Interview with Dr. Tite Tiénou

03.10.2020  |  Season 1  |  Episode 5



SHOW NOTES

In this episode Dr. Michelle Knight and Dr. Josh Jipp interview Dr. Tite Tiénou, Chair of Global Theology and World Christianity, Research Professor, and Dean Emeritus here at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Tite shares his passion for a lived theology that is inseparable from missiology. He casts a vision for integrative theological education that prepares women and men throughout the world for effective, engaging ministry in their various contexts.

But before Tite arrives, Josh gives Michelle a “taste” of home…

Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Intro
[00:00:03] You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

Michelle Knight
[00:00:20] Welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. I’m Michelle Knight.

Josh Jipp
[00:00:23] And I’m Josh Jipp.

Knight
[00:00:25] We’ll be your hosts today, and we have the pleasure of having Tite Tiénou in the studio. Dr. Tiénou has been an integral part of the community and academic life here at TEDS for almost 25 years, and it’s our joy to have him on the podcast today.

Jipp
[00:00:37] Hey, Michelle, we’ve been trying to invite some of our listeners to send us some tweets or emails—

Knight
[00:00:44] Sure.

Jipp
[00:00:45] —so that we could get their feedback, and even take a few questions from them. I was wondering if it would be alright if I read an email I received from one of our listeners.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Knight
[00:00:55] Sure, Josh.

Jipp
[00:00:56] Okay, let me pull it up here. I’ve got it on my email.

Knight
[00:00:58] This is terrifying.

Jipp
[00:00:59] Oh, no, it’s…it’s largely positive—

Knight
[00:01:02] [LAUGHS] “Largely.” Good, okay.

Jipp
[00:01:03] Yeah. “Hey, Foreword Podcast! Really have loved the show. You guys have done a really great job of modeling theological conversations. Can’t wait to tune in for each new episode as they’re being released. Just one small point of criticism—why do you keep making fun of Iowa and the food and local cuisine?”

Knight
[00:01:23] [LAUGHS] Did you write this email?

Jipp
[00:01:25] Uh, no. Let’s see. It’s signed—

Knight
[00:01:27] Was it your mother?

Jipp
[00:01:28] —it’s signed by K. Jipp. Yeah.

Knight
[00:01:30] Oh. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
[00:01:32] Aka, my mom. So, Michelle, I hope you don’t mind, but I have taken the liberty of baking you some tuna casserole.

Knight
[00:01:38] [LAUGHS] Oh no!! But Josh, I don’t like tuna!

Jipp
[00:01:42] It’s right here.

Knight
[00:01:44] Uh, listeners—he’s not kidding. I am being handed a…[LAUGHS]

Jipp
[00:01:48] I’ve got some tuna casserole—

Knight
[00:01:50] I’m being handed a casserole right now!

Jipp
[00:01:52] —and I was just thinking, would you be willing to just take one bite and tell us what you think?

Knight
[00:01:57] Uh, sure. By the way, I have nothing but, um, complete respect for your mother. I just want—

Jipp
[00:02:02] Oh, yeah. No, I know.

Knight
[00:02:04] All right, guys. I’m seeing peas, right?

Jipp
[00:02:06] Yeah, there’s peas, yep.

Knight
[00:02:08] Mmmhmm. Okay. Uh, otherwise, it’s generally the color of—I don’t know—beige. [JIPP LAUGHS] …It’s delicious.

Jipp
[00:02:18] I made that for you last night, Michelle.

Knight
[00:02:20] No way!

Jipp
[00:02:22] No, I seriously did.

Knight
[00:02:23] Guys, I’m not even joking, it’s delicious.

Jipp
[00:02:24] I don’t even have enough for myself, though, but I do have this Korean fried chicken wing. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] I’m going to…I’m going to—

Knight
[00:02:30] You’re going to eat that?

Jipp
[00:02:31] Yeah, if that’s alright.

Knight
[00:02:32] Good. Hopefully our producer can get rid of me chewing on here.

Jipp
[00:02:35] Yeah.  Don’t get any of the tuna on the microphone. I see you’re getting kind of—

Knight
[00:02:38] I wouldn’t dare. I wouldn’t dare.

Jipp
[00:02:39] Okay.

