Following on from our earlier considerations of contextual theology and folk theology, this book looks at how to marry classic Christian theology in the Judeo-Christian tradition with specific African traditions and culture. Dr. Matthew Michael carries out a sweeping review of various systematic theological categories and considers how they fit in with and can be taught against the backdrop of specific African cultural traditions and practices. As Michael states:
“two categories that explicate the task of theology are namely the theological commitment to transcendence and secondly its commitment to immanent or contextual realities”
“African tradition becomes a formidable partner or opponent which African Christianity must adequately seek to understand, interpret and confront.”
One of the interesting areas for me in reading this book was Michael’s consideration of Pentecostalism and its role on the African continent. He emphasises how Pentecostal congregations speak to the African worldview with their emphasis on the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. He writes of the emphasis on the miraculous, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing and deliverance. He compares this with more “mainline” Christian denominations that are proving to be less successful on the African continent. In many ways, Pentecostals tap into the underlying African belief in the supernatural and the spirit world. Africans are more open to these ideas than many in the rationalised, secularised, “enlightened” West. The inherent dangers in this context appear to be twofold. One the “folk theology” of the Africans with their equation of the Holy Spirit to their ancestral “good spirits” and demons to the “bad spirits” and the mixing in of superstitions and half-cooked beliefs that don’t fully align with orthodox Biblical revelation. The second danger comes from the opposite direction, as Western influence, secularization and post-modernism makes its way onto the African continent, diluting and diminishing African belief in the supernatural aspects of God and Scripture. Michael focuses more on the former than the latter, and insists on the importance of African theology having a full understanding of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit – that he is not just another “good spirit” in the African tradition.
In line with Oden’s analysis on the importance of African theologians and scholars finding their own way, and researching their own rich inheritance, this book challenges African Christianity to seek out a path that brings together the richness of both Biblical and African tradition. It also argues that theology is shifting from West to East, and that the African church must know what it believes and continue to develop a robust contextual theology.
Michael does a good job of this in many places and leaves us – and more specifically the African church – with a number of areas to address in their disciple-making and theological training.
 Michael, Matthew. Christian Theology and African Traditions. Cambridge: James Clarke and Co Ltd, 2013, 23.
 Michael (2013), 223.