I have begun to get serious about coming up with a good research question to apply for a Ph.D program, so you'll notice that books about Thai church history and missions will come up more frequently in coming months. But it is good to have diversity too, so Scotland and Vikings also feature in this month's book round-up.
Khrischak Muang Nua: A Study in Northern Thai Church History
When I opened this book, I anticipated a simple summary of the activities of 19th missionaries in Northern Thailand, bravely overcoming difficulties, and planting the first churches in the region. Instead, I discovered a scathing critique of the early American Presbyterian missionaries of the Laos Mission (present-day Northern Thailand), showing how they failed to 1) provide pastoral leadership and 2) train pastors for the church. They failed to do these things because they overemphasized evangelism / expansion, poured a lot of time into building schools and hospitals, and thought that local Christians were childlike and not ready for leadership. I found page after page of disturbing things about these early missionaries that made me shake my head. I wish many of them were not true but author Herb Swanson has done a thorough job of scouring the archives of Payap University, providing copious primary source documentation for his critique, which I found myself largely agreeing with. From the outset, the author is honest about his particular perspective (which could be fairly called "theologically liberal") and this perspective certainly influences his evaluation of the missionaries' policy of "expansionism" (as he calls it) and their attitude towards Buddhism. However, he has done his homework and his critique should be read and seriously considered by all missionaries in Thailand today.