Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hare Jesus, Hare Jesus: Answering a Critic

Recently, a video of mine that was long ago posted on YouTube received a concerned, yet graciously written, comment (BTW- Another visitor to my channel apparently flagged that comment as spam and I want to go on the record as saying that it wasn’t me).  Welcoming the chance to clarify any misunderstanding, I quickly responded.  I have not yet received a follow up, but thought it might be a helpful thing today to share the substance of that exchange here.  First, here is the video in question:


This is called the "TriEak Pameshwar Mahamantra" (i.e. "the great meditative prayer to the Triune God").  It has been adapted from what is called the "Mahamantra" and is especially popular among members of the ISKON or Hare Krishna movement.  The text of what I am saying is as follows:


हरे पिता हरे पिता, पिता पिता हरे हरे
हरे पुत्र हरे पुत्र, पुत्र पुत्र हरे हरे
हरे आत्मा हरे आत्म, आत्मा आत्मा हरे हरे
त्रिएक परमेश्वर हरे हरे,
त्रिएक परमेश्वर हरे हरे । 

Hare Pita Hare Pita, Pita Pita Hare Hare

Hare Putra Hare Putra, Putra Putra Hare Hare
Hare Atma Hare Atma, Atma Atma Hare Hare
TriEak Parmeshwar Hare Hare,
TriEak Parmeshwar Hare Hare.


Which may be translated as:   

Father, remove my sin
Son, remove my sin
Holy Spirit, remove my sin
Triune God, remove my sin.

Now the concern raised by my YouTube viewer seemed focused on the use of the word "Hare" (हरे).  Here is the comment:

Brother, I really admire your heart and effort. But if we are not careful about this kind of contextualization then there will be greater consequences. I do not feel comfortable while contextualization fades power of gospel. The word 'Hare' is Hindu god Bishnu and you are putting Father, Son and Holy Spirit after hindu god Bishnu in your maha mantra.


As I said, a very graciously and kindly written comment.  The above comment (with the exception of the kindly tone, which is sadly rare) is actually a pretty good representation of the kind of opposition that is leveled by Christians against the efforts of other Christians to pursue contextualization.

Vishnu's Name

The commenter's basic mistake is a misunderstanding of the word "hare" (हरे) which he incorrectly identifies as a name for the god Vishnu.  It seems that the commenter has confused the Sanskrit terms "hare" with "hari" (हरि).  The latter is a term which has the basic meaning of yellow, green or "fawn-colored".  It has come to be popularly associated with the gods Vishnu and Krishna  and is sometimes used simply as a proper name in reference to one or the other (or both) of them.  The former (hare) is a variation of the Sanskrit word हर (hara) which means "taking away" or "removing".  Connotative use in prayers by Hindus carries a meaning of "take away my sin" or "take away my evil".   In one Nepali tradition, devotees of "Mahadev" will take a ritual bath while repeating "hara-hara".  In that case, the sense of meaning is clearly "wipe away my sin".  

The popular "mahamantra" prayer contains the refrains, "hare Krishna, hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, hare hare" and "hare Rama, hare Rama, Rama Rama hare hare".  There also, the meaning is clear.  The word is हरे and should be understood to mean, "Krishna, take away my sin" and "Rama, take away my sin."  It does not mean "Vishnu Krishna" and "Vishnu Rama".  Nor does it mean "Green Krishna" and "Green Rama".  The word is not हरि (hari) but हरे (hare).  One Hare Krishna devotee explains it this way:

"The word hare has come from 'haran' which means 'to take away' or 'to end'.  So when one says 'hare Krishna', he requests the God (the supreme consciousness) to take away his sorrows, his shortcomings, his failures, and pains.  This Hare Krishna Mantra is actually a little prayer to God for taking away all the sorrows, pains and shortcomings of the chanter and provide him bliss and joy."

The above, I hope, illustrates why it is important to seek proper understanding before leveling criticism.  My experience has taught me that followers of Jesus can be very quick to condemn things that they don't understand.  This can have the effect of obscuring the message of Jesus Christ to our listeners.  They may hear us saying something like "Jesus hates you" when that isn't what we meant at all.  Again, we may look to Jesus who didn't hesitate to prophetically critique the societal sin that he saw in his day.  While his opponents sometimes reacted very strongly against him, they never accused him of not understanding.  My commenter is concerned that contextualization sometimes "fades the power of the gospel".  Setting aside for a moment that nothing can actually do that (i.e. fade the power of the gospel), what should be of a bigger concern is whether or not it is actually the gospel that is being communicated.

Billions of Names Off-Limits?

