August 18, 2008

Thomas Oden on Apologetics in Africa

How Africa Shaped the Christian MindAs I continue preparing to serve Christ in Uganda, I have been trying to learn as much as possible about the history of Christianity throughout the region and the continent. One book that I recently read was by Thomas C. Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity. Since most Christian histories begin with Western missionaries bringing the gospel into Africa, this work was a breath of fresh air. More a call to action than a thorough laying out of historical research, Oden desires to see much more work done to trace the roots of Christianity in Africa back to the earliest years of Christian history.

Needless to say, it was an informative read. Seeing Africa's place in the historical formation of our faith was enlightening. Many of my favorite heroes of the faith are African: Tertullian, Augustine, Athanasius, etc. Assuming Oden's vision for further research catches on, I look forward to learning more about the ancient roots of Christianity in Africa.

Interestingly, one paragraph in his book was especially relevant in light of our ministry in East Africa. I pray that ACFAR will be used by Christ to meet the challenge Oden wisely identifies:
"The rising charismatic and Pentecostal energies in Africa are stronger emotively than intellectually. They may not sufficiently sustain African Christians through the Islamic challenge unless fortified by rigorous apologetics. The challenge must be met with intellectual integrity grounded in historical consciousness. Christians of sub-Saharan Africa are being required to learn how to think in response to the religious ideology that overwhelmed by force so much of African Christianity in the seventh century. This is a 'must learn' challenge" (99).