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Time for A Dialogue between African people and Christian Theology!

Written by: on June 8, 2017

 

Introduction

The African evangelicals recently began to disagree on their intention to develop a Christian theology in an African context. In connection to that, they have taken a plan to develop and African Bible commentary. Drawing illustrations from Matthew Michael’s Christian Theology and African Traditions, this paper notes some of the reality of the African traditions and how these traditions interlink with religious or theological issues. There has been an increased need for dialogue between African people and Christian theology. In the 20th century, the African theology movement began protesting against colonial and missionary ways of handling religion and culture in Africa. This led to the emergence of a strong connection between African traditions and Christian theology.[1]

Summary

The book by Michael Mathew speaks about Christian theology, and he begins by noting that Christian theology may mean Christian teachings about God and other issues related to the central subject. Christian theology focuses on engaging the people’s traditions. It is almost inevitable for the Christian belief to isolate itself from the people’s way of life, especially their interactions with the challenges they face.[2] The book pinpoints something of the future, citing that theology is becoming a non-Western religious exercise and it has become paradigmatic in shaping the future of Christianity in a tradition-based way. Christianity in Africa has been shaped mainly by the presence of Western forms of Christianity, which came in through colonization and through missionaries who arrived in the mid-20th century to spread the gospel.[3] Important African theologians such as BolajiIdowu, and Kwesi Dickson have contributed to the extension of African traditional religion through, for example, the translation of the Bible into vernacular languages.[4]

Michael identifies the long history of Christianity in the African continent, which dates back to the second century when the first church began in Egypt and subsequently such other areas as Numidia and Abyssian in the succeeding centuries. The general context of the book is Christian faith and how to engage the teachings in dialogue with African traditions.[5] Describing the nature of African traditions, Michael states that Christian faith sought a home with a religious and cultural matrix of the Jewish community. During these times, the apostles were seeking to make Jesus the fulfillment of their hopes meaning they regarded Him as the most important figure in their religious practices. African traditions have maintained an absolute rigidity, but in the actual practice, there has been flexibility because each generation has its way of doing things differently from the older generations.[6]

The nature of African traditions has shown the people’s quest to observe the religious and cultural traditions mainly practiced in the past after most of the countries in Africa had attained independence.[7] Traditions have significant influence in the human way of life and hence need special attention. The worldview challenges faced by Africans should be taken seriously because they provide better insight to understanding biblical Christianity and Africa. Christian faith must, therefore, recognize and engage the people of Africa at the level of their worldview. Christian faith shares much with the African continent regarding the traditional way of life and beliefs. Despite Westernization of Africa in such matters as dressing, African traditions remain strong and an important point of reference.[8]

Personal reflection

The African culture provides a wide learning base for theological issues, which includes perceptions, beliefs, and practice of religion that is greatly influenced by the people’s culture or their traditional way of doing things. This book identifies these patterns and defines the trend of religious practices.[9] Therefore, these subjects jointly reveal their correlation. It possible to say that religion and culture should not be treated as different disciplines: Their overlapping ideas makes it important to study them together. Also, we can add that understanding the African way of life makes it easier to understand their religious practices because both have to do with their lifestyle and their orthodox way of doing things. The author has helped me understand that there is no tangible difference between the way African people handle their religious and cultural issues. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that understanding their cultural values will lead to wider knowledge of religious beliefs.

 

Endnotes

[1]. Douglas E. Thomas, African Traditional Religion in the Modern World (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015), 13.

[2]. Matthew Clarke, ed., Handbook of Research on Development and Religion (Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar, 2013), 28.

[3]. John S. Mbiti, Introduction to African Religion (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2015), 32.

[4]. Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, 2016), 11.

[5]. Laurenti Magesa, African religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014), 56.

[6]. William C. Placher and Derek R. Nelson, A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 24.

[7]. John Pittman, ed., African-American Perspectives and Philosophical Traditions (Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, 2013), 79.

[8]. Rita Sommers-Flanagan and John Sommers-Flanagan, Becoming an Ethical Helping Professional: Cultural and Philosophical Foundations (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 55.

[9] Matthew Michael, Christian Theology and African Traditions (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2013).

