by Donald M. Lewis, editor
Young New Yorkers greet each other with a hearty
“Whassup?”—which translated means “What’s happening in the world around you?” In Christianity Reborn, Donald Lewis has brought together an international cadre of scholars who seek to answer this question with respect to evangelical missions at the end of the twentieth century.
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 255 Jefferson Ave., S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 2004, 324 pages, $40.00.
—Reviewed by Larry Poston, professor of religion, Nyack College, Nyack, New York.
Young New Yorkers greet each other with a hearty “Whassup?”—which translated means “What’s happening in the world around you?” In Christianity Reborn, Donald Lewis has brought together an international cadre of scholars who seek to answer this question with respect to evangelical missions at the end of the twentieth century.
The book is divided into five sections. The first and last deal with historical perspectives of a more general nature, and the middle three cover missiological issues in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The primary usefulness of this book is in the regional studies. Philip Leung’s examination of “The Christian Experience in China from 1949-99” includes an insightful distinction between “the politically indifferent majority of Christians” (“Marys”), and those who advocate social and political reform (“Marthas”). Robert Frykenberg writes an in-depth examination of the phenomenon of hindutva—fundamentalist Hinduism—in India. Allan Davidson discusses the effects of globalization on the South Pacific. All three chapters provide helpful insights into some of the primary challenges faced by missionaries in Asia.
Jehu Hanciles’ “Review of the ‘Unfinished Task’ in West Africa” makes use of Lewis Rambo’s paradigm of conversion types and speaks of both a “third way” and a “third wave” of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa. Marthinus Daneel’s categorization and evaluation of African Independent Churches make the reader aware of the awesome challenge—as well as promise—remaining today in what was once called the “Dark Continent.”
Paul Freston single-handedly tackles Latin American Pentecostalism in an expansive chapter that is full of surprises—including his claims that “in many countries, Pentecostalism is largely a rural phenomenon” (241), that it “does not have the classic Protestant work ethic” (266) and that it is essentially “an ensemble of new non-Catholic movements, bricolage religions and substitutionary Catholicisms” (263).
While not as strong overall, the chapters dealing with macro-historical perspectives do offer some insights. Brian Stanley’s essay on “Twentieth-Century World Christianity,” for instance, takes up the touchy subject of colonialism. Even in this day of political correctness, the author is honest enough to admit that, although we currently hasten to apologize for past sins, the truth is that the Christian world mission would never have come as far as it has were it not for Western imperialism. While the implications of this claim are unsettling, Stanley’s candor is refreshing and provides the kind of stimulation that makes this book a worthwhile read.
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