on John Samuel Mbiti and religious plurality in Africa

Hello. Good morning.

My name is Mona Lisa P. Siacor and I wish to share with you my summaries of the following articles:

African theology revisited by John S. Pobee [pp. 135-143]

John Mbiti’s contribution to African theology by Kwame Bediako [pp. 367-388]

Both are found in: Religious Plurality in Africa: Essays in Honour of John S. Mbiti. Edited by Jacob K. Olupona and Sulayman S. Nyang. In: Religion and Society 32. Berlin. 1993.

I made the informal paper for an Oberseminar discussion in 2012 at the University of Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany.

At the end of the summaries is a note on the word ubuntu of the Bantu culture.

This summary-paper has been officially marked or graded by my professor. Please respect my ownership of it (thank you very much, and peace!). The care I put into the effort reflects my fascination of the collective cultures of the African continent. Had I more time I would have explored the topic further. (As of today, July 31, 2021, I have not edited it, like I’ve been planning to. But I like it as it is, too, and so did my professor.) 

Viel Spaß und alles Gute. Ciao.

A Summary of: African theology revisited by John S. Pobee


Prof. Pobee recalls that Prof. Harry Sawyerr and Mbiti were among the few in the late 1950’s who believed that theology in Africa was in a state of “northern captivity” and who worked to answer “the need to search for and develop African theology”. Although at the end of the 19th century the concept “gone Fantee” [meaning, an integration of African heritage and “authentic” Christianity (and not “European” or “Northern”) (page 136)] was already present, it was Mbiti’s work that has contributed much to the study and has provided references to scholars who followed along this line. This study is now seen as dealing with “the true nature of theology”, whereas earlier critics labeled such works as either “African nationalism donning theology and religion” or “the heathenisation of the African Church”. (137)

Pobee states theology as articulation, or naming, of “the hopes and fears of people in the light of God’s word and self-disclosure”. That naming is “about respecting, understanding the language, liturgy, structure, style, architecture, etc. of a distinctive community of discourse.”(135) Again, “It is human attempt to articulate that Word of God in coherent language.”(137) He draws affirmation from the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us of John 1:14. It is in this sense when he speaks that the “self-disclosure of God engages people as they are” – with the perception and expression of which being affected by the people’s context. Therefore, every theology is contextual.

Moreover, theology addresses three areas: the academia, the community of faith, and the world (138). While academia has generally dealt theology with logical propositions, this way, too, is contextual. Mbiti pointed out that an oral, non-written, non-propositional style is therefore just as valid. In communities where theology is within unwritten modes of expression, as in the case of Africa, the collection and analysis of these articulations should be a priority. To pay attention to this task is also to pay attention to the people who are producing them. Therefore, “people are subjects of the theological enterprise”; they “help set the agenda of theology”.(138) This statement can be clarified with what Pobee says in page 141, “…bring theology out of the classroom to the people, whose religion after all is subject of the study.” The factors or areas that help set the agenda for African theology are: culture, the context of pluralism, politics, poverty, worship, and biblical scholarship. —> To get the full document —>

 —> For the proper footnoting and the original document, download the PDF file HERE. Excuse my use of wiki and other non-formal sources as references (please change them if you can, when it’s time for you to make use of the information, and if it’s for a formal paper).

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ Blessings and joy to you ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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