Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Does the Asian-American Church need a reformed revival?

I don't like to write about my ethnic identity when it comes to matters of faith because, simply put, stuff like that often distracts from the real unadulterated gospel of Christ. That's why this blog isn't subtitled "an Asian perspective on faith" or something of that sort.  It's also why I'm skeptical when I hear terms like "empowerment" and "cultural identity" being thrown around in the church. There's only one identity I'm chiefly concerned about, and that's the one found in Jesus.  So when I mean "solus Christus," I mean solus Christus.

That said, I do carry around a particular sensitivity toward my fellow Asian believers, because I know many come to understand the gospel through culture-specific lens. As much as I wish we could all see past the color of our skin, the fact remains that race is a reality in our world, even within the church.  There's even a sense in which some cultures have inextricable links to certain theological systems.

Often in my fellowship (both virtual and in-person) with fellow reformed believers, I often find myself to be one of very few non-whites. This obviously doesn't come as a surprise.  The Reformation was spearheaded by white Europeans, the Puritans were white, and nearly every reformed denomination is predominantly white, both in presbytery and in congregation.  Yet with the exception of a few anomalous views propagating kinism, there's nothing about the reformed school, either in principle or doctrine, to suggest that it's a white man's religion. 

So why does the Asian American church seem so insulated from reformed theology?  Or does it?  While I've observed some New Calvinist leaders gaining popularity among young bible-believing Asian Americans, I've also seen emergent influences take root at the same time.  I can see why this makes sense.  Notions like 'cultural relevancy' and 'empowerment' are very real concepts that are shared between Asian American Christianity and the emergent movement.

What has been left in the wake of this strange postmodern blend is confusion over what reformed orthodoxy really means.  Certainly, some in the Asian American church have embraced a Calvinistic view of salvation.  But a comprehensive understanding of reformed theology beyond just soteriology seems to be much more of a rarity.  I would guess that the ruling theology within Asian American Christianity is just a confluence of multiple systems and views-- some good, some bad.  

But even as a confessional reformed Christian, I don't think confessionalism is the answer to the Asian American church's amorphousness.  The historic creeds and confessions already carry a lot of baggage to non-reformed eyes not because they're in error, but because they're often used in lieu of the Bible to mark orthodoxy.  But this just proves that we need a genuine return to scriptures alone to understand the gospel at its heart and its prescriptions for Christian living.

Because the gospel is universal in its narrative and application, that's where we must begin.  I don't think the Asian American church needs so much as a "reformed revival" as it does a gospel understanding of the scriptures independent of cultural relevancy or ethnic identity.  Once that happens, then a true grasp of what it means to be reformed will come.

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