President Sunquist’s New Book Examines Global Christianity as a Historical Movement
A new book by Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Professor of Missiology, hits the shelves today. In The Shape of Christian History: Continuity and Diversity in the Global Church, Dr. Sunquist examines global Christianity as a continuous and diverse historical movement. He argues that the common historical frameworks of the past are not adequate for understanding history today and that they may even hinder our full participation in God’s global mission. Through personal and historic stories and case studies, he guides the reader in reframing history—from the first century to the present day— through the lens of Scripture, the Church, and Jesus.
Dr. Sunquist breaks away from a purely Enlightenment approach to historical studies and outlines how Christian history can be, even should be, studied on its own terms. These terms include the concept of time, cross, and glory. He argues that Western approaches need correction by the global and intercultural nature of Christianity.
He writes that, “The cultural norms and values can enhance one’s historic vision, but they can also obscure both how the story is told and how we understand Christianity . . . We now live in a new century, and it is necessary to re-center or re-view Christianity today as we understand it in historical perspective. In light of the presence of Christianity today as mostly a non-Western religion (roughly two-thirds), and in light of the errors of the past in equating human technology, social progress, and empire with Christian mission, meaning must now come out of three sources . . . history must be told by weaving together three strands: the biblical story, the experience of the global church, and its founder. It would be good to reread that last sentence before you go on: biblical story, global church, and Jesus. These three voices or threads will help prevent us from repeating the imperialistic and ethnocentric histories of the past.”
In addition to providing a more contextualized understanding of history that acknowledges both failures and triumphs, Dr. Sunquist hopes that the result of reframing historical thinking will be our more faithful participation in missions. In this way, history can become a faithful tutor to our churches and for our coming generations.
Dr. Sunquist is also the author of Why Church?, Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory, and additional publications on the purpose of the church and the history of global Christianity.