Inculturation is one of the issues facing the modern church – Occidental (Western) thinking has been imported and imposed onto other cultures, leading to inculturation (and in many cases, homogenization). There is a shift toward a world church and away from a mainly Western way of thinking theologically. In other words, we are attempting to be diverse, yet also unified. In a Protestant church, this kind of diversity could probably lead to the formation of another denomination. In the Catholic Church, this diversity is accepted, appreciated and upheld. This is why we have local theology - the dynamic interaction between gospel, church and culture. This itself has problems, however.
It is very difficult to find a community that does not have prior theological development. As these communities already have prior theological developments, they therefore already have a sort of local theology in place. Certainly, there seems to be those who prize their differences, accept part of their former local theology yet also help to devise a new local theology. But there are also many communities across the planet that have had established traditions for hundreds of years.
For example, there is a community allegedly planted by St. Thomas the disciple in the 1st century in India. Early Thomean literature, such as the Acts of Thomas, develops apocryphal tales of the saint’s time there and the effects of the gospel within that culture. In the Acts of Thomas (likely written between AD 150-200), the disciple is called by God to go and preach to India in a dream, and much like the ancient prophet Jonah, he declined. Yet God had him taken to India by a merchant having been sold as a slave by a disguised Jesus, where he then proceeds to bring the gospel into the Indian culture.
Regardless of the historicity or implications of this account, the tale demonstrates that we have been inculturating others from the start. Local theology and tradition had a clash at the Council of Jerusalem in AD 49-51, where Jewish traditions were debated. Other councils have addressed such traditions and local theologies (sometimes heretical theologies, such as the Arian theology). On a related note, there is one point which has been continually occupied one’s thinking: how local is local theology? Should we have a local theology for every town? For every county? For every state? For every country?
Certainly, Western theology has dominated thinking for centuries, and in many cases it will likely continue to stay a mainstream theology. But what about those who live in small villages in Africa? And as we continue to not only expand across the world but now across the solar system, do we then decide to have cosmic theologies? Should the astronauts on the International Space Station have a particular theology? If and/or when the NASA moon base is developed, should the individuals who live there have their own theology? There are certainly a lot of questions associated with local theology. But perhaps the main thing binding all Christians is the central element: Christ. Our views of Christ may change, but Christ himself does not.