Spirit Outside the Gate: Decolonial Pneumatologies of the American Global South, By Oscar García-Johnson
Spirit Outside the Gate
  • Length: 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: July 23, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5240
  • ISBN: 9780830852406

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Throughout the history of the Christian church, two narratives have constantly clashed: the imperial logic of Babel that builds towers and borders to seize control, versus the logic of Pentecost that empowers "glocal" missionaries of the kingdom life. To what extent are Westernized Christians today ready for the church of the Pentecost narrative? Are they equipped to do ministry in different cultural modes and to handle disruption and perplexity? What are Christians to make of the Holy Spirit's occasional encounters with cultures and religions of the Americas before the European conquest?

Oscar García-Johnson explores a new grammar for the study of theology and mission in global Christianity, especially in Latin America and the Latinx "third spaces" in North America. With an interdisciplinary, "transoccidental," and narrative approach, Spirit Outside the Gate offers a constructive theology of mission for the church in global contexts.

Building on the familiar missiological metaphor of "outside the gate" established by Orlando Costas, García-Johnson moves to recover important elements in ancestral traditions of the Americas, with an eye to discerning pneumatological continuity between the pre-Columbian and post-Columbian communities. He calls for a "rerouting of theology"—a realization that theology cannot make its home in Christendom but is a global creation that must come home to a church without borders.

In this volume García-Johnson

  • considers pneumatological insights into de/postcolonial studies
  • traces independent epistemic contributions of the American Global South
  • shows how American indigenous, Afro-Latinx, and immigrant communities provide resources for a decolonial pneumatology
  • describes four transformations the American church must undergo to break free from colonial, modernist, and monocultural structures

Spirit Outside the Gate opens a path for a pneumatological missiology that can help the church act as a witness to the gospel message in a postmodern, postcolonial, and post-Christendom world.

Missiological Engagements charts interdisciplinary and innovative trajectories in the history, theology, and practice of Christian mission, featuring contributions by leading thinkers from both the Euro-American West and the majority world whose missiological scholarship bridges church, academy, and society.

"García-Johnson's text is richly embroidered with images, voices, and stories from the Americas that suggest that pneumatology is an indigenous mode of theologizing through which a decolonial Christian theology can emerge. I warmly commend this volume for its theological insight from below. It comes from a world in which it is far from clear that everything happens for a purpose, and the boundaries and categories imposed from above are experienced as arbitrary and unjust. In such a context, the Spirit is seen to be present and active 'outside the gate,' at the margins. Those at the margins see what is out of view from those at the center and challenge the borders of our theological systems."

Kirsteen Kim, professor of theology and world Christianity, Fuller Theological Seminary

"García-Johnson's Spirit Outside the Gate practices 'epistemic healing' because it provides a challenging, interdisciplinary bridge between Christian theology/pneumatology and Latin(o/a) American decolonial thought. This is an essential text for thinking theologically beyond the gates of the Occident."

Jacqueline M. Hidalgo, associate professor of Latina/o studies and religion, Williams College

"Spirit Outside the Gate is an excellent interrogation of the geopolitical dead-ends of theological inquiry, employing the most cutting-edge resources from decolonial thought. With his long-standing engagement among evangelical racialized communities, Oscar García-Johnson successfully excavates histories that have been made invisible, epistemologies that have been veiled, and struggles that have been eclipsed, in order to offer alternative paths for a just future. This book is a necessary contribution and a must-read for people interested in decolonial theologies; religion in the Americas; evangelical minoritized communities; and religion, race, and politics."

Santiago Slabodsky, Florence and Robert Kaufman Chair in Jewish Studies, Hofstra University, author of Decolonial Judaism

"García-Johnson provides a long-overdue theological and theoretical bridge between theology, ethnic studies, and postcolonial studies. He dignifies the indigenous and African descent peoples and cultures of the Americas and compellingly argues that the Spirit of God is presently healing the colonial wound of Latin America through the religious imaginaries and practices of native communities."

