Doing Theology in Today’s Africa – Issues and Trends in Nigeria

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Since the mid-1950s, African theologians like John Mbiti, Edward Fashole-Luke, Desmond Tutu, Vincent Mulago and Harry Sawyerr, Bolaji Idowu, Byang Kato and others have made it their mission to convey the Gospel to bear on Africans' lives and ideas-worlds – to just make Christianity indigenous on a continent that first heard the Gospel in New Testament instances. It would there be a deceptive oversimplification to state that Germany, America, Britain and Africa respectively created corrupted, corrected and copied theology. Africa has one thing significant to supply. This gives supporting proof for a sensible evaluation of the problems and tendencies of the Church in Africa.


The time period contextualization may have been outlined as simplifying, clarifying and giving possession to the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a particular neighborhood of religion. If the system for doing so is due to this fact solely understood by the stranger or alien, then one has closed the channels for incarnation of the Word. The researcher was impressed when he visited a number of church buildings in Lagos, Nigeria throughout a area research and famous areas of contextualization. The Anglican and Aladura church buildings have some packages in the native language. Even the Catholic church is now not conducting the service in Latin however English. African devices had been used and African choruses had been ministered. Dancing and clapping should not unusual. An evaluation of Christianity from the Portuguese explorations in the fifteenth century to the center of the seventh century reveals that there was a relative failure on the a part of the missionaries in the presentation of the Gospel. They didn’t take the tradition of the individuals into consideration. The Roman Catholics demanded monogamy from their conversions, however they didn’t present how the undesirable wives may very well be resettled. Christianity was portrayed as a European invention. Usry and Keener (1996) provocatively titled their textual content Black man's faith: can Christianity be Afrocentric? It is so titled, not after all to implying that non-Blacks are excluded, however to level out that biblical Christianity is a Black faith as a lot as a white one. The difficulty of slavishly accepting or quite adopting any factor from the west ought to be handled with warning. The article, Halloween in a cross-cultural perspective, is a passionate account of the vulnerability of youngsters which the Harry Porter sequence is making the most of. The new repacking of witchcraft in a fictitious novel is engaging to youngsters (and adults) since it’s consumer pleasant.

Schreiter (1985) presents a superb and very related textual content that clearly teaches how one can perceive tradition in order that the Gospel message takes root. Ownership of the Bible have to be given to a neighborhood of religion in a given place. For occasion, an Igbo and by extension, an African, will clearly perceive the humiliation Christ went via because the author clearly expresses that to somebody somebody who’s both standard or wealthy is worse than to kill him, a message which the African understands. The cultural sensitivity of Dan Wooding in Blind religion in cross-cultural perspective, Part 1, enabled him to fairly set up intercultural rapport in the lads's breakfast assembly on the Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene. In responding to this invitation and willingly generously, a person ever obtained 5 fold purely out of his blind religion quite than a show of supernatural acts like talking in tongues.



Boer (2003) identifies two main points that are affecting the Nigerian church; "the first is corruption which has penetrated every level of society …" (Boer 2003, 31). One should nevertheless word that corruption is a matter going through each growing and developed nations. The church continues to be responsible of lots of the sorts of corruption which characterize the society as a complete, a difficulty that shook Dr. Eze as he observes in his article Worldview points on corruption …. He realistically argues nevertheless that "the survey of CPI (Corruption Perceptions Index) on the levels of corruption in countries they searched is not based on hard empirical data … ( but) on the experience and perceptions of those who are most directly confronted with the realities of corruption "(Eze 2004, 1).


The second difficulty going through Christian spirituality in accordance with Boer is Islam. The topic of his guide Nigeria's decade of blood, vol.1 is Christian-Muslim relations. "If corruption has demonized Nigeria", Boer argues "Christian-Muslim relations have bedeviled it" (Boer 2003, 1). He steers Christianity and Islam into constructive channels for nationwide constructing and suspects that there’s a nice danger that Nigerians will develop uninterested in non secular riots and both return to a sanitized type of conventional faith or to an African model of secularism. Every Christian ought to learn his textual content and word that Christians in western nations at the moment are preventing the very secularism they produced via their infighting.

