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Nate Jones

Mustard Seed and Leaven

Reflections on Asian theology.

A few months ago, I left my home in Wheaton to return to Indonesia, where I was born. Besides a few boxes, my trans-Pacific baggage included a handful of stubborn expectations about the shape and substance of my future work. Above all, I carried with me the conviction that God was calling me to sojourn with him again in a new place.

As the weeks and months passed, Jakarta smeared my Wheaton polish of perceptions, opinions, and convictions. Learning again how to live in my adopted home, I was peculiarly ready to pick up and listen to some of Asian theology's foremost authors. My guides in this new (to me) theological world began their reflections where I was—at the margins of divergent political and cultural worlds. I read how Kosuke Koyama tried to piece together his own fractured past, torn between Japan, America, and Thailand. Peter Phan taught me about theology among the in-between and "in-beyond" lives of Vietnamese Americans. Michael Amaladoss emphasized to me that Jesus himself was marginalized, articulating a Christology in which Jesus is sketched from Asian cultural reference points. Together, all three authors emphasized the marginality of Asia's poor and religious masses, declaring confidently that a theology that does not mean good news for these people is utterly inadequate to the Asian context.

Writing from this conviction, all three authors were inevitably concerned with the dynamics of power. What political and economic centers relegate Asian peoples to the margins? What theological center relegates Asian theology to the edge of acceptability and perhaps orthodoxy? What kind of power characterizes the Kingdom of God, in which the last become first and a homeless, itinerant patriarch becomes the spiritual father of all God's people? What kind of power works triumphantly through the resurrection of the crucified Christ?

With one eye on the Asian masses and the other on the failure of Christianity to establish itself as an Asian faith, Phan and Amaladoss ...

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