The Future of Evangelical Theology, Amos Yong. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.
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.