The Global Church is a fascinating topic. It is incredible how many expressions of Christian faith there are around the world. One would think that with all of the expressions of Christian faith that it would somehow weaken the faith. However, that is not the case. As we look at the world today and the expressions of faith and the subsequent theology they produce, one can clearly see the Christian church not just surviving but exploding, even in the most difficult and rocky places like China.
Context is essential to understanding the Bible. When it comes to living out a theology context is important too. Dr. Chan writes from the context of the Asian culture, the sustainable faith they practice and the theology that frames that faith expression. He divides his work into 6 chapters, five in which he speaks of Christian faith within the Asian context. These include theology proper, soteriology, Christology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology.
I think you all know by now that I am Pentecostal and so I am especially thrilled that Dr. Chan is a Pentecostal. Though he is Pentecostal his approach to the expression and understanding of Asian theology, the prism through which he filters his research is not singularly Pentecostal any more than it is singularly Asian. In fact, he draws from both Catholic and Orthodox sources as well as others. Chan states: “Any authentic theology must be developed in light of the larger Christian tradition. The appeal to Christian tradition is not simply a matter of preference but essential to our theological quest.  This use of traditional sources gives strength to Chan’s exploration of Asian theology that would otherwise be missing if it was purely a Pentecostal theology. For example, a Pentecostal theological expression of experience would state that experience is important to a life of faith. However, experience alone does not make up the whole of the Christian experience, be it Pentecostal or Orthodox. Please note that I used the word “experience” four times. That is my Pentecostal framework showing. Of course, there is no problem with a purely Pentecostal theology but to rely only on that prism through which to view a developing theology may not adequately express the complete picture of theological development.
In the context of the choice of theological underpinnings, Chan quotes, “Liberation theology opted for the poor and the poor opted for Pentecostalism.”  In this statement Chan seems to be confirming that though other theological choices were available, the people chose Pentecostalism. Both liberation theology and Pentecostal theology have a power component. One is focused on the power of the people, the other on the power of the Holy Spirit. I find it intriguing that an Asia theology found it’s expression, not in the collective power of the people, but the higher power of the Holy Spirit. This is again my Pentecostal theology speaking.
I am challenged by some of the theology. An underlying theme of Asian theology is the family. Even the Trinity can be understood as a divine family.  Succinctly stated, sin brings dishonor to the divine family. Christ takes on the dishonor and shame and brings honor to the family. This seems to be a sound contextualization and is an example of thinking faith from the ground up. But can it go to far? For instance, what part does ancestrial worship play in the Christian journey?
The time of an emerging theology is always exciting. Though in the contextualization process challenges arise, the real impact is felt in the addition of the voices to the greater song of Christian faith expression around the world. The emerging Asian theology is no exception and is a welcome voice in the Christian world and, if I may selfishly say, in the Pentecostal world as well.
- Simon Chan, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014, 7.
- Ibid., 27.
- Ibid., 42.