East Asia - Nation, People and Contextual Theologies

Edmond Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A distinct theme in the contextual theologies of East Asia is not only that of liberation of the poor and oppressed, but also of modernization and nation-building, provoked by the impact of Western modernity. However, the countries of the region differ radically in their responses. China went through two revolutions (1911 and 1949), with continuous civil war and foreign invasion in between, and finally accepted a form of modernity in "scientific socialism". Taiwan, the "orphan" of Asia, rises from being a victim to asserting self-determination. Japan took the road of fighting the West with Western methods, and the result was a capitalist-militaristic state underpinned by feudal religion and loyalties, until its defeat in World War II. Korea, a traditional vassal of China and then colony of Japan, was split into North and South in 1952, with the south becoming a protectorate of the USA in all but name. South Korea now rebels against all three dominant powers and both the literary and religious movements in the country reach back into its shamanistic past to re-construct its national identity. What had been common to these countries was the shared heritage of Confucianism, but it collapsed as the dominant philosophy. For all intents and purposes, all of the East Asian countries have become secular nation-states, with religion giving way to some form of nationalist ideology. All these radical changes have conditioned the theological development of Christian churches, from the search for inculturation or indigenisation to theologies of self-determination, Minjung or new ideas associated with the Three-Self Movement. This nationalist concern marks East Asian contextual theologies apart from those of Latin America or Africa. This essay traces the development of these theologies in second half of the 20th century and attempts to provide both an interpretative background as well as some preliminary evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-127
Number of pages25
JournalLogos & Pneuma-Chinese Journal of Theology
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2011


  • Nation
  • East Asian Christianity
  • Contextual Theology
  • People
  • Minjung


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