October 1972 · Vol. 1 No. 4 · pp. 136–37 

Book Review

The Unresponsive: Resistant or Neglected?

David C. E. Liao. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1972. 160 pages.

Reviewed by Hans Kasdorf

Liao’s book is one of the new Moody Church Growth editions and deserves a place at the top of that series. Although Liao focuses exclusively on the Hakka Chinese in Taiwan, the student of mission as well as the missionary will soon discover that the treatise reflects a common mission problem.

Of the four major groups of the Taiwanese people, the Hakkas make up 13.2 percent. Like their ethnic relatives—the Minnans (74.3 percent) and the Mainlanders (10.0 percent)—the Hakkas have come from Mainland China to live with the smallest segment of the Taiwanese, the aboriginal Highlanders who comprise only 2.4 percent. These Malayo-Polynesian descendants have lived on the island since time immemorial.

Since only 0.3 percent of the Hakkas (compared to 33.3 percent Highlanders, 10.1 percent Mainlanders, and 1.4 percent Minnans) have become Protestant Christians, the conclusion has been reached that they are the most resistant people of Taiwan. Liao challenges that theory and proposes the thesis indicated by the query of the book’s sub-title, saying, “Many seemingly resistant peoples in the world, like the Hakkas, are really being neglected.” Using the Hakkas of Taiwan as an illustration, the author persuasively demonstrates that the causes of unresponsiveness to the Gospel can be attributed to neglect rather than to resistance.

The strength of the book lies in the clarity of presentation of the thesis. Throughout, the author reflects beyond mere awareness of the complexity of the problem keen insight into the issues involved. He writes with ease as one who not only knows well the history of the Hakkas but also as one who understands the uniqueness of their culture, mentality, and character. At the same time, he speaks with authority on the missionary situation—not as “armchair” strategist, but as involved participant.

Every statement Liao makes is supported by evidence based on field research and on a wide range of writings by European and American missionaries who have invested their lives in Hakka evangelism. (The reader is disappointed, however, not to find any reference to Mennonite Brethren missionary Frank J. Wiens’ 302 page monograph. Wiens worked among the Hakkas in South China from 1911-1940 with remarkable success. See Pionierarbeit unter den Hakkas in Süd-China, 1922).

As solution to the problem of apparent unresponsiveness Liao suggests that church and mission harness people consciousness of the Hakkas in order to foster church growth.

When all factors of alleged resistance are being studied and taken {137} into account, many groups, like the Hakkas, fail to respond to the Gospel primarily because they are neglected. What can be done about it? Every mission-minded Christian who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit for witness must give priority to answer that question.

Rarely, if ever, will the reader regret the investment of $2.95 for this excellent book.

Hans Kasdorf
Pacific College, Fresno, California