Proceedings Of The First Annual Conference Towards A Global Congress Of World Religions - Edited by Warren Lewis - 1978
William Jones: For our last session together, we have a distinguished scholar from Uganda, Dr. Aloysius Lugira. He is currently visiting professor of African Religions at Harvard Divinity School. Dr. Lugira has done work at Freiburg University in Switzerland and also Freiburg University in Germany -- he did his terminal degree in social anthropology at Oxford. He has been visiting professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is the chairperson of the department of religion and philosophy at Makerere University in Uganda. He has written a number of works in his maternal language, one of which has been translated into English on Ganda art, which deals with the acculturation of Ganda art to Christian art.
"Out of Africa there is always something new"1 is an adage that, for better or for worse, most graphically bears witness to the novelty of African happenings. Things are happening in Africa! The way they happen in positive terms may be summarized in Julius K. Nyerere's words: "For too long we in Africa -- and Tanzania as part of Africa -- have slept, and allowed the rest of the world to walk round and over us. Now we are beginning to wake up and to join with our fellow human beings in deciding the destiny of the human race. By thinking out our own problems on the basis of those principles which have universal validity, Tanzania will make its contribution to the development of mankind. That is our opportunity and responsibility."2
Seen in the light of the above-quoted statement, African Christian theology is a new thinking out of African religious affairs within the context of African Christianity as related to humanity in general and African peoples in particular. It is a discipline which has recently appeared on the African scene.
For the sake of clarity the paper proceeds by considering African religion, the means by which Africans have from time immemorial held beliefs and practices concerning God as the Supreme Being. The presence of Christianity as a base of theologizing will be outlined. And African Christian theology in contemporary Africa will be discussed.
Theology as a word about God, a discourse, a talk and a reflection about God and things divine finds its roots in religion. That being the case, before one can confidently embark on an exposition of what African Christian theology stands for, it is important first to be clear about the relationship that exists between African religion on one hand and African theology as well as African Christianity on the other.
Without trying to appear as if I am engaged in the exercise of flogging dead horses, it had been said and it is true that there is a good number of people who by trying to deny the existence of African religion still maintain views like those of Sir Samuel Baker, who would shamelessly profess about Africans that, "Without any exception, they (the Northern Nilotes, a group who live in Southern Sudan) are without a belief in a Supreme Being, neither have they any form of worship or idolatry; nor is the darkness of their minds enlightened by even a ray of superstition. The mind is as stagnant as the morass which forms its puny world."3 Whether by intention or by default, Baker's statement was a mistake, a great mistake but a happy mistake. It was a happy mistake for it turned out to be a challenge which in one way or another prompted the appearance of two of the most excellent studies in African religion. Indeed, for any aspirant of African theology as well as African Christian theology, Nuer Religion, by Evans-Pritchard, and Divinity and Experience, by Godfrey Lienhardt, should be considered as musts. Even if their end result was to disprove Baker's statement which had passionately denied the existence of religion among the Northern Nilotes, the message carried by these two books is profitably inspirational to religionists engaged in the study of the religion of African peoples.
African religion as an indispensable partner in the quest of African Christian theology has for a long time suffered from descriptive titles. Many of the titles given to African religion have missed the point either because of their inadequacy or even because of their pejorative innuendoes. Evolutionary approaches to the study of African religion have historically engendered such clearly derogatory terms like fetishism, superstitions, heathenism, and paganism. Through the same approaches, diplomatically derogatory terms in reference to African religion, like animism, primal religion, and tribal religion, have been coined, propagated, and not a few people would still like to abide by the status quo. The usage of such terms should be discouraged, not because of the sentiments they very often manage to provoke, but mainly because they are unscientific. One might recommend on this point having a look at Professor Francis L.K. Hsu's article on "Rethinking the Concept Primitive,"4 as well as Professor E. Bolaji Idowu's "Errors of Terminology."5 Furthermore, religionists should get better accustomed to addressing themselves to African religions in accordance with the terms that express what those religions are and what they stand for and not simply what one may wish them to be called. We may thus refer to Akan religion, Ibo religion, Gikuyu religion, Lugbara religion, Nuer religion and so forth.
What, then, is African religion? African religion may be described as beliefs and practices concerning the Supreme Being as well as superhuman beings. It is a religion which is one in the oneness of essence and many in the plurality of expression. It is by this character that one can speak about African religion in singular and African religions in plural.
African religion is self-contained. It regards Christianity and Islam as counterparts which enjoy some similarities in as far as considerations like that of the Supreme Being are concerned.
That Christianity and Islam stand as counterparts of African religion, it will not be accurate to speak of "Independent Churches" and "African Islam" under the general umbrella of African religions, as Benjamin Ray seems to suggest.6
No matter how acculturated to the African milieu Islam may be, Islam following the Quranic message will always remain Islam. No matter how incarnated in the African atmosphere Christianity may be, Christianity, if she is still to be true to the Bible message, will always remain Christianity.
By way of seeking clear distinctions between the two sets of religions, namely African religions and Christianity/Islam, various descriptions have been suggested. Following in the footsteps of W. Robertson Smith,7 various authors, including G. Parrinder8 and E. Bolaji Idowu,9 have chosen to qualify sub-Saharan indigenous religions as being traditional. W. Robertson Smith categorizes religions in two groups: traditional religions and positive religions.10 The former are described as being spontaneous, having no writings and having been handed down spontaneously from generation to generation. The latter are religions like Christianity, which have clearly identified founders with positively recorded revelations, which characterizes them as religions of a book. This division of religions into traditional and positive runs the risk of inadvertently inducing impressions of negativity concerning the so-called traditional religions. Moreover, historically speaking, one may even wonder as to whether Christianity or Islam11 may not in some African instances be referred to as traditional!
When all this is said about African religion and with the view of adequately relating the various theological developments to the existing religions in Africa, one can refer to African religions as being autochthonous religions, on one hand, and Christianity and Islam as extended religions on the other. While the autochthonous nature of African religions is seen through the fact that these religions are the aboriginal religions of the African lands, extended religions are those whose birth localities are in places and regions other than Africa. By their nature, extended religions are open to becoming acculturated and indigenized to other geographical, cultural, and psychological regions where they happen to land.
The position of African religions has to be clearly identified if they are to make a meaningful contribution to the development of African Christian theology.
Indeed, "in many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he was spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:1-2). Just as God speaks in many and various ways to humanity, so do peoples variously speak about God according to their different endowments and genius. The extension and presence of Christianity in Africa has acculturatively added new perspectives to autochthonously African concepts of God. In order to be in position to depict an adequate picture of African Christian theology, it is imperative to give a historical background of the presence of Christianity and the kind of theological impact Christianity has had on the African scene. The presence of Christianity in Africa may be seen in three stages.
