I'm writing this during a coffee break at the final sessions of the World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly in Edinburgh, after listening to three excellent reports on the churches in Brazil, India and China. I just spoke to the Indian delegate about something in his report that set my alarm bells ringing.
According to his paper, Christianity is perceived in India as a Western and colonial religion, and a major concern of Indian Christians is to 'focus on the Asian identity of Jesus Christ'. The Chinese report flagged up a similar issue. In China, believers are seeking to make Christianity a 'genuinely Chinese religion'.
I have just shared my concerns over a cup ofcoffee with the Indian delegate. Though I understand the concern of my Indian brothers and sisters to demonstrate that Christianity is not a Western religion, Jesus is not 'Asian'; he is Jewish. Ia am concerned that our Indian and Chinese brothers are going to repeat the mistake of the English church. Christianity was (and still is by some) regarded as English, and missionaries often converted the nations not only to Christianity but also to Englishness.
Jesus is in a very real sense the universal man but he can never be identified with any particular nation other than Israel. He can never be Palestinian, English, Chinese or Indian. Nor can Christianity ever be anything other than Jewish. While we seek to contextualise the gospel, Christianity can never be an English or Chinese religion.
If Chinese missionaries take a 'Chinese' gospel to the nations, although they may experience some success, they will be making the same mistake as the Western colonialist missionaries of a former age.
Indian Christians, if they insist that Jesus is Asian, risk alienating and antagonising Muslims. I understand that concern but substituting one error for another is less than wise.
The inevitable result of any nation claiming Jesus is 'one of us' will be the dejudaising of Jesus. If Jesus is no longer Jewish the Jewish people are marginalised and Replacement Theology is strengthened. Replacement Theology tends to diminish concern for Jewish mission and the diminishing of outreach to the Jewish people delays the glorious day when 'all Israel shall be saved' (Rom 11:26), an event which will be 'life from the dead' for the nations (Rom 11:15).