In the world of missions, anything that is “Western” or “traditional” is bad, while whatever is “contextualized” and “innovative” is good. So when it comes to old creeds and confessions of the Christian faith, it is a no-brainer for many missionaries. Don’t translate them. Don’t teach them. It is a paternalistic waste of time that smacks of cultural and theological imperialism. How could some antiquated Western document about Christian doctrine be appropriate for reaching Buddhists, Muslims, or animists in today’s world? The old language and sentence structure in these documents are difficult enough for Westerners, so how could they be understandable and useful for those with little to no background in Christianity, or Western culture and languages?
The rhetorical answer to those questions is obvious but I am convinced that there are positive reasons to translate the best and most enduring documents of the church of the past into the languages of the global church of today. The packaging may be old, but the content is good. As a missionary and a church history teacher, I am always thinking about how we can take the good stuff from the past and from other places in the world and make it beneficial for the global church. In my case, I am particularly thinking about the churches in Thailand, but the following reasons should be relevant for many contexts in the world today. I want to suggest three ways that translations of the older creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the faith (as well as other writings) can benefit the global church.