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Review: Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies

compactThe Baker Compact Dictionary of Biblical Studies is EXACTLY what it sounds like- measuring 4.25” by 7” and just over 200 pages, this book is a great complement to anyone who is using commentaries and academic material and wants to avoid the internet (and the distractions therein). Brief entries on a broad range of entries provide the necessary information in a fairly objective and critical voice. While the authors (and most of the testimonials) speak from conservative, evangelical institutions, the material is mostly devoid of editorial content. Any argument about biases would likely center on what is included/omitted rather than the entries themselves. Only so much can be said in a brief volume like this, but the format will keep the reader engaged with the material that they are REALLY trying to read to better understand the Bible. Note: This would be a perfect gift for someone beginning seminary, a pastor, or bible study leader.

Here are a few sections that I think readers of the blog would find interesting:

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through their blogger program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

March Madness of Religion: West

March Madness is an opportunity for college basketball fans to look around the United States at teams that they don’t usually follow and learn about players, coaches, and stories. At Global Theology, I wanted to take a look at the faculty teaching in religious studies, theology, Biblical studies, and related fields to form my own “bracket”. Each person highlighted has a brief description (usually from the school’s department page) and link to a blog, article, video, or book where you can learn more about them.

East Bracket | West Bracket | Midwest Bracket | South Bracket

Enjoy!

 delacruzMichigan (3): Dierdre de la Cruz

Deirdre de la Cruz specializes in the cultures and histories of Southeast Asia, in particular the Philippines.  Her current book project is a historical and ethnographic examination of several apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, especially as they articulate with projects and practices of colonial and post-colonial modernity.  In addition to Philippine history and ethnography, her research interests include theories of religion, colonialism and post-colonialism, visual culture, histories and theories of the mass media, and global occultisms.

Discussion of Mother Figured: Marian Apparitions and the Making of a Filipino Universal (Podcast)

Faculty Bio Page

 

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Gonzaga University (4): Patrick Wanakuta Baraza

Dr. Baraza is an ordained priest from the diocese of Kitale, Kenya. He has been teaching African Catholicism and Islamic Civilization in the Religious Studies Department at Gonzaga University since 2005. He is the author of “Rival Claims for the Soul of Africa” as well as “Drumming up Dialogue: The Bukusu Model for the World“.

What GU Students Can Learn in Africa (blog)

Faculty bio page

fadekenicolecastorTexas A&M (7): N. Fadeke Castor

Dr. N. Fadeke Castor is a Black Feminist anthropologist, African Diaspora Studies scholar, and Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Africana at Texas A&M University.  Her current research and teaching interests include religion, performance, social identities (esp. race, gender, class), citizenship, identity and representation in popular/public culture, and decolonization, in the African Diaspora (specifically in the Caribbean and West Africa). Dr. Castor is also initiated in the Yoruba diasporic religion to Ifá, Obatala, and Egbe where she holds the titles Omo Awo Fadeke and Iyalode Egbefunmilayo.

In her written work she explores emerging forms of cultural citizenship with special attention to the performance of decolonizing practices and intersections of identity. Her new project, Black Spirits Matter, looks at the interplay of African diasporic religions, social justice, and transnationalism as an example of spiritual citizenship in action.

“I Am because They Are: Devotion and Intimacy in Trinidad Orisha” (Video lecture)

Professional website

Faculty Bio Page

jamil-drake-profileFlorida State (9): Jamil Drake

Jamil Drake specializes in American religious history with particular interests in 20th century African-American religious cultures; religion and politics; and religion and popular culture. More specifically, he is interested in questions around religion and racial identity in the U.S. He is currently writing a history of race and class in American religion tentatively entitled, To Know the Soul of the People: American Folk Studies and Racial Politics of Popular Religion, 1900-1940To Know the Soul of People tells a story of how the study of race and religion became a central topic in folklore research and the developing social sciences in the first half of the twentieth century. His research explores how the use of “folk religion” played a fundamental role in the process of classifying cultural behaviors that contributed to defining black lower and working-class communities in twentieth-century America.

