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Jesus in Post-Missionary Africa

Issues and Questions in African Contextual Christology

©2012 Fachbuch 422 Seiten


Since the 1960s African theology has been a locus of debate on the relevance of the Christian
God in African societies. Pioneer African theologians felt the need to protest against what was
considered as the disregard or even denial of African religions cultures by Western missionaries.
They called for a theology that would take seriously African religious values. The Christological
inquiry, that is, the question about how to present Christ meaningfully to Africans has dominated
this debate for more than 30 years. This enquiry is based on the assumption that missionary
Christianity did not bring God to Africa, rather it brought Christ. Hence presenting Christ
through African symbols will help Africans to become Christians without losing their identity.
However, there seem to be a shift in the recent times. Young African theologians see the need to
move away from a cultural nostalgic anti-missionary theology to a free expression of the
Christian faith in such a way that it responds to the Africans‘ present search for meaning as well
as the necessary healthy tension between the Gospel and Cultures. This theology is more critical
and kerygmatic. While prlonging the intuition of pioneer African theologians, it seeks to offer
broader scriptural and dogmatic bases to faith interpretation in Africa.
The book, Jesus in Post-Missionary Africa-Questions and Issues in African Contextual
Christology, proposed here by the Claretian theologian, Nicholas Mbogu takes its place in this
refreshing shift of emphasis. The author states clearly that our proclamation of God in Africa will
be seriously deficient without an adequate Christology.
The book is presented in ten chapters. Chapters 1-3 present the origin and development of
theology in Africa. It is shown clearly that since the seminal gestures of Black priests who wrote
the famous book, Des pretres noirs s’interrogant, 1956, asking whether and how catholicity can
integrate the Negritude, African theology has affirmed and consolidated itself as a contextual
theology that is mindful of orthodoxy. With dexterity, the author shows the interpretation of
theology and historical events, as well as historical science and literature. Political and economic
developments, especially the searach for independence and distorted systems of post-colonial
government also affected theology in Africa. [...]


Table of Contents


Chapter One
1.1 Development of Theology in Africa
1.2 African Theology as Contextual theology
1.3 An African Theology as a Theological Imperative
(b) Contextual Theology is Traditional
1.4 Questions of Clarifications
1.5 Varieties of Contextual Theological Approaches
1. 6 Weaknesses of Contextuality as A Theological Approach

Chapter Two
2.1 Questions and Worries: Issues in Contextual Theology
2.2 What Shape should Theology Take?
2.3 Who does the theologizing?
2.4 The Outsider- Insider Question
2.5 Issues of Theological Orthodoxy
2.6 Issues of Cultural Identity
2.7 Issues of and the Challenge of Ethnocentrism

Chapter Three: Currents and Influences
3.1 The “Negritude” Movement and “African Philosophy
3.2 External Factors
3.3 Internal Factors

Chapter 4: Overcoming some Obstacles
4.1 The Christological Problem
4.2 African Traditional Religion and Christian Dogma: How compatible?
4. 3 VaticanII and Non-Christian Religions
4.4 The African Reality and the Problem of Hermeneutics
(a)The Religio-cultural Dimension
(b)Religious Pluralism
4.5 Ethnic pluralism
4.6 The problem of Linguistic Pluralism

Chapter Five: Christology and Cultural Change
5.1 Understanding Culture in theological Discurse
5.2 Theology as a part of Culture
5.3 Christology and Culture
5.4 Christ and Culture

Chapter 6 Colonialism and the Development of African Christology
6. 1. The Emergence of a World Church and the Irruption of Continental Theologies
6.2 Decolonization as historical Contexts of Christological Discourse in Africa
6. 3. Missionary Christology vis-a-viz the Intellectual Worldview of the Missionaries
6.4 Socio-Political Interpretation of African Worldviews and Identity in Contextual Christology
6.5 A Neo-Missionary Christological Approach
6.6 Neo-Missionary Christology Vis- a- viz relation to Missionary Christology
6.7 Neo-Missionary Christology and the birth of African Christology
6.8 Missionary Christology and the African Personality

Chapter Seven: African contextual Christology
7.1 Jesus and the African today
7.2 African Christology: A Genealogy
7.3 Christ, Our Ancestor
7. 4 (a) Between Theology and Anthropology: African ancestors: Are they real mediators?
7 (b) Uchenna Eze’s Ancestor Christology-uncompleted Task

Chapter Eight: Other Christological Models
8.1 Jesus Christ, Liberator
8.2 Christ, the African King
8.3 Christ: An African Guest/Host.?
8.4 Christ, our Life
8.5 Risen Jesus, Giver of the Spirit, Lord of the Spirits
8.6 Jesus in African Feminist Christology
8.7 Jesus: Master of Initiation
8.8 Jesus the Healer
8.9 Some theological considerations and criticism of Jesus-healer model

Chapter Nine: Re-Positioning African Christology: A Comparative Analysis
9.1 Christology: An Invitation to an Encounter
9.2 The Humanness of Jesus
9.3 Jon Sobrino: “Christology at Crossroad”
9.4 Albert Nolan: Jesus Before Christianity
9.5 James H. Cone: Black Theology (Christology in the Context of Racism)
9.6 Allan A. Boesak: Black and White reconciled in Jesus Christ

Chapter Ten: Evaluation of African Contextual Christology
10. 1 Christology and the Challenge of Inculturation
10. 2 The Present State of African Christology
10.3 A Critical Assessment of African Christology
10.4 Openness to Diversity: New Directions for African Christology


“Jesus: My Bulldozer?” Christology of Everyday Experience


Abreviations of Key Documents and References

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Since the 1960s African theology has been a locus of debate on the relevance of the Christian God in African societies. Pioneer African theologians felt the need to protest against what was considered as the disregard or even denial of African religions cultures by Western missionaries. They called for a theology that would take seriously African religious values. The Christological inquiry, that is, the question about how to present Christ meaningfully to Africans has dominated this debate for more than 30 years. This enquiry is based on the assumption that missionary Christianity did not bring God to Africa, rather it brought Christ. Hence presenting Christ through African symbols will help Africans to become Christians without losing their identity.

However, there seem to be a shift in the recent times. Young African theologians see the need to move away from a cultural nostalgic anti-missionary theology to a free expression of the Christian faith in such a way that it responds to the Africans‘ present search for meaning as well as the necessary healthy tension between the Gospel and Cultures. This theology is more critical and kerygmatic. While prlonging the intuition of pioneer African theologians, it seeks to offer broader scriptural and dogmatic bases to faith interpretation in Africa.

The book, Jesus in Post-Missionary Africa-Questions and Issues in African Contextual Christology, proposed here by the Claretian theologian, Nicholas Mbogu takes its place in this refreshing shift of emphasis. The author states clearly that our proclamation of God in Africa will be seriously deficient without an adequate Christology.

The book is presented in ten chapters. Chapters 1-3 present the origin and development of theology in Africa. It is shown clearly that since the seminal gestures of Black priests who wrote the famous book, Des pretres noirs s’interrogant , 1956, asking whether and how catholicity can integrate the Negritude, African theology has affirmed and consolidated itself as a contextual theology that is mindful of orthodoxy. With dexterity, the author shows the interpretation of theology and historical events, as well as historical science and literature. Political and economic developments, especially the searach for independence and distorted systems of post-colonial government also affected theology in Africa.

Chapters 4-6 open the discussion on the vital problem of the relationship between African theology and Christian dogma on Christ. How possible is it to hold together the search for the African identity of Jesus and and the affirmation of his divine sonship in the New Testament and the Christological Councils? How possible is it to defend religious pluralism and at the same time maintain the uniqueness of the salvific mediation of Jesus-Christ? In other words, how do we reconcile the truth claims of different religions, including African traditionall religions and the Christian claims that it is only through Jesus Christ that the human being is saved? Using Richard Niebuhr’s typology on Christ and Culture, Mbogu argues that Christianity should not be against culture (exclusivism) nor too submerged in the culture (inclusivism). Rather in the light of New Testament Christology and Vatican II’s inculturational model, there should be a healthy tension between the Gospel and cultures in such a way that Christ is expressed through cultural symbols and the cultures are transformed.

Having cleared the epistemological ground, chapters 7-8 give a panoramic view of African christologies that present Christ as Ancestor, proto-ancestor, diviner, healer, chief, initiator, elder brother, guest, liberator. After a brilliant expose and critique of the different models, Mbogu notes that Christ is beyond models and that every christology should strive to respect the uniqueness of Christ.

In Chapters 9-10 the author exposes his approach to Christology. He opts for a Christology that begins with the humanity of Christ (Christology from below), that is the historical Jesus while not losing sight of his divinity (Christology from above).

The whole book is a demonstration of erudition and theological mastery. The necissity of genuine Christology- systematic study of the person oand work of Jesus of Nazareth – in Africa cannot be overemphasised. There are several images of Christ circulating in different christian denominations, movies, literature and even in politics. Different theories of salvation mobilize different images of Jesus Christ. Many of them do not correspond to the biblical faith. The most disturbing is the present Gospel of material prosperity that preaches a cross-less Christianity. In the context, Christology should not just be an activity of the intellect or the mind but an invitation to engage our whole selves and penetrate very more deeply into the mystery of the person of Christ revealed tous in faith. Christology is essentially an invitation to ann Enconter. It is a committed quest by a believer to interprete systematically for our day the meaning and significance of the total Christ-event.

Moreover, the relevance of the Christian faith in Jesus Christ as the saviour of the world is contested by other religions. African theology has to establish the uniqueness of Jesus and the saviour of the world and show at the same time that this confession of faith is not a denial of the truth of other religions. This question is at the heart of the debate in the theology of religions. This enterprise goes beyond the simle justification of African traditional values. It situates theology first of all as a confessing/kerygmatic theology as well as dialogic theology.

Again, Faith in Jesus Christ as saviour of humanity is challenged by rationalism and materialism in the context of globalization. It is also questioned by growing pessimism in the context of massive poverty. African theology has to pursue the dialogue between fiath and reason. It should mobilise a language that is accessible to the people in our society without fearing confrontation, dialogue with literature and the elites of our society.