 

Bibliography

Clarke, Matthew, ed., Handbook of Research on Development and Religion. Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar, 2013.

Magesa, Laurenti. African religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014.

Mbiti, John S. Introduction to African Religion. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2015.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Michael, Matthew. Christian Theology and African Traditions. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2013.

Pittman, John, ed. African-American Perspectives and Philosophical Traditions. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Placher William C., and Derek R. Nelson. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.

Sommers-Flanagan, Rita, and John Sommers-Flanagan. Becoming an Ethical Helping Professional: Cultural and Philosophical Foundations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

Thomas, Douglas E. African Traditional Religion in the Modern World. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015.

 

About the Author

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Rose Anding

Rose Maria “Simmons McCarthy” Anding, a Visionary, Teacher,Evangelist, Biblical Counselor/ Chaplain and Author, of High Heels, Honey Lips, and White Powder. She is a widower, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great grandmother of Denver James, the greater joy of her life. She has lived in Chicago, Washington, DC, and North Carolina, and is now back on the forgiving soil of Mississippi.

8 responses to “Time for A Dialogue between African people and Christian Theology!”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Rose,

    I must confess my lack of understanding in the question I want to ask. In your reflection you wrote, “…these subjects jointly reveal their correlation.” Could you say a little more about that statement to help me understand? Thank you.

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Marc,
      In reference to my statement about “…these subjects jointly reveal their correlation.” It is about the subjects within the Christian Theology and African Traditions that identifies the patterns and defines the trend of religious practices which jointly reveal their correlation, speaking of a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things. Other words, A people is its social heritage – the learned patterns for thinking, feeling and acting that are transmitted from one generation to the next. A people is its culture. A society is a group of people who live within the same territory and share a culture. Culture has to do with the customs of a people, and society with the people who are practicing these customs.

      Religious ideas are part of cultural inheritance, yet two peoples can share a culture yet practice different religions: e.g. both African traditionalists and African Muslim communities practice genital cutting. Therefore, any viable theology must and should have a biblical basis, and African theology has begun to develop on this foundation.

      Thanks for sharing Rose Maria

  2. Pablo Morales says:

    Rose, as you pointed out, culture and religion should be studied together because they have a very intricate relationship. Perhaps this concept was the most eye-opening idea that I got from the book. We are unaware of how much our own cultural context has shaped the way we theologize. Thus it is very important to pay attention to the cultural assumptions that people bring with them to their Christianity in order to develop a more effective ministry in making disciples across cultures. Thanks for a good blog.
    Pablo

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Pablo!
      It really is about culture, I have been away in different country living with other cultures for 12 weeks, putting together the foundation of my community.

      It has been excellent experience; because it has proven to me that our commonality in culture is greater than the difference When we examined commonalities and differences of close relationships among the Americans and other cultures, by focusing on what we have in common and start building relationships from that point.

      Thanks for sharing! Rose Maria

  3. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Rose,
    I love your writing and how you suggest that religion and culture should be treated as “one discipline.” We’ve always thought about people in other cultures needing theology but we rarely spent the same energy learning the culture we choose to engage. We have a responsibility to respond the same Jesus responded. He always honored the culture he engaged and we can look the “turning water into wine” or the famous “render to Caesar.” People won’t accept the value of theology if we don’t value their culture so religion and culture forms a perfect marriage.

    Garfield

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Garfield for sharing with me on my blog. Of course, I value your remarks highly.
      When we think of the marriage of the two Culture and Religion, which are not the same, though they are very close. There are various theories that suggest a model of relationship between them. One of them tries to see Religion as the soul of culture.

      In my experience, the understanding of one culture is the master key. Thus, people having differing beliefs can still follow one culture and only disagree with regard to religious elements or belief-related elements.

      Blessings Rose Maria

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Rose,
    Thanks for another well-documented and informative blog.
    I was intrigued by the information that you shared in your opening statement which I knew nothing about previously. You stated, “The African evangelicals recently began to disagree on their intentions to develop a Christian theology in an African context. In connection to that, they have taken a plan to develop an African Bible Commentary. I’m looking forward to engaging such a work. Are you able to elaborate on more specifics like the scholars involved or the projected date for its fruition?

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