Beyond this, however, I need to highlight another element to my commenter's argument.  There is an unchecked assumption that undergirds his critique that must not be left unexposed.   That is, while we've refuted the notion that "hare" is to be understood as a name for Vishnu, there is still the underlying assumption that any name given to Vishnu by the devotees of Vishnu cannot be used by followers and devotees of Jesus in their worship of the Triune God.  Still further below this is the assumption that no name used by devotees of any other god can be used by the followers of Jesus.  This assumption however, must be rejected outright.

In the first place, my commenter is probably getting his idea of "hari" (again, not "hare") as a name for Vishnu from stanza 69 of the Shri Vishnu Sahasra-Nama Stotram (although he may have arrived at this idea in a very indirect way).  The title of this ancient Sanskrit text can be translated as "The Thousand Names of Vishnu".  Again, stanza 69 features the name "hari" (not "hare", which doesn't appear in the text) as one of the names of Vishnu.  That is, one of a thousand names for Vishnu!  What are some of the other names?  Just to mention a few: paramaatma (supreme spirit), saakshee (witness), prabhu (lord), pavitram (holy one), sharanam (refuge), satyah (truth), guru (teacher), sarva shaktiman (all mighty), and parameshwar (supreme god).  A natural question flowing from my commenter's argument would be "upon what basis do Hindi and Nepali-speaking Christians justify the use any of the above terms in their worship of Jesus Christ?"  These are all "names of Vishnu".  If we accept the premise that any name used in reference to Vishnu cannot be used in reference to Jesus (or the Father, or the Holy Spirit), then we cannot use any of the above names.  Moreover, much of South Asian hymnody, Christian theological literature, and Bible translations would need to be scrapped as they make great use of the above terms.  Once we've then cleaned up the Church from all of these names of Vishnu, we would then have to proceed to the thousand names of Shiva, Lalita, Ganesh, Lakshmi, Durga, and 330 million others.  I highly doubt that we'd be left with any language at all.

No, this assumption must be discarded.  The question is not whether or not a name has been used in reference to another deity.  It is, after all, undeniable that words like Christ, Lord, God, Adoni, El, Theos etc. have all be used in reference to other gods and did not emerge from the mysterious ooze of some primordial Christian "super-culture". The question must be whether or not a particular word can be appropriately used in reference to the Triune God of the Bible.  Is he Master (swami), Lord (prabhu), all-mighty (sarva shaktiman), the light (jyoti), savior (muktidata)? And does he remove sin (hare)? 

To the one who desires to share the hope of the Lord Jesus with the Hindu world, I would ask that you consider the following:

  1. What is your Hindu friend praying?  Do you understand it?
  2. Are they asking for something that they shouldn't desire?  Or is their desire legitimate and commendable (e.g. forgiveness, illumination, eternal life)?
  3. Is part of the "good news" of the gospel the fact that the person and work of Jesus Christ actually offers an answer to that request?

In the case of the traditional "mahamantra", what we have done is simply to let people know that we resonate and empathize with their desire to have their sins and failures removed.  "Hare-hare" is a legitimate prayer to pray.  We then offer both the form and substance of the "TriEak Parmeshwar Mahamantra" -- pointing people to a fulfillment that can be found in Christ.  In response to our "hare-hare", Jesus, by virtue of his atonement on the cross says, "Yes!"  He has accomplished by his blood what countless Hindus pray for daily.  

Blessings!







34 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I'm quite new to this contextualization debate in the church/mission world...and heard arguments from various streams. There are degrees of contextualization(C1-C7) and Christians opinions vary on exactly where they stand on the scale. 

    However, from my own observation and personal experience, it seems most believers(myself included) outside of a particular culture are more open and eager to greater degree of contextualization than believers who are native to that culture. I know this is quite a generalization without much research but that's what I see personally and I might be wrong. When it comes to contextualization with forms that previously used in religions native to a culture, the attitude of native believers seem to become more negative than those who are believers out side of ther culture. I see them(native believers) drawing a line in their conscience on what is ok to contextualize and what is not, even though from my perspective I may not understand why. As Paul wrote to the gentile believers of certain things to avoid in Acts15:29, he decided on those things by asking the Holy Spirit with other believers(I suppose he did not do an in depth study program in all the gentile cultures that were represented). So my point is, if we(myself included) focus our energy as the church to know the Word and the Holy Spirit like Paul did, we will have much more clarity on things as a whole. I'm not saying that we should stop learning about these issues, but I am saying we need more of His help on these things. What I'm asking for to God personally is the Spirit of Truth.

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    1. Hi Xiaoxiao! Thanks for reading and commenting. Just a few items in response:

      1. The C1-5(6) Scale was developed for the Muslim context to describe different kinds of faith communities ("c" stands for "community"). Its value there is suspect at best. It's relevance outside of the Muslim context is non-existent. Unfortunately, the scale has significantly clouded all discussions of contextualization. It must be discarded all together. (http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/resources/detail/10175)

      2. There are probably a number of factors that lead you to make the generalization that you do. I think you are right in pointing out that it is so. New disciples of Jesus must be taught (whether directly or indirectly) to reject their culture. It doesn't come naturally. Reasons for doing so vary by context, but for the most part they learned it from Western missionaries of another generation who tended to wholesale discard those things which they found exotic as therefore pagan.

