Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: December, 2019
Adelodun, Jeremiah Temitope
Department of Religious Studies, Olabisi Onabanjo University
Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Nigeria
Journal Full Text PDF: A Redefinition of Christianity.
Christianity in Africa has rapidly gained prominence over the years and the implication of this practice is vast felt by many Africans. But there had been some Eurocentric approach to African Christianity which has denied the progress of incorporating the real African problem into Biblical Christianity, this failure of a proper cultural interpretation of the Christian Bible into African needs has affected the worldview of African Christians thereby placing the European culture as a template for the proper interpretation of the scripture. As such, this paper presents theologians as a solution to the misrepresentation of Christianity as it ought to be by educating the laymen to understand the necessary approach to reading the Bible.
Keywords: Christianity in Africa, Eurocentric approach, Biblical Christianity, cultural interpretation and theologians as a solution.
One of the most widely accepted religions in the world today is Christianity and its practice in Africa is of keen interest to the western world (Foreign missionaries). In their quest to spread Christianity over the world they came to Africa with the gospel. It would be quite alright to give kudos to this missionaries for the work they have done in promoting Christianity in Africa but despite these good works by the foreign missionaries, the work they did came rather with an undertone of their own western practices or ways of life in which they caused the African mind to view their own cultural practices as the life that goes along with the scriptures and in this act, they cased most of the African values to go into extinction by viewing those practices as sin, archaic and even inhumane.
Even before the age of exploration, countries have been acting based on their own personal interest. It was during the late 1800s that the western world really started to explore deeper into the heart of Africa. Bojuwade stated in his write up that: “A vast majority of educated elites have adopted western culture. Both western culture and Christian culture have been intermingled together”. Thus, this paper is set to juxtapose the western Christianity in practice here in Africa and how the real African Christianity should be.
2. MISSIONS IN AFRICA
It is not a News that Christianity in Africa was basically pioneered by the Lord Jesus himself in that while he was still an infant, He was taken to the land of Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15) where he began his life as a child before going back to Israel when Herod died. And also the Christian faith came to Africa with the church fathers involved in its propagation as the church history reveals that Christianity in Africa started from the North Africa in which Egypt was also inclusive. Thompson revealed that, “As an organized religion, Christianity’s presence in Africa began much later: it began by the end of the first century in Egypt and by the end of the second century in the region around Carthage”
But, despite all this achievement of the Christian faith in Africa, through the works of African church fathers like, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine etc. there was the period of eclipse for Christianity in which Christianity became a thing of history in north Africa majorly as a result of the entry of Islam in the northern Africa which came more with the expression of violence.
The latter works of the Christian faith in Africa was championed by the western nations in which their missionaries came with the gospel to the continent.
Before 1800 the chief contact of sub-Saharan Africa with Europe was through the traffic in slaves for the New World. Increasing Western commercial penetration from the end of the eighteenth century and ultimate political dominance in Africa coincided with a massive Christian missionary enterprise. The modern era of the missionary expansion of the Christian Church started with an evangelical revival movement stimulating Protestant initiatives at the end of the eighteenth century, with Anglican and Roman Catholic missions joining up some decades later. Intensified contact with the non-Western world since the late eighteenth century confirmed in the European mind the idea of the Christianization of those parts of the world which had hitherto been deprived of the message of the Gospel.
This speech of viera reveals that the Christian mission is not the first link of interaction between the Europeans and the Africans, but rather the means of commerce which has been existing was adopted to penetrate the gospel into the African nations.
