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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, i 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.


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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, i 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.

30 review for How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity

  1. 4 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Summary: Much of the early church was African. The west has largely forgotten its African character and misremembered the importance and reach of the African church.  One of the important points here is very similar to the one made in this article about the rise of the Nation of Islam that it has been the misuse of Christianity that has led to African (or African American) rejections of Christianity as a White religion. European Christians, especially post Hegalian, viewed the early church father Summary: Much of the early church was African. The west has largely forgotten its African character and misremembered the importance and reach of the African church.  One of the important points here is very similar to the one made in this article about the rise of the Nation of Islam that it has been the misuse of Christianity that has led to African (or African American) rejections of Christianity as a White religion. European Christians, especially post Hegalian, viewed the early church fathers as necessarily being European in character because they were essential to the development of Christianity. This ignores the reality that most of the early church fathers were ethnically and culturally African. Most of them spoke Greek and/or Latin, but that is because those were common trade languages. Today we would not say that Bishop Desmond Tutu was European in character because he speaks and writes in English. And that also ignores those that were not writing in Latin or Gre,ek such as St Anthony, who was illiterate, but the only surviving letters we have from him (that were dictated) were in Coptic. A point which I had not heard before was that the consular format of the early church councils, which are today the basis of what is and is not considered orthodoxy and heresy, were developed by African Christians for use in Africa before they were used in the broader ecumenical councils. Where I think that Oden gets into a problem is evaluating modern movements. He is a good theologian and historian but tends to paint modern movements too broadly to be helpful. In his section on ecumenicism, there are people that fit into his critique, but many that do not. And because he is not nuanced enough in that critique (and I want to be clear that this would be very difficult), I suspect there are people that will dismiss the clearer theological and historical work as also suspect. Oden makes a very good case for the diversity of the continent and the need to account for all of the continent when discussing history, but I think he then becomes much more narrow when discussing the modern church, which has an equally diverse and messy origin. I want to affirm the historical work of the church in Africa, but modern Christian movements that have been influenced by Europe or the United States do not cease to be African. I want to affirm his point that many of these modern movements would benefit from a rediscovery of ancient African Christianity, but it does become paternalistic to argue against a modern African post-colonial or post-modernist approach as less African than historical African Christianity. And I think this is where his initial inclination that he should not be the one writing this book matters. Where he is most helpful is the historical work. Where he is the least helpful I think, is the modern evaluation and suggestions. Where White outsiders should help is equipping more  Africans for language and cultural studies. And writing books about history and cultural studies may be appropriate. But I do think that Oden was right to be hesitant as a scholar from the US to enter into this area of research. That being said, this is worth reading. There is very much that is good here and only small portions that I think verge into unhelpful. There is a helpful section (really about 1/4 of the book) at the end that is a brief timeline that helps walk the reader through the African contributions to Christian history. Several reviews complain that this is just a bare introduction, and that is right. There needs to be much more, but I don't think that Oden was the one to do that (he has since passed away). He provided much leadership in getting the western White mainline and evangelical church to pay attention to the ancient church, which is what led to his work on the early African church. It is interesting to me that this is a path that I have seen many others follow as well. The church is far more diverse, and that history and content really does matter more, than what many US Christians believe. It matters that many protestants view church history as the early church through the age of the apostles and then skips to the reformation. It also matters that even those that want to understand broader Christian history tend to only want to look at the Western church. And it also matters that even those that do want to read Augustine or the Desert Fathers or others want to make them into proto-Protestant Europeans instead of African Christians that existed before the east/west split or the Catholic/Protestant split. The work Oden is doing here is essential, but this book isn't written for the average Christian but the scholar. That isn't to say the average person cannot read it, I certainly did, but it is not targeted at me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joostnixon

