Buddhism
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Tag: Buddhism Ordering

Is there persecution of Christians in Thailand?

Although Buddhism is the predominant religion of Thailand and has the official sanction and support of the government, there is freedom of religion for all people in Thailand.  There is no government opposition to the open and free practice of Christianity or other religions.  However, Thai Buddhists who become Christians (or Muslims or some other religion) often face opposition from their families and friends and experience social pressure to return to Buddhism.  This pressure can be very strong during family and community activities such as weddings, funerals, and neighborhood events.  To not participate in the Buddhist or spirit-worship aspects of these activities can be misunderstood as disloyalty to family or nation.

 

Thailand Ministry Photos 2006 to 2010

This is an album of photos from our first full missionary term in Thailand, from 2006-2010.  Included are pictures of where we lived, daily activities, people whom we knew and worked with, outreach events, church, Thai Buddhism, Thai culture.

 

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

 

When the bigger picture pops up, you can scroll through the whole album by hitting your right arrow key (and left arrow key if you want to go back) 

 

 

 

 

What is the main religion in Thailand?

About 95% of Thai are Buddhist.  4% are Muslim and about 1% are Christian or other.  Only about 0.58% would be counted as Protestant, the majority of which would probably fall under the category of broadly evangelical.

 

Book Review: "From Buddha to Jesus" by Steve Cioccolanti

Book Review: "From Buddha to Jesus" by Steve Cioccolanti

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism & Christianity, by Steve Cioccolanti (Sweet Life International, 2007, 240pp.)

—reviewed by Larry Dinkins You wouldn’t expect a pastor of an International Church in Melbourne, Australia with a name like “Cioccolanti” (Italian for “chocolate”) to claim an inside track to the mind and worldview of Buddhists. However, his claim to an insider’s view of Buddhism is substantiated by his Thai upbringing and exposure to a very religiously diverse extended family. Besides his Thai Buddhist roots, Steve has added to that a broad education in America and Europe which allows him to address Buddhist issues from both an oriental and occidental viewpoint.

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Resources for Apologetics in the Thai Context

Resources for Apologetics in the Thai Context

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 WestApologetics 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?

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How the Devil Counterfeits the Creative Power of God’s Word

How the Devil Counterfeits the Creative Power of God’s Word

The Devil has never had an original idea in his life.  Ever since before the creation of man, the Devil has been imitating God in a bid to be God himself.  Even when it comes to the creative, life-giving power of God’s Word, the Devil tries to copy it.But what is that creative Word that the Devil imitates?The Word of God is creative in that it creates out of nothing.  God’s Word is not merely powerful.  It is power.  When God says something, it just happens.  If you or I say, “Let there be light”, nothing happens.  But when God says it, light is created.  When Jesus wanted to calm the storm (Mark 4:35-41), all he did was say a word, “Peace, be still!” and it was calm.  In a certain sense, we might say that when God speaks a word, it is magic.  The word itself has power to bring into being that which it signifies.  But my words and your words are just signs that point to some other reality.  They don’t create anything.  The word of the Devil is the same.

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How Belief in Karma Affects the Handicapped

How Belief in Karma Affects the Handicapped
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3 ESV)Although the above passage is a taken from a conversation between Jesus and his disciples, the disciples’ (mis)understanding of the causation of suffering is shockingly similar to the Buddhist belief in karma. The basic idea of karma is that you will reap the consequences of everything you do, whether it be good or bad.  Those consequences may come to visit you in this life or in a successive reincarnation.  And the good and bad things that happen to you now may be the result of something you did in a previous life.

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When "Living the Gospel" Isn't Enough

When "Living the Gospel" Isn't Enough

St. Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary use, words.”  Regardless of whether he actually said this or not, I understand the sentiment of some who quote him.  Namely, the Christian faith needs to be lived out, not only talked about.  However, taken as it stands, this quote also seems to provide a convenient loophole clause for those who don’t want to talk about Christ, lest they cause offense or invite criticism.  The implication of the quote seems to be that it is possible to preach the Gospel WITHOUT using words.  This is simply not the case - neither in the “Christian” West nor in Buddhist Thailand where I live.Thai Buddhists often view other religions and religious people as they view themselves and often assume things about Christians and Christianity that are not true.  Here are two brief examples:

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Photocopies and the De-Personification of God

Photocopies and the De-Personification of God

The barriers to communicating the Gospel in Thailand are tremendous even though Thai people are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet.  The guy who owns the photocopy shop where I regularly go is a great example of this.  When I was starting up an evangelistic kids club, I took some cartoon pictures of the sun, moon, stars, animals, numbers, and so forth down to the copy shop to be laminated.  As the photocopy guy was putting them in the plastic sleeves to stick in the laminating machine, he asked, “What are these for?”  So I explained that I was teaching children about God creating the world.  That got us off on discussion about spiritual matters and comparative religion.  I regularly had pictures to laminate for the kids club so the photocopy guy and I had several conversations along these lines on many occasions.  I’ve never detected any hostility from him but it has become clear that what I am trying to explain is simply not “clicking” in his mind.  