The Politics of Poverty and Race (online article)

Faculty bio page

Michael Shepherd is an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies and Political Science at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA. He tweets at @profshepherd and @global_theology

March Madness of Religion: Midwest

March Madness is an opportunity for college basketball fans to look around the United States at teams that they don’t usually follow and learn about players, coaches, and stories. At Global Theology, I wanted to take a look at the faculty teaching in religious studies, theology, Biblical studies, and related fields to form my own “bracket”. Each person highlighted has a brief description (usually from the school’s department page) and link to a blog, article, video, or book where you can learn more about them.

East Bracket | West Bracket | Midwest Bracket | South Bracket

Enjoy!

zahn_mollyKansas (1): Molly Zahn

Molly Zahn’s research focuses on issues of scriptural interpretation in the Hebrew Bible and in early Judaism (primarily the Dead Sea Scrolls and related texts). Other interests include the ancient Near Eastern world, early Christianity, and the historical relations between Christianity and Judaism. Molly’s publications explore how interpretation shapes the development of authoritative or scriptural texts themselves, and examine the variety of creative ways individuals and communities claim authority for new interpretations.

Interview with The Rhodes Project (website)

Faculty Bio Page

Mark Goodacre

Duke (2): Mark Goodacre

Mark Goodacre is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University. He specializes in the New Testament and Christian Origins. His research interests include Jesus, the Synoptic Gospels, John’s Gospel, the Gospel of Thomas and Jesus in Film. He is the author of four books including The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (2002) and Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas’s Familiarity with the Synoptics (2012). He is well known for internet sites like The New Testament Gateway and his podcast, the NT Pod.

Faculty Bio Page

 

ameburyClemson (5): Richard Amesbury

Richard Amesbury is a philosopher and scholar of religion who works at the intersection of ethics, philosophy of religion, and political theory. He chairs the American Academy of Religion’s Law, Religion, and Culture Unit and serves on the steering committee of the AAR’s Religion and Politics Unit. Prior to joining the department as chair in 2017, he was Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where he also led the university’s Center for Ethics and directed the Institute for Social Ethics.

Religion and Rights: An Interview with Richard Amesbury (website)

Faculty Bio Page

Burrus-Virginia-hqSyracuse (11): Virginia Burris

Virginia Burris is the Bishop W. Earl Ledden Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Religion at Syracuse University. Professor Burrus specializes in the literary and cultural history of Christianity in late antiquity.  Her interests include: gender, sexuality, and the body; martyrdom and asceticism; ancient novels and hagiography; constructions of orthodoxy and heresy; histories of theology and historical theologies.

Ancient Christian Practice, as fellow-in-residence at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (website)

Faculty Bio Page

 

Michael Shepherd is an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies and Political Science at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA. He tweets at @profshepherd and @global_theology

March Madness of Religion: South

March Madness is an opportunity for college basketball fans to look around the United States at teams that they don’t usually follow and learn about players, coaches, and stories. At Global Theology, I wanted to take a look at the faculty teaching in religious studies, theology, Biblical studies, and related fields to form my own “bracket”. Each person highlighted has a brief description (usually from the school’s department page) and link to a blog, article, video, or book where you can learn more about them.

East Bracket | West Bracket | Midwest Bracket | South Bracket

Enjoy!

bradshawKentucky (5): David Bradshaw

David Bradshaw is a professor of philosophy and department chair at the University of Kentucky and an Orthodox theologian. His research focuses on the ways that ancient Greek philosophy shaped medieval philosophy and religious thought, and how these, in turn, contributed to the formation of modernity.  Most of his work to date has been on the philosophical roots of the division between the Greek-speaking (eastern) and Latin-speaking (western) branches of Christianity. His more recent work has continued this comparative study with respect to other issues such as divine freedom, time and eternity, the nature of the will, and free will and predestination.

What Orthodoxy Can Contribute to American Intellectual Life (audio)

Interview about the connection between Philosophy and Theology (video)

Faculty Bio Page

Katharine Schweitzer

Nevada (7): Katharine Schweitzer

Katharine Schweitzer is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nevada, Reno whose research covers social and poltical philosophy, ethics, and feminist philosophy. Her dissertation, “Principled Compromise in Theorizing about Justice” (Emory University, May 2014), focused on how to understand and resolve conflicts of values, especially those which are associated with the ideals of liberal democracy and postulates how to respond to disagreement about the basic principles of justice. Without a nuanced understanding of principled compromise, theorists lack a key resource for negotiating the diversity of moral, religious, and metaphysical beliefs and values.