Knight
[00:02:40] Uh, here’s the deal, Josh. It’s funny to me that of all the people, you cook this for me, because I’m the most likely to appreciate the casserole.

Jipp
[00:02:47] Yeah, that’s a good point.

Knight
[00:02:48] I mean, tuna’s not usually my jam—

Jipp
[00:02:50] Yeah.

Knight
[00:02:51] —but this tastes enough like general, Midwestern casserole—

Jipp
[00:02:53] Right, right.

Knight
[00:02:54]—which, let’s be real, it’s kind of a nondescript category—with all due respect to your mother, who, I imagine, masters the casserole.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Jipp
[00:03:00] Yeah. Now, I suppose if we could get that random TEDS student, Isaiah, to take a bite, and—

Knight
[00:03:05] Yeah, I’ve heard Isaiah is part of the problem.

Jipp
[00:03:06]—and like it, he might…he might be a harder sell, right?

Knight
[00:03:09] Yeah, he might be. But I am going to say this is a delightful tuna casserole.

Jipp
[00:03:12] Thank you.

Knight
[00:03:13] And you made this yourself?

Jipp
[00:03:14] I made it myself! Last night—

Knight
[00:03:15] I actually have a mental image of you in an apron.

Jipp
[00:03:16]—I put a picture of it on Facebook and hid the picture from you—[KNIGHT LAUGHS]—in case. So I…so I didn’t want you to be prepared.

Knight
[00:03:20] So they knew this was coming?

Jipp
[00:03:22] At least some people might have had an idea.

Knight
[00:03:23] Good.

Jipp
[00:03:24] Anyway, today on the podcast, we are grateful to have Dr. Tiénou, Research Professor of Theology and Mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And, it may be that the subject matter of “good food” and “local culture”—

Knight
[00:03:28] That’s true.

Jipp
[00:03:28] —will come up in our conversation. We’ll have to see, Michelle.

Knight
[00:03:40] We will indeed have to see. Thank you all for tuning in, and we hope that you enjoy getting to know one of our favorite people really well.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

All right. We are thrilled to have with us in the studio today Dr. Tite Tiénou, somebody who has been a fixture around TEDS for quite some time. Josh actually told me once he’s one of his favorite people, so—

Jipp
[00:04:01] That’s true. Spent three weeks in Côte d’Ivoire with him. Wonderful trip.

Knight
[00:04:05] Yeah.

Tite Tiénou
[00:04:06] Yes. Things there that we, uh…what happened in Côte d’Ivoire stays in Côte d’Ivoire. [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
[00:04:12] Ple…please don’t worry. There are no questions that will be inappropriate, and, exactly as you said, “What happened in Côte d’Ivoire stays in Côte d’Ivoire.”

Knight
[00:04:22] Now, here’s the problem— [JIPP LAUGHS]

Tiénou
[00:04:23] Yes.

Knight
[00:04:24] —now I’m imagining a whole host of crazy things that may have happened there, that probably did not happen, mostly because of the way that it was just framed—

Jipp
[00:04:30] Just fun…fun things.—

Tiénou
[00:04:30] Nothing…nothing crazy happened, certainly a whole host of crazy things happened—[LAUGHTER]—but, um, things did happen in Côte d’Ivoire, and we can talk offline.—

Knight
[00:04:45] [LAUGHS] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:04:45] —Some of these things would not be appropriate for the people who are listening to us at this moment.

Jipp
[00:04:50] And I will just let Tite bring those up—

Knight
[00:04:52] Mmm. Naturally—as they come up.

Jipp
[00:04:53]—on his own, offline—

Tiénou
[00:04:54] If it…if it happened.

Jipp
[00:04:55]—if it actually happened. That’s right, yes.

Knight
[00:04:56] Okay, noted.

Tiénou
[00:04:57] Yes. Yes.

Knight
[00:04:58] Well, uh, Dr. Tite Tiénou, he is the chair of the Global Theology and World Christianity department here at TEDS. He’s one of our research professors, focusing on the Theology of Mission, and he is a Dean Emeritus. And, you know, when we look through your biography and the places you’ve been, you’ve taught in Côte d’Ivoire, you’ve taught in New York, you have taught in Burkina Faso. Why are you here? What brought you here to TEDS?

