Andrew Walls - "The Advent of World Christianity"
7:19AM Jun 26, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today we're extremely privileged to be speaking with Professor Andrew Walls. Professor Andrew Walls is currently professor of the history of mission at Liverpool hope University, honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh, and professor emeritus at the coffee crystal Institute of theology, mission and culture in Ghana.
Great great delight to be here.
Professor walls thanks in large part two, your work as a Missy ologists. Many Christians in the West are now aware of the rise of world Christianity. When did you first become aware of this phenomenon that we've become we've been calling world Christianity.
By the way, I think you're much too generous to my contribution in this for many, many people. involved in it. I have some difficulty I have to confess with the word world Christianity. And the we talked about world music and it usually means other people's music. You will go in my country into a supermarket and you will find a counter Mark world foods and that means it comes from India or possibly from Italy but it but it means exotic, not ours. And I think there's a real danger with the word world Christianity that is used the same way means other people's. However, in its looks as though it's come to stage in general use. And I think we just have to remember that we are part of world Christianity. It's not something out there.
That's the of all First of all, sir, what term Do you prefer, besides world Christian reality?
I don't confess that all that any other term that I've had, as devilish dictum, so we've got to go with Christianity, I think, I think it's with us just stay, and so on. I'm happy to accept it in for purposes of our conversation, very good.
And Professor was when you first become aware of this special that we made called World Christianity.
Well, I suppose anyone,
it becomes a way of by moving out of one's own sphere. And the crucial time for me was
in the 1950s.
Towards the end of the colonial period, just as well, just as the very first of the new African nations Ghana had come into being I'm
going to Africa at a time when
people still talk about the missionary volunteers. And when we talk very much about younger churches, yes, we weren't aware of the younger chapters, but we're American and I went to Africa as a theological teacher,
much with the idea that your churches had these lessons to impart to the younger churches. And I think it was the experience of those years. And the gradual realization of the huge Christian history and the new types of Christian experience which one which came which were then flowing
way to the to the fact that this was not going to be just a repeat of forte of what we had
and what I had grown up with
Professor walls you've been studying world Christianity. Professor wolf How has your Christianity phenomenon world, Christianity been shaped and reshaped over time?
I mentioned the first exposure in in Sierra Leone, and the frustrations of a theological teacher in that background. Where I have to say, senior missionaries tended to have a long The rather low and dismissive view of local church, the people that I talked to and talk to me. And I think one great
realization came that
he was only teaching about the second century second century Christianity. When I was living in a second century church that invite if I looked around me,
I could see a second century church in action in gross libris one major chunk of it. I think the next realization came After, after a decade in in Africa coming back to Britain and the shock of realizing that I was coming into a mess Christian country not only the one that I had left a decade earlier, but unless come Christian country than the one I've been doing it. And just before I left, I remember
one incident Dunkin
and his wife were involved in a bad motor accident in Nigeria. And we're off I went to either met him in hospital and can we say to the local police station To collect the belongings that have been in the car
that the whole village had been entire for these people. The people sue the previous night. whole group of people from the village. They didn't know them. They know knew only the two white people had been taken to hospital in this in this time.
the officer of the police station asked me to give greetings to my friends, and to say that all of them in the police station, we're praying for them. Now over the years I've had help assistance and A courtesy from the police in Britain but never the emotions of fear.
I think you'll realize the the cultural effect of the Christian gospel within this setting. And of course, by the 16th, the number contrast, we're already showing the trends in which
Christian faith was growing, with receding in the West and growing in the rest of the world.
access is now generally recognized, and we've had all sorts of markers for it on the way out I think the
some of the
around the middle of the 20th century, this is a 20th century more free movement. The church has changed more in the 20th century than it has been any other century since the first in terms of its demographic and cultural shift is the movement of its center. It doesn't have a single center now it has multiple pools of spiritual energy all over the world. Christian mission can start anywhere and go anywhere, in all directions, we will see it's much more like the Church of the second century perhaps than anything we've seen, we've seen since. But we've had the two geopolitical during the 20th century. And what I've called the Great European migration, which started at the beginning of the 16th century and a lot. First hundreds and then thousands, and then millions of people out of Europe, settled in the rest of the world.
That lasted about four and a half centuries.
