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Introducing the Thai Christian Catechism

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

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.

About the Title

If you can read Thai, you may have noticed that the Thai title of the catechism, คำสอนเพื่อชีวิต (Teaching for Life), doesn’t include the word “catechism” at all.  There is a Thai word (ปุจฉาวิสัชนา) that is close to the concept of catechesis but it is a rather difficult word and not at all common. If we didn’t use that specific word, our other option for preserving something about “catechism” in the Thai title was to call it a “a brief type of questions and answers about the Christian faith.”  But that is long and rather dull.  Therefore, we picked the more generic and easy to remember, คำสอนเพื่อชีวิต (Teaching for Life).  After all, if a book about the Christian faith is not for real life, then what is it good for?

Contents

After a short introduction and suggestions for use, the Thai Christian Catechism is divided into twelve short chapters, containing about 5 questions and answers each, for a total of 72 question and answer pairs total.  Each pair is followed by several Bible verse references to faciliate personal and group study. The length of the booklet is 47 small pages, easy for carrying around and not intimidating for people who are not big readers.  

The chapters are as follows:

1  พระคริสตธรรมคัมภีร์ (The Bible)

2  พระเจ้า (God)

3  มนุษย์ (Humanity)

4  ความบาป (Sin)

5 พระเยซูคริสต์ (Jesus Christ)

6 พระวิญญาณบริสุทธิ์ (The Holy Spirit)

7 ความรอด (Salvation)

8 คริสตจักร (The Church)

9 การนมัสการ (Worship)

10 การอธิษฐาน (Prayer)

11 พระบัญญัติ (The Laws)

12 ยุคสุดท้าย (End Times)

You may wonder what chapter 11 (The Laws) is about.  The Thai chapter title could also be translated as Commandments or Commands.  This chapter covers the creation mandate, the Greatest Commandment, and the Great Commission. 

A Contextualized Catechism

We wanted to write a catechism that includes turns of phrase, vocabulary, and points of reference that Thai readers would understand.  We also wanted to write a substantial biblically and theologically accurate catechism.  This was a difficult balance to maintain and readers will have to judge for themselves how we have done.  With that said, I want to provide several question and answer pairs from the catechism to show how we have tried to present biblical truth with the Thai context in mind.

The catechism was written in Thai, not drafted in English then translated.  For that reason, there is not yet a full translation in English.  However, I have provided a literal English translation of the following sample questions and answers.  The English reads awkwardly at times because I wanted to preserve the Thai expression and phrasing as much as possible in order to help non-Thai speakers get a sense of what it says in Thai.

4

ถาม  พระคัมภีร์เพียงพอสำหรับอะไร?

ตอบ  ในพระเยซูคริสต์พระคัมภีร์เป็นเครื่องมือของพระวิญญาณบริสุทธิ์ซึ่งเพียงพอสำหรับมนุษย์ที่จะรู้จักพระเจ้าและดำเนินชีวิตในทางของ พระองค์

Q: What is the Bible sufficient for? 

A: In Jesus Christ, the Bible is an instrument of the Holy Spirit that is sufficient for humanity to know God and live life in God’s way.

Karl’s comment:  It is the sufficiency of Scripture rather than inerrancy that is under greater attack in Thai churches (and in evangelicalism more generally), so we wanted to address sufficiency directly.

8

ถาม  พระเจ้าเป็นพระผู้สร้างอย่างไร? 

ตอบ  พระเจ้าสร้างฟ้าสวรรค์และแผ่นดินโลก พระองค์อมตะและไม่มีใครสร้างพระเจ้า พระเจ้าเนรมิตสร้างสรรพสิ่งที่มองเห็นและมองไม่เห็นทั้งปวงโดยพระวาทะและพระวิญญาณของพระองค์  ทุกสิ่งที่พระเจ้าสร้างนั้นดีเลิศ  

Q: How is God the Creator?

A: God created the heavens and the earth.  God is eternal and no one created God.  God created from nothing all things that are seen and unseen through the Word and the Spirit. Everything that God created is good.

Karl’s comment: Buddhism has no creation story and it is important to establish God as the creator of all things, including the spirit world that many folks Buddhists / animist believe in.  This answer helps establish that God is over any and every spiritual power.

9

ถาม  พระเจ้าปกครองสิ่งที่พระองค์สร้างอย่างไร? 