Firstly, in a way some Africans feel amused and flattered to think that Christianity was extended to Africa even before Christianity was formally established. Others prefer to put it in this way, that Christianity was extended to Africa even before it went to Europe. It is recorded in the New Testament that Joseph and Mary with the child Jesus took flight into Egypt. Christ as a refugee was cradled on the unifying waters of the Nile, whose source is located in the very heart of Africa. No wonder that right from the Apostolic Age, African Christianity vigorously flourished up to the outbreak of the ordeal with Islam in the seventh century. Africa, as it were, had shared in the primal blessings of the very founder of Christianity.
Secondly, under the Portuguese prowess of the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, Christianity was extended as far south as the Congo, the home country of King Alphonso, whose son Henry was ordained priest and in 1518 was raised, as the first from sub-Saharan Black Africa, to the rank of a bishop12.
Thirdly, the nineteenth century dawned with a dramatic missionary awakening. New Missionary Societies were established. The African continent was penetrated at various entry points by floods of missions.
The first stage of the Christian presence on the continent of Africa can theologically be summarized in the triumvirate of Augustine-Cyprian-Tertullian. But above all, for the purpose of theological incarnation and acculturation, Augustine is excelled by none. He may be studied as a philosopher who took up and acclimatized into Christianity certain Platonistic themes (e.g., knowledge by participation in divine light, wisdom and contemplation, time and eternity). He should be studied as an exegete "who knew and understood how to put all the resources of culture at the service of a better understanding of Scripture."13 But, to my knowledge, no one has ever studied Augustine as an African theologian. At least geographically, Augustine was an African, as were Tertullian and Cyprian. But their Africaness is yet to be discovered. How much and in what ways did Africa influence and help form the theologies of these seminal and normative Christian theologians?
Augustine provides one of the best examples and animators for those who are engaged in the pursuit of home-grown Christian theology.
The second stage of Christian presence on the African continent is characterized by the Portuguese presence in some coast lands as well as in some islands of sub-Saharan Africa, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. Christian events in the kingdom of the Congo of that period give us some glimpses of the type of theology which was being imparted to the people of this region. As has been mentioned above, a number of young men were sent to Lisbon to train for priesthood. Henry, the son of King Alphonso, became the first Black African to be elevated by Leo X to the episcopacy, as titular bishop of Utica and Vicar Apostolic of the Congo, with residence at San Salvador, the capital, whose poetically significant name of Mbanza Kongo had been changed in favor of a Portuguese-Christian one. Groves' description of the situation gives abundant evidence to theological implications when he writes:
"Despite the energetic support given by Alphonso to the Christian cause, there is little evidence of radical change among the population. In externals, however, a veritable Portuguese mantle had been thrown over dusty society."14
This kind of Christian development was a cause of great displeasure to the ordinary people of the Congo and to the devoted adherents of old religion. The theology introduced and practiced in Africa under such circumstances was one of alienation.
The third stage of Christian presence can be characterized with what one may refer to as the period of missionary theological development in sub-Saharan Africa. It is during this time that we see the mushrooming of a number of training centers described either as seminaries or theological colleges or other like names according to the denominational preferences for such institutions.
From the Protestant point of view, Sundkler's The Christian Ministry in Africa15 makes a good coverage of the period up to the time when serious overtures to African Christian theology begin to surface. As far as the Roman Catholic developments are concerned, Morant's Die Philosophisch-Theologische Bildung in den Priesterseminarien Schwarz-Afrikas,16 can be considered as one of the most relevant monographs to the concerns of this paper. To be a theologian from such institutions as described in those two books or from theological colleges and departments of theology in the North Atlantic countries has its own meaning. It meant that one could enjoy the complacency or even take pride in having had the opportunity of having been initiated in the theological traditions of the West represented by celebrities like Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Rahner, Bernard Haering and many others. It meant that one was a theologian because he was so trained as somehow to be able to sing, to repeat again and again the theological tunes of Western theologians.
But even if they may be like voices crying in the wilderness, there were a few individuals in this period who saw the need of a theology that requires one to begin with the understanding of the peoples' lives and their heritage in order to be able to lay a solid foundation for a "self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending" Christianity in Africa. Among peoples of such foresighted views were Bruno Gutmann and Roland Allen.
"Allen was convinced from the very beginning that 'Church order is not the enemy of the natural and instinctive' and he shared Gutmann's fears of institutions, classifying the theological school as a mission institution."17 As Sundkler observes, according to Allen, "the education of the leaders of the church was divorced from the Church through mission institutions.... They were trained because foreigners wanted to train them in their own way. In relation to the native Church they were often as foreign as the foreign missionaries"18.
Gutmann's theological views for an African Church were based on the realization of the necessity of putting into account the people's heritage, if missionaries were to reap meaningful fruits of their endeavor. Seasoned by the then rampant arbitrariness of colonialism and imperialism, Kraemer passionately retorted in the following manner:
"From the standpoint of fundamental thinking it seems to us that the background of le Zoute or of those who think in the lines of Dr. Gutmann is unwittingly a kind of romanticism. The deep emotional vein that runs through it comes from having fallen in love with the 'primitive' institutions, attitudes, and capacities. After the period of narrow-minded blindness to the value and significance of primitive life-apprehensions and life patterns, this is psychologically quite intelligible as a reaction. Romantic love-making, however, is no good and lasting foundation to building strong and lasting Christian churches upon, though naturally this is what everybody aims at achieving. Dr. Gutmann, in our opinion, errs in another direction, by conceiving the tribal life-structures and patterns as 'creational orders,' that is to say, as divinely sanctioned structures. Clan, tribe, people, nation, etc., are forms and spheres of life that are direct consequences of God's will. This is romanticism fortified by the weight of metaphysical reasoning."19
With this exchange of words one waited for history to be the witness. Certainly, if Kraemer could himself revise the above statement today, the tone would be completely different. For Gutmann's foundations among the Chagga of Tanzania at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro have shown their worth both spiritually and materially. Above all, it is the building on such foundations as were laid by Gutmann that Makumira Theological College in that area is proving to be the focal point for the birth of African Christian theology. As much as I know, it is the only Black African theological college which awards degrees as well as having an African language as the medium of instruction.20
Some amount of arrogance in communicating the Christian message to peoples of cultures other than the Western ones has stunted the growth of Christian theology in Africa. It is that arrogance that Gutmann intended to counteract by his Christian approach to African heritage as a means of proper laying of Christian foundations among the Chagga.
