Take & read: New books in global Christianity

Faith’s core and its manifestations across cultures

Several publishers now offer series of volumes on global Christian thought, and some are really rewarding. Particularly impressive is the Majority World Theology series from Eerdmans, which to date has presented collections of solid and intriguing essays by Global South writers on such enduring themes as Christology, the doctrine of God, pneumatology, and ecclesiology. (Ap­pro­priately, an eschatology title is expected at some future date.) The doctrine of salvation forms the subject of So Great a Salvation: Soteriology in the Majority World, edited by Gene L. Green, Stephen T. Pardue, and K. K. Yeo. The nine contributors represent voices from various regions of the non-Western Christian world—Africa, Asia, Latin America, and even North America, as Ray Aldred is a member of Canada’s First Nations Cree people.

The individual essays in this volume are of uniformly high quality. But the book’s most interesting feature is how—across the many subjects addressed and various approaches applied—the essays are so very different from what readers expect of a traditional Western collection. Western scholars might well discuss reconciliation, but rarely with the urgency and immediate relevance with which it is addressed by Sung Wook Chung in the context of the bitterly divided Korean peninsula. Likewise, many Latin American theologians are skeptical of any claims to salvation that fail to include an element of liberation in the sociopolitical realm. In Yeo’s words, “The doctrine of salvation in the Majority World is not a theological construct or abstract idea, but a matter of life and death.”

Although I am focusing here on one specific volume in the Majority World Theology series, I could equally have selected any of the others, as each has its particular virtues and insights. Together, they give an excellent (and encouraging) sense of where the academic study of global Christianity is going.