Providing weekly Christian resources for spiritual depth and intellectual vigor.

There is so much joy in reading and learning through the insights of others. This blog has been created as a service to the Christian Community worldwide. The books reviewed here are current Christian books published in the West. The primary areas of focus are books on global, cross-cultural issues, spiritual growth, discipleship, and mission. Each review is only a paragraph or two and then the highlights of the book are summarized in 3-4 pages (There are a few exceptions for books which are harder to access like Frontline Women by M. Kraft).

Purpose of these Reviews
The purpose of each review is to give readers a chance to think about some of the key concepts in that book, recognizing that few people have a chance to read a book a week anymore. Therefore I don't expect people to buy all these books but to find food for thought in the highlights I include for each review. There is also a critical analysis of the book itself. These reviews were originally written for TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) missionaries worldwide but their issues mirror Christians' issues for growth and service worldwide. Hence this blog was created to get the reviews out to a wider audience.
Happy Reading! Dr. Mary Lou

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Global Theology - African Perspectives

Global Theology - African Perspectives

Excerpted from Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective, eds. Greenman and Green, IVP 2012.

“African Theology” by James Kombo

“African theology appreciates Africa and its dynamics as well as the yawning gap between the continent and the Bible in its historical and cultural setting. African theology has attempted to bridge this gap by …4 dominant patterns of conversation:

1.        Identity theology based on African primal religions and African philosophy.  The debate is whether pre-Christian Africa had a sense of God.  Some scholars have concluded that “the God of the Bible was the same God known to Africans by various names” (p.135).

2.      Incarnation/Translation Theology – i.e., “transposing the Bible into respective contemporary indigenous languages” (p. 134). “Our theologizing process must recognize African cosmology” and specifically “identify and employ those African primordial narratives or categories of reality already available” (p. 138).

3.      African/World Christian theology. “Africa embraced Christianity because it resonated so well with the values of the old religions…People sensed in their hearts that Jesus did not mock their respect for the sacred or their clamor for the invincible Savior, so they beat their sacred drums for him…Christianity helped Africans to become renewed Africans, not remade Europeans” (p. 139).  “The numerical and ethnic shift in global Christianity to the global South and to Africa in particular…creates space for African theology in the global arena” (p. 140).

4.        Contextual Theologies – i.e., African inculturation theology, African black theology (“the gospel has a political dimension and could only be relevant to the extent that it centered on justice, liberation and a preferential option for the poor”), African liberation theology (which “exposes and corrects the causes of poverty, political oppression, disease and ignorance”), and African women theology (concentrating on “Christology and forms of church life such as constitutions of churches, liturgies, catechesis and moral options [so that] women’s issues are paramount and classical church divisions are rendered irrelevant” (pp.140-144).

Two of the challenges ahead are (1) “to maintain a candid and vibrant conversation between the good news of Jesus Christ and Africa’s current multidimensional challenges and opportunities. Note that evangelicals have been seen as aloof, preferring to carry only the message of the good news. And (2) to encourage and prepare [African] leadership enabled to answers questions emerging from the African grassroots” (p.146)

“African American Theology, Retrospect and Prospect” by Vincent Bacote

“Black liberation theology originated on July 31, 1966 when 51 black pastors bought a full page ad in the New York Time and demanded a more aggressive approach to eradicating racism. They echoed the demands of the black power movement but the new crusade found its source of inspiration in the Bible” (p.211).  “It emerged as an attempt to answer the questions:

1.      How can a person be Christian and also committed to addressing the oppressive legacy of racism in the United States?

2.      How can you have a gospel that is not only about going to heaven but also about being concerned with justice and peace in the present? 

3.      Can you have a Christian faith that changes the way black people see themselves?” (p. 212).

Quoting James Cone: “The blackness of my theological consciousness...gave me new theological spectacles, which enabled me to move beyond the limits of white theology …and create a new understanding of black dignity among black people and provide the necessary soul in that people to destroy white racism” (pp.213-214).

“Black women scholars began writing womanist theology as a response to their frustrations with white feminist theology and black liberation theology.  “Womanist symbolizes Black women’s resistance to their multidimensional oppression as well as their self-affirmation and will to survive with dignity under dehumanizing social-historical conditions. …[It] critiques a cross-centered theology because of its possible use in sanctioning the victimization of women and children” (p. 216). 

Other current Black scholars critique “black theology as limited in its identification with a particular contextual moment.  It relies on the view of African Americans as perpetual victims.  One of the obvious limitations of victimologist anthropology is that it runs aground when confronted by African Americans who are middle class and above, and more significantly it veers theological reflection away from historic orthodoxy when it is the primary theological starting point” (p.218).  There “needs to be a more direct emphasis on the plight of the poor everywhere, along with a critique of capitalism and its effects on the continent of Africa” (p.217). There also needs to be greater consideration of how “obedience to the second greatest commandment might lead us to give greater priority to engaging and addressing the challenges of race, poverty and class that remain” (p.220).

“African American theology had to be formed in the crucible of the legacy of racism in the U.S, and now we find ourselves in a time where we must address that legacy in a different way as together evangelicals think through the priorities of the mission of the church” (p. 222).

                                                                                                Mary Lou Codman-Wilson, Ph.D.,  4/12/12

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