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I.

Introduction
The reader may think with reservation why do we need Nepal Christian
theology (NCT)? To answer the question one must seek to understand the
context of Nepal. The context of Nepal is a pluralistic society and church is
constantly challenged for its existence. It always has been difficult to
communicate Gospel in the multi-religious context of Nepal. Therefore,
Gospel took the shape of communication through social action initially. In fact
the critiques of Christianity opine that it was because of this social and
missionary service, conversion and adoption of Christianity has been taking
place.[1] Therefore we see a dichotomy between evangelical mandate and
social mandate of the gospel. The western theologies, though in principle
helpful but at the practical and existential levels has not been able to
communicate the Gospel in a comprehensible way. Nepali church needs to
articulate Christian faith in a way it is appropriately comprehended in its own
religio-cultural context without compromising its Christian essence. How do
we do this? What are the sources available? What are the goals? What is the
appropriate methodology? What are the parameters or limits?
This paper is a humble attempt to address questions raised above. I, myself,
am not an authoritative voice in dealing with the subject because of my Indian
nationality. However, I do speak as a fellow brother and a fellow Christian
who share the same struggle as that of Nepali church. This is a proposal for
the Nepali church for a Nepal Christian Theology. It is my prayer that as you
read, may the Holy Spirit provoke your minds and ignite your hearts to
communicate His message in a Nepali cup. This paper is open for criticism,
and further discussion if needed be.

II. Definitions
1. Faith
Faith is often misunderstood as a blind belief based on inadequate evidence
available.[2] Many a times it is considered as something that cannot be
reasoned. Two words stand out pertaining faith- belief and trust. These words
have to do with the articles of Christian faith and the object of faith i.e., God.
Therefore, to have faith means to accept these articles of faith and also
the object of faith.
For Luther, faith means trusting in Gods promises, an undeviating trust, a
constant stance of conviction of the trustworthiness of Gods promises. For
Calvin, faith is steady and certain knowledge of the divine benevolence
towards us. For Barth, in God alone is there faithfulness and faith is the trust
we may lay hold of Him. Therefore, to hold to God is to rely on the fact that
God is and live in this certainty.
Faith has two dimensions divine and human factors. We can see the same in
our freedom to repent and to believe in Christ and the giving of forgiveness
and faith which is a divine gift. These two dimensions are mysteriously
connected.[3] However, some may emphasis on the human factor as in
natural theology and others in the divine factor to the operation of Holy Spirit
in us.
Within historical Christian tradition, faith is considered as a link which relates
us to the source of our salvation.[4] It has epistemological and soteriological
aspects which again points to divine-human dimension. In other words, faith
concerns how things can be known and how salvation may be grasped. Two
people are worth mentioning who emphasize either of these aspects. One is
Martin Luther who understood faith as justification by faith alone. He
emphasizes on the promises of God which has been demonstrated in and
through the faithfulness of Christ which unites the believer to God. Therefore,
for Luther, faith is more than historical evidence. It is personal. It is
Christological because the object of faith to which a believer is to unite is
Christ and it is Christ who is self-revelation of God in history demonstrated
Gods faithfulness to His promises.[5]
Thomas Aquinas takes an epistemological approach. In other words he
brought faith and reason together. For him, faith accepts the articles of
Christian faith which can be reasoned or rationalized consistent with human
reason.[6] One must not misunderstand that for Aquinas faith is not possible
because of reason but faith can be rationalized in way that has some bearing
on human existential concerns.
In summary, faith is not a blind belief in the absence of evidence available
though it goes beyond evidence itself. It is a gift of God given to us. It
expresses a genuine relationship with God that reflect on our ethical
behaviour and coupled with good works. It is Soteriological and
epistemological. It is theological and historical.

2. Theology and its relationship with faith


If faith is not a blind belief with divine and human factors mysteriously
connected, then theology is a human attempt to rationalize our belief and gift.
According to Anslem, the definition of theology is faith seeking understanding.
Theology follows faith. The definition of theology has been expanded from a
dogmatic understanding to a renewed understanding in the modern times.
This renewed understanding of theology is a task of just not to guard the
dogma of the church but giving an account of our faith. [7] Therefore, it is a
critical reflection that follows after the praxis of faith. This reflection involves a
systematic exercise that seeks to give coherent reasons of the Christian faith,
based primarily on Scriptures, located in the context of culture in general, in a
contemporary language and to relate to existential concerns.[8] Therefore,
theology is articulation of faith based primarily on biblical, systematic,
contemporary and practical aspects. Leroy Stults rightly points that theology
is an attempt to understand and explain Christian faith to the Church in
teaching and to the world in proclaiming.[9] It implies, therefore, theology is
both a systematic study and systematic exposition didactic and kerygmatic.