African Traditional Religion

Any real looking try to do theology in Africa should consider the affect of African Traditional Religion in the lives of the individuals. Dr. Eze did a really related research of a number of manifestations of God among the many tribes of Lardin Garbes. The assumption that God was launched to Africa by the Europeans is a deceptive oversimplification. In addition to the household and village deities, the Kamwe individuals imagine in a transcendent and common God. Dr. Eze (2004) argues that Africans knew in regards to the Creator or the Supreme God in addition to of their polytheistic understanding and used his grandfather, Mr. Muogbo Eze as supporting proof. Even although they’ve the defective discover that He is way away that justifying appeasing the lesser deities to achieve him, the idea of the way in which to the Creator continues to be current amongst them. Paul makes use of the idea in the unknown God to minister to his viewers. Christians also needs to use this idea of the way in which to the creator already current in the worldview of the Kamwe to current Jesus to them. God amazingly works inside human cultures (irrespective of various language, race or ethnicity) to unfold His plans. This is in consonance with the philosophy behind the phrase 'redemptive analogy' which is so-known as as a result of it facilitates human understanding of redemption inside human tradition. Its God-given goal is to precondition the thoughts in a culturally vital method to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. Outside of Scripture, it seems that God's common revelation is the supply of redemptive analogies worldwide. It is comparatively simpler for one to make use of the supernatural orientation of the African to win him to Christ.

Growth of cities

Perhaps probably the most pressing difficulty going through the church in Africa right now is the fast progress of cities. The conflict of cultures, and religions, determined poverty, AIDS, horrific numbers of avenue youngsters, pressures on conventional morality, issues of non permanent and unstable work, and the dearth of coaching for what few jobs there are introduced dwelling to the reader in transferring and perceptive accounts of the individuals with no matter Shorter has direct contact. A case in level is town of Lagos which inhabitants of over twelve million is greater than that of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia mixed.

Numerical progress of the church

At the start of the twenty century, it was estimated that about three % of the individuals on the African continent professed to be Christians and that this quantity considerably elevated to about fifty % in direction of the top of the century. There is each purpose to imagine that the church will proceed to report vital progress. Ajah (1996) even attributes this 'swollen membership' to the church's smart use of music which is seen as an excellent freeway into the hearts of most Africans. All the church buildings visited by the researcher in the course of the area analysis had been packed full. During the researcher's keep in Nigeria (2002-2005), it was noticed that church buildings with extra musical devices and expert devices typically attracted extra worshipers than these with few.


A recent pattern to keep away from struggling in any respect price has led to the 'Prosperity Gospel' which stresses religion in claiming blessings as they title them. At the danger of oversimplification and distortion, this Gospel lecturers, amongst others issues that:

  1. Every Christian is created to be materially and financially buoyant.

  2. Christians who’re in a state of extended monetary predicament are blind to God's design.

  3. For the manifestation of the reversal of breach, the aspirant should reveal his expectation by blessing the 'man of God' first.

    Christians are there inspired to not settle for struggling as their portion. Anyone who’s struggling is both residing in sin or is just not standing on the guarantees of God for his showers of blessing. This educating was mirrored in the Pentecostal church visited in the course of the area research. The variety of choices raised in the Pentecostal and Anglican church buildings was astonishing.

    Training of church leaders

    The church in Africa has made superb progress in the course of the twenty-century. It has grown from only a handful of seminars to a whole bunch of seminars. This is a sign that the African church in the twenty-first century goes to be far more educated church. In the church buildings coated in the sphere research, the researcher noticed that the pastors of the Aladura and Pentecostal Churches visited, Superior Evangelist E.M. Babatunde and Rev. Mike Ohiorenoya, are physician holders.

