by Enoch Wan, ed.
This book is a compendium of the papers presented at the 2002 EMS/IFMA annual conference. The theme of the conference was “Encountering World Religions.”
EMS Series No. 11, William Carey Library, P.O.Box 40129, Pasadena, CA 91114, 2004, 273 pages, $14.99.
—Reviewed by Mike McDowell, mission pastor, Christ Community Church, Zion, Illinois; adjunct faculty, Moody Graduate School, Chicago, Illinois and Asian Theological Seminary, Manila, Philippines.
In the relatively safe context of a graduate school classroom a question arose which plagued me for a long time: “If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?” The problem is that there is not just a single question nor is there a single context to consider when framing the multiple types of questions for which Jesus truly is the answer. Christian Witness in Pluralistic Contexts is an excellent resource for helping to frame the questions asked in our pluralistic societies.
This book is a compendium of the papers presented at the 2002 EMS/IFMA annual conference. The theme of the conference was “Encountering World Religions.” As editor Enoch Wan aptly points out, the theme seemed reactionary and passive, however, the papers are proactive and positive. None of the writers in this compendium purport to offer the Christian response to Islam (Woodberry, Tennent), Hinduism (Hiebert, Mathai), Buddhism (Smith, Cate), African Traditional Religion (Tiénou), Folk Religion (Van Rheenen), Chinese Folk Religion (Wan) or New Religious Movements (Stalnaker, Morehead). The authors themselves are in the process of formulating the questions to which Jesus is ultimately the answer. What they do offer is practical, scholarly, theological reflection born from years of ministry in context.
Christian Witness in Pluralistic Contexts rewards the reader with a look at the most important issues facing Christians who take the lead in evangelizing practitioners of the major world religions and the syncretistic expressions of those religions. Paul Hiebert put it this way in the foreword: “It is the testimonies of the pilgrimages of those who seek to present Christ to the world as indeed Good News—as Lord and Savior in whom the hopes and fears of all the world are answered.” This is not, however, a “how to” book. In fact, some of the contributors raise more questions than they answer in presenting the missiological implications of their research. Only Hiebert’s presentation of Hinduism and Alex Smith’s reflections on Buddhism were rebutted by response papers. It might have been impractical at the EMS/IFMA conference to include responses to all the papers, but it would have been a welcome addition to this compendium of papers.
The conference deserves credit for giving attention not just to Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism but also to deviant expressions of Christianity and to various folk religions. I was disappointed, however, that with all the attention given in the book to New Religious Movements (NRM), there is not even one mention of the Zionist Movement in Southern and East Africa—perhaps the largest NRM in the world.
If you were unable to attend the 2002 EMS/IFMA conferences this book is well worth adding to your library. If you were there, then you already know the value of this compendium of papers.
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