And it created the world order that we know. It created all the all sorts of new nations, all the nations of the Americas are the result of that process. It sets up the great world of empires dictated terms of world trade. That great European migration came to an end, around the middle of the 20th century. In this century, when the Christian faces has been burgeoning in Africa and parts of Asia, and reforming, reshaping in Latin America. The other thing which we weren't aware of, until a bit later,
in migration didn't normally stop. It went into reverse. And what I call the great reverse migration began about the same time. People go from Asia from Latin America, moved to Europe and to the parts of North America that had been settled by bought bought by by Europeans and, and we made by Europeans. And that process have gone on, it's still going on. One can see no end to it. It's got enormous implications because initially it thought it means that Africa and Asia are now in Europe, in North America, Latin America is usually in North America, clearly.
means that whatever world Christianity is, it it's more or less every now
You don't you?
It means both that Hinduism and Islam part of Europe that India is part of Europe or Africa is part of Europe, that African Christianity, Asian Christianity, Latin American Christianity are part of the Western church.
exotic outposts but there and I think this is the this is perhaps the thing which makes my initial reservations about the term warm Christianity unnecessary. Because yeah if we only look yes one Christianity is here in my city and in yours
Thank you Professor walls for those reflections. It is amazing what's taking place in our own age. Thank you so much for that, sir. Professor walls. I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, Washington in the United States, which is an institution that prides itself on our missionary heritage and as a heritage it has a rich history as a missionary training school as the 21st century is well underway, and missions continues to change very rapidly. What advice would you have for those training today for missionary service?
Much of the advice is the same I'm sure that has gone to has gone to more the students always I
opposition, the only one I would underline is
the fact that
word Christianity is with us which means and opportunity to return to the conditions of the early church.
The average church
as we see it, developing in
Beginning begins as a monocultural change. Look at the opening chapters of x, and you will have the absolutely perfect symbiosis of gospel and culture. What do you you've gone through this what is Judaism?
In the light of the fact that Jesus is the Messiah,
it's a converted Judas. It's Jewish life turned around to face Jesus. What we see developing in the course of the book is the emergence of something else. That in fact, we might want to call world Christianity. The crucial point comes I think, in chapter 11 events.
Jewish refugees from Cyprus.
Cyprus, I mean the background but they're refugees from Jerusalem.
Go, well, they do the natural thing they, they, everybody in general in Jerusalem, had an uncle in, in Damascus, a cousin in Antioch and you know, you'll go to your day asper people, and of course you share the word about them, the Messiah has come. But those people make the crucial kick the commercial stamp of featuring the Lord Jesus kurios gave choreographers to
mix that is to pagans,
Demichelis pagans who've already had exposure to the synagogue and interested. But what happens in Antioch
is the makings of a bike culture.
And that becomes the norm, because at Antioch that becomes the great mission church and sends out its own missionaries. And the same thing happens like across the eastern Mediterranean, as you see Paul and Barnabas and his and their fellows coming out, carried out permission. That got also short. That means, and here that I think is where the importance of accurate deed right in the middle of when the permit church comes to the extraordinary conclusion
that it's not necessarily
for all Christians to have the same lifestyle, the same way of following Jesus as all the previous believers in Jesus and In fact you what happens in Antioch is a bicultural church where you have people who are following Jesus by keeping the Torah, circumcising their children, keeping the food laws, going to the temple to pray. Keep keeping Passover and other people who have to have a totally different way of following Jesus. Not one church. That's not. That's not.
That's not true churches.
But you've got something that didn't exist in the Roman world. You had to have a new name for it. And you invented this name Christiana boy. The Christ is short of people. Yes, they are followers of the Messiah. But they will see the Messiah in different ways of using Gentiles. And I'm sorry to come back to your question. I think this is the situation which we are to appreciate in a way that we hadn't been able to in the West at least for a long time.
Now we can have
recognize a single world church under these different forms. So I think one of the important things is that we do realize that we seek to be as much aware as possible of the some of the different comfortable forms within the church experience from because I think the other thing Is that the epistle so full of how positions for the building up as we see in Ephesians, of the, of the body of Christ, building up of the new temple, these different bits of converted social reality are part of the same church. Most of us can get stuck in one little bit of converted socio social reality. In fact, God's Church is this bigger one. And the new template of the spirit is to take all these into the completion of Christ before statue of Christ.
Professor walls I'm deeply grateful for that reflection. Sir, what does the new shape of world Christianity mean? For our Bible colleges and seminaries, what does this mean for theological education?
