Christian Identity In The African Context: Reflections On Kwame Bediako’s Theology And Identity -- By: Keith Ferdinando

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:1 (Mar 2007)
Article: Christian Identity In The African Context: Reflections On Kwame Bediako’s Theology And Identity
Author: Keith Ferdinando

Christian Identity In The African Context: Reflections On Kwame Bediako’s Theology And Identity

Keith Ferdinando

Keith Ferdinando is lecturer in missiology at the London School of Theology and theological education consultant with Africa Inland Mission.

The dramatic shift in the center of gravity of global Christianity in the last fifty years is now universally recognized.1 As a result the African church has become a major influence in the world Christian movement, which makes it increasingly important to keep abreast of Christian reflection and debate on the African continent. Few contributors to that debate are more widely influential, especially among evangelicals, than the Ghanaian scholar Kwame Bediako, founder and director of the Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology in Ghana, and a theologian of international reputation Moreover, the issue of Christian identity which he addresses in his most celebrated work, Theology and Identity: the Impact of Culture on Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa,2 is among the most critical concerns of African theology. It is this work that constitutes the focus for the present discussion.

The question of identity has indeed emerged as a leading issue in many of the theologies coming out of churches in the Two-Thirds World. Conversion to Christ necessarily involves a measure of discontinuity with the pre-Christian past, and this has been perceived by some as problematic, the more so if it is felt that missionaries involved in the transmission of the gospel also impose their own culture. In the African context theologians such as E. Bolaji Idowu and John Mbiti have sought to address the problem, but it is not an entirely new one. In the Gentile church of the early centuries Christian thinkers also debated the relationship between the Christian faith and the religious context from which new believers had been drawn. In his article, “The Gospel as Prisoner and Liberator of Culture,” Andrew Walls has drawn attention to this correspondence, pointing out that Idowu and Mbiti were “wrestling with essentially the same problem as” Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria.3 It is this parallel that Kwame Bediako seeks to

develop in his influential study Theology and Identity, comparing theological development and the pursuit of identity in the early centuries of the church’s history with the writings of some African theologians in the second half of the twentieth century. The original research was c...

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