In order to develop a good view of Gutmann's contribution, it will not suffice to single out only one of his books as several of his critics have done.21 His three treatises on the science of missions must be taken together in order to catch a complete picture of his theology.22
It was in the fifties that the winds of change in sub-Saharan Africa brought about a new atmosphere in that part of the world. It was during those years that promises of political emancipation began to develop signs of confidence, dignity and self-fulfillment. It was up to the leaders to try and read the signs of the times.
It was in Kampala, Uganda, that on April 20, 1963, in a typically African style African drums joyously signaled the birth of the All African Conference of Churches which brings all Protestant churches on the continent to sound with one liberating and prophesying voice. This meant a beginning of a beginning. The ecumenical theology of this body since then, from an administrative level, became an inspiration to theologians engaged in the pursuit of an African Christian theology.
The ecumenical visit of Pope Paul VI to Kampala, Uganda, of July, 1969, became an epoch-making event as far as Christian theological endeavors in sub-Saharan Africa are concerned. The memorable statement of that visit gave a new impetus towards an African Christian theology to both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Africa. The pertinent section of the statement is as follows: "The expression, that is, the language and mode of manifesting the one faith, may be manifold; hence it may be original, suited to the tongue, the style, the character, the genius and the culture of the one who professes this one faith. From this point of view a certain pluralism is not only legitimate, but desirable. An adaptation of the Christian life in the fields of pastoral ritual, didactic and spiritual activities is not only possible, it is even favored by the Church. The liturgical renewal is a living example of this. And in this sense, you may, and you must, have an African Christianity."23
This time the affairs of Christian development are not run according to missionaries in the field versus missionary headquarters either in Europe or America. This time, the whole show is supposed to be run, in a concerted way, from and within the African continent.
While administratively the All African Conference of Churches (AACC), based in Nairobi, Kenya, takes care of developments from the Protestant point of view, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, based in Accra, Ghana, cares for the Roman Catholic developments. It is so easy for the two bodies reciprocally to exchange notes.
The sixties saw vigorous establishment of the departments of theology and religious studies at various African universities. It is since then that theology stopped being a monopoly of theological colleges and seminaries. Instead, the latter became regionally associated and established links with African universities. These are some of the developments which make the pursuit of African Christian theology excitingly creative and cooperatively pluralistic.
It was Professor E.B. Idowu who in unequivocal terms first seriously called upon his fellow African theologians to come out of their hiding corners and squarely face their responsibilities of producing relevant and meaningful theologies which would meet the spiritual needs of African peoples.24 Since this call, conferences and consultations on African Christian theology have taken place in different parts of Africa on this vital subject.25
However, in spite of consultations, theology in Africa still poses questions concerning definition, methodology, sources, trends and concerns for the future.
Bearing in mind that theology is a talk about God and related things, that kind of talk can be carried out in Africa in a number of ways. Religiously, ethnically, and temperamentally, Africa is a place of variety. Under "Theology in Africa" one can talk about many theologies.
African theology is a phrase which seems to be in use with an ambivalence which should not be allowed to continue without explanation. African peoples record their great ideas and serious reflections in proverbs. The Barundi of Burundi say that "The creature is not greater than its Creator"26; the Akan of Ghana say that "God needs no pointing out to a child"27; the Jabo of Liberia say that "We invoke God; we do not invoke Eternity"28; the Kikuyu in Kenya say that "The enemy of a man is not God"29.
These are proverbs which show how some Africans have talked about God and his related creatures for many, many years. A proverb in African tradition is not only a didactical saying. It is a storehouse of native wisdom and philosophy fraught with wit, rhetoric, humor and poetic value. A proverb on God is seriously a talk, a reflection, on God, the unraveling of which may result into books. It is African theology.
P'Bitek Okot accuses Danquah, Idowu and Mbiti, when writing on African religions, of being intellectual smugglers. What they have written, in the case of Danquah, Akan Doctrine of God, in the case of Idowu, Oludumare: God in Yoruba Belief: or Mbiti's Concepts of God in Africa, even if there are flaws and loopholes, are still an expression of what one may call African theology.
A number of theologians and religionists, among whom one would include Bishop Desmond Tutu and John Mbiti, have introduced the subject of African theology; but the way they have introduced it requires a real clarification and probably some good revision. It is a bit dishonest to talk about African theology, while in actual fact one intends to speak about African Christian theology. To my mind, these two things are different. African theology is African God-talk and African Christian theology has a different point of departure. The flavor of African religion or African theology and the flavor of Christian theology are different; but when we combine them, we create a new synthesis that we may honestly refer to as being African Christian theology.
African Christian theology has been variously described. Broadly, African Christian theologians are expected to relate the Christian message to their particular cultural, social and political situations. Consequently, by nature, African Christian theology will be pluralistically ready always to be in position to read the signs of the times. It will be dynamic in a sense that it is an ever-renewed reinterpretation to new generations and peoples of the Christian message and a re-presentation of the will and the way of the one Christ in a dialogue with new thought forms and culture patterns.
To do this type of African Christian theology, what are the possible sources? Of course, a basic source for doing anything Christian is the Bible.
1. The Bible
The Bible is the basic and main source of any Christian theology. No theology can claim to be Christian and disassociate itself from Biblical revelation as the primary source of the Christian faith. The Bible in this sense has to be understood in its totality to include both the Old and the New Testaments. African religions will not do as a substitute for the Old Testament.
2. The Christian Heritage
Next we have the totality of church history or the Christian heritage, even though when I talk about the Christian heritage, probably I should need some other qualification. I think when we talk about church history as a source, then we are giving it its proper importance; because, doing a theology without church history means beating about the bush.
3. African Religions
The autochthonous religions native to African soil.
4. African Initiated Churches
We are further presented these days with a multiplicity of what I prefer to call the African-initiated churches.
5. Anthropology and the Realities of African Life
African Christianity has suffered much from some of the approaches. I wouldn't like to embarrass anybody; but when the missionaries came, most of the missionary societies were revivalist; they were evangelicals. What they taught about the Bible led their converts into being too fundamentalist. I think the fundamentalists and the evangelistic approach does not really help us to come to this new thing we call African Christian theology; and it's because of this that there has been so much mud-flinging, one African theologian against another. One says, "Oh, look, what we are doing-you are trying to create a pagan-Christian theology, which probably is not the proper thing to be done!" One such person was a colleague, who unfortunately died not long ago, by the name of Byoung Catoh. He wrote a monograph on the theoretical pitfalls in African theology. He was an evangelical Christian, and his book has caused a lot of dust, particularly as a result of calling other theologians, who would try to stick to real principles of exegetical approach, "new pagans." Rev. Byoung Catoh was a representative of Billy Graham in Africa. But, of course, when these problems come it means that there is something healthy going on.
