Tag Archives: Latino

Still Evangelical?

I am the son of two immigrants, my father was Polish and my mother is Guatemalan. I grew up in small Latino churches. I am evangelical. I was on staff at an evangelical megachurch. I am a PhD student at a historically significant evangelical institution. I am also a registered Republican.  It should go without saying that the entire Trump “event,” from his nomination to his presidency today, has been rather complicated for me.

This is not least because so much of what his presidency has brought to light, both in America and the American church, embodies values which are so contrary to me as an evangelical Christian formed by non-Western influences. So, when I saw various 4537evangelicals, like Mark Labberton, wondered aloud whether the term “Evangelical” is still useful or whether the tribe that identifies with that will be left intact I had mixed feelings: “evangelical” is what I am, yet the term has become tainted. Some of these mixed feelings are very well articulated by numerous authors in Still Evangelical? Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning. There is a lot I resonate with in this book.

Robert Chao Romero, in his essay, “Immigration and the Latina/o Community” describes the experiences of Latino/a Christians in the US in light of the “Latino Threat Narrative.” Basically, this is the idea that Latinos are unwilling to integrate into “American” culture and that they are bent on reconquering land that was formerly theirs. Because many have imbibed this false narrative, many evangelicals voted for a president who espouses this same view. Many Latino evangelicals were left confused as to why their Christian brothers and sisters would think so poorly of them and put nation before Kingdom. [This, I should note, is not a universal experience, I know from conversations that numerous Latino evangelicals were ardent Trump supporters.]

Jim Daly, who leads one of the most significant evangelical organizations, Focus on the Family, writes about the importance of “listening” in this period. He embodies a more conciliatory approach: “Rather than assuming what ‘those people’ are like, we should get to know them.” (180) This practice of listening goes both ways. Evangelicals who can’t fathom why other evangelicals would support Trump inspired political movements and evangelicals who think that those who refused to fall in line with American Evangelicalism both need to speak to and listen to one another. In an age of “yelling” through social media, this call to be slow speak and quick to listen almost seems biblical…

Despite the inclusion of numerous well written chapters, the one that resonated the most with me was InterVarsity President Tom Lin’s chapter. He makes the fantastic point:

Any evaluation of the world evangelical or evangelicalism must be done in the context of the global church. The decision of some American evangelicals to abandon the term is insensitive to our overseas sisters and brothers; it reflects the worst impulses of American exceptionalism and self-absorption. (186)

In my opinion, this global perspective changes everything. I grew up in such a way that my self-understanding of what it means to be an evangelical was more shaped by my Latino and European influences than by institutional Anglo-American evangelicalism. [I didn’t start attending an Anglo-American church until I was 19 years old.] To be an Evangelico was never tied to political parties – it was always tied to evangelical faith and practice. It meant we read and took the Bible seriously, we shared the gospel, we believed in salvation by faith through grace alone, and we believed in the importance of being born again. None of this was tied to a particular political party. Sure, some people in our church were democrats and some were republicans, but that was not what defined you as a “good” or “bad” Christian. Yet, it seems, that in circles just outside the ones I grew up in as a Latino evangelical, one’s political affiliation did define whether one was a “good” or “bad” Christian. Because of my social context, that word, “Evangelical” didn’t carry the same meaning as it does for many of my other Christian brothers and sisters. To me, Evangelical, was never a sociological moniker, it was a theological identity. All this to say, I understand why some evangelicals want to abandon the term, but I simply can’t. To be an evangelical, at least from a Latino perspective, just means that I am a Christ follower. And that is an identification I would never want to abandon.

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The Latin American Church

It is fairly common for Americans to believe that the West is the major exporter of new ideas and trends around the world. For instance, Mark Noll believes that “understanding American patterns provides insight for what has been happening elsewhere in the world.”[1] Although he does not believe this is due to direct causation, he does believe it is a correlative effect. However, this way of thinking ignores that what has mostly been a one-way street of ideas, missionaries, and movements coming to Latin America is actually a stream which flows both ways.[2] Because of this we must understand how Latin American emigration is changing the shape of Christianity in the United States.

According to Philip Jenkins “by 2050 Latinos will make up about a quarter of the national population,” with the vast majority of these Latinos coming from a Christian background.[3] Currently in the United States there are 37.5 million Latinos (not including undocumented immigrants and Puerto Ricans).[4] If we begin to study immigration trends we see that immigration to the U.S. has been predominantly Christian[5] with many of these immigrants coming from the “new centers of faith”: Africa and Latin America[6]. These immigrants are impacting how American Christians understand their faith. For instance we might look at the American Catholic Church which is currently importing priests from Latin America and Spain due to shortages in priests.[7] This has led to the Virgin Mary, which was seldom seen in the North American Catholic church up until the 1980’s, to be venerated throughout the United States.[8] If we look at the Protestant church we see the difference Latinos have made as well. In many places throughout the U.S. it was fairly common to see abandoned American churches, however now those churches have been put to use again by Latino Christians who have moved into the area. In addition to this many American churches are seeing church growth due to growth in their Hispanic congregations.[9]

If Christianity from Latin America is becoming influential in the United States we need to understand the major theological themes that the Latin American church is dealing with at home. These two issues are 1-poverty and oppression and 2-charismatic Christianity.

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[1] Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 189.

[2] Odina E. González and Justo González, Christianity in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 302.

[3] Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 284.

[4] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 304.

[5] Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, 284.

