11 Aug 2002

Eastern versus Western perspective

Submitted by theshovel
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From a discussion on the Shovel Shack

I think this an excellent topic because it has just as much to do with how we have learned to view the preaching of Christ in North America as for John in Japan. We have made quite a few assumptions based on Western Churchianity that need to be reconsidered … and tossed out the door! hehe!

Now, I would think twice before passing off the connection Dave made between the Japanese “honor vs. shame” and the “right vs. wrong” one we understand here in the West. Consider the below statement - as it tells me a lot more about Western logic than it does Eastern logic:

I understand that it would seem so on the surface. But, here, when one looks closer, it seems not to be. Sometimes I notice the curious absence of guilt in things we were taught were most definitely wrong. Morality here seems to be more situational and ever changing. John

Can we suppose that a relative target is not a target? In other words, if we take this one step below the surface we might discover that the Japanese have just as rigid a morality as we do. After all, what difference does it make if they have an “absence of guilt in things we were taught were most definitely wrong”?

If something does not disturb harmony in the relationships with the people, it is curiously acceptable. People are not so much focusing on what they do but more on how their actions effect the people around them. If their actions do not disturb others, no problem. If they do, shame comes in to play. John

Bottom-line basis for judgment: the “disturbance of harmony”. Notice that “Thou shalt not disturb!” would make a very solid law.

As I wrote the above something related came to mind: Isaac Asimov’s “3 Laws of Robotics”. If you’re not familiar with Asimov’s sci-fi books you may remember having seen Star Trek, the Next Generation with the android “Data” as his character was fashioned after Asimov’s ideas. Anyhow, the 3 laws are all variations upon the premise of “no harm”. Quoting directly from Asimov:

The Three Laws of Robotics are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Very specific, but very relative … and you’d better believe our Western morality is violated left and right under it. But then again, the morality of the robotic code is violated by law-based human morality. And guess what? Our versions of morality violate Japanese morality in ways in ways we might never suspect. But we are more alike than we might imagine. How? In our own ways we have formulated our “If … Then” stipulations.

If their actions do not disturb others, no problem. If they do, shame comes in to play … If something does not disturb harmony in the relationships with the people, it is curiously acceptable. John

But you already sensed this because you went on to make this most excellent statement:

What I think is cool though is that because of Christ in us, we no longer have to be ashamed. God has lifted us up and put us in a position of high honor! John

See, even though we might be “shamed” for different reasons than those in another culture the fact is that we all are susceptible to it. And shame is an end result of an offended conscience - which means that at the core of our being one is conscious of having stepped over some kind of an established line, or law, or principle, or rule, ad infinitum (on and on).

Something else …

Let’s also not forget that the gospel - the good news - declares both freedom “from” and freedom “to”. The freedom from law - as in clearly-defined rules - is a freedom from not just from a set of rules but from the existence based upon the performance basis of the fleshly world. We’ve been freed out of that and into true life so that our very beings are free!! We were removed from darkness, and brought into light!!

In the US, sharing the freedom we have in Christ seems much more natural because somebody is always going to ask “What church do you go to?” It’s just so much part of the culture. But, that just doesn’t happen here in Japan unless you are running in “church” circles all the time. John

I often wonder if our “natural” opportunities to share freedom based upon the American religious culture proves to be more of an obstacle than a help. I think our struggles with “witnessing” and “preaching Christ” grate against us because we think the “gospel” is really being preached despite all the “performance-based Christianity” we recognize in the messages. I think we assume that if somebody includes the basic “features” of the gospel - the death, burial, and resurrection - that they’re preaching the gospel … even though we know that law and bondage is being preached in between those “facts”.

