There is an app on my IPad called Google Earth. Though an older app, it is quite amazing. Satellite imagery enables me to view any point on the globe at rooftop level with unusual detail. Google Earth is a fitting icon for the new realities of a global culture. The world is no longer small in terms of knowledge, interaction, and relationships. In almost every area of life, we now have to think globally. However, as Timothy C. Tennet points out, an exception to the new global perspective might be theological discourse. He states:
“… the Western church has not yet fully absorbed how the dramatic shifts in global Christianity are influencing what constitutes normative Christianity.”
Tennet charges that theological reflection and discussion is, for the most part, confined to Western thought. But Westen theological circles tend to be closed. Tennet makes a strong case that it is past time for rigorous and weighty theological engagement with the global Christian community. I agree with his assessment.
But, I do not want to join ranks with those who want to jettison Western thought for the sake of contextualization. For reasons known to God, for centuries, He saw fit to advance Christian thought and truth through the West. Western theology is not an arrogant, cultural or theological offender. As Scott Anoil states:
“I think it is undeniable that Western culture by and large has been influenced by Christian values more than perhaps any other in the world. That is not to say at all that there haven’t been anti-biblical influences as well; there certainly have been. But by God’s common grace we haven’t been influenced by Satanism or Eastern mysticism to the same extent as other societies. That has influenced the development of culture.”
In other words, for centuries Western culture cradled the Christian worldview. Western culture was largely shaped by Christian thought and values. Consequently and appropriately, Western culture was the seedbed and medium for formal theological thinking and expression. Therefore, modern theology now has an undeniable Western nuance and tint.
Nonetheless, just as the geographical center of Christianity shifted westward from Palestine in the early centuries, from 1900 to the late 1960s the geographical center was moving south. In the last five decades it has been shifting south and east. Many Western Christians do not realize that there are now more Christians in what we commonly called “Third World” countries than in the West. And, those countries are not only the Majority World, but also the Majority Church World in terms of population. This has profound implications for the theological community and Christianity in general in terms of Christianity waning in the West. Tennet laments:
“… I always leave the USA with the troubling impression that apart from a new Great Awakening; Christianity in North America is in the throes of a precipitous decline. I see many signs of the erosion of authentic Christian life...