“No other name!” The Contribution of Byang H. Kato to the Salvation Debate

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Wouter Theodoor van Veelen Theologische Universiteit Kampen Kampen The Netherlands

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This article attempts to investigate the contribution of the African evangelical theologian and church leader Byang H. Kato (1936–1975) to the salvation debate in the early 1970s. Due to his radical standpoint and at times uncompromising tone, Kato’s soteriological proposals have been characterized as a reproduction of western theology. This article aims to demonstrate that, rather than reiterating a specific American or western concept of theology, Kato’s soteriology should be read as a contextual evangelical response to the ongoing theological debates of his time.


This article attempts to investigate the contribution of the African evangelical theologian and church leader Byang H. Kato (1936–1975) to the salvation debate in the early 1970s. Due to his radical standpoint and at times uncompromising tone, Kato’s soteriological proposals have been characterized as a reproduction of western theology. This article aims to demonstrate that, rather than reiterating a specific American or western concept of theology, Kato’s soteriology should be read as a contextual evangelical response to the ongoing theological debates of his time.

1 Introduction

Recently, there has been renewed interest in the work of the late Byang Kato (1936–1975). Kato, who was president of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa and Madagascar (AEAM, now the Association of Evangelicals in Africa [AEA]) from 1973 until his untimely death in 1975, is considered the founding father of African evangelical theology and still deemed to be one of the most influential evangelical theologians in Africa.

A considerable body of research exists on Kato and on what he perceived as the theological “pitfalls” jeopardizing Christianity on the continent.1 One of Kato’s key concerns was soteriology; amidst changing ideas on salvation due to ecumenical debates and the rise of inculturation and liberation theology, Kato defended both the uniqueness and personal nature of salvation through Christ. In his works, Kato consistently reproached leading African theologians, such as John Mbiti and Bolaji Idowu, for developing what he called “a syncretistic form of Christianity.”2 According to Kato, salvation is found in the death of Jesus Christ alone. Due to this theological position, Kato’s legacy has sometimes been characterized as merely reiterating “a particular brand of Western Christendom.”3

This article aims to demonstrate that, rather than a reproduction of Western theology, Kato’s soteriology should be read as a contextual evangelical response to the ongoing theological debates of his time. In the following sections, I first provide an introduction to Kato’s life and work to situate him within the early 1970s (1). Then, I reconstruct Kato’s contribution to the theological discussions regarding salvation (2). Next, I evaluate some reactions to Kato’s understanding of salvation (3). Finally, the conclusion recapitulates the main argument of this article – that Kato’s soteriology should be read as a contextual response (4).

2 Byang Kato and the Salvation Debate

2.1 Byang Henry Kato (1936–1975)

The Nigerian theologian and church leader Byang Henry Kato was born in 1936 into a family who were adherents of African traditional religion (ATR) in Kwoi, Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria. In an autobiographical article titled “The Devil’s Baby,” Kato relates that a few months after his birth, he was dedicated to what he calls “a juju priest.”4 Kato further adds that shortly after passing through initiation ceremonies of the Hahm (or Jaba) people at the age of 10, he heard the gospel preached by Mary Haas, a missionary with the Sudan Interior Mission. Kato was baptized at the age of twelve. He also recalls that, while his parents initially strongly opposed his conversion, they converted a few years later and became devout Christians.5

At the age of nineteen, Kato enrolled at Igbaja Bible College (now Igbaja Theological Seminary), graduating in 1957. In 1963, he pursued his studies at London Bible College, earning his Bachelor’s degree in 1967. After returning to Nigeria, he served as the general secretary of the Evangelical Church of West Africa from 1967 to 1970. He then enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary, earning his master’s degree in theology in 1971 and his Doctorate of Ministry degree in 1974. His ThD thesis6 was later published under the title Theological Pitfalls in Africa.7 Having completed his doctoral studies, Kato was unanimously chosen as the first African general secretary of the AEA (founded in 1966), a post he held for two years, until he tragically drowned off the Kenyan coast in 1975.8

During the two years of his AEA secretariat, Kato traveled extensively, enlarging the AEA network throughout the continent and initiating the Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA) and two evangelical theological institutions, namely the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology in the Central African Republic and Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (now Africa International University) in Kenya.9 Kato only published one major work, but many of his articles, Bible meditations, and lectures (both published and unpublished) were circulated posthumously by the AEA and in recent years collected on a data CD by ACTEA.10

Kato is often portrayed as a theologian and church leader who wanted to caution the African churches against what he perceived as ‘heretical’ teachings, aiming to preserve what he called “Biblical Christianity.”11 Moreover, he is still remembered as the founding father of African evangelicalism.12

2.2 Some Methodological Remarks

Before examining Kato’s involvement in the theological debates of the early 1970s, I will give a short note on the challenges of interpreting his works. Kato’s main period of theological activity comprises the early 1970s, especially the two years he served as the general secretary of the AEA. As several studies13 have indicated, at the time of Kato’s tragic drowning in 1975, his thinking was still in development. In light of this, Paul Bowers, an American missionary who has been involved with ACTEA, categorizes Pitfalls as a “maiden effort.” He maintains that Pitfalls is to be taken “not as a final word but as a first word, a promise of what might have come had Kato been spared.”14

Kato left an unfinished legacy, which was never envisioned as a comprehensive systematic theology, and therefore, it should not be considered as such. Scholars would be advised to avoid drawing hasty conclusions on the basis of the scarce material available. Moreover, besides Pitfalls and several articles, Kato did not publish much. Most of the available material collected by ACTEA consists of lecture notes, addresses, and papers that were not intended for publication. To negotiate these challenges methodologically, I have chosen to assign more weight to his published works – such as Pitfalls and Biblical Christianity in Africa – than to unpublished lecture notes, articles, and meditations.

