46 [accessed 11 April 2005].
Vinay Samuel and Christopher Sugden, 'Dialogue with Other Religions: An Evangelical View', in Ro and Eshenaur (eds.), The Bible and Theology in Asian Contexts, pp. 265—89.
in 1961, has been ministering since 1958. Today he pastors the largest church in the world, the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, which claims to have eight hundred thousand members. With an international preaching ministry and over a hundred books to his name, he is certainly one of the best known classical Pentecostal ministers in the world.
Evangelism and church growth are clearly central to Cho's concerns. In a paper entitled 'The Secret Behind the World's Biggest Church', he states that his 'ultimate purpose ... is winning souls' and his desire is 'that churches all around the world may grow so that they can glorify God through their ministries'.47 The commitment to evangelism is seen clearly in the ministry of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has founded numerous churches in Korea and elsewhere and has six hundred missionaries engaged in international evangelism. Further, Cho recognizes that church growth requires proper and effective structures for nurturing new converts; hence, among the various discipling programmes he has initiated, the most important is the use of homogeneous cell groups meeting in homes or places of work.48 In fact, the Yoido Church is made up of tens of thousands of cell groups, meeting under lay leadership.
Similarly, prayer is also central to Cho's church-growth. When asked, 'How have we maintained such unusual growth in our local church?', he replied: 'The real answer is prayer.'49 Prayer, for Cho, includes private and group prayer, fasting and extended sessions at 'Prayer Mountains'. In addition, Cho is known for his teaching on 'faith-incubation', which claims that, through prayer, the Christian can access what Cho calls the 'fourth-dimension': the spiritual realm that controls the physical. The four basic steps of the faith-incubation process are: 'envisioning a clear-cut objective', 'having a burning desire', 'praying for assurance' and 'speaking the word'. Cho holds that, through the process of 'faith-incubation' in prayer, we can change circumstances in the physical world leading to miraculous healing and material blessings from God.50
In Cho's opinion, divine healing through prayer is inseparably linked to church growth, such that the usual lack of emphasis on the miraculous often disguises the powerlessness of the church. Cho states: 'Signs, wonders
47 Y. Cho, 'The Secret Behind the World's Biggest Church', in L. Grant McClung Jr (ed.), Azusa
Street and Beyond: Pentecostal Missions and Church Growth in the Twentieth Century (South
48 Plainfield: Bridge Publishing, 1986), pp. 99—104 at p. 104.
Y. Cho with Harold Hostetler, Successful Home Cell Groups (South Plainfield: Bridge Publishing,
Y. Cho, More Than Numbers (Waco: Word Books, 1984), p. 99.
Y. Cho, The Fourth Dimension (South Plainfield: Bridge Publishing, 1979), pp. 9—66.
and the power of the Holy Spirit are essential for successful preaching of the gospel.'51 Cho's ideas are resonant with classical Pentecostal teaching concerning healing; although, unlike some Pentecostal teachers, he is careful to point out that sometimes it may not be God's will to heal.52
Moreover, Cho's emphasis on divine healing is part of his teaching on 'treble blessings'.53 Cho sees the Christian message as one of hope based on 3 John 2 and, following some American Pentecostal preachers, interprets this to mean salvation of the soul, healing of the body and material blessings from God; hence, a 'triple salvation'. Consequently, Cho has been criticized for preaching a Korean version of the 'prosperity gospel', but he has sought to distance himself from this, since he equates the prosperity gospel with the materialism of western society. Thus, whilst emphasizing that we can expect God to bless us materially, Cho insists that his teaching arose contextually out of the widespread poverty and physical suffering left by the Korean War. Indeed he has suggested that his teaching is a 'gospel of need', in contrast to the 'gospel of prosperity' which is a 'gospel of greed'.54
Nevertheless, Cho's twin emphases on the miraculous and God's blessings have also led to the charge that he is 'shamanizing' Christianity, an accusation that focuses especially on his healing and exorcism ministries. The criticism is misplaced however, and Cho's response is that he sought 'to show the miraculous power of God to those who still believed in shamanism'.55 Even so, one critic argues: 'The only difference is that a shaman performs his wonders in the name of spirits while Rev. Cho exorcizes evil spirits and heals in the name of Jesus.'56 Yet, such criticisms only reinforce Cho's defence that he does not exercise shamanistic power, but the power of the Holy Spirit. From a missiological perspective, Cho is merely providing a 'functional substitute' to meet a need experienced by his people in the context of Korean culture. In essence, Cho serves to illustrate the increasingly recognized fact that pentecostalism often serves as a powerful tool for contextualizing the Christian gospel.