Faculty Bio Page

manglosKansas State (9): Nicolette Manglos-Weber

Dr. Manglos-Weber studies the connections between religion, politics, and global inequalities with a focus on how religious memberships shape patterns of social trust and political engagement. She is also an eclectic methodologist, who combines ethnographic and interview work with quantitative survey data analysis.

Manglos-Weber is currently revising a book manuscript on migration, religion, and social trust based on ethnographic research within a West African church in Chicago, IL.

Personal web site and list of publications (website)

Faculty Bio Page

tishaLoyola-Chicago (11): Tisha Rajendra

Tisha Rajendra specializes in Christian ethics and Roman Catholic social thought at Loyola University Chicaho. Her current work uses Catholic social thought and liberation theology to address questions of migration, human rights and state sovereignty under conditions of globalization.

Myths and Migrants, a discussion of her book Migrants and Citizens: Justice and Responsibility in the Ethics of Immigration  (article)

Faculty Bio Page

 

 

Michael Shepherd is an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies and Political Science at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA. He tweets at @profshepherd and @global_theology

March Madness of Religion: East

March Madness is an opportunity for college basketball fans to look around the United States at teams that they don’t usually follow and learn about players, coaches, and stories. At Global Theology, I wanted to take a look at the faculty teaching in religious studies, theology, Biblical studies, and related fields to form my own “bracket”. Each person highlighted has a brief description (usually from the school’s department page) and link to a blog, article, video, or book where you can learn more about them.

East Bracket | West Bracket | Midwest Bracket | South Bracket

Enjoy!

massimoVillanova (1): Massimo Faggioli

Massimo Faggioli is a full professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University (Philadelphia). He had been founding director (2014-2015) of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship and on the faculty in the Department of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul (Minnesota) between 2009 and 2016. He writes regularly for newspapers and journals on the Church, religion and politics, frequently gives public lectures on the Church and on Vatican II, and he is co-chair of the new study group “Vatican II Studies” for the American Academy of Religion (2012–2016).

Pope Francis and the Unfolding of Vatican II in Today’s Church (video lecture)

Faculty Bio Page

bergmannPurdue (2): Michael Bergmann

Michael Bergmann’s specialization is in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. Within philosophy of reason, he is an advocate for skeptical theism, emphasizing that one should be critical of the ability of a human person to evaluate the morality of actions of God.

Skeptical Theism and the Problem of Evil (article)

Faculty Bio Page

 

 

Mark_Webb_BWTexas Tech (3): Mark Webb

Professor Webb, is the chair of the Philosophy Department and specializes in epistemology and philosophy of religion. He is currently working on philosophical problems arising from the commitments of the world’s religions, starting with karma and reincarnation, and their implications for free will and personal identity.

Interview on teaching style (video)

Faculty Bio Page

 

 

galeWest Virginia (5): Aaron Gale

Aaron M. Gale is an associate professor of religious studies at West Virginia University as well as the director of WVU’s Program for Religious Studies. Dr. Gale’s research has centered upon the Jewish roots of early Christianity, specifically as it relates to the community associated with Matthew’s Gospel. This research has resulted in various publications including the book Redefining Ancient Borders: The Jewish Scribal Framework of Matthew’s Gospel.

Faculty Bio Page

 

 

 

 

Michael Shepherd is an Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies and Political Science at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA. He tweets at @profshepherd and @global_theology

Review: The Cross and Christian Ministry (DA Carson)

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I was intrigued to see a chapter dedicated to World Christianity in a book by an author whom I would not regularly engage- he is a Reformed scholar and the leader of The Gospel Coalition, which trends much more conservative and evangelical than my typical fare. Unfortunately, the book did not deliver on my optimism.