      3. The results of the Jerusalem Council were not written up by Paul, but by the Church leadership as a whole. They did engage in significant elements of research including hearing eyewitness reports, rebuttals, and engaging in Bible study. I believe the very limited scope of directives thus very instructive. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit to not have the Jerusalem church impose a particular model of church on the rest of the body of Christ but rather to allow for contextualization.

      Of course, I hope I am listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in all these matters. Moreover, I hope to remove every unnecessary barrier preventing my Hindu friends from likewise hearing the voice of God. They deserve as much as I to encounter Jesus as the word made flesh for them. This is want the pursuit of contextualization enables.

      Blessings!

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  2. Thanks Cody for the insight! I'll think further on these things.

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  3. Seems to go beyond the bounds of contextualization to me. But my bigger concern is that the entire Nepali church will not accept your approach nor accept any Nepali converts who follow such mantras. One of the truly greatest things about the Nepali church, and why it has had such exponential growt,h is that the church expects people to get rid of every spec of Hinduism when they come to faith in Christ, which is why Nepali Christians will not participate in holi or any other Hindu holiday. You are Christianizing Hindu practices. Fine. You will receive a measure of acceptance from other missionaries. But you won't from the entire Nepali church. And your converts will be treated as outsides, as not real Christians. That's the reality. Contextualization is not even necessary in the Nepali context, and I lived in Nepal for 14 years and my wife is Nepalese, so I’m not ignorant about the cultural issues. The Nepali church has grown at such a fast rate, comparable with the New Testament church. And one major reason it has grown so fast is that they did not contextualize Hinduism. They had no compromise with Hinduism! That is a good thing and why the church has grown so fast. Things have gone wonderfully without this sort of contextualization. It is my opinion that contextualization in the Nepali context will do much more harm than good. They don’t need it. The Nepali church is the example to the world of what to do. Follow their example rather than try and improve it. This approach in the Nepali context will make things worse, not better.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Triston

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    1. Thank you for your feedback and readership. A few thoughts in response.

      1. I’m not sure what is meant by “the bounds of contextualization”. What are these precisely? Who has established them?

      2. While you certainly have a point that many from within the established Nepali church will not accept intentional, conscious contextualization, I am not thereby convinced that such efforts should be abandoned. In the final analysis, the question is whether or not God accepts the follower of Jesus who worships Him from within the Nepali cultural context.

      3. Of course one of the points of my article is to highlight the fact that the Nepali Church has by no means gotten “rid of every spec of Hinduism” (whatever that means). I assume that your position is that using the term “hare” goes beyond “the bounds of contextualization”. You have not offered support for this, just asserted it. My reply would be to ask for your justification of the use of a great deal of other “Hindu” terms (mentioned above).

      4. The accounts of the rapid growth of the Church in Nepal are a wonderful testimony of the sovereign grace of God who can do all things, and indeed does all that He pleases. But as He can also quite easily draw a straight line with a crooked stick, I am skeptical of the idea that He intends for us to draw up from this story an infallible methodology for mission (comparisons to the NT Church are apt on this point as well). Moreover, while I rejoice at what transpires a world away among Nepali-speakers to the glory of God, I must return to the reality of the mission field in which I serve and the Brahmin home in which I sit even as I type this reply. Whether or not they will find acceptance in the broader Nepali Church is a very small consideration compared to my desire to present Christ to them.

      5. Finally, if indeed the Nepali Church needs no contextualization, then why aren’t Messianic synagogues dotting the landscape there and why aren’t we preaching the gospel in Greek and Hebrew. The fact is that almost everyone assumes the value of contextualization (though most don’t understand what it is).

      Thanks again for your response. I don’t find that you have really engaged the substance of my article, however. I would welcome that.

