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Global Renewal Christianity: Asia and Oceania

Vinson Synan and Amos Yong, eds., Global Renewal Christianity: Spirit-Empowered Movements—Past, Present, and Future, Volume 1: Asia and Oceania (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2016), 544 pages, ISBN 9781629986883.

The current volume under review is a collection of twenty-one essays written by scholars from a variety of academic and geographical backgrounds; moreover, it is the result of papers presented at several Empowered21 conferences held between 2011 and 2015. Herein, the editors have used the phrase Renewal Christianity to include focus upon Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Neo-Pentecostal groups, and each essay discusses the emergence and spread of Renewal Christianity throughout parts of Asia and Oceania. Most of these essays also address contemporary issues that confront the continued success of the movement in this geographical area. The first chapter, by Amos Yong, provides an informative overview of Renewal Christianity in Asia and Oceania, and the concluding chapter, by Simon Chan, offers a provocative projection of its future in the aforementioned region. The text is divided into five sections: South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Roman Catholicism and Other Theological Themes. I do not have the space to summarize every essay, but I will highlight a few that I found to be quite interesting.

First, in “Pentecostalism in Sri Lanka,” G.P.V. Somaratna summarizes shifts in leadership trends among Sri Lankan Pentecostals. In the early days of the movement, leadership was primarily controlled by Western missionaries, but after the 1960s locals took on leadership roles and were able to contextualize Pentecostalism within the local culture. This resulted in an expansion of the movement. Yet its growth has generated opposition from Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, and Islamic groups who were concerned about losing adherents. Pentecostals, consequently, have faced widespread persecution and marginalization, including the passing of anti-Pentecostal laws. Somaratna argues that Pentecostalism has been integral in halting the eradication of Christianity within Sri Lanka but its future is tenable in light of this oppression.

Robert Menzies’s essay “Pentecostals in China” discusses the rise of Pentecostalism as the dominant form of Protestant Christianity among the Chinese. In fact, projections show that by 2020 no country will have more evangelical Christians than China (69). Menzies ascribes the success of Pentecostalism to its embrace of house churches, healings, exorcisms, and prophecies. Many Chinese feel a connection to the early Church found in Acts because they share similar experiences, especially persecution. Menzies provides an overview of the history of Pentecostalism in China, paying particular attention to the variety of denominations. He projects that the movement has a strong future, but the sustainability of such growth may depend upon its ability to reach urban populations.

Finally, James Hosack and Alan R. Johnson argue that while Charismatic Christianity has experienced radical growth in Thailand, the same cannot be said for Pentecostalism. It has not undergone any significant differences in comparison to non-Pentecostal groups. In “Pentecostalism in Thailand,” these authors suggest that a “diluting” of Pentecostal distinctives may occur in Thailand due to a lack of Pentecostal-based education and a dearth of native Pentecostal writings. Hosack and Johnson propose that Pentecostal writers need to be developed who can address local and contextual issues in Thailand.

This collection of essays is teeming with an overview of history and theology from Asia and Oceania Renewal Christianity. It promises to be a valuable resource for both scholars and lay people interested in global Christianity. The essays are quite readable, making them accessible to individuals of varying degrees of education, and they seem to have been written with the purpose of reaching a broader audience. However, the advanced scholar should not underestimate the worth of its contents. I, for example, learned an abundance of information, and I foresee using these essays as a reference tool for future work. It also emphasizes the need to highlight and embrace non-Western perspectives. This is the first of a four volume series, and each volume is geographically themed. The other volumes cover Latin America, Europe and North America, and Africa. I intend to add all of them to my personal library.

Reviewed by David Bradnick

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Category: Fall 2017, Ministry

About the Author: David Bradnick, Ph.D. Theological Studies (Regent University School of Divinity), is an instructor in the philosophy department at Stevenson University and York College of Pennsylvania. His dissertation is titled "Loosing and Binding the Spirits: An Emergentist Theology of the Demonic" (2015).

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