Books I Have Read: Seeking Reconciliation

“Christianity is the only religion in history to have both a universal message and a multicultural expression and membership.”

A short review of a short, but excellent, book.

Peter Rowan‘s book Seeking Reconciliation: The Peacemaking Witness of the Church in Malaysia clearly focuses on the situation in one country, but it is short enough (and cheap enough) that those whose interest lies elsewhere should not be put off. This isn’t a long book, but it is stimulating and should be of interest to Christians well beyond its target audience.

The book is a rather strangely formatted paperback (it is more or less square) and consists of 80 pages. Although it is an abridgement of Peter’s earlier book Proclaiming the Peacemaker: The Malaysian Church as an Agent of Reconciliation in a Multicultural Society, which was in turn developed from his PhD thesis, this is not an academic book. It has been produced in a style and at a price that makes it accesible to Malaysian Christians, which is an excellent innovation.

The book consists of five chapters (by the way, the absence of a table of contents is very frustrating), the first of which gives an excellent introduction to the place of reconcilliation in theology and particularly in the theology of mission. I’ve made it sound more complex than it is.

The following chapters look at the situation in Malaysia, starting with an historical overview of the issues which have led to the evolution of a nation with many inbuit ethnic tensions, The book then goes on to look at the way in which the Malaysian church responds to the challenges that it faces before suggesting some ways in which positive steps forward could be developed.

Who should read this book? Obviously, Christians in Malaysia who are wrestling with the issues it deals with are the main audience. However, I’d suggest that Christians and church leaders who are dealing with questions of reconcilliation between different groups (brexit anyone?) would benefit from a brief overview of issues and methodologies such as this. Peter’s full thesis is very much worth a read, too, but it is harder work.

As always, here are a selection of quotes to give you an idea of what the book says:

Evangelical theologians have historically emphasised the centrality of the cross in Christian faith and life. However, evangelicals have not always thorught deeply enough about the how the cross should shape a more holistic and comprehensive theology of mission.

Christianity is the only religion in history to have both a universal message and a multicultural expression and membership. The gospel is a message for all kinds and races of people. The Christian faith is not ‘colour-blind’, and although all Christians are one in Christ Jesus, cultural diversity and the multicultural nature of the body of Christ should be allowed to flourish. The Bible recognises the rich diversity of cultures in God’s creation, and Christians can celebrate this within the church.

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The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned to show that ethnic exclusivity has no place in the church. While the Christian’s primary identity must be found in his or her membership of the global body of Christ, this must be affirmed without the renunciation of racial characteristics or ethnic distinctions, and a stronger self-identity, rooted in the gospel and in the people of God will be necessary if Malaysian churches are to have a reconciling ministry.

The author genorously provided me with a copy of this book, but I have not allowed this kindness to affect my review.

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