Book Notice: Simon Chan on Asian Theology

Book Notice: Simon Chan on Asian Theology October 20, 2014

Simon Chan
Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up
Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014.

Available at

I have to say that this is easily one of the best books that I’ve read this year. I was initially just gonna have a basic perusal through this book, however, after the first chapter I was hooked! If you are into Systematics, mission, Pentecostalism, or global theology, then you will enjoy this book.  Simon Chan (Trinity College, Singapore) does a great job of exploring what Christian theology looks like in Asian contexts, including the challenges and resources that it brings to the task.

Chan really takes a lot of elitest Asian theology to the woodshed as too influenced by western liberalism. I love his citation of Donald Miller that Liberation theologians opted for the poor, but the poor opted to be Pentecostal instead! This book has one of the best critiques of social gospel theology that I’ve ever read on the coat tails of Barth and Hauerwas (p. 39). There is so much I could highlight and reflect on. Chan shows how Christians have engaged differently with Islam, religious syncretism, and ancestor veneration. He draws attention to Chinese, Japanese, and Indian theologians most of us have never heard about. He discusses Catholic statements of faith from the perspective of Asian bishops, sin in an honour-shame culture, the Trinity in a family oriented culture, how Asian theology has a better appreciation of the priestly work of Christ, and the church as the answer to the problems of this world. Fantastic stuff.

I have to say that my favourite segment of the book was about the Holy Spirit. Chan writes:

The way in which evangelicals distinguish themselves from Catholicism might explain why evangelicals lack a robust understanding of the Spirit’s proprium. Like their Protestant forebears, evangelicals tend to define themselves against they they perceive to be abuses in Catholicism. This defining-against becomes one of the hallmarks of evangelical self-identity: ‘Protestants broke with the scholasticism of Catholic theology, the hierarchy fo Catholic ecclesiology, the mechanics of late medieval spirituality, and the basic structure of late medieval Catholic  ascetic and mystical consciousness.’ [Evan Howard]. The things that evangelicals are opposed to in Catholicism -scholasticism, hierarchy, a too-mechanical way of cultivating the Christian life, and mysticism – at first appear quite unconnected to each other, but on closer examination, they are built on the Catholic (and, we may add, Orthodox) theology that understands the union between the Trinity and the church in ontological terms” (p.  147).

One of the best books of the year.


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