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Interview by Donald A. Yerxa
On the Road with Christianity
In the November/December 1996 issue of Books & Culture, reviewing Andrew Walls's book The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Orbis), Mark Noll wrote that "if a more important book on the general meaning of Christian history is published this year—or even this decade—it will be a surprise." Last year, the book was included in Christianity Today's list of the 100 most influential Christian books of the twentieth century. That's a fair measure of the impact of Andrew Walls's work. Walls, who is professor of world Christianity at Princeton Theological Seminary and founder of the Center for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at the University of Edinburgh, has a new book just out from Orbis, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History. Don Yerxa spoke with Walls at Eastern Nazarene College in January of this year prior to Walls's lecture in the ENC History Department's Distinguished Lecture Series.
Would you tell us a little bit about your childhood and early religious experiences?
I come from a working-class family. My mother was traditionally devout. Though I believe he prayed every day of his life, I don't recall my father ever going to church. Like many people from that generation, he believed that the church had abandoned working people and was not standing for righteousness. The person I have realized since that was a great influence on me was my grandfather, who lived with us. He had run away to sea from Dundee at the age of twelve and had traveled the world. He eventually settled down looking after sheep in Patagonia. My earliest memories include floods of what I now realize to be very bad Spanish, but also insights into things from all over the world. He himself was a rugged old unbeliever, but the impressions remained with me for a long time.
I went to Sunday school and church and in adolescent years made a commitment to Christ.