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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A BLACK MESSIAH

Written by: on June 15, 2017

Christology Theology and African Tradition

Christian Theology:

  • Synonymous with the African individuals
  • Must connect with human setting to stay important
  • Isolate humankind detaches God
  • Be theocentric and in addition human-centric
  • Must connect with the perspectives of the African individuals (convictions, values and customary introductions)
  • Be loyal to the Scriptures no reverberate of contemporary ideological ramblings (Kindle, Loc 101)

These are the views of author Mathew Michael in his book. He believes that Africa needs to claim their presence and impact in Christian history. He addressed the practices of Western Christianity pressing down the rich African identity in Early Christianity. The Western Christianity has ignored or was unaware of the history of countries that were a part of the African kingdom, for example, Numidia, Nubia, and Abyssinia (now known as Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Sudan). Nubia and Abyssinia were located below Egypt. (Kindle, 3)  He complimented the views expressed by Thomas Oden on the impact Africa had in Christianity.  Oden stated in his book that “African Christianity is ancient and predominant theological processes of early Christianity were not to Africa but from Africa.” [1] Oden also identified “Athanasius, Augustine, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Cyprian as scholars who were a part of the African countries but westernized by the Western Christianity.” (Kindle, Loc137)  These facts were presented to identify the footprints of Africa in Early Christian history.

       

To aid in educating the African people, Michael believes theology need to be true to Scripture, and it must incorporate the African traditions. Africans in history were identified by their traditional tribal imprints, style, and dialect but many of these traditions are no longer prevalent or practiced. For Africans to relate to Christianity, African churches need to assist their congregation to priorities and encourage the traditions of the living Christ in the church and the people’s lives. He focused on Christology theology – the study of Christ humanity and Deity as a person as a channel to aid in the development of their relationship with God. Based on Michael’s view of Charles Nyamiti book, Christ as Our Ancestor. Christology from an African Perspective, he shared four methodologies. They were: “comparative Christological, systematic Christological, liberationist Christological and the community-oriented Christological.”  (Kindle, 133) Theses methods should assist the congregation (people) in understanding their lives with Christ.  (1)The comparative would be the amalgamation of scriptural Christological classification and the African origination of the universe around him. (2)  The systematic would be to connect their traditional structures to the mysteries of Christ and the congregation. (3) The liberation would be to discuss Jesus purpose to challenge the injustice and oppression in their lives. (4) The community-oriented emphasize the triumph of Christ over death and evil and he offered African Christians triumph over comparable wickedness powers, for example, witchcraft and satanic forces. Michaels discusses these methodologies in Chapter 8, The Person of Christ.

Nyamiti’s book was significant to another author interested in Africa’s history in Christianity, Raymond Moloney. He in his article simplifies the methodology in two points.  He believes presenting an analogy of Jesus’ humanity and Deity to their lives and customs will assist in their Christian development. They are:

Christology of Inculturation

  • Master the Initiation (compare to the African customs of Initiation)
  • A Healer (customs off witchcraft, medicine man, medicine)
  • Ancestors (seen as mediators to God)

 

Christology of Liberation

  • In other African countries, it relates to Jesus liberating, saving and transforming lives
  • In South Africa, it relates to Black Theology – Black Jesus, Black Messiah (When a black man speaks of liberation, he is not thinking of himself only….He also wishes that each human being b freed completely from sin, and hate our political, social, economic and personal life be redeemed. [2]

Moloney’s’ commented that the term ‘Black Messiah’ came from America.  In the community of American Christians, there has been an underlining struggle for the non-Anglos to relate their lives to a Christ who does not look like them. To encourage blacks in America, there was a theme in the 60’s to support and promote blacks in the Bible as well as a Black Jesus (Black Messiah). Michael is not promoting that this is done in Africa but to educate the congregations by revitalizing the stories of their ancestors. African churches should remember their history and traditions/customs in addition to connecting the congregation with the person of Christ.

 

In preaching the gospel, helping the church and unchurch individuals relate to Jesus, one must design a vision of their lives and how Christ relates to their lives, i.e. his human experiences and his deity abilities. Many preachers are successful in relating temptations, tiredness, hunger, betrayal, etc. to Christs’ humanity. Then give them hope by successfully relating healing, miracles, compassion, powerful, battle fighter, friend, etc. to Christs’ Deity.

Reading these books has brought to memory the preaching of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah B. Wright. He had an art in connecting our African history, slavery (early history and America), Civil Rights Movement, to our current and future lives. He would then climax to the power of Jesus suffering and victory that ignited us to continue being faithful in expectation of God’s divine revelation in our current situation and future. My pastor has that a similar presentation and taught us to address the scriptural text to the congregation through their life experiences then move them to hope through Christ. Always leave them in hope.

I have a relationship with the African community. I am amazed at their faith in God and trust in his divine power. I have a friend that believes in Jesus but is adamantly refuses to attend church. I remembered my missionary training about understanding their culture. In summary, he has issues with prosperity preachers taking the money from the poor and buying expensive things for themselves, therefore, he has subconsciously associated all pastors in the same category. Our friendship is important and it reminds me to mind my Ps and Qs around him. I want to be an example that will encourage him to attend the sanctuary again.

What experiences or words of encouragement can you share?

 

[1] Oden, Thomas, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Wester Christianity (Early African Christianity Set), (Chicago: IVP Academic), 2009, Kindle location 137.

[2] Moloney, Raymond, “African Christology, Theological Studies 48 (1987), Kenya, accessed June 14, 2017, http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/48/48.3/48.3.5.pdf., pg. 505-515.

About the Author

Lynda Gittens

5 responses to “A BLACK MESSIAH”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Lynda, really thoughtful post. You bring up so many interesting points.
    My son-in-law stopped attending church when he saw the pastor drive up in a BMW. This is one of the hardest things to try and speak about with people who are fed up with organized church. Do we look like hypocrites? or Is this person just looking for an excuse? I think the way you are handling it is great. You can model what real Christian charity and living are supposed to look like. Maybe your friend will decide that not all Christians are phony and just after money.
    I remember when the pictures of ‘black Jesus’ were popular. While I know Jesus did not look like a Medieval white European he probably wasn’t too black either. Truth and historical accuracy works for everybody. As Michael and Oden both point out we need to just major in what the Bible says about Christ and His humanity and Deity. We will know what He looks like when we get to Heaven.

  2. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Lynda interesting post. You posed a question at the end, I will respond to that. My brother in law grew up in church his wh ole life but as an adult he refused to go. He chose not to go for the same reasons you stated in your post. My husband would always try to talk to him about not allow that to be an excuse to not attend any church. This stigma does plague peoples perception of the church but we all know that not every church is like this. I always encourage people to try to seek out other church communities so that they can see that we are all not alike. Generalizations only perpetuate stereotypes and do not seek out the truth.

  3. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Good question Lynda. It sounds like your friend has been wounded by the church – but who hasn’t?I guess my question to him would be, “Who and what is your spiritual community?” Whether a church goer or not, we are designed to live in community so where does he find his spiritual community? House churches and missional communities are becoming quite popular and avoid glorifying pastors and more into living community together. I would refer him to some such models if he was interested and had no spiritual commuinty.

  4. Jim Sabella says:

    Lynda, the one sentence that stood out most to me in your post is, “Always leave them in hope.” Thank you!

  5. Thanks for the post, Lynda. One of the things that has always confounded me is the idea that ‘liberation theology’ is often situated as a unique or specific type of theology that arises in third world and/or depressed areas.
    My frustration with this is that, frankly ‘liberation’ should be a term that can be attached to any Christian theology.
    Thanks again for the post.

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