Free African Theologies and discourse western theology Dissertation Example
Contribution of African Theologies to Theological Discourse of the West
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Contribution of African Theologies to Theological Discourse of the West
The understanding of theology has, over the decades, been a major dogmatic orientation of modern era. Essentially, it is within this framework of theological orientation that three different scriptural currents have arisen in Africa: South African Black theology, African Theology, and African Liberation theology. African theology, also known as inculturation theology, tries to offer African expression to Christianity within a theological context. As a branch of theology, African theology involves a cognizant engagement of African religious mindset and European Christian thinking into the culture and life of the Africans. South African black theology follows the footsteps of the American black theology; it targets to relate the message of the gospel to social situations, such as oppression and segregation, which are common in South Africa. Black theologians view the gospel as Good News to unshackle both the oppressor and the oppressed, and that is why they are all about propagating and discovering the Good News. African liberation theology, on other hands, aims to find genuine human improvement for the poor and powerless Africans. Though young and divergent, these African theologies undeniably shine in terms of output amid myriads of challenges; they have contributed immensely towards the discourse of the Western World theologies.
African theology center on the issue of culture. Therefore, a substantial portion of its contribution towards the discourse of the western theology hinges on the cultural aspect. By and large, the African Christian religion stemmed from the conventional interaction between the European Christian culture and African traditional religion. This interaction resulted in two outcomes: selection and incorporation cultural aspects and tension from sides of the divide. European, in communicating the message of Christianity to Africans, were overly selective in the application of resources of African culture as they thought most of the Christian expression were incompatible local resources. Well, this is often true for unfamiliar cultures. Nevertheless, as Martey (2009) confirms, Western religions have, over the years, exploited resources of the African theology extensively (p.89). A good example of such resources is the theory of Deity. The Christian idea of God has, similarly, to a greater degree been effectively assimilated into African culture through the adoption of local names of God. This process has been not met with any difficulty, because the concept of Supreme Being has for long been in existence in most African societies. Notwithstanding, integration has not been possible in some areas because of the tension between cultural forms of the western religion and western forms of Christian expression. Syncretistic practices, for example, provide a better view of this tension. African n theology tries to resolve this tension in the African religious thought framework with European Christian thought system.
African society is currently experiencing or perhaps, has experienced a transition from an outdated society to contemporary society. This transition implies the emergence of a new wave of thinking. The traditional closed predicament thinking, also known as reflexive critical thinking, has been phased out due to the absence of alternatives. In the western society, which is largely scientific-oriented, the open predicament, also referred to as reflexive thinking is inexorable. Although this inescapability of open system of ideas is contestable, it is hard to conceive that reflexive thinking provides a favorable atmosphere for critical reflection. Based on this premise, it turns out to be true that in it would be hard for African theologies to develop successfully in such closed predicament, as the Western society. The first reason for this is that theology, by nature, is an intellectual activity and social order, requires critical thinking, which in most cases not supported in the closed predicament. The second reason is that western world is, largely, conservative; thus, could not create the environment necessary for the development of African theologies. Therefore, the emergence and contribution of African theologies in the theological discourse of the western world have to correspond with the rise of open systems of ideas, which have created a favorable theological climate in the African society.
Thus, the biggest challenge facing the development and contribution of African theologies towards the religious dialogues of the Western World is the reluctance of the Western world to accept and engage African theological perspectives, the way Africa has incessantly embraced the Western religions and cultures. More often than not, the news media and photos in churches of Africa only shows situations of despair, ugliness, war, poverty, or the West offering assistance. Maluleke (1996) observes that these depictions serve to portray the stark difference between the Western society and African society (p.132). Nevertheless, if these are the symbols always employed to depict Africa and Africa Christian religion, then it is clear that the western world does not even think of African theologies as anything beneficial to the discourse of their theologies.
