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«The Eastern Front of the Western World»

«The Eastern Front of the Western World»

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Theologian
Amos Yong about our book



Joshua T. Searle and
Mykhailo N. Cherenkov
, A Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education,
and the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society
(Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2014)

“A Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education, and
the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society takes us from Oceania to the “other
side” of the West: the Soviet and post-Soviet world.6 More specifically – as
both authors are affiliated with the Evangelically oriented Donetsk Christian
University on the far-Eastern border of Ukraine, and thus address specifically
the Ukrainian context and sociopolitical situation – the proposal at hand emerges
from the Eurasian boundary in a geopolitically liminal space and time between
Europe and Asia. The stakes are high even at this time of writing as the
Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula has intensified the volatility of
an already unstable region. It is not surprising then that Searle, whose other
scholarship has been on Irish Evangelicalism, and Cherenkov, whose other
publications have been in Russian, are focused on an understanding of the
Gospel and a vision of a Church that is engaged with social transformation. It
is toward such ends that their own proposal for theological education includes
missiological and public-theological dimensions.
The political ferment, however, unfolds amid a deeply
religious matrix. Post-Soviet Ukraine might also be characterized as
post-Christendom, if only in the sense that Orthodoxy in this country has been
disestablished in principle even if not in reality coming out of the break-up
of the Soviet Union. Yet, of course, to say that there is no longer an Orthodox
hegemony in Ukraine is not to say that its peoples are now non-Orthodox, and
certainly not to deny that Slavic cultures remain formed and shaped by the
Orthodox presence over the past millennium and more. Nevertheless, it is within
a context of Christian (read: Protestant) pluralization that Searle and
Cherenkov envision and are working toward a more Evangelical Ukraine, not one
that involves proselytism of the Orthodox faithful toward Baptist or
Pentecostal churches (although such is happening), but rather one that draws
Ukrainians into a deeper Christian and even Orthodox faith in the contemporary
Ukrainian milieu.
Against this backdrop, then, the central idea of A Future
and a Hope is “a church without walls,” meaning first and foremost the people
of God who are engaged with the task of witness and mission amidst the
sociopolitical and economic challenges that constitute this Ukrainian moment.
Theological training institutions are not limited to buildings; their work does
not occur in such spaces. Rather, theological education in the post-Soviet
context cannot but be missional, committed to prophetically heralding the
coming reign of God, and inspiring a faithful social imagination that seeks to
be contextually relevant and effectively engaged in society. Various models are
promoted, including “The Christian Seminar” that sought to connect Christian
faith, post-Communist developments
in the former Soviet Union, emerging consumerist trends, and
globalization dynamics. Put alternatively, Christian theological education on
this Eastern front of the Western world in the present situation cannot but
exist fully in line with the Lausanne Covenant’s holistic missiological vision to
encourage and empower students to participate in the missio Dei for the
Church’s witness in the public square. The point, then, is that theological
education that does not inspire and engender social transformation fails to
bear effective Christian witness in Ukraine. Christian witness is the task and
hope that Searle and Cherenkov invite theological educators – within and beyond
Ukraine – to uphold and perform”
AMOS YONG. Theological Education in the Western Hemisphere:
Select Histories and Current Trends – A Review Essay // InSights Journal, 2017

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