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Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity

by Craig Ott and Harold Netland, eds.

Mosaic books are always a challenge to read and review, unless they have clear integrators—convergence factors for diverse essays. Globalizing Theology reveals these elements as it grapples with the issues of globalizing theology (faces of contextualization) in a new global arena.

Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 2006, 384 pages, $27.99.

Reviewed by William D. Taylor, World Evangelical Alliance global ambassador and senior mentor.

Mosaic books are always a challenge to read and review, unless they have clear integrators—convergence factors for diverse essays. Globalizing Theology reveals these elements as it grapples with the issues of globalizing theology (faces of contextualization) in a new global arena. In addition, the book serves as a testimony of appreciation for Paul Hiebert’s gigantic contribution to evangelical mission, missiology and anthropology.

The title is given as a participle, “globalizing,” indicating the writers’ desires to play a role in an ongoing process of church and mission, belief and practice in global Christianity. With most of the writers coming from the global North, the book gives us a valuable example of theological and missiological reflection in a new global arena—political and economic, religious and cultural, non-Christian and evangelical. Its point of departure is the scripture as it engages with history and culture, church and mission.

Netland’s introduction prepares us for this three-part mosaic, casting the wider context for “World Christianity and Theological Reflection,” followed by three broad-stroke essays. Next come the five chapters on “Methodological Issues for Globalizing Theology” and the final component, “Implications for Globalizing Theology,” with six diverse chapters. Ott crafts the conclusion, and the book ends with a superb bibliography and a helpful index.

Other impressions: Hiebert has shaped us all. Philip Jenkins is quoted many times. Readers can study high-value chapters and peruse others. Broader-scoped chapters are balanced by more narrow-focused ones. Theology, missiology, anthropology and economics can be family. Globalizing theology inevitably means contextualization. The Church has two additional “selfs”: theologizing and missiologizing. Vanhoozer has a delicate sense of humor. The book had only two non-Western writers. “Glocal” has come of age. Footnotes contain information jewels. Western evangelical reflection is increasingly globalized and has a future—as long as it dialogues with other regional/national reflection teams.

One factual error to correct: instead of just one percent of Brazilian missionaries being sent by their churches (p.253), the truth is that fifty percent of them are—this is confirmed by emails from four Brazilian mission leaders.

Poignantly, just as I wrote this review, news came of Paul Hiebert’s death on March 11, 2007. We will miss this personal shepherd and seer, teacher and mentor, missiologist and anthropologist—a unique, godly, reflective practitioner. We now gaze on the horizon to identify younger globalized women and men who will emerge with similar spirituality, knowledge, skills and teaching/mentoring skill sets.

Check these titles:
Tiplady, Richard, ed. 2003. One World or Many? The Impact of Globalization on Mission. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

Taylor, William D., ed. 2000. Global Missiology for the 21st Century: The Iguassu Dialogue. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2000.

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