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Evaluating Missionary-Written Hymns for use in 21st Century Asian Churches, with Specific Reference to the Taiwan Context
David Alexander* The Uses Of Hymns And Other Liturgical Texts The people of God sing. Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs comprise significant portions of both Hebrew and Christian scriptures and of the lives of God’s people. Music and song are vital in the life of God’s people today. Karl Barth opined “singing is not an option for the people of God; it is one of the essential ministries of the church.”1 Yet when we take the styles of singing into mind, these comprise highly contested areas of concern in churches. Relevance to modern culture is cited by advocates of more contemporary styles of worship. The danger of cultural accommodation and its potential to distort the message of the gospel is cited by those wishing to adhere to “the traditions.”2 In the earliest days of Reformed churches music was not thought fit for admission to the public worship of Almighty God. Ulrich Zwingli, himself a very accomplished musician, banned it. This pattern, initiated at Zurich and copied elsewhere, lasted well into the 16th century. For these Sweitz-deutch Christians and their churches it was the word which mattered. Emotion, sentimentality and musical accompaniment were banned to preclude the possibility of the word becoming lost or obscured by artifice.3 John Calvin changed the pattern. The church at Geneva in 1536 held to the Zwinglian pattern. Calvin soon suggested the restoration of music to the church service “so that the coldness of the prayers of the people be removed and so that the
The author holds the MA in Theology degree from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in the USA and the Ed.M. degree from Rutgers University Graduate School of Education and serves as International Students’ Advisor at Tainan Theological College and Seminary. 1 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV, part 3, chapter 16, par. 72, #4. 2 Robert L. Foster , “A plea for new songs: a missional/theological reflection on Psalm 96.” Currents in Theology and Mission - August 1, 2006 3 Howard Hageman, “Can Church Music Be Reformed?” The Reformed Review, Dec 1960 Vol 14, No.2. p. 19.
Evaluating Missionary Written Hymns for use in 21st Century Asian Churches David Alexander August 2008
hearts of worshipers be incited to zeal and that those gathered come to invoke and exalt the glory of God’s name by their praises.”4 This was rejected. When Calvin went to Strasbourg he found Lutheran Protestants who had retained music in evangelical worship. He re-introduced song to the Strasbourg Reformed congregation through use of versifications of scripture texts. These were faithful to the originals with frequent resort to additional material to fill out a line.5 He stuck to the scriptures in the belief that attempts to sing new songs in our own words often result in singing about ourselves rather than about God.6 The relationship between worship and theology is a two-way affair. There are both theologies of worship and theologies from worship.7 Congregational singing both expresses and forms Christian faith. Because people tend to remember the theology they sing more than the theology that they hear preached, primacy is placed on the meaning of the texts that are sung. Often it is through the sense of words sung that believers learn of the nature and character of God and of the Christian life. Theology implicit in the hymns is often the more powerful than theology preached. It gives worshipers “food for thought” as they form their own ways of thinking and speaking about God. Hymns in the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. The use of music and of hymn singing in the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) can be traced to 19th century missionaries from the UK and Canada. The British mission to the south of Taiwan that began in 1865 was linked to Xiamen where, in 1854, a collection of 13 hymns in the Minnan language (the same as that in Taiwan)
Ibid, p. 20. Ibid. p. 26 6 Gracia Grimdal, “On Translating Hymns: Outrageous Opinions and Personal Regrets” The Hymn Vol 37 No. 2 April 1986, p. 20. 7 Susan J. White, Foundations of Christian Worship Louisville: Westminster, John Knox, 2006, p.14.
Evaluating Missionary Written Hymns for use in 21st Century Asian Churches David Alexander August 2008
was in use.8 In 1859 this collection was expanded to 25 hymns and published there by John Van Nest Talmage.9 Upon his baptism on 12th June 1886 Ko Tiun , the first Taiwanese Protestant, was able to recite a few verses of scripture and sing 13 hymns, presumably those from the 1854 collection.10 An 1872 collection of 59 hymns was published in Xiamen and subsequently became available to church workers in Taiwan.11 This collection included all 13 of the 1854 book’s selections plus translations of English hymns and new songs written in Minnan by Carstairs Douglas (of the English Presbyterian Mission) Alexander Stronach (from the London Missionary Society) and John Van Nest Talmage (from the Reformed Church in America.)12 George Mackay arrived in southern Taiwan early in 1872 where he conferred with British missionaries. A few months later he was escorted northward to Tam-sui and left there on his own. His first “native student,” A-hoa, accompanied him in village preaching and hymn singing. Confronted one day with opposition in Keelung, Mackay directed A-hoa to address the crowd. A-hoa froze, and Mackay resorted to the use of an Isaac Watts hymn, “I am Not Afraid to Own My Lord” (found in the 1872 hymnbook). After they sang a couple of verses together the fear was banished and the student became a preacher.13 A widow, Thah-so, is said to have sung her way across the boundary to death with hymn Forever with the Lord from the 1872 collection.14 On evangelistic trips to Taiwan’s interior Mackay taught the gospel through song and
Ióng Sim Sin Si (Xiamen:1854) John Lai, Taiwan Church News 2670, 4 May 2003, p.13. 10 John Lai, “The Historical Sources of Seng-si Songs” Taiwan Church News 2663, 16 March 2003, p. 13 11 John Lai,”Iong Sim Sin Si 59 Hymns” Taiwan Church News #1901 7 August 1988 12 Church Music Committee of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Seng-si (Taipei: PCT, 1964) Indexes pp 1-3. AND John Geddes, “The Hymn Book of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan” in Cheung David, Christianity in Modern China: the Making of the First Native Protestant Church. Leiden: Brill, 2004 p. 104. 13 George Leslie Mackay, From Far Formosa, 3rd Edition, Taipei: SMC Publishing Co, 1991) p. 147 14 Ibid. p. 151.
