Salvation as healing? : an analysis of Jesse Mugambi and Mercy Oduyoye’s soteriologies in the context of African prosperity gospels

Umaru, Kefas Kure (2017-12)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis is a study of the doctrine of salvation with particular reference to therapeutic interpretations. Discourses about salvation often center on that which comes in the hereafter, with less emphasis on the here–and-now dimensions of salvation, which has resulted in disparities in the interpretation of salvation within Christian theology. One of these divisions come from circles that embrace the gospel of prosperity, which focuses on wealth and health as proof of salvation, which is irreconcilable with the life experiences of some believers. Therefore, it has become of the utmost importance that salvation is understood properly and more broadly to bringing clarity and avoid such disparities. With a view to presenting a farreaching perspective on salvation, the current study critically investigates the notable works of two African theologians selected from many others, whose scholarly contributions to African Christian theology in general, and salvation in particular, have been remarkable. Chapter One sets out the background to the study and introduces certain concepts that are central to the study, so as to allow coherence in the rest of the thesis. Salvation is one of the essential Christain doctrines, but misconceptions in this regard have made it difficult to ascertain or to articulate its meaning appropriately. The previous view gave rise to different ways of explaining salvation, particularly within circles that embrace the gospel of prosperity, which sees health and wealth as proof of salvation. Unfortunately, no matter how important those forms of salvation are, many believers who have experienced salvation are not wealthy and do not enjoy good health. The above perspective calls for an integrative engagement with other theologians so as to present a balanced and broader view of salvation. For the purpose of considering salvation through a much wider lens, Jesse Mugambi’s and Mercy Oduyoye’s interpretations of salvation are examined in chapters 3 and four respectively. Mugambi is a Kenyan Anglican theologian whose salvific quest centres on reconstruction as a paradigm that befits Africa in the 21st century – rather than liberation, which has often been the norm. He discusses reconstruction as a form of salvation that covers social and structural dimensions, thereby presenting an understanding of salvation that is much broader than restricting it to either salvation from sin or the acquisition of wealth and health. Oduyoye is a Ghanian Methodist theologian who focuses her research work on the well-being of women and children in particular, but also that of society. Her research concerns more than the human quest for well-being – also that of society, with particular attention to justice and equality. Shaping an enabling society where individuals are acceptedand treated with dignity would go a long way to healing many of humanity’s problems, particularly those experienced by women and children, which is considered to be a form of salvation in the context of this study. Chapter 5 draws some conclusions from the preceding chapters and suggests three models for a therapeutic interpretation of salvation, namely reconciliation, transformation, and empowerment. Concerning the prosperity gospel’s perception of salvation and that of Mugambi and Oduyoye, the study concludes that none of those approaches is wrong in itself, but all could offer a better interpretation of salvation by including other perceptions. The study suggests that none of the approaches should be followed exclusively without including others. Integration would afford a balanced view of salvation that comprises different facets of life with particular reference to the therapeutic sense. In that way, the disparity in understanding salvation can be bridged.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis is ’n studie van die leerstelling van redding, met spesifieke verwysing na terapeutiese interpretasies. Diskoerse rondom verlossing is dikwels toegespits op dit wat in die hiernamaals wag, met minder klem op die hier en nou wat die dimensies van verlossing betref, en dit het tot verdeeldheid in die interpretasie van verlossing binne die Christelike teologie gelei. Een van hierdie punte van verdeeldheid het ontstaan uit kringe wat die welvaartevangelie aanhang, met die klem op welvaart en gesondheid as bewyse van verlossing, wat onversoenbaar met die geleefde ervarings van sommige gelowiges is. Daarom is ’n behoorlike en wyer begrip van verlossing van groot belang, sodat ’n sekere helderte verkry en soortgelyke verdeeldheid vermy kan word. Om ’n wyer perspektief op verlossing te bied, doen hierdie studie ’n kritiese ondersoek na die belangrike werke van twee teoloë van Afrika wat uit talle ander moontlikhede uitgekies is en wie se vakkundige bydraes tot die Christelike teologie van Afrika in die algemeen, en verlossing in die besonder, diep spore getrap het. Hoofstuk 1 skets die agtergrond vir die studie en stel bepaalde konsepte bekend wat sentraal tot die studie staan, sodat die res van die tesis ’n sinvolle geheel vorm. Verlossing is een van die wesenlike Christelike leerstellings, maar die dwalinge daaroor het dit moeilik gemaak om die betekenis daarvan behoorlik te verwoord. Dit het tot gevolg gehad dat verlossing op verskillende wyses uiteengesit word, veral binne kringe wat die welvaartevangelie aanhang, wat gesondheid en welvaart as ’n bewys van verlossing sien. Alhoewel hierdie soort verlossing belangrik is, is daar talle gelowiges wat verlossing ervaar het maar nie welvarend is en goeie gesondheid geniet nie. Daarom is daar die behoefte aan ’n geïntegreerde benadering wat ander teoloë betrek ten einde ’n gebalanseerde en omvattender siening van verlossing te bied. In ’n poging om verlossing deur ’n veel wyer lens te beskou, ondersoek hoofstuk 3 en 4 Jesse Mugambi en Mercy Oduyoye se interpretasies van verlossing. Mugambi is ’n Anglikaanse teoloog uit Kenia wie se soeke na verlossing toegespits is op rekonstruksie as ’n paradigma wat by die Afrika van die 21ste eeu pas – eerder as bevryding, wat dikwels die norm was. Hy bespreek rekonstruksie as ’n vorm van verlossing wat sosiale en strukturele dimensies omvat, en bied daarmee ’n opvatting van verlossing wat veel wyer strek as om dit tot óf verlossing van sonde óf die verwerwing van welvaart en gesondheid te beperk. Oduyoye is ’n Metodistiese teoloog uit Ghana wie se navorsingswerk fokus op die welstand van vroue en kinders in die besonder, sowel as dié van die samelewing. Haar navorsing omvat meer as die mens se soeke na welstand – ook die welstand van die samelewing, met besondere aandag aan geregtigheid en gelykheid. Deur ’n samelewing te kweek waar individue aanvaar en met waardigheidbehandel word, sou veel kon bydra tot die verligting van allerlei probleme van die mensdom, veral dié wat vroue en kinders ondervind, wat in die konteks van hierdie studie as ’n vorm van verlossing beskou word. Hoofstuk 5 maak sekere gevolgtrekkings uit die voorafgaande en doen drie modelle vir die terapeutiese interpretasie van verlossing aan die hand, naamlik versoening, transformasie en bemagtiging. Die studie sluit af deur na die welvaartevangelie se persepsie van verlossing asook dié van Mugambi en Oduyoye te verwys en te sê dat geeneen van daardie benaderings op sigself foutief is nie, maar dat verlossing beter verduidelik kan word deur die ander opvattings in te sluit. Die studie stel voor dat geeneen van die benaderings uitsluitlik, sonder om die ander in te sluit, gevolg behoort te word nie. Integrasie maak ’n ewewigtige siening van verlossing moontlik wat verskillende lewensfasette, veral in die terapeutiese betekenis, insluit. Sodoende kan die verdeling in die verstaan van verlossing oorbrug word.

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