Recherche – Detailansicht






Interkulturelle Theologie, Missionswissenschaft


John G. Flett


Method in Mission Studies

Comparing World Christianity and Intercultural Theology

I Introduction

If it might be generally stated that mission studies supported the practice of missions during the colonial period, then the ending of colonial missions included decisive consequences for mission studies and its established methods. Mission could no longer be defined as the sending of especially called and trained individuals from a Christian to a non-Christian context, and mission studies could not be the academic field which assisted that process. Missio Dei provided a theological opening beyond this narrow definition. And while much attention focused on the concept’s theological significance, less well observed were the methodological consequences for mission studies. As Andreas Feldtkeller notes, missio Dei directed attention away from the human as object, and toward the relationship between God and the human subject.1 Mission studies, by extension, became concerned with this relationship and the range of methods and fields of concern which might help us understand that relationship. As one consequence of this, mission studies often appears today as a disjointed and topical field. It is often difficult to identify what particular theological interest might not be included within its scope.2 Stanley Skreslet, for one, appears content with this development: methodological openness means that mission studies is without a »center.«3 But it also means that mission studies loses its methodological cohesion, leading to problems of definition, of evaluative standards, and of its identity as a field of investigation. What is mission studies?

Using the naming of academic chairs as a guideline, mission studies has in the past two decades moved away from describing itself as »missiology, ecumenics, and the history of religion« and toward either »world Christianity« or »intercultural theology.«4 This includes the development of new journal titles and new academic conferences. Though perhaps not often formally identified as such, this points to a shift in methodologies. The following considers the underlying difference between these two approaches. The difference should not be overstated: both approaches are interdisciplinary and display a clear overlap of voices and thematic directions. Nevertheless, it is possible to chart these two different me­thodological directions, and so to identify differing concerns. The claim made here is that historical method underlies world Chris­tianity, while hermeneutics frames intercultural theology. The following surveys the thematic directions shaping first intercultur-al theology and then world Christianity before considering their similarities and differences, what each offers to the field, and some potential areas of weakness.

II Intercultural Theology

A 2005 position paper produced conjointly by the mission and religious studies section of the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft für Theologie and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Missionswissenschaft re-framed »mission studies as intercultural theology.«5 Mission studies, according to this document, is a »diversified, empirically sub­stantiated Christian theology of cultures and religions«, that reflects upon the relationship between both »Christianity and non-Chris-tian religions and worldviews«, and »western Christianity and its non-western cultural variations.«6 Within these two sets of relationships, it further identifies three working areas: 1., the history of Christian theology and its embodiment as found in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania; 2., intercultural theology as more fo­cused study on contextual theology, migration, development, North-South relationship, globalisation, etc.; 3., the theology and hermeneutics of interreligious relationship.7 Note that it does not position mission studies in relation to movements for the expan-sion of the Christian faith or religious conversion.8 Nor does it identify traditional sources of theological authority as basic to the field. Nevertheless, the statement itself is a positive one, giving formal shape to theoretical and contextual developments within mission studies and the range of issues under investigation.

Though it found this formal expression in 2005, intercultural theology is the result of developments within German language missiology since the 1970s, undertaken in light of the collapse of the colonial project and in recognition of a burgeoning world Chris-tian communion.9 Associated in its infancy with the names Hans Jochen Margull, Walter Hollenweger, and Richard Friedli, it built upon observations now common across the discipline. To follow Werner Ustorf’s summary: first, the ecclesiological and theological categories of the western tradition are not adequate to identify and describe non-western variations of Christianity.10 Second, the apparent differences in Christian form and expression develop out of the actual cultural, linguistic, religious, political, social, economic, institutional, and historical diversity found within each context. Third, theological identity forms in relation to local questions and the heritage of established answers. Fourth, due to the changing political and economic power structures (secularisation, religious pluralism, and globalization), the Christian faith relates to the ›world‹ in different ways in different places. The thread that ties these insights together is the primacy of culture in relation to the growth and embodiment of the faith, and the inability of estab-lished methodologies to critically incorporate this insight.11

Based on these initial clues, two main concerns shape intercultural theology. First, Richard Friedli drew attention to the central-ity of inter-religious engagement for any account of Christian identity.12 The semantic and cultural diversity now characterising the Christian communion includes, of necessity, a variety of verbal and non-verbal theological signs and religious sensibilities.13 The cultural-anthropological enlargement of the faith, its localization among different peoples, helps open its related theological and liturgical expressions. As these theologies become increasingly local, as they speak Christ in relation to this culture, so they will form in conversation with different religious insights and values. The inter-religious issue is, by this definition, not simply a formal and externalised discussion between established systems, but in­ternal to the lived economy of Christian communities within their local historical and cultural contexts.

Second, and related to this, hermeneutical method shapes intercultural theology. Landmark in this regard is the work of Theo Sundermeier. However one might judge Sundermeier’s constructive definition of mission as »convivence«, his work included two related decisions now determinative for the field.14 First, the task of intercultural understanding seeks not a universal and transcultural theology. It is a process of reflecting on the gospel as it takes shape in other cultures and this occurs only in conversation with those native to these cultures. It is relational and participatory and directed to the margins. Second, it grounds mission studies in a »hermeneutics of difference.« In a programmatic 1991 statement, Sundermeier observes how mission studies had traditionally focus ed on the communication of the message.15 But such a focus includes a particular assumption: there exists a message available for contextualization. Sundermeier questions this assumption by noting that the initial witness is itself already contextualized: Jesus Christ was a Jew. When the transmission of the gospel occurs by way of communicating a thing without context into a context, the other becomes simply a mirror version of the self, and this leads only to an assimilation of the other.16 Intercultural hermeneutics points in a different direction. Understanding the other includes the drawing the self out of its own solipsism. The pattern of sender and receiver must give way to a relational account whereby the hearer of the message is coincidently the subject and corresponding sender.17 Transmission of the message in this scenario occurs only by way of recontextualizing.18 The basic advance offered by this approach rests in locating the academic task within the process itself. It is necessary to be active in the encounter, to respect the other in the other’s difference, and to be self-reflective concerning one’s own stance.