Robert Chao Romero, UCLA Cesar E. Chavez department of Chicana/o studies

"Oscar García-Johnson shows us that theology can never be—and should never be—attempted without a self-reflective analysis of the theologian's own social-cultural context and even of epistemology itself. What is it about the logic and the knowledge production that we have inherited that has produced coloniality? How do we think differently to avoid the violence and trauma that has followed it? García-Johnson offers us a way to construct a new knowledge, a new logic, and hence a new way of approaching theological meaning that is life giving and hopeful. In the end, theology is always political. But the new polis that García-Johnson envisions, based not on Babel but on Pentecost, imagines a politics otherwise for the church. This is a necessary and timely vision."

Kay Higuera Smith, professor of biblical and religious studies, Azusa Pacific University

"García-Johnson has given us more than an innovative decolonial pneumatology. This book offers a new method for doing pneumatology (and all theology) through cultural categories, human experiences, and thought patterns that are not Western or from learned elites. The author dares self-appointed 'mainstream' theologies and theologians to listen to and face the methodological challenge rising from the American Global South. García-Johnson, without a doubt, has established himself among the frontlines of the challenge. This is a must-read volume."

Orlando Espín, professor of systematic theology, University of San Diego

"A theological book that takes us on a journey as critical thinkers. He brings the Holy Spirit into his theology as the decolonial healer of the church. With his personal narrative included, Oscar García-Johnson helps the reader to wrestle with an understanding of the Christian church as a people of God in a global context. He helps us imagine paradigms that open the way for us to do our own theological critical thinking rather than forcing us through only one pathway for consideration. This is his best writing yet. Each chapter makes me hungry for the next in my own struggle for a clearer way of thinking beyond the usual theological categories. One reads with hope for the possibilities he helps us to imagine."

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, coordinator of relations with theological entities for the Association for Hispanic Theological Education

"The Euro-American theology of the Spirit has become far too complacent. Theologians think that a quick nod to the iniquities of the conquest will liberate them to brandish their current epistemologies without interrogating the marriage of postcolonial reason and conquering spirit they are designed to conceal. Oscar García-Johnson takes contemporary theologians outside the gate to the place where the Spirit resurrected Jesus. It is a journey beyond the tightly guarded gate of Occidental belief, US hegemony and the caudillo, and even concepts of time and history that have been blind to the cosmovision of the indigenous. As a Roman Catholic I find much to applaud in this decolonial theology of the Spirit proposed by my Baptecostal hermano. He asks questions about the 'white Western' university and the reproductive power of whiteness that few Latinx thinkers have dared to raise. If you follow him to the peripheries and through the gate to a new Pentecost, you will be joining a throng of decolonial disciples, undocumented border crossers, and abuelitas on fire with the Spirit. You may not agree with all of his conclusions, but you will definitely be provoked by a polyphonous crowd of witnesses to the Spirit like no other one that you have ever experienced."

Peter Casarella, associate professor, University of Notre Dame


Preface: An Amorphous Journey in Transoccidental Studies

Part I: The Narrative: The American Global South: Challenges and Visions
1. A Child of the Occident
2. A Child Without History
3. The Transoccidental Imagination: Christian Theologies and Missions Within Trans-Americanity

Part II: The Gate: The Geopolitics of Western Theology and Mission
4. Theological Paradigms Inside the Gate: The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Decolonial Alternative
5. Naming the Gates in “Christian” America

Part III: Outside the Gate: In Search of Ungating Christian Logics in the American Global South
6. Outside the Gate and Orlando Costas’s Missiological Legacy
7. Colonial Wound: Moving Beyond Christology

Part IV: Theology Otherwise: Decolonial Pneumatologies in the American Global South
8. Rerouting Theology: The Pneumatological (Transoccidental) Difference
9. Traditioning the Spirit Outside the Gate: On the Canonical Imagination of the Americas
10. The Spirit as Decolonial Healer

Part V: Crossings: Perspectives on Theology, Whiteness, and Global Designs
11. A Dis-claiming Theology
12. Church Without Borders: Ecclesial Tales of the Spirit Outside the Gate
Epilogue: ¿Y Ahora Qué? Can the “White Western” University Be Freed? (An Indiscreet Email)

Author Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Oscar García-Johnson

Oscar García-Johnson is associate professor of theology and Latino/a studies and assistant provost for the Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community at Fuller Theological Seminary. An ordained Baptist minister, he has also served as a regional minister with the American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, and his books include Conversaciones Teológicas del Sur Global Americano, coedited;Theology Without Borders, coauthored with William Dyrness; and The Mestizo/a Community of the Spirit.