by Paul H. de Neui, ed.
William Carey Library, 2016
—Reviewed by Amos Yong, professor of theology & mission, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary
This is not a book on territorial spirits and not particularly focused on spiritual warfare (in fact, the first chapter urges that the warfare imagery is not the most biblical for missiological purposes). Seeking the Unseen, however, is especially helpful in illuminating the spiritual realities related to, presumed behind, or implicated in, Buddhist practices (e.g., ancestor veneration, rituals of blessing or destruction, and almsgiving ceremonies).
The essays in this book are right to correlate these religious rites to the “unseen” world, even if the point should also be made that whatever the ontological nature and status of the spirits ‘behind’ or ‘above’ these Buddhist performances, they are potent in shaping the perceptions, behaviors, and expectations of devotees and followers.
Intriguingly, along with the lead chapter’s call for “moving beyond warfare” (its main title), Chapter 12 also argues that signs and wonders are “necessary but not sufficient” (the chapter’s subtitle). The Pentecostal author of the latter grants that conversions to Christ sometimes (if not often) follow these charismatic manifestations, but then cautions about the need for biblical discipleship. Otherwise, a religious pragmatism will lead seekers away from a Christian faith commitment if their needs are not met in an ongoing way.
These tempered sensibilities regarding what in some circles might be considered as robustly spiritual mission paradigms sets in relief the middle chapter of the book which describes how processes of modernization are facilitating embrace of a more scientifically-oriented worldview. Yet if ancient indigenous cosmologies are being displaced, this could mean only that our understanding of spiritual realities also will be revised, not eliminated.
This is actually the twelfth and most recent in an almost annual series of books published by the South East Asia Network (SEANET) of missiologists, which meets every January in Thailand. The network’s geographic region provides the focus for the series themes, and missiological engagements with Buddhist traditions are dominant, not only in the volume under review but also throughout the series.
Readers familiar with the prior publications will find consistent recommendations for mission practices. The focus on the spiritual dimensions of Buddhist religiosity, however, prompts questions from a fresh angle, one that will also be meaningful for mission practitioners in other parts of the Majority World who are grappling with pluralistic cosmologies prevalent in these domains.
Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti, Kirsteen Kim, and Amos Yong, eds. 2013. Interdisciplinary and Religio-Cultural Discourses on a Spirit-Filled World: Loosing the Spirits. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kraft, Marguerite G. 1995. Understanding Spiritual Power: A Forgotten Dimension of Cross-Cultural Mission and Ministry. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.
Ma, Julie C. 2001. When the Spirit Meets the Spirits: Pentecostal Ministry among the Kankana-ey Tribe in the Philippines. New York: Peter Lang.
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