Intercultural theology is a method shaped in response to world Christianity as a phenomenon. Its subject matter is the multiple forms of Christian expression and includes engagement with the religious other as basic to the formation of Christian identity.19 It interrogates intercultural encounter and understands non-verbal forms of interpretation, such as art, built space, song, and dance, to be legitimate and profound forms of theological speech.20 This hermeneutical approach demands methodological diversity, and so includes semiotics, discourse theory, cultural theory, and postco-lonial theology (to name a few) as key conceptual tools, along with an account of the intercultural history of the faith.21 Intercultural theology, as Henning Wrogemann points out, considers local so-cial plurality (migration, multiculturality, church institutions in changing sociological contexts), the worldwide diversity of Chris-tian expression (structure, liturgy, missionary forms, inculturation, healing and exorcism, theological methods, built space), and the range of interreligious relationships found both locally and globally (fundamentalisms, dialogue, human rights, justice, violence and reconciliation, social harmony, conversion).22 It maps the range of questions which appear at the intersect of church as community and as social institution (development, ecumenical dialogue, partnership, power, peace and conflict resolution, medicine, HIV/AIDS and gender issues). While these are all topics within mission studies more generally, intercultural theology gives a coherence to their investigation making them less episodic and isolated as themes.

In terms of achievable results, advocates of this approach con-sider intercultural and interreligious understanding as basic to peaceful existence in complex and globalised civil societies.23 Apart from this, however, caution marks the discussion of findings. Intercultural theology seeks neither a global theology, nor a »transcultural« method, and is less interested in normative statements concerning the Christian faith. This accords with the basic methodological decision, one of relationship and multidirectional exchange, as informed, to quote Ustorf, by the »mutual process of theological giving and receiving that characterises the history of Christianity in its post-colonial and polycentric period.«24 The stress falls on difference, power, and understanding, with evaluation and norma-tively taking a backwards step.25 This encourages a certain immediacy – western religious communities and theologies are not re­mote from this discussion, but central to it, participant also in the dynamics of justice and injustice, peace and violence that mark the world Christian context.

But this circumspection concerning findings has encouraged a complaint regarding the very particular cultural location of the method. On the one hand, theorists acknowledge that intercultural theology is a project of western theology. Indeed, one might be more specific: the majority of theorists are white, male, and German speak-ing.26 On the other hand, recognising this particularity includes a recognition of the located nature of all reflection, and so encourages a self-reflection that is itself open to dialogue with others.27 Hock de-scribes this as a fundamental paradox. Intercultural theology ques-tions the hegemonic discourse of a Christian theology issuing from a European and North American context, while attempting to formulate some type of comprehensive paradigm from within this loca-tion.28 For this reason, Friedrich Grub expresses some suspicion re­garding the ability of any method to be value free. To choose discussion partners is already to ascribe worth. This makes it necessary to examine the basis of the choices being made. What internal criteria does intercultural theology use to evaluate such practices as exorcism?29 It is not a matter of difference being its own good. It is a ques-tion of how evaluative criteria derive from and guide the hermeneutical process because the process itself includes a normative theol-ogical interest.30 The key contention is how one might include evaluative judgements (such as positive material definitions) even while denying privilege to a western hegemonic discourse?

This concern might be illustrated by reference to the perceived relationship of intercultural theology to mission studies. While one might indicate a basic agreement concerning the importance of hermeneutics, significant disagreement emerges over the material end of the field – should intercultural theology, in some sense, serve the activity of Christian mission? A number of theorists answer with a clear no. 31 Ustorf dismisses Christian missions as an essentially colonial project marked by an improper theological triumphalism, and mission studies as an unwarranted extension of this project.32 Küster holds a more centrist position than Ustorf, but nonetheless warns of a »fraudulent« relationship between mission studies and intercultural theology: the change in terminology provides a simple façade for an unchanged colonial project based in claims of western superiority.33 Underlying this aggressive judg-ment stands an important point. If mission was the lineal spread of the Christian faith, and if mission studies promoted this movement in its practical and theological (i. e., legitimising) dimensions, then it was a western project.34 Without question, mission studies needs to intrude upon the epistemological and institutional privileging of the western churches in this discourse. Less evident is the claim that mission is located without reserve within this colonial narrative.35

Andreas Feldtkeller proves instructive on this point. Ustorf notes that »[i]ntercultural theology does not think on behalf of others, but reflects on its own premises in the presence of these others, and if things go well, together with them.«36 Feldtkeller agrees and extends the point. Reflection on one’s own premises must include an interest in reflecting on and entering into conversation with the motivating premises of others. This will mean re­flecting on mission as a »central theme of world-wide Christian-ity.«37 Intercultural theology will necessarily include local discus-sions concerning missionary activity, the methods and theological grounds of mission, its forms (healing/exorcism) and associated institutional structures (evangelists, apostles, and prophets). Feldtkeller’s point is well made: the simple rejection of mission as a criterion derives more from an ideological judgment than it does from the method and intent of intercultural theology itself. Missionary activity remains a determinative consideration within world Chris-tianity. It is necessary, precisely as a task of intercultural theology, to understand the importance of mission for local communities, the accompanying definitions and liturgies, and its impact on the wider social, educational, political, economic, and religious context.

III World Christianity

When compared to intercultural theology, »world Christianity« is more diffuse and less explicit in reflecting upon its method.38 Dale Irvin gives the following broad programmatic definition. World Christianity

investigates and seeks to understand Christian communities, faith, and practice as they are found on six continents, expressed in diverse ecclesial traditions, and informed by the multitude of historical and cultural ex-periences … It is concerned with both the diversity of local or indigenous expressions of Christian life and faith throughout the world, and the variety of ways these interact with one another critically and constructively across time and space.39

The basic definition falls quite close to that of intercultural theol-ogy. With living communities the subject of investigation, the field is intentionally interdisciplinary, drawing upon the social sciences and this in service to a study of the Christian gospel’s cross-cultural transmission and embodiment.40 To continue with Irvin, one of world Christianity’s »constructive tasks is to offer space for differential methods, theories and practices, and to foster new rationalities and knowledges beyond those generated from various traditions and locations in isolation on their own.«41 Nevertheless the question remains as to the methods of investigation, and on this point mission studies as world Christianity is driven by axiomatic assertions concerning the nature of Christian history, and especially as made possible by the so-called »new historiography.«42

Discussion of world Christianity follows a consistent motivating narrative. Building on statistical data, scholars observe a shift in the centre of the Christian population. Whereas in 1910 82 percent of all Christians lived in Europe and North America, one hundred years later 60 percent live in the »global south.«43 This observation serves a simple but foundational point. To cite Andrew Walls, the »centre of gravity of the Christian world has changed«, most Chris-tians are now found in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and western Christians have become a declining minority.44 Two related conclusions follow.

