A new format we’re trying here on the blog is the Global Theology Countdown, where we will break down a large topic into more easily accessible parts, linking to other sites for those who would want to go deeper.
- 4 Keys to Understanding
- 3 People to Know
- 2 Blogs Worth Reading
- 1 Book to Read Immediately
This post covers Contemporary African Christianity and we welcome contributors to share on a different context or more information regarding Christianity in Africa. Enjoy!
4 Keys to Understanding
Diversity: The continent of Africa is comprised of 60 different countries and terrain than spans from coastal wetlands, to dense jungle, glacier-topped mountains, and the Sahara desert. The people are also diverse in their traditions, cultures, and perspectives of the world. While the continent is often homogenized (as this article is also guilty of doing), different characteristics will be present in different regions, people groups, and communities.
Community: The concept of individualization is not at home in the majority of African contexts. The sense of self is rooted in the relationship one has to family, extended family, clan, tribe, nation, ancestry, and creation. These relationships form an extensive web of spiritual meaning, both present (such as familiarity between distant cousins) and unseen (such as the spiritual power inherent in one’s tribal affiliation).
Circular-time: In contrast to a Western assumption of linear time, many African cultures consider existence to be cyclical, as evidenced by seasons, lifetimes, and regularly-occurring life events. As such, there is not always a clear connection between cause and effect, as expected in Western philosophies. This affects the understanding of how God works in history, not necessarily in a linear historical process, but in regular intervals with the created order.
Post-Colonialism: The 20th century saw a massive shift across the continent of African nationalist movements which resulted in the formation of independent nations. This national-political independence demonstrated how stark the colonial influences had been in education, economy, and social structure. To recognize the inherent human oppression present within colonialism is the first step toward self-determination and self-expression.
3 People to Know
John Mbiti is a Kenya-born Anglican priest, theologian, and professor. His most significant work is African Religions and Philosophy (1969) which began to examine the positive contributions of African traditional religions to the understanding and synthesis of Christianity. This philosophy was a thunderclap to the traditional Western missionary approaches and ushered a new era of African theological reflection.
Kwame Bediako was born in Ghana and became a Christian while studying in France. He has written extensively on theology, supported education and translation projects, and maintained that the incorporation of cultural identity was a natural part of the Christian theological process, throughout centuries and especially in contemporary Africa.
For a more thorough treatment of Dr. Bediako, see Dr. Andrew Walls’ article entitled “Kwame Bediako and Christian Scholarship in Africa”
Mercy Oduyoye is from Ghana and an advocate of feminist and womanist African perspectives. Her book Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman on Christianity in Africa demonstrates her ability to communicate a unique perspective but to transcend and speak to a global audience on wider theological topics.
2 Blogs Worth Reading
Amahoro Africa is working to see the Gospel of Jesus bringing transformation to communities across Africa. They facilitate holistic transformation by encouraging, resourcing and connecting emerging African leaders who are committed to the tangible manifestation of justice, mercy and goodness in their local context. There is a video about their work here.
The Institute for the Study of African Realities is a constituent school of the African International University functioning in partnership with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology to provide an environment for in-depth examination of crucial issues in African society from the perspective of the vision and values of Jesus and the Christian worldview with the intent of employing interdisciplinary resources and listening to representative voices for the purpose of synthesizing real-world solutions and strategies for transformation of individuals and systems.
1 Book to Read Immediately
Africa Bible Commentary– This was an ambitious project that covers the entire Bible in one volume. It is entirely sourced by African theologians, scholars, and pastors and offers insight into scriptural segments from their unique perspective. Cultural, linguistic, and denominational diversity is evident on every page. It weighs in at 1632 pages and includes topics of interest to the Church in Africa. This was assigned reading during a course in Cross-Cultural Preaching at Hope International University and accompanied me during my time preaching and teaching in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I would recommend it for anyone who is serious about reading the Bible and expressing its contents. Even if you are not in an African context, the insight can help you to process for your own culture or illustrate a familiar text in a new and vibrant way.