|Which Asia? Which Christianity? A Review of
Christianities in Asia
Reviewed by Jeff Romack
Is it “Asian Christianity” or “Asian Christianities?” This is the question posed at the very outset of this work. In the opening and introductory chapter the volume’s editor, Peter C. Phan, explains that either term is correct depending on one’s perspective. Since there are basic beliefs and recognizable practices associated with the Christian faith that are essential and common to virtually all Christian communities in Asia it is possible and, at times, appropriate to speak of “Asian Christianity.” At the same time, it must also be recognized that a vast array of historical and cultural factors has given rise to a great diversity of expression of those basic beliefs and practices among Christianity’s adherents on the Asian continent. For this reason it is also proper to speak of “Asian Christianities.” It is this latter perspective that is held in focus in this book.
Many North America Christians are aware at some level of the cultural diversity found in Asia that gives rise to diverse expressions of the Christian faith but not all are quick to accept the validity of those diverse expressions. Christianities in Asia; however, was not written to present the case for the validity of contextualized Christianity. This is simply assumed and then presented as it is found in each nation. This, it seems to me, is indicative that the book is not really intended for a popular audience. After all, as I pound out this review on the computer my spell checker reminds me that “Christianities” is a misspelled word or may not be a word at all! And, the Amazon.com ad for this book shows the cover of the paperback edition with the title, Christianity in Asia. What were they thinking? The case for contextualized Christianity is one that still needs to be made for most North American Christians even as they practice their own form of it.