First, the faith is no longer located in Europe, but has become polycentric, a reality with many centres.45 This observation includes a realignment of Christian history. Christianity’s shift south is not the expansion of a single lineal history. The faith is improperly conceived as being birthed in Jerusalem before moving to Rome and then to the northern barbarians and England, finding landfall in the Americas, and from this, through the agency of wes-tern missionaries, becoming a world religion. For Dale Irvin, this account of Christian history »is configured as a mushroom: a long, continuous narrative stem that widens at last (at the end of almost nineteen centuries) when Christianity becomes a global religion.«46 Whatever might be said of diversity within the world Christian communion, this approach always traces it back to European church history, the direct connection of this history to the earliest church, and the coordinated devaluation of the truth and virtue present in local ›recipient‹ cultures. An alternative history which affirms Christianity’s polycentricity, by contrast, does not deny this connection to Europe. It does, however, relativize it by identifying a wider range of contributing tributaries, all of which stimulate local forms of the faith. Phan’s alternate image for describing the »historical developments of Christianity« is one of »rhizomes, that is, plants with subterranean, horizontal root systems, growing below and above ground and moving crab-like in all directions.«47 This model resists the binary which renders non-western embodiments of the gospel derivative contextual expressions of a western cultural religion. It encourages the telling of local histories.

The second related observation is that the numerical shift does not include a coordinated shift in power. This is a key point in the underlying logic. Economic power along with a hegemonic theo-logical discourse prevails within Europe and North America. This establishes a baseline problem: standard patterns of theological re­flection within the West impose certain interpretive frameworks on the Christian faith. In terms of historical interpretation, for Wilbert Shenk, these frameworks derive from a »context where the church was identified with the cultural and religious majority and w here history focused on the institutional life of the church.«48 These assumptions translated into a certain evaluative expecta-tions concerning the forms and norms identifying the church, namely, they directed attention to institutional histories and to a variety of markers associated with the western church (missio-naries, relation to colonial powers, structures, schools and hospitals).49 Recognizing this underlies an important shift in nomenclature: this field moves from »church« to »Christian« history.50

Statistical analysis assists this new historiography precisely by demonstrating the insufficiency of received models. Lamin Sanneh laments a »›top-down‹ view of history« which assumes the »impregnable nature of western priorities and the derivate character of local responses.« This he finds countered by the »prominence of world Christianity« (as demonstrated by its numerical weight) and its promotion of »a new historiography, guided by the principles of local agency and indigenous cultural appropriation.«51 This means questioning dominant accounts of the faith’s relationship to co-lonization. If we limit our view of the rise of world Christianity to »missionary imperialism« we succeed only in devaluing world Christianity »as the off­spring of mission’s outdated theology of territorial expansionism.«52 Colonization, Irvin suggests, teaches a dif­ferent lesson: as it revealed the »cultural-bound forms of Wes­tern Christianity«, so it stimulated the theological conclusion that »Western Christian forms of faith do not provide the final standard of Christian identity and practice.«53 Clear consequences follow for Christian historiography. The deterritorialisation of the faith (dis-tinguishing the faith from its location within the West) includes a relativisation of the particular history underlying the territorial form. Negatively stated, to assert a particular history is to assert a particular cultural form of the faith. This constitutes a return to the method of colonization. Positively stated, the proper cultural diversity of the Christian faith demands a corresponding historical diversity.54 Encounter and appropriation become key to the ques-tion of historical continuity, and to understand these it is necessary to understand the whole cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage of the hearers.55 The voices of history come to include otherwise marginalised persons and communities, and this makes the social sciences necessary for understanding of the gospel’s transmission and so Christian history.

Historical method assumes a central importance due to how cultural identities are formed through time. Historical studies open the cultural space and do so in service to contemporary world Christianity. This leads to a revision to the lineal approach to Chris-tian history and is accomplished in two ways. First, the development of a wider Christian history demonstrates how, at its very inception, the faith encountered diverse cultural locations and peoples.56 Reference to the range of available local stories, to cite Sanneh, helps illustrate how »a linear, Eurocentric understanding of Christianity happens to conflict with much of the available evidence.«57 Second, in terms of the history of the western church itself, these historians argue that no one single church history or institution existed within Europe. Such a claim, they argue, is theological in nature and itself a product of the faith’s engagement with northern European culture. To continue with Sanneh, »Western Christianity is itself the upshot of a series of specific vernacular adaptations and cultural adjustments no different in nature from the vernacular appropriation that was underway in non-Western societies.«58 The history of western Christianity mirrors the wider processes of the movement of the faith through time, and so too the developments within world Christianity today.

Though set within an account of history, these claims regard-ing the nature of Christian continuity build upon a clear theological position. For Walls, the dynamic is one of proselyte versus convert.59 For Sanneh, diffusion is to be contrasted with transla-tion.60 Both positions stem from a gospel/culture dynamic identified within the New Testament, and include occasional reinforcement through reference to the nature of God and the incarnation.61 A principle of the gospel’s transmission results and this provides the interpretive schema for the faith’s movement through history, including an account of how Christianity develops different theological and structural forms, and a related vision of the nature of Christian community and maturity in the faith. History becomes important because the redemption of local history is itself basic to the processes of conversion and growth in Christian maturity. Parallels develop between what is occurring today in African Chris-tianity and what was occurring in second-century Christianity.62 It is equally possible, by this reading, to interpret the colonising tendencies of western Christianity through the New Testament caution against imposing the Torah on the Gentiles.63 World Chris-tianity embodies nothing less than the logic of Christian history.64 Because the emphasis falls on local appropriation, a seamless transition occurs between the theological language of conversion or translation and the wider historiographical concerns for indigenous processes.

The strength of this approach lies in the seamless connection it assumes between a programmatic theological agenda and the priorities found within new historiographies which look to reception and indigenous voice. But the fundamental pattern is set: the sta-tistics, the critique of a lineal history and the dominance of the western church, the importance of local histories, the link to world Christianity and its diversity of expression. There is very little testing of this logic. One might, for example, question whether the theoretical schema is itself stronger than the supporting history.65 Key theological assertions underlying the historiography often pass without comment,66 and normative positions drawn from the New Testament develop without reference to wider biblical scholarship dealing with the same subject matter.67 This point relates not to the theological position itself, but to the imprecision of the many accompanying conceptual tools and the lack of intentional methodological development.

