Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sao Paolo, Brazil: The Next Constantinople?

The epicenter of the church has always been in the world's largest cities, ever since the time of Paul. So, just imagine the City of New York, with three times the population, approximately twice the square mileage (NYC: 321; SP: 588), with high-rise buildings as far as the eye can see, only with far less the architectural beauty of Manhattan. That's Sao Paolo, Brazil.

In my previous post, I mentioned that the center of the world Christian movement has and will continue to shift into the global south and east--into cites like Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Shanghai, and Dhaka. As a result of this shift, I challenged us to consider the possibility that the Western church (North America, Europe and England) will need to give up its paternalistic dominance with regard to the future of how the Christian faith is and will be articulated.

Lamin Sanneh at Yale Divinity School in his book Whose Religion is Christianity: The Gospel Beyond the West agrees with this when he writes, "Christianity should not anywhere be about the refusal to change the old; it should be about the willingness to embrace the new."

When the center of the church shifted to Rome from Constantinople and Antioch in the first millennium, the church did not do away with what was previously established. It did, however, continue to address issues in light of the church's new context given the new questions it was asking. All one has to do to confirm this is take a close look at the seven ecumenical councils to see that each council affirmed what was theretofore created and accepted by the preceding councils. For example, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed and built upon the Council of Nicea.

Therefore, the church is faced with a similar situation today. Will it seek to undermine what was established in centuries past? Will it be afraid of the voice from the South and East that is now a whisper but can soon be a scream? If the church was able to weather the storm of the first shift from the South and East to the West, it should, by God's grace, be able to weather the storm back. Thus, places like Sao Paolo will soon be the "Constantinopes" of the Christian World once again.


Mark Traphagen said...

Welcome back, Matthew!

I'm thinking that the shift you speak of may not at all be a bad thing.

Wayne said...

Good stuff. I enjoy reading your blog, Matthew.