Another problem African Christian theologies face from the Biblical point of view relates to one's understanding of the Old Testament. There are some African theologians who think that, since African religion is now in a good position, probably we no longer need the Old and New Testament, or, at least, the African religion should substitute for the Old Testament. But, believing in Christ as we do, it is my opinion that he came to fulfill, not to destroy the Old. I can hardly see how one would say we can exclude the Old Testament and substitute the African religion for it.
The African-initiated churches are something new. Some people prefer to call them "independent" churches, and others call them schismatic churches, and others would call them separatist churches. But the main point is to acknowledge that they are a theological source, because they give some new interpretations. They are churches, and their leaders and followers confess that they are Christian. The approaches they take in establishing these new bodies should be considered by African theologians as probably sources and means towards a re-interpretation and incarnational or acculturational exercise in theology, helping us render Christian theology African.
Then, we have anthropology. Much of what we talk about in African religion has been supplied to us by anthropologists. But the impression anthropologists tend to give is that anthropology is the study of inferior men by higher men. For this reason many African universities are discouraging anthropology and the people opt for sociology instead.
A final point is the struggle going on in Africa for the transformation of society: the struggle over the socio-economic systems, the struggle against racism, the struggle against the political movement, the struggle of the African Black against other African Blacks. All these things ought to be considered as sources that help us to focus our attention on African Christian theological thinking.
In a special way, I should like to mention liberation theology. The theology of liberation has come to Africa mainly through South Africa, where the definition is that it is a theology of the oppressed for the oppressed and by the oppressed; and, sometimes, it is referred to as being Black theology. On the African scene there is a divergence of opinions on whether African Christian theology should be known as Black theology. Black theology, as presented in the Union of South Africa, is a part of African Christian theology, rather than the African Christian theology. In other words, African Christian theology is pluralistic, and because it is pluralistic, it can therefore include African Orthodox theology, Ugandan African Christian theology, and it can also contain Black theology as we find it being developed in South Africa. I stress this because I am of the opinion that Black theology under African circumstances is probably a transient one, transient in the sense that Black theology in South Africa has its real value as a tactical theology, unless one was developing Black theology based on the philosophy of negritude. Then, the case would be different; but if we take Black theology as being something different from the philosophy of negritude, then we are confusing issues when we term it the African Christian theology.
In conclusion, wittingly or unwittingly, positively or negatively, and even passively, Christianity in Africa can be held responsible for many happenings we see today on the African continent. It is this same Christianity which has to view and re-view herself critically if she wants to be in a position to accomplish the great commission with which she is commissioned. Christianity has to approach herself critically if she would be all in all in order to be able to bring about salvation and liberation of mankind in full. This is what African Christian theology should be standing for.
With all these sources at their disposal, African theologians have to work hard. The task ahead is not an easy one. But with persistence and will, success has to come. In the words of Augustine of old: "Where there is love there is no labor and if there is labor, then labor is loved." It is indeed no secret that dehumanizing injustices are everywhere in this world, Africa included. African Christian theology must be a contextual theology. That is, theology which is accountable to the context in which people live. It must seriously address itself to the liberation of the people from all captivity.
1 Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Bk VIII, 17.
2 Nyerere on Socialism, Dar-es-Salaam, OUP 1969, p. 58.
3 Cf. Evans-Pritchard, E.E., Theories of Primitive Religion, Oxford 1965, pp. 6-7.
4 Current Anthropology, Vol. 5 No. 3 (1964), pp. 169-178.
5 African Traditional Religion: A Definition, pp. 108-134.
6 Cf. African Religions: Symbols, Ritual and Community, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1976.
7 'The Religion of the Semites, London, 1889.
8 African Traditional Religion, New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1976.
9 African Traditional Religion: A Definition, London: SCM Press, 1973.
10 Op. cit. pp. 129.
11 E.G. in Ethiopia, Mauritania.
12 Groves, C.P., The Planting of Christianity in Africa, Vol. I, p. 127.
13 Camelot, Th. "The Fathers and Doctors of the Church," in Henry, A.M., ed., Introduction to Theology, Chicago, pp. 162-63.
14 Op. cit., p. 129.
15 Sundkler, Bengt, The Christian Ministry in Africa, London: SCM, 1960.
16 Morant, P., Dr. Adelrich, Die Philosophisch-Theologische Bildung in den Priesterseminarien Schwarz-Afrikas, Schoeneck-Beckenried, 1959.
17 Sundkler, op. cit., p. 58.
18 Allen, Roland, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, 2nd ed. 1949, pp. 173, 192.
19 Kraemer, Hendrik, The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World (London: Harper and Brothers, 1938), p. 340.
20 Cf., e.g., Howard S. Olsen, "Swahili as an Educational Medium," in Africa Theological Journal (Makumira Lutheran Theological College, Tanzania), No. 4, August 1971, pp. 25-39.
21 Oosthuizen, G. C, Post Christian in Africa: A Theological and Anthropological Study (London, 1967), p. 223, followed by Kwesi Dickson, "Towards a Theologia Africana" in Glasswell, M. E. and Edward W. Fashole-Luke eds., New Testament Christianity for Africa and the World, p. 201.
22 Christusleib und Ndichstenschaft, (Freuchtwangen, 1931); Freies Menschentum aus ewigen Bindungern (Kasse); Gemeinde Aufbau aus dem Evangelium, (Leipzig, 1925). Cf. also J. H. Oldham and B. D. Gibson, The Remaking of Man in Africa (London: OUP), pp. 53-54, 94, 146.
23 Pope Paul's Address at the Closing of the All African Bishops' Symposium, Kampala, Rubaga Cathedral, July 31, 1969 in African Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. X, No. 4, (1969), pp. 402-405.
24 E. Bolaji Idowu, Towards an Indigenous Church, (Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. 22ff.
25 1966 -- a consultation of African theologians was held at Immanuel College,
Ibadan, Nigeria, under the auspices of
1968 -- Theological Study Week, Kinshasha.
1971 -- a consultation in Dar-es-Salaam.
1972 -- a consultation in Makerere University.
1973 -- a consultation in New York.
1974 -- a consultation in Accra, Ghana.
1976 -- a consultation in Dar-es-Salaam.
1977 -- a consultation in Accra, Ghana.
26 E. W. Smith, African Ideas of God, p. 196.
27 Danquah, Akan Doctrine of God.
28 G. Herzog, Jabo Proverbs from Liberia, p. 19.
29 Cagnolo, The Agikuyu, p. 219.
J. Deotis Roberts: You mentioned that liberation from oppression is really a central focus. In my writings I have emphasized also the total cultural dimension, which I think opens up some dialogue with all of Africa, not with just the Black power dynamics between Black theology and Southern Africa, where obviously the political liberation thrust is being focused. Do you see that as having real possibilities for creative discussion where you are and in other parts of Africa? In the same way that you are destined to get back to the bedrock experience of African traditional religions, the American Black is also searching for his traditional spiritual Black experience. How would you define it?