Tiénou
[00:05:24] This is an…an interesting question. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] Um, I came to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the fall of 1997. And, um, I usually say that humanly speaking, the reason I am here at the divinity school is a person by the name of Paul Hiebert, who was on faculty at the time, and he was the chair of the Mission and Evangeline department here, and he had been a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary in their School of World Mission and Evangelism. When I was a student, I met him there, and he was interested in filling a position here in the Theology of Mission. And, ah, that became vacant for a number of years, and he wanted to have somebody who is not from the so-called “West” to fill the position, and it was left vacant for about a couple of years. And he—to use language that people use today—he “reached out” to me—and I don’t know what that means [LAUGHTER]. He actually contacted me and said, “Would you be open to the possibility of,” or some other words he used, “maybe teaching a course here and there?” He was very tentative and very Mennonite. He was a very Mennonite person. [LAUGHTER] So I came and taught for a modular course, and I did not know I was being interviewed, but that’s how I came to TEDS initially—when I…when I came to teach a course. And then Paul said to me, “You are going to be…are you willing to be the next person in the Theology of Mission?” Had it not been for Paul Hiebert, I don’t think I would have been here at TEDS.

Knight
[00:07:32] Okay. You bring a variety of experiences, you have ministered in a variety of locations, and you, as you have noted, kind of have a lot of different things that you cover in the classroom.

Tiénou
[00:07:41] Yes.

Knight
[00:07:42] Um, maybe I’ll ask it this way, what do you hope your legacy is when you leave a place like TEDS, for whatever reason? What…what do you feel like you’ve contributed that you think enriches this place? What gets you excited?—I guess.

Tiénou
[00:07:57] Oh, well, okay. So, the way you ended the question is “What gets me excited?”

Knight
[00:08:02] I know, I kind of threw that in there.

Tiénou
[00:08:03] That’s a…that’s a…that’s one question, and the other question is, of course, “legacy.”

Knight
[00:08:08] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:08:09] Um, I think that what gets me excited is the…the idea and practice that theology has to be related to a life—the totality of life. Um, and indeed, that’s one of the reasons I went to Fuller Seminary, to their School of World Mission and Evangelism in 1980, because I did not want to do…to—I mean, I usually say, “I did not want to be one more specialist in Karl Barth theology.”

Jipp
[00:08:42] Mmhmm.

Tiénou
[00:08:43] I wanted to attend to questions that people ask in daily life—Christians ask—and Fuller Seminary had opened the PhD in Intercultural Studies that allowed me to do just that.

Knight
[00:09:00] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:09:01] So that gets me excited. So, when…I’ll just say it this way—I am here, and when I teach, in my classes I tell my students, “Do you know that every September, there’s a Pagan Pride Day celebration in Chicago?” And I let them think. And most of them don’t know that. But there’s a Pagan Pride Day celebration in Chicago, and I ask, “Do we in our theological courses make sure that students understand that, and do we actually attend to the questions that U.S. pagans ask in our theologies?” That’s what gets me excited, so I don’t know if that makes sense.

Jipp
[00:09:47] It does. So, theo—a model of theology that’s basically translating ideas and idioms into contemporary language isn’t enough. Is that…is that right?

Tiénou
[00:10:01] Yeah, it’s not enough. You have to actually attend to the questions that actually are in the daily life of people.

Jipp
[00:10:10] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:10:11] It’s not just translating into idioms. It’s whatever we do. I mean, after all, for me, when Christian theology started, it had to attend to questions and issues that pagans were asking around them.

Jipp
[00:10:22] Yeah. I couldn’t agree more

Tiénou
[00:10:24] And therefore, we have to ask ourselves, “What are the questions that pagans ask today?”—

Jipp
[00:10:29] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:10:30] —wherever the “today” is—in this case, “What are the questions U.S. pagans ask?” And do we ask—do we attend to those questions in our teaching in the classroom? Or, do we just teach theology as if it were just historical theology?

Jipp
[00:10:47] So can one be a theologian without being a missiologist?

Tiénou
[00:10:50] My answer to that question is a resounding “No.”

Jipp
[00:10:54] Okay, yeah.