ตอบ  พระเจ้าปกป้องเลี้ยงดูและครอบครองทุกสิ่งที่พระองค์สร้างตามพระลักษณะของพระองค์ และนำพาโลกนี้ไปตามน้ำพระทัยที่ดีเลิศประเสริฐของพระองค์  ไม่มีสิ่งใดที่เกิดขึ้นนอกการตัดสินใจของพระเจ้า

Q: How does God govern the things he has made?

A: God protects, takes care of, and governs everything that He has made according to his divine attributes and He guides the world according to His good will.  Nothing happens outside of the decision of God.

Karl’s comment: This question and answer affirms divine sovereignty and the goodness of God, and contradicts the ideas of luck and karma.

16

ถาม  เมื่อพระเจ้าสร้างมนุษย์ พระองค์สั่งให้เราทำอะไร? 

ตอบ  เมื่อพระเจ้าสร้างมนุษย์ พระเจ้าสั่งให้เราปกครองดูแลสรรพสิ่งทั้งปวง และมีลูกเต็มบ้านหลานเต็มเมือง โดยให้ชายเป็นผู้นำและหญิงเป็นผู้อุปถัมภ์ 

Q: When God created humanity, what did He command us to do?

A: When God created humanity, God commanded us to govern and take care of all things and commanded us to have children filling the house and grandchildren filling the city, through the man being the leader and the woman being the helper.

Karl’s comment: This question and answer pair covers the creation mandate and is also a good example of including a Thai idiom (children filling the house and grandchildren filling the city).  The idiom sounds odd in English but it is a common phrase in Thai which captures the Biblical command to have many children.  Also, in an age of gender confusion, this answer affirms that the husband and wife’s complementary roles in the home are part of the creation order.

22

ถาม  ผลกระทบของควาบาปคืออะไร? 

ตอบ  ความบาปเป็นบ่อเกิดแห่งความทุกข์ ที่สัมผัสได้ในปัจเจกบุคคล ในสังคม และในสิ่งแวดล้อม 

Q: What are the results of sin?

A: Sin is the source of suffering that is experienced by individuals, in society, and in the environment.

Karl’s comment: Suffering is a major theme of Buddhism, and this question and answer pair identifies the origin of suffering as human sin.

23

ถาม  พระเจ้ามีแผนการแก้ไขปัญหาความบาปของโลกนี้อย่างไร? 

ตอบ  พระบิดาเจ้าส่งพระเยซูคริสต์พระบุตรองค์เดียวของพระองค์เข้ามาในโลกนี้เพื่อช่วยมนุษย์ให้หลุดพ้นจากความบาป ความทุกข์ และความตาย  เพราะตนเป็นที่พึ่งแห่งตนเองไม่ได้  

Q: What plan does God have to fix the sin problems of this world?

A: God the Father sent Jesus Christ, His only son, into this world to help humanity to escape from sin, suffering, and death because one can not depend on oneself.

Karl’s comment: This question and answer pair includes suffering alongside sin and death as something that Christ frees us from.  The Thai phrase translated here as “escape” is borrowed from a common Thai phrase about not being able to escape from karma.  The Thai phrase translated as “one can not depend on oneself” is easily recognizable for its similarity to the common Thai Buddhist phrase “One can only depend on oneself.”

37

ถาม  พระเจ้าพิชิตโทษบาปของมนุษย์อย่างไร? 

ตอบ  พระเจ้าพิชิตโทษบาปเฉพาะผู้ที่เชื่อวางใจในพระเยซูคริสต์เท่านั้นโดยการแลกผลบุญผลกรรมระหว่างเรากับพระองค์ ที่ไม้กางเขนพระเยซูคริสต์รับกรรมชั่วของเราไปและเรารับผลบุญของชีวิตบริสุทธิ์ของพระองค์มา 

Q: How is God victorious over the penalty for humanity’s sin?

A: God is victorious over the penalty for sin only in the lives of those who trust in Jesus Christ, through exchanging the consequences of merit and evil deeds between us and Him.  At the cross, Jesus Christ receives the consequences our evil deeds and we receive the consequences of the merit of His holy life.

Karl’s comment: The Thai words used here to explain substitutionary atonement are borrowed from Thai Buddhist language of “merit” and “karma” (evil deeds).  Both this question, and the catechism taken as a whole, help the reader understand how words like “merit” and “karma” are understood in the Christian faith.  The Thai word translated in English as “karma” has a broader meaning in Thai than just the Buddhist idea of karma.

Where to Buy the Thai Christian Catechism

You can download the introduction and first chapter of the catechism using the link below, and it is available for purchase from Kanok Bannasan (OMF Publishers Thailand) at the price of 50 baht per copy.

 

 

 

 

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