African Theology for a World Christianity
- eBook coming soon
Ghanaian theologian Kwame Bediako presses all Christians to question their own theological commitments. He does so by rethinking Christian identity in light of cultural identity and the shortcomings of colonialism. Bediako's quest to be both African and Christian informs what it means to be Christian in a secularized Europe and North America. Far more than just chronological and biographical, Tim Hartman's analysis of the arc of Bediako's theology demonstrates that Bediako's vision of Christianity as a non-Western religion allows it to serve as a resource for World Christianity amid the exponential growth of Christianity in the Global South.
Hartman points to how Bediako sidesteps the influence of Western thought by rooting African Christianity in a twin heritage of pre-Christendom patristic theology and precolonial traditional religious practices of Africa. Bediako expands the canon of theological resources available for Christians by eliminating the distinction between gospel and culture. Since there is no such thing as a pure theology for Bediako, culture itself becomes a source of divine revelation through the incarnation.
Hartman's study of Bediako helpfully corrects inaccurate portrayals of African Christianity. The growth of African Christianity should not be feared, nor mischaracterized as narrow-minded or too conservative. Bediako asserts a polycentric understanding of the Christian faith based in grassroots theologies and the beliefs of actual Christians. While Bediako agrees that Christianity in Africa (and the Global South) is the future of the Christian faith, he rejects assumptions that the Christian faith needs to be yoked to political power. Instead, Bediako offers an alternative understanding of politics based on democracy and nondominating power.
Both Bediako and the book offer a way forward in thinking about questions of religious pluralism. African Christianity has never known cultural hegemony as African Christians have always lived with Islam and African traditional religions. Bediako offers a theology of "Jesus is Lord" while appreciating the integrity of Islam and traditional African religions.
In the end, the book presents an African Christian theologian who values--and does not simply reject--African traditional religions. Bediako believed that traditional African religions, far from being demonic, served as evangelical preparation for the Christian faith and as the substructure of African Christianity, and that African religious imagination was the foundation for the Christian faith worldwide. As Hartman shows, the more distinctively African Bediako's Christianity became, the more suited that theology became for the world.