Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis

by Kay Higuera Smith, Jayachitra Lalitha, and L. Daniel Hawk, eds.

IVP Academic. 2014. 

Reviewed by Dr. Jared Looney, executive director, Global City Mission Initiative. 

Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations is a collection of essays from a diverse range of authors resulting from a theological roundtable addressing postcolonial theology and praxis. It provides a helpful reader for exploring postcolonial theology. 

Recently, I was mentioning to a friend that I was planning to write a review on a text addressing evangelicals and postcolonialism, and his knee-jerk reply was, “Aren’t colonial and evangelical synonymous?” His response highlights the need for this very conversation to extend into the halls of evangelical institutions.  

Indeed, the earliest chapters in the introductory section of the book highlight the distinct problems and issues facing evangelicals in light of a post-colonial world. The subsequent chapters address the history of colonialism, complicity of Western society and evangelical traditions at various epochs in history, and attempts to offer perspectives or practices for a way forward beyond our colonial history and worldview. 

A significant contribution of postcolonial discussions among evangelicals is a recovery of scripture as a subversive text. One example of this in this book is the brief treatment of Daniel in chapter 12. I found the commentary on the historical development of evangelism in light of colonialism and postcolonialism particularly helpful (e.g., Kay Higuera Smith’s explanation of identity formation as it applies to evangelicals). 

In general, the work as a whole serves as a reader on postcolonial theology. However, I do wish there was a more proactive integration (without letting up on existing critique) of evangelical theological frameworks with postcolonial theory. Rather than engage evangelical theology, the conversation largely feels as though it is taking place outside of the evangelical Church. As a result, this conversation continues to remain on the margins of evangelical discussions at a time when evangelicals are living in an increasingly global and postcolonial world and need to come to terms with these issues. 

Regarding Western missiology, I would argue that contemporary contextualization would benefit from a healthy interaction with postcolonial theology. As the introduction points out, contemporary indigenous leaders are often “mimicking colonial models in their own mission strategies” (p. 26). This book might help jumpstart helpful conversations among missiologists, but the text itself offers little direction for contemporary missions among evangelicals. 

Nevertheless, despite its lack of integration with evangelical theologies, it provides a helpful reader that gives voice to postcolonial thought at a time when evangelical leaders must engage increasingly pluralistic contexts.   

Check these titles:

Bolger, Ryan, editor, 2012. The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.    

Hanciles, Jehu, 2009. Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration and the Transformation of the West. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books. 

Tennent, Timothy C., 2007. Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. 

. . . .

EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 3 pp. 343, 344. Copyright  © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.


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