Finally Africa has the mandate to name Christ: “Who do you say that I am (Mark 8:28). Given the richness of African cultures and experiences, it is normal that Christ is given many African names. A genuine proclamation of Jesus as the Christ is demonstrated in the readiness to allow him to divinize us by humanizing and mobilising us for the humanisation of the world. We must reflect on how the becoming human of God forms the basis of the becoming more human of the human being. By becoming human, Christ the perfect image of God calls us to full humanity. It follows that man cannot be devinized unless he becomes totally human. Christ, the son of God identified himself with the poor. By making himself the poorest among the poor, he challenges us to face the reality of human poverty and suffering. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother, you do unto me“ (Matthew 25: 40). Christology invites us to the task of the humanization of the world. We thank Fr. Nicholas Mbogu for reminding us of this noble task.

Rev. Fr. Bede Ukwuije, C.S.Sp

Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu


Greatful acknowledgement is hereby extended to my Third year students of the Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu Enugu, both past and present, whose incisive and sometimes challenging questions during our lecture sessions gave birth to this book. I owe them a lot of thanks.

I am also heavily indebted to the authors and publishers whose works and materials form the basis of the ideas of this book. Without them nothing substantial could have been achieved. I sincerely wish to express my gratitude to my colleagues at the Spiritan International School of Theology Attakwu for their friendship, especially Frs. Philip Igbo,CMF of the Biblical Department, for reading through the manuscript, Bede Ukwuije,Cssp of the Systematic Theology Department for painstakingly going through the work page to page and for accepting to write the Foreword for this book. I am also indebeted to Fr. Anacletus Odoemene for his critical assessment of the work and his recommendations. I will not forget the roles of Denis Agoha, Gemoh Ferdinard, Matthew Iwuagwu and Emmanuel Ukata in the production of this work. My unreserved gratitude goes to you Miss Patience Ngehngwa Ache for your love, services and friendship. To you all I owe my love and dedication.

Finally, I thank my Provincial Superior Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Okezuo Nwobi for allowing me play a role in the formation of our students, during their philosophical and Theological training. I am greatful to my biological and religious families, my sibblings and friends who have been my companions in my journey of faith.

May the joy of the risen Lord be your comfort.

Holy Saturday

7th April, 2012.


Nicholas Ibeawuchi Mbogu, CMF

Birth: 03.10.1958 in Eziagbogu, Imo State – Nigeria.

He studied Philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary Philosophy Campus, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State from 1980-1985 and Theology at Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, 1985-1989 respectively. He was ordained a Catholic Priest for the Claretian Congregation on July 21st 1990. He was a missionary in Bamenda, Cameroon for nine years and studied Philosophy and Theology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany from 2000-2006. He holds B.Phil. and B.D. (Theology), from Urban University Rome, M.A. in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Catholic Theology from Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg, Germany. Presently he is a lecturer of Systematic Theology at the Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu Nigeria and at the Claretian Institute of Philosophy Maryland-Nekede, Owerri, where he is also the academic Dean of the Institute and Editor of Maryland Studies.


Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart remains a great classic of African literature series. Achebe’s central theme in his novel is the encounter between the African way of life, in its native beauty and fragile innocence, and the missionary Christianity, with its disruptive intrusion and baggage of bewildering concepts and doctrines of religion. In one of the scenes, a missionary struggles to explain what appears to his audience as ludicrous notion of three persons in one God.

After the singing, the interpreter spoke about the Son of God whose name was Jesu Kristi. Okonkwo, who only stayed in the hope that it might come to chasing the men out of the village or whipping them, now said:

“You told us with your own mouth that there was only one God. Now you talk about his son. He must have a wife then.” The crowd agreed.

“I did not say He had a wife,” said the interpreter, somewhat lamely.

“Your buttocks said he had a son,” said the joker. “So he must have a wife and all of them must have buttocks.” The missionary ignored him and went on to talk about the Holy Trinity. At the end of it Okonkwo was fuly convinced that the man was mad. He shrugged his shoulders and went away to tap his afternoon palm-wine.[1]

The people of Mbanta have a right to know the truth which now conflicts with the one they have before the advent of the missionary. The truth of the matter here is that the missionary woefully failed to convince his prospective converts with his explanation of God and the new religion he is preaching. But he was not the first to ask about or try to explain the identity and personality of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was curious to know from his disciples/friends, who the people say he is:

Now when Jesus went into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said to him, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or oe of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16: 13-16).

Over the centuries, Christians have grappled with the same question. Today, if we put the question to Christians, including theologians, the answer will not be different from what Jesus’ disciples of old answered: Son of God, my saviour, my Lord, miracle worker, King of kings, my greatest friend, Good shepherd, universal lover, the second person of the Trinity.

As Christians we recognize Jesus Christ as the centre of our Christian confession; we profess our belief in God, in and through Jesus Christ. “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.” Our proclamation of God will be seriously deficient if it ignored Christology, that is, an understanding of Jesus Christ. In the fourth century A.D, heated debates raged in the Church concerning the divinity of Jesus and the genuineness of his humanity. In recent years, the Jesus research has raised the question of the historical Jesus, a Palestinian, who is the central figure of the New Testament.

The Question of the identity of Jesus has been taken over by films and movies. Hence we have such films as Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ and recently, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code has added to the quest for the historical Jesus . All are attempts by various sectors of contemporary humanity to give answer to the enigma called Jesus of Nazareth.

Surely, the name Jesus Christ is relatively new in Africa. The Africans believed in God before the advent of European missionaries to Africa. The name Jesus as the Son of God was the new message of the missionaries. All the same, Jesus Christ has gained popularity on the lips of many African Christians. This popularity entails a profound quest for the true face of Jesus Christ. Africa’s quest for “who Jesus is for us” cannot be exhausted by simply adopting Christological formulas and models developed in European cultural context.

How can we contextualize the alien and expatriate images of Jesus Christ in the epistemological mode of the rich and colourful African religious and cultural contexts in order to discover an authentic and meaningful African identity and personality of Jesus? This may sound an academic gymnastic for some, but it represents an ongoing search for a Jesus Christ who will be able to respond to questions posed by Africans themselves.

Infact, history has known the emergence of Church (sect) leaders who claimed to be messiahs (Jesus). These are generally “Messianic” groups centred on a dominant personality, who claimed for himself special powers involving a form of identification with Christ. Because of the uniqueness in spiritual powers claimed by these leaders, some of them have been given messianic titles, for instance, Emmanuel Odumosu founder of the College of Regeneration in Lagos Nigeria was known as Jesus of Oyingbo, Jesus of Ikot Ekpene in Nigeira, Bishop Joseph Kibwetere of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments in Uganda, Simon Kibangu in Congo, Prophet Harris in Ivory Coast and Olumba Olumba Obu also of Nigeria. All of these are the extremes of pathological end of the African quest for Christ.

As contributions to the debate on the person of Jesus Christ, African theologians have proposed a number of Christological titles and models. These include: ancestor, diviner, traditional healer, chief, healer, guest, intiator, mediator, elder brother, proto-ancestor, liberator, etc. Sometimes these various Christological titles appear to be in conflict with one another. However, the conflicts appear more apparent than real. According to Charles Nyamiti, some theologians begin from what the Bible says about Jesus Christ and then try to find names and titles in African culture that match the biblical teaching. Others take the reverse route. They begin from African culture and work their way towards meeting point with what the Bible says about the person and identity of Jesus Christ. Cècè Kolie offers us a good example of this group. For him Jesus is Healer. But before presenting Jesus as Healer, he undertook a critical survey of healing as the principal activity of Jesus in the Gospels, beginning from “specific cures” (exorcism, for instance) to “catechetical cures, resurresuction and social integration). And secondly, he examines the complex phenomenon of sickness and healing in Africa, a model that will incorporate both the biblical and the African conception and experience of healing. On his own side, Francois Kabasele proposes Christ as-Chief model. He begins by identifying and describing the traditional images and symbols of Bantu Chiefs and then, applies these images and symbols to Jesus Christ of the gospels. Some how, one may wonder why another Christology is needed when there are already existing Christologies.

The missionaries did not bring God to Africans. God was already native to Africa before the advent of Christianity. The new element introduced by Christianity was the concept of ‘Jesus Christ’ as the Son of God. As we have indicated, the missionary presentation of Christ rather than God has generated faith difficulties for Africa.[2] According to the Nigerian theologian Enyi Ben Udoh, if there is problem of faith in Africa, the problem is from the way we understand or misunderstand Jesus Christ. In other words, it is a Christological problem. Hence the ambivalence of faith or “double-mindedness or stranger religious-packaging” of missionary presentation of Christianity to Africa. Hence the problem created by this problem is such that many African Christians are caught in-between two worlds. This tension has serious consequence for Christology. While it may be easy for some Africans to be nominal adherents to Christianity, in times of socio-economic travails the superficial profession of the Christian faith, easily gives way to familiar traditional religious practices, which Christianity seems to condemn. Jesus Christ seems to disappear in crisis situations in the lives of some African Christians. Desmond Tutu calls this phenomenon “faith schizophrenia”. And according to Efoe-Julien Penoukou “a person who claims to believe in Christ, yet has recourse to other spiritual, cosmic, or metacosmic forces, has not yet succeeded in identifying who Jesus Christ is, that he or she may profess him radically.”

