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Bridging the Bible and Buddhist Worldviews

29 June 2023

The Bible is the inerrant Word of God and speaks to every worldview that exists.


“There are always things we can find in God’s Word that meet people where they are right now,” said Andrew Haas, the adaptation coordinator for TWR MOTION.


Over the last several months, the TWR MOTION team, in partnership with Antioch Ministries International (AMI), has been looking at Bible stories from the lens of a Buddhist worldview. Their goal is to develop a 20-episode animated video series to share the gospel with people coming from a Buddhist background.


TWR MOTION is a video ministry of TWR that creates compelling videos to inspire people of all cultures to follow Jesus.


The team previously created an animated Bible series to share the Gospel with people coming from a Muslim worldview. The series, called Share the Story, has been used throughout the Middle East and North Africa by church-planting teams as part of their digital outreach. Share the Story starts with the shared history of the prophets that both Muslims and Christians believe in, showing how the Old Testament stories point people ultimately to Jesus.


The AMI team saw Share the Story and requested MOTION create something similar for Thai people, who are mostly Buddhists.


Josh Terndrup, the leader of the AMI team in Thailand, wrote to MOTION in September 2020 saying, “I think the [Share the Story] artwork would be received well, but the music and particular stories would be less effective in our case. Because there is no shared Abrahamic history in the Thai worldview, a lot of the Old Testament stories can be confusing to a Thai Buddhist.”


He said Thais are looking for a spirit powerful enough to protect them from bad karma, evil spirits and the suffering of this life. While Old Testament stories are brought in during discipleship, the team starts by sharing stories of Jesus.


Understanding Their Worldview


Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand and in much of Southeast Asia. One of the root beliefs is that suffering comes from desire –– whether the desire is good or bad. So, the ultimate question is how a person gets rid of suffering and desire. The answer from Buddhism is through self-denial. 

One of the challenges people of this worldview experience is feeling stuck with their “lot in life.” Karma –– or fate based on previous actions –– from a past life has caused this misfortune and there is no escape.


“Life is a cycle,” said Clinton Garsee, a member of the AMI team who has lived in Thailand with his family for more than 20 years. “You keep going through that cycle until you come to the end of yourself.”


Buddhists follow an eightfold path with the goal of reaching nirvana, a state in which there is no suffering or sense of self.


The AMI team wants the Thai people to know and experience the hope of everlasting life in Christ.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team had to adjust its approach. They turned to Facebook and the internet to continue to share the truth of the gospel while the country was shut down.


And that’s when they began looking for videos they could share.


“We are hoping to create easily consumed video sets of the stories of Jesus to serve as a digital discipleship and evangelism tool,” Josh wrote in his request to MOTION. “In Thailand, the gospel is advancing everywhere it is being proclaimed, but there is no church presence in about 82% to 88% of Thai districts.”


A Challenging and Lengthy Creative Process


Candace Mackie, the director of MOTION, began working with Terndrup and his team to see what it would look like to develop a new series of animated Bible stories with the Buddhist worldview in mind.


That was about a year and a half ago. Since then, the AMI team has been working to choose and develop the Thai stories while the MOTION team has raised funds and helped shape those stories into scripts for video.


“It’s been more work than I expected,” said Carlos Guerra, who led the story development for the AMI team. “I thought it was going to take like three weeks. Like, yeah, just type up some stories. But it’s turned out to be longer and more beautiful than I would have guessed.”


The Bible stories are the foundation of the entire video series.


“I think it’s essential in any video series that you have really solid scripts,” said Mackie. “And so it’s worth the time and effort to get them right.”

Both teams want these videos to show Thais and other people who come from a Buddhist worldview that Jesus makes a way for them to escape ultimate suffering, which is death. They are choosing Bible stories that speak to their worldview.


“We’re looking for those places where the distance between the Buddhist worldview and the Christian worldview are closest,” Guerra said.


The MOTION team travelled to Thailand in January to meet with AMI and finalize the stories as well as conduct research for the visual style.


MOTION estimates that it will take about two years to complete all 20 videos. While they are starting with the Thai language, the goal is to launch with four other languages as well.


“Everybody involved in this project is hungry to see something beautiful come to life that really blesses not just Thailand but the nations of Southeast Asia,” Guerra said.


Images: (top, right) A woman lights incense at a Buddhist temple in Thailand, (middle, left) Members of Antioch Ministries International, Wycliffe and MOTION discuss the Bible stories that will be used for the animation series, (bottom) Concept art for the animated Bible series. This is an initial sketch. The style could change.  

[ Images by TWR MOTION ]