    The function of girls

    The central message of the Christian mission is that of salvation, and by implication, liberty. With this message, the church ought to take cognizance of the 'imbalance' in the male-dominated African tradition. In the second a part of The agony of the 'ardour' in cultural lenses, Dr. Eze (2004) analyzes the idea of a theology that’s culturally pushed. He realistically argues that any picture of manhood exterior the Messiah is culturally pushed and deceptive. The church ought to be taught the African idea of muntu, that’s, particular person. Societal adjustments demand that the church just make some definitions in girls's function. The dynamics which girls now exhibit in the broader society and in the Aladura church visited in specific have challenged the subordinate roles supplied by another church buildings. The researcher observes the function of girls at West Africa Theological Seminary the place they serve in essential capacities akin to Registrar, Missions Director, Ag. Director of Spiritual Formation and lecturers. More and extra girls are going to turn into pastors as extra seminars are opening doorways to extra feminine college students and lecturers. With the ascension of girls into management positions, generally the church will see a gentler and softer fashion of church management.


    Mediocre religious progress

    Indubitably, a visual pattern is a steady and explosive progress of the African church. However, there’s a very massive problem related to it. This has already began manifesting itself in modern Christianity. The downside is numerical with no corresponding religious progress. For occasion, the dressing of church members, if not checked, would result in significant issue in the church. In the Pentecostal church visited, the researcher was so pleased when he was moved from the seat he was occupying to a particular seat reserved for guests because the dressing of the girl sitting in entrance of him was indecent. She was placing on a bandless trousers which uncovered a good portion of her pink underwear. The preaching was very loud and emotional however devoid of substance. The church should resist mediocrity with the identical dedication that it resists compromise. The researcher noticed that the church buildings visited didn’t have a really clear discipleship coaching program. Winning souls for Christ with no systematic discipleship program is to some equal equal to begging sons for the satan.


    In a number of church buildings right now, the service is incomplete with no few prophecies, a therapeutic or two, and a couple of demons forged out. Churches and ministries 'compete' with probably the most dramatic ads akin to 'Divine Explosion', 'Mountain of miracles', 'Supernatural sensation' and comparable expressions. Although it’s good to emphasize the supernatural, the African church should notice that the each day prevalence of miracles is just not the main focus of the Bible. Building the church in Africa across the miraculous could are likely to result in a unsuitable emphasis. The main fee of Jesus was to evangelise the Gospel. Leaning on the miraculous in each service may presumably result in fanaticism and deviation from the reality. In the Celestial Church of Christ visited in the course of the area work, the researcher was known as out of the service and taken to the again of the skin altar the place visions and revelations, principally unfaithful, from a prophetess about him had been penned by a recorder. For occasion, the prophetess noticed that the researcher's spouse generally suffered from abdomen ache. The query in one's thoughts then is: what number of regular girls don’t usually undergo from bellyache?


    The training of the church is steadily bettering. There are many Bible schools and seminaries in Nigeria alone. Many of the colleges and schools of training have departments of spiritual research. However, as extra and extra Africans are uncovered to re-packed western concepts, African Christianity ought to struggle very exhausting to keep away from the anti-supernatural rationalism of the western church. Starting with the 'Age of Reason', the western church has steadily been extra and extra influenced by an anti-supernatural bias which arises from rationalism. Even although this has not but actually turn into a significant issue, a severe word of warning is that African Christians must steadiness religion with purpose.


    In an try to 'defend' the Gospel, European missionaries beneath contextualized the message. As the church is now turning into extra African, care have to be taken in order that the message is just not over contextualized which may result in syncretism (the blending of spiritual beliefs). For occasion, the overstress on visions and desires in the Aladura church. Contextualization with out syncretism is without doubt one of the main challenges going through the African Church in this century. The typical African, in contrast to his western counterpart has a supernaturalistic orientation. The African society provides extra consideration to faith whereas the west emphasizes on economics and materials tradition. One of the explanation why Pentecostalism has been nicely obtained in Africa is as a result of lots of the primary tenets are per the African worldview. Some of those consists of the supernatural, demons / evil spirits, divine therapeutic, and emotional and bodily expressions of worship. Dr. Eze clearly reveals that the Kamwe / Mubi in Nigeria (together with Christians) go to animist practices. As he famous, "felt needs for supernatural power for solving certain problems that defy solution still drive people to animalist practices" (Eze 2005, 5). The lesson to be learnt is the perspective of the Christian neighborhood that prayed for rain (with God honoring). This is a transparent manifestation of the truth that the Christian God is alive or energetic in the affairs of males. If theology in Africa is to be significant, this level have to be critically famous different the church won’t be related and could be like Rip Van Wrinkle, the legendary character in Gulliver's Travels who slept for many years solely to get up to discover a utterly modified world


