RATIONALE FOR THE PASSAGE CHOSEN FOR PRESENTATION

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CHAPTER 3. Rationale for the Research

In her book, Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics, JK Brown (2007:232) asks, “How do we go about evaluating what constitutes biblical thinking and living?” At the heart of this research project is a methodology through which an emerging contextualized theology – an expression of “biblical thinking and living” – can be recognized and examined.
Sindhis live in a faith setting that has been shaped by a number of factors, in particular by Islam. Believers are those within this setting who have submitted to an inserted78 Bible translation as God’s revelation to them. How do we identify and record the impact of the gospel message on the faith of an emerging community of believers within an Islamic context? What are the unique Sindhi expressions of that faith? The research methodology is one way79 to discover answers to these questions by presenting a biblical text in order to generate responses that reflect the participants’ understanding of God’s revelation and reveal their faith.
As defined in this thesis, the exploration of the biblical faith of Sindhis goes beyond contextualization to inculturation.80 The concern of the research is not with the outsider’s efforts, the etic perspective, even though the product of an insertion into the culture (the Sindhi New Testament) is used to generate the data. Instead, the focus is on the impact of the message as it begins to be lived out by the insiders and expressed according to the categories that are inherent to
their context, the emic perspective. As researcher, I am interested in the interaction between the two forces Horton (1993:135) mentions: (1) the incoming message of the Bible and how it resonates with the context in a way that forms the believers’ faith and (2) the corresponding reshaping of the message so that it is expressed in ways familiar and unique to the Sindhi context. As scripture begins to “read” the believers,81 the lives of believers are shaped and redirected. This
shaping includes new expressions of faith that constitute an emerging or contextualized theology.
An aspect of this “reading” is captured through the interview process. A dialogical approach is used to generate inculturated expressions of faith as Sindhis engage God’s Word in an interview setting. An objection may be raised that the product of such a process will not be an emic perspective because of the outside influence. A purely emic study would begin with questions that arise out of the Sindhi context (such as described in Schreiter’s (1985:12-16) contextual models of local theology) or with concepts that shape Sindhi society and then would explore the worldview and cultural dynamics that create and shape them. But whether or not the influence for change is internal or external, the researcher’s orientation is the same because outsiders trying to identify an emic perspective do not have the luxury of an unbiased view and they are dependent upon insider expressions to form their interpretations. What I, as researcher, can take note of is a contrast of views that indicate a trajectory of belief. The research accomplishes this by examining the impact that outside forces – both the biblical text and change agents – inserted into Sindhi society have upon theological thinking. More precisely, the research discovers the emic categories (culture texts) used to express an emerging theology as believers grapple with God’s revelation introduced into their lives. It is an examination of interactions occurring on the borders of culture, an exploration of what occurs when outsider concepts, values and perspectives require a response. It is an attempt to consider the dynamic of change, in this case an aspect of a phenomenon of conversion, when two horizons meet.
In addition, no culture is isolated, particularly in this era of globalization. All cultures are in flux and are continually negotiating meaning with outside forces. Any emic view will have been influenced by sources beyond the society’s boundaries and therefore research among an “ideal group” insulated from outsiders is not possible. As Schreiter (1985:12) notes as far back as 1985, Worldwide communication has invaded all but the most isolated of cultures. An image repeated in many cultures of the world comes from Latin America: an elderly Quechua man, riding along on his donkey on a trail in northern Peru, with a transistor radio clasped to his ear.
A more up to date image, commonly seen in Pakistan, would be that of a man riding in his donkey cart speaking into a cell phone. With the proliferation of computers and the internet, the impact of globalization is far greater today. However, outside influences including missionaries, local Christians, books and the internet do not adversely affect the research because they are all part of the Sindhi setting. Sindhi believers engage God’s Word within a context that includes all of these influences plus many others.
Nonetheless, the primary answer to the objection lies in the intent to explore how the insiders of a culture have taken the message and made it their own. Within the current situation of Sindhis, taking into account the uniqueness of their culture, worldview and values as well as the long history of Islam, the question is how are believers now, in this time and place and in the midst of all the influences, reading the passage and how is the passage “reading” them? Is there a trajectory that is distinct from their Islamic roots? Are threads of biblically influenced belief intermingled with previous assumptions? Is transformation in thought, practice and ritual evident? Is their worldview being reconstructed? The goal of the research is to discover the categories and expressions used by believers within their context to interact with, absorb and nuance the incoming text so that it is shaped, understood and expressed according to their own recognizably Sindhi language and concepts. Even though the long–term insertion of the Bible translation and other change agents that have resulted in ongoing interactions between insiders (participants of the interviews) and outsiders (the text and the researcher) are not part of this research, the process advocated here does reveal in a limited yet significant way how Sindhis are responding to such influences. It is the categories “owned” by Sindhi believers in their responses that can be called emic as they develop an emerging theology that both incorporates and reshapes the incoming message according to their perception of reality. Even though the methodology is centered on a message from the “outside” and is facilitated by an “outsider,” the intent is to identify responses that demonstrate continuity with traditional emic perspectives and reveal the way the text is being received, assimilated and molded according to Sindhi emic categories.
One of Schreiter’s (1985:11) adaptation models of local theology describes a dimension of this research methodology.82 Sindhi Bible translation, viewed in terms of Schreiter’s translation model, has been a “seed” for the past thirty years creating a faith–text tension. The theologizing agents of the adaptation model have been both the outsider change agents and the insider believers as they have worked out the implications of the message within the Sindhi setting. Discussion and evaluation during this time has resulted in shared vocabulary, metaphors and concepts that have enriched everyone’s understanding of God.83 This research project was designed to explore this dynamic in terms of how Sindhi believers are expressing their emerging faith through the interpretation of and interaction with God’s revelation.
The concern of this study goes beyond theory to praxis. Contextualized theology occurs when a person or community acts upon what they have understood from scripture, shaping their lives within the cognitive, affective, and moral dimensions of worldview (Hiebert 2008:16) in response to God speaking to them. “The goal is the enactment of a truly biblical worldview” (JK Brown 2007:233, italics mine). These changes, this shaping of a current worldview into a lived out “biblical worldview,” can only emerge from pre–existing images and spiritual concepts that provide identity and meaning for the community at large. With respect to the study at hand, the pre–existing images are based on the faith (inclusive of worldview, beliefs and values) of Sindhi Muslims. There is no generic “biblical worldview” that replaces the prior worldview of believers. Rather, as scripture speaks into the Sindhi context, their current faith becomes shaped in new ways and begins to move in new directions. “The impetus for change [comes] from within cultures as people realize the implications of God’s revelation in Christ within their own context” (Naylor 2006b). This study takes this principle as a basic assumption and examines the phenomenon of inculturation occurring among Sindhi people in order to map emerging theological trajectories. Other characteristics that make this research project a unique and worthwhile effort are presented in this chapter.