I think, first of all, there's a huge opportunity here. We have this opportunity to move closer to the fullness, full statue of Christ. And remember, we all need to get gathered to the full statue of Christ. We can't come on our own need both the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. Here. We have ad at home in general, the updates in the infant, we have opportunity of building these, these bridges with brothers and sisters,
of course, and I think it's the
But my apologies.
That will lead to take some leadership in this institutional church frameworks, often to be rejected do that. And I think it's got implications certainly for the
curriculum that we teach.
It was only when I came back from Africa that I realized that the church history framework I was now expected to teach in a Scottish University. And how that was in, in, in almost entirely based on Western experience a Western experience of Christianity. developments that took place in the West.
It wasn't really the history of the church at all.
It was the history of how we got here.
How we in Scotland arrived. When you're talking about African church history, we're talking about 2000 years of African church history. It's been in the continent for that time. If you're talking about Asian Christiana Christianity, how many people recognize that the Emperor of China was hearing the gospel and studying Christian scriptures. At this point, even people that people
were hearing the gospel For the first time, more or less the same year.
So I think
much of the
when I start with churches because
a historian by the by trade as it were, but the but I think it's true of all the other branches too
in the light of the coming of a world church, we need to open up our thinking
and our knowledge, our research
take them in new directions.
But aside that is this motto for life, which we can practice with congregations in our own in our own neighborhood and making the personal contacts and realizing that mission will come from all corners of the world and will go to all corners of the world including
Professor walls, would you have any recommendations for structural changes that may need to take place in institutions of theological education in order to best meet the realities of world Christianity?
is such a huge, huge question. And I think the only thing I can say is that in brief, is that it does require The whole a whole rethinking? I think the whole of our curriculum needs to be resolved in the light of what has happened to the church.
We don't like doing that.
None of us like abandoning the lectures we've been getting for years. It's hard work. And it will take time. But I think it is a truly radical
Professor walls if I can ask a question about how to do theology in the context of world Christianity. Let me phrase it this way, the nature of world Christianity is that it is an expression of Christianity that spans many separate cultural contexts and therefore no One individual can speak authoritative Lee for the movement. Is there a preferred method for doing theology in this context of world Christianity?
I suspect there will be many lessons learned
how to special things to bear in mind here. First is theology in many ways, is local. And the theological agenda is culturally conditioned. And the reason for this is that theology springs not out of the study or the library, but from the life of the church, the life of witness in Christian theology comes out of mission, not out of study. theology is the requirement to think, in a Christian fashion, to make decisions to make Christian decisions. And so these will usually come the flesh theology in a Christian of the point to do what to do. Question type of question. And here again, I think we go back to the early church, in fact,
should have all these Gentile Christians.
You made this amazing decision at the fearsome Council, that you're not going to require them to be circumcised or to keep the Torah.
But what are they to do?
What is the pattern of Christian life?
The other believers in Jesus are circumcised and keep the Torah. All the best Christians, all the best believers, all the apostles, the Lord's brother, all of the Lord Himself.
There is this way of doing it.
In this as, in fact, these people have under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And that's a crucial factor, isn't it? To find
a Greek ex pagan way,
an anti anti icky, nice, Mediterranean Hellenistic way of following Jesus. And the conditions are going to be quite different. And I think what we see in so many of the epistles, is this being worked out in practice. One Corinthians is full of these tricky questions. Like, what should I do? If a pagan friend invites me to dinner, and I think he may have got the meat from a pagan temple, and it was offered in sacrifice yesterday.
Should I go?
If I go You should I ask him where he got the meat? Oh, what should I do? He tells me that he got the meat from the temple. And you see all those questions coming up in one Corinthians? No, this is a completely new situation. Peter, john James, the adjuster never had to face that question.
No pagan was going to invite the
observant Jews didn't sit down to pagan dinner tables
You're going to have a new situation, a completely new world where Christians will or may or may choose or may choose not to, but may choose to sit at a contender tables and talk about Christ there. Hellenistic, social and family life has got to be converted. It's got to be turned towards Christ. It's part of this conversion of this bit of social reality. So all sorts of new questions are coming up. And the first of these are the bottom line questions. Should I go to dinner? What should I do at dinner? time, but then you've got the other questions that emerge later. How should I think how should I think about Christ? Yes, We believe that Jesus is the Lord. That's the title we've always used for compatibilities.
it does enable me as an ex pagan to have some idea of Jesus if I think of him as divine Lord, whereas I can't do an awful lot with Messiah because, well, isn't that all about Jewish nation? And
we also believe Yes, there's only one God. So what's the relationship between this one God and the divine Lord?