Evaluating Missionary Written Hymns for use in 21st Century Asian Churches David Alexander August 2008
judged the effectiveness of his proclamation by how hymn singing was taken up.15 When Japanese forces were battling to establish their rule in Taiwan (after the island was ceded to Japan by the Chinese Imperial government in 1895) Thomas Barclay, the founder of Tainan Theological College, was asked by the leading Taiwanese businessmen of his city to negotiate a peaceful entry. Barclay approached the invaders’ cantonment singing hymns in Taiwanese.16 During the early years of Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan a hymnbook became a desirable possession among some Taiwanese who wished to display to police authorities that they might be deserving of careful treatment.17 Since 1900 the PCT has produced its own hymnals. The 1964 version, which contains as many as 54 selections written by foreign missionaries in the Minnan language, has been so popular that it remains in use even in 2008, though a replacement has been scheduled for publication early in 2009. Theological Evaluation of Hymns: Three Models from the First World When Zwingli banned music in the churches of Zurich he sincerely believed that nothing should be allowed to distract from the Word of God purely expressed and expounded. But he ignored inherent problems of:1) the use of human language to express divine intention; 2) the deterioration of meaning through successive translation from one human idiom to another; 3) the messages carried by physical arrangements in which people gather to hear the word; and 4) the ways communication of the word can be nuanced through the use of voice or arrangement on a printed page. Human beings like melodies, rhythms and harmonies. Soldiers sing while marching, adding melody and harmony to the rhythm of their steps without regard to
Ibid. pp. 218-9 and 222. Edward Band, Barclay of Formosa Tokyo: Ginza, 1936 p. 99 17 Ibid. p. 117.
the often bawdy lyrics they intone. Christians at worship join each other in melody, harmony and rhythm. It is important to be together, and to sing together. The result is that “bad theology” is often articulated in what is sung. The hymn of challenge, Once to Every Man and Nation is moving and widely accepted in churches, but claiming that God’s call upon “men” and nations is “once” is theologically questionable if not indefensible. 1: A Mainline Church Model from America In 1986 the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America endorsed and adopted a paper offering a set of standards against which the entire spectrum of music used by congregations could be judged. The paper poses nine questions. 1. What theology is expressed in our congregational singing? 2. Is it biblical? 3. Is it consistent with Reformed theology? 4. Is the range of what we sing representative of the "whole counsel of God?" 5. What do our songs and hymns say or imply about the sovereignty and grace of God? 6. What do our songs and hymns say or imply about the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ? 7. What do our songs and hymns say or imply about the work of the Holy Spirit? 8. What do our songs and hymns say or imply about the nature and mission of the church? 9. What do our songs and hymns say or imply about the sacraments, and the Christian life?18 Application of the standards assumes that a congregation or representative committee thereof has at hand an overview of what the congregation uses habitually. These standards are “general”. The synod called for a clearly stated, biblical, Reformed, comprehensive theology to be articulated within the music of the church. 2: An Academic Model from the UK Susan J. White is more expansive. She focuses on all “liturgical texts” (not
“The Theology and Place of Music in Worship” Report of the Commission on Christian Worship, Reformed Church in America, Minutes of General Synod, 1986, pp 223-227.
exclusively on what is sung) and offers 18 criteria: 1. What does this text say about God, and about God's attributes and actions? From which sources are the images of God taken? 2 What does the text say about Jesus Christ? What is the relationship between the risen Christ and the historical Jesus of Nazareth? From which sources are these images taken? 3. What is the nature and action of the Holy Spirit? 4. What does this text say about the Trinity and about inter-trinitarian relations? 5. What does this text say about human beings or about communities of human beings? 6. What does this text say about the nature of salvation? From what are we saved? By whom? When, under what conditions, and how? Is it an event or a process? What images are used to describe this event or process? 7. What is the nature of sin and judgment? How do these relate to redemption? 8. What does it say about the final destiny of things; the second coming; heaven and hell; the Christian hope? 9. How does the text talk about goodness, power, suffering, and self-sacrifice? 10. What does this text say about the church, about its nature and mission? What images are used to describe the church and from where do they come? 11. What is the nature of belief and faith? Are they essentially corporate or individual? 12. How is the Bible treated in this text? What biblical images are used and how? Do the biblical images come from one particular portion or book of the Bible? 13. How are certain key elements of Christian doctrine expressed and interpreted (such as, incarnation, resurrection, crucifixion, atonement)? 14. What does this text say about the Christian sacraments? About their institution and purpose? 15. Who is speaking in this text (for example, is it the voice "righteous redeemed" or the "penitent sinner"; the "seeker"; the "church triumphant")? 16. Can anything be discerned about the historical or doctrinal context of this text simply by reading it? 17. Are there any serious theological difficulties or inconsistencies in this text? 18. What would be an appropriate liturgical use for this text? 19 Dr. White specifically covers several points of Christian faith, life and tradition. Her template can be used to evaluate individual songs, hymns, confessions of faith,
Susan J. White, Foundations of Christian Worship Louisville: Westminster, John Knox, 2006, p.204.
unison prayers, collects or other items. She does not ask that a text of a hymn or song reflect any particular point of view, but that it HAVE a clearly discernable one. 3: An Evangelical Church Model from America Preparing to publish a new hymnal for the Southern Baptist Convention (USA) in 2008, Lifeway Christian Resources convened a theological panel in October of 2007 to perform a theological review of songs to be included therein. The group was tasked to rate doctrinal and theological soundness through use of the following criteria: 1. Does the hymn speak biblically of God? 2. Is it God-honoring? 3. Does the hymn present a biblical view of man? 4. Does the song help us to cover the depth and breadth of our theology? 5. Does the hymn call us to true discipleship, service, repentance, witness, missions and devotion? 6. Does the hymn speak biblically of salvation? 7. Does it engage the whole person - allowing a person to express his deepest feelings? 8. Does the hymn emphasize that Christ is the Christian’s Lord, Master and King? (the idea of total submission) 9. Does the hymn present an Americanized/Westernized gospel? (civil religion) 10. Is there a balance with corporate and individual response in worship? (immanence and transcendence) 11. Does the hymn speak biblically about the church, the body of Christ?20 Like the previous two models, these Baptists are seeking to shape the texts of what congregations will sing in accordance with their interpretations of the Bible. In contrast to the model presented by the Reformed Church’s Commission on Worship, which was intended for application to the breadth of a congregation’s singing, this model (like Dr. White’s) is intended for the screening of specific texts.