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Discovering the Authors of Theology

Schreiter (1985:16) asks a crucial question that is at the heart of this quest: “Who is engaged in developing local theologies?” For this study, the authors of theology are those who are causing or experiencing a shift in their faith perspective. These “theologians” are reshaping their faith commitments as they interact with God’s revelation within their own communal setting. The desire is to identify some of these emerging theological narratives that define their lives.

Theological Narratives

“Narrative theology”84 considers story rather than systematic categorizations as a more adequate representation of faith. In a similar vein, the words can be reversed to consider theological narratives emerging from within a believing community. The emerging theology does not result from an intentional application of a systematic method, but is an intuitive expression of believers’ faith as they reflect on and engage the scriptures and gospel message. Believers allow the text to “read” them by responding to the message that they trust comes from God. Theological narratives thus indicate a reshaping of their lives in concert with the stories about God and the divine relationship to humanity. Rather than systematically and deductively developing a theological framework by which their lives are measured, they intuitively and interactively let the biblical “story and reinterpretation shape or reshape [their] own story” (Van Gelder 1996a:38). In this study the recording and analysis of such narratives leads to the discovery of an emerging theology so that the trajectories of the believers’ faith can be traced.
The unique stories, expressions and descriptions that Sindhi believers use to define their faith arise from their own interactions with and interpretation of God’s Word as it resonates with their perceptions of reality. While the theoretical basis for this understanding has been developed elsewhere,85 the pragmatic application can be appreciated through a contrast with a common approach to systematic theology. Systematic theology86 begins with an idea and then occasionally [illustrates] that idea with a simile, metaphor, or parable. The conceptual language is primary and the metaphor or parable is secondary. The first is critical, the second is optional…. [Conceptual language] aids memory. It assists in adding emotional coloration and in catching and holding attention. But through all of this, the pictorial remains a secondary form of speech. The concept continues as the primary form of theological language. A theological discourse is created by attaching one concept to another by means of logic. Philosophy then provides an overall structure for the material (Bailey 1992:15).
Such discourses are cognitively centered and conducive to rationalist analysis. In contrast, this study proposes to the hear the story of how God’s revelation of the divine will and character in scripture makes sense to and changes the lives of believers from their perspective. The narrative is the theology, not just an illustration or application of prior propositional content. In this manner, the posture of the believers towards the Bible resulting in a narrative expression of faith contrasts with a common Western Christian approach to the Bible that reveals a different relationship between text and faith, one that lacks the submissive orientation of the believers:
North American Christians are trained to believe that they are capable of reading the Bible without spiritual and moral transformation. They read the Bible not as Christians, not as a people set apart, but as democratic citizens who think their “common sense” is sufficient for “understanding” the scripture. They feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read. Instead they assume that they have all the “religious experience” necessary to know what the Bible is about. As a result the Bible inherently becomes an ideology for a politics quite different from the politics of the Church (Hauerwas 1993:15).
This project discovers meaningful expressions of faith within a Sindhi community that has submitted itself to the authority of God’s Word. As Sindhi believers reflect on a passage of scripture as it resonates with their faith, they interpret and apply it according to their current perspectives and experiences of life. Their orientation of submission to the text necessitates a reshaping of their faith that finds expression in contextually sensitive theological narratives. These narratives simultaneously shape their interpretation of scripture and their perspective of the world through a dialectical relationship as described by the faith–text–context triangle.87

