Sunday, August 17, 2008

African Development and Theological Formation


I thought I would read a bit of this doctoral thesis to see what I might learn about Africa. Here are some quotes:

Africa continues to be the most ‘religious’ continent in the world, yet its people remain the most abused of all history.
The closest I have been to Africa is Turkey. Yet I have connections with Tanzania through my eldest son and his half-siblings in Canada and Africa.
There is politics located at the heart of the very concept of ‘development’ emanating from Northern societies’ notions of progress and growth (De Gruchy 2003:4); notions that have given rise to such evils as slavery, imperialism and colonialism. We cannot divorce the idea of ‘development’ from this reality, which is why many critical thinkers in the South are bitterly opposed to the idea of ‘development’, preferring to see ‘development’ as a burden from which the poor need liberation (cf. Escobar 1997:81).
It is a bit much to blame the North for all slavery. Though such notions do give rise to slavery, the practice originates in the human everywhere. As for 'Development' - is that not the desire of each person that they my grow and develop. It is too bad that we in the North have allowed our (admittedly small attempts at) 'good to be evil spoken of'.
Worldwide, 90% of today’s pastoral leaders lack basic formation (education) and resources (development) to holistically minister to their congregations and communities (TOPIC 1999).
Pastoral formation at 10% does not say much good about a hierarchic organization structure. Where is the enabling of the populace?
Kritzinger (1988:6) maintains if we accept that mission is always concerned about discovering God’s liberating presence in every human situation, then whatever strategies are planned (through the Holy Spirit’s guidance) will lead to discovering the meaning of the gospel in each specific context.
Our author has a parenthesis following the word 'planning'. Perhaps there is a formal bias here that needs a new strategy in the Spirit.
This study takes the position that general revelation has an ambiguity that is clarified and deepened through our relationship to Christ. Religious experience is paradoxical, mediating a revelation that is present and at the same time beyond itself. The critical study of Scripture enhances revelation, which is best expressed as story. Revelation needs constantly to be tested against the Scriptural story, cultural experience, personal experience and the opinions of the local community of faith. Revelation comes primarily within a living community of devotion and discourse that celebrates, questions and extends the story.
I think there is healthy start here. The question occurs to me as to how the 'churches' can be as shrewd as - for example - Grenfell in their confrontation and cooperation with both government and the tribal realities.
Another problem often observed with church planting activity at the grassroots level, is that of relegating God’s transforming work to spiritual realities and assigning earthly matters to science and technology (Hiebert 1999:xv). The result is a schizophrenic Christianity that leaves the everyday problems of human life to secular specialists and limits God to matters of eternity.
Our author certainly identifies a problem here. God help us out of such a false position.
Northern theology and Northern ecclesial ways and practices were normative and undisputed in the past. Today Northern theology is often regarded as irrelevant, speculative, and the product of ivory tower institutions (Bosch 1991:4). It is entirely possible that Christianity in North America and Western Europe may have overemphasized formal education (Ward 1996b:44).
Here is a conflict. I can hardly regard Bishop Tutu as over or under formally educated. But education needs to be seen in conjunction with the engagement of faith.
Asian scholar Bong Rin Ro (1990:55) gives a sharp critique: “Western evangelical theological schools emphasize inerrancy of Scripture and orthodox theology versus liberal and neo-orthodox theologies. But these are not the major issues…rather the prevalent areas of concern are poverty, suffering, injustice, communism and non-Christian religions.” (page 29)
My position on inerrancy is that it is irrelevant since most claims to it presuppose that the reader can read the plain meaning of 'the original'. The major issues seem to me only the first three above - perhaps summarizable under one heading - creating opportunity.

to be continued, perhaps ...

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