Friday, September 26, 2008

Theology in the Context of World Christianity - Timothy C. Tennent

It's not something you think about every day, and it might not be something you have ever considered, but the center of Christianity has shifted away from the Western world to the global South and East. Initially it was hard for me to wrap my mind around this idea as I read Dr. Tim Tennent's book, but as he systematically and accessibly presents his argument I began to agree, the Church is not what I thought it was. Theological developments are being made by leaps and bounds in other parts of the world, and as thinking Christians in the West we should be looking to other Christian communities, indeed other continents as we "do" theology.

"...The lifeblood of Christianity is found in its ability to translate itself across new cultural and geographic barriers and to recognize that areas that once were the mission field can, over time, become the very heart of Christian vitality, while those areas that were once at the heart can lose the faith they once espoused...places like Lagos, Nigeria, and Seoul, South Korea, where the presence of Christianity at one time seemed almost unimaginable, are today vibrant centers of the Christian faith." (p.6)

Though this text is not brand new (2007), considering it as a textbook it is still new enough to merritt a review, and I was so impressed by Tennent's work I felt I had to mention it here.

There is much to learn from the global Church. It's easy in developed countries, where church is perfected and polished, available in a thousand flavors and expressions, to assume that we have the corner on theology. But as Tennent asserts it is often in those places that seem to be less churched where the Church is often at its most vibrant, relevant, and offering fresh insights on who God is.

This book is completely accessible for lay readers and the general audience. It looks and feels like a textbook but Tennent's passion for his beliefs come through in a powerful way. I would recommend this for Sunday School classes, Missions classes, and if you have an ambitious small group it could be used there as well.

"Those of us from the older northern churches of Christendom must listen attentively to these new southern Christians. We are no longer the only, or even the central, players on the filed. Admittedly, this is not an easy adjustment for us. We are not accustomed to living in a world where the heartlands of Christianity are located in Africa, Latin America and Asia. nevertheless, twenty-first-century Christianity will largely be determined by the faithfulness of those outside our primary sphere of influence. After all, the theology that matters the most is wherever the most Christians are located." (p. 272)

Andrew Rogers is a Promotions Manager for Zondervan. Check by every Friday for his posts on Zondervan's new books and resources.

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