      Peace

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  4. Brother, someone else will have to address the substance of your article. I don't want to delve into the satanic. And I really don't mean that to offend you. But you see, my wife, Jaya, grew up in Hindu home (Newari Hindus in Kathmandu). Her testimony is that at 10 years old, she was brought to church by a lady who rented a room in her parents’ house. She was very attracted by what she saw and began going to church all the time and after three weeks came to genuine faith in Jesus. Her parents put up with it for nearly 6 months. Then Dasaim the biggest Hindu holiday came around. For the biggest 3 days of that holiday, Jaya wanted to go to church, so she would not have to participate in Hindu worship with her family. Her father was very hurt and very angry by this, and finally put his foot down. “You can either stay her and participate in Dasaim with your family and stop going to church and following Christianity. We will buy you presents and everything. Or you can leave this house with the clothes on your back. You are no longer my daughter! You have been severed from me.” For hours in Jaya’s heart she wept before the Lord in her room agonizing over this because she truly saw it as a choice between following Christ or being with her family. That was in fact her choice. Her father would have no longer allowed her to go to church, read her Bible or anything. It was a choice between celebrating (worshipping) with her family at Dasaim and stopping being a Christian, or leaving her parents’ home. Even at that tender age of 10 she left her parent’s home over this. And God always took care of her. Jaya was raised by a Nepali pastor and his wife, Sundar & Sareeta Thapa. For 7 years Jaya’s father had nothing to do with her. She really was severed from her family. But she grew strong in the Lord. I tried to show Jaya your video last night. And she immediately said. “No. I do not want to see that demonic stuff.” Right or wrong, that will be the response by most Nepali Christians to what you are doing. I’m sure God will use it and is using what you are doing. But my wife will tell you that her very testimony was a choice between participating in the kind of thing you are doing in that video or following Jesus Christ. That was her choice. That’s her testimony. She made her choice a long time ago to follow Jesus rather than follow any demonic Hindu practices, and nothing will bring her back to those things again. And believe me when I say, she is not alone in this. Most Nepali Christians have similar testimonies in that they see this stuff you are doing as “choosing Satan” rather than “choosing Christ”. I am not saying they are 100% right. Nor am I saying that there is no use for what you are doing. As I said, I am sure God will use it somehow for His glory to bring probably a small number of Hindus to faith in Christ. But many Nepali people have already chosen sides. They have chosen the side of Christ. That is how they put it. And they do not want to look back at the old demonic ways. I married one of them. For Jaya my wife it is truly a choice between following Christ or following Satan. Jesus does not want her to go back to anything Hindu. He does not. It is not for her. I respect that. I also believe it. Therefore, brother, I am honestly not the right person to address “the substance of your article”. These are things of the past of my wife’s culture. Things God has saved her from. Jesus does not want her to look back at any of these things. She is convinced of that. I believe she is right. I’ve chosen sides too, the side my wife call’s Christ’s side. But all the best to you, brother, and your efforts. May God be glorified through you and your ministry. -Triston

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    1. Yes, My brother I had to make same choice our sister Jaya did. You will never understand how dark inside there. Why do you need this contextualization? Their doors are open for you and you have clear gospel. You do not have challenge like my village:they won't even let you into their village, if they new you are christian.

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  5. Your response is interesting to be sure. You have now clearly charged me with wrongdoing in the area of contextualization and have further maligned my work (or at least the part of it represented by this post) as being Satanic. I’m not sure how else to read, “I don’t want to delve into the satanic” or the quote you’ve attributed to your wife, “I don’t want to see that demonic stuff”. While I can accept that you are not seeking to offend my personally, I cannot say with confidence that your approach is not offensive to God. After all, I am an elder in the Church over which Jesus Christ is head. To make such charges (i.e. that I am engaging in Satanic activity and teaching others to do the same) against an elder without offering any kind of substantiation appears to violate the spirit of Paul’s injunction in 1 Timothy 5:19. To make such charges in public seems to compound the seriousness of them.

    Respectfully, I suggest that you either offer some substantiation to your charges (i.e. what precisely is Satanic about what I have written above, or specifically about the video) or, failing this, I would humbly call you to repent. I feel it would be unwise to continue this exchange until you do one or the other. There is, after all, an order in the Church that Christ has established and accordingly we cannot simply go about brandishing our missionaries, pastors, elders, deacons and the like with labels such as “satanic” and “demonic”.

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  6. Litl-Luther, I wonder if you really want to understand?

    John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

    If I translate "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" into Hindi it will be "Dekho jagat ka memna jo jagat ke pap har jata hai"

    There you have that word "har" and from it came "hare."

    So when John says "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world", my response "Lord Jesus please take away my sin"

    In Hindi when John says
    "Dekho jagat ka memna jo jagat ke pap har jata hai"

    My response "Hare Yesu"

    Now when I pray "Lord Jesus take away my sin", you say it is demonic or satanic. I simply can't understand how you can even say that.

    Let me try to put it this way. You hear a Hindu guy praying in English "Lord Krishna, please take away my sin", you come back home and tell your wife saying "Listen Jaya, this guy there was praying like that and since praying 'Lord Jesus, please take away my sin' is very close to what he was praying, I am not going to pray to Jesus to take away my sin." What will be your wife's response?

    I will say look at the content, the meaning and don't get stuck with words.