As we have already pointed out, Africans were deeply religious people. They were already familiar with the existence and worship of God before the advent of Christianity and its claims that Jesus Christ is the sole redeemer of the world. As a consequence the new element that African Christians have to deal with is the figure of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not the Christian God who causes the problems for Afro-cultures, it is the Christian Christ. Africans knew God, but they did not know God’s son, Jesus Christ. One can say that the only thing the missionaries brought to Africa is Jesus Christ and not God. In the words of Ben Enyi, “it is as though the Africans are saying: God we know, ancestor we know, but who are you for us Jesus Christ?”[3]

The major challenge facing African Christology today is to develop a clear conception of the person of Jesus Christ and to make Jesus Christ feel at home within the framework or ordinary experience of ordinary African Christian. Contemporary African Christological models are based on categories which their authors claim to be authentically African and speak immediately to the African experience. This work thinks otherwise but views these models as not sufficient enough to meet the faith-needs of the African. African theological enterprise must look beyond the issue of identity. African theology is neither anthroplogical nor psychological question; and hence we should go beyond anthropology into theology. This is the thrust of this work. This work is divided into ten chapters.

Chapter One discusses the origin and development of African theology, chapter two raises the problems of the issues and questions of contextuality, chapter three deals on the major influences of African theology, chapter four tackles the obstacles, chapter five discusses the problem of Christology and cultural change, chapter six deals with the problem of colonialism and the development of African Christology, chapter seven and eight review the problem of African contextual Christology and some already proposed models, chapter nine tries to re-position African Christology through a comparative review of some Third-World theologies and finally, chapter ten makes a evaluation of the whole project of African theological enterprise, calling for openness on the side of Africans and the universal Church to pay attention to the values inherent in African theologies and Christology, which is Africa’s contribution to th message of Jesus Christ.

1.1 Development of Theology in Africa

Studies have suggested that in the twenty-first century there may be more Christians in Africa than in any other continent.[4] Already there are more Anglicans in church every Sunday in Nigeria than in all of England, the U.S.A. and Canada combined. With growth rates in African Churches generally exceeding those found anywhere else in the world this is not surprising. As Lamin Sanneh observed, “the irruption of Christian forces in contemporary Africa is without parallel in the history of the church.”[5] This fact alone should be reason enough for Westernersto take a look at what is happening in African Christianity, but even if this were not the case the very dynamism and vibrancy of African church life shows promise to a western church, which at best often seems to strugg1e merely to survive in an increasingly secu1ar culture

Of further interest to sociologists, anthropologists and theologians is the fact that although Africa is now recognised to be the poorest continent, economically, theologians in sub-Saharan Africa have not generally embraced “Liberation theology”, rather, most have chosen to go their own route, for the form of oppression which they feel most keenly is not economic oppression. But rather a cultura1 oppression; the derogation of African peop1e and things African. Engelbert Mveng, a Cameroonian Jesuit and the other African theologians have referred to as “anthropologica1 oppression.”[6]

Signs of African Christian disenchantment with the style of white missionary activity were already visible as early as 1821 in Sierra Leone, with the formation of an African Independent Church (AIC) there. In Nigeria, Independent churches began forming in the 1890s. The United Native African Church formed as a break away movement from the Anglican Church in Lagos, Nigeria in 1891. From that time to the present there has been a great proliferation of new independent churches, each with its own emphasis and each attempting to preserve the African flavour and particular emphasis, to become more authentically African than churches planted by the European and American missionaries. In 1970 the AIC claimed 15,971,000 adherents in 5,980 denominations[7] and their growth rates averaged 4.33 % per year between 1970 and 1985.[8] Today, these Churches number well over two thousand in Nigeria alone, with many more satellite churches emerging from every nook and corner of the country. In some countries, notably Ghana, it is projected that members of Independent churches will outnumber those of either Protestant or Roman Catholic Churches by the year 2000.[9] The experience of these Independent Churches maybe called, in one sense, the first phase of African theology, for apart from the Churches of ancient Ethiopia and Nubia, there was the first articu1ation of a Christian theology by sub-Saharan black Africans on their own terms. There is great body of literature on the African Churches, and the African theologians in the denominations planted by mission Churches from West often refer to them as one source of African theology. However, the focus of our attention here shall be primarily upon the expression of this type of fee1ing from within the existing mainline churches planted originally by western missionaries. Reference to the Independent Churches shall be made when it is necessary in order to understand developments in academic African theological discourse.

From the side of the Catholic Church in Africa the most significant early questioning of western Christianity was a collection of articles entitled Des pretres noirs s’interrogent written by a group of young nationalistic French speaking Black-African priests in 1956. They expressed some of their questions and doubts about the very European and alien manner of their church life and theology, and argued for “adaptation” of the Church to African context. When simi1ar feelings existed in the Protestant churches they often had led to the formation of independent churches, but voices within the mainstream Protestant Churches also began calling for a new type of Christianity in Africa at this time. In 1958 an international conference of African church leaders was held at Ibadan, Nigeria, which gave expression amongst the widest range of denominations thus far to the new desire for an Africanized church. This conference led eventually to the formation of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in 1963 at Kampala, Uganda.

This period coincided with the appearance of new works from anthropologists such as E. Evans Pritchard,[10] Marcel Griaule[11] and scholars of religion such as Geoffrey Parrinder,[12] which sought to examine African Traditional Religion (ATR) in a more positive and sympathetic manner than previously been the case. At the same time presence Africaine began publishing in Paris, with agenda very much consonant with the new, more sympathetic approach in anthropology. With the convergence of these developments and the rise of African nationalism in the 1950s a “new’ wind started blowing.

1.2 African Theology as Contextual theology

The question of “constructing local theologies”[13] has been a well celebrated issue among theologians. The diversity of faith and its expressions points to the fact of diverse theologies. The reason is obvious:

“There is no such thing as “theology”; there is only contextual theology: Filipino theology, Asian-American theology, African theology, and so forth.”[14]

This is the heart of contextualization vis-à-vis, the search for an African theology. As we have previously noted above, contextualization may well be one of the most important and debated aspects of theology today. According to Schreiter, shifts in perspectives, concentrating on the role that circumstances play in shaping one’s response to the gospel are at the centre stage in this debate. Schreiter explains further,

While the basic purpose of theological reflection has remained the same-namely, the reflection of Christians upon the gospel in light of their own circumstances—much more attention is now being paid to how those circumstances shape the response to the gospel.[15]

When discussing how contextualization shapes a local theology, it is helpful to be reminded that three recurring concerns threaded their way through all the theologies that were primarily emerging out of the South or Third World Countries .

1.3 An African Theology as a Theological Imperative

African Contextual Theology as both New and Traditional

Speaking of contextual theology is for many a departure from the notion of traditional theology, but it is on the other hand very much in continuity with traditional theology. To understand theology as contextual is to assert both something new and traditional. We shall try to make these two distinctions clearer and simpler.

(a) Contextual Theology as New Approach

In the first place, contextual theology understands the nature of theology in a new way. Classical theology conceived theology as a kind of objective science of faith. It was then understood as a reflection in faith on the two loci theologici[16] (theological sources) of scripture and tradition, the content of which has not and never will be changed, and is above culture and historically conditioned expression of faith. However, what makes contextual theology contextual is the recognition of the validity of another locus theologicus , namely, the present human experience. Theology that is contextual takes culture, history and contemporary human forms serious along with scripture and tradition as valid sources for theological reflection. In other words, we speak of three sources of loci theologici , scripture, tradition and present human experience or context.

The justification of the addition of experience/context to the traditional theological sources is the revolution in thinking and understanding the world characterized by a “turn to the subjective at the beginning of the modern times.”[17] Whereas traditional theology understood theology as something objective, contextual theology on its own understands theology as something inevitably subjective. By subjective we do not mean relative or private or anything that may suggest both but the fact that the human person or human society, culturally and historically bound, as it is, is the source of reality not a supposed value and culture-free objectivity already out there and now real.[18] As Charles Kraft explains:

There is always a difference between reality and human culturally conditioned understandings (models) of that reality. We assume that there is a reality “out there” but it is the mental constructs (models) of that reality inside our heads that are the most real to us. God, the author of reality, exists outside any culture. Human beings, on the other hand, are always bound by cultural, sub-cultural (including disciplinary), and psychological conditioning to perceive and interpret what they see of reality in ways appropriate to these conditionings. Neither the absolute nor the reality God created is perceived absolutely by culture-bound human beings.[19]

Reality is not just “out there” as the ultra-realist would want us believe; reality is “mediated by meaning,”[20] a meaning that we give it in the context of our culture or our historical period, interpreted from our own particular context and in our own thought patterns. There is a world of difference between how Americans conceive their world and how Africans conceive theirs. In other words, our world is not just there and we do not just see, but we only “see as.”[21]

Just as our cultural and historical context play vital role in our construction of social reality in which we live, so do our context influences and determines our understanding of God and the expression of our faith. It seems we are at the time when we can no longer speak of one, right, and unchanging theology, a theologia perennis. Hans Küng talks of “paradigm change in theology.”[22] These changes are according to global shift in Christendom from a Northern Hemisphere dominated Christianity to a Southern hemisphere growing Christianity. It is the coming of the “Third Church” with a shift in theological methods and interpretations. So we can speak about a theology that makes sense at a certain place and in a certain time. We can certainly learn synchronically from other cultures and diachronically from history, but the theology of others can never be our own. The French theologian Henri Bouillard once said that a theology that is not up-to-date is a false theology. One can still say that a theology that is not reflective of our times, our culture and our current concerns and so contextual, is also a false theology. In another sense, when theology is perceived as irrelevant, it is in fact irrelevant.[23]

Our generation has reaped the positive benefits of the enlightenment’s discovery of subjectivity and the nineteenth century’s historical consciousness and not until now have theologians woken from their dogmatic slumber and have realised the importance of context in constructing human thoughts vis-à-vis of the sacredness of context in terms of Divine revelation. What is happening is that we are not just adding a third element to the sources of theology but rather contextual theology is changing the whole equation on the issue of how theology is being done.

