Item description for How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden...
Overview Oden surveys the decisive role of African Christians and theologians in shaping its doctrine and practices of the church of the first five centuries and makes an impassioned plea for the rediscovery of that heritage.
Publishers Description 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.
From Publishers Weekly Where is the cradle of ChristianityEurope or Africa? After teaching historical and systematic theology, Oden is surprisingly just discovering what other scholars have argued for some time: that the earliest contours of Christianity can be easily traced to Africa. After all, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Plotinus and Augustineto name only a few early Christian thinkerswere Africans. In this tiresome and repetitious book, Oden belabors the already well-established notion that Christianitys roots can be found in Africa. He does draw helpfully on his work on the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series to demonstrate that the intellectual contours of Christianityacademics, exegesis, dogmatics, ecumenics, monasticism, philosophy, and dialecticsdeveloped in Africa. However, Peter Brown (Augustine of Hippo) and other writers have clearly recognized this contribution, and Odens nave and hyperbolic book is more embarrassing than enlightening. Odens study is most suited to those who are entirely new to the debate and who will benefit from resources such as a time line of early African Christianity and a reading list for further investigation of the subject. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Citations And Professional Reviews How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity by Thomas C. Oden has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 10/15/2007 page 57
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Studio: IVP Books
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.5" Width: 5.92" Height: 0.87" Weight: 0.84 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2008
Publisher IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN 0830828753 ISBN13 9780830828753
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More About Thomas C. Oden
Thomas C. Oden (PhD, Yale) is Director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania and Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University. He is an ordained Methodist minister and the author of many books, including The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, Doctrinal Standards in the Wesleyan Tradition, and Classic Christianity. Dr. Oden is also the general editor for the widely-used Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series.
Born Thomas Clark Oden (October 21, 1931) he is most reknown for his work as an American United Methodist theologian and religious author. He was born in Altus, Oklahoma. He has a B.A. degree from the University of Oklahoma (1953), a B.D from Southern Methodist University (1956), an M.A. from Yale University (1958), and a Ph.D. from Yale University (1960).
Oden is best known as a proponent of paleo-orthodoxy, an approach to theology that often relies on patristic sources. He has published a series of books that he says are tools for promoting "classical Christianity." Oden suggests that Christians need to rely upon the wisdom of the historical Church, particularly the early Church, rather than on modern scholarship and theology, which is often, in his view, tainted by political agendas.
He has written, "The term paleo-orthodoxy is employed to make clear that we are not talking about neo-orthodoxy. Paleo- becomes a necessary prefix only because the term orthodoxy has been preempted and to some degree tarnished by the modern tradition of neo-orthodoxy" (Requiem, p. 130).
Oden says his mission is "to begin to prepare the postmodern Christian community for its third millennium by returning again to the careful study and respectful following of the central tradition of classical Christianity" (After Modernity...What?, p. 34). Oden is also active in the Confessing Movement in America, particularly within the United Methodist Church. He serves on the board of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Reviews - What do customers think about How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity?
Africa's contribution to early Christianity Dec 5, 2009
It is not often recognised that a number of the early church fathers were Africans, and there was a strong African formative influence on the early years of Christianity. That is essentially the message of Thomas Oden's book. It is a message which forces a rethink of the way most people perceive the role of Africa within the Christian faith.
It is an interesting message and certainly one worth telling. Unfortunately the substance of the book is disappointingly brief. I would have liked to have heard about the lives of the African church fathers Augustine, Tertullian, Cyprian and others, and I would have liked to hear more about the history and spread of Christianity in Africa in the first few centuries, as well as the particular distinctives of early African Christianity as compared with, say, early European Christianity.
Instead, the author has taken enough material for a magazine article and stretched it out to form a book. He asserts that a new generation of African scholars need to take responsibility for conducting the research and fleshing out Africa's contribution to Christianity. I found the book dry and at times patronising towards Africans; mercifully it is relatively short at 108 pages plus introduction and appendices.
The most misleading title in ages Aug 30, 2009
I was very disappointed in this book.
I conclude that the book was not written for me, as I am not a university theologian. I do not normally read university theology books, but I was interested in the subject as I have a heart for the people of Africa and their spiritual lives.
About 10 pages of this book directly describe how Africa shaped the Christian mind. The rest of the book is Oden's constant re-iteration (100+ pages worth of constant) that Africa did shape the Christian mind, that revisionist European history minimized the impact of the thinking of North African church leaders on Christianity, and that he alone appears to have the intellectual insight into this reality.
I strongly suspect that Oden is correct in his main premise of the book. However, as a lay person, I don't remember being overtly taught any of the heresies that he supposes underlie my Christian faith. Maybe that's his point: that the heresies are so subtle, that I have not realized that I have been taught them. On the other hand, if I had bought into these heresies, then I would have disagreed with his main thesis, which I didn't.
Having said all of that, the 10 pages of content directly related the title are interesting, and I loved the literary chronology of Christianity in North Africa that is provided at the end of the book.