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  7. Litl-Luther, I'm glad that you feel free to speak what's on your heart! Agree or disagree, I wonder about your logic. I am just a kuerai as the rest of caucasian-Americans and my wife is Nepali to the bone. She grew up in a Christless home, suffered persecution for her faith, and in many situations had to face the tough choices your wife faced, though without immanent risk of homelessness (kidnapping from uncles and other difficult situations were on her radar, however). I was forced out of my home when I was fifteen and I know the pain of abandonment from parents. These two things being true, neither my wife nor I would try to disprove or prove anything in Scripture based on qualifications of our life's story or to what degree we've been persecuted. As followers of Jesus, we're to encourage, rebuke, pray, teach, and even argue from Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). You are basically saying that you lived in Nepal for 14 years, your wife has a very encouraging (and sad) conversion story, and a majority of the church in Nepal will reactively disagree with Cody. You say that the church in Nepal grew quickly and that we should follow their example because of the rapid growth. Church growth, personal hardships, all that jazz aside, we're to gain our practices from God as he speaks through His Word. If you're using the mention of Nepali church growth as an evangelism effectiveness history lesson, then I'd remind you of the expansive growth the "health and wealth gospel" boasts. A focus on numbers like that can (doesn't have to, but can) lead to an abandonment of Christ's ministry example in pursuit of something that "just works" and can (doesn't have to, but can) be gospel-missing and, even worse, gospel-misleading. I've witnessed that both Western-style and Eastern-style ministries can be confusing. I've spoken to many people who think that to be a Christian means to simply stop their Eastern cultural practices and adopt Western ones - you won't get away with saying that Western-contextualized ministries in an Eastern context is any less confusing. God is clear that He opens eyes and hearts, that He alone grants clear knowledge of Himself. Cody is basing his incarnational ministry style on the incarnational God and His Word (lots of Scriptures to quote here, but you can likely get most of Cody's justification for his actions in other blog posts). Your comments, however, read like a middle school persuasive paper, just shooting wildly into the air about why the vending machines should still be in the cafeteria. I appreciate that this is a personal for you and your wife and I'm thrilled that you don't lack passion on the topic of Hindu contextualization, but frankly, you are not offering a prayed-through and thought-out Scriptural response to an issue you have with the actions of a brother in the Lord. This would be a much more edifying conversation if you would provide a foundation for your thoughts from the Word of God (being mindful of the warning received in 2 Peter 3:16).

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  8. Correction in translation "Dekho parmeshwar ka memna jo jagat ke pap har le jata hai."

    Doesn't affect what I was saying in my comments though.

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  9. No Anonymous. I was referring to the tremendous growth of the church in Nepal because all of it took place without ever having marrying Hinduism & Christianity together. The church in Nepal grew at nearly the same rate as the New Testament church because they forsook everything Hindu and embraced Jesus Christ. ...this conversation continued over at http://codylorance.blogspot.com/2011/10/symbols-of-dashain-explanation.html

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  10. May I add a comment to the discussion? I stumbled across this blog a few days ago and I was very interested in both the blog posting and the comments. As someone who is seeking to understand the relevance and validity of Hindu religious/cultural traditions as they relate to the Christian witness, it definitely sparked some thought and debate in my own mind. I don't have much more to add, except that I claim no expertise or knowledge on this subject, and I am certainly not meaning to accuse or judge, as I myself am stuck somewhere in the middle and occasionally on both extremes at the same time :) ...but may I share of one passage of Scripture that seems appropriate?

    "Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that 'all of us possess knowledge.' This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that 'an idol has no real existence,' and that 'there is no God but one.' For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords'--yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1 Corinthians 8)

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    1. Greetings, Anonymous (#2). I am glad you are reading and hope that the Lord will make use of the things you find on my blog to encourage you in ministry. Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss things further if you are not in a position to reveal your identity online. My email is cody@tibm.org. Also, thanks for sharing what is a critical verse in this discussion and one that we have sought to work through in our context - a tremendous investment of time to do so, but well worth it. When the time is right (that is, things are still a work in progress) I will post about how we've sought to work through it. Blessings to you!