    This may have been my favorite book so far for 2020. What a rich contribution Africa has made to Christian theology and practice, but it is largely unstudied and unexplored. This books really inspired me also (as I often teach in Africa), to encourage my students with such great examples. To me, this is a must read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    The book introduces an important topic, and for that I am grateful. I was not aware of the African influence on scriptural study and analysis. However, I found the book extremely repetitive and not very deep. The author continued to say that additional study was necessary to truly appreciate the full extent of the influence. While making that statement is to be commended, I still expected there to be more substance to the book than what was provided. I enjoyed learning about true location of his The book introduces an important topic, and for that I am grateful. I was not aware of the African influence on scriptural study and analysis. However, I found the book extremely repetitive and not very deep. The author continued to say that additional study was necessary to truly appreciate the full extent of the influence. While making that statement is to be commended, I still expected there to be more substance to the book than what was provided. I enjoyed learning about true location of historical Ethiopia as it shed light on what's happening today in modern day Sudan.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I must admit, when I've thought of African Christianity I've viewed it largely a result of modern, western missionaries. This book does a solid job of emphasizing the African roots of the early church and highlighting 7 ways Africa shaped the Christian mind: (view spoiler)[ 1. The Western idea of a university was born in the crucible of Africa 2. Christian exegesis of scripture first matured in Africa 3. African sources shaped early Christian dogma 4. Early ecumenical decision making followed Afri I must admit, when I've thought of African Christianity I've viewed it largely a result of modern, western missionaries. This book does a solid job of emphasizing the African roots of the early church and highlighting 7 ways Africa shaped the Christian mind: (view spoiler)[ 1. The Western idea of a university was born in the crucible of Africa 2. Christian exegesis of scripture first matured in Africa 3. African sources shaped early Christian dogma 4. Early ecumenical decision making followed African conciliar patterns 5. The African desert gave birth to worldwide monasticism 6. Christian Neoplatonism emerged in Africa 7. Rhetorical and Dialectical Skills were honed in African for Europe's use Early, influential, Christian leaders from Africa include, Mark the Apostle (oral tradition places his birth in Libya as well as Mark founding the church of Alexandria), Origen, Lactantius, Augustine, Clement, Athanasius, Tertullian, Cyril, and many others. This book is rather academic and I found it quite repetitive in places yet it was informative and will hopefully spawn a generation of additional research. (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This book had an interesting topic and some helpful information, but overall it lacked depth on the actual material. Oden clearly loved African patristics and wanted others to see the debt orthodox Christianity owes to Africa; however, he also knew that he wasn't the right man for the job of demonstrating the in depth data. He repeatedly appeals to African scholars to do this research, and he simply wants to point them in the right direction. So, it is a good premise, but much of the actual book This book had an interesting topic and some helpful information, but overall it lacked depth on the actual material. Oden clearly loved African patristics and wanted others to see the debt orthodox Christianity owes to Africa; however, he also knew that he wasn't the right man for the job of demonstrating the in depth data. He repeatedly appeals to African scholars to do this research, and he simply wants to point them in the right direction. So, it is a good premise, but much of the actual book was repetitive and painted in large strokes. I would love to see a fuller treatment of this topic at some point.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg Miller

    It seems a bit like a 155 page introduction to a substance filled book that never quite comes

  7. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    So good. Inspiring. Enlightening. I went way down the rabbit hole. Oden even set up a plan for much-needed future research. He passed in 2016. I’m now checking in on what’s happened in the field since then on the website he helped start.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nderitu Pius

    With n understanding of catholicity then I understand that this book is a gem. GOD has spoken to different people without color preference. Makes sure sense. It is men such as Origen and Tertullian and Athanasius who among many GOD has used to bring glory to HIMSELF. It is not an African thing, it's a GOD thing!!! With n understanding of catholicity then I understand that this book is a gem. GOD has spoken to different people without color preference. Makes sure sense. It is men such as Origen and Tertullian and Athanasius who among many GOD has used to bring glory to HIMSELF. It is not an African thing, it's a GOD thing!!!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave Courtney