    An unlucky rigidity inside Christianity via church historical past is that every time Christianity has attained the bulk standing inside a tradition, it has turn into illiberal and generally abusive of different religions. The Crusades in the 10th century onwards may testify to this. The skinny line between evangelism and tolerance of different religions has been a tightrope which Christians haven’t all the time walked very nicely. Several writers encourage tolerance between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Although Boer for example blamed the latter for many of the non secular conflicts, he additionally argues that there are some situations in which the previous instances began later riots. The essence of his message to Christians and Muslims is respectably wholism and pluralism. Christians must repent of their flirtations with the language and ideas of secularism in an setting shared with Muslims and transfer away from it by growing a extra complete worldview. Muslims, however, must replace their sense of pluralism. Nigeria is marked by a pluralistic scenario that now not permits the domination of 1 faith over all of the individuals. Boer argues that the scenario requires adjustments in the perspective of Christians and Muslims? they should transfer from hostility to respect.


    Any try to do theology in Africa should critically pay attention to the afore-talked about dialogue. From the foregoing, it may very well be argued that not all the problems and tendencies are adverse. Although care ought to be taken to keep away from a church that’s closely inclined in direction of rationalism, prosperity, syncreticism, to say however a couple of, the African church have to be recommended for its acutely aware effort to contextualize the Gospel and emphasize on coaching of its clergy. However, the remainder of the paper additional discusses a number of alternatives which have to be properly utilized for theology to be significant in Africa.

    The age of the church

    A major proportion of the modern church is made up of younger individuals. The estimated common age of church buildings visited in the course of the area work is thirty. There is a chance that this pattern is just not going to vary. The church in Africa will proceed to be a younger church. This age group goes to proceed to provide to it a lot vitality and enthusiasm. It will allow the church to have the energy to evangelize and impression the society. However, it may additionally just make the church extra prone to fanaticism, intolerance and unwisely selections. One should not overlook that Nigerian proverb which states that the kid on high of the tree cannot see what the elder sitting on the bottom can see.

    The church and the theological college

    An improve in the variety of theological establishments is a welcome growth. However, the church and theological college need to work as a group to impression society since "the position between the two has almost become that of the church versus the theological school" (Turaki 1991, 31). Turaki evaluates areas of strengths and weaknesses in the assumed roles for every, and the theological implications of the dichotomy, along with the ensuing competitors, isolationism and assertions of autonomy to doing theology.

    Curriculum growth

    It is important for theologians to revisit the curriculum in the seminary. It is questioned whether or not African seminars ought to evaluation, retrieve the historical past of western thought and the western church or as an alternative launch into the depths of their very own tradition and custom and correlate Scripture and custom with African tradition, roots, sources and riches. There are areas the place the west may additionally be taught from Africa. It is towards this background that it’s noticed that "instead of competitiveness or claiming superiority for various approaches, we need to exchange and share experiences, we need to understand one another and learn from each other" (Turaki 1991, 29). It is fairly argued that, opposite to standard thought, Africa has had a definitive and vital impact on the event of the ecumenical motion in common and its mission made in specific. It was towards this background that the Edinburgh Conference in 1910 launched the concept of ​​the entire Gospel by the entire church to the world.

    Emphasis on justice

    Justice is without doubt one of the most elementary ideas of Christianity (and Judaism). It is a theme that should obtain extra emphasis in the African church. A society cannot be wholesome with out justice. In 1995, a gaggle of Nigerian leaders grew to become involved in regards to the injustice in the Nigerian society. This led to the Congress on Christian Ethics in Nigeria (COCEN) which happened in Abuja in November 1997. It was burdened that Christians are additionally responsible of moral violations. Christian principals have to be correctly contextualized for Africa. There have to be a transparent understanding of the shut hyperlink between faith and social / political points, and religion and justice. The social educating of the Church should not solely be studied and recognized, but in addition functions to the myriad issues going through Africa have to be formulated and tried.