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  11. Litl-Luther, I see even more haughty words written there. God has willed to continue to communicate throughout the generations through His Word and the thoughts of men are dust next to the thoughts of God which are as high as the heavens are from the earth. Whether or not everyone in the church in Nepal believes that tika is inherently evil, Dashain can only be celebrated in Durga's name, or whatever it is that you believe about how the culture of the church ought to be, their argument is empty and hollow without it being the argument of God, from the Word of God, which contains the mind of God. Many people say many things, much of it lies. Seasoned missionaries and pastors in Nepal are just as prone to a blind spot as anyone is, despite their vast experience (despite his vast experience and even apostleship, Paul warns about overconfidence in teachers/leaders; 1 Cor. 1:12). I've been told by Nepali pastors that cigarette smoke will chase away the Holy Spirit from your body. I've been told by Nepali pastors that soccer is one of Satan's nets in the world and that anyone who willingly played wasn't saved. Some would likely damn you for your love of South Park (which I share). One Nepali pastor shifted his position on tika/traditional Nepali festivals/other things when we reviewed relevant Scriptures together. He went away from the discussion, saying "I'll no longer discourage anyone who comes to faith in Jesus here to quit wearing tika so long as they're confident that the God from the Bible is the only God and that they are saved by the blood of Jesus and that their wearing tika does not disturb their conscience/is in honor of Christ. I used to teach that tika was only for the dead, the mark of the beast, and that anyone who wore it post-regeneration was living in their old self." (paraphrased) I don't discredit your friends because they're Nepali or not, seasoned missionaries or not, but if they bring the same empty cup to the dialogue on incarnational ministry in a Hindu context that you do, expecting that others drink deeply from it, they might find the same disappointment that likely awaits you. It's clear that you're upset and your wife is upset. I get that. But rather than using fluffy arguments about whose vision is obstructed here, or accusing people of demonic worship, why don't you dust off your Bible? If Cody was unclear in his explanation of why he practices what he does, then your explanation is illegible. I'd personally love to hear your argument inside a Biblical frame of reference.

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    1. I'm not sure the "disappointment" of which you speak, Anon, when I claim that I am merely taking the same position in these matters as the over one million Nepali believers throughout Nepal. I am merely taking the same position as the Nepali leadership throughout the Nepali church in Nepal. I am merely taking the same position of virtually every single missionary working in Nepal. That is all I am doing. I've simply voiced the same position that has been stated clearly over and over again by the church in Nepal. That's all I've done. You wish to stand against the position of the church throughout Nepal, as well as against the Nepali leadership throughout Nepal and agaisnt nearly every Christian missionaries throughout Nepal. That is your choice to stand by yourself. No disappointment on my part. Dashain is a demonic holiday, in which countless blood sacrifices are made to demons every year. Wearing the tika is a demonic practice which is done in the name false gods. And by saying that, I am merely taking the same position with the whole Nepali church in Nepal, and the whole missionary Christian community in Nepal. I am merely voicing the same position the whole church in Nepal hold to. None of this should surprise you unless you are ignorant because it is the facts. If you are comfortable being on the outside, considered outside of orothodoxy by the Nepali church; if you are content with all your believers being considered none Christian. If you are not interested in following the leading of the Holy Spirit in how He worked so powerfully in Nepal among Nepali people, then by all means continue on your path. But it is my belief that what you falsely call contextualization will be a detrement to the cause of Christ among Nepali\ Bhutanese people. And the church in Nepal will not take your side, nor will the Christian missionary force in Nepal. You're own your own.

      To add to the verse you mentioned above, this one also applies to Dashain: "Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" (1Cor. 10:18-22)

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  12. Perhaps 1 Cor 10 applies to Dashain as practiced by some Nepalis in Nepal, but I don’t see how the Bhutanese Nepalis in my community themselves are engaging in worship of other gods.
    I do not know of any Bhutanese Nepalis in my community who have made or attempted to make blood sacrifices to any gods or who think making such sacrifices is the most important part of Dashain. Is Dashain an inherently demonic holiday simply because a certain number of people in the world worship other gods that day? Does it really make no difference what an individual or a household actually practices?
    As for wearing the tika (for Dashain in particular), again – is it a demonic practice simply by association? Is the motion of putting a mixture of rice, yogurt and dye on someone else’s forehead inherently demonic? Does it matter that some households do not verbalize any blessings while they put on the tika? Does it matter that some households verbalize blessings in the name of the Triune God while putting on the tika?
    Litl-Luther claims that worshipping Durga is THE reason people celebrate Dashain (maybe that was on the other post). However, among the households I know, people do not think about Durga at all but celebrate Dashain because they value their families and wish to give and receive blessings within the family. In many households, as I just said, the blessings are not verbally or otherwise associated (within that household) with any gods besides the Triune God. So when Nepali Christians tell them not to put on or receive the Dashain tika, what they hear is: “We want you to stop blessing your family.” That is not what Nepali Christians say or intend but since that is what the families I know actually think the Dashain tika is all about, that is the message they receive.
    I will agree that we want to discourage any practice which is not done in the name of the Triune God. But determining what is done in the name of the Lord or not should not be reduced to outward actions of an individual/family or the actions of others because “the Lord looks on the heart.” Stepping inside a church is not inherently more or less Christ-honoring than stepping inside a mandir. Billions of people pray to other gods and sing to other gods, but that does not make prayer in the name of Jesus or singing to the Father demonic activities.
    If the celebrating of Dashain and wearing tika within my Bhutanese Nepali community are demonic activities because the church in Nepal has deemed them so, then I’d like to know when and how the church in Nepal made their investigation.

