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Indigenous Asian Expressions of Christian Faith
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Hwa Yung
Mangoes or Bananas:  The Quest for an Authentic Asian Christian Theology
(Oxford, England and Irvine, California:  Regnum Books International, 1997.  266p.)

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This volume is an excellent critical and constructive analysis of aspects of Asian cultural worldview and society.  Yung discusses how various historical and modern writers or movements have attempted to address these factors to produce an authentic indigenous expression of Christian thought.

Four Criteria
Hwa Yung evaluates each on the basis of four criteria he develops to determine the cultural adequacy and appropriateness of a theology.  He has provided an extensive bibliography of sources on Asian Christian Theology, Anthropology, Sociology and related topics on Asian Culture and Thought.

I have met several of the authors he cites. He interacts well with other analysts and theorists.  The writer expresses himself easily and fluently in terms and standards of high academics, yet his language is engaging and exciting.

The author uses vivid word pictures and life examples to bring alive the concept of the differences and conflicts of worldviews between the traditional expressions of Christian faith in its Western (specifically western European) setting and the new, dynamic mission settings of Asia.

I could well affirm his analyses and recommended approaches, as he affirms the need and efforts to develop an indigenous expression of Christian thought and doctrine in terms of the contexts of the native Asian worldviews.  I related strongly with his efforts from my own 25 years in East African church work, plus work in other cross-cultural settings of the world.

Cross-Cultural Insights
While I do not necessarily agree with all the approaches or conclusions Yung has drawn, he certainly has shown a thorough awareness of the actual practices and has investigated the results.  From his own cultural background, he has a cultural advantage of an insider's insights to Asian culture.

Eager western mission workers can learn from him the validity of an alternative worldview and see other possibilities for an expression of Christian faith that they themselves have not experienced.  If a cross-cultural worker will be a learner, communication can occur.  The internal dynamics of the culture will serve as valid parameters and channels for the valid expression of Christian faith.

Arising from Within
The guest worker in an Asian culture can savour the thrilling experience of seeing how Asian believers make the Good News their own in an Asian way.  The dynamic, vital faith community that develops may look quite different from what the foreigner knows from their home culture.  The result will be worth the stress the task-oriented westerner will likely suffer while holding back from making all the decisions and dominating all the forms.

Mutual discovery offers a much greater reward than a foreign control over the new faith community!  Yung's insights, analysis and practical suggestions can be a great resource.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Migration, Ethnicity and Economics
[review] South African Spirituality
[review] Sympathetic Insights towards Traditional Worldviews
[review] Worldview, Ethnicity and Social Dynamics in African Politics
[review] Worldview in the Disciplines

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First reading notes written 30 January 2005
Review written on Amazon 9 June 2005
Expanded and finalized 18 December 2007
Posted on OJ Thoughts and Resources 19 December 2007
Last edited on Amazon and OJTR 6 March 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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