    You can always tell when a good book when you come away from it with most of it highlighted and marked and noted (thank you Kindle for the ease of tracking). To start off with, some possible drawbacks to this book: 1. I noticed a few remarking that although the content is good, the it's fairly basic. More of an introduction to a grand idea that begs a deeper dive. I can see some readers wanting more dialogue with the scholarship that clearly informs his writing. 2. There are portions in the book You can always tell when a good book when you come away from it with most of it highlighted and marked and noted (thank you Kindle for the ease of tracking). To start off with, some possible drawbacks to this book: 1. I noticed a few remarking that although the content is good, the it's fairly basic. More of an introduction to a grand idea that begs a deeper dive. I can see some readers wanting more dialogue with the scholarship that clearly informs his writing. 2. There are portions in the book where the author veers ever so slightly into the pastoral. This is also where you get some of his more conservative (or orthodox) leaning positions come to the surface. Not necessarily "conservative" in the common evangelical sense, rather conservative in the orthodox sense, similar to someone like Wright, but with a bit less of a modern dialogue. I could see some readers that are not orthodox or not Christian (or religious for that matter) being frustrated with these portions. A word on both of these fronts. The book is basic, yes. It acts more as an introduction to an idea. But one of the reasons for this, which the author makes clear and goes to great lengths to demonstrate through an impressive plan of action that occupies the final chapters, is that one of the claims he is making from his own researched position is that the idea is under researched in general, and needs research in the future if we are to address the problem and strengthen the book's conviction. In this sense, the author is simply starting to pave new ground, charting a way forward. I think the book certainly succeeds on this front, as I would say, much like Wright's work was for me when I first started reading his body of work, this was transformative and pardigm shifting for me personally. On the second front, this was my introduction to Oden. A quick peruse into his story and what becomes clear is a bit of a storied evolution in terms of his thought process, his beliefs and his writings. He started off in the liberal camp, and over time began to gravitate towards a greater orthodoxy. So, in this book alone you get hints of a more generous orthodoxy mixed in with some growing convictions. It's worth being said that these orthodox positions are present because of a life long struggle and a wealth of research. I think this gives his convictions a certain color and vibrancy, that is clear in the book. Oden is also known as the father of paleo-orthodoxy, an tradition that played a vital role in reshaping how people understood Christian Tradition. His interest has been in reawakening people to the world in which the traditions of the Christian faith (and the Muslim faith) were formed, helping move us from a Western centric view to a more faithful reading of history. That this necessarily shifts us to Africa and challenges some of our preconceptions about Orthodoxy is what this book is interested in tabling and exploring. As for the context of the book, although he writes in a very accessible way, it would be impossible for a summary to give his writing a fair representation. I'll give it a shot anyways: We often think of Christianities development as a move from east to west, with the west laying claim to its intellectual development. Only years later do we think of a Western Christianity moving into Africa to introduce the Gospel. Oden argues that history, especially the development of Christianity int the West, has gotten this wrong. Africa was the seedbed of the Christian tradition and development. This sounds obvious considering what we know about history. Of course it developed in Africa. But what Oden reveals is that we rarely think about it this way, and this reality has had devastating affect not just on our understanding of Orthodoxy, but on our understanding of Africa, and even more so African's understanding of itself. As the seedbed for Christianities development, the movement of the faith is actually a south-north one. The reason we don't think of it this way has a lot to do with Paul. We have a lot of writings from Paul, whereas the movement in Africa was largely a Markean tradition, which we don't have a lot of writing on and which represented itself orally. Paul on the other hand took the Gospel northward to Spain, and eventually it shifted Westward. What happened in its Western development is that African voices were coopted as Western voices, being drawn into that narrative and repositioned as Western ideals and progressions. On the other side of this coin, Africa was given to subsequent years of oppression in which a vibrant African Christian Tradition got buried in the process. Thus, years later when the West begins to infiltrate Africa with the Christian Gospel, this Gospel is assuming a lack of tradition, a modern and untouched mission field, and an environment that is not yet intellectual (leading to a stereotyping of African culture, a demonizing and skeptisism of their tradition by labeling it charisma and superstition, and a burdening of the people as ones who need to be informed by Western ideals). All of which could not be further from the truth. The work that needs to be done, Oden argues, is that we need those from the African Christian tradition to find the freedom to reaffirm, reclaim and recapture their roots. It is these roots that can not only help reestablish their identity and find their voice (and the voice of God in their midst), but it can also help those in the West make sense of the Western tradition, as it owes its ideas to the African Christian Tradition. Now here is what is important. Oden is not arguing for an afro-centric position. That would be counter intuitive. The whole basis of paleo-orthodoxy is that uncovering the true roots of Orthodoxy, all the varied traditions can find a way to coexist together under a common foundation. The reason we have so many splits and schisms in the West (they have them in the East, but nowhere near as many as in the West) is because the West detached themselves from their roots in an effort to lay claim to an "intellectual" faith married to modern ideals. True orthodoxy was lost along the way. What we find on African soil is an orthodoxy that can return us to that Markean tradition that helped give it shape, a tradition that is in fact even more centered than Paul's writings, even though he is demonstrated in written form. When I sat down to think about it a few chapters in, it was shocking to realize how much I myself had fallen into the trap the book was describing. I have always seen the central conflict of Christianity to be an East-West divide, with the East being the truer Orthodoxy and the West being the necessary Schism. Even in my growing interest of Eastern Orthodoxy and skeptism of the West over the last number of years, not once did I consider the Orthodox tradition an African Christian Tradition. And why not is a very good question, one Oden asks a lot. Because it seems obvious that it would be, reaching all the way back to the "out of Egypt" generation. It is because I have been trained to see it this way. I grew up seeing Africa as a modern mission field where Christianity is just beginning to get planted and to grow. This film really humbled me in uncovering my ignorance, and I'm grateful for that. This ignorance has played a role in perpetuating Africa's oppression, dividing it (between North and South), burying and spreading fear about it's great Tradition and Culture as dangerous or less than intellectual and therefore needing full reform, perpetuating racism on Western soil (consider America), and it goes on and on. And yet everything that the West is owes itself to the African Christian Tradition. So much of the foundation of Western Christendom and theology was developed on African soil. Thankfully, the final chapters of the book deal with an absolutely incredible and impressive plan of action for helping to change the landscape and reconnect Africans with their great Christian Tradition, a tradition that can also help shed light for Muslims on Islam's own Tradition in Africa, as the Christian Tradition also informed its development (which was part of the oppression of their culture) on African soil. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can't wait to dive in to the other two. I also am looking forward to reading Oden's biography and his works on Wesley. I'm a fairly big Wesley fan and that represents my own roots. In fact, in describing my discovery of Oden to someone, I described him as Wright for Weslyans. I have no idea how good that descriptive is, but it worked in the moment.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer V.