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  13. Litl-Luther, your disappointment will be that you are offering literally nothing in your words other than the empty argument of a man and they should be received as that. Thank you for putting up those Scriptures, but Katherine nailed it in her response. SURELY you have something better than a misused (remember 2 Pet 3:16). 1 Cor 10, because you have made some very fast and very serious claims about Cody. I am still waiting to hear your argument. Perhaps you should write an article outlining your Scriptural defense of why you hate Eastern contextualization or point to a book that you think sums it up. At least defer to a speaker or author who put up a defense founded on Scripture, because you've brought nothing to the conversation except puffed up opinions. I don't see how a man who uses the alias "Litl-Luther" can make an argument with the main support for his thesis being: "This is true because a majority of the church in Nepal will agree with me." Unfortunately for your argument, but praise God for this, truth does not lie in the opinions of man! (1 Cor 1:25).

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  14. Litl-Luther,

    I agree with Anonymous that you didn't give anything from Scripture that will back your claim up.

    A Christian should not go by opinions of humans, however numerous they are. A Christian is supposed to go by what scripture says.

    You tried to apply 1 Cor 10:18-25 for something that is being done before Lord Jesus, not before idols. So when first you couldn't prove anything demonic what is being done then how do you fit 1 Cor 10:18-25 in this case?

    Did you see anything in Cody's writings, where he is calling to worship any other God other than Jesus?

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  15. You call my arguments empty. But how many times have I basically said, "Don't take my word for it."?? Cody's leadership should simply go to their own misionaries working in Nepal and hear their wise input. That is all I have asked them to do. You dismisss a million Nepali believers and all the missionaries working among Nepali people at the word of Cody. That is empty talk. I have not said take my word for it nor my arguments for anything. Rather, I keep encouraging Cody's supervisors to consult a multitude of wise Nepali Christians, Nepali pastors and to consult the missionaries God has called to serve Him in Cody's own denomination. Are you fearful of what they might say? We'll you have reason to be! They will not take your position.

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    1. Let's keep praying: God will take care of his Churches.
      I would love to talk sometime too.
      Thank you,
      ND Lama

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  16. Exactly. What you haven't said is, "Take God's word for it." If your Nepali friends/missionaries have a Scripture-founded reason for how they feel about tika, dashain, etc. then that's great. I can understand you deferring to stronger brothers on this, but it would be beneficial to you and anyone you dialogue about these issues with in the future if you had a reason to support your argument other than "most Nepali pastors agree with me." and then hope/assume that they have a good reason. Also, there should be no fear of men for anyone. Who you fear translates to who you worship. It would be impossible for Cody or anyone else to follow Scripture and the Spirit's leading in ministry if they feared man; especially on a topic like this where much of the church has a different view.

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  17. yes, still nothing from Bible to back up. All I see is kind of I have political strength to defeat a younger pastor who is just starting his ministry, and I will use my political strength to destroy his ministry at any cost.

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  18. Nepali is my heart language. I have been serving among Nepalese churches 15+ years. I understand my people, I am pretty sure that I have little bit greater understanding of my culture.
    I love my Lord and love my fellow believers more than my unsaved blood relative brothers and sisters because we share a common father in His eternal kingdom. I do earnestly pray and I am trying my best to win my unsaved brother and sisters for eternal peace.
    The thing I do not understand is why we are so careful about hay (culture, their interest-my people groups are already tired with rituals and they are already open) instead of gold (gospel seed). I think we are not here to comfort people to stay on their pain, but we are here to create greater pain so that they can escape to eternal peace.
    I know your debate will never ends, just I want so say is I love you and encourage you to be passion about gospel, our Lord can use our limitations for his glory. God bless you!

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    1. Brother Lama, I continue to appreciate the gracious and humble spirit of your comments. I rejoice that your strong disagreement with me on this issue does not lead you making false accusations, hateful charges, or to seek my harm or silencing. If I may, I want to respond to your recent comments with the following points:

      (1) Your understanding of the Nepali language and culture is not something that I am questioning. The mistake I have pointed out is a mistake in Sanskrit regarding the term “hare”. I do not see in your comments any interaction with the points I have made in the above article.

      (2) Your point about “hay” and “gold” is well taken. Certainly our focus must be on the gospel and not trivial things. To understand my perspective, however, you must know that for me, contextualization is a gospel issue. Evangelistically speaking, it aims to remove every unnecessary barrier of language, culture, form, etc lying between a non-believer and the gospel. My biblical model is the incarnation of Jesus (Phil. 2, Jn. 1) and Paul’s incarnational method (1 Cor. 9). Christ’s putting on of flesh and Paul’s becoming all things to all people was for something. And Paul said that it was better enable him to reach as many as possible (1 Cor. 9:22-23).