Tiénou
[00:10:55] Uh, if by “missiologists,” we mean, “people who actually attend to reality, not just a person—people who attend to some exotic thing out there.” The reality of where people are,  where “mission” happens. If we don’t attend to questions asked missiologically, then one cannot be a good contemporary theologian.

Jipp
[00:11:20] Okay, yeah.

Knight
[00:11:22] How does that overlap with conversations about contextualization? Is that the same sort of a thing?

Tiénou
[00:11:29] Contextualization was from 1970 onward. That word became, I mean, today we say, “a global word.”—

Knight
[00:11:40] Exactly.

Tiénou
[00:11:40] —But, from 1970 onward, the word “contextualization” is used, but it was used to attend to…relating theology to all aspects of life, and not to make theology an “elitist” kind of enterprise. Unfortunately, for at least sitting in a place like TEDS, contextualization is something that is happening “over there,” almost like a strategic thing that happens when we…when we are in different cultures. But contextualization, if it is done appropriately, is actually attending to the missiological dimension of theology in all areas of the world. So I tend not to use the word “contextualization” anymore because of what it means. People think that contextualization is not needed in the West, supposedly, but it’s needed “over there,” and nothing could be further from the truth.

Jipp
[00:12:46] In…in other words, conte—the way “contextualization” used, it assumes that there’s something that’s “the stable,” “the real,” “the given”—

Tiénou
[00:12:54] Yes.

Jipp
[00:12:55] —that doesn’t change—

Tiénou
[00:12:56] Yes.

Jipp
[00:12:57] —and then we take it to other places where we do something strategically to adapt it into another language or idiom, and we’re “contextualizing.”

Tiénou
[00:13:04] Yes.

Jipp
[00:13:05] Am I hearing you right, that that’s the model that you’re resisting?

Tiénou
[00:13:07] That’s…that’s the model, but even more…even more so, the idea that, “Contextualization is done here already, and it’s done well.”—

Jipp
[00:13:17] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:13:18]—“All we need to do is teach ‘over there,’ how…to teach them how to do it well,”—

Jipp
[00:13:24] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:13:25]—assuming that is done well here. And I don’t think it’s done well here. It’s never “done.” It’s ongoing.

Jipp
[00:13:32] I want to pick up on the—go back to the question I asked. So, how do we…how do we get to a state where we are today, where, I’m sure, many theologians wouldn’t grant your argument that, to be a theologian, you also need to be a missiologist.

Tiénou
[00:13:50] I know that.

Jipp
[00:13:51] How do we get—yeah, I know you know that. [LAUGHTER]

Knight
[00:13:54] [LAUGHS] No doubt.

Jipp
[00:13:55] Right? How do…how do you…how do we get to a place where that’s, um, how do we get to where we are, where it’s often assumed that these are just—I mean, obviously there are, at seminaries, discrete departments. They may or may not talk to each other.—

Tiénou
[00:14:10] Yes.

Jipp
[00:14:11]—They may or may not think that they need each other in order to do their work.

Tiénou
[00:14:15] Yes.

Jipp
[00:14:16] I’m 100% in agreement with you, that, I think they do. How do we get to…how did we get to a place where we are today?

Tiénou
[00:14:22] Meaning with the…with the discrete, uh—

Jipp
[00:14:25] Discrete disciplines that can do their work apart from one another.

Tiénou
[00:14:30] Oh, do we have a semester? [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
[00:14:34] I know. I know it’s a big question.

Tiénou
[00:14:36] It’s a long history, of course! The…I think we—I mean, to summarize, I would say, um, the shadow of the 18th to 19th century is how we got here. And the…by that, I mean, we talk from an evangelical divinity school setting, but the evangelical divinity school settings presupposes the—at least in the U.S., a time when we had Bible institutes and other schools, and those schools were…well, there’s, um—Mr. Gordon, A. J. Gordon, in Massachusetts. His school was a missions school. Well, there’s a large seminary—Mr. Simpson—his school was a missions school. Well, there’s Moody—that’s a missions school. So they all had “mission,” but “mission,” both in the U.S.—at home—and abroad, so the idea that theology and theological studies—biblical studies—had to relate to the ongoing work of the church that was there. But, when we, um, and even the not-so evangelical schools had that as…Daniel Aleshire usually says is, “The growth of seminaries in the U.S. is in a religion building,” so advancing the religion. So you see all the seminaries that went west. They all went west with denominations that were establishing churches. We got to where we are by, not intentionally, maybe, but we got where we are by the fact that slowly we began to forget that the purpose of seminary education is actually that.