3. Nepal Christian Theology (NCT) & its


urgent necessity
Before we define Nepal Christian theology, we need to address the question
why we need NCT? Firstly, we need NCT because of Nepals distinct and
unique context. Cindy Perry points out that Nepal is a mosaic of diverse
cultures, languages, ethnic groups and religious practices.[10] Dr. Mangal
Man Maharjan on Nepal, with C. V. Matthew points out that Hinduism which is
the major religion of the state that constitutes 89% of the population.[11]
However, this 89% is a matter of suspicion to the scholars in the view rising of
ethnic consciousness among different tribes in Nepal.[12] Nevertheless, in
this context the church constantly is challenged for its existence. There is a
need to articulate Christian faith in this context. The need to articulate ones
faith is not a mere abstract academic exercise but also a daily necessity and
essential part of churchs ministry.[13] Secondly, we need NCT because the
western theology is inadequate to address the existential concerns of the
Nepali context. The reason for this inadequacy is because western theology
comprises of thought patterns, and the existential concerns of its own context.
Thirdly, we need NCT because its interaction with other religions. It is
imperative for Nepali church, to present the Christian faith in a
comprehensible manner to other religions. This requires Nepali theologians to
articulate Christian faith in its multi-religious context. Fourthly, we need NCT
because of the necessity for correct doctrinal beliefs which are essential
between the believer and God (Heb. 11:6).[14] As mentioned earlier, Nepals
context is pluralistic and therefore, there exists varied alternatives which
challenge Christianity. Let me categorise these alternatives into two-secular
and religious. Secular alternatives like humanism are anthropocentric and
religious alternatives constitute Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam etc.
Therefore, NCT becomes an impending need for the church. Fifthly, we need
NCT because its distinct social reality. In Nepal, as I observe there is a
strong interaction between religion and culture. This interaction influences the
thought patterns. In doing theology, we often encounter this interaction. In this
context it is essential to clarify Christian faith to the church (didactic) and
proclaim Christian faith in a comprehensible manner (kerygmatic), at times;
there is a need to give defence(apologia). Keeping the above factors, it
becomes necessary for Nepal Christian theology.
Since, as stated above, the existence of church is a challenge every day,
there is urgency for NCT. This requires Nepali theologians to focus on writing
theology for the Nepali church.
Having said, the definition of Nepal Christian theology is it is a careful,
systematic and organized articulation of Christian faith in its pluralistic society
to clarify Christian faith to the church (didactic), proclaim the same to the
society at large (kerygma) and defend the same against the objections raised
(apologia).

4. Sources of doing nct


McGrath speaks of four main sources for doing theologian which were
acknowledged within Christian tradition. They are Scripture, reason, tradition
and experience.[15] It is not possible to discuss in-depth keeping in view the
limitation of the paper. However, it is sufficient to know that Scripture is the
primary source in doing theology. In that it is considered authoritative for
Christian thinking. It does not contain the word of God but it is the revealed
word of God. It is the foundation and the substance of theology. With regard
to reason, human beings are rational being and God is too. Therefore, reason
is to be expected to play a major role in theology. The role of reason is
complementary. In other words, faith cannot be limited to reason but reason
is only a modus operandi to build on what has been already revealed.[16] To
build upon means to organize the facts as given, in this case by
revelation.[17] Therefore, reason is to organize and systematize the revealed
truth for a better comprehension. With regard to tradition, the Latin
word traditio which means an active process of reflection by which
theological or spiritual insights are valued, assessed, and transmitted from
one generation to another.[18] It refers to the traditional way of interpreting
the scriptures. We cannot deny the 2000 years of experience. Tradition helps
us not to fall into overtly individualistic interpretation of the Scriptures.
Scripture has regulatory authority, in that; traditions are to be tested based on
Scriptures but not the other way around. With regard to experience, though it
is catalogued as one of the sources, one must consider it with caution. There
are two main streams in relation to experience & theology. One is experience
as a foundational source for theology. Second one is theology provides an
interpretative framework for our experience to be interpreted.[19] Our
experiences may mislead our interpretation of the Scriptures. This aspect was
very succinctly explained by Martin Luther. He points out to the
misunderstanding resulted out of disciples experience of Lords death. They
experienced Gods absence. However, resurrection proved their experience
wrong. Resurrection re-oriented them to a right experience of Gods hidden
presence. Therefore, experience should not be taken as the source to
interpret the Scripture rather it has to be considered as something to be
interpreted by the Scripture.[20]