Having said this, this paper attempts to understand Kato’s contribution to the debates within African theological circles. The biographical details, sociocultural developments, and political factors that feature in the unpublished materials signal events and circumstances that were important to Kato and may have been influenced his theology. Hence, I have used the unpublished materials to understand the wider context against which his published work is to be interpreted.

2.3 Historical Settings

Upon his appointment as the general secretary of the AEA in 1973, Kato found himself in a complex and changing theological landscape. The German missiologist Detlef Kapteina identifies at least three factors that shaped the historical background of Kato’s theological activity. First, Kapteina asserts that the AEA, initiated by the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Foreign Mission Agencies,15 was a reactionary movement, formed to respond to what was perceived as the development of a “syncretism and universalistic soteriology” within contemporary African theological currents.16 American evangelicals were increasingly concerned about their isolated position in Africa and the lack of cooperation between African evangelical churches. They decided to join hands in view of “defining and defending the church’s doctrinal position.”17 In fact, as the Dutch missiologist Christina Breman states, one of the initial objectives of the AEA was “[t]o alert Christians to trends and spiritual dangers that would undermine the Scriptural foundation of the Gospel testimony.”18 Thus, Kapteina maintains, the atmosphere within AEA circles was largely antithetical toward other theological traditions.19

A second and more specific factor, according to Kapteina, was the rise of African inculturation theologies from the 1960s onwards and their revaluation of African traditional religiosity. In the aftermath of decolonization, leading African theologians, such as John Mbiti and Bolaji Idowu, launched a quest for an indigenous understanding of Christian theology, advocating the integration of the Bible and African traditional religiosities and cultures.20 In the 1960s and early 1970s, Mbiti and Idowu published their most influential works, which included Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief21 and African Religions and Philosophy,22 positioning ATR on par with Scripture as a vital source for the theological endeavor.23 According to Mbiti, the missionaries who brought Christianity to Africa had failed to contextualize the Christian faith within the African milieu. In his opinion, only by reading the New Testament principally within the framework of African religiosity can Christianity take root in African soil.24 Idowu is renowned for coining the term “implicit monotheism,” suggesting that the ATR and Christianity share the same basic tenets and ultimately worship the same God.25 On the basis of a study of the religious practices of his own Yoruba people, he endorses a radical continuity between the ATR and Christianity.26

This reassessment of the salvific value of African religious and cultural experiences, according to Kapteina’s analysis, led African evangelicals to oppose the inculturation venture to maintain the primacy of the Bible.27 Timothy Palmer, former lecturer at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, argues that the search for an African concept of theology has been interpreted within AEA circles as a deliberate “anti-Christian” attempt to undermine the ‘essence’ of Christianity.28 In an attempt to turn the tide, Kato responded to leading inculturation theologians of his time, such as Mbiti and Idowu, both of whom have been called “the father of African theology.”29

The third factor identified by Kapteina concerns the growing friction between the ecumenical and evangelical movements worldwide, which are represented on African soil by the All Africa Council of Churches (AACC) and the AEA, respectively. Christina Breman has shown that already under the leadership of the first general secretary Kenneth Downing (1966–1970), the AEA was outspokenly critical of the World Council of Churches (WCC).30 However, the relations became increasingly tense in the early 1970s. In 1973, the WCC gathered in Bangkok under the theme “Salvation Today.” Palmer establishes that, under the influence of Latin American liberation theologians such as Gustavo Gutierrez, the conference proposed, among other things, a redefinition of salvation as the liberation of the oppressed and marginalized.31 In response, international evangelical leaders, headed by Billy Graham and John Stott, gathered in Lausanne in 1974 to voice an alternative to what they considered the ‘liberal’ teachings within WCC circles; the Lausanne gathering insisted on upholding the primacy of evangelization and conversion in Christian mission. Byang Kato participated in the conference as one of the keynote speakers.32 This gathering eventually resulted in the establishment of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in 1976 as a counterpart to the WCC.

Kapteina concludes that Kato, as the newly appointed leader of the AEA, found himself confronted with the challenges of the African inculturation movement on the one hand and the ecumenical movement on the other.33 According to African evangelical circles, both theological movements ultimately questioned the same doctrine – the “unique Christ for salvation.”34 Consequently, the rather diverse discussions within the emerging African theology and within ecumenical circles, became known within the AEA as “the salvation debate.”35 This – what many evangelicals considered an “alarming” situation – evoked a theological strategy to safeguard what Kato called “Biblical Christianity” in Africa.36

In January 1973, shortly after completing his doctoral studies, Kato was asked to present his vision at the Christian Education Strategy Conference in Limuru, Kenya. After his lecture, in which Kato discussed what he called the “theological anemia in Africa,”37 he was, in the eyes of many, the ideal candidate for the position of AEA general secretary, which had been vacant for three years.38

During the two years of his service at the AEA, there were several developments that further exacerbated Kato’s wariness of African inculturation theology and the ecumenical movement as embodied by the WCC and AACC. In the next subsection, I discuss three historic circumstances that seem to have deeply affected Kato and motivated him to vehemently critique contemporary theological currents, especially inculturation theology and the ecumenical movement with its emphasis on liberation theology.