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Does the Resurrection Matter?

Does the Resurrection Matter?
This article appeared in Modern Reformation magazine, November 2010, under the title, "Witnessing to Christ in Our Age: Does the Resurrection Matter?"

I have been having conversations lately with a Thai Chinese fellow who is a real thinker.  That’s hard to find around here.  Many folks are happy to not think about (or at least not discuss) difficult or controversial issues.  Thai culture places a high value on non-confrontation so it is tough to really engage people in discussion about any issues of significance.  But not this guy.

Mr. Mon and his wife own a trucking business and one of their employees is a Christian lady whom my wife disciples (she does housework, not truck driving, if you wanted to know).  One night as we were trying to get our kids into bed, I answer a call from her on my wife’s mobile phone.  “You have to come over here right now.  We’re watching the movie you lent us and he has all these questions and I don’t know the answers.  You have to come now.”  She was desperate and a bit impatient. “Well, okay” I replied, “Let me talk to my wife for a second.  We’re putting the kids to bed.. hang on...” and before I could talk to my wife, the voice on the other end of the phone said, “Okay, I’m waiting for you.  You’re coming now.  Bye.”  Twenty minutes later, after I made sure my wife had the kids under control, I was sitting down with Mr. Mon, his wife, and their Christian house helper who had called us.

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“Why Am I Suffering?” A Christian Answer to a Buddhist Question

“Why Am I Suffering?” A Christian Answer to a Buddhist Question

“Why am I suffering?” and “How can I escape from suffering?” Those are the big questions that drive Buddhism.  The answer provided is that suffering is caused by desire, and one can escape suffering by detaching oneself from the world through right thinking, right speech, and right action.  It may sound fine in theory but in practice most Thai Buddhists find it very difficult.  Many Thai Buddhists will admit that they find it a great challenge to keep even the Five Precepts, the most basic moral rules of Buddhism.  Being a good person is really hard and even for the most moral of people, suffering still comes.  And when it comes, how should we make sense of it?  In our own lives? In the lives of others?  How can we have hope in the midst of suffering?  These are all important questions.  But for most people, satisfying answers are elusive.  Buddhism says, “Avoid suffering by trying to be good” or “Just suck it up because your suffering is caused by bad karma from a past life.”  As the prosperity gospel gains a hearing in Thai churches, quick-fix preachers promise people, “If you have enough faith and do the right things, then God will make you healthy and wealthy.”  Some are sucked in by these charlatans, but the promises of the prosperity gospel come up empty and in the end give people a warped and inaccurate impression of Christianity.

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Book Review: "From Buddha to Jesus" by Steve Cioccolanti

Book Review: "From Buddha to Jesus" by Steve Cioccolanti

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism & Christianity, by Steve Cioccolanti (Sweet Life International, 2007, 240pp.)

 

—reviewed by Larry Dinkins You wouldn’t expect a pastor of an International Church in Melbourne, Australia with a name like “Cioccolanti” (Italian for “chocolate”) to claim an inside track to the mind and worldview of Buddhists. However, his claim to an insider’s view of Buddhism is substantiated by his Thai upbringing and exposure to a very religiously diverse extended family. Besides his Thai Buddhist roots, Steve has added to that a broad education in America and Europe which allows him to address Buddhist issues from both an oriental and occidental viewpoint.

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Illustrating the Gospel from Thai History

Illustrating the Gospel from Thai History

The idea that “Jesus died for sinners” is a very hard one to swallow for Thai Buddhists because the idea of substitutionary atonement is absent from their religion.  The Buddha taught that you are alone in the universe and that you must someday pay for your bad karma.  No one can pay off your bad karma debt.  You’re gonna get it eventually - either in this life or some successive life.  Everything bad that happens to a person in their life is the result of some bad karma from their past.  From this point of view, as you might imagine, Jesus dying on the cross looks a lot more like Jesus getting his just due for some bad karma in a previous life rather than the selfless sacrifice of the sinless Son of God.