Polly House, “Committee To Ensure Doctrine, Theology Of New Baptist Hymnal” http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/article_main_page/0%2C1703%2CA%25253D166390%252526M %25253D201117%2C00.html?
Jon Duncan, who led Lifeway Christian Resources’ theological review committee, said, “… This hymnal, as with past Baptist Hymnals, serves many functions, including providing a historical document of doctrinal beliefs of the family of faith known as Baptists. Our major concern is that the hymnal represents a truly "Christocentric" (Christ centered) and Trinitarian theology. While Baptists reflect many theological systems, nearly all can find agreement that our theology is first and foremost Christocentric. Our aim is that this hymnal, as with past ones, speaks accurately of Jesus Christ - fully God, fully man and the only means to salvation.” He went on to say, “Baptists have always been known for their high view of Scripture, local autonomy, priesthood of believers, Trinitarian theology, and salvation through Christ alone. In pluralistic times such as these, it is more vital than ever that our hymnal presents a clear theology around which Baptists can wrap their arms. Some may view this as "narrow" or "lacking" in terms of cultural progressiveness, but we feel an obligation to remain faithful to our core doctrinal beliefs. It is not our desire to dictate a particular theological system, such as "dispensational" vs. "covenantal," but to provide a hymnal that reveals a full-orbed view of Christ that encourages the family of faith to carry out the commandments to love God and love others.”21 Foundations of a Taiwan-Contextual Hymn Evaluaton Tool 1: Contextuality Ng Chiong-hui (Shoki Coe) introduced the term “contextualization” in 1972 as a new approach to understand the problematic relationship of faith and culture. Preachers, he believed, were called to proclaim both the stories of their own suffering peoples and the meanings of those stories in order to grasp the meaning of God’s
“Q&A With Jon Duncan, Leader Of Baptist Hymnal Theological Committee” http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/article_main_page/0%2C1703%2CA %25253D166392%252526M%2525 3D201117%2C00.html?
salvation.22 For Ng, contextualization presses beyond indigenization for a dynamic concept which is both open to change and future-oriented. The particular historical moment, its particular context in the light of the mission of the church, is the important factor. Contextualization arises out of genuine encounter between God’s Word and world, then moves out toward the purpose of challenging and changing a situation through being rooted in and committed to a given historical situation. Ng argued that contextual theology becomes truly catholic by taking the concrete situation seriously; not colorlessly uniform but manifold and diverse as it responds to different contexts. The theological ground for contextuality is the fact of the Son of God incarnate within specific human histories and cultures by which grace has been made available to all.23 Thought follows patterns set in the language used for thinking. There are linguistic dissonances between Asian and Western religions in the lack of clearly equivalent Chinese morphemes for the Western concepts “God” and “Heaven”.24 Many Western and Asian languages operate through alphabetic systems which depict sounds. But China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea (to differing extents) use ideographically written texts to depict ideas. Signifiers used in phonetically based writing systems depict sounds, which indirectly lead to meanings. Chinese languages’ ideographs have concrete flavor and a suggestiveness of their own. They constitute a framework for expressing perception and thought that closely associates form and meaning.25 The ideographs used to write Chinese languages evoke images of those
22 Lo Kong-hi “The Lord Who Enters the World to Serve and to Save” September 2006 http://www.ttcs.org.tw/~thco/theo/history/history.htm 23 John Parratt, ed. An Introduction to Third World Theologies Cambridge: University Press, 2004 See also Huang Po-ho, “Retrospect and Prospect of Doing Contextual Theology in Taiwan” Journal of Theologies and Cultures in Asia, Vol. 1 (2002) p. 88. 24 Beniot Vermander, “Theologizing in the Chinese Context” Studia Missionalia,Vol 45, 1996. pp. 119-134. 25 Edmund Chia, ”The Sensus Fidelium of the People of God in Asia” http://eapi.admu.edu.ph/eapr002/chia.htm
objects to which they refer. Conceptual abstraction, possible in languages utilizing phonetic-based writing systems, is less possible when the signifiers themselves evoke concrete images. In the Western dualistic view of reality God is seen as the great Other, who stands over-against God’s creation. The human body is likewise seen as different from the human soul. This is in stark contrast to the Chinese concept of tao which posits a fundamental unity of reality. There is no division of the divine from the created and the human. In contrast to the “outward” and “upward” religious directionality of Euro-American systems, those of Asia are oriented inwardly. Reality is gathered and integrated. An integrated person rediscovers and realizes everything. This leads to a sense of community within which people become aware both of their rights and of their duties towards others.26 Cultural alienation (living outside of the context) arises from: 1) unwise missiological methodologies of foreign evangelists and 2) ways in which churches in Asia form sub-cultural identities. Solutions to alienation lie in the development of contextual understandings upon which methodologies and identities can be based. Non-contextual methodologies and ways of forming sub-cultural identities may produce in Christian converts understandings of spirituality based on: a) following particular devotional practices, b) wearing certain reminders of faith, and c) listening to a particular style of foreign music. Though none of these may be wrong, any or all of them can be the product of a particular context that may well not cross cultural lines. Western theologies retain systematic and historical methodology in contrast to Eastern churches (with a few modern exceptions) which have not written theology in a systematic way because the systematizing mindset derives from the modernist
Michael Amaladoss, S.J. “Contextual Theology And Integration” East Asia Pastoral Review Vol. 40, No. 3, 2003.