A major factor to consider in the advent of Christianity in the modern African is that Christianity came to stay in most of the African nations around the 1900 and 2000 AD, the 19th century Christianity in Nigeria was brought by English missionaries. Babalola reveals in his work that: “…missionary endeavor to Nigeria took place in the 19th century and was marked by the advent of the first English speaking Christian mission in Badagry, in September 1842 while in 1878 Lavigerie was entrusted with the evangelization of Equatorial Africa other history of the Christianity advent in Africa continues. Thus, in lieu of this, it is quite evident that the Christian missionaries came to Africa at the time/period of the colonization and it was difficult for them just as Thompson sees it that “the time of the western missionary enterprise in Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries coincided with the colonization of Africa by the western powers. Consequently it was difficult for the missionaries to untie themselves completely from the general preconceptions and prejudice of the western imperialists in Africa.” This is because, they are used to that way of life and meeting it on ground would be very difficult for them to avoid if their goal will be achieved.
Despite the route (western) of penetration of the gospel to Africa, it is quite noteworthy as it has been expressed earlier in this paper to note that the African culture can be largely seen to be more related to the scriptural injunctions even beyond the relativeness to the western way of life, Just as Thomas Oden opined and this paper also concurs with his saying in discussing the advent of Christianity in relation to the African value and culture where he said that, “African played a decisive role in the formation of Christian culture.” In elaborating more about the discussion, He reveals that, “Decisive intellectual achievements of Christianity were explored and understood first in Africa before they were recognized in Europe, and millennium before they found their way to North America.” The opinion of Thomas is simply expressing that Africa shouldn’t be seen as underdogs in the formation of Christianity and the practice of Christianity should not be seen as a white man religion thereby affecting African way of worship to be constrained in the western method.
3. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MODERN CHURCH
In trying to reconcile the modern Christian life to African values, it is expedient for this paper to quickly highlight some of the traits found in the modern African church.
Firstly, the church today is characterized with what could be seen as fractionalism. Christians today appears to be people of varieties rather than to be united in their co habitation as God wants it. Denominationalism, segregationalism, sectionalism and all other form of “isms” that are causing divisions inthe Christian fold today.
Another serious factor is the act of individualism rather than communalism which was the early practice of the Christian church, the church is very much carried away by the individual pursuits at the expense of communal peace and unity. The Christians today have forgotten the saying which John Mbiti also explained in his work that, “I am because we are and we are, therefore I am” but instead of being communal in their activities, the “I” is being celebrated more than the “We” which is not a right value of the African mind. Talking about the western way of life, Wilbur concur with this when he expressed that, “When African people begin to embrace western culture and values, they find that these values have the negative effect dividing and separating the community instead of producing cooperation.
Morealso, the aim of the modern African Christian is more on materialism, aiming at position, fame etc. rather than recognizing that Christians only live in the world but they are not of the world, they (Christians) pursue the world for a contrary goal to that which is the great commission.
4. THEOLOGIANS AS VITAL SYNDROME
The theologians are here discovered to be necessary in bringing a remedy to the situation at hand in trying to bring back the right mode of worship to Yahweh here in Africa. Thus, the role of the African theologians would be briefly discussed in this section of the paper.
Firstly, is the role of a theologian in educating the masses in the right way of worship to God without necessarily being under the influence of the western way of life and mode of doing things.The education could be in the means of teaching by giving seminars, talk, symposium etc.
Furthermore, the theologians must reveal the importance of living right with God and with the people which is the right way of worship to God. Kunhiyop in his writing opines that, “Theologians must bridge the compartmentalization of academic theology to moral transformation”. The idea dispensed here is simply insinuating that the theologians are not limited to only theologians educating the masses verbally but also to affect the pragmatic aspect of the Christian life. And this is to be done by ensuring that people do what they are being educated on.
