World Theology

In a paper writing on the changes in World Mission from1910-2010 Andrew Walls writes:

The Western theological academy is at present not well placed for leadership in the new  situation. It has been too long immersed in its local concerns, and often unaware of the transformation that has taken place in the Church. It is often hugely ignorant of the world in which the majority of Christians live, their social and religious contexts, and the history and life of their churches. Its intellectual maps are pre-Columbian; there are vast areas of the Christian world of which they take no account. Nor are its products always readily transferable outside the West. Western theology is in general too small for Africa; it has been cut down to fit the small-scale universe demanded by the Enlightenment, which set and jealously guarded a frontier between the empirical world and the world of spirit. Most Africans live in a larger, more populated universe, in which the frontier is continually being crossed. It is a universe that comprehends what Paul calls the principalities and powers. It requires a theology that brings Christ to bear on every part of that universe, making evident the victory over the principalities that Paul ascribes to Christ’s triumphal chariot of the Cross. The new age of the Church could bring a theological renaissance, with new perspectives, new materials, new light on old problems, and a host of issues never faced before.

Sadly, many Western theologians don’t seem to have their ears open to learn from the Church in the rest of the world assuming that it is their place to instruct the rest of the church, not to learn from it. One thing which involvement in mission should teach us is humility – I hope I’m learning it.

You can read the rest of Walls’ paper here (pdf).

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2 replies on “World Theology”

As I try and figure out what church is in the situations I am part of, is so helpful to be able to get snippets like this of what the global church is like.

It’s not just Third World Christianity that the theologians are ignorant or contemptuous of. They have the same attitude to many more popular expressions of the faith in western countries. For example, how many theologians show any sympathy for or real understanding of what is happening in Lakeland, Florida? Revival, people experiencing the power of God, gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit etc have no place in their enlightenment worldview, so they are simply assumed to be fake. But of course more or less the same things are clearly described in the Bible.

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