Western worldview. Christians in different contexts see Jesus differently. A North American may primarily see a best friend who fulfills deep existential longings of meaning and love. A Latin American may find in Jesus the one who restores justice and brings peace. An East Asian mind may be more tuned to a Jesus who is the one who has power over the spiritual reality. This is not subjectivity but a manifestation of the depth and multi-faceted nature of the message of the Cross.27 The Apostle Paul spoke about being a Jew with a Jew and a Gentile with a Gentile. Though in a Calvinist understanding all cultures are fallen, experience demonstrates that all cultures contain some truth due to the presence of the imago Dei in every human. 2: Contextual Theology Contextualization is: 1) the manifestation of the imago Dei in humankind (the revelation of the mystery of God's creative power as shown in creation, including human minds that formulate various art forms), and 2) our participation in God's continuous creation (letting God transform our culture and arts into dynamic media that will effectively communicate and express the meanings of the Gospel to our people).28 Within the history of Christian theology and its teaching there has been a misunderstanding that European or Western theology is culturally “neutral.” This misunderstanding was exported as a worldwide valid theology to non-western cultures. The very idea that a “universal” theology could arise from the experience of the small Euro-American context is a myth.29 Upon that misunderstanding rest local theologies from Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Latin America that merely echo those from the academic West. Indeed, Every theology carries elements of the historical,
Ziya Meral, “ Cultural Alienation and Contextual Theology” http://www.globalengage.org//media/article.aspx?id=3134 13 August 2004. Loh I-to, “Contextualization versus Globalization: A Glimpse of Sounds and Symbols in Asian Worship” Prism, New Haven: Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Volume 2, Autumn 2005 J. Deotis Roberts, Sr Contextual Theology: Liberation and Indigenization Christian Century, January 28, 1976, p. 64.
cultural, political and economic conditions in which it has developed. Contextual theologians are called to acknowledge these conditions and to develop theologies that are meaningful and relevant to the context out of which they are born.30 Dominus Iesus, released by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in September 2000, is out of touch with the context of the manners in which Asian Catholics relate with persons of other religions. A survey was conducted to ascertain the Asian Catholic “sensus fidelium.” Responses indicated that, should the document have been produced as an example of Asian contextual theology (instead of as an academic paper out of Rome) it would have begun with four faith affirmations: 1) I believe in one God, the Father Almighty. 2) I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s revelation and who is savior for Christians as well as for all of humankind. 3) I believe that the Bible, the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, is the sacred Word of God. 4) I believe that the true religion exists in Christianity in general and in the Catholic Church in particular.” Notably lacking in this suggested preamble are two main points of Dominus Iesus: a) Jesus as the only savior and b) the Church as necessary for salvation.31 Theologizing in context means understanding the way a pluralistic, syncretic and all-encompassing cultural-religious system, such as is found where Chinese cultures dominate, works. Chinese peoples tend to stress the “unity of all religions”, both when it comes to their own tradition and when trying to integrate the teachings of religions developed in foreign settings.32 3: One Taiwanese Contextual Theologian
Su, David Kwang-sun, “Asian Theology in a Changing Asia: Towards an Asian Theological Agenda for the 21st Century”, CTC Bulletin, Special Supplement 1. p 25. 31 Chia, op. cit. 32 Vermander, op. cit.
Dr. Huang Po-Ho, Vice President of Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan and dean of that institution’s school of Theology, does contextual theological reflection and construction through "reconfessing". He contends that the gospel can neither be extracted from the cultural form inherent to it nor identified with any particular cultural form. The gospel becomes enmeshed in the cultural environments in which it takes root. Theologians must “do theology” using local resources as they re-confess Christian faith in their particular contexts. This requires a clearly stated theology of religions and dialogue with other religions about their own relationships with the cultural millieux in which they “live, move and have their being”. He asks that the churches of Taiwan do four things. 1. Re-examine traditional elements of Taiwanese customs and practices that sustain value and meaning systems for people, such as ancestor worship, festivals, and symbols. 2. Re-consider the relationship between Christianity and other religions in the nation’s society through constructive dialogue. 3. Strive for Christian ecumenicity while upholding both the universality and particularity of the gospel. 4. Construct relevant theology in the socio-political context of Taiwan and participate in political movements of the people. He sees freedom and identity as essential and inter-dependent elements of individual humanity. Identity must be acknowledged if freedom, even the freedom that comes through the gospel, is to be sustained. But since identity is tied up with culture, which sustains it, re-confessing begins with self-determination, an essential political and theological component of the effort to solve the crises at hand. Selfdetermination, of one’s OWN identity has connections to all spiritual, cultural and socio-political matters. Self-determination fulfills the need to achieve freedom while preserving the identity of the people in Taiwan.33
Cheng Yang-en Life And Mission In The Church Of Taiwan Presentation at a CCA General Committee Meeting in Taiwan on 11-16 May 2002
4: Aspects of the Taiwan Context A. Historical-Political Originally populated by Austronesian peoples, Taiwan was gradually “settled” by Han Chinese from Fujian beginning in the 16th century. The Ming Dynasty government of imperial China considered the island and its dependencies as “no man’s land.”34 In the early 17th century Spain and the Netherlands launched colonizing expeditions. Since then Taiwan has been occupied by a succession of foreign rulers: Dutch, Spanish, Manchurian, Japanese and Nationalist Chinese. Foreign occupiers exploited native populations through the "divide and rule" policy. To this day ethnic and clan hostilities, especially between the earlier and later immigrants, are manifest in all social sectors. From 1895 to 1945 Taiwan and its dependencies were a Japanese colony and local peoples endured political oppression and cultural discrimination. There was both violent and non-violent resistance, but some aspects of colonial rule were positive. The “rule of law” and a structured (though ethnically discriminatory) education system introduced Taiwan to modern concepts of science, law, medicine and democracy. After the Second World War the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Government took temporary custodial care of Taiwan and the political interests of Taiwan’s peoples were disregarded. The “custodians” were corrupt oppressors, and the economy was soon ruined. An uprising that began the evening of February 27, 1947 was violently put down. Troops dispatched from China arrived at Keelung harbor on March 8th and started to kill people indiscriminately. The "cleansing of the countryside” that followed eventually racked up a death toll estimated between 10,000
John Wills, Jr. “The 17th Century Transformation” in Murray A Rubenstein, ed Taiwan: A New History. Armonk NY, M.E. Sharpe 1999, p. 85.
