Theology of Culture in a Japanese Context – Dr. Atsuyoshi Fujiwara

Had the chance to sit in at a Postgraduate Seminar in which Dr. Fujiwara presented a paper on Theology of Culture in a Japanese Context. He presented elements of his doctoral thesis from the University of Durham regarding the Christian faith and its tension between its transcendent nature and the surrounding culture, specifically within Japanese culture where Christianity has had a difficult time finding adherents. Less than 1% of the population is Christian.

It is no exaggeration to say that two millennia of church history have continually demonstrated the struggle between Christian faith and culture. In an effort to address this struggle, this book explores relevant issues pertinent to the relationship between faith and culture in the particular context of Japan. In this unique work, the context of Japan, well known as a desolate swamp for Christian missions, provides the setting for a re-exploration of issues pertaining to theology of culture. As such, Japan provides both a concrete and challenging context to work out a theology of culture.

Dr. Fujiwara began his paper with a brief sketch of three main encounters with Christianity in Japan (1549 Jesuits, 1859 several Protestant Missions, and postwar 1945). In each instance Christianity was originally received favorably but then rejected out of a growing suspicion with the agenda of Western Imperialism externally and cultural nationalism internally. (more…)


John Knox House, Edinburgh, Sept 6, 2012

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the John Knox House was just a few blocks away from St. Christopher’s Inn, the hostel where I have been staying this week. It belonged to a certain James Mossman who was knighted by Mary, Queen of Scots. Today, in addition to being a tourist attraction, the first floor has a cafe and Storytelling Center.

The motto on the front of the house above the door is in old Scots and translates as “Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself.”

The bulk of the house was built in the mid 1500s. It is three floors with lots of the original house to see. There is a stone turnpike staircase with an intentionally higher seventh step, to trip up intruders! The doorways are really low and you have to stoop on occasion to get through. People must have been much shorter then.

Mossman was beheaded by the Protestants, his head displayed on the walls of Edinburgh Castle. The house was given to an aged John Knox as it was close to St. Giles Cathedral where he preached. This was prior to Mossman’s beheading. I have some pictures of the outside of St. Giles Cathedral as you have to pay to take pictures inside. I don’t have a good camera — actually, the pictures were taken on my cell phone — so I didn’t want to spend extra money, just to take some grainy photos inside. I did the best thing you can do, however, which is attend the noonday service and scripture reading.

Enjoy the Pictures! By the way, Knox got his education at Saint Andrews!

Lord I was Born a Ramblin Man

tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can

And when it’s time for leavin’

I hope you’ll understand

That I was born a ramblin’ man

-Allman Brothers Band

The day is fast approaching when I go off to Scotland. Truth be told, I haven’t been on an airplane in decades. Can’t remember when my last flight was. I think it was to go see a friend in Fresno in the mid-90’s! That’s a long time.

So, I’ll be on a plane (three planes, actually) on Labor Day, Sept 3rd, from LAX to Las Vegas, then to Heathrow, and finally to Edinburgh. Because of a housing issue at Saint Andrews–they only open their residences on the 8th of September–I had to book a hostel in Edinburgh for three nights! I’d tried postponing the flight but the travel agency’s surcharge on that was outrageously expensive. Looked at some hotels in Edinburgh and Saint Andrews but they too were quite expensive. That’s when my brother suggested a hostel and I looked some up in the Edinburgh area. Quite affordable! Of course, you have to share the room, but that’s no problem for me. I guess I can be a tourist in Edinburgh for a few days. I hear it’s quite beautiful there.

Definitely got to go visit Edinburgh Castle. The hostel emailed some tour guide info and I think I’ll try one of those. Did some demographic research on the internet and it appears Edinburgh has a population of about half a million people. Saint Andrews is a small town, about fourteen thousand. And about 99% white. No worries about me standing out. (more…)

The Portable Atheist

Lately, I’ve been reading “The Portable Atheist,” and find it thoroughly enjoyable. Sure, there are some ad hominem attacks among other such fallacies, especially when some entries seem to be of the “there is no god because … I’m smarter than you” variety, but all in all, I find most of the selected articles Hitchen’s stitched together here to be cogent and representative of current atheistic beliefs, even where those beliefs differ from each other. One of the articles, “Atheists for Jesus,” from Richard Dawkins, really caught my attention:

From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human super niceness is just plain dumb – Richard Dawkins

Dawkins goes on to explain how evolutionary theory is not nice, in fact, natural selection is just plain brutal, it makes no allowance for altruistic acts of selfless kindness. You can derive a sort of utilitarian (John Stuart Mill) or selfish gene (Ayn Rand) type of rational ethic which ensures survival of the species based on cooperation through self-interest, but not the kind of irrational “super niceness” that a few people practiced or advocated throughout history. Yet Dawkins likes this irrational niceness. He wants it propagated.

First, kudos to Dawkins for remaining consistent, as opposed to those who insist that evolutionary theory alone can account for human morality. Dawkins likes Jesus, or at the very least, his ethical teaching, even if it is irrational to behave that way in a world where natural selection determines everything.

So why does Dawkins endorse Jesus? Apparently because human consciousness has evolved to the point where irrational goodness is a good thing. Altruistic acts of selfless kindness goes contrary to natural selection, but that is where evolutionary theory ultimately leads … to irrationality.


Katniss, Peeta, Media Imagery, and the Underlying Stories We Tell Each Other

Just finished reading the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I haven’t watched the movie yet because I thought it might be best to read the books first, which were very well written, by the way … entertaining, and thought provoking at times … but definitely written for teenagers. Ever since my days as a youth pastor I’ve always thought it best to at least be acquainted with the stuff of youth culture. Which has the added benefit of keeping me young in mind!

This is not a book review. Rather, I would like to make some comments about what I perceive to be cultural and aesthetic questions that came to me from reading the trilogy and then inquire theologically about them. I did some internet reading and found many comments, observations, and criticisms about its portrayal of an “Amazon” feminist archetype.

Do the books advocate a positive militant feminism? Is Suzanne Collins a feminist? Is feminism being pushed down the throats of gullible teenagers? Will it bring an unrealistic expectation of what it is to be female in the already pressure-filled world of teenage angst? (more…)

Heading to University of Saint Andrews

The good news is that I have been accepted at the Divinity Department at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. I’m looking forward to taking classes and hopefully mentorship with N. T. Wright who has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. Even before I started my seminary education at Fuller, I was a fan. Of course, there are other capable professors there, especially Scott Hafemann, whom I hear was recently removed from his post at Gordon Conwell for advocating the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). So he’s back at Saint Andrews, having taught there previously.

Meanwhile, this means that I have to leave my post as Pastor for LifeSpring in Garden Grove, which I do with a deep sense of sadness. There are people whom I cherish and will miss very much. Nevertheless, I plan to stay in touch with as many of them as possible, exchanging ideas and growing and nurturing each other in our Christian faith.