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How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind:…

How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of…

by Thomas C. Oden

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Thomas Oden’s motivation for writing How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind is two-fold. First, he hopes to present an African tradition of Christianity that will both encourage the growing African Christian population today and counter claims that Islam naturally has stronger ties with the African people. Second, he hopes to convince Western Christians of the important contributions that African theologians made to the development of Western Christianity. On the second point, I believe he makes a convincing case, although another more in-depth analysis is needed. On the first point, he’s extremely weak…not on combating Islam, since that’s easy enough to show that it’s not an indigenous religion, but on giving Africans their own ancient Christian heritage. Oden dismisses race as irrelevant and bemoans the schism between the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox traditions of North Africa and the Western traditions of Sub-Saharan Africa, presenting it more as an accident of Westernization rather than anything tied to the realities of the ancient past. He prefers geographical identification based on the modern definition of “continent” rather than actual social contact. Were Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, and others “African”? Sure, if you want to define it that way. Should Christians study the works and lives (martyrdoms) of these “Africans”? Of course! But is there a special meaning for Christians of “Negro,” “black African,” “Niger-Congo,” or Sub-Saharan heritage? No. And that was Oden’s central claim. ( )
1 vote AnnetteOC | Oct 24, 2010 |
Though clearly designed for a broad audience, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind will prove to be most helpful for new scholars interested in Oden's claim of Western Christianity's dependence upon Africa. Established experts in the field of early Christian history will sometimes find his assertions overly tentative and at other times too brash. All readers will be frustrated by the lack of footnotes referencing sources that could substantiate his claims. Many will find the work too ecumenical for their liking and as such will miss its call for us to discover that much of what we hold most dear was first formulated and refined on the African continent.
added by Christa_Josh | editJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Kevin L. Hester (Mar 1, 2009)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0830828753, Hardcover)

Africa has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy. Some of the most decisive intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood in Africa before they were in Europe.

If this is so, why is Christianity so often perceived in Africa as a Western colonial import? How can Christians in Northern and sub-Saharan Africa, indeed, how can Christians throughout the world, rediscover and learn from this ancient heritage?

Theologian Thomas C. Oden offers a portrait that challenges prevailing notions of the intellectual development of Christianity from its early roots to its modern expressions. The pattern, he suggests, is not from north to south from Europe to Africa, but the other way around. He then makes an impassioned plea to uncover the hard data and study in depth the vital role that early African Christians played in developing the modern university, maturing Christian exegesis of Scripture, shaping early Christian dogma, modeling conciliar patterns of ecumenical decision-making, stimulating early monasticism, developing Neoplatonism, and refining rhetorical and dialectical skills.

He calls for a wide-ranging research project to fill out the picture he sketches. It will require, he says, a generation of disciplined investigation, combining intensive language study with a risk-taking commitment to uncover the truth in potentially unreceptive environments. Oden envisions a dedicated consortium of scholars linked by computer technology and a common commitment that will seek to shape not only the scholar's understanding but the ordinary African Christian's self-perception.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:56 -0400)

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