Aloysius Lugira: Your approach of considering Black theology within a general philosophical perspective directly focused on negritude would help establish not a transient, Black theology, as in the case of South Africa, but a more universal Black theology. I would be inclined to interpret a Black theological view of God as being oriented to Blackness per se, not as a transient sort of tactical theology, but something theologically permanent in the Black situation. The crises of the Black situation do not last only tomorrow and then end. They will go on. When the oppressions completely disappear, still the element of Blackness will remain. But of course it would be very unrealistic to say that oppression will ever disappear. We find people within the same oppression oppressing each other! I would give one very very good example to show what I mean by that: One day I visited with a Black friend, and we were having a cup of tea at the table. His children arrived from school, jovially shouting and so on. Then they caught sight of me; one of the youngsters pointed at me, "This one comes from Africa." I said, "What do you mean? How do you know that I come from Africa?" He said, "Because you are Black." (laughter) Of course, I had to talk to my friend about that. He explained it to me: "He says you are Black; the children see this, because your color is a little darker than ours." This might seem a little trivial, but in fact it focuses one's attention on negritude.
Now this other point: Mbiti would suggest that Black theology as you Westerners do it is none of our African business; let us do our own theology and you do yours. But I'm thinking that is non-Christian. Now, I'm not passing judgment on Mbiti. But I'm looking at the statement. Theology, as soon as you say it, is Christianity, or it is a Christian theology, and it is following the Christian message. It means that in spite of the plurality of considerations, still there is an element binding all of us in a universal way.
J. Deotis Roberts: Just this comment: The discussion of both Black and African theology will obviously have to go beyond those two figures, Mbiti and Catoh. Here in this room, Bill and I represent two quite different Black perspectives...
Aloysius Lugira: Certainly, certainly! I intentionally mentioned only those two names. I know your stand, and your stand is universalist, if I am interpreting you correctly. As long as we talk about Christianity, we are talking about the oppressed. But what about the oppressors? If we have to theologize, let us theologize for the oppressed as well as for the oppressors.
Unidentified Speaker: I'm not very well acquainted with the content of African Christian theology in detail; but, I suppose it would involve the attempt to give some African twist or re-orientation to orthodox Christian theology. Would you then regard African Christian theology as a response to the failure of Christianity and traditional Christian theology to live up to the original ideal?
Aloysius Lugira: Probably it is more than a twist. It's more than a twist because African theologians want to express Christianity in a way that accommodates the African situation. If you talk about twists, we might as well talk about fashion. But it is not a matter of being fashionable to talk about African Christianity; rather, it is a necessity, for the sake of giving a more meaningful presentation of the Christian message. As to the failure of Christianity in Africa, that is exactly why we are trying to establish African Christianity. As soon as Christianity fails to be meaningful in a given environment, and as soon as we realize that it is because Christianity is being presented in a way which is fooling the people, then we are talking in terms of cause and effect. The two aspects of your question go together to demand an observation on the cause of this failure. The cause, I think, is that Christian theology has tended to alienate people from what they are.
Francis Botchway: I'm still not very clear as to what African Christian theology is all about, and the difference between African Christian theology and Black theology. You seem to suggest that African Christian theology is an attempt to make the Christian religion much more meaningful to the African.
Aloysius Lugira:...and relevant.
Francis Botchway: Do you consider that to be a reaction to the furtherment of failures of Euro-Christianity in Africa? If so, how does that differ from Black theology, which, as you suggested earlier, is the tactical theology to liberate people who are oppressed?
Is the African under Euro-Christianity not meant to live oppressed to the extent that his very acceptance of Euro-Christianity denies him his full authenticity as an African? How do you solve that question? An African who is a Christian denies his own Africanness as an African, does he not?
Aloysius Lugira: I tried to express that in African Christian theologizing we aim at getting ourselves liberated from all types of captivity. Because, if you say Christian theology or European Christianity is oppressive mainly because it has made us afraid to become ourselves or to be what we are to be, then that oppression is a type of captivity. African Christian theology is a way to inspire confidence in ourselves, to inspire dignity, and to inspire the essential self-fulfillment. Once we develop those attitudes, then we are standing on our own feet. But when we stand on our own feet, we don't stand on our own feet in such a way that we say that we are the only ones, there are no others.
Francis Botchway: I'm still confused. In front of the African church in Accra, I saw the huge statue of Jesus, the angels and some of the saints. They are all painted white. You go to the Catholic Church, the Episcopalian Church, and all the angels you see are white. Now, if African Christian theology is an attempt to relate Christianity to Africa and to free the African from that kind of mental domination by Euro-Christianity, the images that we see on a daily basis in the church contradict the attempts being made to Africanize Christian theology. So, I'm wondering how will you free us? My child goes to church on Sunday mornings and sees a white angel, a white Jesus, a white saint painted white, and comes back home to the Black family and I tell him: "You know, I'm trying to free you from dependence on Euro-Christianity!" How do I explain that to him?
Aloysius Lugira: This reminds me of Jomo Kenyatta's attitude when Kenya was about to attain its political independence. This attitude was once expressed in this way: "Look, we are being over trodden; we are humiliated to the extent that if you enter church, you find all angels painted white and devils painted black. We read the Bibles, with pictures they should not have painted. So when we attain our independence, we are going to change all these things." Now my underlined word there is "when we attain our independence." This independence does not simply mean when we gain power. It means that, when we are ourselves again, we shall reshape things. In the case of that cathedral with those white statues, I think that once we get things started theoretically, then the statues can be taken to the museum and be replaced with something more fitting. That would be theologizing in Africa.
Andrew Wilson (Student, Unification Theological Seminary): Yesterday, Dr. Botchway talked about intellectuals in Africa being still very much captive to the West, because a lot of them were educated in America and Britain. He suggested that perhaps the intuitive native genius might be the real source of true African theology. I'm wondering about the African-initiated religions you mentioned. Perhaps they are the places where the most creative African theologies are being made, which will, indeed, overthrow this hidden racism that we see in the statues.
