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A number of people have asked me for apologetics resources in Thai, so I thought I would assemble a list of what is available. You’ll find that list down below but before you go get the goods, there are few things that need to be understood about apologetics in the Thai context.Apologetic Issues in Thailand are Different than in the West
Apologetics resources in the English language are intended to meet the challenges to the Christian faith in the English speaking world. For various cultural, historical, and religious reasons, not all of those issues are applicable to a Thai-speaking audience and thus do not need much attention (if any) when teaching on apologetics in Thailand. Issues that the vast majority of Thai Christians are not dealing with include higher criticism, secular humanism, the historicity of Adam, the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, atheism, and postmodernism. Those are Western issues that grew out of historical and cultural forces in the West stemming from the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversy. For the most part, Thailand did not experience those movements in Western thought. To the degree to which Thailand has experienced those movements, it has only been peripheral and mostly confined to the more educated upper-classes who have lived abroad or received a Western education.Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that the issues I’ve listed above don’t matter or are not important. They are important. They do matter. But the the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible are not being called into question in Thai churches, so why mount an apologetic defense against an enemy that your listeners haven’t met (and probably won’t meet) in their context?
I’ve noticed that much teaching in Thai churches focuses on some variation of offering yourself to God or seeking God’s blessings through obedience. Somehow, the Gospel is seen as useful for “getting saved” but not for living the Christian life. Once you’ve heard about grace and “accepted Christ,” the next thing you need is a steady diet of moral exhortation to be good and to give yourself fully to God so that you get his blessings. Or at least that’s a lot of what I’m hearing. Of course, this is nothing unique to the Thai church, as it shows up in some form in every country, every culture, every age.Since a neglect of the Gospel of grace is such an entrenched problem in churches, whether that be Thailand or elsewhere, I found the following passage from Jerry Bridges to be particularly applicable. Even if we don’t think we are trying to live by good works, the temptation to rely on self tends to sneak up on us. Because our hearts tend to deceive themselves, here’s a good reality check from Bridges:
With the vast advances in transportation and communication in recent years, it is becoming increasing common for pastors and seminary professors to go on missions trips to teach short-term Bible courses. There is a lot of good that can come from such trips, but also many possible snares. In this post, I want to address just one of these snares, the challenging task of teaching or preaching through translation. Teaching in the local language is far and away the best way to teach but if you must teach through translation, here are some things to keep in mind.
Many times it is assumed that theological education around the globe can be done basically the same way everywhere, namely the way it is done in the West. But in many cases, a cut-and-paste approach to theological education and pastoral training isn’t nearly as effective as some would like to think that it is.
To get some more insight into the nature and challenges of theological education in Asia (and Thailand in particular), I recently interviewed Daniel Kim, director of Chiang Mai Theological Seminary and a missionary church planter in Thailand with OMF International.KD: Could you share briefly about your background, and how you came to be involved in theological education in Thailand?
DK: Korea is my physical birth place. U.S.A. is my spiritual birth place. And Thailand is my missional place. My life has been an exciting journey like the life of Daniel in the OT. I am a trilingual and multicultural person.
“Mr. Eddy, tuck in your shirt, please.” The tall twenty two year old Scotsman turned to see who had called to him. He didn’t look so happy with our older Thai colleague. “I’m all done teaching. I’m just going home.” Our colleague was not persuaded. “You are a teacher and you are still at school.” Mr. Eddy begrudgingly tucked in his dress shirt and continued down the hallway.For foreigners coming to Thailand to teach English, the expectations of the institutions that they teach at can seem overbearing. This is particularly true for younger teachers who are more accustomed to the informal individualism of Western youth culture. But whether one is at home or abroad, there are certain expectations for how one should dress on the job. In Asia, this is particularly important as there is often a high cultural value on appearance and maintaining an image appropriate to one’s role in society. Being a teacher is not just a job but an identity. It is a role in society that is accorded much respect because teachers are role models for the students they teach. In Thailand, teachers are even called the student’s “second parent” because of the big role that they play in student’s life, dispensing not only academic but personal advice and guidance.
There are few things more frustrating to students than busy work. Plowing through assignment after assignment, the distinct feeling that all of one’s hard work is pointless gnaws away at the soul, inoculating students to the possibility of actual learning.As a foreign English teacher in Thailand, I discovered that many Thai people have developed a mental block that prevented them from truly learning English. This block had developed over the course of many years as they were run through an “English as a Foreign Language” curriculum that really amounted to busy work. But they suffered not just a day or two of busy work when the real teacher was out sick. This was years of busy work. And now many were convinced that they simply couldn’t learn a foreign language. “I studied English for ten years, and I still can’t say anything more than ‘Hello’” is a common refrain.