My Comment on the Work of an Ethiopian Scholar
Apr 01, 2010 by Alex Mekonnen | 0 Comments
The Evangelical Movement in Ethiopia: Resistance and Resilience;
By Tibebe Eshete, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009. Pp.V, 525. $54.95.
According to many scholars, by the time the first Anglo-Saxon is converted, Christianity had ten generations in Ethiopia. The religion has impacted the ruling class, the elites, and the common people. It has influenced the music, arts, politics, and economics of the country in one way or the other. To enter into the lives of Ethiopians and to understand their worldview, religion is the main gateway. “Religion has always constituted a vital part of Ethiopian society” (P.1). However Ethiopist, both foreign and nationals have barely given scholarly attention to this major aspect of the society. Tibebe Eshete’s work, both in its content and scope, is very exceptional and a breakthrough. It is way overdue but much better than never.
For the first time, the work of the native scholar put the Evangelical Movement in Ethiopia in the academic orbit. As the bulk of his research indicates, the movement was limited to the grassroots level and was contained in the oral tradition. Even though Eshete’s main focus was on the history of Evangelical Christianity, he has given significant attention to church history and history of missions. As academic discipline, these three subjects are different. Here, you can get them in one volume.
Whenever the gospel is preached and received at a high cost, often, there is an enormous growth and expansion. Not only that, when Christianity dresses the cloth of local culture, spoken in a heart language of the recipients, pervades the values and norms of the nationals to transform them to be the people of God, the impact is deep and lasting. The book tells us that resistance and resilience is a manifestation of encountering Christ within one’s cultural context and accepting Him as the only Truth, Life, and Way, for the life here and the one to come. Hence, we can conclude from the book that, Christianity is more effective when it is translated than when it is transplanted.
To understand the innovativeness of the insiders in a given culture; to grasp the impact of ill planned or enforced culture change on society; to rethink about the Western education as sole solution to the majority world; to orient ourselves and understand the “new” Evangelicalism in Africa; to realize the importance of theological education and leadership training in a majority world; to have hope in God in post Christendom and postmodern West where we have more closed churches than new planted ones the book is a source of inspiration, has valuable information, and it is a historical mine. It is thrilling to read the action of God in human history in a country that is known for her poverty and human calamity. As you read the book, the paradox of Christianity—that is, strength in weakness, richness in poverty, growth in persecution, wisdom in foolishness, etc. comes to life. You feel like you are reliving the Book of Acts. I have found the book to be seminal and timely that jibes with the historical global Christianity. It is no wonder the book was listed in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR) as one of the fifteen outstanding books for mission studies for 2009.
Note: This article is posted with the knowledge of the author and his permission.