    Thomas Oden’s motivation for writing How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind is two-fold. First, he hopes to present an African tradition of Christianity that will both encourage the growing African Christian population today and counter claims that Islam naturally has stronger ties with the African people. Second, he hopes to convince Western Christians of the important contributions that African theologians made to the development of Western Christianity. On the second point, I believe he makes a Thomas Oden’s motivation for writing How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind is two-fold. First, he hopes to present an African tradition of Christianity that will both encourage the growing African Christian population today and counter claims that Islam naturally has stronger ties with the African people. Second, he hopes to convince Western Christians of the important contributions that African theologians made to the development of Western Christianity. On the second point, I believe he makes a convincing case, although another more in-depth analysis is needed. On the first point, he’s extremely weak…not on combating Islam, since that’s easy enough to show that it’s not an indigenous religion, but on giving Africans their own ancient Christian heritage. Oden dismisses race as irrelevant and bemoans the schism between the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox traditions of North Africa and the Western traditions of Sub-Saharan Africa, presenting it more as an accident of Westernization rather than anything tied to the realities of the ancient past. He prefers geographical identification based on the modern definition of “continent” rather than actual social contact. Were Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, and others “African”? Sure, if you want to define it that way. Should Christians study the works and lives (martyrdoms) of these “Africans”? Of course! But is there a special meaning for Christians of “Negro,” “black African,” “Niger-Congo,” or Sub-Saharan heritage? No. And that was Oden’s central claim.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robin Rader