Two illustrations will have to suffice. While statistical analysis may help to change the »cartography«, the basic map for viewing the Christian world, statistics are a blunt conceptual tool.68 Reference to the statistics more often serve an apologetic function than facilitate a new language and evaluative means which might identify and describe the diversity to which they point. Statistics are open to a range of interpretations and fail to speak to the depth and potential sustainability of the faith in different cultural regions. The use of statistics can even contravene key lines of argument.69 Second, the central framing language of North and South is un-able to withstand even basic scrutiny. This often continues to trade upon the problematic western/non-western binary and fails to capture the range of global interactions in play. The positive point pertains to the development of Christian forms that have had little reference to western models.70 But the language itself is empty, succeeding only in bearing an interpretive schema.

Both the statistics and the North/South language, in other words, permit interpretive lines to be projected upon the phenomena, rather than providing tools by which the phenomena might be interrogated. A number of authors have criticised this approach for imposing a particular theological agenda upon the history. Joel Cabrita and David Maxwell describe the missiological use of the term world Christianity as »revisionist.«71 With this, as Robert Wuthnow suggests, World Christianity provides a narrative of redemption in which the decline of the western church is offset by its growth in the ›South‹. »The emerging story about global Christianity must be deconstructed to see the extent to which its fabrication has been influenced by unexamined presuppositions. Qualifications and nuances need to be added. Parts of the narrative are not entirely accurate and other parts could have been – indeed, were – interpreted in different ways.«72 While there is good reason not to follow Wuthnow’s conclusions, his attack focuses on the methodology and related conceptual tools and leads him to question the reality of world Christianity.73

IV Method and Mission Studies

Mission studies is concerned with the diversity of expression found within the global Christian communion, with the developing forms of embodiment and identity, with the relationship between these differing forms, with the relationship to local religious and cultural heritage, and with the interaction between these communities and the wider social setting through forms of religious propagation, and economic, political and media interactions. The definition, through broad, centres on the dynamics of generation as they occur in the transmission of the Christian gospel (in its various forms), on its appropriation by local agents and on the formation of communities that identify as belonging to the faith. Intercultural theology and world Christianity provide two lenses for identifying and describing this generation. How might we evaluate the contribution of each?

There is a good deal of similarity between the two. Both are located within the post-colonial reconstruction of mission theory, recognizing, on the one hand, the sheer scale of diversity within world Christianity, and on the other, the limits of received methodologies when investigating this diversity. Both understand that local culture, its history and the questions it asks, provides the base material of the faith’s embodiment. Both find basic theological resources in a wider range of ›texts‹: the experience of the poor, mi­grants, refugees; the voices of women; local cultures, oral traditions, art, poetry, architecture, dance and music; and different religious and philosophical heritages. Given this range of material, both approaches employ a diversity of method, including cultural and religious studies, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and history. Mission studies is richer through this widening of perspective. These new voices, questions, perspectives, and conclusions contribute to the widening of the faith itself.

As a second similarity, both approaches have developed in relation to the demands of a secular university context. Volker Küster is explicit in regarding intercultural theology »an attempt to secure a lasting position for the interrelated discipline of missiology, comparative religion, and ecumenics at various German and other European theological faculties.«74 The type of advocacy for missions evident within the field during the colonial period could not be continued in the post-colonial period. Grounding the field within history or hermeneutics avoids this problem because the method is understood as supplying some distance from the subject matter.

Such a consideration, however, is not neutral for the field itself. Neither world Christianity nor intercultural theology develop clear criteria for evaluating movements for the expansion of the Christian faith or questions of religious conversion. Indeed, some theorists see in the development of intercultural theology and world Christianity an end to mission and mission studies as such. Caution regarding normative and prescriptive definitions of mis-sion is important to its academic study. However, when it comes to the envisioned purpose of mission studied, this neutrality supplies no clear end that would identity mission studies a field in its own right. What differentiates world Christianity/intercultural theology from a particular historical approach (Reformation studies, early Church history, world Christianity), or from religious studies or anthropology?

In terms of mission as an endeavour of the Christian church, neither world Christianity nor intercultural theology devote much attention to constructive definitions of mission. Intercultural theology describes missionary forms as they exist within communities, the theological and biblical motivations for such, the relation of missionary activity to church structures and to the wider social and religious context. Material definitions of mission tend to be phenomenological and comparative. For Wrogemann, mission is »the activity of propagating Christian religious expressions, on the one hand, and the local-contextual qualitative and quantitative intentions, activities, and forms of propagation, on the other.«75

If intercultural theology supplies no clear measures for judging these questions, neither does world Christianity. World Christian-ity is built upon a strong definition of mission as basic to the me-thod: mission is itself the process of historical transmission, the encounter of the gospel with different cultures and languages, and the processes of local appropriation. Mission defined in relation to history and not geography is a key insight, and though requiring some de­velopment is suggestive of a way forward for the more per plexing problems made evident during the colonial period. Apart from motivating this movement across cultural and linguistic borders and advocating for a definition of Christian fullness which includes the cultural other, however, world Christianity is less suggestive for theories of mission concerned with particular local communities, and especially those in secular and post-Christian contexts. Apart from the evident problems of colonial missions, how might good or bad mission practice or theology be judged? Neither ap­proach develops formal criteria to help the wider theological discussion navigate the behaviours of local churches.

In terms of the goal or end of the field, for intercultural theol-ogy this seems simply to be ›understanding‹. More than an intellectual project, understanding contributes towards peaceful co-existence both within the Christian communion and with the religious other. And yet the conclusions which often result from intercultural theology tend more to identify and describe the practices, beliefs and institutions under consideration, than to offer any evaluative comment that might assist in a mutual understanding of difference. Where within this project might intercultural theol-ogy advocate for the types of liberation needed for peaceful coexis-tence? In not making explicit its evaluative measures, intercultural theology submerges its own value system. For example, though ad­vocating for an »intercultural« theology, the 2005 position paper maintains a normative direction of relationship: describing the field of study as one between western Christianity and non-wes-tern »variations«. The binary of western/non-western is already problematic, but to treat the latter as a variation of a norm is to privilege Christianity as it appears within Europe. Such framing as­sumptions need to be identified and questioned as part of the intercultural theology project.