By acknowledging the importance of context for the development of theology, we are also underlying the absolute importance of context for the development of both scripture and tradition. The scripture and the content, practices and feel of tradition are all products of human beings and their contexts. They have been developed by human beings, written and conceived in human terms, and conditioned by human personality and human circumstances. As we study scripture one is not only aware of their contextual nature, we read and interpret them within our own context as well. Doing theology contextually means one or more things. First, contextual theology takes into account the faith experience of the past that is recorded in scripture and kept alive, preserved and defended and perhaps also neglected or suppressed[24] in tradition. A major part of this theological process is finding out the Christian past.[25] A second aspect of contextual theology is that it takes into account the experience of the present, that is, the context. In as much as theology must be faithful to the full experience and context of the past, it is only authentic theology, only when what has been received is appropriated, made our own. And for this to happen, the received tradition must of course pass through the sieve of our individual and collective experience: then we can profess as ours only when such a process occurs.[26] Contemporary experience, both individual and collective is a complex issue and can be either positive or negative. It is a product of several realities.

More so, personal or communal experience is only possible within the context of culture, that is, “system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which people communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitude towards life.”[27] Culture here can be either secular or religious. In this sense, it is not only the values and customs of a people that needs to be engaged; often the religion of peoples needs to be understood and appreciated. It is to these aspects that we culture refers to in this context.

Also we can speak of context in terms of a person’s or a community’s social location. This makes a difference to both feminists and liberation theologians positions. Social location can be a limiting factor in some ways, but it can also be a position from which one can detect flaws or riches in a tradition. It can also be a position from which one can ask questions that were never asked or entertained in theological discussions. No one, says Hans Gadamer, speaks from nowhere. As theologians theologize, their social location needs to be taken into consideration, acknowledged and even embraced. Surely we move beyond our social locations and our “etic” insights can be important in particular situations. We disregard who we are at the risk of doing a poor theology.

Over and above all, the understanding of present experience in this context involves the reality of social change. No context is static and even the most traditional culture is one that is growing, improving or declining. In today’s world of a global village of compressed time and space, two key factors are involved in social change within cultures. First, there is the culture of modernity, with its electronic media revolution and the contemporary expansion of global connectedness. Over against this global village, there have arisen also protests on the sides of ethnic minorities or religious groups fearing marginalization and loss of ethnic identity within a wider global village. We have the upsurge of militant Islam and ethnic cleansing and xenophobia in the Balkan, Rwanda and Burundi and Sudan. That is, inherited ethnicity takes on new meaning and purpose to assert identity over against the levelling power of “McDonalidization.” There is also another side of modernity’s impact on the global order. Many societies once ruled by oppressive forces now recognize the need for democratization and the recognition of the rights and dignity of the oppressed people who are struggling for liberation.

Theology today, therefore need to take all these on board. It needs to realize that many of these aspects were already present in the development of both the witness of scripture and tradition. It needs to realize that even more that context in all its dimensions is the inevitable starting point for any valid and authentic theological reflection.

(b) Contextual Theology is Traditional

The issue of contextualization in theology is a departure from the traditional method of doing theology. It is something new. One can understand why some still question its genuineness as a method of theology. Be that as it may, contextualization is also something that is very traditional. Küng spoke of six paradigm changes in theological methods. These are different forms of contextualization in the history of theology (yet to get the accurate number). We could all agree that the doing of theology and taking culture and social change into consideration is a departure from the traditional or classical way of doing theology. Again, a study of the history of theology will reveal that every authentic theology has been very much rooted in a particular context in some implicit or explicit way as the case may be. “Contextualization… is the sine qua non of all genuine theological thought, and always has been.”[28]

Studies of the scripture have revealed that there is no one theology of the Hebrew or Christian scriptures but theologies. If the Bible is anything, it is a collection of books, a library of books and consequently of theologies. The Bible etymologically means literally, books (Greek: biblia). The Hebrew Scriptures are made of the Yahwist theology, Elohist theology, Priestly theology, Deuteronomic theology and Wisdom theologies, etc. These are theologies of different and sometimes even contradicting each other. They reflect different times, different concerns, and even different cultures as Israel moved from an agrarian society to a monarchy, from an independent state to a vassal of powers such as Assyria, Greece and Rome. The New Testament alone has a diversity and plurality of theologies, reflecting different backgrounds of their authors and the social situations of the communities from which they originated. In other words, one cannot coherently speak of a theology of the New Testament but Theologies and any attempt to do so will be an attempt to deny the Christian faith the diversity that paints its “catholicity.” The Letters of Paul is different from James, and the Deutro-Pauline pastoral epistles reflect different concerns from the genuine Pauline letters. In fact the British theologian Stepehen Sykes has argued and rightly so that the Christian message itself contains a basic ambiguity that makes pluralism and controversy part of the identity or essence of Christianity itself.[29]

A survey of Patristic theology reveals the efforts of theologians who were trying to make sense of their faith in terms of the dominant and all pervasive Hellenistic culture. Clement of Alexandria, for instance, made use of the insight of the Stoics; Origen made use of Plato, and Augustine was overwhelmingly influenced by both Plato and the neo-Platonists of his day.[30] Again, the whole structure of the post-Constantinian church reflected imperial structures. Bishops were treated as members of the imperial court, wore vestments that rivalled those of the emperor, and presided over imperial political divisions called dioceses. The early councils of the church made use of Greek words (stretching their meanings sometimes) to express points of Christian doctrine. One of those was the use of the Greek word homoousios or consubstantial to express what was meant in the scripture regarding the identity of the Logos or Word incarnate.[31] According to Fabella, the true significance of Nicea and later of Chalcedon is “the underlying challenge they pose to us to have our own contemporary culturally-based Christological formulations.”[32]

It is well known that St. Thomas Aquinas who is regarded as the paragon of orthodoxy was said to have used the works of Aristotle in his synthesis of Christian doctrine. In his Corpus Mysticum , Henri de Lubac presents additional evidence of the contextuality of medieval theological thinking. Around the symbolic mentality of the patristic era, Lubac showed that the Eucharist was referred to as the corpus mysticum , or the mystical body of Christ: the Church on the other hand, was referred to as the corpus verum or real body of Christ. But as Christian theology came to be dominated by a more realistic mentality, the two terms began to be used in opposite directions to refer to exactly two opposite realities. And so during Berengarius era, who spoke of the symbolic presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Eucharist came to be spoken of as the real body of Christ ( Ave, Verum Corpus natum exMaria Virgine ), and the Church herself came to be known as the mystical body of Christ.[33]

One of the heroic achievements of the reformation and of Martin Luther himself as a theologian is that he articulated the whole new consciousness of the individual as it emerged in the West at the dawn of the modern age. His personal struggle to find a personal relationship with God was very much in line with the yearnings of the time and was a major reason his call for the reformation of the church resonated to many people. And the theology of the Church Counter-Reformation era was formulated in the context of opposition to the Protestant mounting challenge. The reformation of the papacy and the doctrine of infallibility were all aimed at countering the reformation. In other words, the theology of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, both Protestant and Catholic, was nothing if it was not contextual.[34]

One can refer to Schleiermacher’s attempt to root theology in experience in response to the romanticism of his time, and the Catholic Tübingen School’s efforts to align Catholic theology with post-Kantian philosophy (particularly the philosophy of Shelling).[35] Paul Tillich’s conviction that theology needs to be done as a correlation of human “existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence,[36] and Karl Barth’s contextual of the word of God,[37] count in no small way as contextual theologies.

Hence we can say that there has never been a genuine theology that was formulated in an ivory tower, with no reference to or dependence on the events, the thought forms or the culture of the particular time and place playing an eminent role in its formulation and interpretations.

1.4 Questions of Clarifications.

We have designated contextualization as a new way of doing theology, at least on the conscious reflection level, contextual theology faces a number of serious issues and questions that were seldom dealt with in traditional or classical theology. With turn to the subjectivity and the new attention being paid to experience, social location, culture and social change that is the hallmark of contextuality, it is as if the pendulum is shifting from the equilibrium established in more traditional ways of doing theology has been shaken and a new of doing theology discovered, along with new questions and problems.

Before we go further on our reflection, it is legitimate to review some of the cogent concerns and questions that emerge in the process of doing theology taking both culture and cultural change as anchor-head of contextual theology. Some of the issues here could be grouped under four headings; namely: the issue of theological method; issues of basic theological orientation; issues of criteria for orthodoxy, issues of cultural identity over against theologies already in place in a culture and social change. We shall reflect on some of these in this section and briefly explaining the burning issues of adaptation, contextualization, indigenization or inculturation.

1.5 Varieties of Contextual Theological Approaches

Theology has been defined in different ways, reflecting different biases. For the purpose of this study, theology will be understood using Paul Tillich’s definition,

Theology is the statement of truth of the Christian message and interpretation of this truth for every generation…theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received.[38]

The above definition of theology not only emphasizes the divine source of theology, it also underscores the temporal situation in which the eternal Presence must be discerned, appropriated by and interpreted for each generation and context.

Within the procedural construction of a contextual theology, choosing a model[39] of contextualization should not be confined to rigid parameters, but should utilize a situational procedure . Schreiter[40] validates this proposal, “Given thecircumstances in which a community finds itself, one or other model may be themore useful at a given time.”

The logic underpinning this argument is straightforward. Just as theologizing needs to pay more attention to the context, so should the process pay more attention to the situation variables in which theologizing takes place.

For example, A Bible translator in South East Nigeria has a specific interest in faithfully translating the Scriptures. Because the Bible has its own cultural contexts and imagery, these need to be translated into concepts, the equivalents of which are then sought in the local language. This is a translation model, which utilizes dynamic equivalence method.[41] Although translation models have rightly been criticized for their positivist nature, in which patterns in culture are quickly decoded and understood by outsiders and its kernel-and-husk assumption that allows for immediate translation into any culture.[42] In their work, Biblical Revelation and African Beliefs[43] Dickson & Ellingworth following John Mbiti[44], along with other African scholars, set themselves the task of discovering “in what way the Christian faith could best be presented, interpreted and inculcated in Africa so that Africans will hear God in Jesus Christ addressing himself immediately to them in their own native situation and particular circumstances.”