However, despite the West’s reluctance to recognize the contribution of African theologies towards the discourse of their theologies, it is true that historical, theological dialogues of African Church Leaders, such as Augustine of North Africa, are categorized as Western theological thoughts (Graham 2005 p.147). Also, the main theology of Latin did not originate from Rome; it originated from North African people, such as Cyprian and Tertullian (Graham 2005 p.147). Tertullian wrote ‘Praxeas’, a book in which he talked about the Person of Christ and the creeds of the Trinity. Some African theologians and theological writers indicate that the West has borrowed a lot from African theologies and African theologians. In fact, some Western theologians allude (in disguise) to African theologians as the antecedents and ancestors of their theologies. The phrase “in disguise” has been used in the previous sentence because many Western theologians hardly attempt to acknowledge the contribution of African theologies and African theologians towards their discourse. Instead, they encapsulate these resources as their own. In raising this matter, the author of this paper is not pragmatic, but just implying that scriptural works of African theologians, such as Augustine, played a role in theologies of Calvin, Luther, Erasmus, and Zwingli (Graham 2005 p.148). If such contributions are true, then it can be implicit that African theological role in practical spiritual discourses preludes the contemporary Western practical theology.
Furthermore, the theory of practical theology from African Orthodox Churches is yet to be examined. Over the years, African theological dialogues have been largely narrowed to theologies of churches started by early missionaries. Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for instance, claims that it originated from the efforts that missionaries applied to convert the Ethiopian eunuch. Undoubtedly, both African theologians and their Western counterparts should admit their errors of commission and omission, and realize that the ongoing notion that ‘Christianity is a religion of the Western World’ is wrong and misleading because they merely talk from the viewpoint of missionary-started churches. In contrast, after examining the history of the Ethiopian of Orthodox Church, Martey (2009) established that some monasteries and caves provide the lineage of African theological discourses dating back to epochs beyond many African theological ancestors (p.98).
Also, by looking at the South African black theology, Mosala (1987) reveals another interesting story about South Africa and the contribution of African theologies toward theological dialogue of the Western World (p.45). According to this author, it appears that people have conceived the continent of Africa without South Africa. While some people contend that the South Africa’s matchless history implies it is separate from Africa, other people think South Africa is another ‘Africa’ within Africa. The primary reason for this paradox is that most of the Western World’s practical theologies have drawn many of their frameworks from South African black theology. Hinged on this theology are the public theological perspectives, such as reconciliation, restoration, and transformation. The irony is that while some Western theologians perceive practical theology as a component of their theological tradition, most of them are not aware of the existence of practical theology in South Africa, or disregards them altogether as a candid contribution of African theology. Moreover, it is even paradoxical that South Africans do not consider themselves as speaking from an African viewpoint.
Throughout the colonial period, African culture, including religion, suffered contempt at the hands of colonial groups. After independence, nonetheless, Africa made all-out effort to reaffirm its longtime cultural integrity and identity. A sense of value for local religious and culture emerged, and people started to extol their conventional cultures and theologies. Dutifully meaningful names were adopted, but people preferred using traditional names at baptism to foreign names. The same beliefs that enthused the search for indigenous cultural identity also stirred the search for economic and political identity emphasized in the African liberation theology
African theologians should endeavor to create theological ideas that go beyond Africa to impact the discourse of the universal church. Specifically, African theologians should have the mindset of making more significant contributions towards the theological dialogues of the West, just the same way the West has impacted on African theologies. The essence of contributions of African theologies towards Western theologies becomes imminent with the need to retain faith and spread Christianity around the world. In contributing to the advancement of Western theologies, African theologians take the methodological approach of cultural context and worldview. Regardless, it is still important that African theologians emphasize the theology as the imposing Word of God and in so doing, makes it central and allows it to oversee the contextualization endeavors.
Graham, E. (2005). Pathways to the public square: practical theology in an age of pluralism. Münster, Lit.
Maluleke, T.S., 1996. Black and African theologies in the new world order: A time to drink from our wells. Journal of theology for Southern Africa, pp.3-19.
Martey, E., 2009. African theology: Inculturation and liberation. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Mosala, I.J., 1987. Biblical hermeneutics and black theology in South Africa (Doctoral dissertation, University of Cape Town).
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