This is my review of a unique Asian church history, as it was just published in Evangelical Review of Theology:

Kirchengeschichte Asiens (Asian Church History)
Klaus Wetzel
Nuremberg (Germany), VTR, 2010
ISBN 978-3-941750-25-8
Original edition 1995, revised edition 2010
paperback, 680 pp.

translated from the Indonesian edition:
Kompendium Sejarah Gereja Asia
Malang (Indonesia), Gandum Mas, 2000

Reviewed by Thomas Schirrmacher, Bonn, General Editor of Evangelical Review of Theology

This history of the church in Asia is unique, as it grew out of teaching the subject at an Indonesian school of theology, was first printed in Indonesian and then translated into German. The author now teaches the same subject at the Academy for World Mission in Korntal, the German branch of Columbia International University, besides being a pastor and chair of German branch of WEC International. This is a second revised German version which is updated to the present time from the latest Indonesian edition.

It is a pity that the language barrier between English and the rest of the world means that English texts have a wide acceptance in the whole evangelical world, but influential books in other major languages often stay virtually unknown and without influence. Also, when one reads evangelical works published in the USA, one rarely finds other than English sources in the footnotes. Therefore the chance that this important work will make its way from Indonesian or German into the evangelical world community is not very great.

But it should, as the compendium is evangelical scholarship at its best. It is ecumenical, giving due place to all churches in all ages from the early church through the high times of Oriental churches in Asia, the times when the Catholic Church was the dominating Christian force in Asia, until the remarkable growth of the Protestant churches stemming from mission work. And yet it is evangelical, not only by highlighting evangelical mission history, but by carrying the conviction that mission and church history is under God’s providence and God still uses history to teach his church. Thus the author asks at the end of each chapter, what the central spiritual questions were in that era and what we can learn from them for today.

Evangelical at its best is also the combination of mission history, church history and the history and comparison of Christian confessions and churches. The author is convinced that one should not separate them into different disciplines, but research and describe them together.

What overall picture do you get by reading the book? Here it is: The Christian church in Asia has increasingly moved into global Christianity’s field of vision in recent decades. Unexpected revival movements can be as easily named here as can much acknowledged theological studies. In the meantime, leading personalities in Asia significantly shape international Christian associations. Christianity in Asia has become an important branch of Jesus Christ’s church around the world.

A particular focus of the book has to do with diverse aspects relating to Asian Protestant churches’ paths to independence in various geographic regions. From the first indigenous church leaders and clerics all the way up to large churches fully under local leadership, the book traces how churches which originated through missionary work took various routes to became churches that are fully at home in their domestic cultures. An additional focus of the book, which to my knowledge has not been found in any other Asian church history up to now, is the important number of changes for church history that occurred in Northern and Central Asia as well as in the Caucasus Mountain region at the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s.

Evangelical Review of Theology, vol. 35 (2011) 2: 189-190

Here the original pages: PDF-Download


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