The doctrine of God in African Christian thought : an assessment of African inculturation theology from a trinitarian perspective

Kombo, James Henry Owino (2000-12)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2000

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Christian faith knows and worships one God known in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. In his revelation, the Father is depicted as being from Himself, the Son as eternally begotten from the Father and the Holy Spirit as eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. This is what Christian thought means by the doctrine of the Trinity. Although Christian orthodoxy holds the doctrine of the Trinity, the intellectual tools used to capture and convey it vary depending on the epoch, cultural context as well as availability of alternative intellectual images. This point is demonstrated well in Western Christianity. Western theologies exhibit three models of the doctrine of the Trinity: 'God as Essence', 'God as an absolute Subject', and 'God as Community in Unity'. These models can be explained by the influence of specific philosophical presuppositions preferred in certain contexts and at certain times. 'God as Essence' is constructed from the point of view of neo-Platonism, 'God as an absolute Subject' uses the infrastructure of German Idealism, while 'God as Community in Unity' recovers and applies the conceptual tools of the second-century Greeks. Taking note of the theological methodology of Western Christianity and recognising the intellectual resources in the African heritage, African inculturation theology has argued for the use of the conceptual framework of African peoples in the development of theology for African audiences. In an attempt to make a statement to the effect that African Negroes are not neo-Platonists, German Idealists or the Greeks of the second century, and to demonstrate that the African Negroes do have a different ontology that can be deciphered, interpreted, and systematized in one common way, African inculturation theology has posited a simple identity between the African notions of God and God known in the Christian faith. This research assesses and finds inadequate the notion of a simple identity between the African concepts of God and the Christian understanding of God. In view of this it appeals to African inculturation theology to critically and creatively deal with the African Christians' understanding of God. This call means at least two things. Firstly, Nyasaye, Mulungu, Modimo and so on are to function as the conceptual gates for the Christian view of God. This calls for 'Christianisation' of the African notions of God. Secondly, a 'Christianised' Nyasaye, for example, must for the Luo people mean God known in the Son and the Holy Spirit. The 'Christianised' Nyasaye must then make use of native metaphysics for the purpose of indigenising or grounding it in the cultural milieu of the situation of reception. To achieve this goal, this research has located and proposed the NTU metaphysics, which is used widely by African Negroes. According to this metaphysics, God is not just a static 'substance', an authoritarian 'absolute Subject', or a mere relationship; God is 'Great Muntu'. The Son is God because he derives wholly from the whole NTU of the only 'Great Muntu'. The Holy Spirit is God because he has the NTU shared by both the 'Great Muntu' and the Son. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are persons because the 'genuine muntu' in them is the 'Great Muntu', who alone is the ultimate person. Thus the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are persons in the ultimate sense.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Christelike geloof ken en aanbid een God in die Seun deur die Heilige Gees. In sy openbaring leer ons die Vader ken as synde uit Homself, die Seun as van ewigheidheid verwek deur Vader, en die Heilige Gees as van ewigheid uitgaande van die Vader en die Seun. Dit is wat die Christelike geloof bedoel met die leer van die Triniteit. Alhoewel die Christlike ortodoksie gekenmerk word deur die leer van die Triniteit, varieer die intellectuele vorm wat dit aanneem en waarin dit oorgedra word afhangende van die tydperk, kulturele konteks sowel as die beskikbaarheid van altematiewe intellektuele aparatuur. Laasgenoemde kom duidelik na vore in die geskiedenis van die Westerse Christenheid. In die geskiedenis van die Westerse teologie vertoon die leer van die Triniteit drie gestaltes nl. 'God as Essensie', 'God as absolute Subjek', en 'God as Gemeenskaap in Eenheid'. Dit hou verband met die voorkeur vir spesifieke filisofiese voorverondersellings in sekere kontekste en tye. 'God as Essensie' is die resultaat van neo-Platoniese voorveronderstellings, 'God as absolute Subjek' dra die kenmerke van die Duitse Idealisme, terwyl 'God as Gemeenskap in Eenheid' terggryp op en gebruikmaak van die konseptuele aparatuur uit die Griekse denke van tweede eeu. Na aanleiding van die teologiese metode van die Westerse Christendom en met erkenning van die intellectuele moontlikhede van die Afrika erfenis, argurnenteer die Afrika inkulturasie teologie ten gunste van die gebruik van Afrika konsepte vir die ontwikkeling van 'n teologie vir Afrika. In 'n poging om die eie en gemeenskaplike aard van die ontologie van Afrika in onderskeid van die neo-Platoniste, Duitse Idealiste en Griekse filosofie van die tweede eeu, aan te toon, het die Afrika inkulturasie teologie op 'n simplistiese wyse 'n identeit tussen Afrika Godsbeelde en die God van die Christelike geloof geponeer. In hierde navorsing word hierde identifikasie beoordeel en van die hand gewys. Derhalwe word 'n appel gemaak op die Afrika inkulturasie teologie om krities-kreatief om te gaan met die Afrika Christene se verstaan van God. Hierde oproep het ten minste twee implikasies. In die eerste plek moet Nyasaye, Mulungu, Modimo, ens. dien as konseptuele poorte vir die Christlike Godsverstaan. Dit impliseer 'n 'Christianisering' van die Afrika Godsbeelde. Tweedens bring dit mee dat 'n 'gechristianiseerde' Nyasaye by voorbeeld, vir Luo volk impliseer dat God geken word in die Seun en die Heilige Gees. Vervolgens moet gebruik gemaak word van inheemse metafisika met die oop op die verinheemsing of fundering van hierdie 'gechristianiseerde' Nyasaye in die kulturele milieu van die resepsie gemeenskap. Om hierdie doel te bereik, word in hierde studie gebruik gemaak van die NTU metafisika, wat algemen in Afrika voorkom. Volgens hierde metafisika is God nie net 'n statiese 'substansie', n' outoritere 'absolute Subject' of 'n blote relasie nie, maar God is die 'Groot Muntu'. Die Seun is God omdat Hy volkome uitgaan uit die totale NTU van die enigste 'Groot Muntu'. Die Heilige Gees is God omdat Hy die NTU het wat die 'Groot Muntu' en die Seun gemeenskaplik besit. Die Vader, die Seun en die Heilige Gees is persone omdat die 'egte muntu' in hulle die 'Groot Muntu' is, wat allen die absolute persoon is. Derhalwe is Vader, Seun en Heilige Gees persone in absolute sin.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/51962
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