III. The goal of NCT


In the light of what has been said, the following would be possible goals that
NCT should strive to fulfil them. Firstly, to reflect on Nepal Christian
community in NCT. The theology should consist of words of comfort and
confrontation but should be the Word of God. Secondly, to form a creative
theology,[21] this reflects a clear and correct Christian thought and deeply
spiritual insight for the benefit of Nepali church and the church in the world at
large. Thirdly, to dynamically interact with the community of faith in teaching
the correct doctrines and with the world in giving reasons and defence of the
faith. Fourthly, never to lose its Christian essence while attempting to
contextualize the Christian message. Fifthly, not to fall into parochialism. NCT
will fail if it becomes provincial if it does not take other theologies critically in
to consideration and supports the negative element of culture, e.g., Caste
system misogyny etc. Therefore, the overarching goal of NCT should be to
speak to Nepali church in its own cultural ethos and to be aware of the need
for a full theology to the church in the world at large.
Iv. Methodological considerations for doing NCT

A. Setting parameters for doing NCT


Before we discuss about the methodology in doing NCT, we need set the
parameters or limits in doing the same. It is worth pointing out that there is
vast difference between the West and the East in terms of context, culture,
and experience. This is the reason why the Western theology is not helping
the Asian church to meet its struggles. It is rightly pointed by Dr. Athyal that
the western flavour of the church in Asia has become an increasing
hindrance in recent years with the rise nationalism.[22] He also opines that
there is a similarity in context and culture when we compare biblical context
and Asian context. This is the reason Asian church is more advantageous
than the Western church. Let us then be mindful that Nepali church is more
advantageous than the western church.
Having said that, the context of church in Nepal is that of religious pluralism,
poverty, corruption, political instability, unemployment and et al. It is in this
context Nepali church has to articulate its faith in a way it can address the
mentioned struggles. This articulation of faith has to do with doing theology.
In order to do this, we need to set some parameters to avoid a compromise of
Christian essence in the process. One such parameter is with regard to
syncretism.

1. Syncretism
Syncretism is an attempt to contextualize the Gospel while negating its basic
and fundamental Christian essence and replacing it with foreign elements
from the context. Dr. Rin Ro refers to the same as syncretising Christianity
with national religion.[23] This syncretism can further be divided into four.

a. Assimilative
In this type of syncretism, in communicating the Gospel, non-Christian
elements are incorporated with the view that there is no difference between
Christianity and non-Christian religions.[24]

b. Accommodative
In this type of syncretism, in communicating the Gospel, we tend to arm-twist
the interpretation to have the desired meaning from the context.

c. Situational
In this type of syncretism, in communicating the Gospel, we tend to read-in
to the text the experience from particular situation. The danger here is a
narrowed view of the gospel without fully understanding the full extent of the
Gospels message.

d. Dispensationalism[25]: periodization of Scriptures


In this type of syncretism, in communicating the Gospel, we tend to
compartmentalise the Bible into two Testaments with a stark discontinuity.
This may lead us intomodalism in turn leads us into Tritheism explaining
God in three different modes or ways of self-revelation. God the father as a
Law giver in Old Testament times, God the Son in the New Testament times,
and God the Holy Spirit in the present age. This view is very close to Hindu
concept of Tri-theism and hence we need to be cautious.
These syncretistic tendencies are rampant in our church in Nepal. It is
because of its pluralistic society with plurality of alternatives, the church is
often challenged to look for suitable method to articulate its faith.

