Christ, Salvation and Eschatology from Colossians: Developing a Response to Melanesian Concept of Gutpela Sindaun
In this thesis I explored the Melanesian concept of “good life” or gutpela sindaun in PNG Pidgin. Gutpela sindaun or gutpela laip is a life of spiritual and material wholeness, which is regarded as immediately available. In this thesis, I have argued that the Melanesian gutpela sindaun thinking has influenced Melanesians to embrace the Christian gospel in the past, and is influencing many Melanesian Christians to embrace various versions of gospel teachings promising spiritual and material prosperity today. Gutpela sindaun is understood as a life of corporeal earthly immortality. This life was lost due to the first ancestral pasin nogut (wrong, failure) as various Melanesian myths depict. Study of Melanesians myths reveals four basic (general) mythical themes – creation, lost paradise, end times and the advent of the ancestor hero which are central themes to gutpela sindaun thinking. Gutpela sindaun thinking is deeply ingrained in Melanesian worldviews which undergirds Melanesian cultures and religions. Gutpela sindaun thinking is the stimulus for Melanesians’ response to the coming of Europeans and of Christianity. In the Christian teaching, the themes of creation, fall, redemption and return of Christ are somewhat similar to the mythical themes. Melanesians’ responded to the Christian teaching. Their response was diverse. Those who clearly understood the message of the gospel became the nucleus of the Christian churches, whilst those who did not formed their own indigenous movements. Some of these indigenous movements evolved into independent churches. Towards the end of last century and in the beginning of this century many new splinter groups and religious movements have sprung up in PNG, claiming to offer a fuller or complete versions of the gospel teachings of wealth and health which are very much at home with gutpela sindaun thinking. I argue that gutpela sindaun thinking is a key motive for many Melanesian Christians to embrace the new sects offering spiritual and material prosperity teaching today. To respond to the Melanesian concept of gutpela sindaun, I chose the Colossians Letter which addresses a form of teaching designated as Colossian philosophy which was centred on traditions of human beings and the elemental (spiritual) powers of the universe. The opposing teaching practiced asceticism and was after mystical knowledge which is similar to the Melanesian search for the ancestral knowledge or kru – could be seen as the deep secret or truth that leads to higher salvation experience or gutpela sindaun. In response, the Colossians author states that Christ is the eikon (image), prototokos, pleroma (fullness) of God. In him is found all the fullness of God’s wisdom and knowledge. Through Christ’s fullness, the Colossians have come to fullness of salvation. The fullness they received is not through the rulers and authorities or stoicheia. Through the cross of Christ, God has stripped ruler and authority of their power and authority. There is nothing good in them, so turning to them will lead to slavery to the elemental powers of the universe. Hence, the Colossians should not succumb to the alternative teaching because it is devoid of divine knowledge and wisdom. Christ as the prototokos is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of all things. Thus, the Colossians presents Christ to the Melanesians as the fulfillment of their hopes and longings for the gutpela sindaun that they anticipate their culture heroes to restore. The Melanesian culture heroes are only prefigurings of Christ. Christ has fulfilled the roles and functions of Melanesian culture heroes as the creator, sustainer and redeemer and therefore, he is the Melanesians’ ultimate hero. Christ in his first coming has inaugurated gutpela sindaun. He has inaugurated true gutpela sindaun and he fully, richly and openly satisfies the understandings that drive the Melanesian search for gutpela sindaun, and he fulfils that search at a new level. Christ is the key to gutpela sindaun that Melanesians sought through ancestral knowledge and various spirit powers. He is supreme, head of every spirit power and he is in control of the entire creation. Through Christ God has reconciled all things to himself. God’s reconciliation soteriology is objective, and can be subjectively applied to human beings, meaning forgiveness of sin and relationship with God; to hostile spirit powers meaning pacification; and to the natural world, meaning reordering and future renewal. The reconciling work that was inaugurated at the cross will be consummated at the Second Coming of Christ in glory. The reconciliation soteriology does not free us from suffering which many versions of prosperity gospel teachings are denying as part of Christian experience. Suffering as part of Christian experience is counter-cultural to Melanesian gutpela sindaun thinking which does not see suffering as a noble cause. The major features of the inaugurated eschatology of Colossians are shown to relate to the present-oriented aspects of gutpela sindaun with the ‘now-but-not-yet’ aspects of the Colossians eschatology offering a constructive antidote to the teachings of the new movements in Melanesia today. The Melanesian hope of fullness of life bodily, spiritually and cosmologically has been inaugurated. Inaugurated eschatology does not mean wholeness of life is here and now. It means it has commenced and will be fully realised at the glorious appearing of Christ. Everything will be made perfectly whole.
Advisor: Trebilco, Paul; Hitchen, John
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology and Religion
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Gutpela; sindaun; myths; culture; heroes; pasin; nogut; or; bad; action; sin; sacred; knowledge; time; Colossian; philosophy; asceticism; angelic; worship; heavenly; visions; Christ; image; prototokos; pleroma; bodily; fullness; riches; mystery; hiddenness; reconciliation; soteriology; inaugurated; eschatology; supreme.
Research Type: Thesis