by David Lim and Steve Spaulding, editors
A collection of nine essays, coming out of the 4th SEANET forum held in Thailand in March 2002.
William Carey Library, P.O. Box 40129, Pasadena, CA 91104, 2003.
—Reviewed by Hugh P. Kemp, dean of studies, Manawatu Regional Centre of the Bible College of New Zealand, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Sharing Jesus in the Buddhist World is a welcome addition to a slowly growing body of literature on mission to Buddhists.
It is a collection of nine essays, coming out of the 4th SEANET forum held in Thailand in March 2002. This forum is a network of evangelical theologians, practitioners and strategists “concerned with developing biblical and effective ways to evangelize in the Buddhist world.” The editors’ aim is to “bring together a set of well-researched works that help the global church reach the peoples in the Buddhist megasphere for Christ” (vii). This, in the main, has been achieved.
The book’s contributors come from a variety of backgrounds: academics and practitioners, Western and Asian, male and female. Each essay has been well edited and each has a comprehensive bibliography.
After a “situationer” essay by David Burnett, four papers follow on theological issues, mainly around contextualization and incarnational theory. These are followed by two case studies from Thailand, then two further essays on socio-political ramifications of mission among Lao and Japanese. A call for prioritizing incarnational approaches is strong throughout, both from theory and from field-tested examples. In this the authors are not afraid to challenge the status quo; indeed if missions are to gain any success among Buddhists, then it is imperative that culturally-bound Western missional models be thrown out, or at least radically adapted. Hence this collection of essays has a prophetic edge with a challenge that should be heard by as wide an audience as possible.
The publication of this book indicates that the SEANET forum is gaining momentum. Although this first book leans towards Theravadan expressions of Buddhism, and also Asian-located incarnational challenges, the editors note that a wider selection of theological issues and methodological models will be included in subsequent publications. This is good news as regrettably there are only too few published titles on mission to Buddhists. Buddhism is no longer merely located “over there,” but is fast moving in next door to you; it has gained huge in-roads into the West (and Africa and South America!) in the last twenty years through both explicit and implicit means. Buddhism is now a global phenomenon, and the Church ignores it at its peril.
If as a church we are to get serious about mission to Buddhists, then we need to read this book (and subsequent publications from the SEANET forum) and start putting into practice the things it recommends.
Check these titles
Burnett, David. 1996. The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought. Crowborough, UK: Monarch Publications.
Tsering, Marku.1988. Sharing Christ in the Tibetan Buddhist World. 2 ed. Upper Darby, Penn.: Tibet Press.
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