and 20,000. This historical period has come to be known as “the 2-28”.35 In the 1950’s “temporary custodial care” turned into a permanent rule, and political dissent was squashed.36 By 1971 the KMT government had become internationally isolated and ruled without democratic legitimacy. The custodians aged and either emigrated to the West or died. By the late 1980’s opposition parties began to be organized and eventually their leaders won elections to office. In 1996 a free and fair election for president was first held. The process has been repeated in 2000, 2004 and 2008. B. Religious The most common religions in Taiwan are Buddhism and Taoism, which are practiced by the majority of the population. While only half of the population identified themselves as Buddhist or Taoist in a government census,37 many of those who indicate no religious belief follow some tenets or participate in some rituals and practices associated with Buddhism and/or Taoism. Since neither Buddhism nor Taoism is an exclusive religion, many people practice elements of both alongside traditional folk religion. Buddhist bohdisatvas are often enshrined in Taoist temples, and Taoist gods in Buddhist temples. Buddhist monks and priests are often called upon to conduct funeral ceremonies, even for non-Buddhists. Many different sects of Buddhism co-exist peacefully. The mostcommon are Chan (Zen) and Pure Land. In addition to over 4,000 temples, Buddhist organizations have established seminaries, secular colleges, high schools, kindergartens, nurseries, orphanages, a center for the
Taipei 228 Memorial Museum Visitor’s Guide “a Closer Look at the 2-28 Incident” http://228.culture.gov.tw/web/web-eng/228/228-1.htm and Stephen Philips, “Between Assimilation and Indulgence” in Murray A Rubenstein, ed Taiwan: A New History. Armonk NY, M.E. Sharpe 1999, p.293.
Peter Chen-main Wang, “A Bastion Created, A regime Reformed, An Economy Reengineered, 1949-1970”, in Murray A Rubenstein, ed Taiwan: A New History. Armonk NY, M.E. Sharpe 1999, p.323. 37 http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/5-gp/q&a/page_18.htm
mentally challenged, medical clinics, libraries and publishing houses. All of these organizations help to fulfill the Buddhist creed of selfless compassion for others. Folk religion derives from the ancient Chinese animist concepts and includes a host of deities and practices designed to give people a sense of control over life events which can be dangerous, threatening or uncertain. Folk religion permeates Taiwan. 29% of respondents to the religious census identified themselves as belonging to “folk religion” But this is so intermingled with Buddhist and Taoist practices that it is difficult to distinguish affiliations.38 Yi Guan Dao, “the Religion of the One Unity” has roughly a million members. It seeks to unify and identify commonalities among the world’s major religions, including Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Members take a vow to uphold the precepts of no adultery, lying, or drinking alcohol and to follow the virtues of benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom and faith. Adherents vow to lead a life of personal sacrifice and to work for the common good. They are involved in many social service activities, including kindergartens, orphanages, retirement homes, clinics, libraries, and nurseries. Members follow a vegetarian diet and run many vegetarian restaurants. Following the tradition’s belief in “the oneness of the universe and in contributing one’s life to humanity” the tradition actively proselytizes and seeks new members. Adherents feel that by doing good works and recruiting new members they are helping to create the Buddhist “Western Paradise” on earth and creating a world of brotherhood and benevolence as envisioned by Confucius.39 Taiwan is also the home of small sects which have developed out of Buddhism and Taoism as well as “new religions” that were established during the Japanese colonial era. Tenrikyo and Mahaikarikyo each continue, but with fewer than 40,000 local practitioners. Christian groups number almost a million adherents (the Protestant
Vermander, op. cit. http://asia.msu.edu/eastasia/Taiwan/religion.html 18 March 2008
churches have about 605,000 and the Catholics another 300,000). There are about 50,000 Muslims and a smattering of other groups. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all recognized religions.. The Law Governing Religious Groups provides regulation by requiring secular management of finances through statutes regarding tax exemption and property ownership.40 C. Ethnic Taiwan’s population is composed of five ethnic groups. The largest consists of native-born Taiwanese (70%) who usually speak the Minnan language. These are descendants of people who migrated from Fujian before 1895. The second group is the Hakka (15%) whose ancestors migrated from Kwangtung before 1950.Their language is Hakkanese. “Mainlanders,”(12%) arrived from China after 1945. These three groups share Chinese (Han) ethnicity. The fourth group is collectively known as “Aboriginals”, descendants of the earliest inhabitants of the island. They are racially Austronesian and speak a collection of non-Chinese languages. Since the 1990’s a fifth cohort has emerged. These are foreign laborers (from the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia) and young women from South East Asia and China who have been brought to Taiwan as brides. Aborigines, foreign laborers and foreign brides are marginalized in Taiwan’s contemporary society and are virtually without influence in social and political circles.41 Fallout from the 2-28 incident has plagued ethnic relations between the "Mainlanders" and "native Taiwanese" since 1947. The "ethnic complex" growing out of historical experience is seen in the areas of ethnic prejudice, ideology, and national identity.42 D. Linguistic
http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/5-gp/yearbook/2003/chpt22.htm Wu Chung-li & Hsiao Cheng-tai, “Empowerment Theory and Ethnic Politics in Taiwan” September 1-4, 2005. American Political Science Association, September 2005. pp.1-3 (f) http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p42589_index.html 18 March 2008 42 Ibid.
