Current Trends in Theology: a Third World Guide

Written by Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden Reviewed By Andrew Kirk

This study presents an overview of some of the most important theological issues being debated in the context of the Third World church. It deals with them thematically.

Topics which are touched upon are: the influence of context upon the theological task, the use of the human sciences in the process of theological reflection, the importance of thinking hermeneutically. Each of these subjects could be considered to belong to the methodology of theology, or how one actually does it.

The substance, content, or the what of theology are then explored under the headings of salvation, the church, the kingdom of God and the doctrine of Christ. A final section deals with the future role of a biblically-faithful theology.

The authors write from within the stance of a commitment to a radical interpretation of evangelical belief and to the crying needs of Third World peoples for an end to lives of almost unrelieved suffering.

The study was given originally as a paper to the Scripture Union International Council. It is, therefore, short. Probably for this reason it tends to present the material in the form of brief, sometimes uncompromising, hypothesis. Positions and ideas are stated, rather than argued. I found myself on a number of occasions saying, ‘yes, but …’. In a longer study one would expect some qualifications and a little more precision.

Nevertheless, judged by what it sets out to do it performs an admirable task. It covers a wide area of concern with enough information to introduce clearly an approach to theology not yet properly grasped by the western theological tradition. It communicates in an easy-flowing and punchy style, deliberately provocative in places to help sharpen up debate. Above all it conveys the burning conviction that theology properly so-called can only be Christian theology when done as an adjunct of the entire missionary obedience of the church. Many professional theologians have not yet accepted this criteria and context. Let us hope the study of Samuel and Sugden will contribute to a change of belief.

Andrew Kirk

Andrew Kirk is Dean and Head of the Department of Mission in the Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham UK.