Intercultural Theology, vol. 1: Intercultural Hermeneutics. By Henning Wrogemann. Translated by Karl E. Böhmer. Missiological Engagements. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016. xxii + 431 pp., $45.00. Originally published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 60:1 (March 2017), 167-69.
Translated from the German, this work is the first in a three-part series on intercultural theology by Henning Wrogemann, chair for mission studies, comparative religion, and ecumenics at the Protestant University Wuppertal/Bethel in Germany. Subsequent volumes, still awaiting translation and publication in English, address theology of mission and theology of religions. In terms of related works, Wrogemann’s work resembles K. C. Abraham’s edited volume Third World Theologies: Commonalities and Divergences (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1990) as well as Stephen Bevans’s and Roger Schroeder’s Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2004).
Opting for the term intercultural theology instead of mission studies, Wrogemann’s aim in this book is to “take into account the broad scope of world Christianity” (p. 20). He asserts that intercultural theology will make “an important contribution to the processes in which Christians see themselves within the pluralized society of Europe and around the world” as “various forms of Christianity are analyzed from an intercultural perspective according to their particular characteristics … what they take for granted both culturally and contextually … what they view as problematic, and … their particular assumptions and priorities” (p. 395–96).
Read the remainder of the review HERE.
At CIU this weekend (March 18) we are hosting the Southeast regional Evangelical Missiological Society meeting on the theme theology in global context. Because of studies this past year on missionary monasticism and Francis of Assisi, I will be presenting a paper called, "Francis of Assisi’s Medieval Christology of Mission and Its Implications for Mission Today."
My abstract for the paper is below and a complete draft of the paper can be downloaded HERE.
In recent years, global theologians of mission have emphasized a posture of mission from below—missional engagement from a place of weakness and vulnerability. In part a reaction to the mistakes of Christendom and Christian mission’s alliance with political and economic power, mission from below aims to recover first century mission that emulates the way of Christ and the apostles. This approach to mission is also relevant in contexts today where Christian freedom (for worship and witness) is limited by tyrannical or resistant governments. As we strive to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves in mission today, it seems fruitful to explore the theology of mission of a medieval Italian mendicant monk who served in mission to Muslims during the Crusades.
In this paper, following a brief narrative of Francis of Assisi’s (1181-1226) life and journey in mission, I will focus on Francis’ Christology and how that shaped his approach to mission among Muslims and others. Finally, I will conclude with some reflections for what the church on mission today might gain from Francis.
This review was originally published in the January 2017 edition of Evangelical Missions Quarterly and is posted here with their kind permission. Click HERE to learn subscribe to EMQ.
Douglas Jacobsen (distinguished professor of church history and theology at Messiah College) has spent a career teaching Global Christian history. He pays that forward in this new book, which offers a concise grasp of the history and current status of the Global Church.
Jacobsen’s stated aim is “to describe the big picture of global Christianity as fairly and accurately as possible” (p. xiii). Following a brief historical survey (chap. 1), Jacobsen approaches his task by discussing the four main traditions within the Global Church—Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism (chap. 2). Next, he narrates the story of Christianity geographically, looking at Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and then North America (chaps. 3-7).
There is much to commend about this book. Jacobsen shows himself more than qualified to guide the reader through such vast territory in a concise and readable way. It is obvious that he has been helping students navigate this path for many years. Jacobsen also does excellent historical work with help from the disciplines of sociology and theology.
For example, he ably explains the social and historical backstory to the late twentieth-century Rwandan genocide (pp. 57-60) and helps the reader understand harmony as a value in Asian theology (pp. 174-187). Finally, Jacobsen includes many clear supporting graphs and maps that help the reader grasp key statistics and trends presented in the work.
In addition to these affirmations, I have two constructive critiques. First, from the outset of the work (pp. xv-xviii, 1-16), Jacobsen celebrates the diversity of Global Christianity in the New Testament and Early Church period and even suggests that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses could fit within the traditions of Christianity.
While diversity of belief and practice ought to be celebrated in Christian history, we mustn’t forget that the Church did not embrace ‘Christianities’ as Walter Bauer and Bart Ehrman have claimed; rather, from a very early point, the Church fought to preserve orthodoxy against aberrant teaching through the rule of faith, creeds, and, of course, through affirming the canonical scriptures. At points, Jacobsen seems to lean in the direction of ‘Christianities’ over diversity within orthodox Christianity.
Second, although I admire Jacobsen’s undertaking to describe Global Christianity through four main traditions (chap. 2), I still came away unconvinced that those categories tell the whole story. The Pentecostal movement makes things especially blurry because (1) Pentecostalism developed out of historic Protestantism and (2) there are Pentecostal movements within the Roman Catholicism. As the book continues, Jacobsen shows the pervasiveness of Pentecostalism and, in a way, dismantles the categories proposed in chapter 2.
However, this is an excellent, readable, and stimulating book for Christian history students. After reviewing it, I’ve decided to adopt it for my History of Global Christianity course and I encourage other professors to do the same.
Irvin, Dale T. and Scott W. Sunquist. 2001, 2013. History of the World Christian Movement, Vols. 1 and 2. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.
Jenkins, Philip. 2011. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, Todd M. and Cindy Wu. 2015. Our Global Families: Christians Embracing Common Identity in a Changing World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.