Christian theologizing is “the critical reflection on, articulation and translation of God’s self-disclosure, especially in Jesus Christ, in and for a given historical and cultural context.”[45] The point here is to demonstrate that othershave used the translation model “for a given historical and cultural context” or for agiven situation. In spite of its weaknesses, Schreiter affirms translationmodels as a ‘first step’ primarily in pastoral settings where there is an urgency toincarnate the gospel in local contexts.[46]

Adaptation models have primarily been the approach used mostly in mission areas. In this situation, the adaptation approach haspromoted dialogue between the missionaries and the local communities inthe theological process, which has led to authenticity in the local culture andrespectability in Western church circles.[47] However, a retrospective thinking on the happenings of the past can make one uneasy with the replication ofWestern philosophical foundations that form the basis for a systematic theology which forces cultural data into foreign categories. This theologicalconstruct is functionally inappropriate in rural situations. Additionally, ithas trouble explaining the role of the local communities in the theological process.[48]

Contextual models would better serve other situations in the African context. As the name implies, these models begin their reflection with the cultural context in which Christianity takes root and receives expression.[49] Whereas adaptation model emphasises somewhat more on the received faith, contextual model begins their reflection with the cultural context. This is seen to be embodying the ideals of what a local theology is to be even though working out those ideals often proves difficult. The contextual approach addresses itself in an indirect manner to the issue of identity . Unrelenting poverty and the vestiges of colonialism have marred the identity of many in societies. Such marred identity needs to be theologically reconstructed. Since theology is always context specific, identity relates to the central issue in contextual theology. Here we distinguish two kinds of contextual model. These differ principally in how the dynamics and dominant needs of the social context is understood and read. In terms of dynamics both models recognize that all cultures in the world are in continuous social change. To base any theology, for instance, entirely on the patterns of traditional religion found in West Africa is to ignore some specific facts: the changing demographic nature of our cities and urban areas and the fact of the overwhelming influence of the media in social change today. The two kinds of contextual models we mean here are those that emphasize either one or the other of these basic social factors: those concerned with cultural identity have bee identified and called “ethnographic approaches; those concentrating on oppression and social ills, the need for social change, liberation approaches. The ethnographic approaches are concerned with identity. They are end products of colonialism and the need to reassert the identity and dignity that was denied and marred by colonialism. This is evident in movements such as negritude, the Black Power movement in the US and South Africa. Let it not be misunderstood that the issue of identity is on racial line, it is not always so. Women around the world are trying to understand themselves in their own right, and not be satisfied with the rights given them by men.

The difference between these concerns and those of adaptation approach is that a contextual theology begins with the needs of a concrete people in a concrete place, and from there moves to the traditions of faith.[50]

1. 6 Weaknesses of Contextuality as A Theological Approach

A number of weaknesses can be identified in these two approaches: In the first place, the development of contextual theology is often set as a project, but even more often not carried beyond the first stage. Problems may be identified, questions may be addressed to the Christian faith found in other cultural traditions, but there has not been time to continue the dialogue. Secondly, ethnographic approach in its overt concern with identity and stability easily overlooks the conflictual factors in its environment for the sake of maintaining harmony and peace. It can become a conservative force in situations where change is called for. Third, the ethnographic approach can become prey to cultural romanticism, being unable to see the sin in its own historical experience and exigency. It cannot remain outside the often vigorous dialogue that needs to take place with gospel values as they have been experienced in other cultures. This can create enormous difficulties for the theologian. Fourth, inasmuch as good and workable model of cultural analysis are still being developed, much of the cultural analysis can only remain the work of experts, thereby excluding to a great extent those who need to be involved in the process: the communities themselves.[51] Theology must be seen as an activity of dialogue, emerging out of a mutual respect between “faith-ful” but not technically trained people and “faith-ful” and listening professionals.[52]

On the other hand, liberation approach concentrates especially upon the dynamics of social change in human societies. In the understanding that many cultures are being subjected to social change, or are being denied necessary change through political, economic and social oppressions, it is then understandable that liberation approaches are probably the most common form of contextual model prevalent in third world theologies. This exemplified in the eruption of liberation theology in South America but also elsewhere where Christians are experiencing political, economic and social oppression. The focus may differ from region to region but the dynamics are the same.

Comparatively speaking, if ethnographic model took to the issue of identity and continuity as its preoccupation, liberation models are concerned with social change and discontinuity. Put in a theological language, liberation models are keenly interested with salvation.[53] Liberation models analyze the lived experience of people to uncover the forces of oppression, struggle, violence and power. They concentrate on the conflictual elements oppressing a community or tearing it apart. In the midst of grinding poverty, political violence, deprivation of rights, discrimination and hunger, Christians move from social analysis to finding echoes in the biblical witness in order to understand the struggle in which they are engaged or to find direction for the future. Liberation concentrates on the need for social change. There are important and vibrant authors in liberation theology and so is not our concern here. Even more has been achieved in this field than has been written, in songs, in the hearts of the oppressed people, in the small groups that gather together to read the word of God. The evolutions of small/basic Christian communities owe their origin to the liberation theology movement. The special strength of liberation models has been what happens when the realities of people are genuinely and intimately intermingled with the saving word of God. The energies that are released, the bonds of community and of hope that are forged, the insight into the divine revelation received and shared have already enriched the larger Christian community and have challenged the older churches to be more proactive and faithful witness to the word of God in their social context.

As in the other too, liberation model has its shortcomings. Liberation theologians are often better at hearing the cries of people than at listening to the biblical witness or testimonies of other churches. The clamp down by the Vatican on liberation theology on the charges of Marxist orientation has not been resolved. This is because the problem of the powerful tools of social analysis, being directly tied to antireligious and oppressive societies historically, is still a lingering problem. The early disdain for the religion of the people, often seen as superstitious and enslaving, has been gradually resolved. The possibility of reflecting only after action has been taking rather than making reflection the basis for action, remains an abiding problem of liberation theology. The tendency to concentrate on ill and the inability to see intermediate manifestation of grace can always be a problem. Safeguarding the intensity of struggle from the pitfalls of a fanatic apocalypticism remains problematic in desperate situations, often with the result that armed violence rather than dialogue can be chosen as a solution to the ill-situation. In spite of all these, liberation theologies are major force, if not the major force, in contextual models of theology today. The ability to speak the language of the communities attests to their power and importance.[54]

2 Questions and Worries: Issues in Contextual Theology

Issues of Theological Method

The inclusion of culture and social change in contextual theology to traditional loci of scripture and tradition significantly marks a revolution in theological method over against the traditional way of doing theology. This not only makes it a revolution but underlines contextual theology as a new approach to theology. As Mesa and Lode affirmed, no longer do we speak of culture and world events as areas to which theology is adapted and applied, rather, culture and world events have become the very source of the theological enterprise, along with and equal to scripture and tradition. Both poles, both human experience and the Christian tradition are to be read and interpreted together dialectically. In addition to the shift in theological method, a number of methodological issues have arisen. When human experience, world events, culture and cultural change are taken as theological loci, one may have to ask whether theological questions have to be addressed formally or discursively. In other words, what is the form that theology should take? In a situation where theology has become a reflection on ordinary human life in the light of the Christian tradition, one might ask the qualification for being a theologian, whether ordinary men and women might not after all, be the best people to theologize. And as theology moves from a theologia perennis to a reflection on God’s revelation in particular situations, the question would automatically arise regarding the legitimacy of doing theology by a person who does not participate in a particular context. That is, can an “outsider” theologize in a particular cultural situation that is foreign to him/her? To elaborate on these issues we shall take issues one after another.

2.2 What Shape should Theology Take?

Through the Middle Ages and to the beginning of scholasticism, theology has been conceived as a scholarly and academic venture. It locus operandi has always been in the universities and seminaries, specifically for the formation of priests and religious and its form has been discursive, whether in the classrooms or lecture halls, in scholarly journals and monographs. However, what contextual theology has revealed is that theology has not always been discursive and even today.

The discursive form is something that is typical of Western theology and the fruit of a visual, literate culture.[55] In addition to the discursive nature of traditional western theology, one can recognize that great theology was also written in the forms of hymns or poems (remember the great hymns of St. Ephrem and the astonishing poetry of Thomas Aquinas) and theology has also been done in the forms of sermons and homilies (e.g. the sermons of Augustine on St. John or John Newman’s University Sermons). For Robert Schreiter these are the Prophets and Poets of our local theology.[56] Because of their role in Christian community Schreiter believes that the theological process must include the works of poets and artists most of which capture the imaginations, symbols and metaphors which best give expressions to the experience of a community. Both prophets and poets are important for the theological development of the community but the whole theological process cannot be reduced to either one of them.[57] Since theology is not simply the experience of a community, but that of the experience of believers coming into encounter with the scriptures and the authentic experience of other believing communities, past and present, more may be needed.

Therefore, theology does not necessarily need to be verbal. Theology has always been embodied in ritual, as the rule lex orandi , lex credendi shows, and some of the most eloquent faith-seeking understanding the world has ever known is expressed in art works ranging from paintings on the Catacomb walls, through the figure of Joachim of Fiore, to the sculpture of Michelangelo.[58]

In the light of the foregoing that contextual theology takes culture, human experience and cultural change into full consideration, it is only right to assert that the form that theology takes comes under the influence of such loci as well. In an African culture for instance, the best form of theologizing might be collecting, creating, or reflecting on African proverbs[59], folklores and music, because if Christ were to visit Africa today, Africans would first receive him with dance before defining him in dogmas.[60] The point here is that theology is a wider activity than just being limited to scholarship discourses in universities and journal/monographs but that each culture has other preferred ways of articulating their faith. Works of arts, hymns, stories and dramas, comic books, films, in short, all these can become valid forms of theology in particular cultures.[61]

2.3 Who does the theologizing?

As has been indicated above, theology is the general affair of a culture, a community of faith reflecting on their experience.[62] However, in classical theological tradition, theology is understood to be discursive and academic; it understands the theologian to be a scholar, an academician, a highly trained specialist with a wide range of knowledge of Christian tradition and the history of the doctrine and with a number of linguistic and hermeneutical skills.[63] Such a sketch of theology and the theologian only makes sense in as much as theology is considered as being a reflection on documents that needed considerable background skills to understand. But when theology is conceived in terms of expressing one’s present faith-experience, then the question comes whether ordinary people, people who are in touch with everyday life, who suffer under the burden of anxiety and oppression and understands the joys of work and travesty of married love, are not the real theologians after all, with the professional theologians serving auxiliary roles.