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    2. (3) You have said, “I think we are not here to comfort people, to stay in their pain, but we are here to create greater pain so they can escape to eternal peace”. I would contend that Scripture teaches precisely the opposite. We are very much commanded to comfort others (Isa.40:1, 61:2, 2 Cor. 1:3-7, Col. 1:24, etc.) I don’t think there is any doubt that we are called to imitate the incarnation by entering into the context of those we are trying to reach, and to do this at great cost. But I await your Scriptural support for the philosophy that you have put forward.

      (4) Thank you for your encouragement to be passionate about the gospel. Lord willing, I will remain so.

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    3. (5) Finally, you have asked, “Why do you need this contextualization?” In asking, I assume that you are suggesting that you yourself do not need contextualization. You have spoken about having the “clear gospel”. But I ask how exactly has it come to be clear for you? Did it not require God becoming a man and tabernacling among us (contextualization)? Did it not need to be lived out on a historically defined human stage in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus (contexualization)? Did it not need to be communicated and written down in human language and in relevant 1st century, Greco-Roman literary genre by the gospel writers (contextualization)? Did this not ultimately need to be translated in to numerous languages including Nepali (contextualization)? Indeed did not countless forms of worship, discipleship, and other kinds of Christian faith expression develop over time and throughout multiple cultural contexts (contextualization)? In fact, isn’t it true that a Christian today hardly has a hymn book, a Bible, a seminary, a church building, a sermon, a Lord’s supper, a discipleship program, a musical instrument, a language, or indeed anything like a “clear gospel” without massive amounts of contextualization through and through. Contextualization as incarnation must be assumed. It is inherent in all human activity and communication. You see, there is really never a question about whether contextualization will be involved in mission. The question is whether that contextualization is being intentionally and intelligently pursued. By asking, “why do you need contextualization” you ignore the fact that you, yourself, simply cannot do without it. Even making comments on my blog in English is a very high-level form of contextualization. Also by asking this question, you incorrectly suggest that it is the intentional pursuer of contextualization that is introducing something odd to the work of evangelism. Again, contextualization is focused on the removal of barriers not the introduction of cultural novelties. It is the one who doesn’t intentionally pursue contextualization who is introducing foreign elements to the process of making disciples. I might ask you the question, “Why do you need Western cultural forms in your evangelism and discipleship of non-Westerners?” If you are really interested in understanding more the reasons for contextualization, I have actually written a series of brief articles on the subject entitled “Why Contextualize?” You can find those articles here http://codylorance.blogspot.com/search/label/why%20contextualize

      One thing my readers may notice is that I have tended to avoid responding directly to citations of or argumentation built upon personal testimony and experience. I have likewise been very sparing in sharing anything like this of my own (exceptions to this have mostly been in order to illustrate that assumptions developed based on experiences had in the Kathmandu Valley are not necessarily applicable to all Nepali-speakers at all times in all places). I am grateful for the faith expressed by those who have been willing to endure much for in the name of the Lord Jesus. I also recognize that ministry and life experience holds great potential as fine schools for good missiology. However, neither of these is a guarantor of sound argument, solid theology, or missiological “right-ness”. My own ministry experience, however long or compelling (or brief and boring), does not guarantee that my positions will be right. There is a way to utilize qualitative data to draw sound missiological conclusions, and this is not it.

      Many thanks again for your responses! Blessings.

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  19. What a Hindu god you put on the cross? Is that Khrisna? It looks like Khrisna.
    Shem

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    1. Shem can you tell us when did you see Krishna? Also, plz tell us what Jesus look like?

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    2. Shem it is spelled Krishna not Khrisna. Jesus died on the cross, Krishna didn't. Shows your hatred for colored people.

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  20. "Shows your hatred for colored people"??? What a stupid comment. no wonder you do not include your name with anonymous stupid comment. I don't know any "colored people" with blue skin. It reminds me of krishna because I have seen many photo with his skin blue. I doubt Jesus had blue skin either, so it looks like you worship god krishna and have put krishna on the cross. that is just what it looks like. perhaps that is how you want it to look?

    Shem

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  21. Though Cody and I are obviously world's apart on the use of Hindu practices, I do have great respect for him. I do indeed believe Cody's heart is in the right place. He wants Nepali people to come to know Jesus Christ. Amen. I sincerely believe that about Cody. (I want the same thing. I hope you can accept that about me.) I have never had doubts about Cody's faith in Christ or his heart's intent or motive in all he is doing.

    Triston

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    1. Appreciate this gracious comment, brother. Blessings to you moving forward!

      For others, we have exhausted this thread, I believe. I will thus be closing it for further comments. You are welcome to engage missiological topics on my other posts. Blessings!

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