I am beginning to fear that the greatest fault line in the Church today lies between those in the West who feel that their theological and exegetical heritage is the only valid one for the church and those in the developing world who are developing their own indigenous theologies as they read the Scriptures faced by very different realities.
Vinoth Ramachandra captures this in a strongly worded post:
A group of North American pastors calling themselves The Gospel Coalition of International Outreach is engaged in what they call “a mission of Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church”. They state on their website: “We are partnering with translators, publishers, and missions networks to provide new access to biblical resources, in digital and physical formats. Our goal is to strengthen thousands of congregations by helping to equip the pastors and elders who are called to shepherd them.”
Sounds loving, until one asks: who decides who is theologically famished and who is not? who selects what “resources” to send the famished? who decides what constitutes “equipping” and who should be doing it? The answer is always the same. A small group of white, well-to-do American or British males. We have experienced such paternalistic, colonial “mission” before- others deciding what is the “Good News” for us, what is “sound doctrine”, which authors to read and whom to avoid, etc. They have exported their theological blind-spots and sectarian rivalries, reproducing carbon-copies of themselves in the global South rather than nurturing real leaders. The learning and theological traffic is all one-way.
Of course, the West still has something to contribute to the growing worldwide Church, but we also have a great deal to learn. The very fact that the church is growing like wildfire in the two thirds world, but is declining in much of its historic heartland should indicate to us that not all in our theological garden is rosy.
This question is explored in more depth in the recent edition of Encounters Magazine which features a longish lecture by me on ‘Reading the Bible With the Global Church‘ along with responses from scholars from four continents. You might enjoy reading it.