Kevin Xiyi Yao, The Fundamentalist Movement among Protestant Missionaries in China, 1920-1937. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2003.
reviewed by Karl Dahlfred
Fundamentalism among missionaries in China has been lightly touched upon by scholars of Chinese history, Chinese Christianity, and fundamentalism more broadly but there has been little focused attention dedicated to fundamentalist missionaries in China. In this published version of his doctoral research, Kevin Xiyi Yao has aimed to fill in this gap with an historical study of the events, people, and institutions associated with fundamentalist Protestant missionaries in China during the years 1920-1937. As Yao points out in his introductory chapter, such a study is needed because previous scholarship on missionaries in China has almost exclusively focused on the social, cultural, and political impact of missionary activity while neglecting questions of the theological dynamics of missionary motivations and activities. However, the story of change in China during the first half of the twentieth century is multi-faceted and the role of missionaries in those changes cannot be explained with socio-cultural approaches alone.
The primary goal of Yao’s book is largely historical and explanatory, intended to be a preliminary work upon which other scholars may build in order to investigate fundamentalism in China more precisely. A secondary goal of the book is to show that fundamentalism in China during the period in question was neither a mere importation of foreign doctrinal disputes onto Chinese soil, nor simply a continuation of the conservative Protestant missionary consensus of the nineteenth century, namely a belief in an inerrant Bible and the necessity of believing in Christ for salvation.