B. Contextualization: A biblically oriented


theology
As mentioned earlier syncretism is the danger that needs to be avoided in
contextualizing the Gospel in Nepal cultural milieu. What then is the proper
contextualization? Why contextualization is the only valid methodology for
doing NCT? In what way we need to do NCT without losing its Christian
essence?
Contextualization means the process by which Christian truth is embodied
and translated in a concrete historical situation without compromising its
Christian essence (emphasis added).[26] A proper contextualization is a
biblically oriented theology. In this method, Bible is considered as the
foundation and substance of theology. It is Gods revelation. This revelation
came to us in its own biblical context. The task of a Nepali theologian is to
properly exegete the meaning of the text in its own biblical context, while
understanding his/her existential context, and there by addressing the same.
In other words, a biblically oriented contextualization involves dynamic
interaction between the text and the context, transformation of the particular
existential situation, and appropriately adapting the message of the Gospel
without losing its essence.
Dr. Athyal rightly points out that the above method is the only valid way of
doing theology in Asia (Nepal).[27] He basically gives three reasons why
biblically oriented theology is the only valid method. Firstly, Christian faith is
historical. Secondly, there is a contextual similarity between the Bible and
Asian (Nepal) context. Thirdly, Bible itself provides indigenous expression of
the Gospel (e.g. Johns usage of logos a Greek concept). It is because of the
above reasons contextualization with biblical orientation is the only valid
methodology in doing NCT.
While doing NCT we may have to use the vernacular language which is inter-
twined with religious culture of Nepal. We cannot avoid the inter-relationship
between religious culture and the language. Bible itself provides answer to
this issue. In that, biblical authors also faced the same problem to
communicate Gods word in their hostile and pluralistic society. The NT
church had to borrow terms or frames of thought but gave them new meaning
and content.[28] In other words, Gods word itself presents us a pattern of
indigenizing of the same today in Nepal. The language or the words that are
borrowed needs to be transformed by the way of clarifying it. In order to do
this, one must have a thorough knowledge of the original meaning of the
word, and clear picture of the new meaning that is biblically based.
V. Suggestions: the future of NCT
In the light of what has been said, I would like to make few suggestions
pertaining to the future of NCT. Firstly, NCT should always be Scriptural. In
that, the starting point of theology is Scripture. A thorough exegetical
approach is required. Secondly, NCT should not be purely an academic
endeavour but it has to be produced in the laboratory of life[29] and tested
in the community of faith. Thirdly, NCT should be missional. Mission should
be the main thrust. This mission is, in Dr. Athyals words, our total
responsibility to the total person.[30] In other words, NCT should address the
whole of human life. In this regard a grass-root level ministry may be
appropriate in our Nepali context. Fourthly, NCT should be pastoral and
prophetic. In that, NCT should be used to comfort and to confront the culture
but with respect and love. Fifthly, NCT should be apologectical and polemical.
In that, NCT should strive to clarify Christian faith and defend the same.
Therefore, NCT is both for didactic and kerygmatic.Sixthly, NCT should be
contextual. In that, the word of God has to be appropriated comprehensively
without compromising the Christian essence. This is done by taking seriously
the limits of contextualization into consideration. Seventhly, NCT should not
confine itself one geographical location. It should strive to contribute to the
church at large. It should be universal as well. Eighthly, NCT should be
systematic. In that, Christian faith has to be articulated in a coherent and
logical manner. Ninthly, developing resources and Nepali theologians to do
NCT is essential.
VI. conclusion
We started this proposal by asking the question is there a need for Nepal
Christian theology? In the process of addressing the question we attempted
to clarify the definitions of faith, theology and its relationship with faith. Faith is
not a blind trust or belief in God. It is a gift of God to us. Theology is human
attempt to articulate this faith in a coherent and logical manner for the better
comprehension in ones respective contexts. Therefore, theology is
both didactic and kerygmatic.
With these definitions in view we have explored the working definition of NCT
and its urgent necessity. Before, we defined NCT, we have listed the reasons
to do NCT. The reasons are multi-religious cultural context, inadequacy of
western theology to address the struggles of Nepali church, necessity for the
correct doctrinal teaching, and dynamic interaction between religion and
culture. It is because of these reasons, doing NCT becomes imperative.
Keeping these reasons and the necessity, we defined NCT as based on
Scriptures with didactic, kerygmatic and apologetic dimensions. With this
definition in view, we explored the sources of doing NCT. They are primarily
the Scripture which is foundational, reason which has a complementary role
in building upon what has been revealed, tradition which has regulatory
function to avoid overtly individualistic interpretation but to be tested by the
Scriptures, and experience which is to be interpreted by the Scriptures.
With this view in mind, we explored the possible goals of NCT. The goals are
the community of faith in which NCT has priestly and prophetic role comfort
and confront, to reflect correct and clear Christian thought beneficial to Nepali
church, to give reasons and defense of Christian faith in a comprehensible
manner, not to be overtly provincial, and to speak to the Nepali church and
also the church in world at large as overarching goal.
As we have discussed the goals of NCT, we explore the manner or
methodology of doing the same. Before we ventured into this, we have set
the parameters or limits in methodology. The parameter in general is
syncretism. We need to be cautious of assimilative, accommodative,
situational and dispensationalist syncretism in contextualizing the gospel in
Nepal. In the light of these limits, we proposed contextualization as biblically
oriented theology which is primarily Scriptural which requires thorough
exegesis, and applying meaning of the text to the Nepali context for
transformation and confrontation.
Finally we made few suggestions in relation to the future of NCT. NCT should
be Scriptural, not merely an academic endeavor, missional, pastoral &
prophetic, apologetical & polemeical, contextual, not provincial, systematic
and developing resources and Nepali theologians and Christian thinker. May I
add one more here by saying that the future of NCT does not singularly lies in
the hands of leaders behind the pulpit but in the hands of laity on the mats of
church floor who live their faith in the hostile world outside the church.