A good number of contextual theologians argues and insists that theology is not really done by experts and then “trickled down” to the ordinary people for consumption. If theology is to take culture and cultural change seriously they argue, it must be understood as being done most fully by the subjects and agents of culture and cultural change. In the opinion of some theologians, the contextualization process is a complex and important one to be left only to professional theologians.[64]

The problem has been, however, the requirement of time and energy for immersing oneself in those traditions has often led the separation of the theologian from the experience of living communities. This problem becomes a hard one for a community to challenge because of the extensive knowledge a theologian needs of scripture and subsequent Christian tradition, which takes years to develop and is in need of constant upgrading.[65]

To ignore the resource capabilities of a professional theologian is to prefer ignorance over knowledge. Again, to allow the professional theologian to dominate the development of local theology seems to introduce a new dimension into the hegemony that has often oppressed the people. The role of the professional theologian (the minister, the theology teacher) is that of articulating more clearly what the people are expressing in a general way or vaguely, deepening their ideas by providing them with wealth of the Christian tradition, and challenging them to broaden their horizon by presenting them the with whole of Christian theological expressions.[66] To some theologians, “the people are the best contextualizers”, and the function of the professional theologian is that of a midwife to the people as they give birth to a theology that is truly rooted in culture and moment of history.[67] In other words, the believing community in each culture must take the ultimate responsibility for contexualizing the gospel, but there is a place and in deed a need for a professional theologian who acts as brokers in this difficult and ongoing task.

What seems factual here, is that theology must be conceived in terms of a constant dialogue between the people, who are the subject of culture and cultural change and so have a more permanent role in seeking to understand Christian faith in a particular context than the professional theologian, whose function boarders on articulating, deepening and broadening the people’s faith-expression with his/her expertise on Christian tradition, and perhaps, helping them to understand the faith in other cultural contexts. In so doing, the theologian helps to create the bond of mutual accountability between the local and the universal Church.[68] To be underlined here is that theology can never be understood to be a finished product, produced by experts, that is merely delivered to a Christian community for its consumption. On the other hand theology cannot be a mere recording of what “the people think.” Theology must rather been seen as an activity of dialogue, emerging out of mutual respect between “faith-ful” but not technically trained people and “faith-ful” and listening professionals.

2.4 The Outsider- Insider Question

A further question that has arisen some debates among Africans and in general among contextual theologians has been the role of non-Africans in the development of African theology. This brings into focus the provocative statement of Ralph Waldo Emerson when he wrote: If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of God and carries you backward to phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not.”[69] Although this statement is not made in the context of contextualization, but this is important within the ambient of the discussion whether an outsider to a culture can theologize in the name of that culture. Can a non-Ghanian do Ghanian theology? Can an African do a Canadian theology or can a white South African do black theology? Can a male do feminist theology? Emerson’s statement seem to be confirming that a person who does not share fully on ones’ experience is not to be fully trusted to speak of God in that person’s context. Non-Africans do not know how Africans feel or perceive their world; white Americans cannot begin to understand the subtle way in which blacks experience not only overt prejudice but also the more subtle oppression of invisibility and inaudibility.[70] North Americans can never, for all their solidarity and compassion, share the frustration, pain, and dehumanization of Soweto Squatter Camp dwellers. Even a feminist male cannot fully appreciate the evils of patriarchy, and the most cross-culturally sensitive American/British may still be beneficiary of their countries’ military powers, cannot understand the pains of a citizen of the Indian Island of Diego-Garcia, who was displaced/ made homeless to make room for US military base. They may be good people, but ultimately outsiders bring their own feelings, perceptions, experiences, and privilege into a situation, and no matter how small, this foreignness works to distort theology in the other context. John Mbiti has been a vocal voice in his protest against this involvement and has accused the outsiders of “wanting to meticulously sabotage” the onward march of indigenous theology in Africa.[71]

However, to ignore or to deny the contributions of outsiders to the development of African theology may be an academic dishonesty. John Parratt has fiercely contested this moratorium on “outsider involvement” in contributing to the development of African theology by pointing out that outsiders are already the forerunners in this search towards contextualizing the gospel in Africa.

First, it can hardly be denied that several non-Africans have made a very useful and seminal contribution in opening up and stimulating Christian theology in Africa- Tempels, Sundkler, Taylor, and Barrett to name a few. However much in need of correction their views may be, they had considerable importance in raising issues and setting the debate on African theology moving. Second, there is the question first raised by Sawyer, of what, in any case, “African” means in this context. For Sawyerr the word is …a “mythological” term, expressing love for the continent and commitment to an ideal.[72]

Theologians such as Fashole-Luke would agree with Parratt because the gospel is all-inclusive and even suggested that in South Africa, whites and black should be working together on the theological task.[73] Whites’ involvement in African theology is visibly evident in the emergence of black theology in South Africa.[74] There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that prominent African theologians have been shaped in their own thoughts by American and European theology. A majority of leading African theologians have had their theological education in American and European universities. But to shy away or to maintain that the West has nothing to contribute to the development of African theology is to aim in the wrong direction. Even if this were to be a success, there is still the problem that African would have to battle. Parratt paints his arguments and critique, pointing out the different levels in which Africans have to decide, if the wish to remove Western influence may succeed. According to Parratt, one serious problem is that in those countries that do posses considerable theological excellence, especially in West Africa. Universities are often closed down for political reasons for considerable periods, which make them unattractive to leading scholars from elsewhere in the continent. Another is that there is still lack of suitably trained African staff in many of these theological institutions, and thus to direct an African student to an institution within Africa is not necessarily to ensure that he or she will be taught by fellow Africans or in such a way that the studies will be relevant to African issues. There is also the danger that even Africans teaching in such institutions may be tempted simply to pass on to their students the same kind of theological education that they themselves have received from their European mentors. In such a case to study at an institution within Africa may be little more stimulating to specifically African theological innovation than to study in Oxford, Rome or Tübingen. These are the real problems with which the church in African will need to continue to grapple if theology in Africa is to break free from the restrictions of the Western theological tradition.[75]

A more fundamental problem is the problem of method. Here Parratt shares Kwesi Dickson’s opinion. According to Kwesi Dickson the real problem is the theological method adopted in theological training in Africa. The fear here is that the categories that have been employed reflect a Western approach to theology, so that Africans have been constrained “to do theology in terms of areas of thought defined in the west. This methodological straightjacket, while not freely imparting all the findings of Western scholarship, compels Africans to think along Western lines and thus hampers originality of thought.[76] And so, Dickson pleads “as a matter of urgency (that) training for ministry should be re-examined in order to give greater impetus to the development of ideas and rooting of commitment such as the quest for an African theology would thrive on.”[77] Good as the arguments may, Parratt and his likes may have missed the direction of the argument and pursuing only the comment made against outsiders’ participation in African theology. A key hermeneutical departure point for understanding the reservation towards ‘outsiders’ participating in contextual theology is the philosophical commitment of moving away from “a doing - for” towards “a doing-with” approach in all that is undertaken. Some anthropologists have defined this identification in terms of “casting ones lot fully wit h the local community by becoming with it one incommunion and one in communication.”[78] Is this really possible? One must concede that identification is a very complex concept involving the totality of inter-human relationships. This is because “Itis not imitation, a process thatusually involves cheap paternalism or superficialingratiation and not real empathy.”[79] While participation of the outsider depends on identification, the operational nature ofthat identification can become problematic. Specifically, this argument hinges on the notion of an incarnational approach to contextualization and it is this identification that needs to be critically reviewed.The incarnation is quite possibly the best evidence we have for how seriously Godtakes the material world. While the kenosis experience of Jesus freely choosing toempty himself of his prerogatives as God, making himself “nothing” and becomingman (Phil. 2:6-7)—is an attitudinal value to be imitated, one questions whether this is the criterion for the outsider to be taken serious. Boschputs the same fear in this way, “There have, of course, always been those who attempted to cut the Gordian knot by setting up a direct relationship between Jesus of the New Testament and their own situation, applying the ancient wordsuncritically and on a one-to-one basis to their own circumstances.”[80] Indeed, the whole model of the Almighty God become human in the incarnation is aconcept that Jesus’ followers from his time to our present time have had difficulty understanding. Yet, the principles underpinning the incarnation are powerfulattitudinal values for an outsider’s involvement in local theology.[81]

The hermeneutical principle behind this is that our praxis should reflect incarnational values(partner among) rather than an operational nature (partner with). Values will lead to solidarity and not dissonance —the lack of consistency between belief and actions. According to Luzbetak “The ultimate goal of incarnating the gospelis mutual enrichment, onethat benefits not only the local Christian community, butthe universal Church as well.”[82] The good of the local church is the good of the whole Body of Christ and the goodof the whole Body of Christ is the good of the local church[83] Mutualinclusiveness levels the playing field of humanity.

However, much of the incarnational identification activity is often expressed in unilateral attitudes. In this regard, the incarnation-kenosis approach has had great difficulty divorcing itself from underlying attitudes of cultural superiority. The ‘emptying ourselves of superior Northern attributes to become nothing’ is not acceptable to local peoples. Not only do they sense the disingenuous meekness[84] but they also tend to question why the missionary wants to become like them if they have something better to offer. It is fantasy to think that one can ‘be made in likeness’ to a specific cultural group. It is also delusional to believe that one would be accepted as such. However noble the desire is to cross cultural barriers and ‘emptying ourselves of our prerogatives’ (modernity and economic), the underlying attitude of superiority is too often communicated. It has to be pointed out that the real issue here is whether as Christians we are willing to be immersed in the concrete situation of the disentfranchised or our societies and witness to the Lordship of Christ from within, a commitment, which will have to be verified in our participation in the concrete transformation of these situations.[85]

Identification with other people must be genuine and wholehearted. It must be based on the needs of the people and not our own egoist, self-glorification. It must be based on reciprocity and mutuality.[86] In this identification it must be clear on the attitudes of the “outsider” among whom he is identifying. In other words, The need … today is not for fathers (mothers), people who will be paternal(maternal) in their attitudes towards the members of the younger churches, but for brothers (sisters), who will be willing to treat as equals[87] those whom they will be encountering.

