Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think

by Timothy C. Tennent

Tim Tennent’s book asks, “What can the worldwide Church learn from the theological reflection going on in the Majority World Church, reflection which has largely been ignored in Western theological circles?”

Zondervan, 5300 Patterson Avenue Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49530, 2007, 295 pages, $24.99.

Reviewed by Steve Strauss, U.S. director for SIM (Serving in Mission), Charlotte, North Carolina.

Since the majority of the world’s Christians now live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Tim Tennent’s Theology in the Context of World Christianity asks, “What can the worldwide Church learn from the theological reflection going on in the Majority World Church, reflection which has largely been ignored in Western theological circles?”

Tennent first establishes the importance of learning from the Majority World Church, then focuses one chapter each on several standard divisions of systematic theology: theology proper, bibliology, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. In each chapter, he introduces a key issue faced by believers in a specific part of the Majority World—and from whom the global Church can enrich its understanding of theological truth. For example, under theology proper he introduces the question believers face in Islamic contexts: “Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?” Under Christology he examines what can be learned from African Christians who have understood Jesus as healer and ancestor. Under bibliology he wrestles with the use of non-biblical sacred texts in opening the door for Christian witness. In each case, Tennent clearly explains the issue (some of which are very complex) and suggests how the issue contributes to the theologizing of the worldwide Church.

Tennent covers a wide range of topics with depth, accuracy, and skill. He is well-informed on world religions, contemporary missiological issues, and classic theology, and his conclusions are generally balanced and biblical. At times I found myself wishing he had been even more explicit in his suggestions as to how the theological insights of Majority World churches contribute to issues that other churches are facing. For example, I wish he had more specifically explored the significance of the C4/C5 debate to the ecclesiological questions American churches are currently asking. He clearly demonstrates that the scripturally-based theological reflection and struggles of believers around the world make a valuable contribution to the theology of the worldwide Church.

Anyone who wants to learn from fellow believers around the world will benefit from Tennent’s book. It would contribute particularly well as a text in courses on cross-cultural theology or contextualization. It would also be an ideal supplementary textbook for theology courses, crisply introducing students to the contribution of the Church in parts of the world typically ignored by Western theology textbooks. Tennent is certainly correct that mission studies and the theologizing of global Christianity can help kindle a resurgence of Christian faith in the West, and his book provides one of the sparks to ignite that fresh flame.

Check these titles:
Adeyemo, Tokumbo, ed. 2006. The Africa Bible Commentary. Nairobi: WordAlive Publishers/Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Dyrness, William. 1990. Learning about Theology from the Third World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

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