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Book How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind (PB)


How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind (PB)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind (PB).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Thomas C. Oden(Author)

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Africa has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy. Some of the most decisive intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood in Africa before they were in Europe. If this is so, why is Christianity so often perceived in Africa as a Western colonial import? How can Christians in Northern and sub-Saharan Africa, indeed how can Christians throughout the world, rediscover and learn from this ancient heritage? Theologian Thomas C. Oden offers a portrait that challenges prevailing notions of the intellectual development of Christianity from its early roots to its modern expressions. The pattern, he suggests, is not from north to south from Europe to Africa, but the other way around. He then makes an impassioned plea to uncover the hard data and study in depth the vital role that early African Christians played in developing the modern university, maturing Christian exegesis of Scripture, shaping early Christian dogma, modeling conciliar patterns of ecumenical decision-making, stimulating early monasticism, developing Neoplatonism, and refining rhetorical and dialectical skills. He calls for a wide-ranging research project to fill out the picture he sketches. It will require, he says, a generation of disciplined investigation, combining intensive language study with a risk-taking commitment to uncover the truth in potentially unreceptive environments. Oden envisions a dedicated consortium of scholars linked by computer technology and a common commitment that will seek to shape not only the scholar's understanding but the ordinary African Christian's self-perception.

"How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind is a bold call to rehabilitate the earliest African contributions to the shaping of world Christianity. As such, it is a major resource for all people interested in the history of the Christian movement. Oden's focus on the intellectual dimension of Africans' role in the formation of Christian culture may surprise some, but it is a much-needed, welcome corrective to the assumptions held by many. In my opinion, this book is one of the most significant contributions to the literature on world Christianity. Must reading!"--Tite Tienou, Dean and Professor of Theology of Mission Trinity Evangelical Divinity School""Rarely has a work of such brevity distilled so much vintage wisdom with such elan. How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind fills a crucial gap between the early church in Africa and Western Christianity, and represents a timely challenge to Christian Africans and to a post-Christian West. It will be impossible and foolhardy to ignore this book."--Lamin Sanneh, Professor of World Christianity and of History, Yale University""How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind . . . is essential for all libraries East, West, South devoted to Christian historical and theological issues."--Roger E. Hedlund, Dharma Deepika, January-June 2011"A gripping and inspiring book."--James Nkansah-Obrempong, Evangelical Review of Theology, April 2009"An exciting book generously documented and passionately written."--Gie Vleugels, Stone-Campbell Journal, Fall 2009"A helpful challenge to consider the primacy of African theology in the first centuries of the church. A very good beginning to what Oden sees as a multigenerational task."--J. Scott Horrell, Bibliotheca Sacra, January - March 2010"I found this brief book both interesting and important. I am certain that everyone needs to know and process Oden's argument."--Denis Haack, Critique, Issue 3, 2009"Oden has condensed in a small but excellent starter book a great amount of information and he has provided convincing and compelling evidence for Christianity;s debt to its African roots. He has left me with a great hunger for exploring more deeply into this vitally important subject."--Trevor O'Reggio, Seminary Studies, Andrews University, Autumn 2008"This book is a challenge, a shot across the bow of young historians. If Oden is correct, that Africa did in fact play a more decisive role in the formation of Christianity than just about everyone realizes, then the Church will profit from the investigation he calls for. This is a tremendous book and is worthy of being read by anyone who enjoys church history, or even African history. Thomas Oden has served the Church over the last few decades by editing the Ancient Christian Commentary Series and reminding us of the necessity of remembering our roots in the early church.", March 2, 2009"Oden has offered a compelling and positively provocative work. [This] significant and timely work ought to be read by undergraduate and seminary students studying early Christianity, intercultural studies, and historical and systematic theology. It will surely be a catalyst for future generations of scholarship."--Edward L. Smither, Criswell Theological Review, Fall 2008"[A] great reminder that what we are doing is recovering a great Christian past, in which the entire Christian world owes a debt to early Africans."--Gary S. Maxey, The Arminian, Spring 2008"While the book may be provocative to some, it is a potent reminder that Christianity is not a European religion but a worldwide religion and always has been."--Chris White,, June 25, 2008"I would recommend this book to anyone interested in church history."--Shaun Tabatt,, July 29, 2008"Oden's book is a call to take seriously the oral and written tradition of material spoken and penned on the African continent. It is then a call to explore the past, present, and future impact of that legacy."--Robert Kelleman, TitusOneNine blog, April 25, 2008"Read it, be challenged, consider and beware: for some it may lead to a life work!"--The Rev. Dr. Colin Reed in Church Missionary Society Victoria, March 2008""Some of the major Church Fathers were from Africa. These Church Fathers were greatly involved in theological disputes of the time. Oden presents the case that these theologies moved from Africa to Europe and Asia. Oden proposes that present-day Africans need not create a new theology, but rediscover the theology that was born on the continent before the Arab conquests. Oden reminds Christians of the major cultural and religious centers in North Africa."--Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., Curled Up with a Good Book (, February 2008"In a little more than 200 pages, Dr. Oden documents how some of the most crucial intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood in Africa long before they were in Europe. In this landmark book, Oden gives several ways Africa has shaped the Christian mind. From Africa came the idea of university, the development of Christian exegesis of scripture, the earliest intimations of ecumenical conciliar patterns, the rise of monasticism and categorization of Christian dogma."--Jim Miller Book Review, February 12, 2008"[A]n outline and an agenda for research . . . [by] classic forward-thinking Oden. . . . The story of Christian theology has been told from a European perspective. Oden wants to tell that story differently: classical Christian theology was heavily shaped by Africans."--David Neff,, February 29, 2008

