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Summary Notes

By: Felix Muchimba (Zambia)

Christ has been presented as the answer to the questions a white man would ask, the solution to the needs that western man would feel, the Saviour of the world of the European world view, the object of adoration and prayer of historic Christendom. But if Christ were to appear as the answer to the questions that Africans are asking, what would he look like?
(Taylor 1963:16)

African Christian Heritage:

1. Hebrew (Jewish Culture)  Greek  Roman European & American African Culture.

Gospel in African Culture understood in context of African religion, African world view and values.

2. Colonial Rule:The Gospel in most parts of Africa was brought through the medium of western/Christian culture - comprising of the messenger, steeped in a foreign culture, language, written texts, symbols, liturgy, rituals, utensils, gestures, hymns, vestments, a belief system, a worldview, concept of persons and community etc

In addition, colonialism did not create space for the African culture. The dominant group (most missionaries) did not recognise that African culture had its own wisdom, insights and values that informed the lives of Africans. African culture appeared to have had an arrested growth. [Ethnocentrism to Ethnorelativism ]

3. Globalisation of the Gospel? Westernised Africa - still grappling with understanding and application of the Gospel

General views on the understanding of Christ and Culture:
           1. Christ Against Culture, (some evangelicals are in this mode)
           2. Christ Over Culture (RC church in the Middle Ages),
           3. Christ in Paradox with culture,
           4. Christ of Culture (Liberal thought, RC),
           5. Christ Transformer of Culture.(Calvin, et. al)

How is gospel to be presented effectively?
            a) Symbolic Theology i.e. Drama, art, sculptures
            b) Proverbs, idioms etc
            c) Stories
            d) Folk tales (e.g. story of man making heaven dirty and God moving away)
            e) Dialogue (“Insaka” and the shape thereof)

Contextualizing the Gospel
           Gospel is Universal "For even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you let him be eternally condemned!" - Galatians 1:8
            - Is there is a pure gospel?
            - Is there a pure true gospel that exists in heaven and that we on earth must try to preach that pure gospel without any cultural additions at all?
            - As soon as you learn to speak a language you have culture, and you have a way of understanding the world.
            - Why? Language is the primary carrier of culture.

In Africa oral theology is the theology of the masses. It reaches deep into the heart of the African religiosity and spirituality and is enriched by the traditional culture of the people.

Limitations: Oral theology is localised. Hence if gospel is to be understood clearly there is need to shift from oral to written. Gospels are a good example.

ATR and primal religious systems are preparatory grounds for understanding the Gospel. E.G. Paul at Athens

a) Interpretation and application may differ from Western perspectives. E.g. African culture is mainly “Shame Culture” as opposed to “Guilty Culture”. Public acceptance determines morality. Illustration: Whistle blower is the problem; A thief is only one if he is caught in the act.
b) Western Dualistic World View: Spiritual and Physical. African World View is integrated. "It's all spiritual,". It is reflective of a Hebraic world view.
c) Need for the Gospel to dialogue with African culture. African cultures have universally viable and authentic, God-given values that they can share with or contribute to the universal understanding of the Christian gospel. E.g. Community life. “I am because we are, and since I am therefore we are”
d) Need to re-interpret the Gospel in the light of the African context and experiences. E.g. Birth rites, Greetings
e) Dangers of Syncretism. The Gospel should have a transforming effect on us Africans and our cultures in such a way as to bring out the best in us.
           - “the variants of culture and the constants of revelation”
           - “Inculturation” – an African understanding and expression of the Gospel within an evangelical spirituality.

Incarnating the Gospel in Africa
           1. African translations of the Bible
           2. African interpretations of the Bible (E.g. African Bible Commentary).
- should set the biblical message in more explicit relationship with the ways of feeling, thinking, living and self-expression which are proper to the local culture.
          3. Formation of African Christian cultures (inculturation) which includes African Christian theological reflections.[Need to be both a cultural anthropologist and a Biblist]

Some Gospel/Mission Short-comings in the past

           a) Lack of Contextualisation – Of major concern was the African names changing of African at baptism to European – to indicate that one had moved from paganism to Christianity: Hence lost identity.
           b) Lack of Indigenous leadership
           c) Lack of local Christians’ Training.
           d) Missionary Paternalism

Missions Challenge
Africans so uniquely positioned by Almighty God for missions in Africa and overseas.
            - Understand the African culture better than western Missionaries.
            - Can go where white people are not welcome.
            - “Visible Ethnic Minority” respect.
            - Paradigm shift: “Receiving” to “Sending”


The theologian’s task consists in re-thinking and re-expressing the original Christian message in an African cultural milieu. It is the task of confronting the Christian faith and African culture. In this process there is interpenetration of both…There is integration of faith and culture and from it is born a new theological expression that is African and Christian.      (Ukpong as quoted in Martley 1993:68)


Prepared by Bro. Felix Muchimba (Zambia) as part of his teaching ministry.
Uploaded here with his specail permission. Use it for your personal study only. For any other use contact in advance     gracepeaceu AT yahoo.com