Listening to Contextualized Theologies

In order for the narratives to be identified and comprehended by an outsider, they must be listened to with an orientation sympathetic to the speaker and sensitive to the context that provides the parameters for meaning.
Ideally, for a genuinely contextual theology, the theological process should begin with the opening of culture, that long and careful listening to a culture. Only in this way can the configurations of a culture become apparent of themselves, without simply responding to other kinds of needs extrinsic to the culture (Schreiter 1985:28).
But how can an outsider listen adequately to identify what God is doing in another culture?
Schreiter (1985:40) outlines the difficulty in a series of questions:
How does one listen in such a way as to hear Christ already present? (2) How, as a foreigner, does one grow in understanding a culture on its own terms, rather than forcing cultural realities into the foreigner’s categories? (3) How, for a native of the culture, does one come to that kind of reflexive thought about one’s own culture, particularly if one has never experienced the contrast of another culture? (4) How does a community bring its experience to expression in such a way that it can indeed become the fertile ground out of which a local theology grows?
An important rationale for this research is that it provides answers to these questions. Assuming that adequate communication and comprehension can cross cultural boundaries,88 the following outlines the process of how one can be adequately attentive to the faith of an emerging group of believers in another cultural context. Furthermore, it is not just a matter of acquiring knowledge but of affirming local theologies as worthy of acknowledgement and study; they deserve attention. Being attentive to contextual theologies does not mean that the perspective of relatively new believers requires special treatment or should be accepted with a patronizing attitude because these theologies are emerging from a non–Western context. They should face the same rigorous examination as any theology and be critiqued and subject to correction to the same extent. However, within traditional Christian societies, and for a variety of reasons,89 contextual theologies outside of their theological purview have not been heard due to a lack of exposure, let alone listened to with respect. Dodd (1998 [1982]:202-203) makes a distinction between being heard (a natural ability from birth) and being listened to (requiring conscious effort). In this application of his thesis, to be heard is to have the theology made accessible with contextual sensitivity so that an accurate meaning can be discerned. To be listened to means that the hearer actually engages the content and gives it serious consideration. Dodd goes on to give four reasons why people are not good listeners, which can be rephrased positively to describe the disciplined listening required to identify contextualized theologies.
Listening requires the intention and courtesy of paying attention to the content of what is being said. Unlike the natural ability to hear, good listening skills require conscious attending to what is being said.
Listening requires an open receptivity that allows our comprehension of the message to take precedence over our assumptions and expectations.
Listening must be done with integrity and generosity in order to hear the whole message and acknowledge accurately even those parts we may find disagreeable or threatening.
Listening requires discipline to focus on the speaker and the message despite distractions. Because we can think faster than people are able to talk, we must concentrate so that the tendency of our minds to wander does not cause us to miss significant amounts of information. This discipline requires “listening – really listening – to what people are saying” that goes beyond mere words to “observing, picking up verbal and non–verbal cues about the social situation, and the mood of your interviewee(s)” (Mason 1996:6).
I have failed to practice these disciplines numerous times in my ministry among Sindhis. I remember discussing a possible new development with a national co–worker and becoming so excited that I went ahead to make arrangements only to have him inform me, to my chagrin, that I had not sufficiently listened to what he was proposing and had taken the idea in a different direction. As I reflected on this sobering incident, I realized that, following a weakness that Westerners exhibit, I have the unfortunate tendency to make leaps of judgment and am often quick to speak and slow to listen, rather than the reverse (cf. Jas 1:19). This reveals both arrogance and a desire for control and power on my part. As a result, I have begun to appreciate, and live out in the form of this study, the need to attend carefully to what Sindhis recognize and express as God’s Word speaking to them. The importance of this research project is not just the conclusions, but the intention and determination to listen carefully to Sindhi believers as they articulate their faith as expressed according to their own culture, beliefs and values.
A stated impetus for my (Naylor 2004:7) Masters dissertation on contextualized Bible storying was a concern that the popular method of chronological Bible storying in missions is based on a Western Protestant theological premise of salvation history that does not demonstrate sufficient cultural sensitivity. The thesis provided a corrective to that limitation through a methodology of discovering and developing contextually sensitive theological themes that can guide the choosing and shaping of Bible stories. This included the practice of active listening to theological responses of Sindhi men to the Bible using four types of interactions: Soliciting comments, inductive questions, rephrasing for clarification, and dialogue (:49-52). This research project follows that model of engagement in order to hear and understand the theological perspectives of Sindhi believers.
