Constructing Irregular Theology

Bamboo and Minjung in East Asian Perspective


The project of constructing Asian irregular theology in East Asian perspective, based on life-word of Bamboo and social political reality of minjung, embraces Dr. Chung’s cross-cultural existence as he develops his long-standing interest and expertise in Christian minjung theology in new ways with the image of bamboo as a symbol for the theological perspective of grass roots marginality. Using the ancient Chinese story “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove,” Dr. Chung engages with Christian eschatological discourse to support an aesthetical-utopian theological ethics that is opposed to an ethics concerned with legitimation of a socio-economic status quo. In addition, Dr. Chung’s develops his deep commitment to the Lutheran theology of the cross and the suffering Christ through the Buddhist concept of dukkha (suffering) to create, in the end, a genuinely East Asian contextual theology
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Biographical Note

Paul S. Chung, Dr.Theol. (1992) in Systematic Theology, University of Basel, Switzerland, is Associate Professor at Luther Seminary, St Paul (MN), USA. He has published extensively on Western Protestant theology from East Asian perspective including Martin Luther and Buddhism: Aesthetics of Suffering, 2nd.ed. (Pickwick, 2007).

Review Quotes

'Paul Chung once described himself as having a Confucian mind, Taoist guts, Buddhist heart, and Christian body. This book embraces Chung’s whole being as he appropriates and develops the ancient Chinese story “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove,” which tells of scholars who fled the accommodation of Confucian ethics in support of the tyranny and political chaos of the third century. Asian irregular theology, built on the image of bamboo and minjung, marks a new model in constructing Asian contextual theology in light of the irregularity of God’s speech event and from the perspective of grass roots marginality.'Elizabeth A. Leeper, Associate Professor of Church History, Wartburg Theological Seminary Dubuque, Iowa.

I could not help being surprised by Chung’s profound knowledge of Chinese ancient philosophy and culture. His Asian irregular theology actually has grasped the core of Chinese Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. His method of cross-cultural interpretation has provided the reader a new horizon of global hermeneutics and Asian irregular theology.'Jing (Cathy) Zhang, Ph. D Candidate at The School of Liberal Arts, Remin University of China, Beijing.

'Chung makes creative, yet provocative use of Reformation scholarship for his irregular theology of minjung-bamboo in engagement with Confucian-Taoist-Buddhist hybridization. Chung’s Asian irregular theology demonstrates remarkably new perspectives: irregularities of God’s Word, resistance of the others, and fusion of different horizons.'Rhotto R. Thelle, Senior Professor, Oslo University, Norway.

'Surprisingly enough, Chung makes a groundbreaking work, expanding the horizons of a religious and philosophical lifeworld in terms of an East Asian principle of interpretation and philosophical hermeneutics.'Prof. Rachel Zhu Xiaohong, Fudan University, Shanghai.

'Chung constructs an interpretive and irregular theology provocatively in a global context. He is a creative, original, and thought-provoking pioneer of Asian irregular theology, making a great contribution for a contemporary discussion of inculturation and emancipation.'Prof. Wang Zhicheng, Zhejiang University, China.

One of the major issues facing the Christian Church today has to do with a right understanding of the relationship between Christ and Christian faith on the one hand, and the other great world religions on the other. The tired trilogy of exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist is woefully inadequate, but nothing has come along to replace it. In our multi-cultural and postmodern world of many religions and worldviews, the gospel itself calls us to imagine creative, new theological proposals. The Korean-American theologian Paul S. Chung has developed such a creative theological proposal which he calls “irregular theology,” that is, a theology of God’s irregular grace which moves beyond the walls of Christendom to speak a fresh word to us in the religious wisdom of other cultures (especially Asian). This book explores and develops his proposal in several important directions. The resulting synthesis of many voices and traditions is bracing, controversial, and rewarding. The careful reader will come away with new insights and new questions. - Alan G. Padgett, D. Phil., Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary (Saint Paul, MN, USA)

Table of contents

Acknowledgments ... vii

Asian Irregular Theology: Inculturation and Emancipation ... 1

1. Justification and Self-Cultivation
Christian Faith and Buddhist Enlightenment ... 27

2. God and the Mysterious Place of the World
Judeo-Christian Narrative in Engagement with the Mystery of Tao ... 49

3. God the Trinity
An Interfaith Reframing of the Trinity with an Asian face ... 81

4. Christian Mission
Matteo Ricci and his Legacy for Christian–Confucian Renewal ... 103

5. Religious Pluralism
Asian Christianity and Life Horizon of World Religions ... 131

6. God and Evolution
God and Sunyata in an Evolutionary Context ... 157

7. The Future of Irregular Theology in East Asia
Asian Contextual Theology: Past, Present, and Future ... 185

Glossary of Terms ... 211

Bibliography ... 217

Index ... 225


All those interested in cross cultural encounter between Western Protestant theology and Asian contextual theology, as well as religious history of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism in East Asia.


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