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.
Chang’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 a 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 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 well, pointing out again 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,” is an inspiring account of the work of Christ in drawing Lit-sen Chang to Himself. 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 strength 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 convincing argument against the efficacy of these religions to satisfy the souls of men, and the power of the Gospel alone to change people’s hearts and to allow them to live with consistency.
Chang’s volume should be read by any Christian who has regular contact with those participating in Asian religions or who simply desires to understand more about what of these belief systems entail.