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Why Thai Buddhists Make Merit

Why Thai Buddhists Make Merit

One of the most common religious practices among Thai Buddhists is merit making.  Whether it is giving food to the monks on their daily alms round, bringing offerings to the temple, or chanting in the ancient language of Pali, Thai Buddhists love to make merit.  Granted, some people are more diligent and enthusiastic than others but nonetheless merit making is a mainstay of Buddhist religion in Thailand.  But what benefit do they get out of it?  Why make merit?I had been thinking about the motivation behind merit making and the righteousness freely offered in Christ when I saw on the book rack at 7-11 a book entitled “Accumulating Merit” (สะสมบุญ).  I picked it up and found and a chapter near the beginning of the book entitled, “Why We Make Merit”.  The author, a Thai Buddhist, writes that making merit is beneficial to both the Buddhist monks [who receive offerings] and to the Buddhists [who bring the offerings]. He puts forward the following reasons for why we (i.e. Thai Buddhists) make merit:

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Train Up a Child

Train Up a Child

When I went to a local Buddhist merit making festival, I noticed a great number of children and school groups participating in the event.  Parents brought their little ones to participate and some schools brought all their students as a group, dressed in school uniforms.  The following Bible verse came to mind:

 

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”(Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

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Merit Making Festival

Merit Making Festival

This morning I got up early and walked down to the main temple in Phra Phutta Baht to see the annual Flower Offering Merit Making Festival (ประเพณีตักบาตรดอกไม้) and take some pictures.  The two parallel roads leading up to the temple were filled with people waiting to put flowers and dry food goods offerings into the bowls of 3,000 monks who were assembled for the occasion.  See below for some photos followed by a bit of commentary.

 

 

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How does John 3:16 sound to a Thai Buddhist?

How does John 3:16 sound to a Thai Buddhist?

Among evangelical Christians, John 3:16 is widely regarded as a straight forward summary of the Gospel. However, to assume that someone can hear and sufficiently understand the Gospel from John 3:16 in order to be saved is to assume a lot about their background knowledge of Christianity and basic worldview assumptions.  In the West, there is still quite a bit of residual knowledge about Christianity even if people don't believe it (i.e. there is only one God, love is a good thing, history is linear, etc.).  This is a great help in presenting the Gospel to those from a culturally Christian background. But how does John 3:16 sound to someone who knows nothing about Christianity and comes from a totally different religious background and upbringing?

 

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Demonic Happenings at the New Airport

Demonic Happenings at the New Airport

This Monday, Dec 4th, we'll be flying to Thailand and arriving at the newly constructed Bangkok airport, which opened in September 2006. The construction of it was plagued by a series of accidents and the Thai authorities decided to bring in a bunch of Buddhist monks to chant over it for good luck. The following excerpt from the Bangkok Post (Sept 24, 2006) tells of the bizarre event that happened during the chanting ceremony and gives some insight into the spiritual realities that shape the lives of Thai people.

 

“Last Saturday there was a large ceremony held at the new BangkokInternationalAirport which is due to open this week. Ninety-nine Buddhist Monks chanted on masse to improve the luck ofthe new airport. Half way through the rite, a man appeared quivering and began to speak in a commanding voice claiming to be the guardian spirit of the airport land. He ordered that a proper spirit house be built at the airport to allow for its smooth operation. The man, who was unidentified, later passed out and woke up to find the spirit had left him” (Bangkok Post article, 24th September, 2006)

 

The spirit world is very real to Thai people. Please pray that they would understand the true nature of the principalities and powers of this dark world and would come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

 

A Small Country Church

The past two Sunday, we have visited a small country church in the next province over from where we are living and going to langauge school. We drove with Ulrich, a fellow OMF missionary, and his family we found ourselves bumping and jostling over severe potholes as we made our way further away from the city and into the countryside. Brillant green rice paddies lined either side of the road way and small wooden houses on stilts and little mom and pop shops were visible every so often. We pulled the truck into the dirt yard in front of a concrete store-front type building where two side of the building opened up completely like garage doors. A handful of blue plastic chairs were lined up in about four or five short rows and we were greeted by a few of the believers who had already gathered. Like many church in Thailand, both urban and rural, the church was very small, with only about ten people or so in attendance, not counting Ulrich, his family, and the three of us. All of these dear saints are fairly recent believers, the one who has been the Christian the longest has only been a Christian for maybe five years or so. Some of the other have only believed a few months. Interestingly enough though, the youngest adult member of the congregation is about forty! In God's providence, He has chosen to call to himself a handful of elderly women who make up about half of this congregation of ten or so. The miracle of salvation is so obvious in the lives of these women since there is very little human reason why someone who has been a Buddhist for over sixty years would decide to make such a drastic break with a society at large which equates national and ethnic identity with Buddhist. The Thai say, "To be Thai is to be Buddhist."

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