Christianity with an Asian Face: Asian-American Theology in the Making

Article excerpt

Christianity with an Asian Face: Asian-American Theology in the Making. By Peter C. Phan. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2003. xvii + 253 pp. $30.00 (paper).

In this thoughtful book, Phan collects three instructive essays on theological methods under "Part 1: Liberation and Theology," and eight on Asian proposals for Christology and ecclesiology under "Part 2: Inculturation." These essays reflect his views on the making and promises of Asian-American theology.

Phan's contribution is noteworthy in three areas. First, as an Asian theologian, his sympathetic and critical analysis of Aloysius Pieris of Sri Lanka, Jung Young Lee of South Korea, and C. S. Song of Taiwan (chaps. 4, 5, 7) provides a perceptive peer review on the accomplishments and shortcomings of Asian theologies. His solidarity with Latin American liberation theologians and Asian feminist theologians (chap. 2) betrays his deep concern for the reality of life, especially the suffering of the poor and the oppression of women. His discussion of local catechisms in Vietnam and in the Philippines (chap. 10) completes a valuable survey of the major efforts to translate and relate Christian faith to the life of Asian peoples.

Second, coming from Vietnam, Phan's construction for Christology (chap. 6) and a Vietnamese American theology (chap. 11) are distinctively contextual and yet paradigmatic for any cross-cultural theologizing enterprise. His view of Jesus as an "eldest son" is born out of a cultural reflection on the traditional veneration of ancestors in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, and it illustrates the "inculturation" approach that seeks to marry Christian gospel to the Confucian culture popular among many Asian countries (see also chap. 3). His discussion of Vietnamese American theology draws on the Vietnamese immigrants' experience of living "betwixt and between" in their adopted country, and it shows how the process of "interculturation," though painful, can enrich and transform both home and host cultures to create a new one that goes "beyond" both (see also chap. …