Y. Cho, Salvation, Health and Prosperity: Our Threefold Blessings in Christ (Altamonte Springs: Creation House, 1987), p. 143.
Y. Cho, How Can I Be Healed? (Seoul: Seoul Logos, 1999), pp. 35, 62 and 135—40. Cho, Salvation, Health and Prosperity.
Hwa Yung, 'The Missiological Challenge of David Yonggi Cho's Theology', in Wonsuk Ma et al. (eds.), David Yonggi Cho: A Close Look at his Theology and Ministry (Baguio: APTS Press and
55 Seoul: Hansei University Press, 2004), pp. 69—93 at p. 87.
56 Y. Cho, 'The Secret Behind the World's Biggest Church', p. 100. Boo Woong Yoo, 'Response to Korean Shamanism by the Pentecostal Church', International Rev. Miss. 75:297 (1986), 70—74 at 74.
Finally, while Cho's church engages with social concerns through widely recognized welfare programs, he has not been noted for his advocacy of active socio-political involvement. For example, during the difficult years of the sixties and seventies military dictatorship in South Korea, Cho stayed away from all anti-government protests, unlike the minjung theologians. Hence, while there are indications that his theology is changing in the direction of advocating more meaningful participation in social justice issues, Cho is still in the process of emerging out of the fundamentalist antipathy to socio-political involvement. In summary, therefore, Cho's theology can be described as a classical Pentecostal theology, with its respective strengths and weaknesses, as well as distinctively Korean elements.
the way forward
The above survey of evangelical and pentecostal theologies in Asia sums up the most important trends in the past hundred years or so. These trends also broadly represent the current place of Asian churches and many of the key issues they are struggling with, since the vast majority of the churches are evangelical and pentecostal in outlook.57 In addition, it shows that evangelical and pentecostal thought in Asia is maturing rapidly and has begun to mount serious challenges to more traditional theologies, both in Asia and elsewhere. In particular, this is true in the following four key areas: holistic mission, the supernatural and the miraculous, contextual theology, and the theology of religions.
The twentieth-century debate on mission centred on whether mission is primarily about evangelization or humanization. Increasingly it is recognized that both positions represent extremes which are not entirely true of the classical Christian tradition. Many practitioners now prefer the language of holistic mission, refusing to draw sharp divisions between the spiritual and the socio-cultural and physical. As discussed above, the Chinese revivalists of the 1920s and 1930s were caught up in the traditional divisions, and some like Cho and the ATA still struggle to emerge from the old paradigm. At the same time, others like Ramabai and Kagawa
Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002), p. 7.
have no problems combining a revivalist and/or evangelistic theology with a genuine concern for social justice. Samuel, of course, has moved furthest in pursuing a robust theology of holistic mission.
Now, it is acknowledged frequently that at the heart of the traditional division is a dualistic worldview that has become endemic in western theology.58 The early incorporation of the Platonic body—soul distinction into Christian theology laid the foundation for a pervasive dualism in western thought. Indeed, Carver Yu, a Chinese theologian, has asserted that the roots of this dualism can be traced even further back to the pre-Socratic Greeks. The adoption of a pre-Socratic understanding of reality as 'reality-in-itself, uncontaminated by anything other than itself, led to the view that reality is made up of discrete self-subsistent things, with dynamic interaction and interpenetration of being categorically excluded.59 Further, the perception of the unrelatedness of the world gives rise to a dualistic model of reality in the western mind, in contrast to a holistic biblical one.60 The overall result is that the universe is dichotomized into dualistic categories at every point: the individual and the external world, soul and body, spirit and matter, the religious as against the secular and evangelism versus socio-political concerns. Generally speaking, if liberals have been guilty of 'horizontalizing' mission, conservative Christians have been equally guilty of spiritualizing mission. In other words, both schools have been dominated by the same dualism, although they have opted for opposite sides of it.61 It is the dualistic view of mission that Asian Christians, unburdened by the Greek tradition, are rejecting increasingly, paving the way for a more holistic understanding of mission.
Largely because of the impact of the Enlightenment and its naturalistic worldview, modern western Christianity had little or no place for the supernatural, the miraculous and the demonic. Yet most Asian Christians, with their supernaturalistic worldviews have no problems taking the miraculous in the Bible seriously. Thus, Asian supernaturalism, together with African and Latin American Christianity, poses a fundamental challenge to western theology. In addition, the western anti-supernaturalistic
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