Kosuke Koyama: Water Buffalo Theologian
Kosuke Koyama (1929-2009) was a Japanese Christian theologian who is best known for his book Water Buffalo Theology, which was first published in 1974. In this book, Koyama presents a contextual theology that is rooted in his experiences of living and working among the peasants in Thailand and other parts of Asia. He challenges the Western theological assumptions and categories that are often imposed on the Asian context, and proposes a theology that is relevant, creative, and dialogical.
Koyama's theology is based on the concept of incarnation, which he understands as God's love becoming flesh in a particular time and place. He argues that God's love is not abstract or universal, but concrete and specific. He uses the image of the water buffalo, a common animal in rural Asia, to illustrate his point. He writes:
"The water buffalo is a theological animal. It is an animal which works hard for human beings. It does not complain about its lot. It does not rebel against human beings. It serves them faithfully. It suffers with them and for them. It dies for them. It is an animal which knows how to live with human beings in mutual love. It is an animal which knows how to die with human beings in mutual love."
For Koyama, the water buffalo represents the humble and obedient nature of Jesus Christ, who came to serve and suffer with humanity. He contrasts this with the image of the dragon, which symbolizes the pride and power of human sinfulness. He criticizes the Western theology that often glorifies the dragon and neglects the water buffalo. He calls for a theology that is faithful to the water buffalo, that is, a theology that respects the dignity and wisdom of the poor and oppressed people, and that engages in dialogue with other religions and cultures.
Koyama's Water Buffalo Theology has been widely acclaimed as a pioneering work of Asian Christian theology. It has also been revised and expanded by the author in 1999, reflecting his further insights and experiences. The book is available for free download from various sources online . It is a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about Koyama's life and thought, and about the challenges and opportunities of doing theology in Asia.