    I read this the same year I watched Hidden Figures. The tragedy of forgotten history is that we don't even know that we are missing part of our own story. Thomas Oden seeks to reclaim the African roots of early Christian history for African children, and for African scholars and Westerners looking for a better understanding of the development of both Christianity and Islam. During his work on the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Thomas Oden was impressed again and again that early Chri I read this the same year I watched Hidden Figures. The tragedy of forgotten history is that we don't even know that we are missing part of our own story. Thomas Oden seeks to reclaim the African roots of early Christian history for African children, and for African scholars and Westerners looking for a better understanding of the development of both Christianity and Islam. During his work on the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Thomas Oden was impressed again and again that early Christianity had deep roots in Africa. He challenges the idea that the African coast of the Mediterranean is not truly African, and shows how in Africa Christianity engaged with indigenous religion. He identifies seven ways Africa shaped the Christian mind: the idea of a university, exegesis, dogma, councils, monasticism, neoplatonism, and rhetorical and dialetical skills. I was raised in Zambia, and his discussion of the Africanness of the ways of dialogue and decision making that set the pattern for the church councils made a lot of sense. This is not a new message, but Oden proclaims it with urgency and vision, proposing a specific plan for research.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paul Dubuc

    This is a very interesting survey of the passionate work and plans of Thomas Oden and others to bring to light the largely neglected early contributions of Christians in Northern and Eastern Africa to the establishment of the Church in the first centuries of its existence. The timeline in the back of the book is a very nice feature. Oden and others have pulled together a large team of scholars and translators to restore the memory of these ancient Christians to the modern mind for the benefit of This is a very interesting survey of the passionate work and plans of Thomas Oden and others to bring to light the largely neglected early contributions of Christians in Northern and Eastern Africa to the establishment of the Church in the first centuries of its existence. The timeline in the back of the book is a very nice feature. Oden and others have pulled together a large team of scholars and translators to restore the memory of these ancient Christians to the modern mind for the benefit of Africans across the whole continent and for Christians around the world. They are publishing their work on the Center for Early African Christianity (CEAC) website and in many books and periodicals. May God bless and prosper their efforts. It's a daunting project, fraught with many difficulties, but with a huge potential for good in the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Williams

    From Oden’s research, he reveals that Africa was not only one of the early voices of Christianity and that it was indigenous, but that the ancient African theology of the first millennium played a key role in the formation of Christian culture and provided a critical interface for people in Africa and Asia who’s religious beliefs were rooted in Judaism and Christianity. Because it played such a decisive role in shaping European and Asian theology Oden encourages African scholars to rediscover th From Oden’s research, he reveals that Africa was not only one of the early voices of Christianity and that it was indigenous, but that the ancient African theology of the first millennium played a key role in the formation of Christian culture and provided a critical interface for people in Africa and Asia who’s religious beliefs were rooted in Judaism and Christianity. Because it played such a decisive role in shaping European and Asian theology Oden encourages African scholars to rediscover their heritage and appreciate it for its value rather than see intellectual Christian development as predominantly Western or European. This is at the core of Oden’s hypothesis: that much intellectual history flowed south to north, something that is rarely acknowledged.

