African theology

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African theology is Christian theology or black theology from the perspective of the African cultural context. Although there are very old Christian traditions on the continent, in the last centuries Christianity in Africa has been determined to a large extent by western forms of Christianity, brought by colonization and mission, until the mid-20th century.[1]


There has been some debate among theologians about the relation of African theology to Black theology. During the 1970s Black theology developed in South Africa, where the main concern was liberation from apartheid, while African theology developed in other parts of the continent.[2]


In the mid-20th century, African theology as a theological field came into being. This movement began to protest against negative colonial and missionary interpretations of the religion and culture in Africa. Realizing that theology is a contextual phenomenon, African Christians began to read the bible using their own cultural lens, which of course resulted in some interpretations that did not always agree with how Western theology interpreted things. As such, African theology stands on the shoulders of the early African independent churches that broke away from missionary churches in the late 19th century or early 20th century. African theology is engaged to shape Christianity in an African way by adapting and using African concepts and ideas. [3]

African theologians such as Bolaji Idowu, John Mbiti, and Kwesi Dickson have given an analysis and interpretation of the African traditional religion and point to its relation to the Christian faith. Lamin Sanneh and Kwame Bediako have argued for the importance of vernacularization of the bible and theology. Kwame Bediako and John Pobee have developed an African Christology in terms of the ancestors.

There is also a movement of African female theologians, organised in The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, inaugurated in 1989 by the Ghanaian Mercy Amba Oduyoye. Nowadays this is a movement of hundreds of women theologians from several African countries and with different religious backgrounds. The general coordinator of the Circle have been Oduyoye, Musimbi Kanyoro, Isabel Phiri, and, currently, Malawian Fulata Moyo.[4]

Recently, African evangelicals have also begun to wrestle with the quest of developing a Christian theology which has African context in mind. In this direction, African evangelicals have taken initiative to develop an African Bible commentary.[5] Even though this is not a critical commentary, it shows a quest by African evangelicals to engage traditional and contemporary issues in Africa from an evangelical perspective. Secondly, African evangelicals have also taken initiative in the development of Christian ethics and texts on systematic theology which engage the various issues facing most African Christians. For example, Samuel Kunhiyop has engaged Christian ethics and systematic theology from an African evangelical perspective.[6] Similarly, Matthew Michael has engaged systematic theology from the vantage point of African traditions.[7]


  1. ^ Parratt, John (1995). Reinventing Christianity: African Theology Today. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802841131.
  2. ^ Martey, Emmanuel (2009). African Theology: Inculturation and Liberation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9781608991259.
  3. ^ Joseph Nwibo, “A Brief Note on the Need for African Christian Theology” (Cursus Godsdienst Onderwijs (CGO-HBO), September 22, 2010).
  4. ^ "The Circle of Concerned African Woman Theologians". Retrieved 8 Sep 2016.
  5. ^ Aboagye-Mensah, John R. Stott and Rubert K. (2010). Adeyemo, Tokunboh (ed.). Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars (2nd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: Zondervan. ISBN 9780310291879.
  6. ^ Kunhiyop, Samuel Waje (2008). African Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN 9789966805362.
  7. ^ Michael, Matthew (2013). Christian Theology and African Traditions. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 9781621896432.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Evers, Georg. "African Theology." In The Encyclopedia of Christianity, edited by Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, 30-31. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999. ISBN 0802824137
  • Okuma, Peter (2002). Towards an African Theology: The Igbo Context in Nigeria. New York: P. Lang. ISBN 3035260583.
  • Parratt, John (1995). Reinventing Christianity : African Theology Today. Grand Rapids, Mich. Trenton, N.J: Eerdmans Africa World Press. ISBN 0802841139.

External links[edit]