Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity, edited by Craig Ott and Harold A. Netland
Reviewed by Robert Sivigny, University Librarian
Given the fact that most Christians today live in the non-Western world, what implications does this have for the Church and its theological task? This is the central focus of this thought-provoking collection of essays based on papers presented at a 2004 Trinity Seminary mission conference, “Doing Theology in a Globalizing World.” Contributors to the conference convened in honor of Dr. Paul A. Hiebert, long-time mission professor at Trinity for his contributions to missiology, included mission professors and specialists from seminaries (especially Trinity), throughout the U.S., Great Britain, and Sri Lanka.
The study is organized into three parts focusing on world Christianity and theological reflection, methodological issues, and implications of globalizing theology, with introductory and concluding essays by editors Harold Netland and Craig Ott, both mission professors at Trinity. Included at the end is an extensive bibliography and contributor bios.
From the first and second centuries, when Christianity was confronted by Gentile Christians, the church embraced cultural diversity and refined related theological issues accordingly. The history of Christian theology shows a richness and diversity largely attributed to the influence of new cultural ideas and interaction. In this manner, the history of theological inquiry has proven resilient and strong. Today, perhaps more than any other time, the church is called to embrace globalization and “…turn to the hard work of discerning new ways of seeing.” “To engage in ‘globalizing theology’ today means that we must guard the commitment to the particular and the local while taking account of the fact that we live with an intensified awareness of the global. If theology is to serve the church throughout the world, it must reflect this bifocal way of seeing; this becomes the vantage point from which we must think and revise theology conceptually, methodologically, and programmatically.”
According to Darrell Whiteman, contributor of the second essay, “Anthropological Reflections on Contextualizing Theology in a Globalizing World,” Revelation 7:9 presents a grand picture of the direction the church is headed. “After this I looked and there were before me a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Whiteman observes, “If this is a picture of what will someday be, why should we not begin now, while still on earth, to work to find a way of using our diverse cultures to bring a richness to our understanding of the gospel?” Are we not called to the kingdom for such a time as this?
In the concluding essay of the book, editor Craig Ott asks, “What could demand greater love, deeper humility, and more childlike faith than the human endeavor to understand and serve the eternal, living God? To do this more faithfully, we must live and think more as a global church, interconnected and interrelated, not merely by new technologies of a globalizing world but by our common bond with our heavenly Father.”