2.4 Three ‘Alarming’ Developments

In the course of 1974, worrying reports circulated that Chadian Christians were being persecuted by the local authorities. By the order of the Chadian government, evangelical Christians were being forced to undergo ATR initiation rites, and accordingly to renounce their faith.39 Those who refused to participate were said to be persecuted and even killed. Shocked by the news, Kato travelled to Chad in April 1975 for a personal meeting with General Noel Odinga to plead the cause of the evangelicals in the Chadian Republic.40 What worried Kato most was the “philosophy of authenticity,” as he called it, behind this political persecution. Kato saw a parallel between the outlook that produced the persecution of Chadian Christians and the ideas undergirding inculturation theology. In his analysis, the enforcement of the initiation ritual was legitimized by the same rationale as the search for an African concept of theology, albeit on a political level.41 Also in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Kato discerned the potential dangers of the emphasis on African cultural identity. He reported on the Zairian government propagating the Mobutuan ideology of African authenticity, forcing evangelical Christians to accept all kind of “syncretistic practices,” such as Kimbanguism.42 Observing that tolerance toward evangelical Christians was decreasing in Chad and Zaire, he concludes that, “The days of persecution for the Bible-believing Christian may not be too far away.”43

A second development that troubled Kato was the call in WCC circles to support the armed struggle against apartheid and other forms of injustice throughout Africa. At the AACC conference in 1974 in Lusaka, Zambia, Canon Burgess Carr, then general secretary of the AACC, called for unconditional support for the armed struggle against injustice and violence.44 Kato interpreted Carr’s address as an outright betrayal of the gospel, retorting that all human violence was overcome by Christ through his death on the cross.45 Carr’s appeal was no incident. One year later, the WCC’s fifth general assembly gathered in Nairobi, Kenya. Having attended the assembly on behalf of the AEA, Kato reported a repetition of the same appeal to support liberation groups, which he paraphrased as follows: “If you want to help people, just give them money. Whether they use that money for arms or food is not your concern.”46 Astounded by the political atmosphere of the conference, and worried about the possible consequences, he concluded the following: “The marriage between political and ecclesiastical systems seems something that is very likely in our own age.”47 Having personally witnessed the horrors of the Nigerian – Biafran War (1967–1970), Kato radically rejected any call for armed resistance.48

Lastly, a third historical development that influenced Kato’s theology can be found in the growing popularity of “Black theology” in South Africa.49 Compared with other African theological currents, Black theology was relatively new on the African continent. In the early 1970s, the ideas of American black theologians, such as James Cone, were popularized in South Africa by the Methodist Basil Moore among others.50 This motivated an intensified struggle against apartheid in South Africa, followed by an immediate ban by the federal government.51 Although Kato conceded that Black theology should be evaluated on its own grounds, he saw a clear correspondence with contemporary theological currents such as inculturation theology and liberation theology, in that Black theology principally takes human experience as the basis for theology: “Where biblical concepts are used at all, they are used only to support the preconceived notions of the theologian. Therefore, Black theology is a worse danger than Western liberalism.”52 Kato contended that Black theology could potentially lead to a new kind of racism.53 Fearing that black theology would become mainstream among African intellectuals in other parts of the continent, he distanced himself from the – in his view – overemphasis on blackness and oppression, whereby Christianity would lose its universal message as good news for all people.54

Kato considered these three developments as excrescences of the theological trends that were “already taking shape” in Africa.55 In addition to the historical setting as described by Kapteina, these historical factors seem to have fueled Kato’s ideas, explaining his often harsh and uncompressing tone toward his theological opponents.56 In his analysis, both inculturation-oriented theologies and liberation-oriented theologies could potentially cause a serious distortion of the gospel message, which he understood as salvation from sins. He argued that both theological movements contain the inherent tendency to radically politicize the Christian faith; this could eventually result in violence against specific groups.57 Fearing that the gospel would “lose its function as salt in the world, not to say its very soul,”58 Kato was convinced that “[t]he spiritual battle for Africa during this decade will be fought, therefore, largely on theological grounds.”59 Kato resolved to tackle the root of the problem, which he localized in culture-oriented theologies, as propagated by Mbiti and Idowu, and liberation-oriented theologies, as advanced within WCC circles, to defend the ‘essence’ of Christianity.60

In the next section, I offer a reconstruction of the soteriological ideas, that Kato formulated in response to these developments, following his line of thought in Pitfalls, which was published in 1975.

3 Kato’s Defense of “Biblical Salvation”

3.1 The Basis of Salvation: Redemptive Revelation

In his foreword to Pitfalls, the evangelical icon Billy Graham, with a reference to Kato, suggests that “[p]erhaps there has never been an age of such confusion over the meaning of salvation” as the 1960s and 1970s.61 Therefore, as Kato states in his introduction to Pitfalls, his primary purpose is “to sound an alarm and warn Christians on both sides of the argument concerning the dangers of universalism. These dangers are theological pitfalls indeed. To forewarn is to forearm.”62 Nevertheless, one of the objectives of his book is “to make a positive contribution to the discussion.”63

In the first part of Pitfalls, the basic argument is that the classical theological distinction between general and special revelation should be maintained because both serve different purposes. With reference to Acts 14:17, Kato affirms that “God did not leave himself without witness”;64 God reveals himself in nature.65 However, Kato argues, “[t]he problem lies not so much in the fact of knowledge, but in the type and extent of that knowledge.”66 He maintains that “General Revelation [sic] was never meant to give men salvation. It was only meant to point the way to God Himself [sic], who has planned the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.”67 Furthermore, Kato contends that this general revelation has been spoiled by “the tragedy of sin.”68 Instead of worshipping the one true God who revealed himself in nature, humankind began worshipping “man-made objects.”69 In Kato’s analysis, the inculturation enterprise mistakenly confuses the ATR with general revelation; what Idowu calls ‘implicit monotheism’ is identified by Kato as idolatry.70 Thus, while Kato agrees with inculturation theologians that African peoples are not devoid of some knowledge of the divine and that ATR clearly show men’s craving for the truth, as for example Mbiti maintained,71 Kato asserts that they only “highlight the cry for the human heart, but the solution lies elsewhere.”72

