The Birth of a Pan-Asian Theology: Under the sign of harmony

Issue 1708

15 September 2017

Christian Churches around the world are aware that we are living in the “Asian Century.” At the same time, the vitality and inventiveness of Asian Christian communities are also being increasingly recognized. Asian theologians have sought to synthesize the nature of their peoples’ experiences in a “theology of harmony” that has developed its principles and characteristics over the last four decades.

This article seeks to describe the context, style and topics specific to such a theology while accounting for its diversity and foreshadowing the influence it may progressively exercise on ecclesial, theological and spiritual development within Asia and beyond.

From the perspective of religious cultures, Asia draws its resources from a variety of sources: Chinese culture, embodying notably Taoist, Confucian and Greater Vehicle Buddhist traditions; Hinduism, Lesser Vehicle Buddhism and other religious expressions originating in the Indian subcontinent; Islam, with Indonesia being the most populous Muslim country in the world; indigenous beliefs and practices present all over the region, often associating with other faith expressions; and Christianity, as first molded in the West.

It should be noted, however, that Christian presence in South and East Asia started well before the 16th century. The Syrian Church, with the help of Persian merchants, established churches in Ceylon, Burma and the Malay peninsula, among other places, from the 6th century on.