Introducing the Thai Christian Catechism

Thai Christian CatechismFor the past couple of years, I have been working together with Dr. Natee Tanchanpongs (pastor, Grace City Bangkok church) and Mr. Chaiyasit Suebthayat (elder, New City Fellowship Church in eastern Bangkok) to write a new catechism in Thai for Thai Christians.  The three of us have written a new Thai Christian Catechism from the ground up, borrowing from the Westminster Shorter Catechism at times, but organizing the catechism differently and covering slightly different ground in terms of what is included or not included, and how it is expressed.  

Why a New Catechism?

While Reformation era catechisms like Heidelberg and Westminster are superb for English speakers, especially for native speakers in a culturally Western context, translations of these catechisms end up sounding clunky and unnatural in Thai.  The truth in them is sound but it is difficult to maintain accuracy to the original without sacrificing readability.  Also, the questions and issues of Europeans hundreds of years ago are not always the same as contemporary Thai believers.  Surely there is a vast amount of overlap because the duty of all Christians is to preserve “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3).  However, we wanted a biblically faithful catechism that is readable and accessible for modern Thai Christians, addressing issues of faith that are both essential and current for Thai churches.  I hope we have accomplished that.

The catechism has been privately published with professional assistance in layout, design, and printing from Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand).  Dr. Natee will be teaching through the new catechism over the next several months at our church, Grace City Bangkok, and videos of each session to be posted on YouTube.  The catechism will also be available for purchase through Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand), and we hope that other churches will find it useful in giving their church members a solid foundation in the Christian faith.

In the remainder of this post, I want to give you a brief peak inside the catechism, share some question and answer pairs that show how we have written this for the Thai context, and provide a link for you to download a PDF of the introduction and first chapter.  Currently we do not have a full English translation of the catechism, but that will probably be coming eventually.

Book Notes ~ April 2016

I was disappointed that I only finished 2 books this month, and one of them was rather short, at that.   However, at month end, I had 3 other books read up to the 75% mark, which will show up on next month’s book notes.  The two I did finish however, were both very good, although very different types of books.  Here’s my synopsis:

Towards a Clean Church: A Case Study in Nineteenth-Century Thai Church History

This was a fascinating case study about what went wrong in the growth of the church in Petchaburi, Thailand in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Relying on many primary source materials, author Herb Swanson shows how the church grew and thrived under the leadership of missionary Eugene Dunlap, who had a gracious and forgiving attitude towards moral failings and problems in the Petchaburi church, and showed good pastoral care and a willingness to give practical help to church members.  However, after Dunlap left, a newer, younger group of missionaries cycled in and out of the Petchaburi church, pursuing an agenda of cleansing the church of unconverted and wrongly-motivated converts.  They were highly suspicious of “rice Christians” who were only at church for financial or practical help, and were strong on church discipline.  The result is that the church floundered and almost died.  Swanson advances the thesis that the Thai Christians and the newer group of missionaries had very different expectations of church membership, and neither group was able to understand or appreciate the expectations of the other.  I found the cultural and social analysis intriguing, and I was given pause to think about patron-client relationships and what attitude missionaries and church leaders should have towards church members who are probably at church for mixed motives.  The major short-coming of this short book (only 70 pages) was a lack of biblical analysis of how to think about the nature of conversion and church discipline.  However, it would take a more evangelical author to delve into such subjects. 

I found a hard copy of this out-of-print title in the seminary library, but you can

Download the PDF for free

 

Latin and Legos

As a reward for finishing all the lessons in his Latin book, Joshua got a (long-awaited) Lego prize.  I say learning Latin is a reward in itself but for Joshua, the hope of Legos sweetened the deal and kept up the motivational level.

 

Book Notes ~ March 2016

I have begun to get serious about coming up with a good research question to apply for a Ph.D program, so you'll notice that books about Thai church history and missions will come up more frequently in coming months.  But it is good to have diversity too, so Scotland and Vikings also feature in this month's book round-up. 

Khrischak Muang Nua: A Study in Northern Thai Church History

Khrischak Muang Nua book cover

When I opened this book, I anticipated a simple summary of the activities of 19th missionaries in Northern Thailand, bravely overcoming difficulties, and planting the first churches in the region. Instead, I discovered a scathing critique of the early American Presbyterian missionaries of the Laos Mission (present-day Northern Thailand), showing how they failed to 1) provide pastoral leadership and 2) train pastors for the church. They failed to do these things because they overemphasized evangelism / expansion, poured a lot of time into building schools and hospitals, and thought that local Christians were childlike and not ready for leadership. I found page after page of disturbing things about these early missionaries that made me shake my head. I wish many of them were not true but author Herb Swanson has done a thorough job of scouring the archives of Payap University, providing copious primary source documentation for his critique, which I found myself largely agreeing with. From the outset, the author is honest about his particular perspective (which could be fairly called "theologically liberal") and this perspective certainly influences his evaluation of the missionaries' policy of "expansionism" (as he calls it) and their attitude towards Buddhism. However, he has done his homework and his critique should be read and seriously considered by all missionaries in Thailand today.

  Read FREE online

 

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