Are they the same?
Question and no, publishing is a slippery word to hear and Yes, we have stories. We've all grown up with stories about Hercules, who was the son of a divine being by a human mother is that Christ is
God, man. God
exists is the sort of question that's only coming out of the preaching of the gospel and the Greek mark. And I think 10 as the gospel process come to contemplate frontiers, you get new matters, new issue with developing both of the local, what should I do type and the big guy, how should I think? And so in to this extent, theology will always be expanding. See what Is the theology that we grew up with? Is the theology of in our own history before with the issues that came up, and how would they approach and hammered out? So I think there's this side, one side, you're always going to have variety
and new things.
the other side of it is that
there is only one church.
There's only one body of Christ. We all follow the scriptures. The thing is that we read that our vision enables us to see things in Scripture that other people won't see. But it also means that we can Don't see some things which I've seen. So I think it's vital that the Christian process goes on locally and creatively in every part of the world and in every
social cultural unit unit,
but also those socio cultural units, keep in contact with each other, read the scriptures together. And will by that means I'm sure of be able to correct one another. I think there's also I mean, you mentioned the systematic theology process. And
is very much a Western product. One thanks its relationship to the development more, more lawyers. Theologians of theology have constructed on legal principles and and behind it is the the Greek. The Greek story gifts. The preaching in the Hellenistic world had this enormous stimulating effect on theology. And looking at the look at some of the Syriac theologians at the same time, same time as the Council of Nicea. You've got, you've got in the second century, you've got a Syriac Hipmunk if I can remember it properly. But it says a cup was given to me and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord's kindness
Son is the cup.
I can't remember the name. It is the milk cow the father becomes the the father is the source of the milk in the car and the Holy Spirit. And this is Sylvia queer spirit is feminine. It is the Holy Spirit is she who makes him. You've got here in a second century this perfect idea of a relationship. relational theology fathers are not born with that Oh, without the metaphysical process that the Greeks had to go through. To get to the Trinitarian statement, in the same form, it's there as poetry. This is a hymn, but it comes there is the same experience because God is Trayvon Trayvon. If
you can have theology, theology as
as well as metaphysics,
probably more different theological styles.
Professor walls as we look next to humanism, what are the real ecumenical possibilities that you foresee in the decades ahead?
And I think two crucial issues for acumen ecumenism in person situation are no longer the was where we were looking for
institutional union of churches that that I remember many years ago was what asked us acumen ecumenical dialogue
and not the
what I'm a crudely call, how do students get on with Baptists and it's a real accurate medical record issues I think are going to Well, let's remember that the
company is the inhabited work
and if we have
spread over the air
while you Yes One continues to
discuss dialogue on faith and order questions. And important empirical questions seem to me to be how African, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Korean, North and South American, east and west European Christians
interact with each other
in the body of Christ.
division has time and again, taking place along linguistic and cultural lines. It still seems to me that there was a great ecumenical failure in the fifth century, when the church broke
officially over doctrine,
but in fact work along cultural and linguistic lines. And the result was that for hundreds of years,
the Christians of Europe
lost contact with the Christians of Africa and division. And when contact was restored, it was a covenant contact. And this happens on the very eve of the emergence of Islam and the art of conquest, which, of course are a major part of the The story that follows. So z
advantage where we have both the challenge and the opportunity
that you don't have to go to Korea to experience Christopher coming in Christianity now,
in the United States,
you don't have to go to Nigeria
discover Nigeria to steal.
It's how these things can really work together. How with all whatever denominational frameworks we've got, how across the cultural and linguistic divide, we can show that we are one body
Professor walls as we speak about The ways in which world Christianity parallel second century Christian realities. I know that Kwame by diaco the African theologian was a doctoral student of yours. Would you be willing to share about how his research and your research may have mutually influenced one another?
