Monday, February 19, 2007

Globalizing Theology, No. 1

A number of us at the seminary are reading a new book, edited by Craig Ott and Harold Netland, called Globalizing Theology. Meant as a festschrift for Paul Hiebert, the eminent missiologist who has taught for a generation at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the book actually serves as a thought-provoking collection of essays, meant to prod theological educators into thinking about what it means to do theology in and for a "global" church.

After all, if God's mission is the transformation of his world by his people bringing his Gospel to all the nations, then that means we cannot allow our understanding of God to be boxed into our regional or national cultural systems. Through intentional ways, we must be in conversation with the church in other places and circumstances in order to discover our cultural blind spots and to gain wisdom and insight from other parts of Christ's church.

This represents a series of questions about which I've been thinking alot recently, both because we are in the midst of our self-study process and "globalization" is a major theme for our professional accreditors (the Association of Theological Schools) and because we are also beginning a new round of strategic planning. And so, these questions: What is God calling this little Presbyterian seminary to be and to do for the world's church? How can this be accomplish simply by paying attention to the internationals whom God has brought to St. Louis (which serves as a relocation center for internationals seeking asylum in the United States)? Even more, how would taking our "kingdom perspective" core value seriously lead to a transformation, or at least an augumentation, of the seminary's mission?

I don't know all the answers, although I think I sense some of the possible trajectories. But above all, it strikes me that if institutions like ours are going to be useful for the world-wide church, we need to take more seriously than we ever have that theological education must be for the whole church and must reflect the sense that God's mission in this world is for everyone from everywhere. What role a seminary like ours should play in this is open for question and dreaming.

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