Theology that prioritises the individual and arises out of Western Christianity

I just came across the following excerpt from Soong-Chan Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism. I think it is really worth posting. (I’ll highlight some good quotes in blue.)


In the formation of Christian theology, we also see white privilege at work. Theology that prioritizes the individual and arises out of the Western, white context becomes the standard expression of orthodox theology. In our understanding of what is considered orthodoxy, we see the emphasis on the individual aspects of faith. What is considered good, sound, orthodox theology is a Western theology that emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus with its natural and expected antecedent of an individual sanctification and even an individualized ecclesiology. The critical issues and discussion in theology lean toward understanding issues relevant to individuals and Western sensibilities. The seemingly never-ending debate between the proponents of Calvinism and Arminianism, between predestination and free will, revolves around individual salvation.

Theologies that speak of a corporate responsibility or call for a social responsibility are given special names like: liberation theology, black theology, minjung theology, feminist theology, etc. In other words, Western theology with its individual focus is considered normative theology, while non-Western theology is theology on the fringes and must be explained as being a theology applicable only in a particular context and to a particular people group. Orthodoxy is determined by the Western value of individualism and an individualized soteriology rather than a broader understanding of the corporate themes that emerge out of scripture.

Because theology emerging from a Western, white context is considered normative, it places non-Western theology in an inferior position and elevates Western theology as the standard by which all other theological frameworks and points of view are measured. This bias stifles the theological dialogue between the various cultures. “Attendant assumptions of a racial hierarchy that assumes the intellectual and moral superiority of the Caucasians, has hampered our understanding of the text by unnecessarily eliminating possible avenues of study.”30 We end up with a Western, white captivity of theology. Western theology becomes the form that is closest to God. “It is a pretentious illusion that there is something pure and objective about the way theology has been done in the Western church, as if it were handed down directly by the Almighty to the theologians of the correct methodology.

(Source: Soong-Chan Rah. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), 77–78.)

 I just had a look at the book in Amazon. There is a long list of endorsements for the book. Those who like this book include Scot McKnight (North Park University), Eldin Villafañe (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Philip Jenkins (Pennsylvania State University) and Jim Wallis (Sojourners). Sounds like a good book.

Soong-Chan Rah will lecture at Regent College, Vancouver, this (North America) summer. I posted a short video clip from Regent some time ago. It’s really good. Take a look (by clicking) here.


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