Friday, May 25, 2012

"Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective" Review

Global Theology In Evangelical Perspective is a collection of essays that were presented at the Wheaton Theology Conference in 2011. As one might expect from a book that features of a host of contributors, some essays are solid while others are lacking. In terms of strong chapters, K.K. Yeo's chapter on Christian Chinese Theology stands out as does Jeffery P. Greenman's chapter on learning and teaching global theologies. I also found Terry LeBlanc's chapter on Native American theology quite interesting as well.

But let me be level my one major criticism against this book: in the contributors' desire to be global, they rail an awful lot on Western theology. We hear again and again about how impacted by the Enlightenment we are. We hear about how we are obsessed with either/or theology. We hear about how we are overly speculative and miss the point. We hear about how intolerant we are against people with different experiences.

A good example of this is actually in Terry LeBlanc's chapter. In that chapter he relays the story of a friend who went out and "heard the trees" tell him what to do in relation to a particular problem. LeBlanc argues that we should view this experience through the lens of creation groaning in Romans 8:15ff. However, he argues, Western theology would view this as panentheism at best and pantheism at worst--something demonic and not Christian. Westerners, according to LeBlanc, have failed in this respect.

It seems to me that LeBlanc isn't on very solid exegetical ground here (no doubt another sign of my very Western lens--I am passionate about correct exegesis). But the deeper question is this: are Westerners justified in their concern? If we are to be truly global in our theology, that means we must not just listen to other voices but also critique other voices in light of what God's Word says. One of the biggest weaknesses in the collection of essays is that God's Word is seldom cited. As a result, it reads like a bunch of speculative (overly pretentious, to be honest) people who speak a lot about experience and little about the Word of God. While our experience should play an important role, it always needs to be in humble submission to the text.

I also worry if we are not blowing the differences between our theologies out of proportion. Most of the time, as I was reading the book, I thought "We have been saying that as Westerners for years." It felt like the contributors were railing against strawmen that simply were not true.

My advice? Save money and check out this book. There are better books and the essays don't seem to contribute much to the overall discussion of global theology.

*Thanks to IVP Academic which provided me a free review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review*

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