For Kato, defending the Bible as “God’s special revelation” is not a goal in itself. At stake for Kato is the uniqueness of salvation in Christ. Fundamental to his thinking is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone, “the Lamb of God to be slain”; knowledge of this revelation is critical for human salvation.73 He elucidates his standpoint by introducing the term “redemptive revelation,” aiming to highlight the Christological content of special revelation: “Since General Revelation [sic] does not save anyone, everyone in any culture needs Christ, specially revealed, to take away sins.”74 Kato further clarifies that he agrees with Mbiti, who indicates that there is “some knowledge of God in traditional Africa.”75 However, the crucial question is “whether there can be salvation in such revelation.”76 While inculturation theologians such as Mbiti include ATR within the salvific plan of God as a praeperatio evangelica, a preparation to the gospel,77 Kato categorically rejects this possibility, arguing that without “redemptive revelation” the way to salvation will remain unknown.78

Kato further undergirds his theological position with a case-study of the traditional religious values and practices of his own people, the Hahm of the Kaduna State of Nigeria. He argues that their approach to salvation is limited to societal and materialistic issues; the concept of sin against a supreme being is virtually absent in Hahm religion.79 He holds that the necessity of “a total deliverance from the original and practical sins of the individual” is a unique characteristic of Christianity.80

Becoming personal, he claims that John Mbiti, who was brought up in a Christian home, “is not able to understand the background of African traditional religion as well as one who has been raised in a thoroughly traditional way.”81 Kato maintains that the call for a rehabilitation of ATR “is like telling an ex-cancer patient that it was a mistake that he received a complete cure. The dominating fears and superstitions concerning the spirit world are so dreadful that an instantaneous and complete cure is what Jaba people need.”82

Kato concludes that “redemptive revelation” is indispensable for knowing God both as creator and savior. To underscore this argument, he points frequently to Acts 4:12: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name in heaven that has been give among men, by which we must be saved.”83 In Kato’s view, the final goal of Christian theology within the African context should therefore not be to rehabilitate African religiosity and culture, as proposed by Mbiti and Idowu, but “that Jesus Christ might have the foremost place.”84 He summarizes his view as follows:

We may sum up in this manner. God has revealed Himself in two ways – general non-redemptive revelation on the one hand, and special redemptive revelation on the other. In the context of African traditional religions, the worship is merely an indication of an honest craving for God, which can be fulfilled only in biblical revelation through the incarnate Christ who died and rose again. This should be the preoccupation of the church in Africa.85

3.2 The Means of Salvation: The Death of Christ

Having laid the foundation of his interpretation of the concept of salvation, Kato leaves no doubt as to the means of salvation. Biblical salvation, in Kato’s view, is grounded in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Although there is no extensive treatment of the significance of the death of Jesus Christ in Kato’s works, it is evident that Kato defends Christ’s death on the cross as the only means of salvation. Thus, “the undeserving favor of God had made salvation possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”86 By taking this theological stance, Kato claims to be in line with the universal doctrine of salvation as confessed by the creeds of early Christianity and defended by the evangelicals throughout the world: “Suffice it to indicate that the substitutionary death of Christ for men everywhere at any time is the position held by most evangelical Christians.”87 For Kato, this is the same Christian faith for which the fathers of the early church strived and were willing to give their lives.88 This universal and evangelical “truth” must be proclaimed in Africa as the only way to redemption and eternal life:

God has given Himself to be known by man for the purpose of saving man. This Revelation [sic] has been accomplished through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, being God Himself, became a man so that He may show man who God is, and also that he may die in place of man. Jesus Christ, by becoming man, has made it possible for man to be bought from the slave market of sin and placed in the high position of being God’s child: That is why Paul says, “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ” (II Corinthians 5:19). Through the incarnation God has made man and the whole world savable.89

By endorsing the cross of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation, Kato’s main objective is not so much to align with what he perceived as ‘classic’ Christianity, but rather to depict the “pitfalls” of both the inculturation venture and the ecumenical movement. Commenting on the work of the Ghanaian theologian John Kofi Agbeti, who, in Kato’s analysis, advocated a return to the ATR,90 he concludes that within the inculturation enterprise, the “unique faith is subjected to scrutiny by the mighty power of African traditional religions.”91 Although he concedes that Mbiti and Idowu do not go as far as Agbeti in their partiality for ATR, they seem to suggest, eventually, that “it is just as possible to be saved through other religions as it is through Christianity, though the latter may bring salvation faster.”92

Furthermore, Kato rebuffs the conviction prevalent in WCC circles, that “as long as a person is faithful in whatever religion he is following, he will be accepted by God.”93 He fears that the ecumenical movement is searching for “a common humanity irrespective of religion.”94 In both cases, Kato argued, the centrality of the cross of Christ in Christian doctrine is questioned. Therefore, Kato’s emphasis on Christ’s death on the cross must be understood in the light of the theological debates in which he was involved. What was at stake in his opinion, was not so much the meaning of the cross, but the uniqueness of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross.95

This explains why Kato, in his works, does not elaborate on the function and meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ, nor on its significance within the African context. Rather than exploring the depths of the cross-event through African eyes, he advances the cross of Christ as a unique feature of Christianity and the only way to salvation, since humanity’s fundamental problem is “alienation from God.”96 The cross of Christ, in some way, deals with this problem, offering freedom from sin, reconciliation with God, and eternal life.97 Kato concludes that this message of salvation through the death of Christ alone must be proclaimed to Africans just as much as to other people.98 The urgency of the situation called, in his view, for a strong defense of the centrality of the cross as the only way to salvation. In light of this, Kapteina argues that Kato’s theology is determined by a Christocentric approach.99 This approach to theology becomes clear when Kato pinpoints the following:

But if biblical Christianity is to survive and flourish in Africa, we must hold fast the truth that man’s fundamental problem is sin against God, and that salvation is only through Jesus Christ. We must hold to the uniqueness of Christian revelation through the written Word and through the Living Word. To seek salvation elsewhere than through the shed blood of Christ is heretical. It is the preaching of another gospel, which really is no gospel. (..) The work of Christ is alone fully sufficient for our redemption.100

3.3 The Heart of Salvation: The Soul

According to Kato, contemporary theological trends did not merely relativize the uniqueness of Christ’s salvation – the very meaning of salvation was also contested. Delegates to the Conference organized by the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism in Bangkok at the turn of 1972–1973, with “Salvation Today” as it central topic, struggled with situations of injustice and poverty throughout the world and called for a more comprehensive approach to salvation.101 This soteriological perspective, as formulated inter alia by the Indian theologian and chair of the WCC Central Committee M.M. Thomas in his opening address at the conference, presents salvation as “fullness of life,” suggesting that salvation entails liberation from sin as well as liberation in the world here and now; it finds its fulfillment in the creation of a new humanity.102

Kato is highly critical of this interpretation of salvation. He describes the theology of “Salvation Today” as being preoccupied with deliverance in the here and now, and only secondarily with salvation from sins and the final judgment.103 He argues that by also defining salvation in terms of outward liberation, the ecumenical movement has rejected the “authoritative basis of the Word of God” and thus created a “man-made message.”104 According to Kato, humankind’s fundamental problem is first and foremost found on a spiritual level, since humanity has broken its relationship with God; his presupposition is that sin is the root cause of all human suffering. Consequently, the biblical concept of salvation entails “personal” or “spiritual” salvation.105 Only when individuals have received inner salvation can African communities be transformed “in all aspects of life.”106 In other words, good works “do not precede nor produce salvation.”107 In Kato’s analysis, the ecumenicals, with their insistence on outward liberation, mistakenly confuse the outcome of salvation with salvation itself, thus propagating a rather superficial approach to situations of injustice and oppression: “Unless the illness is properly diagnosed, the cure will ever remain elusive.”108 He summarizes his standpoint as follows:

The nature of man’s fundamental dilemma does not lie in mere physical suffering. It does not lie primarily in horizontal relationships with his fellow man. All human tragedies, be they sickness, poverty, or exploitation, are mere symptoms of the root cause, which the Bible calls sin. It is very sad to note that some key church leaders in Africa take these symptoms for the root causes.109

In Kato’s opinion, the political dimensions of the emphasis on salvation here and now not only blurred the biblical concept of salvation but were also potentially dangerous. To make his point, he constates that the message of salvation as propagated within WCC and AACC circles, and also by the adherents of Black theology, seems to restrict salvation to a specific group, namely the oppressed and marginalized or the black people discriminated under the apartheid regime in South Africa.110 As a result, Kato argues, the universality of the Christian faith as a saving message to all people is at stake.111 Furthermore, and this is his main concern, the insistence on injustice and racism could eventually lead to the justification of violence against the oppressor, something which he considers unacceptable and unbiblical.112 Kato claims that the message of salvation should be proclaimed to all people, regardless of their social status or skin color; Christian leaders should take up “the urgent task of bringing the salvation of Jesus Christ to both the sinful oppressed and his oppressor.”113 Thus, instead of fighting for social issues or even supporting armed liberation groups, the African Church should invest in evangelism to win all people for Christ: “If Christian leaders are not the ones to raise the cry for spiritual salvation of our beloved African peoples, one wonders who will do it.”114

Whereas Kato, in his thinking, prioritized evangelism as a means of proclaiming the message of “soul salvation” to all people, he did not categorically dismiss the sociopolitical aspects of the gospel. According to him, the church also has a prophetic calling. He elaborates that, since the world has not yet been freed from the consequences of sin, the ultimate liberation will only be realized at the second coming of Christ: “Meanwhile our frustrated groaning and longings in a sin-torn world must continue while we wait for the redemption of our bodies.”115 However, the struggle against oppression and apartheid in itself is commendable:

In pointing out that political liberation is not a biblical understanding of the salvation Christ brings to men, we must add that struggles for political liberation are not wrong. The World Council is undoubtedly right when it emphasizes the strong prophetic demands in Scripture for social justice. Christians cannot isolate themselves from such struggles.116

3.4 The Outcome of Salvation: Transformation

This reconstruction of Kato’s soteriology would be incomplete without mentioning Kato’s insistence on the transformational power of what he saw as the essence of Christianity. Despite his polemical and at times uncompromising tone, his main work Pitfalls already depicts his deepest motivation:

Show concern in social action but bear in mind at all times that the primary goal of the church is the presentation of personal salvation. As individuals are converted, they become instruments of revolutionizing the society for good. The church is not a department of social welfare for the government. It is a body of individuals called out to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ.117

However, in Kato’s opinion, in order to become “instruments of revolutionizing the society for good,” one should turn to Jesus Christ alone: “What Africa needs most is the new life of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit which enables Christians to live for Christ in all aspects of life, justice included.”118 Thus, Kato considers conversion a prerequisite for social change. Kato’s main assumption, then, is that the heart of culture comprises people’s “basic philosophy of life.” With a reference to Galatians 2:20, Kato asserts that “[i]t is a fundamental Christian principle that Jesus Christ comes first and foremost in the life of the Christian.”119 However, this inner transformation can only be achieved, according to Kato, when one’s “basic philosophy” is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, thereby enabling men and women to serve the common good: “Unless the heart is truly changed, nominal African Christians will still have the same non-Christian philosophy of life.”120 Yet, when one’s inner being is transformed, Kato explains, this “will not only attract more men to Christ, but will make our country a better place to live in.”121 Thus, Kato calls on Christian leaders, especially men, to share his vision for Africa:

The church in Africa today is searching for educated men with a heart devotion [sic] to rise to the challenge facing the church of Christ. Graduates are needed as school teachers with a bias towards the Bible. Christian doctors with a word in season for the sick are in short supply. There is also a dire need of full-time Christian workers with the necessary qualifications. Such men are needed in theological education, local church ministry, communication through media, e.g., radio, T.V. and literature. It takes a real sacrifice of position, prestige and possessions, but if evangelical faith is to survive in Nigeria we must have such men.122

Kato’s main objection to his opponents, then, is that contemporary theological trends, such as inculturation theology, the ecumenical movement with its insistence on political liberation, and Black theology, have rejected – in his analysis – the basic message of early Christianity of “Jesus Christ alone” as formulated in the ecumenical creeds,123 thereby missing the opportunity to deeply impact the African continent. He argues that, for instance, the Bangkok conference adopted an “anthropocentric theology,” which he also localizes in the rise of Black theology.124 Kato concludes that, ultimately, this “anthropocentric” concept of theology, “dethrones the Omnipotent [sic] God and enthrones man.”125 For him, true salvation presupposes divine intervention, since only God is able to transform people’s basic philosophy.126 Relying on the work of the Mennonite missionary and anthropologist Donald Jacobs, Kato claims that Christianity should therefore be preoccupied with the heart of culture, namely on the philosophical level.127 He assumes that, “if religion is what gives direction to life, Christianity must necessarily change the lifestyle or culture of the African.”128 Thus, he concludes, only by working from the inside out can the African continent be positively impacted.129

This further explains why Kato categorically rejects both Mbiti’s inculturation theology, who sees “sufficient room for religious co-existence, co-operation and even competition in Africa,”130 and liberation-oriented theologies, such as Black theology: “While black theology raises the right questions, it lacks the terms of reference. It is not a black Christ or black God we need, but the same eternal God of the Bible speaking to the black man in his need.”131 In Kato’s view, the only way forward is through returning to the core message of salvation and transformation through Christ alone, since “[f]ormal changes do not mean a thing if the heart is not changed.”132 Therefore, he makes the following appeal:

So my appeal to you is first of all to realize this great gulf that has been established between you and your God. Then also to point out the fact that Jesus Christ has done something about it. And, therefore if you would accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour now, the judgment of God that would have come upon you is placed on the Lord Jesus Christ once and for all. And as He suffered there on the cross He bore the judgment, He has removed the curse. Therefore, as you accept Him today you are His child today and for evermore.133

Thus, in view of contemporary theological trends, which insisted on inculturation on the one hand and liberation on the other, and out of concern for the consequences of both movements, Kato endorses the supreme authority of the Bible, as an indispensable revelation and the only source for theology, presenting Jesus Christ as the only way to personal salvation and inner transformation, aiming to promote Christian service in Africa.

4 Reception of Kato’s Soteriological Ideas

Perhaps it is not surprising that Kato’s soteriological ideas provoked considerable controversy within African theological circles. The Ghanaian theologian Kwame Bediako critiques what he considers to be Kato’s acontextual approach to Christian faith and theology. He asserts that, “[w]hilst it cannot be said that Kato was entirely lacking in critical discernment regarding the theological models and viewpoints he espoused, it is nonetheless the case that there is little in his outlook which does not stem from the deep roots in the conservative evangelical tradition – particularly the North American variant – of Christianity.”134 Bediako’s main objection to Kato’s theological stance, then, is what he describes as “Kato’s postulate of the acultural nature of the Gospel.”135 At the end, according to Bediako, Kato suffices to introduce a Westernized form of Christianity into the African context. He concludes that Kato, with his insistence on the absolute primacy of the Bible, categorically rejects any understanding of theology as a synthesis of “old” and “new.”136 In addition, the Cameroonian theologian David Ngong, in his dissertation on African inculturation theologies, asserts that Kato “fails to realize that theology does not only draw from the Bible but also from the human experiences in various contexts.”137

Besides the supposedly acultural character of Kato’s theology, the Ghanaian Methodist theologian Mercy Oduyoye questions Kato’s endorsement of the exclusive nature of the Christian message with regard to salvation by qualifying Kato’s soteriological ideas as a “missionary theology” that is embedded in “traditional Christian dogmatics.” She summarizes Kato’s soteriological ideas as follows: “Salvation is the monopoly of Christianity, and its parameters are to be found in the Bible alone.”138 According to Oduyoye, it is debatable whether Christianity is the only line of communication between God and humankind; she points at experiences of salvation in the ATR as a source for understanding God’s saving presence in history.139 Moreover, the Nigerian theologian Victor Ezigbo repudiates Kato’s presumption of the superiority of his understanding of the Christian concept of salvation.140

In line with these critical comments, several scholars, African as well as non-African, describe Kato as a representative of Western hegemony in church and theology, who does not make any significant contribution to the development of an African understanding of salvation.141 John Parratt, former professor of Third World Theologies at the University of Birmingham, England, portrays Kato as someone who has “uncritically swallowed the opinions of his North American mentors.”142 Others have questioned, whether Kato, in criticizing scholars such as Agbeti, Mbiti, and Idowu, has recognized their deep frustrations as to Western dominance in church and theology.143 Timothy Palmer concludes that Kato has often been depicted “as an extremist in terms of African theology.”144