The end of world Christianity is less overtly stated, but one might surmise a twofold goal. First, because it is interested in local stories it promotes a very great diversity of theological voice. In­deed, the variety of studies dealing with all manner of times, locations, and theological type encouraged by this approach is remark-able. A second related goal is concerned with local ownership of the gospel. To assert that Christianity is a non-western religion is to deny that it is foreign to Asia, Africa and Latin America. It seeks to encourage a deepening of the faith in relation to the local context and views the redemption of history as part of the conversion process itself. But this evident strength includes a downside: it is often difficult to draw connections between these stories. They remain local studies. This is not a plea for a universal theology. It is to ob-serve, first, that while world Christianity gives a long view of the faith these studies more fill out a framing theory than critique that theory and the associated methodological tools. The coherence of world Christianity as a field, in my opinion, trades upon multiple theological assumptions concerning the nature of Christian his-tory, and theologies of incarnation and continuity which do not ap­pear available for testing. Second, the historical approach seems to offer no clear path to develop the wider significance of these stories for the faith itself. How do these multiple stories point beyond themselves to something named Christianity and to the transmission of the faith? Sanneh, for example, sets the »standards of exegesis and doctrine« in contrast to world Christianity and its need to be »interpreted by a plurality of models of inculturation in line with the variety of local idioms and practices.«76 This is an important point, but Sanneh develops it as an opposition. It should be pos-sible using these governing assumptions to develop constructive theologies in dialogue with other theological authorities. It should also be possible for world Christianity to examine its own framing theological construction.

For all the methodological diversity within both intercultural theology and world Christianity, both methods neglect theological resources as sources in their own right. This highlights the extent to which these approaches differ from traditional approaches to mission studies. One finds little reference to biblical formulations of mission, and the historical ecumenical definitions lie untouched. Some appear happy with this development as, to cite Stanley Skreslet, mission theologians tend to preference »the abstract over the particular« and so neglect the »material aspects of mission experi-ence.«77 The danger of divorcing the theological from lived experi-ence lies in pretending that the theological is without cultural interest, and so continues the problem of colonialisation. But the converse is also true: what one looks for within the lived experience is guided by prior theological decisions.

Moving forward, these methodological developments need to include some mechanism for integrating/critiquing/informing/ deve­loping the theological definitions, for the direction of mission studies as a field stems from those definitions. In this regard, and while for Irvin »[t]he practice of world Christianity is a vocation«,78 intercultural theology potentially offers something more. Without question mission studies requires both historical and hermeneu-tical approaches as both contribute to our understanding of the na­ture of the faith in significant ways. However, intercultural theology regards direct contact between different embodiments of the faith as necessary to its project. Intercultural theology focuses on the variety and occasion of encounter, the theoretical models motivating such encounter, the analytical tools for understanding it, and the potential social consequences which might follow from it. The intellectual work, in other words, is directed to meeting and being together, to the sharing of a meal. At its heart, to follow Sundermeier, intercultural theology occurs in the context of festival and celebration and this is the place at which theology lives.

V Conclusion

The methodological challenges which confronted mission studies at the conclusion of colonial missions have never quite faded. This is not to suggest a lack of method. Mission studies is by nature interdisciplinary and draws upon a number of theological and social science methods. It is to observe a lack of secondary reflection on the dominant methods and conceptual tools currently shaping the field. As a field of intellectual endeavour, no matter how various the methods employed, there needs to be some form of coherence that identifies missions studies as a field in its own right. If it is simply a question of the diversity of the world Christian com-munion, this could quite easily be studied within theology, history or religious studies. What does mission studies contribute to the wider theological discourse and without which there would be a loss? With intercultural theology and world Christianity we have two important advances which really are in process of becoming formal methods. While these draw upon interdisciplinary insights, both are located within a framing method with a particular end. Historical method frames world Christianity while hermeneutics informs intercultural theology. History supplies the long view and demonstrates that the dynamics now apparent within world Christianity belong to the faith at its very inception. Hermeneutics gives tools to aid in the encounter and communion between difference (Christian, cultural, religious). It is also better suited to translate between theological findings and the lived experiences of diverse communities of faith. But for all this, the field stands on firmer ground than it has done for a significant period. The main critique lies in the relation of both methods to theological construction that tries to advance the movement of the church to the world. Such a critique stems from the subject matter itself, for significant theological meaning lies in the vitality of world Christianity.


Der Artikel skizziert das methodische Profil des im angelsächsischen Bereich verbreiteten Ansatzes von World Christianity als historisch ausgerichtet sowie des im kontinentaleuropäischen Be­reich vorherrschenden Ansatzes von Interkultureller Theologie als hermeneutisch orientiert. Nach der Analyse von Ähnlichkeiten und Unterschieden wird für World Christianity unter anderem die implizite Axiomatik hinterfragt, die mit dem Verweis auf die nu­merische Schwerpunktverlagerung des Christentums sowie eine bleibende Nord-Süd-Perspektivierung gegeben ist. Für beide An­sätze wird die Frage aufgeworfen, ob diese angesichts der Tatsache, dass das Thema Mission in Kirchen und Bewegungen weltweit eine große Rolle spielt, nicht missionstheologischer Reflexion mehr Raum geben müssten. Das Ausblenden theologischer Inhalte be­deute methodisch gesehen nicht nur die Gefahr, sich von gelebter Erfahrung zu distanzieren, sondern darüber hinaus, nicht mehr diejenigen theologischen Vorentscheidungen auszuweisen, die zur Auswahl bestimmter Untersuchungsgegenstände geführt haben.


