by David Lim and Steve Spaulding, eds.
Intentional mission activity has been done among Buddhists since Xavier in the sixteenth century. Yet little fruit have come from these efforts.
William Carey Library, P.O. Box 40129, Pasadena, CA 91114, 2005, 372 pages, $15.99.
—Reviewed by Donald C. Grigorenko, assistant professor of Bible and Mission at Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio.
Intentional mission activity has been done among Buddhists since Xavier in the sixteenth century. Yet little fruit have come from these efforts. Currently the evangelical effort among Buddhists is also slow and difficult. This collection of essays offers an explanation of why the effort is so arduous and offers proposals on how evangelicals can move forward.
Holistic mission includes five areas: experiential, intellectual, biblical, cultural and economic. Holistic ministry is often assumed to be primarily concerned with an upgrade of the standard of living (often understood in terms of Western consumerism), so the different viewpoints in this book are refreshing. Bringing the gospel to bear on “underlying belief systems at their deepest level” (14) is the thread which runs through the book. John Davis says in his essay, “The battle for the Buddhist is in his mind—his understanding and worldview. Instead of presenting the ‘good news’ as reasonable, we apply all sorts of other methodologies, hatched in the West” (63). Mission among Buddhists must address the Buddhist worldview and its contrast with a biblical worldview; these essays offer constructive suggestions for doing just that.
In the first chapter, Alex Smith writes of the discrepancies found in evangelical and other literature which present statistics on the extent of the Buddhist world. Smith says nearly one billion people fall into either the folk Buddhist or Buddhist umbrella.
Russell Bowers addresses the issue of dialogue supplanting evangelism in his article, “The Value and Limits to Dialogue.” Borrowing from McGrath, Bowers defines dialogue as “an attempt on the part of people with different beliefs to gain a better understanding of each other” (84). He states that the first value and goal of dialogue is truth—both in the missionary’s understanding of the Buddhist and the Buddhist’s understanding of the gospel. Trying to persuade the other of the truth of one’s own position should not be ruled out.
Two essays address specific forms of Buddhism: Smith writes on the transfer of merit in folk Buddhism and Johannes Aagaard Tantric writes on occultism. Three articles present ways of contextualizing ministry among Buddhists: Mark Doniney identifies the mission potential among Japanese women who have had abortions; Michal Solmon Vasanthakumar compares Ecclesiastes and the Four Noble Truths and suggests how this comparison may lead the Buddhist to acknowledge the need for divine help; and Alan Johnson provides a contextualized presentation of the gospel in Thai society. James W. Gustafson deals with economic development by discussing the influence of the church in northeast Thailand. The bibliography is also a valuable resource.
One weakness is that many of the articles lack in-depth discussion by only touching upon major issues. Some of the essays would have benefited from a narrower focus. Overall, however, this book is a welcome addition to mission discussions concerning the Buddhist world.
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