The book  is an adaptation of a series of lectures D.A. Carson provided previously and the tone reads like an expository sermon. This is helpful for a reader who is not accustomed to exegetical commentary as it positions the material as if Carson is speaking to you rather than  writing to you. This style makes the book very accessible and can be read in a dedicated hour. Carson identifies five areas to focus on: The Cross and Preaching (1:18-2:5), the Holy Spirit (2:6-16), Factionalism (3), Christian Leadership (4), and the World Christian (9:19-27)

The most interesting chapter to me (and, I would suspect, readers of this blog) was his treatment of 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 under the title The Cross and the World Christian, which I will discuss below. Unfortunately, this section does little to incorporate the phenomenon or perspective of Christians outside of the West.

The definition he provides as to what defines a “world Christian” (quoted from 133), he writes:

Their allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom is self-consciously set above all national, cultural, linguistic, and racial allegiances.

Their commitment to the church, Jesus’ messianic community, is to the church everywhere, wherever the church is truly manifest, and not only to the manifestation on  home turf.

They see themselves first and foremost as citizens  of the heavenly kingdom and therefore consider all other citizenships a secondary matter.

As a result, they are single-minded and sacrificial when it comes to the paramount mandate to evangelize and make disciples.

This last point provides a basis for critiquing the others, as the single-mindedness and sacrificial nature that Carson expects for evangelization and discipleship neglect to account for the need for reconciliation and decolonization of Western-led institutions (of which Carson is a product and leader). By ignoring the power structures that affect the relationships between Christians of European inheritance and Christians from other social locations, Carson’s exhortations remain bound in his priority of social position. Carson seems to be uneasy (if not outright critical) of the presence of (Third) World Christians, writing “Nevertheless, in my experience, very few ‘Third World’ leaders spend much time criticizing the West and stressing the need for properly contextualized theology until they have spent a few years studying in the West. … Very few of these leaders, for whatever reason, actually engage in much contextualized theology. Instead they make their reputations criticizing the West” (152, emphasis in original).

As he fails to properly account for the presence and perspective of others, his definitions remain dependent on the priority for the Western church. The first point reinforces cultural erasure in the name of Christian unity. The second point provides  a scaffold for “reverse discrimination” and making the marginalized responsible for supporting the fragility of the powerful. The third minimizes the effect of “citizenship”, which carries a colonial legacy that populations of the Global South have held for less than a hundred years. As the rights of citizenship are unevenly applied, the renunciation of rights is a privileged expectation as the marginalized can rely upon them for basic hope of survival. By labeling the definition for “world Christians”, the assumption holds that these facets apply to Christians “around the World” primarily and not Christian “at home” in Europe and North America.

Beyond the introductory paragraphs, the chapter could easily dispense with the title of “World Christian” and not lose any of its coherence. In describing the material concerning the weak/strong in the community, Carson’s example is about social drinking- a classic example from North American Evangelicalism. Missing from his analysis (140-142) about eating food sacrificed to idols is any recognition of Christians for whom this remains a contemporary issue.

Later, in an illustration of how cultural difference affect the church, he describes seminars with theologians from “around the world” with generalities about the personalities of Italian, German, British, and Japanese participants, then the time-keeping practices of Americans and Nigerians (148). These examples of diversity may resonate with a  Eurocentric audience, but fails to represent real challenges or capabilities within World Christianity.

Ultimately, this book may be effective for leadership teams within a Protestant Evangelical church, though the book does not meaningfully address diversity in leadership and would need to be supplemented with additional material to be more effective. Without comparing this material to its earlier printing, I do not know if chapter represents an earlier era in his thinking in regards to representation of World Christianity or an attempt to shoehorn in a contemporary ministerial and exegetical reality.

2 stars out of 5.

(The material is originally from 1993 and had been published as The Cross and Christian Ministry: An Exposition of 1 Corinthians. It is unclear what, if anything has been updated or revised. I received a copy of the text for the purpose of providing a review and did not receive compensation.)

Michael Shepherd is a professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA.

Quote Gallery

2017. There is a lot going on in the political realm in the United States and a good time to remember that the Church has had faithful witness to the radical and revolutionary love of God in the past. Looking to the margins, we see where Christ’s spirit has been active and a challenge to us to be faithful to the same call of Christ today. I will update this page as often as I can- if you have a recommendation, please contact me.