The world today recognizes an increasing awareness of the plurality of culture, which levels all of humanity to the same playing field before God. We have gone from a series of distinct communities to a global village, from cultural singularity to cultural plurality. Pluralism in Africa is viewed as reality: “In the African view, it is the community which defines the person as a person, not some isolated static quality of rationality, will or memory...African thought asserts an ontological independence to human society and moves from society to individuals rather than, in the manner of Western thought, from individuals to society.[88] That is, the outsider enters into the local person’s frame-of-reference. The outsider is like a companion on a journey of mutual discovery. The journey metaphor is helpful, as the frame-of-reference becomes mutual. The ‘journey together’ enables communal experience, shared provisions (resources) along the way and plenty of opportunity for dialogue.

Other questions that need to be raised concerning the role of outsiders in a local theology are: Is there legitimacy and a role for an outsider’s reflection on localtheology in Africa? Does theoutsider have any contribution to make towards localtheologies? These questions before us are problems in the African context whose solutions should engage the minds and resources of Christians in Africa. The church in Africa does not need to work out the required solution in isolation. Given the importance of African churches in world Christianity, outside studies and perspectives on African theology constitute a field of research that is not only legitimate but also an urgent task, in spite of the daunting methodological problems. An intercultural approach in the context analysis is important because a theology for Africa cannot be done in a vacuum, just as the development of history and culture in Africa did not take place in a vacuum.[89] Therefore “These must be sought for in the context of collaboration, partnership, and cooperationin other parts of the world.”[90] The truth is, Africa has been influenced by the North’s modernity and thought and just as Africans cannot escape their African heritage, so too, they cannot escape from the Northern historical context. What this means is that, “both the insider and outsider are needed, but they need to be situated within a larger process. What it all shows is that the task of the development of local theology cannot be committed to one individual or even to one group.”[91]

Despite the obvious and real problems of paternalism and colonialism, which unfortunately, singles out the outsider’s presence in a culture, nonetheless, the outsider’s role “inthe development of local theologies has often been quite significant[92] In anthropological terms, it is holding in tension the emic and etic perspectives,[93] that is, the insider’s deep understanding with the outsider’s critique.


[1] Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Anchor Books/Doubleday Publications, New York 1994, Chp. 16, 147-148.

[2] Enyi B. Udoh, Guest Christology, Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt 1988, 25.

[3] Enyi B. Udoh, Guest Christology , 92.

[4] David Barrett, “A.D 2000-350 Million Christians in Africa” in: International Review of Missions, 59 (233): 1970, 39-54.

[5] Sanneh Lamin, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, New York 1989, 188.

[6] Fabella, Virginia and Sergio Torres (eds.), The Emergent Gospel: Theology from the Underside of History-Papers from the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, August 5-12 1976, New Delhi, India: Orbis Books, New York 1978.

[7] David Barrett (ed.), World Christian Encyclopaedia, Nairobi-Kenya/London 1982, 815.

[8] Barrett, David, (ed), World Christian Encyclopaedia, 782.

[9] David Barrett (ed.), World Christian Encyclopaedia , 323. This projection has indeed been over taken with a difference of ten years.

[10] Evans Pritchard, Nuer Religion, Clarendon Press, London 1956.

[11] Griaule, Marcel, Dieu d’eau: Entretiens avec Ogotemmeli, Fayard Press, Paris 1966.

[12] Parrinder, E. G., African Traditional Religion, London, 1954, 2nd edition, 1962.

[13] Robert Schreiter has written a book with this very title.

[14] Stephen B. Bevas, Models of Contextual Theology (Revised and expanded ed.), Orbis Books, New York 2002, 3.

[15] Robert J. Schreiter , Constructing Local Theologies, Orbis Books, New York 1985, 1.

[16] The term loci theologici is in line with the traditional Roman Catholic usage, especially developed by Melchoir Cano in his De Locis Theologicis (Salamanca, 1563); J. Thornhill, “Loci Thologici,” in: New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol.8 (McGraw-Hill, New York 1963, 950). Loci in Protestant circle are used to designate the various classical themes of theology, God, Trinity, Christ, Grace, etc. This is used in line with Melanchthon’s work Loci Communes Rerum Theologicarum (1521), revised as Loci Praecipui Theologici in 1559. For a more recent work on this theme, see Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson (eds.), Christian Dogmatics, Fortress Press, Philadelphia 1984, v-xv and xix.

[17] This revolution began with René Descartes in his Cogito ego Sum and has characterized philosophy and contemporary psychology, moving over to the legal systems, where the rights of the individual are primary. See Karl Rahner, “The Hermeneutics of Eschatological Assertions” in Theological Investigations , vol.4 (Helicom Press, Baltimore/ Darton, Longman and Todd), London 1966, 324; Jeffery Hopper, Understanding ModernTheology II: Reinterpreting Christian Faith for Changing Worlds , Fortress Press, Philadelphia 1987, 4-31..

[18] Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study in Human Understanding , Philosophical Library, New York 1957, 251-252; Methods in Theolog y, Darton Longman and Todd, London 1972, 263. Lonergan’s underlying epistemological principle could be referred to as “critical realism.” For a discussion of a shift from “naïve realism” or “naïve idealism” to critical realism, see Paul Hiebert, “Epistemological foundations for Science and Theology” in TSF Buletin (march-April 1985) 5-10.

[19] Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture , Orbis books, New York 1979, 300.

[20] See Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 28, 76-77, 238.

[21] Ian G. Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science and Religion , Harper and Row, New York 1974, 120-121; Peter Berger and Thomas Tuckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise on the Sociology of Knowledge, Doubleday publication, New York 1967; Anthony J. Gittins, Gifts and Strangers: Meeting the Challenge of Inculturation , Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey 1989, 1-28.

[22] Hans Küng and David Tracy (eds.), Paradigm Changes in Theology: A Symposium for the Future, Crossroad Publication Co., New York 1989.

[23] Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture , 296.

[24] John Douglas Hall, Professing the Faith: Christian Theology in a North American Context , Fortress Press, MN 1993, 34-36; Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Towards a Feminist Theology , Beacon Press, Boston 1993, 12-16.

[25] John Hall, Profesing the Faith , 33.

[26] John Hall, Profesing the Faith , 33.

[27] Cliffor Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures , Basic Books, New York 1973, 89. See Gerald A. Arbuckle, Earthing the Gospel: An Introduction Handbook for the Pastoral Worker, Orbis Books, New York 1990, 28. Geertz presents here what Robert Schreiter calls “integrated concept of culture. In this sense, culture is the “glue” that holds together a particular world-view. Also operative here is “globalized” concepts of culture. That is, ones world-view or meaning structure is not so much inherited as it is constructed, often in the context of power struggle between a dominant group and an oppressed subaltern group. See Robert Schreiter, The NewCatholicity: Theology Between the Global and the Local , Orbis Books, New York 1997, 46-61.

[28] Douglas John Hall, Thinking the Faith: Christian Theology in a North American Context , Augsburg Press, Minneapolis MN 1989, 21.

[29] Stephen Sykes, The Identity of Christianity, SPCK Press, London 1984, 23. Sykes entire argument on this is on pages 11-34.

[30] On the contextual nature of Christian theology see David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, Orbis Books, New York 1991, 190-213, Hans Küng and David Tracy (eds.), ParadigmChange in Theology: A Symposium for the Future , Chap. 1; Justo L. Gozalez, Christian Thought Revisited: Three Types of Theology (revs. .ed.) , Orbis Books, New York 1999; Andrew F. Walls, “Old Athens and New Jerusalem. Some Signposts for Christian Scholarship in the Early History of Mission Studies,” in: International Bulletin of Missionary Research vol. 21, no. 4 (19979, 146-153; Miroslav Pellikan, Development of Christian Doctrines Vol. 1 ; Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement vol. 1: Earliest Christianity to 1453 , Orbis Books 2001, 47-153.

[31] John Curtney Murray, The Problem of God, Yesterday and Today, Yale University Press, New Haven/London 1964, 45-53; Bernard J. F. Lonergan, The Way to Nicea : The Dialectical Development of Trinitarian Theology , Darton-Longman and Todd publishers, London 1976, 136-137.

[32] V. Fabella, “Christology from an Asian Woman’s Perspective” in V. Fabella and S. Ai Lee Park (eds.), We Dare toDream: Doing Theology as Asian Women , Orbis Books, New York 1989, 9. The De-hellinization of Christianity and the influence of Greek Philosophy constituted another process in the inculturation process.

[33] Henri de Lubac, Corpus mysticum: L’eucharistie et l’Eglise au Moyen Age, 2nd edition, Aubier Presse, Paris 1949. On the Teutonic Influence on Christianity, See James C. Russell, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation, Oxford University Press, Oxford/London 1994 and Andrew Walls, “Culture and Coherence in Christian History” in: The Missionary Movementin Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith , Orbis Books, New York 1996, 16-25.

[34] See Thomas F. O’Meara, Theology of Ministry (complete and revised edition), Paulist Press, Mahwah: New Jersey 1999, 111-129.

[35] See Brian Gerrish, “Continuity and Change: Friedrich Schleiermacher on the Task of Theology,” in: Traditionand the Modern World: Reformed Theology in the Nineteenth Century , University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1978, 13-48; and A Prince of the Church: Schleiermacher and the Beginnings of Modern Theology , Fortress Press, Philadelphia 1984; on the Catholic Tübingen School, see Thomas F. O’Meara, Romantic Idealism andRoman Catholicism: Schelling and the Theologians , University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana 1982.