Yes, I know I’m wandering - I’ve been up since 3 AM and it’s now 10:35 PMOUCH! - so let me try to connect my thoughts on this, okay?  :) What I’m suggesting is that we only PERCEIVE that it’s “more natural” to share Christ in North America … but what we’re assuming upon is a “form of godliness”. Maybe we’re so confused about Christ and true freedom, and find ourselves struggling over technicalities because we have associated Christ and his good news with what’s been preached from the basis of law and fleshly wisdom.

You know what? Sharing Christ - for me in the States, and for you in Japan - is the same thing, but both of us too often think that some kind of a religious Christian platform or connection might help pave the way, or break the ice. In Japan, they’ll just look at you as if you’re from another planet, while in the States they’ll assume I’m telling them about the same false Jesus they’ve heard their whole lives! It only APPEARS to be “easier” over here, but the truth is that sharing Christ has absolutely nothing to do with our religious “Christian” framework. It’s gut-level, it’s real, it’s alive!!

What people DON’T understand about the freedom of Christ is that it has removed us TOTALLY from the bondage of ANY KIND of fleshly performance because it has placed us INTO a freedom that is not of this world’s logic - Eastern OR Western or any other kind. It is the life of God’s Spirit that is in us that baffles and mystifies those without Christ because he has made us ALIVE and FREE in an unknown sense to the mind of man. It’s not because we have the right words, it’s because we have LIFE.

Love, Jim

So in order to share Christ, I have to approach the issue differently. Indeed, because I have to do so, it often seems like a different animal. Is there bondage? Yes, definitely. There is this mostly unspoken and unclear pressure that causes people to suppress their thoughts and feelings and try to fit in with everyone around them. But, for me to call that “law” would confuse the heck out of them. The only unchangeable element is Christ (thank goodness!). John

Yes, the ONLY unchangeable element is Christ!! And you know what? That “different animal” we end up declaring IS the good news!! Oh yes, even here in the States.

Jim, Sounds like you might be saying that the Gospel is not being preached by what most think of as the church today. Do you consider at least that it is being presented to others initially(or else they wouldn’t be getting saved) and then works is added to it later so that they have wrong doctrine…….but a doctrine which really isn’t the gospel. (Hope you can figure out from this what my question is.) Joyce

Joyce, your question comes across very clearly, and yes, that is what I’m saying. What you ask fits well with what John asks here:

One question though: But what about people like me and many others who discovered Christ in spite of the mixed message being preached where we were at? I know for myself that sometimes I saw glimpses of the life of Christ in the very people who preached junk. John

So, how could we possibly get “saved” in the midst of this climate? Because God is the God of the impossible and He can get through despite the garbage. You see, the “gospel”, the good news, is the message of what GOD HAS DONE - not what we must do - for IT is the power of God to salvation. He did what He did, so that He can do what He does! But we have taken the message apart and tried to figure out which part, or parts, of it must be “believed”, or “acted upon”, etc, etc, ad nauseum ([literally, to sea-sickness] to a sickening or excessive degree), in order for us to get “saved”.

When we “heard” the good news it was truly in a miraculous sense. We’ve been taught that the gospel is the tool God uses to “get us in”, but it is the declaration of life from the dead. We have translated our misunderstandings into a “construct” based upon something we can grasp: Burning flames vs. Eternal Bliss, in the afterlife. In doing so, we have redefined “salvation” as the thing that gets initiated upon our “choice” and put into play upon our physical death. We should realize that it takes no insight from God to come up with such a thing, as this has been the theme of much of the ancient musings of past civilizations and cultures (Greek, Roman, Norse, Scandinavian, etc). We think just because we change the wording so that “Jesus” is the one who stands at the gates makes it all better. Hey, the emperor Constantine (approx 300-400 ad) endorsed this fleshly approach when he took his magic wand and dubbed the world “Christian”.

What has happened to so many believers within the systems of religious man has been that the sense of the miraculous has been riddled through with fleshly wisdom so that “confidence” is forced into temporary things, such as “experiences” and formulas and “doctrines”. Like Isaac, we have been miraculously - by faith - brought into life only to have Ishmael (that which is born of the flesh) established as the legitimate “teacher”. In other words, Isaac was miraculous born, but his confidence was attacked because his identity was scoffed at by his “brother” that was born of the flesh.

