Soundings from the Asian Diaspora: a book review

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.

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