Thomas C. Oden graduated into heaven last year, after a journey of spiritual inquiry and academic career that led him to write several books. Among them was the Ancient Christian Doctrine Series. Through that research Oden realized how much of our Christian theological heritage comes from ancient African theologians. This discovery surprised him, because he was under the common impression that Christianity moved from Europe to Africa, and thus it has often been considered by many Africans as an imported religion from the West. Therefore, in order to portray a more accurate description of the African influence in Christian thought and to encourage Christians in Africa to look deeper into their own history, Oden wrote How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind. He argues, “The pretense of studying church history while ignoring African church history is implausible.”
Although Oden is cognizant of the fact that not everybody defines Africa in the same way, he develops an argument that treats the entire African continent as one geographic unit. With that understanding, he argues that the early development of Christian thought did not move from Europe to Africa, but the other way around. “Decisive intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood first in Africa before they were recognized in Europe, and a millennium before they found their way to North America.” The African influence in western Christian thought is summarized into seven main areas. Oden argues that Africa gave us the concept of the university, the exegesis of Scripture, a body of Christian doctrine (as postulated by famous theologians like Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius and Augustine), the ecumenical decision-making approach to theological issues, monasticism, Christian Neo-Platonism, and refined rhetorical and dialectical techniques. Furthermore, because of the current growth of Christianity in Africa, the increasing hunger for a Christian faith rooted in intellectual depth, and the presence of a strong Muslim population, Oden encourages African theologians to rise to the task of engaging in Christian thought just as the early African theologians did.
Reading Oden reminded me of Silk Roads. Both Oden and Frankopan were moved to rethink their approach to history in an effort to free our historical perspective from the fallacies of ethnocentrism. Thus, both authors are insightful and provide us with a broader global perspective. In the case of church history, Oden succeeds in showing us that African scholars did shape a large part of the Christian thought that we inherited in the West. He also challenges us not to be entangled in what he calls intellectual prejudice. I was intrigued and challenged by this concept, as it connects with my own area of academic research. He says, “A demeaning prejudice has crept into historical lore that these great figures were not Africans at all-merely Europeans in disguise. This is a fairly recent Western intellectual prejudice. It suggests that the African intellectual tradition cannot even claim its own sons and daughters, especially if they happened to have been articulate, or if they were sufficiently astute to speak in the common international, academic, commercial and political languages of the day. According to that bias, the greater those competencies, the less African they would be.” 
The intellectual prejudice that Oden denounces is rooted in a central-marginal worldview, in which some believe that there is one superior culture/race at the center and all others are considered marginal or inferior. He observes, “Almost every turn in African Christian history is misjudged if it lives by the premise that Europeans have a natural advantage built into their intellectual DNA.”
The idea that some races have a superior intellect rooted in their biology can be found early in American history. In the book Notes of the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson argued “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” For two centuries this idea was developed even further by a generation of scientists who argued that the Caucasian race was morally and intellectually superior to all, and that among the vast array of what was considered inferior races, the black race was at the bottom.
Oden opened my eyes to the fact that this mindset of intellectual superiority still shapes the life of many Christians today—a thought that I find alarming. Odd points out, “There is a prejudice at work here: suspect anything of intellectual value that comes from the African continent as having some sort of secret European origin.”
Perhaps we tend to trust the familiar and distrust the unfamiliar, yet my concern is that in doing so we can suffocate the Body of Christ. I realize that intellectual prejudice does not only come through the narrative of races, but it can also be found between genders, social class, or across denominational lines.
Oden reminds me that intellectual prejudice can entangle the church. If I am to grow as a leader with global perspectives, I must learn to value the intellectual contribution of other members of the body of Christ beyond my ethnicity, social class, or gender. If I am to lead Ethnos Bible Church effectively, I must instead be characterized by intellectual humility and by a heart that celebrates diversity. In the words of Oden, “orthodox Christians do not admit skin color as a criterion for judging Christian truth. Never have. Never will.”
 Thomas C. Oden. How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity (Kindle Locations 47-48). Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., 43-44.
 Ibid., 490-493.
 Thomas Jefferson and William Harwood Peden, Notes on the State of Virginia (Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Virginia by the University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 172.
 Oden, 542-543.
 Ibid., 545-548