After 1949 the KMT government established Mandarin Chinese (variously known as Beijing Dialect, ordinary speech, and the National Language) as the common language, suppressing local languages to ensure that everyone mastered it. Mandarin is now the primary language used in schools, government and many businesses. Notwithstanding government orders, there remain 14 languages and dialects in use in Taiwan today.43 However, younger generations of Aborigines, Hakkanese and Taiwanese who grew up in cities often can no longer converse in their ancestral tongues. A shared system of writing has been the primary unifying force among Chinese since 206 B.C. In modern China this system simplified in the 1950’s. Taiwan retains traditional ideographs, giving its people continuity with one portion of their cultural heritage and the ability to read Chinese classics and other ancient writings.44 Nonetheless, using only Chinese characters to write the Taiwanese and Hakkanese languages is problematic because some idioms have come into Taiwan from non-Chinese sources to which no ideographs have been “assigned”. E. Ecclesial Christian mission in Taiwan came in three waves. The 17th century efforts disappeared soon after European colonizers were ousted in 1664. In the 19th century Roman Catholic missions were established in Pingtung and Protestant mission, facilitated by the Tien Chin Treaty of 1858, began in 1865. Early Protestant missionaries adopted a comprehensive approach of social, medical and educational work alongside their evangelistic preaching. Following the Second World War many Christian denominations and independent churches accompanied the defeated KMT in
Government Information Office “Languages” http://www.gio.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=35570&ctNode=4101 19 March 2008 44 “Taiwan’s Languages” http://www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/taiwan/pro-languages.htm 19 March 2008
its retreat from China. Church growth then stagnated in the 1970’s. Prophetic concern for political development and the national future of Taiwan moved the PCT in 1977 to: call for social and political reforms; proclaim the right of Taiwanese people to selfdetermination; and express hope for a "new and independent country." This led to persecution and suppression by the KMT government. Protestant churches which did not share the Presbyterians’ convictions criticized the PCT based on ideological and ethnic considerations. Conflicting political ideologies and contrasting attitudes towards the China-oriented policy formulated by the former KMT regime still alienate Christian churches from each other in the 21st Century.45 In Taiwan’s Catholic church, the priests were foreign and the hierarchy Mainlander even at the dawn of the 21st Century.46 A Tool For Taiwan-Context Theological Analysis Of Hymns Asian musicologist Loh I-to demands that hymn texts should maintain an interplay between biblical revelation and contemporary Asian realities.47 He has accused ethnic Chinese churches of in-authenticity, saying that they: 1) looked yellow in their skin, but deep in their heart and mind they wanted to be as white as Caucasians. 2) translated and borrowed theologies, having none of their own. 3) copied Western styles of musical composition, and illegally copied Western published anthems. 4) retained secondhand liturgies introduced by missionaries over a century ago.48 Loh demands contextualization in order to encourage an expression of Christian faith that is Asian in nature and not merely a transplantation of Western Christianity.49
Cheng Yang-en, op. cit. Br. Bima “A Challenge Proposal:From A Refugee-Migrant Church Towards A Rooted Taiwanese Catholic Church” http://www.catholic.org.tw/amrsmw/downloads/A%20Challenge%20Proposal.doc 47 Sound the Bamboo, 2nd edition Hong Kong: CCA, 2000 p. xi 48 Loh Ito, "Worshiping with Incarnated Music: My Mission" Lam-sin Sin-hak 2:1 (1991):113-32. 49 Loh I-to, “Contextualization versus Globalization: A Glimpse of Sounds and Symbols in Asian Worship” http://www.yale.edu/ism/colloq_journal/vol2/loh1.html
Decades ago the Sri Lankan Methodist D. T. Niles located the heart of the problem in Asian churches’ focus on translating, imitating, and copying Western ways of singing and worship, believing them to be the only authentic Christian expression. Niles used the metaphor of gospel as a seed that is sown on different local soils and produces different types of plants. When the seed of the Gospel is sown in Palestine, a plant that can be called Palestinian Christianity grows.... The seed of the Gospel later brought to America grows a plant of American Christianity. Missionaries to Asia brought the seed, their own plant of Christianity, and their flower pots. Niles’ prescription was to break the flower pot, take out the seed of the Gospel, sow it in Asian cultural soil, and let local versions of Christianity grow.50 Assembling criteria set forth by Ng Chiong-hui, D.T. Niles, Loh I-to, Michael Amaladoss and Huang Po-ho into a “tool,” for Taiwan contextual theological evaluation of hymns looks as follows. a. Does the language of this hymn reflect current usage in Taiwan? (Ng) b. Does this hymn reflect Taiwanese modes of spirituality?(Ng) c. Does this hymn use resources drawn from Taiwan’s cultural environment? (Huang) d. Does this hymn celebrate traditional elements of Taiwan’s culture? (Huang) e. Does this hymn link Taiwan’s Christians to people of other religions? (Huang) f. Does this hymn link Taiwan’s Christians ecumenically? (Huang) g. Is this hymn relevant to Taiwan’s socio-political context? (Huang) h. Does this hymn move its singers towards freedom within their Taiwan identity ? (Huang) i. Does this hymn include interplay between biblical revelation and contemporary Taiwan realities? (Loh) j. If singers take this hymn to heart, will they bear fruit that will in some way fit into Taiwan’s context? (Niles) k. Does this hymn reflect a fundamental unity of reality? (Amaladoss)
Quoted by C. Michael Hawn, Gather into One: Praying and Singing Globally (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 32
l. Does this hymn call all human beings to community? (Amaladoss) Application of the Tool Before application of this tool missionary-written hymns it must be tested against a hymn written by a Taiwanese poet in Taiwan. It is assumed, perhaps falsely, that this hymn will "pass" the test and be determined suitable for use in the Taiwan context. If this is so, then the tool itself can also be assumed to be useful for "measurement" of other materials presented for use in the modern Taiwan context. 1A. Test Text The one-verse hymn “For this our Nation we Ardently Pray” was written by Chia Hong-bun in the 1990’s. It was published in Taiwanese in 2001. An English translation, versified for singing,came out in 2007. Contextuality for Taiwan must primarily be ascertained by using the Taiwanese text. For the sake of this project, a literal translation into English (with modified punctuation and the addition of capitalization which does not exist in the Taiwanese original) will be used. The modified and versified version for singing in English can be found in a footnote. For the sake of this piece land, we sincere heart pray. May Lord’s truth as light whole land shine upon. For these cities we humbly implore, may Lord grant life. Give our people obtain salvation. Grant, Almighty Heavenly Father God, your holy kingdom come down. Grant poverty and grief all leave our hearts. Grant Almighty Heavenly Father God, your will be done. Grant hope and joy eternally dwell in our hearts.51 1B: Test Tool Does the language of this hymn reflect current usage in Taiwan? Does this hymn reflect Taiwanese modes of spirituality?