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Amos and Black Lives Matter

Pastor Eddie Anderson speaks to the congregation at McCarty Memorial Christian Church in West Adams. (Harrison Hill / Los Angeles Times)

Pastor Eddie Anderson speaks to the congregation at McCarty Memorial Christian Church in West Adams. (Harrison Hill / Los Angeles Times)

With the Bible spread before him, Anderson read from the Book of Amos — describing a scene of people chanting angrily in the streets, taking over the town square and grieving for the dead.

“Amos said until justice is established we will be forced, we will be called to wail,” he preached before pivoting from the past into the present. “We will wail and say ‘Si, se puede.’ We will wail and say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We will wail and say ‘No Justice, No Peace.’”

In an article exploring some of the disconnect between the Black Lives Matter movement and traditional civil rights leadership in Los Angeles, writer Angel Jennings highlights response from clergy. In the quotation above, we see an example of utilizing scripture to connect a congregation with the continued search for justice.

Amos is set in the divided kingdom and he is from Judah but he is preaching in Israel. He is the outsider who is both the recipient of injustice and the herald for reconciliation. He begins by declaring the judgement that awaits the nations surrounding Israel (which would have received support and applause from any audience in Israel) before turning his message to challenge Israel itself for how the elite have oppressed the poor.

Amos uses a phrase, looking forward to the Day of the Lord when God will act to establish justice against all oppression. In this scenario, the surrounding nations are called enemies of God, but so is Israel! The prophets message is that a nation’s history is not a replacement for righteousness and covenant as God’s people. As an extension, a church’s history is not a replacement for pursuing justice and righteousness in imitation of Christ.

Read the full article from the Los Angeles Times. Read more about Pastor Eddie Anderson and McCarty Memorial Christian Church here.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of Global Theology and an adjunct professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA.

Reclaiming Jesus in Diversity

Last spring, I had the opportunity to lead a lecture series on Christology and Whiteness at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA, in which we discussed the various ways that Euroamerican assumptions become the default in the ways that we understand the Christian faith, scripture, and the Church. Additionally, we looked at Black Theology as a necessary critique for this dominant perspective (More on Black Theology here and here) and the need to enculturate the gospel with diversity for its full embodiment.

One of the illustrating points of how a community reclaims Jesus within their own cultural identity was the statue of “Black Jesus” at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, USA. (For our readers outside of the United States, Detroit is a major city which has experienced significant economic upheaval based on changes in factory manufacturing, which disproportionately affected African-Americans and other minority groups.)

Image Credit: David Schalliol

Image Credit: David Schalliol

The 12th Street Riot in 1967, caused by police brutality and unjust social conditions, lasted 5 days and rocked a community and a country teeming with racial friction as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining force. In the midst of this conflict, a statue of Christ in a grotto of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary was painted.

According to the Seminary:

The story of Black Jesus is moving and was at one time controversial. During the second day of the disturbance [the 1967 riots], an African American housepainter boldly painted the hands, feet and face of the white Sacred Heart of Jesus statue black. Opinions were highly polarized at the time, even among Detroit’s black residents. Some considered the painting an act of faith and racial pride; others saw it as mere vandalism. Over the years, the meaning of the landmark has evolved to almost unanimously symbolize Jesus’ love for all races, and particularly for the city of Detroit and its black citizens. The seminary has steadfastly kept the features of the landmark painted black for four decades, and intends to do so forever.

The paint on the head, hands, and feet of Jesus occupy a small part of the statue’s surface, yet their contrast speaks volumes to the common depiction of Christ. For a community facing injustices, this becomes a reminder that Christ is present with them and not the sole property of the privileged and powerful.

The significance of cultural groups reclaiming the image of Christ in themselves teaches us a few lessons.

We understand the incarnation better.

