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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 have to commend the folks at Chick Tracts for making a good effort to produce a contextualized tract for Buddhist Thailand. If you are not familiar with Chick Tracts, they are a brand of cartoon tracts that are (in)famous in American evangelicalism (and fundamentalism?) for their very direct nature. They are engaging little tracts that draw you in, keep you reading, and usually end up with the main character being cast into hell after watching a “This Was Your Life” movie before God’s judgment throne. The best way to describe Chick Tracts is “in-your-face.” In the Chick tract, “The Tycoon,” (read here), a wealthy Thai Buddhist businessman is commended for his large donations to the temple. Periodically through his life, Christians try to tell him the Gospel but don’t get very far because they are quickly ejected from his presence, or he himself ridicules them. He dies in a car wreck and is condemned before God’s judgment throne.Is this tract contextualized well for Thai Buddhists?
As people move around the globe like never before, there are unprecedented opportunities to share the Gospel. Many new immigrants to the West are from Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, and other non-Christian backgrounds. Some of them speak English well. Some don’t. How will they hear the Gospel?One solution is diaspora ministry. The term “diaspora” is used by many missionaries to refer to people from traditional missionary-receiving nations who now live in traditional missionary-sending nations. So that means reaching out to Thai people in Sydney, and Chinese in Munich. Missionaries working in diaspora ministries are often those who had been “out there” on the mission field, working with XYZ people group, but have had to return to their home country. They still have a burden to see XYZ people know Christ, so they do diaspora ministry to reach out to XYZ people living in their home country. But, as you might imagine, the problem is that there are not enough diaspora workers to go around.
In his research on conversion growth in Protestant churches in Thailand, Marten Visser discovered that 60% of Thai Christians say that literature of some form played a role in them coming to Christ. That is an impressive statistic, especially considering the fact that most Thai people are not big readers. So even though books are by no means the key to evangelism in Thailand, getting good books (and booklets) into people’s hands is still significant to evangelism and discipleship among Thai people.There are lots of tracts available in Thai but they are not all of equal quality. In this post, I want to highlight some of the better Thai Gospel tracts that I have come across. So whether you are looking for something to hand out en masse or (even better) looking for something to share with someone in conjunction with personal conversation, the following tracts would be suitable for many Thai people.
It is often asked whether handing out tracts, Gospel portions, and other Christian literature is effective. It usually doesn’t seem to bring visible results and for that reason some people have abandoned it altogether. However, I recently received the following story from our friend and co-worker Tam who is on staff with Thai Christian Students (TCS) in nearby Lopburi. To read Tam's story in Thai, scroll to the bottom of this post. Translated from Thai, Tam says
“Last week we handed out John’s Gospels and informational flyers about the Lopburi Youth House at various schools. We were all very tired afterwards but praise God for his greatness that when we went to hand them out, there was one student who took a John’s Gospel home and gave it to her mother to read. When the mom finished reading it, she called the national office for TCS in Bangkok. She said that she was a sinner, that she wanted to become a Christian, and wanted to go to church. TCS Bangkok then called me and told me this story. I got in touch with a local church leader for her so that she could go worship at church.
Several summers ago I met a young man named Tok. Tok was a student at a local technical college and he and his friend Art were jogging by the local river where I too had gone out to run. We got to talking and the following day the three of us, together with my friend Doug, went out for a bite to eat. Doug and I prayed before our meal, which they had never seen before, and I mentioned spiritual things once or twice during dinner but Tok and Art didn’t seem interested. As dinner got over, and the bill was paid, I wasn’t sure if I would see them again or not so I asked Doug to dig a couple of Gospel tracts out of his bag and I gave them to Tok – one for him and one for Art who had already left. I told him it was about Jesus and the tract would give him some food for thought. He should take it home and read it and let me know if he had any questions.
Imagine this. You’re a new missionary, freshly arrived to the field. After years of preparation, you’re finally here and you can’t wait to start telling people the Gospel. There is just one slight problem though. The language You can barely tell people your name. Even after a six months or a year of language study, it still feels a bit beyond you to give a really good explanation of the Gospel to your neighbor or the lady selling fruit at the market. But, behold! What do I see on the literature table at the church camp? It’s the Four Spiritual Laws - translated in the local language! That’s the ticket. You buy a whole stack. Your neighbor gets one. The fruit lady gets one. The guy at the gas station gets one. Even the Buddhist monk gets one. Even though you can’t give a good verbal explanation in the local language yet, at least these folks have gotten the Gospel message in a form that they can understand. Or have they?
Before I came to Thailand in 1999, I had never handed out a tract in my life. The practice of handing out tracts is not very common in the U.S. anymore and even among evangelical Christians it seems to be regarded as some kind of weird unnatural activity that only really over-the-top religious nuts engage in. Perhaps the current emphasis on friendship evangelism and building relationships in order to share the Gospel (which is good and proper as the primary method of personal evangelism) has contributed to the disdain which has fell upon handing out tracts. Tracting can seem very impersonal and artificial, but it IS one means among many that God uses to reach people with the Gospel. It really shouldn't be a stand-alone method of evangelism, but just one link in a chain of Gospel sowing that can contribute to people understanding and accepting the Gospel. Granted, lots of tracts end up in the dustbin or along the roadside, but God does use tracts as the following story illustrates. A fellow missionary gave me permission to share this encouraging story:"This past Sunday two visitors came to church at In Grace Church: Colonel Surasak Banjukaew and his wife, Wanpen. I know them a bit (he attended SEANET this past year), but as I sat eating lunch with them I was able to learn much more about them. Surasak is the founder of a ministry among members of the military and the police force.
The social dynamics of handing out tracts are a bit different in Thailand than in the West. As I mentioned before, just going out and handing out tracts is not nearly as ideal as sharing the Gospel in a conversation with someone that you already know. However, when someone receives a tract and reads it, it is food for thought and it might get them thinking about things they haven't previously considered. I find most people in Thailand to be receptive to receiving tracts. I say something like "This is free" (แจกฟรีครับ) or "I've come to hand out Good News" (มาแจกข่าวประเสริฐครับ). Occassionally, I've gotten stony faced looks when I go to hand a tract to someone but once I say that it is free, the person smiles and willingly takes it. I've learned from my Thai brothers and sisters that some people are afraid that you want money to make merit in return for receiving a gift of some sort. I've met these folks before. Usually they approach you on the street with some kind of cheap trinket and ask a small amount for it - to help handicapped children or make merit (create good karma) or some such. So, I can understand how some people are leery of receiving something on the street from a stranger. But happily, most people cheer up when told