1) Andreas Feldtkeller, »Missionswissenschaft und Interkulturelle Theologie: Eine Verhältnisbestimmung«, Theologische Literaturzeitung 138 (2013), 7.
2) For example, the most recent introduction to mission published by the WCC lists as »core themes across a century«: evangelism; church, mission and unity; worship; healing; culture; other faiths; formation; discipleship; partnership and resource sharing; contextualisation; transformation; justice; margins; environment; gender; migration. Not only is this notable for its variety, but also for its omission of arguably the main ecumenical themes of missio Dei, reconciliation, and hospitality. Nor is there any reference to christology or pneumatology. Kenneth R. Ross, et al., eds. Ecumenical Missiology: Changing Landscapes and New Conceptions of Mission (Oxford; Geneva: Regnum; WCC, 2016).
3) Stanley H. Skreslet, Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and Prospects of Missiology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012), 196.
4) Intercultural theology as used here in reference to the approach within German theological faculties should be differentiated from the similar language used at Fuller Theological Seminary or Wheaton College.
5) This later appeared in English: »Mission Studies as Intercultural Theology and Its Relationship to Religious Studies«, Mission Studies 25, no. 1 (2008), 103–8. The invited engagements with this position were surprisingly superficial and sparse, with the document noting that »invitees from North America, Latin America, and United Kingdom could not write the responses.« »Mission Studies as Intercultural Theology and Its Relationship to Religious Studies«, 103.
6) »Mission Studies as Intercultural Theology and Its Relationship to Religious Studies«, 106.
7) »Mission Studies as Intercultural Theology and Its Relationship to Religious Studies«, 107.
8) See Ken Christoph Miyamoto, »A Response to ›Mission Studies as Intercultural Theology and Its Relationship to Religious Studies‹«, Mission Studies 25, no. 1 (2008), 109–110.
9) For a more thorough examine of the origins, albeit with its own interpretive overlay, see Werner Ustorf, »The Cultural Origins of ›Intercultural Theology‹«, Mission Studies 25, no. 2 (2008), 229–51.
10) Ustorf, »The Cultural Origins of ›Intercultural Theology‹«, 235. See also Walter J. Hollenweger, »Intercultural Theology«, Theology Today 43, no. 1 (1986), 29; Klaus Hock, Einführung in die interkulturelle Theologie (Darmstadt: WBG, 2010), 21–23.
11) Of the publications which both stimulated and resulted from these observations, much is made of primary contextual theologies available in the 1960s, and of EATWOT (Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians) as an early manifestation of intercultural theology. See, for example, the three volume series titled Theologische Stimmen aus Asien, Afrika und Lateinamerika (1965–1968), which published translated constructive theological pieces from non-western authors, and the series »Studien zur interkulturellen Geschichte des Christentums«, published by Peter Lang from 1975 with 161 volumes to 2015 (though, for Hock, the beginning of the series continued to trade of certain categories, such as the »mission field«, and with the »foreign« context that of the »younger« churches »overseas.« Hock, Einführung in die interkulturelle Theologie, 27.). For further bibliographical contributions, see the list developed in Henning Wrogemann, Interkulturelle Theologie und Hermeneutik: Grundfragen, aktuelle Beispiele, theoretische Perspektiven (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2012), 28–31. Robert Schreiter is also often mentioned. His Constructing Local Theologies (1985) illus-trated the significance of semiotics and communications theory for the study of contextualisation, while The New Catholicity (1997) developed a constructive account of aligning the local and the global. Reinhold Bernhardt, »Interkulturelle Theologie«, Theologische Rundschau 77, no. 3 (2012), 345; Küster, »Interkulturelle Theologie«, 198.
12) Hock, Einführung in die interkulturelle Theologie, 23. See also Volker Küs­ter, Einführung in die Interkulturelle Theologie (UTB, Stuttgart, 2011), 113. For Friedli’s most engaged treatment, see Richard Friedli, Fremdheit als Heimat: Auf der Suche nach einem Kriterium für den Dialog zwischen den Religionen (Freiburg: Universitätsverlag, 1974).
13) Richard Friedli, »Interkulturelle Theologie«, in Lexikon Missionstheologischer Grundbegriffe, ed. Karl Müller, and Theo Sundermeier (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1987), 181.
14) Theo Sundermeier, »Konvivenz als Grundstruktur ökumenischer Existenz heute«, in: Ökumenische Existenz heute, ed. W. Huber, D. Ritschl, and Theo Sundermeier (München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1986), 49–100; Theo Sundermeier, »Convivence: The Concept and Origin«, Scriptura 10 (1992), 68–80.
15) Theo Sundermeier, »Erwägungen zu einer Hermeneutik interkulturellen Verstehens«, in: Begegnung mit dem Anderen: Plädoyers für eine interkulturelle Hermeneutik (Gütersloher Verlag: Gütersloh, 1991), 13–28. This sparked a debate in which Heinrich Balz defended the primacy of communication. Heinrich Balz, »Krise der Kommunikation – Wiederkehr der Hermeneutik?«, in: Begegnung mit dem Anderen: Plädoyers für eine interkulturelle Hermeneutik, ed. Theo Sundermeier (Gütersloher Verlag: Gütersloh, 1991), 39–66. This is not to suggest that Balz opposed the use of hermeneutics, see Heinrich Balz, »Hermeneutik und Mission«, in: Zeitschrift für Mission 14, no. 4 (1988), 206–22. Volker Küster refers to a second debate between Sundermeier and Werner Simpfendörfer. For Küster, Simpfendörfer focused more on cultural conflict and sought finally to overcome difference. Sundermeier, by comparison, wanted to create space for such difference. Werner Simpfendörfer, »Interkulturelle Theologie: Wie kann man Anfang und Ende verknüpfen?«, in: Evangelische Kommentare 6 (1989), 37–40; Werner Simpfendörfer, »Auf der Suche nach einer interkulturellen Theologie: Herausforderungen – Aspekte – Bausteine«, Junge Kirche 48 (1987), 266–73.
16) Sundermeier, »Erwägungen zu einer Hermeneutik interkulturellen Verstehens«, 20. For an extended development of this point, see David W. Congdon, »Emancipatory Intercultural Hermeneutics: Interpreting Theo Sundermeier’s Differenzhermeneutik«, Mission Studies 33, no. 2 (2016), 127–46.
17) Sundermeier, »Erwägungen zu einer Hermeneutik interkulturellen Verstehens«, 15.
18) Sundermeier, »Erwägungen zu einer Hermeneutik interkulturellen Verstehens«, 15.
19) Volker Küster defines intercultural theology as a pluralist concept which finds its theological ground in the inner plurality of the Christian faith. Küster, »Interkulturelle Theologie«, 199. For a similar English language text, see Volker Küster, »The Project of an Intercultural Theology«, Svensk missionstidskrift 93, no. 3 (2005), 417–32.
20) See, for example, Theo Sundermeier, and Volker Küster, Die Bilder und das Wort: Zum Verstehen christlicher Kunst in Afrika und Asien (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999).
21) For Hock, for example, such history considers: first, the plural and non-linear diffusion of Christianity; second, the ways in which Christianity becomes corporate in different religious, political, and economic contexts (the issue of Christian power); third, an analysis of the internal and external mechanisms of expansion, and their effects; and fourth, locating this intercultural history of Christianity in the wider field of modern historical processes. Klaus Hock, »Interkulturelle Theologie: Programmatische Assoziationen«, Interkulturelle Theologie 37, no. 1 (2011), 56–57.
