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Global Christianity

RELG 295-01
Tuesday/Thursday 8:30-10:20
Dewing 205

Instructor: Adam Kotsko

Office: Humphrey House 109
Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 2:45-4:00 or by appointment

Course Description
Despite its roots in the Ancient Near East, Christianity has historically been identified with
Europe and, later, majority-white former British colonies, most notably the U.S. In the postwar
era, however, what is sometimes called the “Third World” has emerged as the home of the
majority of the world’s Christians—and arguably the site of the greatest dynamism and
innovation in Christian thought and practice.

This course focuses on the two contemporary manifestations of Christianity that have attained
the greatest worldwide reach: Liberation Theology and Pentecostalism. The contrast between the
two will guide our path through the various regions of the Third World, discussing both roughly
equally in the Latin American context, focusing more on Pentecostalism in Africa, and
concentrating primarily on Liberation Theology in Asia (specifically Korea).

Course Goals
Upon completing this course, students should:
• understand and assess representative forms of Third World Christianity in their historical,
political, and economic contexts;
• be able to identify the central themes and arguments of texts from a variety of
perspectives and state them in a clear and sympathetic way in class discussion;
• be able to bring those texts into productive dialogue with one another; and
• be able to formulate criticisms in a way that is attentive to the original author’s intent and

Course Texts
Required textbooks:
• Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping
of Religion in the 21st Century (Da Capo)
• Kevin O’Neill, City of God: Christian Citizenship and Power in Postwar Guatemala
(Univ. of California)
• Gustavo Gutierrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent (Orbis)
• Paul Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African
Economy (Indiana)
• Andrew Sung Park, The Wounded Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the
Christian Doctrine of Sin (Abingdon)
Additional essays and selections will be made available by the most convenient means and are
marked in the reading schedule (**).

Course Requirements
1. Communication: All students should check their e-mail regularly, at minimum once a
day, as that will be the professor’s primary way of communicating outside of class.
2. Course readings: The bulk of the work of this class is the reading. All readings should
be completed before the class session for which they are listed. Study questions will be
provided to guide students in reading.
3. Class participation: Class periods will incorporate significant lecture elements, but each
class period will include an in-class discussion. Students are expected to arrive in class
ready to discuss the assigned readings in a way that is attentive and accountable to the
texts, providing specific references to back up their points. Bringing all the relevant
readings to each class session is absolutely essential.
4. Reading quizzes: On Thursday of each week beginning with week 2, students will be
given a quiz in-class that will deal with two randomly selected reading questions from the
previous two class sessions, in addition to one question drawn from the lecture materials.
Quizzes will be graded; each student’s lowest quiz grade will be dropped when
determining the final average of all quizzes.
5. Papers: Students will be expected to complete three papers of 3-5 double-spaced pages
over the course of the quarter. These are not research papers; they are based entirely on
the class readings. At the same time, they should go beyond “reflection papers” in
drawing explicitly and heavily on those class readings rather than simply putting forward
your own opinions.
a. Paper #1: Compare and contrast Liberation Theology and Pentecostalism,
addressing the following questions along with other concerns you feel are
particularly relevant: What is the intended audience for each movement? What are
their goals? What arguments do they make for continuity with the Christian
b. Paper #2: Based primarily on the O’Neill and Gifford texts, assess the degree to
which Third World Pentecostalism can be called an “American” movement and
the degree to which it reflects the local culture, being attentive to the differences
between the forms of Pentecostalism found in Guatemala and Ghana.
c. Paper #3: In light of all our readings, discussions, and class lectures, assess the
respective impacts of Liberation Theology and Pentecostalism, using whatever
standard you find most relevant or important. Examples might include which
seems to be most faithful to the Christian heritage, which does the best job of
incorporating local culture and perspectives, or which seems more likely to have a
positive impact on its members and their socieities (whether morally,
economically, politically, etc.). Students should consult with the professor before
finalizing their approach on this assignment.
6. Attendance: Attendance is expected, in light of the fact that this is a discussion-heavy
class. While attendance will not be formally tracked, a clear pattern of absenteeism will
result in a reduction in your grade. In addition, Thursday quizzes are to be done in class
only except under extenuating circumstances (exceptions will be dealt with on a case-by-
case basis).

7. Late papers and missed quizzes: Extensions and make-up quizzes are possible if agreed
upon in advance; please contact the professor by e-mail if you believe you will need
8. Academic integrity: All students are expected to fully abide by the Honor Code of
Kalamazoo College. Collaborative study is encouraged, but all submitted work must be
the student’s own.

Grade summary:
• Class participation: 10%
• Reading quizzes: 30%
• Papers: 20% each

Outline of Course and Reading

Week 1: What is “global Christianity”?
Tuesday: Course intro

Thursday: Jenkins, “The Christian Revolution” from The Next Christendom (**); Cox, Fire from
Heaven, preface, intro; Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, ch. 1 (**)

Week 2: The origins of Liberation Theology

Tuesday: Gutiérrez, On Job, intro, parts 1 and 2

Thursday: Gutiérrez, On Job, part 3

Week 3: The origins of Pentecostalism

Tuesday: Cox, Fire from Heaven, chs. 1-3

Thursday: Cox, Fire from Heaven, chs. 4-8

Week 4: Neo-Pentecostalism in the Americas

Tuesday: Cox, Fire from Heaven, chs. 9, 13, and 14; Paper #1 due in class

Thursday: O’Neill, City of God, preface, intro, ch. 1; Dominquez, “The Great Commission” (**)

Week 5: Christian citizenship in Guatemala

Tuesday: O’Neill, City of God, chs. 2 and 3; Huntington, “God’s Saving Plan” (**)

Thursday: O’Neill, City of God, chs. 4 and 5; Brusco, “The Reformation of Machismo” (**)

Week 6: Wrap-up on Latin America; Intro to Africa’s “New Christianity”

Tuesday: O’Neill, City of God, ch. 6, conclusion; Sobrino, “Extra Pauperes Nulla Salus” from
No Salvation Outside the Poor (**)

Thursday: Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity, chs. 1 and 2; Cox, Fire from Heaven, ch. 12

Week 7: The “prophets” of African Christianity
Tuesday: Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity, chs. 3 and 4; Ela, “Critical Awareness and
Religion in Black Africa,” from African Cry (**)

Thursday: Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity, ch. 5; selection from African Women, Religion,
and Health (**)

Week 8: Wrap-up on Africa; Intro to Asian Christianities

Tuesday: Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity, chs. 6-7; selection from Oduyoye, Hearing and
Knowing (**)

Thursday: Cox, Fire from Heaven, ch. 11; Choo Chai-Yong, “A Brief Sketch of a Korean
Christian History from the Minjung Perspective” from Minjung Theology (**); Boo-Woong Yoo,
selection from Korean Pentecostalism (**); Paper #2 due in class

Week 9: “Syncretism” and Transformation: An Example from Korean Liberation

Tuesday: Park, Wounded Heart of God, intro, chs. 1 through 4

Thursday: Park, Wounded Heart of God, chs. 6 through 9

Week 10: Concluding Reflections on Liberation Theology and Pentecostalism

Tuesday: Sobrino, “Depth and Urgency of the Option for the Poor” from No Salvation Outside
the Poor (**); Cox, Fire from Heaven, ch. 15

Thursday: Thanksgiving Day

Paper #3 due by noon, Wednesday of finals week

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