Jipp
[00:16:50] Mmhmm.

Tiénou
[00:16:51] And we professionalized our vocations, so that we began to have the guilds as our conversation partners. And the guilds are not necessarily in the religion-making business—

Jipp
[00:17:06] Right. Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:17:06] —they are in the career-advancing business.

Knight
[00:17:13] Sure.

Tiénou
[00:17:13] So if I teach New Testament, I get more advanced. I advance more if I’m published by the guild, if I’m a systematic theologian, etc., etc. And so my conversation partners are not necessarily going to be people who are in the religion-making.

Tiénou
[00:17:32] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:17:32] So just a long answer to say we got there incrementally. Nobody decided we needed to be there. But the most deadly disease actually is the division we make between the classical disciplines—so-called “classical disciplines”—and the so-called “practical disciplines,” and some are more valued than others.

Tiénou
[00:17:52] Right. Absolutely. Thank you, yeah.

Knight
[00:17:54] So, I mean, you have articulated well for us how we got here.

Tiénou
[00:17:59] Yes.

Knight
[00:18:00] Do you have ideas about how to get us out of this mess?

Tiénou
[00:18:02] Well, we’re not in a mess, we are in a reality. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] I mean, I have ideas. The first idea is to have a conversation on the nature of theology, the nature and purpose of theology, the nature and purpose of Christian theology. And to me, it requires faculty conversation. And if we don’t have that conversation, we’re not going to go anywhere. So…so, I mean, my idea is, the nature and purpose of Christian theology is to make God known, to love God—body, soul, spirit, strength. That’s the purpose and nature of theology—

Jipp
[00:18:50] Yeah.

Knight
[00:18:50] Sure.

Tiénou
[00:18:51]—to know God and to make him known. If that’s the purpose, the question is, how do we do that? How do we do that curricularly? How do we make sure that what we teach in the classroom—in New Testament, Old Testament, or whatever we teach—advances that? So it begins with agreeing on the nature of theology and the purpose of theology. And then, of course, the nature of the church and the purpose of the church. That, I mean, to your question at the beginning, that’s what excites me.

Knight
[00:19:22] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:19:23] I did not enter Christian ministry to advance a particular career. I came into Christian service to…to…for that particular purpose, to know God, to make him known, by myself and by other people. So that’s what…that’s how we get out of this “mess,” to use your word.

Jipp
[00:19:44] Along those lines, I’ve heard you talk about the task of 21st century theology being to adequately reckon with theology as something that’s global—

Tiénou
[00:19:57] Yes.

Jipp
[00:19:58]—not just here in the west.

Tiénou
[00:19:59] Yes.

Jipp
[00:20:00] Can you tell us a little bit about what you mean by that?

Tiénou
[00:20:03] Well, the…we live in the 21st century, and we are in a very good place where we know that the Christian faith has multiple homes—culturally and geographically. So that means that any theology that Cristians do, whether they do it in Africa, Asia, Latin America, or Europe, or the Americas, has to be done with awareness that we are…we should be in conversation with Christians who…who…around the world, so that the global nature of the faith, of the church, requires that we do theology globally. I think that’s a good thing—

Jipp
[00:20:53] Yeah

Tiénou
[00:20:54] —but it’s, you know, it’s a beginning conversation.

Knight
[00:20:58] Sure. I think occasionally, at least in my experience, I’ve found people get really nervous when we start to do that, particularly when we interact with theologies who articulate themselves in terms of their context primarily. All of a sudden, we start pointing fingers in saying, “This is all about your context.” “Your…this is…this is about who you are, not about who God is.” Do you have—would you respond to that concern?

Tiénou
[00:21:24] Well, ok. The way to respond to that, of course, I need to say, “Let’s put ourselves in…” Okay. So, let’s paint it even in a different way. So I am a U.S. person. I’m an American. And when I read a theologian from, I don’t know, take your pick—Asia—my first reaction is, “I don’t really understand what they’re talking about. Therefore, they must be talking about their context.”