22) Wrogemann, Interkulturelle Theologie und Hermeneutik, 37-38.
23) Wrogemann, Interkulturelle Theologie und Hermeneutik, 23. See also Küs-ter, »Interkulturelle Theologie«, 199.
24) Ustorf, »The Cultural Origins of ›Intercultural Theology‹«, 232. This point requires some qualification. Given the closeness of intercultural theology to the wider philosophical discussion of intercultural hermeneutics, intercultural theol-ogy admits to some range. A few authors have developed a more formal approach somewhat isolated from mission studies and the living texture which charac-terises the field. See, for example, Franz Gmainer-Pranzl, »Der ›Logos christlicher Hoffnung‹ in globaler Verantwortung«, Interkulturelle Theologie 40 (2014), 129–48; Dirk-Martin Grube, »Reflexionen zur Interkulturelle Theologie«, Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft 41, no. 1 (2015), 69–114. To a lesser degree, see also Reinhold Bernhardt, »Interkulturellen Theologie – Ihre Programmatik in systematisch-theologischer Perspektive«, Interkulturelle Theologie 2–3 (2014), 149–72.
25) Hock, »Interkulturelle Theologie: Programmatische Assoziationen«, 59. See also the summary offered in Rudolf von Sinner, »Christianity on its Way to the South: Intercultural Theology as a Challenge to Systematic Theology«, in The Yobel Spring: Festschrift for Chilkuri Vasantha Rao (Delhi: ISPCK, 2013), 198–222.
26) The single book length work developed by non-Germans is one located in Birmingham and under the tutelage of Ustorf and, more remotely, that of Hollenweger. Mark J. Cartledge, and David Cheetham, eds. Intercultural Theology: Approaches and Themes (London: SCM Press, 2011).
27) Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, »Das Grundrecht auf Provinzialität: Interkulturelle Theologie und die multikulturelle Lage«, Lutherische Monatshefte 30, no. 4 (1991), 172.
28) Hock, Einführung in die interkulturelle Theologie, 11.
29) Grube, »Reflexionen zur Interkulturellen Theologie«, 113.
30) Apart from his consistent reference back to the West as the location of sig-nificance, a counter to Grube’s point might be seen in the theological founda-tions and pastoral guidelines for deliverance ministries as developed by the member churches of the United Protestant Mission. Though not intended for an academic audience, it provides a good example of establishing criteria within a multicultural, inter-church, and inter-religious discussion. See (accessed 2 January, 2018).
31) See Perry Schmidt-Leukel, »Interkulturelle Theologie als interreligiöse Theologie«, in: Evangelische Theologie 71 (2011), 4–16.
32) A strong hermeneutics of suspicion follows in which Ustorf describes the 2005 statement as »a tactical update of the toolbox of missionary theology with-out changing its basic parameters.« Ustorf, »The Cultural Origins of ›Intercul-tural Theology‹«, 233.
33) Küster, Einführung in die Interkulturelle Theologie, 30.
34) Hock, Einführung in die interkulturelle Theologie, 19. For an earlier debate which draws upon similar themes, see Theo Sundermeier, and Klaus Hock, »Zur Bedeutung des Faches Religions- und Missionswissenschaft«, ZMiss 23 (1997), 263–72.
35) Henning Wrogemann, as a counter-point, retains the language of mission studies because it coordinates three main approaches: intercultural theology (the analysis and description of contextual forms of expression within Christianity), mission theology (the normative and contextual theological foundations motivating Christian missionary activity), and the theology of religion (the relation-ship between Christianity and the other religions and the associated claims of validity). Wrogemann, Interkulturelle Theologie und Hermeneutik, 39.
36) Ustorf, »The Cultural Origins of ›Intercultural Theology‹«, 244–45.
37) Feldtkeller, »Missionswissenschaft und Interkulturelle Theologie«, 8.
38) For an excellent overview of the terminology, its origins and meaning, see Peter C. Phan, »World Christianity: Its Implications for History, Religious Stud-ies, and Theology«, Horizons 39, no. 2 (2012), 171–88.
39) Irvin, »What is World Christianity?«, 3.
40) For an excellent survey of social science contributions to the field, see Paul V. Kollman, »Understanding the World-Christian Turn in the History of Chris-tianity and Theology«, Theology Today 71, no. 2 (2014), 170–73.
41) Irvin, »What is World Christianity?«, 3.
42) Charles Farhadian identifies three paradigms in the study of world Chris-tianity. The first is associated with charting the spread of Christianity as it appeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the classic example being Gustav Warneck, »Die Mission als Wissenschaft«, Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift 16 (1889), 397–407. The second concerns the polycentric nature of Chris-tianity and criticises the privileging of a single centre. Both these paradigms, Farhadian notes, drew on historical method. A third, which he sees his work as advancing, considers »social, cultural, political, religious and historical forces and their uneven relationship with Christianity.« Charles E. Farhadian, »Introduction«, in Introducing World Christianity, ed. Charles E. Farhadian (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), 2. When one pursues the methodological shape of his proposal, however, reference to the social sciences serve key historical conclusions. See Farhadian, »Introduction«, 3. As a more general observation, even those engag-ing in forthright theological discourse preface the discussion with historio-graphy, see Peter C. Phan, »World Christianity and Christian Mission: Are They Compatible? Insights from the Asian Churches«, Asian Christian Review 1, no. 1 (2007), 14–31. Though written in honour of Andrew Walls and so oriented to his-torical method, see the immediate links formed between the study of world Christianity and historical method in William R. Burrows, Mark R. Gornik, and Janice A. McLean, eds., Understanding World Christianity: The Vision and Work of Andrew F. Walls (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011).
43) See, for example, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Global Christian-ity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2011).
44) The paper is unpublished, but for a review of its importance, see Wilbert R. Shenk, »Challenging the Academy, Breaking Barriers«, in: Understanding World Christianity: The Vision and Work of Andrew F. Walls, ed. William R. Burrows, Mark R. Gornik, and Janice A. McLean (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 35–50. See also Walbert Bühlmann, The Coming of the Third Church: An Analysis of the Present and Future of the Church (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1977).
45) Wilbert R. Shenk, »Introduction«, in Enlarging the Story: Perspectives on Writing World Christian History, ed. Wilbert R. Shenk (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), XI–XII.
46) Dale T. Irvin, »From One Story to Many: An Ecumenical Reappraisal of Church History«, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 28, no. 4 (1991), 537–38.
