Friday, March 22, 2013

Theology in the Context of World Christianity: A Book Review

Theology in the Context of World Christianity: 
how the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology
Timothy C. Tennent
Zondervan 2007
 
 

Best quote so far:

Why do theological students in the west continue to spend countless hours learning about the writings of a few well-known, now deceased, German theologians whose global devotees are actually quite small, yet completely ignore over one billion living, breathing Muslims who represent one of the most formidable challenges to the Christian gospel today?
This is an excellent book. I say that only being 3 chapters in, but each chapter is so interesting I intend to give them a blog post each. Mainly because I need space to disagree. It is rare to find a book that though I frequently disagree with the conclusions because the method and question posing is so good and the subject so interesting I enjoy it all the same. It is written as a text book, but does not take liberties with the captive audience that textbooks presume. It reads well in pithy chapters and sections and while full of interesting a pertinent data does not get bogged down, but gets to the point. Each chapter both stands on its own and adds to the central thesis which is not so much how the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology but why it darn well should be. While many of his chapter conclusions I will be pushing back against, this central thesis is proven beyond doubt by his case studies.

Tennent has held simultaneous teaching positions in seminaries in the US and India for much of his working life and so has an excellent vantage point from which to discuss his topic. he is clearly well versed in Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and is also not shy about his evangelical credentials or his scorn for the two extreme poles of American Christianity, liberalism and consumerist individualist evangelicalism.

He constantly bemoans that fact that most of our theology in the west ignores both the church in the majority world and the other religions that the church in the majority world have to contend with and that are now becoming part of the fabric of western society. He has a high, but not blindly so, opinion of majority world christians, identifying 5 trends they exhibit and of which he approves.

  1. High regard for scripture, conservative, orthodox and traditionalist
  2. Morally and ethically conservative
  3. Sensitive to issues of poverty and injustice
  4. Experienced at articulating gospel in the midst of religious pluralism
  5. More likely to grasp corporate dimensions of NT teaching (against western individualistic tendency)
This really is the book that I was hoping L. Pietersen's Reading the Bible after Christendom would be but wasn't (review to follow) in that this makes a genuine contribution to the way we do theology (which in Tennants evangelicalism is the same as read the bible) in the context of pluralism, in the context of powerlessness and in the context of a culture that is no longer predominantly Christian. As a pastor in a multicultural urban setting I also think this will be invaluable for thinking about mission to the Muslims, Hindus and other faiths and cultures that have moved into the neighbourhood. I don't have to go to India to do theology in the context of world Christianity, I only have to go next door (on my right are Indian Hindus on my left Lapsed Romanian Orthodox).

Watch this space for my grappling with the chapters . . .  :-) Let me know what you think.

2 comments:

  1. Terrific, thanks for pointing this book out to me. Looks tremendous.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are most welcome Paul. Stay tuned for more! :-)

    ReplyDelete