For this our nation we ardently pray. Come, truth of Jesus to enlighten our way. Come to our cities, we humbly implore, fill us with Jesus’ love to our very core. O Almighty Father, your kingdom come here, that sickness and poverty we may not have to fear. Our Father in heaven, may your will be done. That peace, hope and righteousness shine as bright as the sun.
Does this hymn use resources drawn from Taiwan’s cultural environment? Does this hymn celebrate traditional elements of Taiwan’s culture? Does this hymn link Taiwan’s Christians to people of other religions? Does this hymn link Taiwan’s Christians ecumenically? Is this hymn relevant to Taiwan’s socio-political context? Does this hymn move its singers towards freedom within their Taiwan identity ? Does this hymn include interplay between biblical revelation and contemporary Taiwan realities? If singers take this hymn to heart, will they bear fruit that will in some way fit into Taiwan’s context? Does this hymn reflect a fundamental unity of reality? Does this hymn call all human beings to community? 1C: Analysis Use of the term, "this piece of land" picks up on two aspects near to the heart of the Taiwanese. First is the years of colonial oppression during which local people were told that they were either subjects of the Japanese emperor (1895 to 1945) or the heavy handed Nationalist dictatorship from 1945 until the mid-1990's during which a "greater China" identity was promoted and Taiwan-consciousness was suppressed. The other theme it draws on is the centuries of Taiwan's life as an agricultural society during which connection to the land was of prime importance. The processes through which Taiwan has changed, in the most recent five decades, from an agricultural, through an industrial, into a service and consumer economy have strained and often broken connection to the land among persons born after 1960. In the 21st century the process of globalization threatens the connection to "this" piece of land. Through usage of the phrase "for this piece of land" this hymn calls its users to Taiwan. Taiwan's peoples are praying peoples. In traditional homes joss sticks are lit and placed before the house gods or ancestral tablets every day. Though less common than before, it is yet not uncommon to observe pedestrians, when passing a folk religion temple, engaging in behaviour which could easily be compared to that of Roman
Catholics in a church "genuflecting" before the altar. On March 19, 2004, the evening of the day when Taiwan's then-president Chen Shui-bian had been shot, leaders of a pre-election rally in Taipei called the crowds gathered there to be silent and led a prayer to "Our Mother Taiwan" for his recovery and the safety of the land. This hymn, a prayer for Taiwan, though Christian in much of its content, reflects a basic mode of Taiwan spirituality. In the mid-1990's the municipal government of Kaohsiung made a bid to host the Asian Games. At that time a city motto, "Friendship, Sunshine, Passion" was coined. This motto was derived from what the promoters sensed in the Kaohsiung environment. The second line of the hymn, in which the truth of God is begged to fill the land as light shines upon it picks up on this contemporary Taiwan reality. Nevertheless, the hymn fails to celebrate any traditional elements of Taiwan's culture and falls short of linking Christians with people of other religions. "Almighty Heavenly Father God" is particularly Christian terminology. Notwithstanding that in Chinese Folk Religion there is the Jade Emperor, or "God of Heaven", this eminence has little to do with the lives of common people, who look to subordinate gods, ghosts and ancestors for their particular needs.52 Taiwan's Christians are divided on many issues, not least of which are the terms by which they refer to God. All Protestants and Roman Catholics could agree on the terms used in this hymn and translated "Almighty Father" and "Heavenly Father", but the term "Siong-te" which follows it is a bone of contention going back centuries. Roman Catholics use "Thian-chu" (Lord of heaven), Presbyterians and some other mainline Protestants use "Siong-te" (the emperor above) and free church Protestants use "Sin" (spirit). The hymn, therefore, both succeeds and fails to link Taiwan's Christians.
David Jordan, Gods, Ghosts & Ancestors, (Berkley, University of California, 1968) p. xvi.
