…a fellow seminary student asked, as he walked towards me at the library. Although the question sounded harsh, I could tell he was coming from a place of ignorance and genuinely wanted to know. I could not blame him. Many theological institutions claim to equip and prepare people to serve the global church, frequently pointing to the diversity of their student body as a sign of their commitment. However, when you consider the syllabi, the required readings, and the faculty’s diversity -or lack of diversity for this matter, not only in terms of gender and ethnicity, but also in terms of theological traditions (e. g. Pentecostalism)-, you realize the former is not true. There is no way seminaries are preparing people to serve the global church well unless they genuinely value the theological reflection produced by Majority World theologians. But sadly, as John Parratt states,
Voices from elsewhere in the world, when granted a hearing at all, could be dismissed as exotics irrelevant to the “real” task of theology.
Theology is missional in nature. It informs and shapes the way the church understands itself and its mission. In a more particular way, it shapes the way seminarians understand themselves in relation to other Christians in the global church.
Why would my fellow seminarian have the impression that the Latin American church does not care about orthodoxy? Is there an inclination from the Minority World to think that we do not have the capacity of being self-theologizing? Why? Has the theological endeavor been ran as a monopoly by white privileged males? Why is the theological reflection produced by Majority World theologians qualified as contextual by Minority World theologians? Why do we talk about African theology, Asian theology, Latin American theology, but when it comes to Euro-American theology we just say “theology”?
Well, the Euro-American way(s?) of theologizing is not the definition of orthodoxy. It is not the “one rule to rule them all.” I am not arguing for ethnocentrism. And I am clearly not arguing for the universality of a contextual theology. I like to talk about theology as having a dual nature. It is simultaneously contextual and trans-contextual. But an overemphasis on one of these aspects has unfortunate implications for the global church. When seminaries do not engage with Majority World theology, missiological paternalism and colonialism are perpetuated. Furthermore, the principle of catholicity of the Church is denied.
As Peruvian theologian Samuel Escobar stated,
[…] as Latin American thinkers we chose to do our theology not contemplating Christ from the comfortable distance of the balcony, a secure and easily received orthodoxy, but following him on the troubled roads of our Latin American lands.
Yes my dear friend, the Latin American church does care about orthodoxy.
Escobar, Samuel. 2012. “Doing Theology on Christ’s Road.” In Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission, 67–85. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. P. 71.
Parrat, John, ed. 2004. An Introduction to Third World Theologies. New York: Cambridge University Press. P. 2.