47) Phan, »World Christianity and Christian Mission«, 18. This metaphor was first used by French philosophers Gille Deleuze and Felix Guattari to describe dehierarchicalized structures. See Helmuth Berking, »Territorialität: Grenzgänge zwischen Soziologie und Ethnologie«, in Rückkehr der Religion oder säkulare Kultur? Kultur- und Religionssoziologie heute, ed. Richard Faber, and Frithjof Hager (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2008), 45–53.
48) Shenk, »Introduction«, XIII.
49) See Irvin’s discussion of the concept of unity and its cultural origins: Dale T. Irvin, »Towards a Hermeneutics of Difference at the Crossroads of Ecumenics«, Ecumenical Review 47, no. 4 (1995), 497.
50) Paul V. Kollman, »After Church History? Writing the History of Chris-tianity from a Global Perspective«, Horizons 31, no. 2 (2004), 322–42.
51) Lamin O. Sanneh, »World Christianity and the New Historiography: His-torical and Global Interconnections«, in Enlarging the Story: Perspectives on Writ-ing World Christian History, ed. Wilbert R. Shenk (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 99.
52) Sanneh, »World Christianity and the New Historiography«, 102.
53) Dale T. Irvin, »Ecumenical Dislodgings«, Mission Studies 22, no. 2 (2005), 198–99.
54) Irvin, »From One Story to Many«, 539.
55) A. Mathias Mundadan, »The Changing Task of Christian History: A View at the Onset of the Third Millennium«, in Enlarging the Story: Perspectives on Writing World Christian History, ed. Wilbert R. Shenk (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 22.
56) This might be illustrated in two ways: first, see the studies which portray world Christianity as a coincidental »movement«, Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement: Earliest Christianity to 1453 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001); Dale T. Irvin, and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement: Modern Christianity from 1454–1800 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012). Second, see the more particular studies of local histories. Notable here is the »Studies in the History of Christian Missions« series (Eerdmans) edited by Robert Eric Frykenberg and Brian Stanley.
57) Lamin O. Sanneh, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 54.
58) Lamin O. Sanneh, Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 227.
59) Andrew F. Walls, »Old Athens and New Jerusalem: Some Signposts for Christian Scholarship in the Early History of Mission Studies«, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 21, no. 4 (1997), 146–53; Andrew F. Walls, »Converts or Proselytes? The Crisis over Conversion in the Early Church«, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 28, no. 1 (2004), 2–6.
60) Lamin O. Sanneh, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1989), 33–40.
61) Lamin O. Sanneh, »The Gospel, Language and Culture: The Theological Method in Cultural Analysis«, International Review of Mission 84 (1995), 47–64; Andrew F. Walls, »The Translation Principle in Christian History«, in The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), 26–42.
62) For a classic study of this idea, see Kwame Bediako, Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and in Modern Africa (Oxford: Regnum Books, 1992). See also Andrew Wall’s statement of coming to this realisation: Tim Stafford, »Historian Ahead of His Time«, Christian History 51, no. 2 (2007), 88.
63) Walls, »Converts or Proselytes?«, 6. This point emerges in a number of different writings. As one example, see Bernard Ukwuegbu, »›Neither Jew nor Greek‹: The Church in Africa and the Quest for Self-Understanding in the Light of the Pauline Vision and Today’s Context of Cultural Pluralism«, International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 8, no. 4 (2008), 305–18.
64) Kwame Bediako, »The Emergence of World Christianity and the Re-making of Theology«, Journal of African Christian Thought 12, no. 2 (2009), 51.
65) As an example, see Andrew Walls’ treatment of the ›conversion‹ process in northern Europe. The tone is normative and a key point in the logic concerning vernacular appropriation. The history as written, however, is thin and contes-table. Walls, »Old Athens and New Jerusalem«, 150.
66) The simple reference to the nature of the church is one clear example, but see Walls’s treatment of the incarnation as the translation of divinity into humanity. In this translation, »the sense and meaning of God was transferred, was effected under very culture-specific conditions.« Walls, »The Translation Principle in Christian History«, 27. Moreover, this »first divine act of translation into humanity […] gives rise to a constant succession of new translations.« Walls, »The Translation Principle in Christian History«, 27. While a number of comments might be made (Jesus as the »sense and meaning of God«), a central problem lies in the flattening of christology to historical mechanics. The theology appears shaped to serve the history.
67) As an example, one might observe how Walls’s reading of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 bears a strong semblance to the so-called »new perspective on Paul.« However, while this line of interpretation often appears within mission studies, minimal interest has been shown in the corresponding New Testament discussion and its potential weaknesses. I am only aware of one study drawing this connection: Kirsteen Kim, »Reconciliation as the Ministry of the Spirit: Nei-ther Jew nor Gentile«, in Reconciling Mission: The Ministry of Healing and Reconciliation in the Church Worldwide, ed. Kirsteen Kim (Delhi: ISPCK, 2005), 62–82.
68) See Justo González’s discussion of the »changing cartography« and its significance for history. Justo L. González, The Changing Shape of Church History (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2002), 7–9.
69) See, for example, the chart found on page 167 of Todd M. Johnson, and Sun Young Chung, »Tracking Global Christianity’s Statistical Centre of Gravity, AD 33 – AD 2100«, International Review of Mission 93 (2004), 166–81. There seems to be questionable value in so charting the »statistical center of gravity of global Christianity« when two main theoretical points concern the denial of a lineal his-tory through Europe and the now polycentric nature of the faith.
70) Andrew F. Walls, »A History of the Expansion of Christianity Reconsider-ed: Assessing Christian Progress and Decline«, in The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 17.
71) Joel Cabrita, and David Maxwell, »Relocating World Christianity«, in Relocating World Christianity, Interdisciplinary Studies in Universal and Local Expressions of the Christian Faith, edited by Joel Cabrita, David Maxwell, and Emma Wild-Wood (Brill, 2017), 2.
72) Robert Wuthnow, Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 39.
73) See the critical evaluation in Mark Shaw, »Robert Wuthnow and World Christianity: A Response to Boundless Faith«, International Bulletin of Mis-sionary Research 36, no. 4 (2012), 170–84; John G. Flett, Apostolicity: The Ecumen-ical Question in World Christian Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 158–64.
74) Volker Küster, »Intercultural Theology is a Must«, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 35, no. 4 (2014), 171.
75) Wrogemann, Interkulturelle Theologie und Hermeneutik, 39.
76) Lamin O. Sanneh, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 35.
77) Skreslet, Comprehending Mission, 98, 10.
78) Irvin, »What is World Christianity?«, 27.