In parallel to this book, I started reading "The Lost History of Christianity" by Philip Jenkins. So far (about 13% of the way in) Jenkins makes the same points as Oden, but with more detail, and from a global basis (including the influence of the Eastern Church on both Western Christianity and Islam). If you are attracted to the title of this book, I recommend you get the Jenkins one instead.
Well done! Apr 25, 2009
A must for anyone who want to know about Africa and its history and how it was shaped to be Africa today!
How Alexandria, Egypt Shaped the Christian Mind ? Aug 11, 2008
"On that day, there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of Hosts. One of these will be called the city of the sun (Heliopolis)." Isaiah 19:18
Introductory Epilogue: One nation in Africa lead by the great city of Alexandria has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy that outweighs all other nations together. The Church of Alexandria, where the Hebrew bible translation started in the third century BC, into the Greek Septuagint, became and still is the ecclesiastical holy Scripture of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. All fundamental Christian doctrines and the most formative intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and developed in Egypt, which controlled provinces west to today's Tunisia, together of few Latin centers in Northern Africa before they moved into Italia and the Gaul of the archaic Roman Empire.
Oden Tells the Story: Here, Oden reminds Christians that there were once major cultural and religious centers in North Africa, especially in present day Tunisia where Carthage and Hippo were located. The Mediterranean coast of North Africa had a thriving civilization and culture that produced vivid literature and fine art. The Nile River descending from the mountains of Ethiopia, passing through Nubia, and ending in lower Egypt is still the main location of a living Christianity. These Christians were able to survive the Arab invasion, even hinder Islamic cancerous growth into their areas. Another vocation that Oden points out as having a great influence on Western Asia, from Syria to Capadocia and Southern Europe was monasticism, which started in the deserts of Egypt and eventually moved east and west up to Ireland.
African Paleo-Orthodoxy: Professor Thomas Oden, founder of Paleo-Orthodoxy, represents a portrait of Christian community in North Africa, in line with Patristic scholars in Europe, which is being catching up in this country through the North American Patristic Society, in the last thirty years. He challenges prevailing notions on the historical development of Christianity from its early buds to its later developed expressions. He asks some fundamental questions: If this is so, why is Christianity so often perceived in Africa as a Western colonial import? How can Christians in Africa, and throughout the world, rediscover and learn from this ancient heritage? His analysis convinced him that the pattern should be reversed the other way around. His impassioned plea to uncover the vital role that early African Christians played in developing the modern university, applies only to Alexandria. From Clement to Dedymus, the Alexandrine Catechetical school thrived, and the scriptorium produced the most accurate Codices. Origen matured Christian exegesis of Scripture, shaped early Christian dogma, and above all modelled conciliar patterns of ecumenical consolation, by arbitration in matters of faith, between disputing bishops and their Churches from Caesaria, Palestine to Rome. Early monasticism, which started by the Jewish Therapeutae who became the first Messianic Jews, established the vocation and its traditions. Alexandrine Egyptians led by Ammon Saccha and his clan Plotinus, Longinus and Origen, and others of his pupils developed Neoplatonism, while refining rhetorical and dialectical skills.
Oden Disciplined Investigation: Professor Thomas Oden 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 scholarship, devoting common commitment endorsed with cyber technology, that will seek to shape "not only the scholar's understanding but the ordinary African Christian's self-perception." Thomas Oden proposes that contemporary Christian Africans need not synthesize any new theology, of African liberation type, but to first rediscover the patristic theology that started on the continent with the Church Fathers before the advancement of Islam. However, surviving Copts in Egypt, Christians in Ethiopia, and Eritrea already stick firmly to their Oriental Orthodoxy.
Seeking truth or Ecumenism? Thomas C. Oden, author and general editor of The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, in 28 volumes presents how this rediscovery can be done. He encourages young African scholars to take the lead in this project and set up a website: www.earlyafricanchristianity.com. Oden tries to be ecumenical in his approach of rediscovering how Africa shaped Christianity theologically, but Africa is reduced in reality to Egypt, mostly, and Cosmopolitan Alexandria specifically. In spite of trying to be inclusive, his emphasis is Protestant, a fact which Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., does not seem convinced. His presentation that Africa had a great influence on Christianity is correct, but Africa in the early days of the Church, could be reduced to Egypt, and Egypt to Alexandria. Exton statement that "forgetting is mostly due to racial prejudices which Oden and others highly suggest is not appropriate," refreshes the Black Athena debate.
Oden's Continental Ecumenism: Although Oden creatively recovered all known and proven facts, he stopped short from acknowledging the true champions of Christian Orthodoxy. Oden cannot call Egypt Africa, or deny to make an absolutely simple statement, "Alexandria was the mind of Western Civilization, and the Egyptian Desert the soul of Christianity!"
Eminent Scholar & Author: Thomas C. Oden is Professor of Theology and Ethics, Emeritus, at Drew University Theological School from 1980 to 2004. in addition to being the senior editor of Christianity Today, he is the general editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and author of The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, between many other theological and exegetical works.
Eye-opening! Jun 9, 2008
As a longtime reader of the Church Fathers, I found this book delightful. Oden's observations about Eurocentric interpretation of Church history are right on. I highly recommend it.