Nevertheless, there are scholars who have argued that, despite Kato’s presumed Western/American outlook on soteriology, his theological legacy should be seen as a contextual response to the theological debates of his time.145 In this respect, Ngong establishes that, “[w]hile the charge of Kato’s biblical and theological naiveté can be sustained, the accusation that he is un-African because he rejects the African worldview is itself a naïve one.”146 He further adds that “basing a specifically African contribution to theology on whether or not one wholly appropriates the African worldview seems to be a very limited criterion for judging what comprises or does not comprise African theology. It fails to take the multifaceted nature of present day Africa into consideration.”147 In line with Ngong’s analysis, Ezigbo points to the bifold character of Kato’s legacy: “On the one hand, he recognizes the need to promote some cultures and the identity of African peoples through constructing a contextual theology; on the other hand, he appears to be highly critical of some cultures, viewing them as incompatible with a biblical Christianity.”148 He elaborates by stating that Kato’s literary corpus “presents us with a picture of Jesus who is undergoing an identity crisis – the Jesus who is neither truly Western nor truly African.”149 In spite of this apparent tension between Western and African aspects in Kato’s thinking, Ezigbo then establishes that Kato’s soteriological proposals should be regarded as a contextual evangelical contribution to the salvation debate, which he defines as a “dogmatic contextualization.”150 While both Ngong and Ezigbo thus argue that Kato should be read as a contextual voice, neither scholar references historical circumstances that might have influenced Kato’s stance. By flagging the specific political and theological settings mentioned in Kato’s work, this article anchors the argument that Kato’s theology should be understood as a historically contextual theology.

Within evangelical circles, Kato’s soteriological ideas have received a predominantly positive response, although the weaknesses in his analysis of contemporary theological movements have not gone unnoticed.151 The Nigerian theologian Yusufu Turaki demonstrates that Kato searched for an alternative way to respond to the numerous challenges on the African continent. Turaki asserts that in view of what Kato perceived as ‘disturbing’ theological trends that emphasized culture or liberation, he “dared to provide an alternative method of doing theology.”152 In light of this, the Baptist missiologist Keith Eitel describes Kato’s literary corpus as a quest for a “Scripture-dominant method” for contextualizing the gospel without compromising its central message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. However, in view of current theological debates, he constates that Kato “approached culture with the absolute standard of a priori truth.”153 Unfortunately, Kato’s untimely death at the age of 39 prevented him from developing this alternative method for church and theology in Africa; a new generation of African evangelical theologians would take up this challenge.154

5 Conclusion

The purpose of this article has been to investigate Kato’s contribution to the salvation debate within African theological circles of the 1970s. In addition to the analyses of Ezigbo and Ngong, who underscored the contextual character of Kato’s work, this article has argued that Kato’s soteriology should be understood as a contextual evangelical response to the ongoing theological debates and to certain political trends of his time; he attempted to make an authentic contribution to the understanding of the biblical concept of salvation within the African milieu. Suggesting that the very essence of his interpretation of the gospel was endangered, he passionately attacked the culture- and liberation-oriented movements within African theological circles, which he considered the root cause of all “theological anemia.”

Although the study is constrained by the fact that Kato left an unfinished legacy, this article has shown that Kato felt compelled to emphasize the exclusive nature of Christianity, insisting on personal salvation and inner transformation as prerequisites for social change. Reports on the persecution of Chadian Christians and calls for the politicization of the Christian message, however, may have created a feeling of urgency, eventually causing the debate to escalate. Thus, Kato resolved to categorically defend Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation. Because of his untimely and tragic death in 1975, Kato’s theology in general and his ideas for the expression of Christianity in Africa were most likely only in their early stages. In which direction his thinking would have advanced remains an open question. Nevertheless, Byang Kato must be acknowledged as an African evangelical responding to the challenges of the day, who called for a construction of theology that is biblical, contextual, and African.


A special word of gratitude to Prof. M.T. Frederiks, Professor Study of World Christianity at the Utrecht University, and Prof. P.H.R. van Houwelingen, Professor New Testament at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen, for their useful and critical advice while writing this article.

About the Author

Wouter van Veelen, M.A. (1982) has worked as a missionary in Southern France. He currently works as a pastor of the Reformed Church Liberated in Tiel, the Netherlands, and is conducting a PhD-study on African evangelical theology at the Theologische Universiteit Kampen.


Paul Bowers, “Byang Kato and Beyond,” Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 28/1 (2009), 3–21; Keith Ferdinando, “The Legacy of Byang Kato,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 28/4 (2004), 169–174; Scott Douglas Macdonald, A Critical Analysis of Byang Kato’s Demonology and its Theological Relevance for an Evangelical Demonology (PhD Thesis; University of South Africa, 2017); Timothy Palmer, “Byang Kato: a Theological Reappraisal,” Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 23/1 (2004), 3–20; Sochanngam Shirik, “African Christians or Christian Africans: Byang H. Kato and his Contextual Theology,” The Asbury Journal 74/1 (2019), 131–156; Philip Tachin, “The Exclusive Authority of Scripture and African Anti-Foundationalism: the Byang Kato Legacy,” E-Journal of Religious and Theological Studies 4/1 (2018), 28–40.


Byang Kato, “Written Theology. Lecture Delivered at Ibadan University Jos Campus, Nigeria, 1974,” in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


John Parratt, Reinventing Christianity: African Theology Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 63.


Byang Kato, “The Devil’s Baby,” Africa Now (January–March 1962), 10–11.


Kato, “The Devil’s Baby.”


Byang Kato, A Critique of Incipient Universalism (PhD Thesis; Dallas Theological Seminary, US, 1974).


Byang Kato, Theological Pitfalls in Africa (Kisumu: Evangel Publishing House, 1975); in the following abbreviated as Pitfalls.


Christina Breman, The Association of Evangelicals in Africa: its History, Organization, Members, Projects, External Relations and Message (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 1996), 40–53; Sophie De la Haye, Byang Kato: Ambassador for Christ (Achimota: Africa Christian Press, 1986); Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, eds., Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2011), 100–127.