Knight
[00:21:55] Oh, interesting.

Tiénou
[00:21:56] Okay.

Knight
[00:21:57] I’m sure you’re right.

Tiénou
[00:21:58] Now, now, let’s change the scene. I am a person from Asia, and I read theologians from the U.S., and I don’t understand what they’re saying, and I’m saying to myself, “They must be talking about their context.” So, we have to think that way.

Knight
[00:22:18] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:22:20] So we all have the…the disposition to pass judgment in that way—

Knight
[00:22:26] Sure.

Tiénou
[00:22:27] —but what I’m advocating is that instead of thinking that way, we ought to think, “These are Christians.”

Knight
[00:22:33] Yeah.

Jipp
[00:22:33] Mmhmm.

Tiénou
[00:22:34] “They, like we, desire to know God. They, like we, desire to advance God’s work. How do we get to understand what they’re saying, and to assess whether or not what they’re saying is actually in…in keeping with God’s word.”

Knight
[00:22:56] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:22:57] That’s the only way to advance the conversation—

Knight
[00:23:00] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:23:01]—as opposed to, “They must be dealing with their context, and therefore, it’s not for me.”

Knight
[00:23:06] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:23:07] That, I think, is not right. I mean, when I was a teenager, one of the persons that I…that I read that made an impression on me was the Sadhu Sundar Singh from India.

Knight
[00:23:29] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:23:30] That’s…that’s many years ago. So, what I’m saying to you now is, that’s not new with me. This was like, 1966-1967, the kind of reading that I was doing on that sadhu from India.

Knight
[00:23:47] Okay.

Jipp
[00:23:49] So, um, I’d love for you to speak directly to us—like, to Michelle and me, maybe a little bit at the earlier points of our career—

Tiénou
[00:23:58] Yes.

Jipp
[00:23:59] —at least Michelle is, you know.

Knight
[00:24:00] Josh is really old, so don’t let him—he’s really old.

Tiénou
[00:24:02] She’s…oh, I see! [LAUGHS]

Jipp
[00:24:04] [LAUGHS] —or even our students. How…what are some practices whereby we can facilitate some reciprocal, global exchange? Is it just reading books?

Tiénou
[00:24:17] Meaning…meaning you—the two of you—Michelle and…and you, Josh?

Jipp
[00:24:20] Yeah, or MDiv students. What…what are good practices whereby we can try to, I mean, you used an example of two, you know, two different people, reading each other’s work and having a different posture.

Tiénou
[00:24:33] Yes.

Jipp
[00:24:33] Do you have practical ideas and strategies for how the two of us, or just how MDiv students here—

Tiénou
[00:24:40] Well, they are all kind of practical ideas! [KNIGHT LAUGHS]

Jipp
[00:24:42] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:24:43] The first practical idea is to understand where we are in the U.S. today, and then to enjoy where we are in the U.S. today. This is what we have. It’s not…it’s not a strange place. What I mean—I’ll be clear.

Jipp
[00:25:01] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:25:02] So we live in the Chicagoland area—the three of us, anyway, right now. There’s a tremendous variety of…of possible conversation partners. Some of them are in museums. We should enjoy some of the museum possibilities that we have. So…so, this past summer, there was, at Northwestern University, there was an expedition of—called “Caravans of Gold.” This was about the…the African presence in commerce of gold where they sent to Europe, etc., etc., etc. So I had students go there to see—we think that globalization is new, but if you…if you go to that exhibit, you will see that even the word “guinea,” as in “guinea,” like a coin, a British coin, comes from the Guinea Coast of Africa with the gold. And you will discover that globalization is not new at all. It’s been there for a long time. But, this is a roundabout way to say, “Globalization is happening around us.” There are people here that we should get to know and talk to. That’s for students, but that’s also us. And the second thing is, it’s not just reading the books, but it’s actually getting to know the culture in which we are right now, so that we actually enjoy that culture, and then we’ll begin to ask questions. Then, the other thing to do would be, when we visit our supermarkets, maybe we should just go to some of the food sections that we don’t usually frequent—

Jipp
[00:26:55] Okay.