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    Though the author makes some interesting points and unveils fascinating history, his conclusions are simplistic at best. He lays the brunt of this undiscussed history at the feet of Euro-centrism and racism; while completely ignoring doctrinal differences that have led to this dichotomy of unity in the first place.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ciara Anderson

    The first in a trilogy which traces the history of a "western" religion to its strong roots on the African continent. Intended to give a taste of such scholarship and to encourage others to continue and develop on this understudied area. The first in a trilogy which traces the history of a "western" religion to its strong roots on the African continent. Intended to give a taste of such scholarship and to encourage others to continue and develop on this understudied area.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chrys Jones

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Great introduction to Africa's place in Christian history. A little too ecumenical at times and sometimes overstates his case, but more books need to have this stuff in them. Great introduction to Africa's place in Christian history. A little too ecumenical at times and sometimes overstates his case, but more books need to have this stuff in them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Art Killings

    Thomas C. Oden successfully shows that Western Christianity is far more indebted to early African Christianity than it's commonly believed. This excellent book is must reading. Thomas C. Oden successfully shows that Western Christianity is far more indebted to early African Christianity than it's commonly believed. This excellent book is must reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    It's rather difficult to give an estimation on this book. On the one hand, it's the work of a seasoned scholar, one of the "deans" of American ecumenical theology - the late, great Thomas Oden - and it represents a lifetime of careful reflection on the importance of Africa to historic Christianity. On the other hand, it is a incomplete work, most certainly by design and by Oden's own admission. The incompleteness and brevity give it accessibility to a wider audience, though Oden did intend it to It's rather difficult to give an estimation on this book. On the one hand, it's the work of a seasoned scholar, one of the "deans" of American ecumenical theology - the late, great Thomas Oden - and it represents a lifetime of careful reflection on the importance of Africa to historic Christianity. On the other hand, it is a incomplete work, most certainly by design and by Oden's own admission. The incompleteness and brevity give it accessibility to a wider audience, though Oden did intend it to be a driving force behind future research in the area of ancient African theology. It's therefore more of a "call for papers" that relate to early African Christianity, and its many overlooked contributions. As such, it leaves much to be desired, especially for the reader that wanted a deep engagement with the specific ways African spirituality, theology, and worship have affected world Christianity. Oden offers the beginnings of such an engagement, but repeatedly calls upon "young, African scholars" to fill in the picture and pursue the interesting questions. The appendix to this work is a description of "The Center for Early African Christianity," which was Oden's great passion before his death. There is also a timeline in the back that gives the most important dates related to the African church in the first ten centuries A.D. This timeline is carefully researched by Oden who also curated the most important events and dates to generate even more curiosity and questions in the reader. Oden tends to be repetitive, and I was hoping for more, but this is certainly not meant to be a complete study, but more of an introduction to future work that will take place in the 21st century. After all, Christian theology in America and Europe is Euro-centric, and the contributions of ancient African theologians tend to be overlooked or lumped into Western trends and patterns.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    The title of this book seriously set my expectations in a different place from what this book delivers. While I was fully interested and engaged in Oden's essays, the repeated phrases along the lines of "more study is needed" and "young African scholars need to look into this" left me thinking the subtitle should have been something more along the lines of "casting a vision to rediscover the African seedbed of Western Christianity" or something. But that quibble aside, I'm still very glad to hav The title of this book seriously set my expectations in a different place from what this book delivers. While I was fully interested and engaged in Oden's essays, the repeated phrases along the lines of "more study is needed" and "young African scholars need to look into this" left me thinking the subtitle should have been something more along the lines of "casting a vision to rediscover the African seedbed of Western Christianity" or something. But that quibble aside, I'm still very glad to have read this! Along with the author, I look forward to focused works in which experts unveil the full depth of appreciation that global Christians owe not just to African church fathers and mothers but to the heritage passed down through generations. As the author says, "For no time in the last two thousand years has the Christian witness been absent from the African matrix of cultures. God has not left himself without witness."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I was so pumped to read about how Africa shaped the Christian mind... ...I am still so pumped to read about how Africa shaped the Christian mind. The author does start to get into it about 20 pages until the end, but only just. The title is more of a misnomer, unfortunately. Had it been titled instead How Africa Has Been Ignored in Christian Studies and Please, Oh Please, Understand How Important Such Studies Are, I would have come to the book with more appropriate expectations. On one hand, I un I was so pumped to read about how Africa shaped the Christian mind... ...I am still so pumped to read about how Africa shaped the Christian mind. The author does start to get into it about 20 pages until the end, but only just. The title is more of a misnomer, unfortunately. Had it been titled instead How Africa Has Been Ignored in Christian Studies and Please, Oh Please, Understand How Important Such Studies Are, I would have come to the book with more appropriate expectations. On one hand, I understand why the author needs to spend so much time convincing the reader that this study is important. On the other, I do not need such convincing. That's why I picked up the book; I wanted the titular thesis explored! The book would have made more sense if it served as an introduction to the Ancient Christian Commentary series, leading you in to further exploration of the thesis.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Brown