Moreover, the African mind should be fed by African theologians with discourse that are related to the African man. Some courses being taught in the schools both in the secular and in the sacred schools should be previewed and arguments that are not a problem for Africans should be substituted with the ones that addresses the African. Kunhiyop passionately expressed his thoughts about the curriculum used by African theologians while discussing about the systematic theology in particular, he said, “The question that the African is concerned with is not whether or not God exist” he viewed this theological argument as a problem meant for the western mind and not for the African man since Africans are very much conscious of a supreme being. The reader might try to give some African atheist as there are some of them today but the truth remains that those African atheist are to a reasonable extent convinced that there is God and some of them became atheists because of some western individuals they choose as mentors, or what they have watched from the western movies, books etc. But Kunhiyop did not stop in only discovering the point of problem but also proffered a solution that, “The question an African mind needs is, how a loving and powerful God relates to our daily problems, sickness, pain, death etc.” These are vital issues that Africans are striving with day in day out.
Rather than spending more time in proving the existence of God and other theological ideas propounded by western philosophers, theologians should create answers to questions that Africans raised about the Christian faith and their relation to surrounding phenomenon.
5. PROPOSED CHRISTIANITY IN AFRICA
Since the moral decadence going on in the church has been considered, this paper further proceeds to present forth other ways theologians could further educate the populace about a biblical 21st century African Christianity:
Dressing today is not a news in Africa especially in Nigeria to be a western dominated kind, but this paper is proposing that the imposition of western dressing should not be promoted in the African church because the bible in no way recommended that there should be a special kind of attire before worship can be accepted except the prescription given to the priests in the Torah and the use of it was not encouraged in the New Testament as the bible does not record that the apostles have a special cloth they were for the sake of preaching.
The dressing worthy of the children of God is the kind of dressing that brings glory to God and since the primary purpose of dressing is to cover man’s nakedness, then proper and decent dresses should be worn within and outside the church. The use of adornment with wrong motive should be avoided but rather all things should be done moderately.
The way or protocol of worship is another very important factor to be careful of in bringing a Biblical Christianity to African nations. Many churches today observe their worship section as if it is an initiation service and sometimes holiness is seen in light of walking straight like a stick and staying quiet and others who dance and express their joy are seen as sinners who do not know God. The Africans are quite cultured in singing and dancing and from the Biblical records, singing and dancing as always be an important language of communicating to God and moving Him to work e.g. David, Jehosaphat etc. they sang unto the lord and He was glad with them.
John 4:24 admonishes that true worship is from the heart and not the physical expression whatever Christians does in the church, the heart must rightly be connected with God and all acts should bring Glory to God.
All forms of relationship should be centered on God and love for others with no deceit involved just as the Father Himself loved man with no condition attached, the unconditional love should be promoted among the believers. Youths and adults should also flee from the worldly love which is nothing but Lust leading to fornication and adultery. The lack of proper relationship with God is of great disadvantage to the individual worshiping thus in line with talking about worship, Robert opines that, “… when someone brings God an offering of worship, he is saying that he intends to grow in his relationship with God. Without the relationship, the worship is simply a ritual” thus, our relationship in the horizontal perspective (man to man) must be holy towards one another and the vertical aspect man to God) of it must also be kept pure in which the goal of man’s worship to God is to create and maintain relationship with God rather than fulfilling protocols.
This paper does not castigate the missionaries for their act in westernization of Christianity but rather to give kudos to them for their strife to ensure Christianity in African nations. Ogbakalu expressed his mind in revealing John Mbiti’s African Theology said that, “… he argued that the sources of ‘doing theology’ comprise the Bible as the source of divine revelation, the indigenous world views, religions, cultures, oral reflection of the people of God…” this theology of Mbiti is balancing the fact that theology is culturally related and Millard Ericcson also defines theology as “the discipline that teaches the doctrine of Christian faith, primarily based on the scripture, placed in the context of culture, worded in contemporary idioms and related to the issues of life.” The thought of this two theologians reveals that theology is not complete without culture and since the western missionaries have brought Christianity in their own way of life then this paper propose in line with other great scholars of this century like Tuesday Adamo, that Africans should also contextualize and decolonize their theology of worship and other Christian activities in which the African practices that are not biblical should be discarded and the right ones should be promoted in the church since God understands every cultures and He has given His word(the Bible) as a standard for living.
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