Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Write-Up: The Future of Evangelical Theology

Amos Yong.  The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings from the Asian American Diaspora.  Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.  See here for IVP’s page about the book.

Amos Yong teaches theology and mission at Fuller Theological Seminary.  He was born in Malaysia, a Muslim-controlled country, and he is of Chinese descent.  His parents converted to Pentecostalism, and he grew up in that form of Christianity.  He is married to a woman of Mexican descent.

The Future of Evangelical Theology includes articles that Dr. Yong has written.  Essentially, the book is about how Pentecostalism and evangelicalism can address and interact with the globalization of evangelical Christianity, as evangelicalism ceases to be a primarily Western phenomenon.  Yong focuses primarily on Asian and Asian American evangelicalism, but he seems to believe that his insights can apply to evangelicalism’s interaction with other people-groups as well, and he discusses issues that are certainly pertinent to other people-groups.

Yong engages a variety of topics: How can Western evangelicalism and Pentecostalism address the globalization of evangelical Christianity, when their roots have not been particularly sensitive to cultural diversity?  Is it a problem that a number of Asian-American evangelicals gravitate towards Asian-American churches?  How should evangelical Christians address the issue of undocumented immigration and the economic exploitation of immigrants?  Is it appropriate to translate the Gospel into terms that make sense to Asians within their culture, without compromising the Gospel or resorting to syncretism?  (And, of course, Yong points out that Western white culture has its own understanding of Christianity, so it is not as if Western evangelicalism has some pure form of Christianity, whereas other forms are accommodations to culture.)  How should Asians who convert to evangelical Christianity deal with their own culture: should they discard parts of it?  In the course of his discussion, Yong educates the reader about the various manifestations and contexts of Asian evangelicalism.  Yong also talks about the problem of how many Americans regard Asian-Americans as a “model minority,” a stance that stigmatizes other minorities.

Yong’s proposals are all right—-they largely amounted to appreciating diversity, getting along, and standing up for justice.  What made the book good, in my opinion, was Yong’s discussions of the specifics of Asian evangelicalism.  Yong talked about how Asian evangelicalism looks different in different countries because it interacts with a variety of cultural features.  Yong offered reasons that certain Asians convert to evangelicalism: the aspects of their own culture that may draw them to an evangelical belief system.  Yong also referred to one Asian Christian belief that there is the possibility of salvation for one’s departed ancestors, which combined reverence for ancestors with a belief in Christ’s atonement.

Yong’s autobiographical narrative was also valuable, as was his honest discussion about his struggles as a Christian on the issue of money: he and his wife are part of the upper middle-class, and can that negatively impact his view of the poor or undermine his calling as a Christian?

Yong also refers to a number of other works, and those interested in this topic will most likely find them valuable.

My thanks for Intervarsity Press for sending me a complimentary review copy of this book.

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