Aloysius Lugira: When you talk about the African-initiated churches, the effect is what we call "dividing the room." If you are in a town where this type of mushrooming of churches takes place, a church of five people, a church of three, and finally you get a thousand of these. You might call it ecclesiastical inflation. They are a resource to help you at least try to live seriously. They are the base of Christianity. But people get personal revelations. Then the human problems become a further division of the people and exclusiveness. So I would not take these people to be the intuitive creators of African Christian theology. But the churches are, at least, sources. They contribute something. But when someone talks about his intuitions to the extent of forgetting about study and lets "the Spirit move where it will," I think that's not the way to go. We know in Africa some places where the leaders can hardly write their names. They accomplish things probably because they have intuition; and because of intuition, they are very effective in certain areas. In certain areas, they accomplish things which even those who went to university are not able to do. But is that the kind of intuition one would think of as being the best to translate the Christian message? As soon as we talk about Christianity, of course, we have to think very much in terms of the Bible, the basis of Christianity. If the Bible is not studied, then we might as well end in hell. That is my view as far as intuition is concerned.
Andrew Wilson: In the West, one of the historical problems of Christian theology has been denominationalism, so many different denominations. One theory says it is based on the Western splitting of man into head and heart, spirit and body. But we heard yesterday that the African view of man is more holistic. I wonder, then, if African theology can develop a way of unification to overcome the denominational differences that have so hurt Western Christianity.
Aloysius Lugira: Wholeness is one of the greatest themes in our attempt towards an African Christian theology. It is great mainly because it is based on our own value of hominalistic togetherness, hominalistic way of doing things. When we say that I've got something on my mind, we say my mind and heart and soul. We do also make distinctions, but the way we make these distinctions is in such a way that it does not lead us to an individualistic way of viewing things. Traditionally speaking, in Africa we are not individualists. Then, at the same time, we know the place of an individual; when we say we are not "individualists," this should not lead one to conclude that, therefore, we are just a bloc. We are not blocs. Individuals are respected for what they are. But the communalistic ideological way of seeing things comes with a certain web that ties people together. People talk about tribes, but "tribes" is one of those words that has been so badly represented. Let us talk about the clan. The clan is a unit of individuals, but then at the same time having something of a vital nature of its own that makes these individuals to be so together, to be so close together. I'll give one example of this binding element of the clan. Yesterday I was talking to students in Indianapolis and an African student said, "Since some of us have become so acculturated in this area, they don't like to go back to Africa." I asked, "Why?" He answered, "When they get jobs, get good money, and when they think about going to Africa, then the problem that comes into their heads is this: 'When I go back, I am not going to enjoy these many rooms alone with my wife, and I have to take care of my niece and my nephew and my uncle.'" This is our type of communalism. When you get a good son, you know he is not just your son only. When I was living in an urban area, at least once a fortnight I had to go upcountry to take something for my uncle; otherwise I was a bad child. You don't get so educated as to go to the extent of forgetting those people who made you what you are. For instance, in the African way of looking at things, it would be very strange for you to pay your own son or your own daughter some money to do something in the house. What they do in the house is not a matter of rendering service. The remuneration is simply that they have done something for the family, something for the clan. That's what I mean by that web, the element which still binds people together. How would our web affect Christianity in contradistinction to what we are faced with in European denominationalism? We have also many denominations, for the time being. But you will find that many of these denominations came about as a result of following some of the theologies which were transferred to Africa with the arrival of the missionaries.
I went to a theological seminary at home, and by the time I left that seminary to go to Europe, I was thinking more in European terms than a European, tending to look down on the valuable things of African nature. It was only when I went to Freiburg and did a bit of phenomenology of religion that I realized what a fool I was. So I discovered myself as an African when I became open to a comparative study of religion.
Phillip McCracken: I was wondering if you might be able to give some idea of what you mean by African flavor in Christianity, or in Islam.
Aloysius Lugira: Maybe "African flavor" is just a metaphor for contribution, orientation, interpretation. In Christianity, that's what we may call the incarnation of the Incarnation. I mean keeping everything that is Christian, but acculturated in such a way that it yields a new whole element or a new whole entity.
Francis Botchway: It seems to me, so far, that African Christian theology aims at examining certain theological issues within their framework or the Bible, or orthodox Christianity. It seems to me, however, that you cannot speak of African Christian theology as such, but only of contributions by African colleagues or African theologians to Christian theology, simply because African Christian theology really moves within the traditional environment. So, it seems to me that the expression "African Christian theology" is really meaningless. It's very meaningless. In this sense, it would be no different from contributions by Indian scholars or Japanese scholars who are Christians and who have also contributed intellectually to the development of Christian theology. I like the way you describe African theology. That's beautiful and I think it is the right thing to do. But I don't make a distinction between "African theology" and "African Christian theology." While making this distinction, you go on to draw certain elements into African Christian theology, such as wholeness, communalism: these belong to African theology, these belong to African philosophy, African thought. You are drawing all this into your African Christian theology and, at the same time, you are making a distinction between "African theology" and "African Christian theology." It's confusion! It's all confusion! If you want to talk about African theology, then talk about African theology. And if you want to be eclectic, then say that; and preach Christian theology to African theologians and African scholars right now. But if you do that, you are going to be holding yourself to syncretism.
Aloysius Lugira: Now, my friend, this is not what we are trying to do. We are trying to find explanations to these situations. Even though you reject the term "African Christian theology," I think, in actual fact, you are trying to give an explanation of what you think African Christian theology is. I don't see any difference when you talk about the Christian African or the contribution of Christians or Africans to Christianity. African Christian theology is a contribution to Christianity. I am a Christian, but my being a Christian does not take away from me the fact that I am a Ugandan. I am a Ugandan, and probably was a Ugandan before I was a Christian, even if I was baptized as a little baby. And the dear thing is, we always go together. My being a Christian, bearing a Christian name, attending Christian services, does not make me an eclectic. What it does do to me is bring about an incarnation -- of my being both a Ugandan and taking on this other thing we call Christianity. It is a question of translating the Christian life for a theologian, or a child, in a meaningful way according to their environmental circumstances. We are not aiming only at academicism or theorizing; but, we are theorizing in order to be able to come to proper practice.
Unidentified Speaker: What can African Christian theology provide that African theology cannot provide?
Aloysius Lugira: African theology does not provide Christianity's basic source, namely the Bible. That is the really distinctive element, the Bible! African theology is based on a set of doctrines or beliefs; and, Christian theology is based primarily on the Bible. The biblical revelation is different from the African religious revelation.
William Jones: If you conclude that the difference between African theology and African Christian theology has to do with the source, namely African Christian theology has the Bible as its primary source, then what is the African component in African Christian theology? You are now using as the source for African Christian theology something Christian, but you correctly say that the Bible is not African doctrine. I'm trying to get the distinctive African component in African Christian theology.
Aloysius Lugira: Don't forget, I referred to the Bible as the primary source.
William Jones: That means the African elements are the secondary sources that are added to what we find in the Christian scriptures. What are these distinctive African elements?
