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A letter from Mary Nebelsick and Paul Matheny in the Philippines

January 21, 2009

Friends,

Textbook project of the Philippine Theological Society

Filipino theological students, like other students in Southeast Asia, have little choice but to use expensive textbooks published in the United States and England and written by scholars working in a First World context. For a variety of reasons, textbooks are rarely published and prepared in Southeast Asia, and few Asian theologians attempt to write.

Photo of many students sitting outside on a grassy lawn.

Bobby Alguso during his graduation ceremony from United Theological Seminary. His father is one of the leaders of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines and a former translator and evangelist during the early years of the UCCP.

There are significant drawbacks to this situation. The Western-based authors do not understand the problems and struggles of Asian Christians, who seek to be faithful in contexts dramatically different from those of the wealthy and secure American and European Christians. In addition, because the books are prohibitively expensive, pastors and scholars own and use few books. Many have little or no access to libraries. The availability of usable resource books would be of great value to pastors and lay leaders of local churches.

For this reason, the Philippine Theological Society proposed a textbook project aimed at correcting this situation. The idea was to promote the creation of a basic theological library, published in Southeast Asia by authors who are responsible participants in the development of Asian Christian scholarship and who are working in the Philippines. The books would be affordable and concise introductions to the basic theological disciplines. New Day Publications is enlisted to help with this project.

I wrote and published one of the first books of this project. The project has since inspired several other textbooks. It was to be the first, but not my last contribution. The book was entitled The Genealogy and Geography of Philosophical and Theological Thinking. It is the first of a series entitled: “Faith and the Christian Life.” It introduced the basic problems of the philosophy of religion and of philosophical theology. My next book, The Theology of Christian Churches, is currently at the publisher and should be available soon. It introduces Christian theology as an activity of church life. The foundational problems of Christian beliefs and practice are introduced in a way that is helpful to local pastors and Christian leaders. This is second volume in the series “Faith and the Christian Life.”

The final volume of this series will introduce the ecclesiology of the Christian life as well as the ethics of living as a Christian in the Third World. I intend to complete this final volume while staying at the Overseas Missionary Study Center this coming year. The textbook will serve as introduction to the doctrines of the nature of the church, of church-state relations, of the mission of the church and its practices as well as to the moral nature of the Christian life. It will focus on the theologicallife of local congregations and their leaders. Like the textbooks that I’ve already completed, the book will be designed to be accessible and affordable as well as scholarly and concise. Most importantly, the book will be helpful for Asian Christians.

The writing of textbooks for Asian theological centers and pastors will help the churches whose pastors are among the poorest people. Our books are already in use in Myanmar, the Philippines and Korea as well as in the libraries of many seminaries in the area. Pastors who once had no resources now have help. This is what I hope to offer with my next textbook: help for the churches and people of Asia.

Sincerely,

Paul Matheny

The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 126

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