Brother Maynard recently quoted Brian McLaren as saying, “I have become more convinced that a better word than postmodern is postcolonial” and similar words to the effect that the emerging church is about much more than epistemology.
I recall Brian expressing similar sentiments when he was last out in Australia. The niggling concern I have and which I expressed to Brother Maynard was “And yet I don’t see a lot of engagement with non-Western Christian thought within the emerging church”
My querying of McLaren runs deeper however, because I have yet to hear McLaren articulate the fact that there are at least two forms of post-colonialism that we need to come to grips with if we are serious about engagement with non-Western Christian thought. In “Globalizing Theology” Harold Netland summarizes Paul Hiebert’s distinction between the anticolonialist and globalist alternatives to colonialism as follows:
“Hiebert calls for the church to move beyond both the colonialist and the anticolonialist approach to embrace a responsible, global perspective that acknowledges both commonalities and differences among peoples and that admits both positive and negative elements of local cultures and religious traditions. The arrogance of the past is to be replaced by an incarnational witness that lives out the unchanging truth of the gospel in local settings. Moreover; the privileging of the West in the colonialist paradigm and the prioritizing of non-Western local contexts in the anticolonialist perspective are to be transcended by recognizing that all parts of the global Christian community have contributions to make to the rest of the body of Christ. Hiebert argues that while God’s revelation is true and does not vary with cultural differences, our understandings of this truth are partial and incomplete, and thus any particular expression of Christian truth should be open to revision in light of God’s Word and the corrective insights of others in the body of Christ.”
Here is my contention. Not only is McLaren far from unique in calling for a postcolonial shift, but from what I have seen and heard so far he actually seems to be well behind missionaries within the established churches in his thinking about postcolonialism. In saying this I do not seek to be overly critical of McLaren, but I do seek to highlight that he is hardly the lead thinker in this area.
The challenge I lay down is this, as a praxis-orientated movement should we not be more seriously engaging with non-Western theology and non-Western theologians? If not, why not?