Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Out of Africa

Written by: on September 6, 2017


How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind by Thomas Oden was completely shocking to me. Every other chapter revealed another truth about Africa’s contribution to Christianity that has been kept hidden from me all these years.  Like the author reiterates throughout the book, I have been brainwashed to believe that most everything Christian had European roots. Even the concept of higher education and the idea of the university being something that originated in Africa blew me away.  Oden says, “The unrivaled library of Alexandria was the model for university libraries all over Europe. It was unexcelled for five centuries” (Kindle 325-326). To read about how brilliant thinkers came together at the Alexandrian Library to share their knowledge was fascinating to me and caused me to wonder why I had never heard of this previously. Oden was compelling in his argument and reminded me of how small my world view truly is, and thankful that I am changing that by being a part of the LGP program.

Another interesting point Oden brings up about how Africa shaped the mind of Christianity is concerning early monasticism.  He states, “The African monks’ understandings of sacrifice; the daily ordering of the life of prayer, study and work; and radical discipleship were destined to enter into the heart of the whole Christian tradition that would later flower in medieval European Christianity” (Kindle 405-406). I honestly never pictured an African monk, when I thought of the early monks of our Christian faith. Once again, I feel robbed and sheltered when it comes to the full picture of our Christian heritage and history. The author develops a thorough argument supporting this claim and his evidence is rather convincing. Throughout the reading of this book, I found myself getting angry at the injustice dealt to my African brothers and sisters and sad for the lack of acknowledgment given to the amazing contributions they have given Western Christianity.

Towards to end of the book, Oden pulls on my heart strings even more with his words… “Simple awareness of the condition of Africa is the first step to turning the heart to Africa. Finding a heart for Africa is the precondition of taking any other step” (Kindle 1221-1222). I definitely increased my awareness and heart for Africa and feel more empowered with the new information I have received from reading this book. I will surely have a more informed response when approaching the subject of early Christianity as a result.

To be honest, much of this book was a little too heady and detailed for my taste, but I understand why Oden had to put so much research and detail into making his arguments.  He is trying to take down the Goliath of early Christian belief and traditions and reshape how we think about early Christianity. This feels like a monumental task, and I appreciate the passion he exudes for this throughout his various arguments. I also think it is powerful how important it is for him to change the mind of the African people. He believes it starts with them to turn this tide, and he knows the oral tradition of the African culture is essential to how this narrative will be reshaped for future generations. Although somewhat dry and exhausting in detail, he inspired me to challenge my own beliefs and be willing to think deeper and get additional perspectives when it comes to information that has been accepted without challenge.

About the Author

Jake Dean-Hill

Currently a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice. Ordained minister with 10 years of prior full-time church ministry experience and currently volunteering with a local church plant. Also working with companies as a Corporate Leadership Coach.

10 responses to “Out of Africa”

  1. Dan Kreiss says:

    Jake, I too found the book compelling and am wondering why I had not come across it sooner. This both excites and intimidates me when I think about the next 3 years. Thanks for your post as it confirms much of what I was thinking.

  2. Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Great quote Jake -“Once again, I feel robbed and sheltered when it comes to the full picture of our Christian heritage and history.” I echo your feelings when I read the book as well. Beautiful summary of the book and thank you for your heartfelt sentiments. Like you, I also thought the book was heady but appreciated the author’s passion and knowledge. Wonderful first post!! Nailed it 🙂

  3. Katy Drage Lines says:

    Welcome to LGP, Jake! Glad you’ve stepped onto this crazy roller coaster.

  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    Jake, Is it me or is there a bit of anger at the thought of not being fully aware of our heritage as Christians. I know as I read this book I had the same thoughts as you, just downright anger at not knowing this, as well as being upset I was never taught this in my years at Seminary. I really appreciate your thoughts and the passion you wrote with.

  5. Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Jake!
    I can relate to your statement “I found myself getting angry at the injustice dealt to my African brothers and sisters and sad for the lack of acknowledgment given to the amazing contributions they have given Western Christianity.” As someone who is concerned with, and advocates for, social justice, I see this revealed truth as another example of oppression. Because of our social work profession, we are especially sensitive to vulnerable and oppressed people. My heart goes out to Africa and the lack of recognition they’ve received related to history. They are our Christian heritage and have so much to teach us about faithful living.

  6. M Webb says:

    Better late than never! Yes, Oden’s work forces many of us to rethink our paradigms about Africa. The idea of North African Monks, without the support of their tribe and family is very interesting to consider. A modern day cultural challenge is ministering to the San- tribe living out in Kalahari Desert in west Botswana. They are known for their clicking sounds when using consonants which was made famous in the “Gods must be crazy.” We worked with missionaries who lived with the San people who spent over 20 years trying to translate the clicking language into a written Bible. I wonder if the monastic monks ever came up against that kind of vocabulary challenge?
    See you at the Cape!

    Stand firm,
    M Webb

  7. Nancy DEAN says:

    I really appreciated your information on African role in in early Christianity. Thanks for passing it on. I would very much like to hear more of your insights on this

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