Regional Theology?

According to an Evangelical News Agency idea report, Africans need to develop their own African theology. This concept was presented by Joe Kapolyo, a theologian from Zambia, in his keynote address at the annual meeting of the German Association of Evangelical Missions (AEM) in Rehe near Frankfurt, February 28 – March 2. “Many of his African colleagues simply copy Western theology, which is influenced by rationalism. It fails to address specific African needs, said Kapolyo in his keynote address [and] …cannot provide answers to many African questions. A truly African theology must deal with subjects like poverty, tribalism, corruption, sexuality, and spiritism.” The report is located here.

I would agree with Mr. Kapolyo that theology in Africa needs to deal with relevant subjects like the ones he identified and that the theology of the West has been influenced by rationalism. But before we get too overawed by his insight, let’s look at the larger picture for a moment. Aren’t some of those “African” issues also “Western” issues? The last I knew poverty, corruption, immorality and idolatry were not problems confined to a particular region of geography or philosophical thought.

The larger picture, then, shows us a theology identified as Western that fails to provide answers to either Western questions or African questions. Which rapidly leads to the conclusion that a broader solution is needed, one that will serve both the West and Africa, even all of humanity. We really don’t have to look far to find such a solution.

Jesus at the beginning of His ministry stood up in the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61 the following words: “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

It seems self-evident that if a theology doesn’t address and provide answers for problems like poverty and bondage in various sorts of sin, then it is not a Biblical theology. A truly Biblical theology will address those areas regardless of geography, ethnicity, philosophical bent, or any other consideration.

Along the same lines, the prevailing view is that it is arrogant for Christians to think it proper to Westernize an indigenous culture by bringing them the Gospel. Perhaps, but it is definitely right and even commanded that Westerners by bringing the Gospel to other cultures Christianize those cultures.

So what is the solution? Preach and live a theology consistent with the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of the living God and “the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience”. That holds true whether one is in Africa or the West or any other inhabited place on Planet Earth.

By His grace,
Sundoulos

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