Aloysius Lugira: They're much different from the Christian source. African theology bases itself on the African religious world-view. In this African world-view we see the type of revelation some people call general revelation; although as you well know, one comes here to problems of theological control. Nevertheless, we maintain that, even before Christianity came to Africa, people knew numerous things, among which the highest was God, according to the different African ways of expressing the matter. But how did they get to that? It is that natural capacity, in particular in connection with African religion. I like to say that our people have reasoned things out and they have come to certain conclusions. Very often you find in our proverbs and in our myths the attempt to give explanation why things happen to exist. Whether we call it general revelation or a revelation based on the capacity of the individuals, I consider that to be the basic or primary source for our African religious dealings and the African theological conclusions.
Francis Botchway: I think Dr. Jones' logical question was, if you take the Bible to be the source of Christian theology and the same Bible to be the source of African Christian theology, then wherein lies the basis for the authentic component of African Christian theology?
Aloysius Lugira: Yes, this is the incarnation I'm referring to. If you are a Ghanian and a Christian, then you are a Ghanian Christian. What makes you a Ghanian? And what makes you a Christian?
William Jones: I'm saying there's something in the content of German university theology different from the content of Black theology with an accent on negritude. In the same way, it is significant to distinguish between Black theology as opposed to African theology. But if we are not getting any content difference, it seems to be a difference at the level of words only.
Aloysius Lugira: No, not just words. When we talk from the point of view of sources, as we have just been doing, I stress the African heritage, under which we get a differing world view. When we are concentrating this distinctive African heritage and add the Bible, an incarnation of theological existence is generated; it moves me to a distinctive African Christian theology.
William Jones: Could you, then, specify some of the specifics of the African heritage which would be central components of African Christian theology but which are not elements of biblical material and the traditional Christian heritage?
Aloysius Lugira: In many cases, the African view of God is expressed in ways that denote exactly what is expressed by the Bible. But we move on to the differences. Communalism, or the community sense of feeling, in the African heritage is clearly different from the community feeling we get from the Hebrew expression. But when I take, for instance, St. Paul's words "to be all in all in Christ," that is the kind of communal sharing you will find in the African expression. If we adapt the expression to the African feeling, we generate something new but which is basically Christian. We can speak of an interpretation, or an adaptation, and the generation of a newly incarnate something; or we can call this a humanism in context.
William Jones: Should it be called African Christian theology or Christian African theology, in terms of your understanding of the primacy of source and of emphasis? Are the terms co-equal as sources or is one source pre-eminent?
Aloysius Lugira: The reason I mention Africa first is a logical one. Because to become a Christian, I already have to be an African.
Francis Botchway: The essence of what you are saying seems to attempt an African expression of Christian theology. If you base the doctrine of the church on the Bible as a source, and then you adulterate that doctrine with another system, and in the case of Africa with a non-doctrinal system, which has no record, that which you have added onto the Bible is not Christian. It's not; it's something else. Therefore, you can't classify the result as African Christian, since it is no longer Christian. In essence, you are speaking of an African expression of Christian theology in Africa, rather than African Christian theology, because the African component of your "African Christian" theology has no basis whatsoever in Christian doctrine.
Aloysius Lugira: Primarily based on the Bible -- that's vital! Don't leave out "primarily," because the basis and the sources for this type of theology we are talking about is not only one base. There are several. But there is the basic one, the really most distinctive one in so far as that thing we call Christianity... You call it an "adulteration" then; I simply mean to show an example of how it becomes concrete. I don't see why I am adulterating Christianity when I become a Christian by taking on Christianity which came from somewhere and then to me.
Francis Botchway: Would you say that, instead of African Christian theology, in essence what you're talking about is the syncretic process which ultimately would lead to something different from Christian theology? So, we aren't really talking about African Christian theology, but an evolution from Christianity to something larger than Christian?
Aloysius Lugira: Christian theology is pluralistic. You may talk about it in terms of the West. You may talk of, say, St. Augustine's theology, Cyprian's theology, and so on and so on. They are all theologians and they are all different but they are all Christian. You might even talk about Marxist Christian theology. What makes you think that African Christian theology is larger than Christian? Can you clarify that?
Francis Botchway: Because I don't see how you can take African traditional values, which explain the totality of our existence, and which, according to you, have no basis in revelation, and then add that onto the Bible and call it African Christian theology. I am suggesting that these things which you take out of the African value system and those that you take out of the fundamental Christian value system can come together in a brand new thing. But that which evolves out of the two is something larger than the African and larger than what you know as Christianity. We are moving towards something higher. There has been no new religion since Islam; no other religion has come into existence for the past 1400 years. The only thing we have comparable to religion on a universal scale is Marxism. So, I think what we should be aiming at, instead of African Christian theology, is to move beyond and combine the African value systems with what Christianity has to offer.
Rather than referring to it as "African Christian," I would prefer to say Black theology.
Aloysius Lugira: Tell me. You say that since the oncoming of Christianity and Islam, we haven't had a world religion; and then you say Marxism is new -- how universal is Marxism?
Francis Botchway: It's very universal. Millions and millions of people all over Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Southeast Asia -- almost half the world -- are under the influence of Marxism.
Aloysius Lugira: Being universal, I think, is not a matter of numbers. Marxism is not universal. Take Nyerere, for instance, one of the great Africans who is seriously engaged in studies of socialism; and then we have Senghor. But in spite of their efforts, I think you cannot categorize them as Marxist.
Francis Botchway: Senghor says, and I quote him, "I'm a Marxist-humanist, and I believe in the methods of Marxist techniques of interpretation." The only point Senghor argues against in Marxism is the negation of God and religion. Other than that, he accepts in toto the Marxist doctrine.
Aloysius Lugira: Well...that's where we are. You say he accepts the techniques. My friend, you are an African and I know how many techniques which you as an African do apply and use. Now, if you know the techniques and you tell me you area technologist because of these techniques you use, I think you're benefiting yourself. So Senghor is not a Marxist. In spite of the fact that he makes comparative studies of socialisms and develops what he calls "African socialism," according to negritude. Nyerere is not a Marxist. But he looks at Marxist things, gets inspiration from them, and generates a new thing he calls Ujamaa. Those are the incarnations I've been talking about.
Francis Botchway: But you can't deny that all Eastern Europe is under Marxism; the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Vietnam North and South, Cambodia, and several other countries in the world are dominated by Marxism. And, to a large extent, these societies have negated religion. What I'm saying is that for the past 1400 years, we have not had any major religion except secular religion -- Marxism-Leninism. Perhaps the African scholars are not capable of comprehending what they are doing. They are attempting something much larger than themselves. And it seems to me you cannot, given your own paradigm, argue that what you are moving toward is African Christian theology.
