Religion in the 21st Century

The other day, a news site illustrated an interesting feature of life in Taiwan. Culture and religion there present an interesting blend of technology and tradition. Many Taiwanese people participate in spirit worship and are, in varying degrees, superstitious.

19th-century missionary George Mackay described divination in Taiwan during his day: you stopped at a shrine to ask direction and help from the spirit with a yes or no question. Then you drop two pieces of bamboo root. Each was flat on one side, rounded on the other. Depending on how they landed, the answer was yes, no, or silence. In practice, if you don’t like the answer, you can keep dropping them until you get the answer you want!

Woman praying in a temple

A Taiwanese woman prays to the spirits in a temple.

Prosperity and technology haven’t changed Taiwan’s religions much. According to the article, a Taoist temple plans to expand its divination services. They already have a web feature that allows people to ask questions of the spirits. Within the next year they’ll add a mobile app, so people will be able to access divination services anywhere they can use a smartphone. This makes it easier for spirits to dispense favors in return for gifts (even virtual ones). But our God looks for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth – not to extract favors, but to show gratitude for grace.

Several things came to mind after I read the article. But here’s something that occurs to me now that I’ve thought about it for a while. Would it be nice to be able to text God a question about what to do and get an answer right back? Sometimes it seems like that would be great. There are so many choices we have to make where the answer isn’t specified in the Bible. Or maybe our church should offer this kind of service: answers to all your spiritual questions at the touch of a few buttons.

But would it really be good for us? God seems to be very interested not just in providing answers to our questions, but in shaping our thinking as we spend time with Him in His Word. I’d sympathize with a church that wanted to offer something like this as a way to reach out to people. The critical weakness of that kind of ministry is found in the huge difference between being told what to do and learning to think biblically.

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Enjoyable Eating

Our recent visit to Calvary Baptist Church in Thornton, CO, held a lot of blessings for us. We enjoyed spending time with the pastor and his family – and the other missionary family – learning all we could from their ministry experiences. And we had lots of willing helpers for our children.

Two highlights: international dinners. They’ve arranged these meals for the two weeknights of the conference, and we love the idea. Each year the pastor chooses four countries to highlight for the meal, and people in the church get a recipe for an ethnic dish from one of the countries. So for two meals we got to try several dishes from four countries. Some of them were really, really good. The Taiwan table was great, and we were glad for a chance to try a real Yorkshire pudding.

Another part of the international flavor of the conference was meeting a Spanish pastor whose congregation uses part of Calvary’s facilities while they save money for their own building. And we heard about a large Russian population in the area. Pastor knows some of them, and it was exciting to think about what the Lord can do to reach the world in US cities.