Insofar as relevance to Taiwan's socio-political context can be ascertained, beyond use of the term "this piece of land", alluded to above, the hymn recognizes the existence of sickness and grief, which are common in Taiwan (as most everywhere else) and of fear of poverty, which was only eliminated (for the most part) in Taiwan in the last generation. Mention of cities is highly relevant to the urbanized situation of the vast majority of Taiwan's residents. Though it may have been more poetic and beautiful to have sung of lofty Yu-shan, few Taiwanese will ever see it other than in a photograph or on a TV screen. Biblical imagery is found in the next to last line where the phrase "your will be done" is inserted. This, lifted from the Lord's prayer, connects the hymn writer and hymn users to two millenia of church usage. Those who use the hymn and take it to heart will come to care not only for themselves but for the land, the cities and the people of this land. 1D: Summary Of the twelve criteria posited for analysis of a hymn's contextual applicability to Taiwan, this one meets ten and fails two. The failures are based on the contents and form of the hymn itself, not on any defect in the instrument. Calibration thus completed, and the instrument demonstrated to be effective, we now proceed to testing other materials. 2A: "When Creation’s Work Was Done" This hymn, apparently written by John V. N. Talmage, was included in Iong-sim Sin-si published in Xiamen in 1859. At that time missionary hymn writers were creating both liturgy and literature for the churches they were establishing in China. Congruent with the idea that "we sing what we believe", the missionaries were using song to reinforce some of the beliefs which they were offering to the persons who, leaving behind the faiths of their mothers and fathers, came to be united with the fellowship of the Christian Church. This hymn demonstrates the missionaries' concern
that the newly established churches in Minan language regions articulate beliefs that: 1) the world had come into being through the creative will of God; 2) the Sabbath was ordained for God's people from of old; 3) its celebration on Sunday (instead of Saturday) was warranted by the resurrection of Christ on that day; and 4) history has a destination, which will include an eternal state of rest. All of these are addressed, affirmed, and sung in the hymn "When Creation's Work Was Done." The hymn is still in use in Presbyterian Churches in Taiwan today. As with the hymn used above to test the analytical tool, a more-or-less the literal rendering of the original text into English will be used.
1) Heaven and earth made all complete, God rest and give blessing. People learn God’s way, early have kept Sabbath day. Early have kept Sabbath day. 2) All people sin, Heaven is angered. Jesus descends for us to die. Salvation completed and suffering ended, First day of week Lord arose. First day of week Lord arose. 3) Jesus loved us, saved souls. We should appreciate his great grace. Thank, worship hearts true, often come keep Sabbath day. Often come keep Sabbath day. 4) God’s holy book says very truly, end day heaven and earth change to new. Jesus disciples receive blessings Eternal rest in heaven kingdom. Eternal rest in heaven kingdom.
2B: Tool Does the language of this hymn reflect current usage in Taiwan? Does this hymn reflect Taiwanese modes of spirituality? Does this hymn use resources drawn from Taiwan’s cultural environment? Does this hymn celebrate traditional elements of Taiwan’s culture? Does this hymn link Taiwan’s Christians to people of other religions? Does this hymn link Taiwan’s Christians ecumenically? Is this hymn relevant to Taiwan’s socio-political context? Does this hymn move its singers towards freedom within their Taiwan identity ? Does this hymn include interplay between biblical revelation and contemporary Taiwan realities? If singers take this hymn to heart, will they bear fruit that will in some way fit into Taiwan’s context?
Does this hymn reflect a fundamental unity of reality? Does this hymn call all human beings to community? 2C: Analysis Of the 12 criteria posited in the tool, this hymn fully meets only two: it links Christians ecumenically (the command to keep a Sabbath being upheld, though not necessarily kept, in all of Taiwan's Christian churches) and it offers Christians freedom within their Taiwan Identity (because though it calls for Sabbath keeping, it does not specifically state "Sabbatarian rules" for how this is to be done). It is partly successful in its attempt to be relevant to Taiwan's socio-political context because in 21st century Taiwan is available away from work for most people on a weekly basis to take both a Saturday AND a Sunday sabbath. The hymn also makes use of Biblical material in all four verses, carrying singers through creation, fall, redemption and the Second Coming of Christ. However, it does not link these to contemporary Taiwan realities. 2D: Summary The hymn fails to be relevant to the Taiwan context in many areas. Nothing in traditional Taiwan spirituality calls for people to take any "sabbath rest". The text calls Taiwan's Christians to separate themselves from their fellow citizens who are not Christians or inclined to rest one day a week. Perhaps most seriously, it carries no sense of a unity of reality. Heaven and earth are separate, Jesus "descends" from heaven, only "souls" are saved, and eternal blessing is made available only for those who can be identified as the disciples of Jesus. Conclusions For Taiwan If the tool is useful when applied to hymn texts written in Minnan language by foreign missionaries (whom we might presume to be somewhat familiar with the local
context), it can be applied also to the translations of hymn texts from other regions which are commonly used in Taiwan’s churches today. Those that pass the test of applicability (or at least, not fail the test absolutely) might be included in future hymn collections. Those that fail might disappear quietly into obscurity. The use of “out of context” texts is no more wrong than use of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible is wrong. Some of the hymns, like some of the deuterocanonicals, are helpful in broadening the spirituality of local Christians. But “out of context” texts need to be clearly labeled for what they ARE. Texts and tunes constructed from local cultural materials in local motifs are identifiable without much trouble. Only “out of context” items presented for use in Taiwan’s churches need additional treatment. For example: Silent Night would carry the notation “19th Century Austrian”. Be Not Dismayed would be “20th Century American” and Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts would come as “12th Century Latin”. Even hymns from South Asia and Africa, the rhythmic and melodic qualities of which make them instantly recognizable, should bear some identification as to nation (or people) of origin and century (20th Century, Gambia, etc.). For Asian Churches in General Taiwan is a single corner of Asia. In each nation, and in separate regions of several, there are ethnic, cultural, linguistic, historical, economic, ecclesial and political factors that create unique contexts for the Christians of those places. Tools for contextual evaluation of the hymns used in churches there might be developed along the lines of the one presented here for Taiwan. These might serve churches not only in evaluating the music that is presented to them in the denominational or commercially produced hymnals that they use, but also to evaluate the mass of material that comes electronically for projection on screens (in urban churches where
power is reliable and computer equipment is in use). It is anticipated that much of what is evaluated will pass, and that which is not from the context will be clearly seen inapplicable. This is not a call to purge our churches of “out of context” materials, but to take a step to construct church theologies and practices that are both living and local for the sake of sharing the good news of a living and incarnate Lord Jesus Christ with all of our neighbors and to the depths of our own being.
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