Yangshuo, China

Chinese History & Culture

Asia’s Religions: Christianity’s Momentous Encounter with Paganism

Review by
Lit-sen Chang. Asia’s Religions: Christianity’s Momentous Encounter with Paganism. China Horizon. Distributors: Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-892-63203-9. Paper. 306 pages, including appendix and bibliography.

C
hang’s treatment of the main Asian religions is a distinctively Christian one. In his discussions of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism, and Islam, he includes two chapters on each, one an understanding of the religion from a Christian perspective, and the second a Christian critique of that religion. The first chapter in each set gives historical background for the religion, the various tenets and core beliefs involved, the major sources or writings on which the religion is based, and the influence it has had on the world.

The second chapter, that of criticism, compares the faith being examined with Christianity, and thus points out its failures. Everything is approached with the conviction that the Bible is the Word of God and that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. When set against these truths, the problems of Asia’s religions show themselves. Chang also points out internal failures, ways in which these religions do not work even without being compared to Christianity. What emerges from the book as Chang’s central theme are the various ways, all of them monumental, in which the people of Asia, ensnared by these false faiths, desperately need to hear the Gospel.

Chang’s first chapter is helpful, explaining the different approaches to world religions that Christians have taken. This section helps the reader understand the author’s perspective, and shows, among other things, “the uniqueness of the Christian faith” that will become even more apparent throughout the book. The final chapters on “The True Way of Salvation” and “An Urgent Task of World Evangelization,” end the book forcefully, pointing out again the author’s conviction of Asia’s great need for the truth of Christ.

Several forwards by various Christian leaders, including former Taiwan missionary James Hudson Taylor III, give more personal reflections on Chang’s life and work, and the Appendix, “His Amazing Grace: My Life Story,” recounts Lit-sen Chang’s movement to faith in Christianity. After realizing that Chang was a prominent governmental and educational figure committed to Asian religions, the reader likely will be even more impressed with the vehemence of his arguments against these religions, as he is someone who knows them from the inside as well as from the outside.

This book provides not only a good overview of the major religions and world views prevalent in Asia today, but also a clear exposition of the point of view of many Chinese Christians about the failure of traditional religions to satisfy the souls of their adherents, and the power of the Gospel alone to change people’s hearts and to allow them to live with consistency.

Chang’s volume could be read with profit by anyone seeking to understand the point of view of many, perhaps most, Chinese Protestant Christians toward the religious views and practices of their non-Christian neighbors.