Aloysius Lugira: It all depends on what you describe and define as African Christian theology. I think you are completely onto a new trend, and that new trend is "Let Africa come out and invent a new religion." And African Christian theologians, by using the phrase "African Christian" are explicitly telling you that they are not inventing a new religion. They are Christians, and interpreting Christianity according to the African milieu.
Francis Botchway: I'm an American and I write theology; I'm a German, and I write theology; I'm a Christian, but I don't call what I'm writing "German Christian theology" or "American Christian theology." If you are an African, writing theology, and going back to African values, indicating those values in African society which are more or less akin to values in Christianity, why call it African? Why not just go on and call it Christian theology? Why call it African?
Aloysius Lugira: When we talk theology in Africa, what do we theologize about? We may talk about Christian theology. We may also talk about Islamic theology. We can even talk about European theology in Africa; we have so many professors in African universities who are from Germany. But if they write theology based on Africa, then it's African. It is a matter of the atmosphere, a matter of the cultural heritage, a matter of attitudes and feelings -- the African feeling. And while we are talking about the African feeling, then maybe we have to talk about the Ghanian feeling, and so on and so on.
Ekwueme F. Okoli: As you can talk about African philosophy as such, so we can talk about African theology. When Africans interpret God in a certain way, taking the Bible, as he says, as a point of departure, Africans have their own view, a particular interaction of the cultural perspective with the Christian faith. Religion becomes colored by the view of community in the given cultural context. Thus, when you talk about African Christian philosophy, you are talking about African interpretations of the Christian viewpoint. As words have color, so philosophical discourse has color. I think that you're correct in saying that you can say "African Christian philosophy." If you tie our African way of life to the Bible, you get a particular point of view. You get a type of synthesis between the universal African way of life and the Biblical forms different from all other Christian philosophies. But if you take the African world-views of life without trying to interpret them through the Bible, then you get yet another, different theology. That's what I understand you to say. If that is the case, I don't see why we have to quibble as to whether it is "African Christian theology" or "African theology" as such.
Warren Lewis: From the point of view of church history, there is no such thing as "Christian theology;" there are Christian theologies. There's Greek Christian theology, there's Latin Christian theology, there's Rabbinic Christian theology, which is what St. Paul was doing. There was Alexandrian-Gnostic Christian theology, and African Christian theology of the second and third centuries from the northeast corner of Africa. But there is no such thing as "Christian theology," apart from a concrete context, or, as Professor Lugira says, disincarnate. The same goes for the Bible. Somebody's reading the Bible; therefore you always have to ask the question, "Through what color of spectacles are they reading the Bible?" Are they reading the Bible through Calvin-colored glasses, Lutheran bifocals, or, like me, through Texas sunglasses? I tell you for sure, Texas theology through shades is very different from New England theology read through horn-rims! And just as there is no pure theology or pure Bible-reading, there is no such thing as "Christology;" there are Christologies. The Christology of Calvin is different from the Christology of Servetus. The Christology of Mark is different from the Christology of John. Therefore, if we are going to talk about African Christian theology, it seems to me just a semantic quibble whether we say "African Christian" or "Christian African." You can have it either way you want it. But what counts is to realize that when an African does Christian theology, it's going to look different from when a Greek or a Latin or a German or a Texan does it.
William Jones: No, what I'm getting at is a fundamental difference between "African Christian" theology or "Christian African" theology, depending on which one you give pre-eminence to. It has to do with what you take as your basic source, and that means your concept of authority as well as what you accept as normative. It's one thing to take the African world-view as your source or norm, and put it through the Christian prism. The substance is African, though the form is Christian. But if you take the Bible as your source and read it as an African, then that is "African Christian theology," substantially Christian, but with an African form. But "African theology" is something quite different. I don't see how you could do African theology and make a Christian base be its source.
Aloysius Lugira: We were first all born in a certain place before we became a Christian; so, we are already acculturated to a certain way of life. When we then tackle the Bible, we tackle it from a point of view which is colored by our way of life. You produce a second interpretation, which is not mine, but a different type of interpretation which takes as its point of departure two poles: one is the norms of the culture in which you were born, and the other is the written documents you have received through the Christian prism. Just as your culture is different from mine, so the refractions you see through the prism are different; and this will mean a different interpretation.
William Jones: If I go to the Christian Bible as source, as opposed to the proverbs and myths of African traditional religion, I'm talking about two different entities. What you seem to mean by "African Christian" theology is that there are two sources, neither one of which is pre-eminent. How do you then adjudicate, if you're coming from two different sources, when there is disagreement or non-identity between them?
Warren Lewis: You have to admit that you have two equal sources, do you not?
Kwame Gyekye: Two co-equal sources; neither is pre-eminent. But are the sources co-equal in the thinking of a theologian? Are proverbs from Africa, the pithy sayings and the myths, accepted as co-equal when compared to the Bible?
Aloysius Lugira: You will not make an African Christian theology without them. They are the sine qua non, if you are talking about African Christian theology. But I want to answer the church historian's question. Yes, according to church history, we may agree; we know there are many theologies. But we are also entitled to talk about "theology." Otherwise we would never talk about theology in the singular.
Warren Lewis: I don't think we can. Show me "theology." Point it out. There is no such thing as Christian theology; there are Christian theologies.
Aloysius Lugira: There are Christian theologies, but they fall under the general discipline of "theology."
William Jones: If you go out on a scavenger hunt to find theology, you won't find flowers. You might bring me some words.
Aloysius Lugira: Theology is theology...
Warren Lewis: But the theologies are mutually exclusive; therefore you can't take them all at once. You can't be an Arian and an Athanasian at the same time, and they were both Africans.
Aloysius Lugira: But they were both theologies. Ergo: theology.
Warren Lewis: In the platonic sense, perhaps. But you can't describe "theology" per se. You can only describe concrete -- as you say, incarnate -- theologies. "Theology" exists only as a logical distinction.
Aloysius Lugira: After all, these are merely logical distinctions.
Warren Lewis: Oh no, there is a very important sociological distinction. We never have theology "disincarnate," to use your word. I'm on your side on this. (Laughter)
Aloysius Lugira: That's what I want you to say! (Laughter)
Warren Lewis: Kwame's question is important. You can have African theology with no Christian component; Africans who've never heard of Jesus Christ or the Bible could talk about God. That would be "African theology." You can have African Muslim theology. You can have African Anthroposophic theology. You can have African Anything theology, if an African is doing it and drawing on their traditional heritage as sources.
William Jones: And that's my point: since you can have African theology without a Christian component, you can have African theology with a Christian component. It makes sense to distinguish between Christian African theology or African Christian theology, depending on which is dominant.
Gentlemen, this is a very stimulating conversation. But there are some of us who have to catch planes. Shall we adjourn and continue the discussion informally?