Author: Dr Julie Ma, Research Tutor (Missiology), Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.
The gospel arrived in different parts of Asia at various times, and in many cases it blossomed through the collaborative work between missionaries and nationals. In spite of the errors and flaws of missionaries, and struggles between the two parties, the Holy Spirit has been at work in dispersing the gospel through fragile human agency.
To most Asians, Christianity was a foreign religion very different from their traditional religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism and animism. It is a contrast between monotheism (except Islam) and polytheism. The latter believes in more than one god or spirit, thus allowing room to incorporate a new religious belief into the existing ones. This makes most traditional religions incredibly flexible and versatile. On the other hand, Christianity, with its absolute claims, has no such flexibility. As a result, when a conversion takes place in a family, it immediately causes friction and disharmony between the new Christian and the rest of the family who find it difficult that he or she now follows a “western” religion, and one that is stubbornly inflexible.
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