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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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For Oden, and for "How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind," the "Africa" he speaks of is anything that happened on the African continent and anyone who lived and ministered on that continent. This avoids the endless debate, for instance, about which Church Father was or was not "African." How does one define that? By skin color? And by what amount of pigmentation? By nationality? Why wouldn't any nation in Africa be by definition African? By ancestry?
The ancestry issue coupled with geographical/cultural impact is Oden's most important contribution. In sum, he argues that even if Augustine, for instance, had a father whose ancestry was Greco-Roman, would that mean that Augustine, living his entire life in Africa was not African? Additionally, given that his famous mother, Monica, was almost definitely of Berber (north African) descent, would that not make Augustine African? And just as important to Oden, can we wipe out the impact on Augustine's parents and on Augustine of living in the African geography and partaking of the African culture?
So, for Oden, "African Christianity" is the Christianity of any person who was born and/or lived on the African continent. Thus, for Europeans to claim Augustine, Origen, Tertullian, and others is a robbery of immense proportion in Oden's thinking.
Given this perspective, Oden's entire book is actually a call for others to build upon his small start. It is a call to take seriously the oral and written tradition of material spoken and penned on the African continent. It is then a call to explore the past, present, and future impact of that legacy.
Read it all.
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