    Respect for particular person human rights

    The rights of people have to be protected. Refusing to grant an individual a job as a result of she or he is from the 'unsuitable' ethnic group is a violation of that particular person's elementary human rights. The researcher has noticed for example that Christians don’t usually come out in a unified power to wash the setting when the government provides the command each final Saturday in Freetown and Lagos. Night vigils may be linked with out essentially utilizing loud audio system that might disturb the peace of residents who’re resting.

    Assistance to the needy

    The teachings of the church shouldn’t unnecessarily emphasize on giving from congregation to the church however the different manner spherical. One of the clearest teachings and examples of Jesus was associated to compassion for the poor. It have to be seen as a elementary accountability of each tradition to maintain its weak and needy members. Just giving a bit of cash to a poor particular person should not fulfill Christians. Christianity have to be concerned in figuring out the causes of poverty and addressing these issues. God has not known as all Christians to be wealthy. Prosperity lecturers should take word. However, He has known as us to assist meet the wants of the poor. Helping the needy require ample housing is not only a governmental accountability but in addition a accountability of the church. The researcher was impressed when an enchantment was made to help the poor in the Aladura church visited. Free pc coaching was supplied which enabled a number of youths to be empowered. The whole congregation was fed after the service. The researcher learnt that it is a common prevalence.


    A Biblical truth of which theology should take account is that if God certainly is worried with all peoples, then there’s a theological continuity between the individuals of Israel and others (together with Africa).

    If the Christian religion is to have any actual impact on African life, it should settle for and handle the spirit world. A Christianity that has no place for the supernatural speaks in alien tones. The tradition of Africans have to be realistically taught if any meaningfully impression may very well be made. Kalu brilliantly quotes P.O. Ajah's abstract of the expectations of the theology of the African church:

    African theologians ought to program in direction of recognizing solutions to what African theology has to say regarding witchcraft, black magic, demonic influenza, occultism, spiritually induced sicknesses, religious steerage via divination or future predictions, divine therapeutic, deliverance from and casting out of demons and evil spirits, appreciation of cultural values, liberty of the oppressed, aid from poverty and deprivation, human rights, democratization, ounces title and secret societies, reincarnation, demise and the resurrection , The Last Judgment (Kalu 1978, 123).


    Books and articles

    Ajah, Paul. 1996. An Approach to African theology. Uburu: Truth and Life Publications.

    Boer, Jan H. 2003. Nigeria's a long time of blood, Vol. 1. Belleville, Ontario: Essense Publishing.

    Eze, Herbert. 2004. The agony of the "Passion" in cultural lenses (half two).

    Available (on internet): ninth March 2005.

    _____________. Halloween in a cross-cultural perspective. Available (on internet):

    http: www.assistnews.internet/tales/2004/s04040016.htm. Accessed 11th March 2005.

    Kalu, Agwu. 1978. The lights and shades of Christianity in West Africa. Umuahia: Charity Press.

    McCain, Danny. 2000. The church in Africa in the 21st century. Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology.

    19 (2): 105-130.

    Schreiter, Robert J. 1985. Constructing native theologies. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.

    Turaki, Yusufu. 1991. The quest for cooperation, renewal and relevance in theological training. Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 10 (1). 29-38.

    Utuk, Efiong S. 1989. A reassessment of the African contribution to the event of the ecumenical

    motion: Edinburgh, 1910. Africa Theological Journal eight (2): 85-103.

    Participant commentary

    Celestial Church of Christ, Mafoluku, Parish I, Wulemotu Agbo Road, Off International Airport Road,

    Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. St. Paul's Anglican Church, 1-9 St. Paul's Church Street, Mafoluku,

    Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by researcher on Sunday 1st May, 2005.

    Church of God Mission International Inc., Victory Miracle Center, 10 Oludegun Street, Off International

    Airport Road, Mafoluku, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by researcher on Sunday 10th April 2005.

    St. Jude Catholic Church, 47 Old Ewu Road, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. St. Paul's Anglican Church,

    1-9 St. Paul's Church Street, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by researcher on Sunday 24th

    April, 2005.

    St. Paul's Anglican Church, 1-9 St. Paul's Church Street, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria. Visited by

    researcher on Sunday 17th April, 2005.

© Oliver Harding 2008




Source by Oliver Harding

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