    Some really neat insights: namely, Dr. Oden exposes a systemic bias against Africa in patristic studies. He rightly shows how often we fail to remember that many key early church fathers were thoroughly African and how some have even sought to separate northern Africa from the continent and attribute their achievements to the European intellect. The work could have been titled, "Why we need researchers to research how African shaped the Christian mind." Dr. Oden namely calls more people to find Some really neat insights: namely, Dr. Oden exposes a systemic bias against Africa in patristic studies. He rightly shows how often we fail to remember that many key early church fathers were thoroughly African and how some have even sought to separate northern Africa from the continent and attribute their achievements to the European intellect. The work could have been titled, "Why we need researchers to research how African shaped the Christian mind." Dr. Oden namely calls more people to find the answers that I thought the book would contain based on the title. He did overstate his case since, if a Christian knows any patristic thinkers, odds are over 50% are African (between Augustine, Athanasius, Origen and Clement, although I am thankful Dr. Oden helped us think through why these men were uniquely African).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    What a disappointing book. I was hoping for a book on, well, how Africa shaped the Christian mind. What I got instead was a book that talked about why it's bad that European thought minimizes African contributions (agree, that's why I'm reading the book), then mentions, in about a dozen ways, that African thought shaped Christianity (cool, what are they?), then mentions that it's too bad that European thought minimizes African contributions (wait, didn't the author just say that five pag-), then What a disappointing book. I was hoping for a book on, well, how Africa shaped the Christian mind. What I got instead was a book that talked about why it's bad that European thought minimizes African contributions (agree, that's why I'm reading the book), then mentions, in about a dozen ways, that African thought shaped Christianity (cool, what are they?), then mentions that it's too bad that European thought minimizes African contributions (wait, didn't the author just say that five pag-), then grocery lists a couple of contributions (could we talk about these in more detai-), then talks in great detail about how bad it is that European thought processes don't appreciate them ... I think the postscript of this book was about 10 times more useful than the book was itself.

  23. 5 out of 5

    James

    For most Western readers the importance of this book is that it make a case for an early and distinctly African Christian tradition. It is an apologetic for the importance of understanding the role of Africa in forming Christian orthodoxy. However, more particularly, Oden is seeking to get African Christian scholars to do the hard work of providing top notch evidence for these claims. As such, the book does not apply to most Western readers. I would still recommend the book to most anyone though For most Western readers the importance of this book is that it make a case for an early and distinctly African Christian tradition. It is an apologetic for the importance of understanding the role of Africa in forming Christian orthodoxy. However, more particularly, Oden is seeking to get African Christian scholars to do the hard work of providing top notch evidence for these claims. As such, the book does not apply to most Western readers. I would still recommend the book to most anyone though. It sheds light on important early streams of Christian thought and clarifies what should historically count as African.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Parker

