Waterbuffalo Theology is a hilarious, lucid, and insightful read. Yet, let not the ‘silly’ title nor even some of the silly drawings fool you of this work’s gravitas. This was a landmark work of its time (1971)–when the modern West had an even firmer grip on theology.
Kosuke Koyama, one of the foremost and productive theologians from Japan, was trained at Princeton and ministered in northern Thailand–near the waterbuffalos. In his introduction, he asks himself whether Aquinas, Luther, or Barth will prove to be a more valuable resource to communicate Biblical truth to Thais than waterbuffalos, cock fighting, rainy season, or sticky-rice. Koyama opts for the latter. The end product, therefore, is original. He asks questions that are not typically asked. He uses illustrations that are not normally alluded to. And, he writes for readers that are often ignored–northern Thais (note, I’m sure he is not writing to northern Thais since it is in English, but he certainly advocates for them by writing like them). He stakes his theology in northern Thailand–he makes his landmark there. Theology, for Koyama, is not ‘pie in the sky’: abstract. It is in erets (Hebrew for ‘land’) from erets: from the ground up.