Interview: Western Theologians Need Non-Western Theologians—and Vice Versa

The particularities of people groups can aid the work of understanding and proclaiming the gospel.

The worldwide growth of Christianity has brought about a flowering of theological perspectives. Yet many Western theologians have little familiarity with theologians working in non-Western contexts. Stephen T. Pardue, a professor at the Asia Graduate School of Theology, addresses this problem in a new book, Why Evangelical Theology Needs the Global Church. J. Nelson Jennings, editor of the journal Global Missiology, spoke with Pardue about the blessings of engaging with majority-world theologians.

You grew up in the United States, but you’ve spent many years living and teaching in the Philippines. How has that background shaped your thinking on theology and the global church?

Like most culturally hybrid people, I couldn’t possibly trace all the intricacies of how I’ve been shaped. One of my joys in writing the book was getting to reflect on these complex realities, which often get either ignored or oversimplified in theological books. In my own book, I try to move beyond these simplifications—for example, speaking of “Eastern” and “Western” theologies as if all theologians within these categories think the same way. I hope readers will feel invited to consider how the cultural plurality of God’s people helps us hear the Good News more fully.

Why, to invoke your book title, does evangelical theology need the global church?

We need the input of the whole church to thrive. This means not just celebrating the church’s growing diversity for vague reasons of politeness or political correctness, but developing a coherent framework for how culture can inform our theology without undermining its primary focus: the triune God revealed in Scripture.

One of my big themes is that …

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