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The Future of Evangelical Theology:…

The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings from the Asian American…

by Amos Yong

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My own theology and faith has been shaped by Asian-Americans. I half-grew up in Hawaii, so feel at home in an Asian culture, but I can also point to key Asian-American mentors who invested in my spiritual formation. They taught me the Bible, mentored me, prayed for me and helped me confront my own blind spots and white privilege. I was also blessed to have a number of Asian friends at seminary which challenged me to see theology from the margins, when the curriculum was largely a Western story. [My graduate school prided itself on being an international Christian graduate school and had a number of Asian students. But I can remember sitting at a table with a group of Asian American students who pointed to a large painting which only depicted Europe and North American. There is still more work to be done on including our Asian sisters and brothers!].

Amos Young is perhaps the preeminent Pentecostal theologian in America and is a Chinese-American (by way of Malaysia). He has taught theology at Regent University and currently professor of theology and the dircetor of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary. Yong begins The Futrue of Evangelical Theology: Soundings from the Asian American Diaspora by examining the effects of globalization and the shift of Christianity’s center to the South and East. He then looks at Asian theology and Asian-American theology (chapter two before honing in on the contribution of Asian American evangelicals (chapter three) and Pentecostals (chapter four). Chapter five and six explore Asian American Pentecostal/Evangelical contributions to im/migration and in the final chapter, Yong lays out some ‘next steps for Asian-Americans, Evangelicals and Christian theologians.

As the subtitle of this book indicates, this book records ‘soundings’ from the Asian-American diaspora and is not an exhaustive treatment on Asian theology (as if such a work were even possible). Yong is good at naming distinctives and trends in theology. As an Asian-American, Yong speaks of his own experience of immigration, generational tension, and navigating the tensions between East and West. Asian-Americans who read this book will be encouraged and inspired to reflect theologically on their experience (especially in his introduction and epilogue). He proposes ‘local theologies’ from an Asian American perspective.

But this book was not just written for Asian Americans. It was written for the Church (specifically the church in America, but this will be pertinent to Canadian friends as well). Yong focuses on the Asian-American experience because he knows that their theological reflection enriches the whole of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Specifically, Asian American theology helps the church reflect and converse well in the realm of culture, economics and inter-religious dialogue. Asian American theologians can inform our public theology and we are impoverished if we ignore their contributions. Yong writes:

Asian Americans who live betwixt-and-between Asia and the United States can bring more existential and interrelational resources to bear on the transnational and globaliing dynamics of the present time. (118).

While my own reading of Asian American theologies is limited (I’ve read some Yong and a couple of others that he cites), I think Yong illustrates well their contribution to the wider Evangelical discourse. Specifically, Asian American voices are ignored to our peril if we fail to wrestle with their perspectives on immigration and Jubilee. I highly recommend this book for anyone who cares about theology and race (and if you care about neither you ought to read it anyway). Asian American friends will appreciate Yong’s thoughtful survey and encouragement to let their cultural perspective inform their work. I give this book an enthusiastic five stars: ★★★★★

Thank you to InterVarsity Academic for providing me a copy of this book for the purposes of review. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Summary: An exploration of the contribution that has been made and could be made from Asian-Americans to evangelical theology, with particular attention to context and the author's Pentecostal perspective.

Euro-American voices have long dominated evangelical theology, such that some may consider the two synonymous. The landscape has changed. In addition to the presence of many people of color in the North American context contributing to the theological dialogue from their own context, there is a growing church in east and southeast Asia, as well as in the global South that now represent a numerical majority of evangelical Christians in the world, and are beginning to exercise a voice in theological discussions.

Amos Yong's book is a contribution from the Asian and Asian American perspective. Also distinctive, and important in global discussions of evangelical theology are the voices of Pentecostal believers, and Yong represents this stream as well. In fact he describes his own perspective as an Asian American pent-evangelical perspective!

His first two chapters chart the contemporary global scene of evangelical theology, including the voices of Asian theologians in chapter one, and those of the Asian American diaspora in chapter two. He then asks why the evangelical Asian American voice has been relatively "unenergetic" compared to mainline and Roman Catholic voices, considering both the white North American contribution to this problem, and how Asian American evangelicals have internalized this tradition. This is central to his argument in the book. He writes,

"The argument unfolded here is at the heart of this book: it claims to address not only challenges confronting Asian American evangelicals but also the blind spots of evangelical theology especially in its American incarnations. If it is successful, then we shall see that the 'problem' for Asian American evangelical theology is simultaneously the problem of evangelical theology itself--there is no way to address either without addressing the other" (pp. 29-30).

In chapter four, Yong turns to the Pentecostal voices in Asian American theology and the unique contribution that the Pentecostal experience brings to understanding the many voices in the conversation in a context where the missional impetus of the Spirit's empowering creates contact across so many cultures.

Chapters five and six were, I thought, among the most interesting in the book, in exploring what an Asian American pent-evangelical theology brings to questions of immigration, centering on themes of migration in a Pentacostal reading of Lukan migration narratives, and the experiences in the Asian American context around money, migration, and mission.

Chapter seven is Yong's attempt to sketch a programmatic vision for pent-evangelical Asian American theology that encourages Asian American voices in dialogue with other North Americans and also engages with other voices in the global South. This is followed by a more personal epilogue in which Yong charts with ten binaries ways in which he, perhaps mirroring the experience of "hybridity" of other Asian Americans, finds himself between _____ and _____.

Speaking from a Euro-American perspective, I welcome work like this. So often, we are unreflective of how our own cultural context (which we often fail to distinguish from the gospel of the kingdom) has shaped our theology, even our theological categories. I appreciated the more extensive sketch of an Asian American pent-evangelical theology of immigration. Our inability to think this way, and often blindness to how so much of the Bible is a narrative of migrations and diasporas, is one of the areas where our Asian American fellow believers might help us see parts of the Bible that our own context may have obscured. We need voices like Yong's, not only in the theological formation of the Asian American diaspora, but to see the world beyond our own, often Euro-American, perspective. I share his hope that his book would encourage other Asian American evangelical and Pentecostal theologians to find and use their voices. ( )
  BobonBooks | Feb 2, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0830840605, Paperback)

No longer does world Christianity converge in the Euro-American West―there has been a dramatic shift to the Global South, providing the occasion for a fresh consideration of the future of evangelical theology. Drawing on the day of Pentecost narrative, Amos Yong puts forward a bold proposal for a pentecostal-evangelical theology informed by the particular experiences and perspectives of Asian Americans. The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon all flesh means that the evangelical church has to attend to the multiplicity of voices and contexts that shape the global theological conversation. Evangelical theology, Yong argues, is necessarily contextual theology, though in a way that does not sacrifice the gospel’s universality. The Future of Evangelical Theology is a programmatic vision for theology that pays attention to the realities of gender, race, migration, economics, justice and politics. What emerges is a theology situated within a pentecostal Asian American context that bears on the future of the whole church.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 22 Jul 2015 02:52:24 -0400)

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