In June of 2012, I completed a graduate thesis project for the Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary under the title of “Form, Re-Form: Religious and Cultural Identity in the Formation of Christian Theology”.
At the encouragement of my adviser, I am sharing my thesis and guiding collaboration from an online community to help deepen and enrich the existing material. Through this process, I hope to build relationships among colleagues with similar interests, learn from their perspective, and help clarify areas for further research and reflection.
To the right, links to each subsection of this essay will be available. In the comment section of each page, please leave questions, references, suggestions. Critical feedback or direct communication is also available via email.
Thank you for your input,
-Michael Shepherd Editor, GlobalTheology.org
From the introduction:
Christianity is entering an unprecedented era regarding the extent and depth of its diversity. The demographic shift toward the majority of Christian practitioners existing in the global South is unique in history as it stands in contrast to roles of power that exist within Europe and the North American continent. Christianity, as a European religion, flourished in the centuries that saw the rise and dominance of naval powers, colonial expansion, and global trade. Owing to this globalizing effect, the Christianity of the West is no longer insular, but exists alongside the presence of global religious traditions. Through global migration patterns, and advances in communication, the far corners of the earth are only a plane ride or a website away. International commerce has become the new normal. Homogenous communities are rapidly declining and the cultural influences of a pluralistic and multi-cultural society are straining coping skills utilized by previous generations. Within these challenges, there is tremendous opportunity for Christians to imagine new ways to tell their story, to learn from their new neighbors’ perspective, and to experience the message of theological reflection in new and different ways.
This thesis will examine the process of developing Christian theological responses in a multi-cultural and multi-religious environment, particularly through the incorporation of cultural identity. It will explore the way that diverse and changing cultural systems can incorporate significant elements of their identity, including religious identity, to form Christian theological expression. These constructs can form the basis for sustainable Christian theology in a local context and provide a voice within a world community of faith to seek appropriate and meaningful local formulations. It is Christian theology coming full-circle, as the recipients of the Western missionary activity now act as collaborators in imagining and communicating theological expression. Through interaction with the global religious community and by incorporating existing religious paradigms, the theological interpreter will be better equipped to formulate and communicate Christian theological expression.
This material was originally submitted as a graduate thesis and received approval from Fuller Theological Seminary. The original work remains the intellectual property of Michael Shepherd.