More Information
ISBN: 9781839732171
Imprint: Langham Academic
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 12
Publication Date: 31/03/2021
Pages: 220
Series: Studies in Missiology
Language: English

Dialogue of Life

Social Engagement as the Preferred Means to Incarnational Mission in the Context of Malay Hegemony


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.

Author Bios


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. Dr. 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?

Bishop Emeritus Hwa Yung
The Methodist Church in Malaysia

Dr. 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. 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. This book is an important contribution to the missional church literature.

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.

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 important work 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. 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 that is based on an incarnational mission. 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. Lin’s offer of dialogue and social engagement as necessary expressions of God’s mission and kingdom ethics . . . 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

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. List of Abbreviations
  4. Introduction
    1. The Definition of Social Engagement
    2. The Definitions of Nation and State
    3. The Rationale of the Study
    4. The Need for Practical Theology
    5. Methodology and Scope
      1. Ministry Context
      2. Ministry Challenge
      3. Theological Reflection
      4. Proposed Application
  5. Chapter 1 Historical Context of Chinese Christians in Sabah
    1. Chinese Christians as Immigrants in North Borneo
    2. Chinese Immigrants in North Borneo
      1. Chinese in a Segregated Social Context
      2. Chinese as Partners to the British Colonists
    3. The Formation of Malaysia
      1. The Malaysia Proposal
      2. Chinese Opposing the Formation of Malaysia as North Borneans
      3. The Chinese Conceded Defeat
    4. Summary: The Cultural Isolation of the CCS and Their Fondness for the British
  6. Chapter 2 The Rise of Malay Hegemony
    1. Malay Ethnogenesis, Immigrants’ Threat, and Colonial Struggle
      1. The People (Bangsa) Movement
      2. The Islamic Influence
    2. Independence and the Formation of the “Malay Nation-State”
    3. The Rise of Malay Supremacy
    4. Islamization as a Political Necessity
      1. The Emergence of Islamic Revivalism (Dakwah)
      2. UMNO and PAS
    5. From Islamization to the Emergence of Malay Hegemony
      1. The Islamized Public Space
      2. The Irrepressible Malay Hegemony
      3. The Defeat of the Moderates
    6. Functional Dhimmitude as the Expression of Malay Hegemony
      1. Dhimmitude Explained
      2. Functional Dhimmitude in Malaysia Today
    7. Summary: From Malay Nationalism to Malay Hegemony
  7. Chapter 3 The Clash of Nationalisms and Social Withdrawal of the Sabah Chinese Christians
    1. The Clash of National Discourses
      1. The Cultural Nationalism of Malaysian Chinese
      2. The Malaysian Malaysia, Multiculturalism, and Constitutionalism
      3. Political Identity and Multiculturalism in Malaysia
    2. Malay Hegemony Alienated the Chinese Christians in Sabah
      1. Malay Nationalism and Islamization in Sabah
      2. Malay Hegemony a Betrayal to the Sabah Chinese
    3. Civil Negotiations by the Chinese Christians
      1. Chinese Civil Negotiation
      2. Christians’ Civil Negotiation as a Response to Islamization
      3. Civil Negotiations of the Chinese Christians in Sabah
    4. The Limitations of Civil Negotiations
      1. The Dakwah Revivalists’ Sentiment toward Civil Negotiation
      2. A Critical Assessment on Christian Civil Negotiation
    5. Summary: Unsettled “Malaysian” Identity, Detachment from Nation-Building
      1. Weakened Commitment of the Malaysian Chinese in Nation-Building
      2. The Detachment of the CCS from Nation-Building
  8. Chapter 4 Absence of Chinese Christians in Sabah’s Mission Engagement with the Malay Muslims
    1. Early Mission Engagement in the Immigrant Church
      1. Pastoral Covering
      2. The Centripetal Mission Churches
      3. Mission Schools
    2. Chinese Christians in Sabah Losing Mission Engagement
      1. Losing the Mission Schools
      2. A Different Mission Field
    3. Breakthrough in Evangelism, Absence of Social Engagement
    4. The Limitations of Evangelism and Interfaith Dialogue
      1. The Dakwah Revivalists’ Sentiment toward Christians
      2. Evangelism to the Malays
      3. Interfaith Dialogues
    5. Summary: Limited Missional Engagement with the Malays
  9. Chapter 5 Incarnational Mission Defined
    1. Incarnation, “the Incarnation,” and “Incarnational Mission”
      1. The Motives and Logic of Incarnation
      2. Incarnation as a Model for Mission
      3. Countering Criticisms of Incarnational Mission
    2. Incarnational Mission and the Missional Church
      1. The Missional Church and Missio Dei
      2. The Missional Church’s Incarnational Mission
    3. The Missional Church Is Christ’s Continuous Presence in the World
      1. The Church as the “Body”
      2. Imitation and Discipleship as Christ’s Continuous Ministry
    4. The Missional Church Represents the Kingdom of God
      1. The Kingdom and New Humanity
      2. Kingdom Ethics Incarnated
    5. The Missional Church Identifies with the People
      1. Solidarity with Others and Their Situation
      2. Respect and Acceptance of Others’ Culture
      3. The Practice of Identification
    6. Transformation and Human Flourishing
      1. Value and Transformation of Humanity
      2. Submission to God in Transformation
    7. Summary: The Shape of Incarnational Mission
  10. Chapter 6 Restoring Incarnational Mission among the Chinese Christians in Sabah
    1. Embracing an Incarnational and Malaysian Identity
      1. The Absence of Missional and Incarnational Identity
      2. A Critique on Liberalism as the Basis for Christian Identity in Malaysia
      3. An Incarnational Political Theology
      4. Restoring CCS’s Incarnational Identity as Malaysians
    2. Restoring the Missing Social Dimension of the Gospel among CCS
      1. Eschatological and Soteriological Reductionisms
      2. The Diminishing Public Presence of CCS
      3. Embracing the Social Dimension of Incarnational Mission
      4. Identification in Civil Negotiations
    3. Restoring Incarnational Witnessing among the Chinese Christians in Sabah
      1. Limited Evangelism and the Absence of Missional Strategy to the Malays
      2. Incarnational Mission through Witnessing
    4. Summary: Incarnational Identification
  11. Chapter 7 Social Engagement as a Preferred Means for Incarnational Mission
    1. Christian Social Engagement in Malaysia
    2. An Incarnational Approach of Social Engagement
      1. Approaches of Social Engagement
      2. Social Engagement as an Outworking of Incarnational Mission
    3. Sociopolitical Reasons for Social Engagement
      1. Social Engagement as a Means to Identify with the Malay Muslims’ Culture
      2. An Alternative to Civil Negotiation in Nation-Buildin
      3. Social Engagement as Witness to Muslims in Malaysian Legal Context
    4. Dialogue as the Practice of Social Engagement
    5. Summary: Incarnational Mission in Practice
  12. Summary and Conclusion
  13. Epilogue
    1. Rejection of Multiculturalism
    2. Rejection of Moderate Islam
    3. Non-Muslims under Malay Hegemony
    4. Conclusion
  14. Bibliography