How Should a Christian Think?
“Just as the twinkle of stars was reduced to nuclear explosions, and life itself to biochemical reactions, so the brain may one day be explained by the same forces that run the rest of the universe.”
“What’s the matter? Never mind. What is mind? No matter:”
The truth of the joke should not be lost on those of us who claim to be followers of Christ. We should realize the importance of cultivating Christian minds. As the great statesman Charles Malik stated, “As Christ is the Light of the World, his light must shine and be brought to bear upon the problem of the formation of the mind.”
Realizing the importance of cultivating our Christian mind brings us to the brink where we can read and appreciate such books as How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, one of Thomas C. Oden’s finest works.[iv] Africa has played a major role in the development of Christian culture from the beginning, as some of Christianity’s most intellectual and decisive achievements were understood and explored in Africa even before they reached Europe.[v] Oden, general editor of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series and the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, believed that Africa has played a significant role in the formation of Christianity since the beginning.
Oden’s interest in early African Christianity grew as a result of working on Ancient Commentary on Scripture.[vi] In this book, Oden aims to bridge between the Western Christians, and their theological roots in Africa. In Chapter 2 of his book, Oden (2010) identified seven ways Christianity in the West was influenced by early African Christianity: rhetoric, neo-Platonism, monasticism, ecumenical decision making of conciliar patterns, dogmatism, and exegesis of scripture and the Western idea of the university. He makes special effort to show the influence of early African Christianity on key features of Western culture.[vii]
He further observes that, like other religions, Christianity should be regarded as a traditional religion of Africa.[viii] Due to the lengthy legacy of written traditions of Islam and Christianity in Africa, it is no surprise that the oral tradition of traditional religion is also indispensable.[ix] Oden considers it a gain, although many African Christians feel that it places Christianity in unwelcome and strange company.
Oden does not limit himself to Sub-Saharan Africa. In so doing, he countered the misconception of the West, by stating that Africa includes not only the Sub-Saharan Africa but also North Africa. It can thus be concluded, that as a result of the geography, African Christianity grew to the north of the Sahara in the first millennium, and further in the South in the second millennium.[x] He suggests that the present-day Africans should rediscover the theology, which came into existence in Africa, rather than creating a new theology. He emphasized that one of the major religious and cultural centers of North Africa is present-day Tunisia.[xi]
In Chapter 7 of How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, Oden argues that the deaths of martyrs of Africa formed the foundation of European Christianity, and have impacted the views of Christians regarding universal history.
In my opinion, this book is indeed very important and interesting, as it greatly helps readers rediscover the richness of their own heritage. It indeed has a capacity to illumine personal struggles as it digs deeps into the foundation of a religion. Understanding the teachings and finding the roots of the religion shapes our morals and our values. This book will help reorient the reader to the changing world. Africa, which is indeed neglected by the entire world, should pay attention, as the West in not the real center of the Christian world. Africa has played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture from its infancy. Some of the most decisive Christian intellectual achievements were explored and understood in Africa before they reached Europe. The pattern, Oden suggests, is not from north to south, from Europe to Africa, but the other way around. The book helps us be more driven towards the mature people of Africa, who can provide us with deep insights with regard to this religion. Maybe. We can now turn more toward our African fathers to rediscover our heritage; they witnessed the apostolic truth. Also, Sub-Saharan Africa has many fine Christian leaders, so it is necessary to provide them with the theological training necessary to apply the teachings of the Bible, and thus prove themselves as good Christian leaders for the coming generations.
. Sharon Begley, John Carey, and Ray Sawhill, “How the Brain Works,” Newsweek 101, no. 6 (1983): 47.
. Charles Habib Malik, “Your Mind Matters; Cultivate It,” Active Christians in Education (January 1981), 1A.
[iv]. Thomas C. Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2010).
[v]. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
[vi]. Amy G. Oden, And You Welcomed Me: A Sourcebook on Hospitality in Early Christianity (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2010).
[vii]. Dirk Van der Merwe, “From Christianising Africa to Africanising Christianity: Some Hermeneutical Principles,” Stellenbosch Theological Journal 2, no. 2 (2016): 559–87.
[viii]. Ian Martin Macqueen, “Re-imagining South Africa: Black Consciousness, Radical Christianity and the New Left, 1967–1977” (PhD diss., University of Sussex, 2011).
[ix]. Angela Khristin Brown, “Cultural Perspective on African American Culture,” International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies 1, no. 2 (2013): 54.
[x]. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa (Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
[xi]. J. Jafari and N. Scott, “Muslim World and Its Tourisms,” Annals of Tourism Research 44 (2014): 1–19.