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The Bible & Theology in Asian Context. Seoul, South Korea: Asian
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The Bible & Theology in Asian Context. Seoul, South Korea: Asian
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[1]Trilok Manjupuria and Rohit Kumar Manjupuria, Religons in


Nepal(Kathmandu: M. Devi Lashkar (Gwalior), 2004), 323.
[2]Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction (Second edition.;
UK: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 154.
[3]Martin, Faith,246.
[4]Martin, Fatih, 247.
[5]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 156157.
[6]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 155.
[7]Hunter P Mabry, ed., Christian Ethics- An Introductory Reader (Indian
Theological Library; Delhi: ISPCK, 2007), 214.
[8]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Unabridged.; Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker Book House, 1985), 21.
[9]Donald Leroy Stults, Developing An Asian Evangelical Theology (Manila,
Philipines: Omf literature Inc, 1989), 10.
[10]Cindy Perry, Nepal, ed. Scott W. Sunquist, A Dictionary Asian
Christianity(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
2001), 593.
[11]C. V. Matthew with Mangal Man Maharjan on Nepal, Hindusim, ed. Scott
W. Sunquist, A Dictionary Asian Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: William B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 334335.
[12]C. V. Matthew with Mangal Man Maharjan, Hindusim,, 334; Perry,
Nepal,593.
[13]Leroy Stults, Developing An Asian Evangelical Theology, 16.
[14]Erickson, Christian Theology, 29.
[15]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 181.
[16]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 213.
[17]Leroy Stults, Developing An Asian Evangelical Theology, 63.
[18]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 219.
[19]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 225.
[20]McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction, 228.
[21]Leroy Stults, Developing An Asian Evangelical Theology, 38.
[22]Saphir P. Athyal, Towards an Asian Christian Theology, in An
Evangelical Perspective on Asian Theology (ed. Bong Rin Ro and Ruth
Eshenaur; The Bible & Theology in Asian Context; presented at the 6th ATA
Theological Consultation, Seoul, South Korea: Asian Theological Association,
1984), 57.
[23]Bong Rin Ro, Contextualization: Asian Theology, in An Evangelical
Perspective on Asian Theology (ed. Bong Rin Ro and Ruth Eshenaur; The
Bible & Theology in Asian Context; presented at the 6th ATA Theological
Consultation, Seoul, South Korea: Asian Theological Association, 1984), 69.
[24]Rodrigo D. Tano, Toward an Evangelical Asian Theology, in An
Evangelical Perspective on Asian Theology (ed. Bong Rin Ro and Ruth
Eshenaur; The Bible & Theology in Asian Context; presented at the 6th ATA
Theological Consultation, Seoul, South Korea: Asian Theological Association,
1984), 99.
[25] For further reading see, McGrath, Christian Theology An Introduction,
551552.
[26]Tano, Toward an Evangelical Asian Theology, 94.
[27]Athyal, Towards an Asian Christian Theology, 51.
[28]Athyal, Towards an Asian Christian Theology, 52.
[29]Athyal, Towards An Asian Christian Theology, 55.
[30]Athyal, Towards An Asian Christian Theology.