Christianity in Melanesia

Article excerpt

Christianity in Melanesia. By Theo Aerts. Port Moresby: Univ. of Papua New Guinea Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 256. $20.

Melanesia is one of the most Christianized regions in the non-Western world, but it has not always been that way. Today the struggle is to enable Christianity to break free of its Western captivity and become contextualized in Melanesia, where exists the greatest linguistic and cultural diversity in the world. It was with great anticipation that I began reading this book, but the title turned out to be misleading. It is more about the Catholic Church and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Papua New Guinea than of Christianity in Melanesia in general. Nevertheless, there are many good reasons to commend the book.

Theo Aerts is a Flemish missionary with over twenty-five years' experience in Papua New Guinea, who presently teaches in the history department of the University of Papua New Guinea and is the ecumenical officer for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. To his reflections he brings training in biblical studies and interests in anthropology and art, and this combination of gifts and experience is what contributes most to this study.

This book is important grist for contextualization mills as Aerts attempts to give us a Melanesian perspective on so many aspects of Christian faith. He begins with the Old Testament as seen through Melanesian eyes, demonstrating why the Old Testament so naturally resonates with Melanesian beliefs, worldviews, and myths. …