Latinx Contributions to Theological Education
- ISBN: 9780802879011
- Published By: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
- Published: August 2021
For Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, a proper response to the current challenges of theological education in the United States is only possible by experimenting with different combinations of ideas and alternatives from different times and contexts. Thus, in Atando Cabos: Latinx Contributions to Theological Education, she considers her vast experience as an educator within the Latinx culture to offer a variety of educational and theological elements that could contribute to the current needs of theological education in the US. For Conde-Frazier, these elements are cabos sueltos, or loose ends, that once they are tied together, or atados, could be an alternative for the American educational theological context.
Since these elements first emerged in a particular milieu—within the 20th century in Latin America—Conde-Frazier’s work begins by offering a brief history of Christian education in that setting. Hence, in the first chapter, she claims that theological education in Latin America was part of foreign missionary programs, shaped by liberal and conservative missional perspectives that initially carried the hidden agenda of “Americanization.” Although theological education is not necessarily part of that colonizing project anymore, the author writes that “theologies of mission continue to be central for the ways churches with roots in Latin America think about theological education” (31).
For this reason, in chapter 2 Conde-Frazier presents three interconnected missional and theological elements that are central for Latin American Christians, proposing them as foundations that could respond to the challenges of theological education in the US. The first element is integral mission, which is necessary in order to respond to the need for holistic salvation and social change in the US. The other missional and theological elements are the notion of God’s reign and the priesthood of all believers.
In chapters 3 and 4, Conde-Frazier discusses the traditional curriculum structure of theological education in the US, together with other issues related to it. For her, the curriculum is “the vehicle or medium through which education vision takes root in the actual content being offered” (54), and it must include several dimensions of knowledge, such as the affective, rational, behavioral, relational, visional, and spiritual dimensions, together with contextual and practical elements. In this respect, Conde-Frazier argues that the students’ conditions, settings, and environment need to be part of the curriculum as well, considering the students as active agents in the educational process. Regarding the curriculum structure, she explains that, in the past, it was usually determined by the ecclesial structures, which determined the vision and mission of particular theological schools.
For Conde-Frazier, current theological scholars are primarily engaging academic questions rather than focusing on the churches’ needs, creating a division of interests in theological education. In Conde-Frazier’s view, “the academy sees the church as falling behind the times and as imprisoned within theologies and missions that are no longer relevant to the issues of current society [and] the church sees the academy as going beyond the orthodoxy of the church or as being incapable of engaging the questions of relevance for the church at a practical and not only a theoretical level” (81). In order to overcome this division between the academy and the church, she discusses how it came to be, highlighting that by following the traditional fourfold theological curriculum model, the practical function of theological education has been devalued, which currently results in oppressive theological institutions for diverse communities, including Latinx faculty and students. For Conde-Frazier, the traditional curriculum structure favors individualism by separating theological disciplines; alternatively, Latinos/as prefer a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to theological education, one that could respond to the current social challenges. In this regard, Conde-Frazier proposes that the theological curriculum must be integrated into the whole educational ecology of a community, entailing a holistic education.
Conde-Frazier concludes her work with a fifth chapter that underscores some of the new values that must guide the practice of the Christian faith in this current transitional era. Here she highlights the values that sustain critical thinking and that drive the continual re-actualization of the received theological tradition. For this complex educational endeavor, she says, the usual theological tools are not enough, which is why disciplines such as sociology, psychology, economics, ecology, and medicine become necessary elements within the theological curriculum. These disciplines are necessary to analyze the social context of the Christian faith to understand its role in the public square.
Atando Cabos offers important educational and theological elements that could attend to the challenges of theological education in the current American context. For example, theological education in the US could be revived by considering Conde-Frazier’s proposals of integrating a holistic notion of mission and the multiple dimensions of knowledge in the theological curriculum. For future work, it could be very useful for Conde-Frazier to discuss these Latino/a contributions in-depth in order to address the limitations of the Latinx evangelical missional theology as well as including the wide and varied ecumenical Latinx contributions—contributions that range from original hermeneutical proposals in biblical studies to the whole Latino/a theology school, which is a specific methodological approach for the study of Latino/a religious reality in the American context.
Luis Tapia Rubio is a PhD student at the International Baptist Theological Study Center, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.Luis Tapia RubioDate Of Review:September 2, 2022