by K.K. Yeo
Upon entering the host country, virtually every missionary finds him or herself in a social and historical context that is unfamiliar. How are we to understand the context into which we have come?
Brazos Press of Baker Book House, Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 2002, 302 pages, $29.99.
— Reviewed by Mark Strand, graduate student, University of Colorado, Denver, Colo.
Upon entering the host country, virtually every missionary finds him or herself in a social and historical context that is unfamiliar. How are we to understand the context into which we have come? Some people choose to ignore it, while others consider it a threat to the reception of the gospel and attack it. Still others seek to understand it and engage it as a part of the process of the local people receiving the gospel. K.K. Yeo would be an advocate of the latter approach.
Yeo, a Malaysian Chinese, sets out to interpret communist China through the lens of Paul’s Thessalonian letters. Yeo claims the goal of this book is “to research the eschatological worldview of Chinese communism and Chinese Christianity”(p. 161).
Using a sociological approach, Yeo attempts to compare Paul’s kindness toward the Thessalonian believers to Mao’s concern for the masses. However, Yeo then has to explain how this hopeful communism crashed on the shores of Mao’s lust for power. This Yeo explains by looking at Mao as a type of antichrist as introduced in 2 Thessalonians 2, arguing, “The problem of Marxism is its form as a ‘religion’ without the content of the eschatologi-cal God” (p. 100). The transition from Mao as a Paul-like benefactor to Mao the tyrant is not strong. Also, Yeo’s argument would benefit from more consideration of Chinese Christian’s experiences under Mao.
I think Yeo’s What Has Jerusalem to Do with Beijing? (Trinity Press, 1998) worked better than Mao Meets Paul. In the former Yeo moved from sound biblical interpretation toward its meaning for China. In the latter he moves from Chinese history, sociology and political history toward the biblical interpretations of Paul. As Yeo moves through complex historical events in China and their theological interpretation it is, at times, difficult to grasp their connection. This book requires a grasp of Chinese history and biblical theology.
As a case for the Bible as the interpretive lens of history and Jesus Christ as the Lord of all history, this book is excellent. Yeo poses the question, “Can the metanarrative of Christianity be the universal redemptive history for all nations? And how can it be so without being imperialistic?” (p. 171). I hope more missiologists and missionaries would learn from Yeo and seek to understand history and culture from a theological basis.
Check these titles:
Covell, R. R. 1986. Confucius, the Buddha, and Christ: A History of the Gospel in Chinese. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.
Uhalley, S. J. and X. Wu, eds. 2001. China and Christianity: Burdened Past, Hopeful Future. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Yamamori, T. and K.K. Chan. 2000. Witnesses to Power: Stories of God’s Quiet Work in a Changing China. Waynesboro, Ga.: Paternoster Press.
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