John, you are right in saying that >>. Why would it? Because you would be trying to force our (screwed up) idea of “law” upon them, and this would not even touch on their false perceptions of adequacy or sufficiency. It would not even come close to relating to the desperation you have come to understand in your own search for this “law”. The truth is that the word or concept of “law” is confusing us here in the West as well. We only relate it back to our pathetically shallow understanding of what we think the Jews went through in having been the only people truly put under the law. Keep in mind that the “Code of Hammerabi” was in place before Moses was given the law by God, and then realize that God still considered the Gentile world “without law” (oh yeah, He knew about it and all those other attempts of creating “Divine requirements”).

The “gospel” is supposed to be the message of our confidence in Christ because it demands the NEW CREATION which was raised out of the old world. What would you call it when it is blended together with the mythology of past civilizations so that we judge its results by who makes it to heaven in the end? Even a clear teaching on “eternal security” easily leaves out the freedom of Christ in favor of the assurance that we’ll make it in the end. I know, because that is my own past experience … but I’ll write more about that in the current thread on eternal security.

There is this mostly unspoken and unclear pressure that causes people to suppress their thoughts and feelings and try to fit in with everyone around them. John

You know, this sounds just like what is REALLY going on with much of our American society. Heck, that’s what I eventually discovered that the “Seinfeld” show was all about. All of his humor was found in articulating those “mostly unspoken and unclear pressure” of our contemporary culture. What made him funny was that his shows were all about revealing the unspoken “rules” our society lives by. And what detailed standards he portrayed. It’s the stuff that everybody KNOWS, but nobody is real sure about because they’re not supposed to discuss it. We laugh at Seinfeld because we’re laughing at our own definite indefinites, our own hard and fast standards held in defiance of any real standards!!

We know how to relate the RELIGIOUS concept of Christ to the world around us and yet we find ourselves unable to relate his reality to the world because we’ve been so infected by the religious approaches. You know what it comes down to? The truth of Christ as your life! We’ve been given wisdom, knowledge, understanding, power … IN HIM. WE KNOW, WE KNOW, WE KNOW!!! And yet we fall back upon those things we can never know - which is the fleshly attempt to understand life - in order to communicate Christ. And it grates against the life within us.

What has the good news declared to us? Life from the dead - in Christ - the one who was the word of God from the beginning who became flesh to join man together with God!!

There is this mostly unspoken and unclear pressure that causes people to suppress their thoughts and feelings and try to fit in with everyone around them. John

Wow! This well-describes a total lack of true freedom because in Christ we have been brought into the place where we can finally be REAL. See, we understand the “hell” of never truly being alive as we have experienced that in the flesh. We have been given the ears of the Spirit, and the mind of Christ, and are even now given the words of God by which to speak to those around us … but the fleshly world around us seeks to convince us that we should be ashamed of the gospel because it tells us that there’s no way anybody’s going to buy the “insanity” of this freedom we’ve found in Christ. Why? Because EVERYBODY KNOWS IT CAN’T BE TRUE. For even the lawbreakers of the world scoff at such freedom because they can only assume that such a freedom leads to more evil. And yet our hearts know it is true, and we know that it is the ONLY “godliness” that could ever be.

John, when you speak to the heart of those under this “unspoken and unclear pressure” you will use whatever words that best communicates to that - and I would hate to think that you would revert to words that even most Americans don’t relate to. The testimony of the freedom that is found outside this pressure will be the very thing that will sound inconceivable to them … and it will demand to them an impossibility that is not found in any of their “gods”. To testify that THIS kind of life is only found in the son of God because God’s life was integrated into a man will make the distinction between religion and life.

Well, the day is half gone …
Love, Jim

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