Theology Moves South – an Excerpt from Our Global Families

The following is an excerpt from Our Global Families, by Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu.

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Cover ArtUntil now, Western scholars have written the dominant theologies of Christianity, but the massive movements of Southern Christianity, whether they be Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, or Independent, will likely chart the future of Christian theology.

Theologians such as the Ghanaian Kwame Bediako have begun to outline the enormous challenges this project holds for African Christians. Malaysian Methodist bishop Hwa Yung poses that as the Asian church grows rapidly, it needs to “self-theologize, developing a theology for itself that is rooted in one’s culture, history and context.” The Northern church would do well to take on the posture of learning. British missiologist David Smith advises,

We are witnesses to the emergence of new centers of spiritual and theological vitality as Christians from the southern continents add their insights to the church’s total knowledge of the incomparable Christ. In the present transitional stage we are moving from a Christendom shaped by the culture of the Western world, to a world Christianity which will develop new spiritual and theological insights as the biblical revelation is allowed to interact with the many cultures in which Christ is now confessed as Lord.

An alternative is the possibility that the differences between Northern and Southern Christianities could cause them to drift apart to such an extent that “the North would define itself against [Southern] Christianity.” But Cuban American historian-theologian Justo González calls the Western/Northern church to humbly join the larger movement of global Christianity.

The fact is that the gospel is making headway among the many tribes, nations, and languages—that it is indeed making more headway among them than it is among the dominant cultures of the North Atlantic. The question is not whether there will be a multicultural church. Rather, the question is whether those who have become so accustomed to seeing the gospel expressed only or primarily in terms of those dominant cultures will be able to participate in the life of the multicultural church that is already a reality.

©2015 by Todd M. Johnson and Cindy M. Wu. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Our Global Families, click here.