Southeastern Seminary’s Edgar Aponte Shares How the United States Can Support Latin and South American Evangelicalism

Edgar Aponte
Edgar Aponte

The Context
In 1996, Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona released “Si el norte fuera el sur” (If the north were the south). In this song, in a type of Willie Nelson spirit, Arjona explores and criticizes the cultural-political differences as well as the relationship between the United States and Latin America. There are tons of similarities between the North and the South—at the end we are both westerners. Yet we have different cultures, different mindsets and different heritages.

While Evangelicalism reached the North through the theology of men like John Cotton, Thomas Hooker and Roger Williams, in Latin America it has been through the theology of people like E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin and Kathryn Kuhlman. Thus evangelicalism in Latin America is an amalgamation of positive thinking, prosperity gospel, theological moralism, subjectivism, with a touch of anti-intellectualism. Despite this heritage, in recent decades we have seen a recent awakening for sound evangelical teaching, something that should be cherished and we should praise God for.

When confronted with the above situation, some people ask: but what about the hundreds of missionaries the American churches have sent over the last 60 years to different countries in Latin America?

Two things: first, not all missionaries were thorough evangelicals; some looked more like “peace Corps volunteers” than William Carey type missionaries. Second, most missionaries went to particular people groups rather than to the main cities. In doing so we limit our missionary work to the secluded areas, leaving the rest of the country unevangelized. However, we are grateful for their faithful work in remote places like the jungles of South America. It is a type of work that we should encourage and keep supporting.

As a consequence of these two phenomenons, a heritage of deficient theology and a missionary work concentrated in indigenous places, the South has been characterized by a theological illiteracy. Therefore, making pastors easy targets of distortions like the name it, claim it and grab it ‘gospel.’ When pastors and churches are not grounded in a solid theological foundation, any wind of false teaching will sweep them away.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Edgar Aponte

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