Tiénou
[00:26:56] —and discover new…new foods. When I was in the Dean’s Office, I used to take the Dean’s office staff to Christmas meals, and then we used to go to “other restaurants.” [JIPP LAUGHS] I didn’t say “ethnic restaurants.”

Jipp
[00:27:15] Yeah, I knew what…yeah.

Knight
[00:27:17] Yeah, caught that.

Tiénou
[00:27:19] So…so…so for them to just know that—so we went to a Persian restaurant, and we went to, as it was, you know, just…just to get comfortable. This is the kind of world in which we are. And then, of course, um, we can do reading, but reading presupposes that we actually have some interest in the culture. If you don’t have an interest in the culture from which the writers come, it’s going to be totally foreign to you.

Jipp
[00:27:47] Right.

Tiénou
[00:27:48] For me, the reason I was interested in Karl Barth when I was at Masters level, is that, of course I was interested in Europe, because Europe came to us. So we had no choice than to be interested in Europe. So, to me, that’s it. That’s the lesson, and the lesson is, begin with having a keen interest in other cultures, and then the theology will be less strange to you.

Jipp
[00:28:18] That’s great.

Knight
[00:28:19] That’s helpful. I mean, even on a practical level, you and I lead a formation group together, Tite—

Tiénou
[00:28:24] Yes.

Knight
[00:28:25] —the two of us and Dr. Jim Moore. And, our formation group, we…we go out and we get food from…often from the home culture of one of the students that are in the group—

Tiénou
[00:28:33] That they suggest.

Knight
[00:28:34] That they suggest, and so they have to kind of introduce us—

Jipp
[00:28:36] I have to say, I was a little jealous. I saw a Facebook picture—

Knight
[00:28:39] Let’s be honest about how we mostly eat in our formation group. [LAUGHTER] But, it’s not just for the sake of going out to eat.—

Jipp
[00:28:45] Yeah.

Knight
[00:28:46] —There is a sense in which people are introducing us to their cultures.

Tiénou
[00:28:49] Yes.

Knight
[00:28:50] It’s a minute where—we were sitting with some Filipino students at a Filipino restaurant the other day, and they said, “I feel like you’re in the Philippines with me.”

Tiénou
[00:28:56] Yes.

Knight
[00:28:57] “This is a neat experience for me to be able to share that with you.” And that’s been, I mean, our formation group has been really formative for me. It was so easy for us to gain kind of an awareness of other cultures, just because we made it a point to eat together. It’s amazing.

Tiénou
[00:29:10] And…and really, the point is, Michelle as you’re making that, as we’ve said twice already, but let’s say one more time—a restaurant that they suggest.

Knight
[00:29:21] Yes.

Tiénou
[00:29:21] Which puts…there’s power in that.

Knight
[00:29:25] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:29:26] I mean, what you were saying about being in that…in that restaurant—they suggested that restaurant.

Knight
[00:29:31] Exactly.

Tiénou
[00:29:32] And I mean, it’s just a different way of humanizing those people—

Jipp
[00:29:37] Yeah.

Tiénou
[00:29:38] —and they don’t feel—I mean, it’s just an amazing thing. Yesterday you missed an interesting conversation…to a restaurant that we may be going.

Knight
[00:29:45] Ooh, I’m excited.

Tiénou
[00:29:46] It would be a Korean fried chicken place.

Knight
[00:29:49] Oh my gosh. I’ve been excited about eating fried chicken all semester.

Tiénou
[00:29:51] Okay, alright. [LAUGHS] But it’s Korean.

Knight
[00:29:55] What?

Tiénou
[00:29:56] It’s Korean.

Knight
[00:29:57] Yes.

Tiénou
[00:29:58] And then…and then…and there were at least two Koreans, and they were talking about, we could pull the food items on the menu—on…on the website—and all of a sudden, we’re going to go there, but they suggested it.—

Knight
[00:30:13] Yes.

Tiénou
[00:30:14] —and they would describe these things. So again, being interested in, I mean, one of the words that I use when I teach ethnicities is the word “commensality”—eating together. So, the commensality factor is helpful to understand other cultures.

Jipp
[00:30:31] Yeah. So good. Korean fried chicken. I’m a little distracted. [LAUGHTER]

Knight
[00:30:35] Oh my gosh. I literally can’t think of anything else.

