Sharing on Contemporary Issues

Initiatives for Christian Studies on Contemporary Issues (ICSCI) organized its fourth sharing: “Christians in Social Service in Nepal: Opportunities and Challenges” by Dr Tirtha Thapa on February 25 at the Evangelical Presbyterian Theological Seminary, (EPTS) Lalitpur.

Dr. Thapa’s motivation for social work was based on his conviction of what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 25 verse 40: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” In the paper presented, Dr. Thapa has mentioned kinds of social work done by Christians in Nepal. He emphasized that Christians did social work not because that would help them achieve salvation or heavenly abode. He said Christians did not have to do any social work to stave off any punishment unlike others who believed doing good work would help them receive pardon for their sins. Challenged by Norbu Tamang if he were to “split hair”, whether Christian social service was an end or a means of evangelism, Dr Thapa replied these were two sides of the same coin. He compared the question to that of Pharisees when they asked Jesus if they should pay tax to the government of the time. Dr Thapa did not discuss the question how would he locate Christian social work in theological framework of evangelicals, ultra-evangelicals or promoters of social gospel. Summarily but politely, he said he found all the arguments equally acceptable.

Upon being asked especially to comment with her background of over 50 years of social work within Nepal, didi Eileen Lodge said love (for people) was the prime motivation for social work as she followed God’s call to work in Nepal. Towards closing the sharing, Rev. J. Thungjamo Lotha remarked welfare of people was a strong force for Christian social work in his experience as he led a team to achieve prohibition against alcohol in Nagaland when a big population was embroiled in abuse of alcohol. Him being a teacher of Christian Ethics might also have contributed to his motivation of doing good for the society.

In another sharing: “Biblical Basis for Social Engagement” held on April 22, Mr Vijay Karmacharya pointed out that even though Jesus did not segregate spiritual and social-physical contents of human welfare, there are “Unsocial Christians” who believe in evangelising, making disciples and training without providing even a reasonable social support and then there are “Unchristian Socialists” who believe passionately in alleviating poverty, providing justice, providing health service or promote human rights but without much passion for communicating the Good News of the substitutionary death of Christ for the salvation of human beings. David Stevens of INF and Jennie Collins of UMN argued that spiritual and physical dimensions of human needs must be seen as whole and that these are not really separated in the scripture.