Christians face political powers – but with what identity do they engage them? What identity should they assume to remain faithful to God and God’s mission?

Dialogue of Life is published by Langham. Order or see the Table of Contents and other information here. It is available through Langham, Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, amongst others.

Summary: “The status of the global church is often that of a sociopolitical minority, at odds politically, religiously, and socially with the nations that encompass it. In such contexts, where Christians find themselves facing oppression, isolation, and challenging questions of identity, how is the church to faithfully uphold its missional calling? In this in-depth study of Chinese Christians living in Sabah, Malaysia, Dr. Khee-Vun Lin engages missiology and political theology to address the practical implications of incarnational mission in contexts where national identity exclude Christians from the public discourse. Examining the political and religious history of Malaysia, including the impact of colonialism, nationalism, and Islamization, Dr. Lin provides a powerful explication of the theological and practical foundations for utilizing social engagement as a tool of incarnational mission. Whether living under oppressive hegemonic control or the shadow of secular governments turned hostile to Christian values, it is through embracing incarnational identity that Christians can authentically engage both nation-building and evangelism to the good of their neighbor and the glory of God.”

Endorsements and Recommendations

Historically the encounter between Christianity and Islam has been primarily defined either by confrontation and war or by the subjugation of Christians as dhimmis in Muslim territories. Khee-Vun Lin writes out of his existential struggles as a Chinese Christian living in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority state. Against this background he courageously asks the question: Is there a third way which avoids either extreme of confrontation or subjugation and which allows Christians simultaneously to play a meaningful citizenship role in the nation and to be faithful in Christ’s mission? He believes that it would be possible if Christians embrace the practice of incarnational mission which empowers them to actively engage with the socio-political challenges of the nation rather than passively withdraw from it. Lin’s bold thesis needs to be taken seriously especially today when both the historical confrontational and dhimmitude models are slowly but certainly being challenged and broken down under the impact of modernity and globalization. I recommend this book heartily.

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung, The Methodist Church in Malaysia

Khee-Vun Lin offers a theologically reflective and engaging book providing a guide for followers of Jesus to engage their context in order to be an incarnational presence which continues the mission of the triune God. Incarnational engagement does not abandon a culture, nor accommodate to a culture. Rather, through “being with” a culture in dialogue and action, this new missionally informed politic is present to and serves within a local context demonstrating and sharing the transformative power of the gospel. Dialogue of Life is an important contribution to the missional church literature. The theological premise of this book, and its outworking in a specific context, will be of benefit to those who seek to be a faithful presence in other settings.

Kurt N. Fredrickson, PhD, Associate Dean of Professional Doctoral Programs, Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA

This is a significant work which takes serious consideration of the condition of minority Christians in a challenging multicultural context. This is a work that promotes understanding, peace, and dialogue, yet at the same time provides a theological basis and practical suggestions for minority Christians to remain faithful to God’s mission. It is particularly meaningful and important to the Chinese Christians in Sabah who are close to my heart, and relevant to those who are in similar situation. This is a book that speaks to the church. I gladly recommend this book to church leaders and those who are responsible to church policymaking.

The Most Revd. Datuk Melter J. Tais, Bishop of Sabah Archbishop and Primate, Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia; President, Council of Churches of Malaysia

This is an important work on incarnational mission for minority Christians in the non-Western world. It shows how deep and critical theological reflections of the incarnation produce not only good practical theology, but a model of mission that integrates evangelism in the realm of social engagement amidst a challenging religious and ethnonationalistic context. It deserves to be read by ministers, missionaries, and scholars as an example of how missional theology, social analysis, and public theology come together in service of the church to not only help believers survive but thrive in hope as courageous vessels of Christ that seek to make the good news truly good for all people.

John Cheong, Research Associate at-Large, Asian Centre for Mission

Dr. Khee-Vun Lin observes that the Chinese Christians in Sabah (CCS) have a dualistic theology of mission which lacks being rooted in our Malaysian soil and so fails to take cognizance of the present Malay-Muslim hegemony. He attempts to provide a way forward beyond the present constitutionalism and cultural rights approach of the CCS to one of social engagement (“being-with”) that is based on an incarnational mission (as in Immanuel, God-with-us) – a “being with” and serving others in meeting their needs, spiritual and material. This allows the CCS to make space for Christian witness without being accused of being a threat. I strongly recommend this book for Christians to reflect and to act, based on an incarnational mission of social engagement which is in process.

Tan Kong-Beng, Executive Secretary, Christian Federation of Malaysia; Former Lecturer in Theology, Malaysia Bible Seminary, Kuang, Malaysia

Sensitive to the cultural tensions impacted by religious and ethnic identities of both the majority and minority populations in Malaysia, Lin offers insight into the challenges that Chinese Christians in Sabah encounter. Rather than a confrontational approach as a solution, Lin invites us to a practical theology approach to Christian witness that applies to the grassroot level through social engagement. Recovering the theological significance of terms such as “missional” and “incarnational,” he revisits the concepts of “mission,” “kingdom of God,” and “Christ’s presence” reflexively from a Christian minority perspective informed by perceptions of dominance and conquest that contradict the gospel. Lin’s offer of dialogue and social engagement as necessary expressions of God’s mission and kingdom ethics needs to be seriously considered, especially in social-cultural contexts plagued by divisive politics, religious suspicion, and social hostility. It is not only relevant but is fundamentally faithful to the gospel and to Jesus’s call to be peacemakers.

Rev. Sivin Kit, PhD, Program Executive for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations, The Lutheran World Federation

The Abstract of the Dissertation which leads to the Book:

This dissertation argues that social engagement should be the preferred means for Chinese Christians in Sabah (CCS), Malaysia to fulfill their incarnational mission in the sociopolitical context of Malay hegemony. Due to their history, the CCS have developed a nationalism that is different from the main discourse of the country defined by Malay nationalism. Today, Malay nationalism has evolved into Malay hegemony that inclines to Islamism. Christians are increasingly treated as a functional dhimmitude. Part One describes this ministry context.

Part Two describes the challenges CCS face in nation-building and their mission to the Malays. Lacking understanding of Malay hegemony, CCS have been negotiating nationalism through various means, which are often ineffective and irrelevant. CCS are also ignorant of the missional essence of the Church. Consequently, they lose their incarnational identity. This causes them to neglect their role in nation-building and evangelism to the Malay-Muslim community.

Part Three contends that CCS should restore their missional identity. The theological concept of incarnation is assessed and concluded to be indispensable to CCS’ missional identity. Once restored, incarnation will form the theological basis for CCS to identify themselves as Malaysians, resolving their national identity dilemma. This gives them reason to commit to nation-building and identify with Malays. They also can recover the full meaning of evangelism, resulting in meaningful missional engagement with Malays.

Part Four considers how CCS shall apply the concept of incarnational mission. Social engagement is argued as the proper expression of incarnational mission. Practical options to engage in nation-building and witnessing to Malays are plentiful. Civil negotiation, intellectual dialogues, and evangelism are three common avenues for such purpose. Yet, due to Malay hegemony, social engagement that fosters communal relationship amongst the masses is contended as the preferred option.