Thursday, October 25, 2007

More Thoughts on Filial Piety

In my last post I discussed (or attempted to) how ancestor worship and filial piety can be a barrier to the spreading of the gospel in Taiwan. I didn't really mention (although I should have) much about how filial piety is not necessarily at odds with the Bible. Here is a comment from Scott of SQJ Taipei.

"Evangelicals have a pretty poor record regarding rituals in memory of the dead. Here's a silly, but perhaps helpful, analogy.

Most people have heard that undercooked seafood brings a good possibility of food poisoning. So... what do people do when they cook it? They OVERCOOK it and it generally tastes bad and is unpleasant.

Are Evangelicals so worried about slipping into occult practices that they go overboard the other direction by shunning nearly all forms of ritual in memory of the dead? Of course occult practices are wrong... but is the best response one where we don't allow any kind of meaningful memorials for the dead?

This blog covers some of these issues... but only read if you don't mind being challenged. He's not always right, but he sure generates dialogue.

Here is a recent post of interest (and I left a comment on it that might be of interest to Cahleen's readers)

Your intro to "filial piety" and the seeming clash between "culture" and "religion" is a good one. I'd like to add the following...

"I know of several cases where a person becomes a Christian and experiences the usual backlash from family. However, since the Bible is clear about the responsibility of the Christian to their elders and their parents, the new Christian is compelled to express filial piety in EVEN MORE MEANINGFUL WAYS than by burning money, incense, etc. Instead of merely performing a ritual (meaningful though it may be), they actually become SALT and LIGHT to their parents and other family members. The parents begin to wonder... why is my supposedly "unfilial" son/daughter treating me better than my other children... even though I'm mad at them? It is not uncommon for that ENTIRE family to come to follow Jesus because the entire concept of "filial piety" is turned on its head through Christian application.

It is also not uncommon for the family to continue to shun the Christian... but the situation I gave above needs to be shared when talking about this issue, too.

I am of the opinion that Christ not only redeems individual people... but he redeems cultures as well. Christianity does not conflict with the concept of "filial piety" at all... but perhaps does conflict with certain expressions of it which may vary from people group to people group... all of which can be reconciled to God."

It's important to keep these things in mind when ministering to Taiwanese people. So many more people would be willing to give Christ a chance.


  1. Just happened upon your site and enjoyed scanning through it. You are an intelligent young lady!

    As a missionary myself, these last two posts have been very interesting.

    May God bless you both as you do the work to which He has called you; may you continually be savory salt and appealing light to those God puts in your path.

    ih -

  2. Wow, I am so glad that I read the previous post first then this one. I was enlightened there and now even more so. The commentor(I saw but did not read in the last post) really added great insight. I truly am constantly amazed how we can be uplifting all over the World.

    Makes me think of the jailer and Lydia, both of whom brought the Light to their homes and the result was incredible!
    Thanks so much

  3. i.h.,

    Welcome to my blog! We've just "met" and already you're so encouraging. I can't wait to check out your site!


    Scott (the commenter) has more experience on the subject than I do, so I was just as enlightened by it as you were! It's always good to keep learning the best ways in which to reach the people in the culture that God has placed us in.

  4. I have a friend who was a muslim. She became a Christian and her family turned their back on her. She somehow got the message that even her culture was wrong and she had to leave it behind too. She no longer knew who she was.
    About a year and a half later she returned to her people.
    I pray that God will continue to use my relationship with her to bring her back to her first love.
    It is very important to understand the culture of the people we are witnessing to.

  5. In the past, many missionaries failed to be sensitive to non-religious cultural rituals. They often came to an area and tried to wipe out existing culture and build up a new one. It was easier to wipe it all out than to try to learn about the culture and work to redeem it. Actually it wasn't just Christian missionaries... Muslims did that too and so did non-religious entities (governments).

    But thanks to better teaching (anthropology) and greater emphasis on cultural differences, today's missionaries are usually better trained in this area and come into a culture as a LEARNER rather than as an authority or a conqueror. The old school is still out there, though.

    Christianity should be "supracultural"... it will transcend culture and indeed it does. The idea that Muslims or Chinese (or anyone) have to leave their culture to be Christian is deception from the devil. The Jerusalem Council (reported in Acts 15) should apply here.

  6. Hi Cahleen,
    I just found your blog through Jess at "Making Home". I'm excited to learn more about Taiwan and your life there, since my husband's family is from Taiwan, and all but his immediate family still live there.

    We visited for our honeymoon, but haven't been back since. When we were there, we were struck by how people mixed religion and seemed to want to "cover all the bases". They would do some Buddhist & ancestor worship rituals, then later they be watching American televangelists on TV.

    I wish I could live there too! I would love it if my kids and I (and my husband!) could learn to speak Chinese. Thanks for blogging.

  7. Nancy,

    I'm glad you stopped by! I tried to go to your blog, but your profile doesn't provide a link to it so I can't get to it. =( I'm glad you were able to visit Taiwan and you know firsthand what I'm talking about. If you ever want to come again, you know who to call!


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