[36] Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology vol.1 , University of Chicago Press, Chicago and Harper and Row Publishers, New York 1967, 60.

[37] See David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology, Seabury Press, New York 1975, 27; Charles Hall, Thinking the Faith , 355.

[38] Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology 3 vol in One, Orbis Books , New York 1967, 3.

[39] The use of Model here suggests not only a procedure (process) for engaging in theological reflection, but also some specific interests or principles that will guide the use of procedures. See schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies , 6.

[40] Schreiter, Construction of Local Theologies , 16

[41] A dynamic-Equivalence approach might go beyond biblical translation to become a theological procedure.

[42] Robert Schreiter, Construction of Local Theologies, 8 .

[43] Kwesi Dickson and Ellingworth P. (eds.), Biblical Revelation and African Beliefs , Lutterwort Press, London 1969, 33.

[44] J. S. Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, Heinemann Publishers, Oxford/London 1969, 16.

[45] See Harjula R, Theology as Service in Africa , Pro Veritate, Tanzania 1972, Part 1, 17-20.

[46] Schreiter, R., Constructing Local Theologies , 7.

[47] See, Schreiter, R. Constructing Local Theologies , 10.

[48] Schreiter, R., Constructing Local Theologies , 10.

[49] Schreiter, R., Constructing Local Theologies ,12.

[50] Schreiter, R., Constructing Local Theologies , 13.

[51] Schreiter, R., Constructing Local Theologies , 14.

[52] See Samuel Amirtham and John S. Pobee (eds.), Theology by the People: Reflections on Doing Theology inCommunity , World Council of Churches, Geneva 1986; Robert Schreiter, “La Communautè –Theologien,” Spiritus Vol. XXVII no.107 (May 1987) 147-154; John Shea, “Theology at the Grassroots,” Church vol. 2 no.1 ( Spring 1986) 3-7; Patrick Kalilombe, “Doing Theology at the Grassroots: A Challenge for Profesional Theologians,” African Ecclesial Review vol. 27 no. 3 (June 1985) 148-161; vol. 27 no. 4 (August 1985) 225-237; Howard W. Stone and James O. Duke, How to Think Theologically , Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN: 1996; Richard J. Mouw, Consulting the Faithful: What Christian Intellectuals Can Learn from Popular Religion, Eerdman s, Grand Rapids 1994; Mary Ann Hinsdale, Helen M. Lewis and S. Maxine Waller; It Comes form the People: Community Development and Local Theology , Temple University Press, Philadelphia 1995; Clemens Sedmak; Doing Local Theology , Orbis books, New York 2002.

[53] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies , 15.

[54] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theologies ,15.

[55] See Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, Methuen Publishers, London 1982; Anthony J. Gittins, Gifts and Strangers: Meeting the Challenge of Inculturation , Paulist Press, Mahwah –New Jersey 1989, 56-83; Anthny J. Gittins, Ministry at the Margins: Strategies and Spirituality for Mission, Orbis books, New York 2002, 81-100.

[56] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theology, 18.

[57] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theology, 19.

[58] See Volker Küster, The Many Faces of Jesus Christ, Orbis books, New York 2001; Ron O’Grady, ed.; Christ for All People: Celebrating a World of Christian Art , Orbis Books, New York 2001; Thomas F. Matthew , The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art, revised ed., Princeton University Press, Princeton 1999; Mark J. Hatcher, “Poetry, Singing and Contextualization,” in: Missionary: An International Review XXIX, no. 4 (October 2001): 475-487.

[59] See Joseph G. Healey, “Constructing a Mission Theology Using African Proverbs and Sayings” African ChristianStudies (June 1988): 71-85; “Proverbs and Sayings: A Window into African Christian World View” in Communicatio Socialis Yearbook no.7 (1988), also in Service no. 3(1988), 1-35; Stan Nussbaum (ed.), African Proverbs: Collections, Studies, Bibliographies, version 1.01 for Windows, CD #3; 20:21 Library –Mission andEvangelism Resource on CD, Global Mapping international, Colorado Springs, Co. 1996.

[60] Mbogu Nicholas, Christologyin Contemporary African: A Prolegomenon for a Theology of Development, AFER vol.33 no. 4 (August 1991), 214-230.

[61] Schreiter, R., Constructing Local Theology, 78; Olin P. Moyd, The Sacred Art: Preaching and Theology in the African American Tradition, Judson Press, Valley Forge, PA. 1995.

[62] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theology, 19.

[63] Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, 18.

[64] Peter Schineller, “Inculturation and Modernity,” SEDOS Bulletin, no.2 (February 15, 1988),47.

[65] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theology , 18.

[66] Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, 18.

[67] Leonardo N. Mercado, “Notes on Christ and Local Community in Philippine Context,” Verbum SVD no.21, vol. ¾ (1980), 303.

[68] Schreiter R., Constructing Local Theology, 18.

[69] Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” in W. Blair, T. Hornberger, R. Stewart and J. Miller (eds.), The Literature of the United States , vol.1 3rd edition, Scott Foreman and Co., Glenview, IL. 1971,1103.

[70] One often hears of how the black Americans and other groups are voiceless. No, African Americans are not voiceless. They have lots to say and are skilled in saying it, it just that people do not listen.

[71] John Mbiti, “The Biblical Basis for Present Trends in African Theology” AFER 90 quoted by John Parratt, Reinventing Christianity: African Theology Today , Eerdmans publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge UK 1995, 18.

[72] John Parratt, Reinventing Christianity, 19. Here Sawyerr’s powerful definition of a non-African who has lived and worked in Africa may, if he or she is committed to this ideal, be as “African” as an African has been domiciled outside Africa for a long period puts the debate on another level.

[73] Fashole-Luke, Christianity in Africa, 75.

[74] In the early period of South African black theology, Basil Moore and Theo Sundermeier, among other, contributed immensely to African theology by editing important symposia.

[75] See John Parratt, Reinventing Christianity, 20.

[76] This very criticism has been made against approaches of authors like Idowu and Mbiti in their study of African traditional religion.

[77] See Kwesi Dickson, Theology in Africa , 47, quoted by John Parratt, Reinvention of Christianity , 21.

[78] Reyburn, W. D., “Identification in Missionary Task” in: Practical Anthropology vol. 7. no.1(1960), 15.

[79] Eugene Nida, Message and Mission , William Carey Library, Pasadena 1991, 211.

[80] Bosch, D. J., Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission, Orbis Books, New York 1991, 21.

[81] Myers, B. L., Walking with the Poor: Principles and practices of Transformational Development , Orbis Books, New York 1999, 46.

[82] Luzbetak, L. J., The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology, Orbis Books, New York 1988, 88.

[83] Luzbetak., L. J., The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology, 72.

[84] Late twentieth-century Northern culture does not hold meekness to be a virtue, in contrast to the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, which placed a high premium on it. This can be seen in contemporary biblical translation. Most of the modern versions replace the noun “meekness” by gentleness or humility, largely as a result of the pejorative overtones of weakness and effeminacy now associated with meekness. There are two essential components that have prompted the discrepancy between the biblical and contemporary attitudes. First, is conflict in which an individual is unable to control. Second, is an inability to influence circumstances. Typical human responses in such circumstances include frustration, bitterness or anger…These tensions are all common in the missionary experience. Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate, a passive and reluctant submission to events. Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong that have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. In the incarnation Jesus is freely described as meek, a concomitant of his submission to suffering and to the will (Matt. 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1) of the Father” (Meier, S. A. “Meekness”in W. A. Elwell (ed.), EvangelicalDictionary of the Biblical Theology , Baker Books House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1996).

[85] See Costas, O., “Contextualization and Incarnation in: Journal of Theology of Southern Africa No 29 (1979), 30.

[86] See Gourdet, S. R., “Identification in the Intercultural Communication of the Gospel” in: Missionalia vol. 24 no.3 (1996), 408.

[87] Loewen, J. A., Culture and Human Values: Christian Intervention in Anthropological Perspective, William Carey Library, Pasadena 1975, 41.

[88] See Shutte A., “Philosophy for Africa: Community and Individual Freedom and Conceptions of Community ” inCultural Synergy in South Africa: Weaving the Strands of Africa and Eur ope, M. E. Steyn and K. B. Motshabi (eds.), UCT Press, Cape Town 1993, 29-29.

[89] Tiènou, T., “The Problem of Methodology in African Christian Theology,” in: Evangelical Missions Quarterly vol. 21 no. 3 (1985), 293.

[90] Omulokoli, W., “Leadership Training for Churches in Africa” in: African Journal for Evangelical Theology vol. 11 no. 1 (November 1992), 22.

[91] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theology, 19. Justin Ukpong holds that to build a theology that is relevant in Africa today, the theologian must be in, some sense an African, and have direct experience of African Christian life. Since every theology is culturally conditioned, the question as to who is competent to do African theology is seen as pertinent… A theologian must be fully involved and this implies involvement in Christianity and African culture. This is to be competent to do this theology, apart from being a Christian; one must be well informed in African culture. This applies equally to the African as well as to the expatriate theologian. One does not therefore become qualified to do this theology simply because he is African, for there are Africans who have not only lost touch with their culture but have not studies it scientifically, nor is one automatically excluded for being expatriate, for some expartriates have studied African culture and can become ‘marginal Africans’. See J. Ukpong, African Theologies Now: A Profile , Spearhead 71, Eldoret Kenya 1982, 16).

[92] Schreiter, Constructing Local Theology,19.

[93] The Linguist Kenneth Pike introduced the words from phonetic and phonemic, making the distinction of “emic” (from the inside) and “etic” (from the outside) analysis of cultural systems. See Kenneth Pike, Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the structure of Behaviour, Mouton Press, The Hague 1967. For a presentation of the current discussion, see Marvin Harris, “History of the Significance of the Emic-Etic Distinction,” Annual Review of Anthropology 5 (1976): 329-350 .


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Titel: Jesus in Post-Missionary Africa