  • To believe that God entered into the human story and was entirely present within a human form endows an extreme amount of cultural particularity. Jesus of Nazareth was, quite simply, a Jewish man, living in and around the Galilee region in the first century of the Common Era. He spoke Aramaic at least, ate a lot of salted fish, dressed in a common fashion, read Hebrew scripture exclusively, maintained Jewish religious customs, and fit within his social context as the son of a carpenter and, later, a religious teacher. Despite all of these unique cultural factors, neither Jesus nor Christian traditions have required their followers to honor the cultural practices of its leader! For God to inhabit a human is for God to inhabit humanity, in all of its diversity and complexity. (This becomes a running challenge in the first-century church as some Jewish-background Christians want to retain cultural practices as a core component of the faith, while Gentile-background Christians bring their own former religious practices, like ecstatic speech and disassociation with the physical body, to the community. Acts 15 is one of the flashpoints of trying to reconcile these differences.) Christianity has been a translated faith since its inception and continues to adapt to new communities and concerns today. By engaging with how different cultures have applied the gospel in their context, we are inspired to see how to reflect the spirit of Christ in our own communities. To look for and value diversity is to see how Christ is incarnated again and again in different ways.
  • We are challenged to reveal where we have made our own social preferences a stand-in for faith.

    • Taking the time to examine our own cultural conditions is similar to a fish studying water. Because we are unconsciously shaped by so many factors, it is easy to assume that those factors and our experiences are universal. This is especially true if we inhabit social locations of privilege or power. (In 2013, a major news representative crystallized this assumption in an on-air segment arguing that Santa Claus and Jesus were white. Her reasoning? “They just are.” – Video Link) When we assume that Jesus belongs to White culture, discipleship means becoming more White to the exclusion of other diverse and valuable identities. When we assume that Jesus belongs to White culture, discipleship means becoming more White Click To Tweet Once we are aware of this tendency, we can see where they have infiltrated our leadership structures, worship styles, spiritual direction, and have distanced others and their ability to live fully into their identity as a disciple of Christ.

    We learn to see Christ as present in our neighbors and are moved to action.

    • Despite the divisions which may exist due to geography, language, economics, education, there is the possibility to find commonality with people who are, otherwise, complete strangers. Through this association, Christians of one social location can see in another the presence of Christ, if they choose to look! We can see our sisters and brothers affected by adverse weather, or political posturing, or living under threat of violence and injustice. By cherishing their Christian identity first, we protect against the pressures to divide based on social hierarchies. When we see our sisters and brothers treated unfairly, we are motivated to become involved in their struggle because it is no longer their issue, but a family issue. We cannot gaslight and dismiss their experiences, but need to listen, learn, and follow their leadership. As a white, American male, I believe that #BlackLivesMatter as a necessary societal improvement, but I also believe that Jarrett, and Stanley, and Ramon, and Delonte, and Troy, and Gary’s lives matter and that they have something to teach me about living the Christian life. Of course, these influences come from all types of diversity- people of every national origin, economic status, gender expression and orientation, physical ability, political affiliation, language and literacy, and creed. The community that grows despite these differences will look truly peculiar to those outside the Church and creates invitation to share the radical influence of the Gospel. These relationships are also an entrypoint for responding faithfully and thoughtfully to the calls for justice and reconciliation.

    What has been your experience in seeking diversity in the Church? What barriers have you encountered or benefits enjoyed?

    Michael Shepherd is an adjunct professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA and editor of Global Theology. He can be reached at editor @globaltheology.org or on Twitter at @Global_Theology or @mchlshepherd

     

     

     

    Reading the Bible Through Different Cultures’ Eyes

    How should other cultural perspectives influence how we read scripture? In a recent podcast from Faith & Whatever, hosts James Yuile and Josh Carman interview Dr. Kip Lines to find out. My summary of their conversation and notes follow.

    Dr. Kip Lines is a professor of Intercultural Studies at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA. He completed his Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary in Lexington, KY, USA following a career as a missionary in the Turkana region of Kenya. (Dr. Lines also recorded an episode discussing the pitfalls and possibilities within short-term mission trips.)

    Reflection on how a community receives the Bible for the first time (2:59)

    Early in their tenure among the Turkana peoples of Kenya, a translation of the Bible in their local language was completed and presented to the community. This event highlighted the ways that different cultures relate to written text and the ways that people will process information and reality and raised the question about how to connect the community’s existing interpretive practice with this “new” scripture.

