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Out of Africa

"Out of Africa" Continued...

Issue: "The Road to Cana," Feb. 23, 2008

WORLD: You note that Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, and Augustine were all African, but African intellectuals ostensibly trying to overthrow European influence pay more attention to Europeans like Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Marcuse.

ODEN: Many African academics are trained in European or American universities dominated by the failed assumptions of modernity. The European university has been the hothouse of European ideological advocacy since the days of Hegel. The resulting imbalance can easily be shown simply by a statistical comparison of references to early African sources of the first millennium to the references to modern Euro-American sources quoted by African authors.

WORLD: Who do you think will investigate this history?

ODEN: Why not Africans? If undertaken by young African scholars, it will take on deeper plausibility for Africans, particularly those who have had a sufficient dose of ultra-modernity. Ideally there should be an international consortium of scholars, which is what the website on seeks to encourage.

Translators are needed to go from the four major source languages of Christianity in the first millennium of African history (Arabic, Coptic, Greek, and Latin) to the major international languages spoken in contemporary Africa (French, English, and Portuguese) and the major regional trade languages: Housa, Amharic, Swahili, and Zulu.

WORLD: What's the role for research universities?

ODEN: Pace-setting universities must be encouraged to establish programs where the pertinent language studies will be pursued. Internet and digital technologies provide a new arena and huge data bases for getting in touch with the texts of the early African tradition in a way not even imaginable before.

We must translate and distribute key texts of early African Christian teaching in a cost-effective way both digitally and through printed publications to global Christians interested in early African Christianity. We seek to encourage contemporary African theological reasoning toward a deeper level of awareness of its own rich traditions.

-For additional remarks from the Thomas Oden interview, go to

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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