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Book details

  • PDF | 204 pages
  • Thomas C. Oden(Author)
  • IVP USA (15 Oct. 2010)
  • English
  • 2
  • Religion & Spirituality

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Review Text

  • By Robert on 27 August 2012

    I am sure that Dr Oden has the best of intentions in desiring to awaken interest in early North African Christianity. I wish he had done so more graciously...My problem with his book is his obvious ignorance of the vast amount of research and writing already accomplished on the early Christian history of North Africa. His bibliography makes no reference to the extensive work by French scholars, for example, nor to Frend on the Donatist Church, nor even to my own more modest contribution in This Holy Seed... This Holy Seed: Faith, Hope and Love in the Early Churches of North AfricaA theological school in New Jersey may not the best place from which to assess what is known and taught in Africa. Dr Oden admits to "residing on the other side of the earth from Africa." Those of us who actually live here may have a less romantic, fanciful and emotional view of the continent and its people and history. We may also have much more information about it. In Zambia, for example, I have found African lecturers well informed about the Christian history of the Maghreb. Has Dr Oden ever visited the region or spoken with scholars actually working on the ground? Is he aware of what is being taught here and in the theological faculties of France, Egypt and Jordan? It appears not...The problem is made worse by his tendency to condemn us with allegations such as, "It has become a distinctly modern European prejudice to miss this simple point" (page 58). He speaks of "European chauvinism" (p.23) and of "neglect" and "inattention" (p.30). He alleges that "Africa's ancient Christian heritage has languished for many centuries." He speaks of evidence being ignored and suppressed because we have "assumed the mental superiority of north to south" (p.31). These are racist allegations and highly offensive. They are also complete nonsense. European theologians have always held Augustine, Cyprian and other early North Africans in the highest regard...Throughout his book, Dr Oden writes as though no one except himself has ever given serious thought to North African church history. I understand that he is a theologian, not a historian or archaeologist. But when a scholar steps out of his own speciality into a new field of study, it behoves him to do so with a measure of humility and deference to those who have been there before him and have indeed devoted a lifetime to matters of which he is ignorant...In my view, his judgment is flawed on two very specific issues which he unfortunately chooses to emphasize. Firstly, he vastly overrates the significance of the Medjerda river as a means of communication. It is hardly equivalent to the Nile. In fact early Christian remains are scattered throughout the region, not restricted to the banks of this small seasonal watercourse...Secondly, he identifies as "African" the Latin Christianity of the colonial elite in the coastal towns. He says, "For the purposes of this discussion, if a text was written in Africa it will be treated as African" (p.69). This skews the discussion considerably. To call this urban literary Latin Christianity "African" is naive, to say the least. It is equivalent to calling the Dutch Reformed faith of the Boers a manifestation of African spirituality. But Dr Oden barely mentions the Donatists or the Circumcellians of the inland areas, who were far more authentically African. In cultural terms, the most "African" of the early writers was Arnobius, but I can find no reference to him at all...Dr Oden gives no indication that he asked any recognised scholar to read and critique his text before publication. Had he done so, he might have seen good reason to revise and extensively modify what he wrote. To sum it up, I think that the title of this book claims far more than it offers. It is a lavish production but has no index, no footnotes, and very few references to known authorities. It is more akin to a political tract than a work of serious scholarship. It is an impassioned plea rather than a balanced assessment. In consequence, it must be treated with great caution.Finally, although I clearly have reservations about his book, I hope that Dr Oden's desire to awaken interest in this subject will be well rewarded.

  • By Guest on 7 November 2016

    Have read it befoer and given copies away to christian friends in Uganda. Brilliant book and makes you realise the Western Church needs to learn humility and listen to our brothers and sisters in Africa - very timely book for me as an Anglican Christian.

  • By D.Enamu on 11 July 2014

    Intersting book, shows that Africa has had a influence on the rest of the world - well worth reading.

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