[6] Jehu Hanciles, “God’s Mission through Migration: African Initiatives in Globalizing Mission,” in Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation, ed James Krabill, Walter Sawatsky, and Charles Van Engen (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006), 59.

[7] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 305.

[8] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 304-5.

[9] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 307.

My Paper for ETS Southwest 2014

This year I have the privilege of presenting a paper at the 2014 Southwest ETS Regional meeting. This year’s meeting will be hosted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth and will take place on March 7th-8th. The theme is “The Decline of Denominationalism, and the Future of Evangelical Christianity.”

I am so excited to be presenting at my second conference! Here is the abstract for paper I will be presenting:

Jonathan Edwards: America’s Theologian?

A Latino Evaluation of Jonathan Edwards’s Hamartiology

Christopher G. Woznicki

Associate Member

Eternity Bible College

 

Robert Jenson has famously dubbed Jonathan Edwards “America’s theologian.” Jenson has in mind an American Christianity that has the Enlightenment as its defining narrative. However there are other narratives that give meaning to the phrase “American Christianity,” for instance the Latino Evangelical narrative. With the rapid growth of the Latino Evangelical population, the Latino perspective will become increasingly important in Evangelical theological discussion. This paper examines the claim that Edwards is “America’s theologian” by evaluating his Hamartiology through a Latino Evangelical lens. If Edwards’s theology can be read fruitfully from a Latino perspective then perhaps we can indeed say that he is “America’s theologian.” I argue that the theology of Jonathan Edwards can be used as a constructive dialogue partner for Latino Evangelical theology.

This paper begins by examining Edwards’s metaphysics of sin in light of his Federalist and Augustinian realist tendencies, paying special attention to the role metaphysical antirealism and his doctrine of continuous creation play in his doctrine of original sin. It goes on to examine Justo Gonzalez’s “Fuenteovejuna Theology” which exemplifies a Latino emphasis on the community. By examining Edwards and Gonzalez it becomes apparent that Edwards’s theology and Latino theology have a communal rather than individualistic understanding of responsibility and action. Thus in this particular area Edwards can speak constructively into Latino theology and we can truly say that he is “America’s theologian.”

Book of 2012
An “interesting” portrait of Jonathan Edwards

Edwards, Sin, and Latino Theology

So I am thinking about writing a paper for the Evangelical Philosophical Society…. Here is what I have so far for an abstract. Comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated!

Jonathan Edwards: America’s Theologian?

A Latino Evaluation of Jonathan Edward’s Hamartiology

Robert Jenson has famously argued that Jonathan Edwards is “America’s theologian” because he meets the problems and opportunities of American Christianity. Jenson has in mind an American Christianity that has the Enlightenment as its defining narrative. However there are other narratives that give meaning to the phrase “American Christianity;” for instance the Latino narrative. This paper examines the claim that Edwards is “America’s theologian” by evaluating one particular piece of his theology, Hamartiology, in light of a Latino context. If Edwards’ theology can be read productively from a Latino context then perhaps we can say that he is “America’s theologian.”

This paper begins by examining Edwards’ metaphysics of sin in light of his Federalist and Augustinian realist tendencies, paying special attention to the role metaphysical antirealism and his doctrine of continuous creation play in his doctrine of Original sin. Then it examines Justo Gonazlez’ “Fuenteovejuna” theology which exemplifies the Latino emphasis on the community. By examining Edwards and Gonzalez it becomes apparent that Edwards and Latino theology have a communal rather than individualistic understanding of responsibility and action. Thus in this particular area Edwards can speak constructively into Latino theology and we can truly say that he is “America’s theologian.”

Contextual Theologies of Mission: Samuel Escobar and Jeremy Wynne Compared (Pt. 3)

Today we conclude this series by comparing Samuel Escobar’s theology of mission and Jeremy Wynne’s interpretation of Moltmann’s theology  of mission.

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Comparison

The fundamental difference between Escobar’s and Wynne’s way of doing theology of mission is how they address the existential realities of human beings. Escobar stresses how social and political realities have affected Latin theology of mission and how any good theology of mission in Latin America must account for these realities as well. This is displayed in his study of the history of Christianity in Latin America. Wynne on the other hand, does not address the existential conditions of humans whatsoever. Although Wynne does not really attempt to construct a theology of mission he argues that Moltmann’s eschatology can serve as a starting point for doing missiology. For Wynne, systematic theology is the foundation for missiology. This difference in method reflects the difference between most western and non-western theology, that is, that non-western theology does not attempt to do theology in an abstract realm far away from the way humans actually live. Although Wynne mentions that for Moltmann salvation is holistic, addressing all aspects of life here and in the future, he does not mention this because he sees the need for holistic salvation but because it logically follows from the meaning of salvation that it would be holistic.

Conclusion

Escobar’s theology is constructed out of biblical revelation and the social sciences whereas Wynne’s theology is constructed out of systematic theology. Should we say that one method is better than the other? I believe that we should not. We must realize that our systematic theology is profoundly affected by our existential conditions. Thus the social sciences which study the human condition must inform our way of doing systematic theology. Yet we must attempt to be faithful to the biblical revelation in our doing systematic theology. If we are faithful to properly interpreting the Bible, as Escobar proposes, then we can allow other areas of systematic theology and the social sciences inform our mission theology. The act of balancing our personal experiences, information from the social sciences, and systematic theology while attempting to give the Bible a privileged position is quite difficult; yet if we are going to do theology of mission properly it is something we must try to do.