Honoring the Ancestors

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Abd_Yesua_alMasih, Jun 15, 2008.

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  1. Abd_Yesua_alMasih

    Abd_Yesua_alMasih Puritan Board Junior

    In many cultures it is important to honor your ancestors (incl. parents and grandparents).

    The most common reason for this is out of thanks for everything they have given you. I think we would all agree that a good heritage has uncountable benefits for us in terms up upbringing, family status, education etc... and there is a lot of evidence that the affects of good forefathers can carry on for generations (always exceptions though).

    Matthew 15:4-6 says: "For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition."

    It is clear from this that we are to honor our "mother and our father" for what they have done for us, and not just shrug our heritage off as simply a gift of God that they had no part in. What form however is this "honoring" to be though? Obviously to deify them is to deceive yourself and others. But even in many eastern cultures where they "worship" ancestors, they do not turn them into gods but rather honor their memories.

    What then is wrong with being in some cultures where images of famous ancestors, grandparents or deceased parents are displayed in order to honor them? I know some friends who have what we in the west may call shrines, but really they are just sort of tables on which they have images or their grandparents/parents/great-grandparents. Sometimes they will light candles but most of the time they just keep it clean.

    I am not sure exactly where my question is going here, but I guess key points:

    1) How far can "honoring" your parents go before it becomes idol worship
    2) Who are your "parents"? Should we honor our mother and our father but not our grandmother and grandfather? What about their parents and so on?
    3) Is it wrong for a Christian to display images of their ancestors in their home as long as there is an understanding that these are not idols to be worshipped, but merely images of "honorable ancestors"? Can you light candles and put effort into maintaining their "honor"?
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think the Japanese church is not growing because over half still keep shrines to their parents (without any modification from their former pagan practice to show that they are merely honoring and not praying or worshipping them), according to a missiological survey I just read.

    Google the Chinese Rites Controversy for more.

    Or link to: http://www.apts.edu/jam/7-1/JMa.pdf


    Asian Theological Association. "A Working Document Towards a Christian Response to Ancestor Practices." Asian Perspective No. 33 (n.d.): 1-9.

    Berensten, Jan-Martin. "Ancestor Worship in Missiological Perspective." In Christian Alternatives to Ancestor Practices, ed. Bong Rin Ro, 261-85. . Taichung, Taiwan: Asia Theological Association, 1985.

    Berensten, Jan-Martin. "Individual and Collective in the Family Context: The 4th Commandment in Japanese Perspective." In Christian Alternatives to Ancestor Practices, ed. Bong Rin Ro, 61-76. Taichung, Taiwan: Asia Theological Association, 1985.

    Berentsen, Jan-Martin. "The Ancestral Rites--Barrier or Bridge?" The Japan Christian Quarterly 49:4 (Fall 1983): 160-68.

    Carpenter, Mary Yeo. "Familism and Ancestor Veneration: A Look at Chinese Funeral Rites." Missiology 24:4 (October 1996): 503-17.

    Eng, Lim Guek. "Christianity Encounters Ancestor Worship in Taiwan." Evangelical Review of Theology 8:2 (October 1984): 225-235.

    Lin, Chi-Ping. "Ancestor Worship: The Reactions of Chinese Churches." In Christian Alternatives to Ancestor Practices, ed. Bong Rin Ro, 147-61. Taichung, Taiwan: Asia Theological Association, 1985.

    A Korean Christian I know says that on the ancestor day they have a celebration of their lives but leave out all the pagan elements and it becomes a family day or gathering, which includes their living grandparents as well. These grandparents became Christian partly through the love shown to them, "In my religion you had to be dead before they honored you, but my Christian children and grandchildren honor me while I am still alive."
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    This is an example of the church's need to learn more about culture.

    This ancestor issue is a HUGE issue in Asia and Westerners rarely even think about it. Only through a few Asian friends have I come to understand this and I at first thought, "YIkes, what's the big deal.." but it is HUGe for these asian churches.

    Imagine if the Chinese church had crafted the Westminster - instead of the Pope being mentioned, a paragraph on ancestors would surely have been in there.
  4. Abd_Yesua_alMasih

    Abd_Yesua_alMasih Puritan Board Junior

    That is some good reading. Can't comment now but I will say more when I have read over whatever from that selection I can find. The first pdf seems a big read in itself. :detective:
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