    Because of the scope of the topic, Oden limits himself in this book to articulating a broad thesis and pointing out directions for further study by African scholars. I didn't know that going in, so I was hoping for more. The appendices were an excellent inclusion, the first being a description of the scholarly work moving forward, and the second being a timeline of events significant for African Christianity of the first thousand years. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this book to, but I'm glad to Because of the scope of the topic, Oden limits himself in this book to articulating a broad thesis and pointing out directions for further study by African scholars. I didn't know that going in, so I was hoping for more. The appendices were an excellent inclusion, the first being a description of the scholarly work moving forward, and the second being a timeline of events significant for African Christianity of the first thousand years. I'm not sure who I'd recommend this book to, but I'm glad to have read it. If nothing else, its broadstroke delivery impresses the importance of Africa in the shaping of orthodox Christianity.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter Vik

    In this important book, Dr. Thomas Oden invites modern Christians to discover the crucial part Africa played in the development of early Christian thought. Rather than a vast library of data, this is a book of trail heads. Oden acknowledges that the rediscovery of early African Christianity will be a long, and sometimes dangerous, work. Giving a basic introduction to early African orthodoxy, Oden dreams of a generation of scholars, African and otherwise, who will make a thorough investigation th In this important book, Dr. Thomas Oden invites modern Christians to discover the crucial part Africa played in the development of early Christian thought. Rather than a vast library of data, this is a book of trail heads. Oden acknowledges that the rediscovery of early African Christianity will be a long, and sometimes dangerous, work. Giving a basic introduction to early African orthodoxy, Oden dreams of a generation of scholars, African and otherwise, who will make a thorough investigation the role Africa has played in shaping global Christianity. This book is a great starting place for those who want to explore Africa’s important place in church history.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mcconnell

    Proposal for a long-term program of cross-disciplinary and ecumenically motivated scholarship to be undertaken especially by African scholars and teachers. The impact of Africa on the west, through its contribution to the formation of Christian orthodoxy, is tremendous but underappreciated because of the biases of Western post-enlightenment philosophy and scholarship. The book provides guidance to future scholars, and recommends the most effective ways to use technology. The title is a little bi Proposal for a long-term program of cross-disciplinary and ecumenically motivated scholarship to be undertaken especially by African scholars and teachers. The impact of Africa on the west, through its contribution to the formation of Christian orthodoxy, is tremendous but underappreciated because of the biases of Western post-enlightenment philosophy and scholarship. The book provides guidance to future scholars, and recommends the most effective ways to use technology. The title is a little bit misleading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David King

    The beginning of the book helpfully traced the contributions of African Christians to the development of Christian thought. Oden may have overstated his case when he says that Christian thought flowed from south to north rather than vice versa; it would have been better to highlight the ebb and flow of thought back and forth. The further the book went on, the less it became a history and the more it became a seedbed of 'hey, African Christian scholars need to chase this idea down.' Overall I did The beginning of the book helpfully traced the contributions of African Christians to the development of Christian thought. Oden may have overstated his case when he says that Christian thought flowed from south to north rather than vice versa; it would have been better to highlight the ebb and flow of thought back and forth. The further the book went on, the less it became a history and the more it became a seedbed of 'hey, African Christian scholars need to chase this idea down.' Overall I didn't find this book as enlightening as The Lost History of Christianity.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hattie

    Full disclosure: I’ve read only half of this. But I wanted to go ahead and log it to keep it on my radar. Much of this was beyond my comprehension level (especially on audio) but it was a valuable contribution to my Church History studies. I’ve definitely perceived Christianity as something “to being to Africa” or “introduce to Africa” and this book calls out that euro-centric Perspective. How much the Church at large owes to African believers!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    William Cayley

    A fascinating book; Oden argues that much more of early Christian intellectual and spiritual development was formed in Africa than is appreciated (and that part of the reason this is not appreciated today is due to European intellectual prejudice in the 18-1900s); he rambles a bit but provides an intriguing introduction to the history of African Christianity.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joel McCarty

    I highly recommend this book, especially for those of us who have a primarily Westernized understanding of our theological history. The only reason I gave the book four stars was because the writing style was difficult to follow at times. However, the content more than made up for the shortcomings in style.

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