Well, I'm sure they I'm sure they did. Because Kwame was a dear friend for for many years. And I
shared a shared many things and
one of the greatest privileges I've had, has been
taking part in
some of the things in in Some things that are part of his legacy, like the Accra we could start instituting in Ghana. And
certainly I learned a great deal from him. And one should remember here that this is a man who
started as a rebel against the Christian
a catechist in the in the church on his father. Next,
next neck bass and Kwame as a young intellectual
moved into Western atheism.
He began his studies as in French literature.
of course, the
child of the independence generation
in the New World, post colonial, the first post colonial generation and it was as a graduate student in France
that he first
came to Arsenal phase
show my show that you want To go off and be an evangelist, he was persuaded to stay in the academic field. He completed his doctorate in French literature, before turning to the study of theology, and later did his his doctorate with us was a second second doctor.
This is one of the things that made me think. And
when he returned,
he could now have moved into either of these academic disciplines either in French literature or in, in theology into the university. didn't want to do that, because he didn't think as things were then was the theology
they would for see a logical
investigation that he wanted to do.
No, did you see a future in the seminaries because that is what it was. And so he persuaded the Presbyterian Church to give them an old catechist Training Center
to start an entirely new study of theology, mission and culture. What should Christian face look like? In Africa?
and he, it didn't begin with an academic program because he realized that it was the people who were making theological discussion decisions. When you catechists people at the lowest level who we're dealing with the poor, the one Corinthian sort of questions, should I go to this festival or not? If I don't go Should I make a financial contribution? What do I do about my relatives who are
part of what I'm what I'm who I am
After the out of this the academic program developed, so that now the center which he made in a component is a postgraduate theological Research Institute concerned with issues of gospel and culture all over the world, but of course, particularly in Africa, it's got at the last count I saw was 17 different African nations.
There's a handful of Westerners and the
the best possible trading mission hope is
added sitting in
a place which the small small town that is the center of cultural,
of local culture the
ruled by a cane when most people would call themselves Christian, and many would have very active church membership. But your framework is still still this book and where you have to work out by bit the issues of the African past. So call me, I think, was one of his concerns was the conversion of the past. And conversions conversion is About direction was on about.
direction. We talked about the early church in Jerusalem, Judaism turned towards Christ. The same thing happening with Hellenistic Hellenistic culture in places like Antioch happening again, in, in this new situation in in Africa, this process of counting the past towards Christ, all the things that make you up because we're all constituted by our past. So yes, these are things which we did
Such together for many years.
I confess that I Little Miss Lee, I, his legacy is enormously important. And a very rich
Professor walls if I can ask a question that we've been asking all of the interviewees on this program and that is this, what would it mean for the church today to be united? How would we recognize this unity and what can Christians today do to pursue true Christian unity?
Yes, what what would it look like?
what it will look like at the end. I think we are toward towards the end of the pursuit of something efficient The it is the spirit, the template of the spirit that comes from the coming together of these different bits of converted social reality, as I've called it, that in when the festival was being written meant a Jewish component and
a Hellenistic East Mediterranean component,
perhaps a civic component as well.
Now, the mixture is infinitely richer, but the end will be the same. This is the body of Christ, moving towards the completion of the body, as well. The Big
O The other
scriptural picture that seems to me to come
21st chapter Revelation where we see a new Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the incidentally an old jabby aside city that becomes the city of the city of day with the city, the the city of the people of Israel, the city of the people of Judah, Mount Zion, but the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven at the last time, already complete. And it gates open on all four sides north, south, east and west. And soon those gates the glory of the nations this world East, North, South, and West bowed into the holy city, the best treasures of all parts of the world. Ah, that seems to me were the picture that we've got in Revelation 21 is of the church as it should be, as it is, in principle, as it will one day be by God's grace.
how we come to blank is the business, the messy business that we have involved in day to day as believers as witnesses as missionaries as it We make ventures and fellowship to other believers as we seek to translate the Gospel across cultural frontiers recognizing that most of us now, most of us in the West, live in a post Christian culture, on non Christians we make venture will need cross cultural methods to penetrate and perhaps cost ages. Thank you.
I don't see the processes.
By God's grace, I think we can see in Scripture, the end and the direction in which we should be moving.
It's been our extraordinary honor to be speaking with Professor Andrew Walz, Professor of the history of mission at Liberty pool hope University honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh, and professor emeritus at the UK Rafi Kristofer Institute of theology, mission and culture in Ghana. Professor walls thank you for your time and insights today. Thank
you very much for the privilege of being here.