Jipp
[00:30:36] I just took my boys to Crisp, which is one of Chicago’s premiere Korean fried chicken places. I took them on Sunday after church, and—

Tiénou
[00:30:48] But this one is in, off, I mean, it’s…it’s off…it’s close here. We’ll go there.

Jipp
[00:31:00] Okay.

Knight
[00:31:01] Yeah. We’ll fill you in. We’ll let you know how it is.

Tiénou
[00:31:02] Yes.

Jipp
[00:31:03] “Fill me in!?”

Knight
[00:31:03] Yeah, I’m not taking you—

Jipp
[00:31:04] “Fill me in!?”

Knight
[00:31:04]—for sure. Absolutely not taking you.

Jipp
[00:31:05] No invitation? What is this “commensality?” [LAUGHS]

Tiénou
[00:31:07] [LAUGHS] Let’s be on task! Let’s be on task now!

Jipp
[00:31:09] Give me a—

Knight
[00:31:09] This came—

Jipp
[00:31:10] —I get text messages.

Knight
[00:31:11] —This came to be because we were having pancakes at Dr. Moore’s house, and we were talking about, you know, some of our favorite foods. And I think I was talking about, like, American fried chicken. And one of the Korean students said, “Have you had Korean fried chicken?”—

Jipp
[00:31:24] Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Knight
[00:31:24] —and he was horrified that I had not.

Tiénou
[00:31:28] Exactly. Yes.

Knight
[00:31:28] And so I was pleased that he could share this bounty.

Tiénou
[00:31:30] Yes. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
[00:31:30] Wow. Well, enjoy. I look forward to hearing about it.

Knight
[00:31:23] I’m super excited.

Tiénou
[00:31:34] But, no commensality will happen—

Jipp
[00:31:35] No need to invite me!

Tiénou
[00:31:36] —no, no, no, we will invite you later! [LAUGHS]

Knight
[00:31:37] Yeah, we’ll go twice. For sure.

Tiénou
[00:31:38] Yes.

Jipp
[00:31:40] I mean, there needs to be boundaries and limitations to hospitality, right? So, there’s—

Tiénou
[00:31:43] No, no, no, no, no, no! [LAUGHTER] There will be hospitality, but, uh, you know, we go first, we try it, and then we’ll invite you. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
[00:31:55] [LAUGHS] You’ll do the exploration.

Knight
[00:31:56] It’s part of the hospitality process.

Tiénou
[00:31:57] Yes.

Jipp
[00:31:59] Yeah. I appreciate that.

Knight
[00:32:00] Well, at this point, we have heard quite a bit from you, and I wish we had more time to talk. But we are so grateful that you could be with us today, Tite. I know that Josh is too.

Jipp
[00:32:07] Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Tiénou
[00:32:11] Thank you for subjecting me to all the…you will pay! [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
[00:32:15] We are…we are really grateful.

Knight
[00:32:17] Yeah, I hope that there’s retribution involved, but please direct it all toward Josh. [JIPP LAUGHS]

Tiénou
[00:32:20] Alright.

Knight
[00:32:21] But we are grateful. Thank you for being here with us today.

Tiénou
[00:32:23] You’re certainly welcome.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Knight
[00:32:26] And that’s just the Foreword. We’re so glad that you tuned in today to get to know Dr. Tiénou just a little bit more, and we hope some of his words of wisdom challenged you to think a bit more deeply about theology and the world we live in. I want to thank our listeners for tuning in, and I also want to thank my co-host Josh Jipp, both for dazzling conversation and for my tuna breath, which is pretty substantial.

Jipp
[00:32:48] And, before we forget, let’s also make sure we thank our wonderful producer Curtis, “my beard can beat your beard,” Pierce. And Michelle, thank you so much for trying my tuna casserole.

Knight
[00:32:58] It was so good.

Jipp
[00:32:58] I’m glad to see that you’ve finished it all.

Knight
[00:33:00] [LAUGHS] I did not finish it all, but I did take a lot of bites, and I will finish it all.

Jipp
[00:33:04] And thanks to all our listeners. I’m Josh Jipp.

Knight
[00:33:06] I’m Michelle Knight.

Jipp
[00:33:08] We’ll see you on the flip side.

Outro
[00:33:11] Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

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