This discipline of listening counters the tendency of Christian leaders to be knowers and teachers. The emphasis for evangelical missionaries is evangelism and contextualization – discovering ways to cross cultural boundaries to present a message. Even though the prerequisite discipline of pausing and listening is encouraged when promoting cross–cultural engagement, it is often prematurely and perfunctorily dismissed in order to discuss strategies on how to present the message. For example, even though ST4T’s Bible storying manual (Stringer 2008:15) is a good tool and does promote listening as the first step to engaging another culture, it does not explain how to listen and mentions the concept briefly within a single paragraph. In contrast, this research tries to address this weakness by proposing a methodology and example of how to listen and attend to an emerging theology. In order to map one part of the inculturation process that is occurring among Sindhi believers, a method of observing and listening to emerging theology is introduced. The ultimate goal is not to produce a comprehensive theological analysis, but to outline theological movement or shift, by listening to interview participants as they interpret, 90 rephrase, and apply their faith.
Another reason for the propensity of evangelicals to move quickly beyond listening to teaching is because of our dependence upon God’s Word. This is a virtue in that we take scripture seriously and exhort each other to follow the teachings of Christ and we respect those who accurately and relevantly expound the Bible. Furthermore, this value finds resonance in the Sindhi context because of a similar respect for scripture and it is common for Western missionaries with their seminary education to gain status and respect as religious teachers. At the same time, this posture towards the text has the corresponding weakness of leading the outsider to assume that “in the same manner that the text is relevant to me, it will be relevant to others” or “the cultural issue or question, as I perceive it, needs to be addressed according to my priorities and understanding.” When people believe that their opinion comes from God because they have discovered a truth in scripture, the tendency is speak more than listen. Thus, an important skill for evangelical missionaries to learn is how to listen. An exegesis of both text and context is essential for contextualization (etic communication), while an evaluation of inculturation (emic communication) demands an even more intentional listening posture towards insiders. It is only when the existing theology of those inside the culture has been truly heard that its relevance and resonance to both text and context can be validated and appreciated.
Listening is also critical for the outsider because of the probability of misunderstood meanings between the missionary and believers (Kraft 2005b:259). Without a method of reflecting upon how a biblical passage is being interpreted by insiders, it is likely that outsiders will project their own understanding of the message upon the perspective of the believers and assume that the implications, priorities and applications will be the same. As Kritzinger (2008:767) notes, “insiders speak differently about a religious tradition or community than an outsider” indicating the need for a listening methodology to provide an opportunity to “enhance interreligious interaction and collaboration.”90 An example of this dynamic became apparent in the research for my (Naylor 2004:71-74) Masters dissertation concerning Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ attempt to wash his feet in John 13. My expectation – based on my “reading” of Sindhi culture – was that the hearers would appreciate Peter’s desire to protect Jesus’ honor. Instead they were unanimously offended by the insolence of a disciple refusing to obey. The value of submission to one’s murshid (teacher) trumps concerns about expressions of respect, as revealed in the Sindhi saying, « Obedience is more important than honor (adab khan ammr) » (:56). It was only as I listened to their exegesis of this passage that I discovered that their perspective was in sharp contrast to my assumption.
Finally, listening helps to identify voids in theology that can lead to syncretism and dual systems. Bauer (2008) addresses the problem of “two–tiered Christianity” in which believers participate in anti–biblical practices alongside of Christian rituals. He points out that it is insufficient to forbid traditions or customs that are fulfilling a specific felt need within a culture. Any attempt to forbid a harmful practice will create a cultural void that will draw people back into participation unless it is replaced by an acceptable Christian substitute. Hiebert’s (1982) classic article on the flaw of the excluded middle deals with a similar concern pointing out that worldviews that contain evil spirits and magic cannot be ignored by missionaries and church leadership hoping that they will go away. A Christian theology that does not deal with the concerns of the culture is creating a truncated Christianity that will not be sufficient to sustain the faith of the community. Listening to the developing theology within an emerging believing community can lead to an identification of those “voids” which need to be addressed.

