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Theology changes culture – with the help of Langham Scholars

Langham Scholar Joshua George shares how theology and understanding God's word is having a ripple effect to culture in South Asia, breaking through barriers of social statuses and hierarchies.

In South Asia, where culture and social hierarchy rule, a small minority group of Christians are trying to make a significant impact among the people, and it’s having a ripple effect.

Joshua George is a PhD candidate, former student, and currently a faculty-in-training member at a local Bible college. His journey into ministry started when he began to ask questions within his church and found he wasn’t receiving the answers or the training that he wanted.

He decided to study at a Bible college, and after completing his degree, the college asked him to stay on as a teacher.

“I found that teaching was something I really wanted to do more of, so that’s when the college recruited me as a faculty-in-training. I’m very involved in the church at a leadership level and at a pastoral level, but I’m also quite involved in teaching here as well,” Josh shared.

While Joshua is faculty-in-training, learning to grow and prepare future pastors, he himself is a product of the multiplying effect of Langham Scholar Dr Havilah.

Langham Scholar and Professor

Dr Havilah Dharamraj is a Langham Scholar and Old Testament Professor at a theological college in South Asia. Despite her gender and cultural upbringing, Dr Havilah has shaken off the traditional roles assigned to her and shown that as a Christian, her value is in Christ, not culture. As a result, she has taught and encouraged many others after her to take up the calling of Christian ministry.

Dr Havilah grew up in a family that attended church and Bible study, but her status as a woman still made it difficult for her to learn from the Bible.

“I think my love for the Bible started when I was about 10 years old, and I used to be taken to mid-week Bible studies in my church,” she shared.

After one of these studies, she put up her hand to ask a question and was later told by her father that she wasn’t permitted to ask questions in the future as women weren’t allowed to talk in church or ask questions.

Dr Havilah believes that theology can change culture and that education is so important to help facilitate this change.

“To be able to speak with authority, to have a PhD authorise you, it gives you the credentials you need to be able to speak into society and be heard. And with that, it’s possible for a trickle-down effect for empowering those who are in lower categories,” she says.

As a recipient of a Langham Scholarship to fund her PhD, Dr Havilah says that the scholarship was life-changing for her. She had Langham invest in her, and now she continues to invest in others. Others like Joshua! 

The influence and impact of Dr Havilah

Joshua shares that he believes it a privilege to have had Dr Havilah take an interest in him and his ministry. Due to her connections, Joshua’s entire PhD was funded, and he believes it’s because when people found out she was his mentor, they didn’t even question supporting him financially.

“Without Dr Havilah in my life, I think I would’ve done a couple of years in theological education, and left and gone back. I think I’m here doing what I love and enjoying teaching because I’ve seen her as a teacher. I think the biggest impact she’s had and influence is as a teacher, just seeing the way she teaches and what I’ve learned from her. I’m enjoying being a teacher because of what I’ve seen in Dr Havilah,” he shared.

Through their mentoring and training relationship, Joshua has come to share Dr Havilah’s belief that theology and an understanding of God’s word can change culture. 

One of the things that has struck Joshua is how the Bible shows that all people are created equally in the image of God. This is a far cry from the culture of social status and hierarchy that he’s used to in his country!

“We are all created in the image of God, irrespective of where we’re from. Then the Galatians 3:28 passage, there’s no more Jew, no more Gentile, no more male, female, no Greek, no rich, no poor,” he shared.

“We have to change how we see people; God tells us that we are all created in the image of God. We are not reaching out to the poor because we feel pity for them; we are doing that because they are equal in the eyes of God. God sees someone who’s sitting on the street, a beggar, just as he would see someone sitting in most cities in a car. They’re all equal before God. And so they deserve the same treatment and the same respect”, Joshua says, describing how theology changes culture in his context.

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