    Divination Methods as an Interpretive Method (5:04 and 16:33)

    Dr. Lines provides an example from the Turkana culture that illustrates one of the ways that the community “read” and understood their current situation. The traditional practice of extispicy, or reading entrails, was brought into the training for how to read the Bible by utilizing the valuable aspects of group participation and a concern for the current situation of the community. This process was not without its critics, however, as later reflection upon this practice was dismissed by some, as Dr. Lines recounts. For others, however, it was liberating to hear that “the way that someone in their own context already knows and understands things is a valid way for them to use to interpret scripture”.

    This story resonates with me, as it illustrates the positive cultural associations of a practice that can easily be dismissed as “occult” or “backwards thinking”. If we begin with a negative connotation, we lose what possibilities there are for incorporation into the Christian experience, as well as the people for whom these practices are significant. A similar example is the use of drumming and sweats in North American indigenous communities.

    Note: These sections can be used in a small-group or Bible study session to present the topic and then discuss the ramifications. Many Bible studies function this way, as people each share their understanding of the material and application to their life. This is effectively the same interpretation, but we have removed the shared meal.

    The Tension in Western Theology and Using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (10:35)

    Turning to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and its balance of using Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Tradition, there is a framework to process different perspectives. Typically, these cultural perspectives will fall under the category of Experience, though we also need to pay attention to how we assume Western priority for Reason and Tradition as well.

    Christology and Different Perspectives (17:40)

    Using cultural context as the starting point for understanding Christ (Christology), different aspects are highlighted and affirmed. Redeemer and Savior are two elements that are typical in a Western, American perspective, but Brother, Ancestor, Diviner are other possibilities. (See this post for an example of reading Colossians 1:15-20 with Ancestor in mind.)

    From this discussion, Yuile illustrates a tension that we are familiar with terms like “Son of God” for Jesus and that Christians are “children of God”, but there is hesitancy to describe ourselves as “brothers and sisters of Christ”. I see this as a deficiency of the English language (and, perhaps, of the family structures) that there is not a sufficient vocabulary for elder brother/primary-generation-head that conveys significance

    As these perspectives come together, we have this expansion of the truth of who Christ is. We also can see more clearly how Western assumptions can creep into our theology and practice. A lot of hand-wringing takes place over “boyfriend-Jesus” language used in contemporary worship and preaching in the United States. Setting aside the implications of this understanding, the process by which the image occurs is similar: utilizing something cultural familiar as a metaphorical basis for organizing our thoughts about Christ (consciously or not). Are there limitations to this practice? Of course. But we cannot adequately approach the ends without recognizing this influence of the means. And the goal is not to sanctify one specific conclusion, but to endow the process with attentiveness to the Spirit of Christ.

    Benefit to the Western Academic Theologian (21:05)

    A critique of scholarly Biblical interpretation is that it can be very sterile and detached from emotional. Through the integration of other perspectives, which bring with them more personal implications, can bring balance to the over-emphasis of any one cultural dominance.

    As a Westerner, what can we do to humble ourselves? (23:55)

    At the local church level, incorporate people who usually don’t typically share and ask them to read and reflect. Connect with other local churches who will have a different perspective. Dr. Lines provided the example of Contextual Bible Studies that were used in South Africa post-apartheid that tried to create the conversational interpretation that amplifies different perspectives (you can find more information about that here). Additionally, I would look at what resources are used in sermon preparation, worship and liturgical elements, and curriculum to see where alternative voices can be included. (If this is something you are interested in but don’t know where to start, contact me for a consultation!)

    Dr. Lines also spoke to the need for Christian higher education to incorporate faculty from other institutions, and especially from other cultural contexts, to model this approach for its students training for ministry and leadership.

    To go deeper on this subject, I would recommend Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes and Theology in the Context of World Christianity (Global Theology review) and, of course, reading through the posts on this blog from a variety of authors sharing their cultural perspectives on theology and Biblical interpretation.
       

    Michael Shepherd is the editor of Global Theology.

     

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