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A History of Christianity in Asia, vol. 1, Beginnings to 1500.

The editors of this journal chose A History of Christianity in Asia, volume 1, by Samuel Hugh Moffett, as one of the "Fifteen Outstanding Books of 1992 for Mission Studies." It is a monumental, pioneering work, representing the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship on the subject. The author was born of American missionary parents in Korea and was himself a Presbyterian missionary in China and Korea for most of his career until he became the Henry W. Luce Professor of Ecumenics and Mission at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he is now professor emeritus.

Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his seven-volume History of the Expansion of Christianity, focused on the missionaries and the very first national workers in the process of expansion. Moffett is concerned with that, but also with what expanded, how it expanded, and what happened after it expanded.

Moffett's project includes all of Christianity in all of Asia through all of history since the Great Commission was given "on a hill in Asia, at the far western edge of the continent" (p. 4). it is not generally recognized--especially in the West--that Jesus was an Asian, that the church began in Asia. The author reminds us that the Gospel reached China with missionaries from Persia as early as it reached Scotland with missionaries from Ireland. "The seed was the same," he says,--"The good news of Jesus Christ for the whole world.... But it was sown by different sowers; it was planted in different soil; it grew a different flavor; and it was gathered by different reapers .... It was a Christianity that has for centuries remained unashamedly Asian" (p. xiii).

As the author traces the waves of four empires--Greco-Roman, Iranian (Persian), Chinese, and Indian--certain themes dominate this first volume of A History of Christianity in Asia: internal controversy, external persecution, missionary expansion, and the growth and disappearance of Christian communities. Moffett's last two chapters are entitled "The Eclipse of Christianity in Asia" and "The Church in the Shadows." After fifteen centuries, he says, "the story of Christianity in Asia beyond the Euphrates nearly ends about where it began, in two small circles of survival .... one in the northern hills of eastern Syria, and the other in India ... all that is left of an Asian church that once spread across the continent from Mesopotamia to the Pacific" (p. 496). But volume 2, Moffett promises, will see Christianity in Asia "revived and renewed, emerge from the shadows and begin again to outpace the West in the growth of the church and in mission to the world" (p. 509).
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Author:Anderson, Gerald H.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:427
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