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Gordon Molyneux, K. (1988) African Christian theology : Processes of theological reflection in Zaire. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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African Christian Theology' represents attempts on the part of African Christians to 'own' their theological reflection, rather than borrow it from others. This in turn means taking seriously their African heritage or 'identity'. Chapter 1 of the thesis examines the theological quest in the broader context of political, educational, literary, and religious factors in sub-Saharan Africa. All of these fields display a parallel search for 'personhood', a determination to move from being object to being subject. Considerable attention is paid to the causes and dynamics of religious Independency. 'African Theology' has not emerged from the Independent churches, but it is sympathetic to their cause and has taken up theologically some of their concerns. The remaining three chapters of the thesis are devoted to the one country of Zaire, and more specifically, to three contrastive 'styles' of theological reflection. It is the argument of the thesis that 'theologizing' is done in a wide range of sectors of society. Chapter 2 examines the most prominent and (to the West) most familiar of these processes of theologizing, - the academic and literary one. Selected to Illustrate this process is Kinshasa's Faculty of Catholic Theology. Reflecting the Faculty's historical links with the rigorous academic standards of its mother-university Louvain (Belgium), it has achieved international recognition as one of Black Africa's foremost centres of research and was at the centre of the debate on 'African Theology' in the 1960s. The Faculty's emphasis on publication has contributed significantly to the influence of the institution. Academic research and publication might constitute the most prestigious sector of the theological process, and the most 'exportable' in the international literary world, but It represents only a small part of the total scene of African Christians expressing and communicating their beliefs. Chapter 3 looks to the other end of the spectrum as it explores the area of 'oral theology' illustrated by the 'inspired' hymns of the Kimbanguist Church. The distinct characteristics of orality as opposed to literacy are considered. The oral sphere does not lend itself to neat, logical analysis as does the academic sector, yet it lies closer to the heart of spirituality, and to overlook it is to neglect a major aspect of African Christianity. Finally, Chapter 4 explores an experiment in Protestant contextual theologizing in North-East Zaire: seminars designed to effect an interaction between the gospel and contextual Issues. Involving participants who combined some theological background with close acquaintance with the 'grassroots' scene, these 'Gospel and Culture Seminars' might be placed somewhere between the oral and literary spheres. From this 'broad-spectrum' understanding of the total theological picture, the Conclusion seeks to draw out implications for theology Itself, for theological education, and for theological educators in Africa today.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:57

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