Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Amos Yong and the Interreligious Encounter

Amos Yong is Associate Professor of Theology at Regent University School of Divinity. He was born and raised in part in Malaysia, and has been a minister with the Assemblies of God since 1987. He is a promising and prolific young scholar who has been applying his academic gifts toward the development of a pneumatological theology of religions in books such as The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (Baker Academic, 2005), and Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions (Baker Academic, 2003.

Yong is featured in the March 2006 issue of Christianity Today in an article by Roger Olson titled "A Wind that Swirls Everwhere." The article includes a number of interesting statements, including Yong's view that "Dialogue and proclamation are not mutually exclusive but intrinsically connected." Olson puts his work in the category of a theologoumena, theological explorations of new ways of looking at old questions. The article also states that Yong regards the traditional categories of religious pluralism and inclusivism too static and as a result he is looking for an alternative. As the article nears its conclusion, Olson says that, "For Yong, the Spirit should not be limited to the supernatural, so even the porcess of discerning the Spirit's work can be enhanced by sociological and anthropological research."

In a recent exchange with Dr. Yong he made available a copy of an article that will be published in the future in Missiology titled "The Spirit of Hospitality: Pentecostal Perspectives toward a Performative Theology of Interreligious Encounter." The paper is the result of a presentation Yong gave at a meeting of the American Society of Missiology.

The article is worth a subscription to Missiology journal, not only for the merits of its overall thesis, but also the many gems contained within it. For a few examples, Yong states that there is a "need to cultivate a wider range of postures and approaches to the interreligious encounter more appropriate to the demands of a post-9/11 era." The author develops his pneumatological theology of interreligious encounter, and adds additional elements to it. Yong discusses the lessons we can learn about interreligious encounters from the church's expansion into Samaria and the Parable of the Good Samaritan and suggests that Jewish attitudes about the Samaritans parallel Christian attitudes about other religions. The article also discusses the significance of hospitality and table fellowship in a first-century context and suggests that this spirit of hospitality can be helpful for the Christian church in the interreligious encounter and dialogue with adherents of other faiths. At one point Yong states that the theological position he develops in this article "not only allows but also obliges us to cultivate different dispositions toward those in other faiths than those traditionally promoted; not only allows but also requires that we look for dialogical situations and opportunities involving religious others; not only allows but also necessitates our establishing friendships and opening our homes for table fellowship with those of other faiths."

In this blogger's opinion, Amos Yong represents one of the promising evangelical voices working to develop a theology of religions in a religiously plural, post-9/11 environment.

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