Wednesday, November 17, 2010

African context

William Black, who is an American lecturer teaching at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology , writes as part of a recent blog post, quoting Joseph Healey [pictured at right], a Maryknoll priest, narrative theologian and expert in African proverbs:

[African] contextual theologizing does not go over well with many in North America in particular (Europeans, he said, seem to do a better job of comprehending the theological scene in Africa). ‘They just don’t get it,’ he said. Many seem to equate their theology with the truth. Contextualization for them means simply translating their right theology into the language of the unreached, or the theologically uneducated. We seem to think if we can transfer our understanding of salvation, and our understanding of discipleship, and our understanding of missions, and our understanding of church into this new context, then we have brought the gospel to these people.


We think our inherited systems are the best, even the only theology. But in doing so we miss the point. Theology is not about engaging with ideas and who can build the best scaffolding (assuming that theology even at its best is not the reality). Theology is what God the Son did – it’s incarnational. Theology is God becoming accessible. For those human societies that do systems, then theological systems will undoubtedly work really well for them, so long as it is remembered that the system itself is not God (otherwise it becomes an idol). But for the vast majority of the world’s societies, where system and Enlightenment structures and organization are not valued and irrelevant, theology must take a different form. The goal of theology, of course, remains the same – to facilitate our knowing God the Holy Trinity and loving him with all our heart and loving our neighbor. But how the Spirit calls that reality out of us may be very different from context to context.

Anyway, given the condition of Western Christianity, one wonders why anyone would want to export their issues to the rest of the world. But that doesn’t seem to be a thought that troubles anybody, except of course the rest of the world.

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