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Table of Contents
Acknowledgements
Summary
Key Terms
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Tables
List of Figures
Abbreviations
CHAPTER 1. RESEARCH DESIGN
1.1 INTRODUCTION: IDENTIFYING THEOLOGICAL TRAJECTORIES
1.2 RESEARCH QUESTION
1.3 OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS PROCESS
1.4 RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH DESIGN
CHAPTER 2. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
2.2 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3. RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH
3.1 DISCOVERING THE AUTHORS OF THEOLOGY
3.2 RATIONALE FOR THE PASSAGE CHOSEN FOR PRESENTATION
3.3 TRANSLATION AND THEOLOGY
3.4 AN INTEGRATED APPROACH
3.5 A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY
3.6 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4. PERSONAL INSERTION
4.1 ENGAGING THE SINDHI PEOPLE WITH THE GOSPEL
4.2 RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL HISTORY OF THE SINDHI PEOPLE
4.3 THE CURRENT MUSLIM SINDHI CONTEXT
4.4 SCRIPTURE AND BIBLE TRANSLATION
4.5 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5. TERMINOLOGY
5.1 BIBLE
5.2 BELIEVER AND SUBMISSION
5.3 FAITH DEFINED AS WORLDVIEW, BELIEF AND VALUES
5.4 THE FAITH–TEXT–CONTEXT TRIANGLE
5.5 RESONANCE
5.6 REFERENTS
5.7 MAPPING THEOLOGICAL TRAJECTORIES
5.8 CROSS–CULTURAL AND INTERCULTURAL
5.9 CHURCH
5.10 MISSIONS
5.11 INSIDERS AND OUTSIDERS
5.12 EVANGELICAL
5.13 SYNCRETISM
5.14 PEOPLE GROUPS
5.15 FOLK ISLAM AND ANIMISM
5.16 MEANING–BASED, FORMAL AND COMMON LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
CHAPTER 6. ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS
6.1 SOCIETY, CULTURE AND WORLDVIEW
6.2 SYSTEMS OF HUMAN ORGANIZATION
6.3 VALIDITY OF EXPLORING CULTURAL DIVERSITY
6.4 CULTURE CHANGE AGENTS
6.5 THE PHENOMENON OF RELIGIOUS CONVERSION
6.6 CULTURE TEXTS
6.7 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7. THEOLOGICAL / EPISTEMOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS
7.1 MISSIO DEI
7.2 A THEOLOGY OF CONTEXTUALIZATION
7.3 THEOLOGY AS PRAXIS
7.4 NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
7.5 CONTEXTUALIZED THEOLOGIES
7.6 EPISTEMOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS
7.7 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 8. HERMENEUTICAL / TRANSLATION ASSUMPTIONS
8.1 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND MEANING
8.2 HERMENEUTICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR BIBLE TRANSLATION
8.3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR THEOLOGICAL TRAJECTORIES
8.4 THE EXEGETICAL PREREQUISITE
8.5 TELEOLOGY
8.6 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 9. ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEWS
9.1 PROCESS OF CATEGORIZATION
9.2 DATA SORTED ACCORDING TO THEME
9.3 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 10. THEOLOGICAL SHIFT
10.1 SIMILARITIES AND CONTRASTS WITHIN IDENTIFIED THEMES
10.2 MAPPING A THEOLOGICAL TRAJECTORY
10.3 THE IMPACT OF THE FATHER–CHILD SHIFT ON THE PRAXIS OF SINDHI BELIEVERS
10.4 SUMMARY
CHAPTER 11. CONCLUSIONS
11.1 MISSIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF MAPPING THEOLOGICAL TRAJECTORIES.
11.2 BENEFITS OF THE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
11.3 IMPLICATIONS FOR SINDHI BIBLE TRANSLATION
11.4 ISSUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
11.5 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
APPENDICES
LIST OF REFERENCES
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