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Book review: Theology Without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations

Chigemezi Nnadozie Wogu

 

Theology Without Borders, by William D. Dyrness (emeritus professor of theology and culture) and Oscar García-Johnson (associate professor of theology and Latino/a studies) of Fuller Theological Seminary, is an introduction in how to embark upon the process of having global theological conversations. It calls for rethinking theology in a global context. Such a call is timely, as world Christianity continues to experience the proliferation of non-Western, indigenous Christianity. Theology Without Borders is a call for the theological traditions of the West to learn from and work together with the emerging voices from ancient cultures.

Based on the premise that no one’s culture is superior, the authors pro-pose “transoccidentalism” (geography of theology) as a starting point for reflection on global and local theology. Transoccidentalism advocates the reframing of multiculturalism outside of a Western framework. This orientation, enriched by border thinking, is ready to embrace complex cultural existences and seeks intercultural dialogue under a new set of social and theological conditions.

No wonder the book begins with García-Johnson’s avowal of a geopo-litical and biographical description of theology as a way to embark on a de-colonial process of forging the basis for a theological “common future.” Dyrness continues by responding to the assumed superiority of Western theology and strongly calls the West to move from doing theology in a “self-centered” framework to one that is more encompassing through transoccidentalization.

The authors then examine the role of indigenous traditions in Christian theology. These traditions are explored not only from a Western Christendom perspective but from the cultural traditions of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Such exploration began the conversation in global theology found in this text, replete with case studies on how conversations among Western theologians and non-Western theologians can initiate a global and local theology. This may be achieved through short, comparative, discursive conversations of the main tenets of such theologians. By so doing, dogmatic facets in theology (God), cosmology (Creation), anthropology, Christology, soteriology, and ecclesiology, as well as eschatology, are succinctly explored.

In the case of a Christological conversation, theologians like N. T. Wright, Jose Ignacio Gonzalez Faus, Leonardo Boff, Benigno Beltran (Filipino), and Cyril Okorocha (Nigerian) were brought into a mutually constructive dialogue. The outcome shows not only the differences in starting points for theological reflection but also the influence of their different indigenous traditions (histories), resulting in a refreshing variety of perspectives on the nature of theological reflection, while remaining true to the central core of the gospel.

One thing that stands out in this book is the way Dyrness and García-Johnson drive home the point that if we are going to continue using the term global theology, it must represent a dialogical and culturally developed discipline and at the same time be global and local as well as intercultural. Moreover, this book is written by two scholars from two different cultural perspectives bringing their experience in multicultural ministry, praxis, and teaching. Hence, such a book becomes a practical and living example of conversation done with transoccidentalism for global theology.

The conversations constructed by Dyrness and García-Johnson touch indigenous traditions on a global and local level. Such conversations show that the flow of global theology should veer toward a more polycentric nature of Christianity. Thus, this book contributes to the ongoing discourse of the future of world and/or global Christianity. For those interested in fostering theological relationships among the multiplicity of theological reflections constantly emerging in world Christianity today, this is a welcome introduction.

—Reviewed by Chigemezi Nnadozie Wogu, research associate, Institute of Adventist Studies, Friedensau Adventist University, Möckern, Germany.

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