Detlef Kapteina, “The Formation of African Evangelical Theology,” Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 25/1 (2006), 62, 72; Tite Tiénou, “The Theological Task of the Church in Africa: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Be Going?” East Africa Journal of African Theology 6/1 (1987), 3–4.


Kato, Perspectives.


Kato, Pitfalls, 27, 55, 181; Byang Kato, Biblical Christianity in Africa: A Collection of Papers and Addressees (Achimota: Africa Christian Press, 1985).


Christina Breman, “A portrait of Byang H. Kato,” Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 15/2 (1996), 144; Ferdinando, “The Legacy,” 169.


Paul Bowers, “Evangelical Theology in Africa: Byang Kato’s Legacy,” Trinity Journal 1/1 (1980), 84–87; Ferdinando, “The Legacy”; Kapteina, “The Formation.”


Bowers, “Evangelical Theology,” 85.


Breman, The Association, 7–19.


Kapteina, “The Formation,” 63.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 13.


Breman, The Association, 20.


Kapteina, “The Formation,” 61–63; Detlef Kapteina, Afrikanische Evangelikale Theologie: Plädoyer für das Ganze Evangelium im Kontext Afrikas (Nürnberg: Verlag für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft, 2001), 62–67.


Parratt, Reinventing Christianity, 1–24; Tharcisse Tshibangu, La Théologie Africaine: Manifeste et Programme pour le Développement des Activités Théologiques en Afrique (Kinshasa: Éditions Saint Paul, 1987), 7–53.


Bolaji Idowu, Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief (London: Longmans, 1962).


John Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1969).


Other works include Bolaji Idowu, African Traditional Religion: A definition (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1973); John Mbiti, Concepts of God in Africa (London: SPCK, 1970); John Mbiti, New Testament Eschatology in an African Background (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).


Mbiti, New Testament, 56–61.


Idowu, Olodumare, 30–37, 62.


Idowu, Olodumare, 202–215.


Kapteina, “The Formation,” 63–67.


Palmer, “Byang Kato,” 3–11.


Tokunboh Adeyemo, Salvation in African Tradition (Nairobi: Evangel Publishing House, 1979), 80.


Breman, “A Portrait,” 142.


Palmer, “Byang Kato,” 6.


Breman, The Association, 47.


Kapteina, “The Formation,” 67–70.


Yusufu Turaki, “The Theological Legacy of the Reverend Doctor Byang Henry Kato,” Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 20/2 (2001), 143.


Tokunboh Adeyemo, “The Salvation Debate and Evangelical Response,” East Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 2/2 (1983), 4–19; see also Mercy Oduyoye, Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1986), 65–66.


Kapteina, “The Formation,” 70–72.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 11–14.


Breman, “A Portrait,” 140–141; Kapteina, “The Formation,” 61–63.


Kato, Pitfalls, 34, 170, 173, 177; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 41–42; Byang Kato, African Cultural Revolution and the Christian Faith (Jos: Challenge Publication, 2010), 17–18, 24.


Byang Kato, “Promising Future for the Church in Chad,” (n.d.) in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


Ferdinando, “The Legacy,” 170.


Kato, Pitfalls, 157–158, 160; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 27–28, 41; see further Byang Kato, “Danger: Men at Work,” Africa Now (March–April 1976), 6–7; see also Parratt, Reinventing Christianity, 139–141.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 31; see also Kato, Pitfalls, 173.


Byang Kato, “The Christian Surge in Africa. Interview with Byang Kato,” Christianity Today (September 26, 1975), 4–7.


Byang Kato, “Lusaka Report,” Perception 1/2, (1974), n.p.


Byang Kato, “The World Council of Churches: Nairobi Assembly and Africa,” Perception 3/1 (1976), para.7.


Kato, “The World Council,” para.6.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 32–33; De la Haye, Byang Kato, 53–64.


Kato, Pitfalls, 47–49; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 46–52.


Basil Moore, Black Theology: The South African Voice (London: C. Hurst, 1973).


Kato, Pitfalls, 140, 145; see further John Mbiti, “An African Views American Black Theology,” in Black theology: A Documentary History, eds. James Cone and Gayraud Wilmore (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979), 477–482.


Byang Kato, “Black Theology and African Theology,” Perception 3/6 (1976), para.1.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 47–48.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 50–52; see also Kato, “The Christian Surge.”


Kato, Pitfalls, 11.


Ferdinando, “The Legacy,” 171–172; Palmer, “Byang Kato,” 5–10.


Kato, Pitfalls, 164; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 47.


Bowers, “Evangelical Theology,” 87.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 11, emphasis added; see further Byang Kato, “The Problem of Theological Education in Africa. Unpublished conference paper, 1973,” in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


Kato, Pitfalls, 11–17; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 39–54.


Forward to Pitfalls, para.4; see also Kato, Pitfalls, 143.


Kato, Pitfalls, 16.


Kato, Pitfalls, 16.


Kato, Pitfalls, 115; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 18, 31.


Kato, Pitfalls, 122.


Kato, Pitfalls, 110.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 36.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 36.


Kato, Pitfalls, 22.


Kato, Pitfalls, 107–128.


Mbiti, African Religions, 29–38.


Kato, Pitfalls, 122; see also Kato, Pitfalls, 43–44; Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 36–37.


Kato, Pitfalls, 123; Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 35–36.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 36.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 18.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 18.


Mbiti, African Religions, 277.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 17–20; Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 36–37.


Kato, Pitfalls, 41–43.


Kato, Pitfalls, 43.


Kato, Pitfalls, 60; see also Adeyemo, Salvation, 14; Robert Heaney, From Historical to Post-Colonial Theology: The Contribution of John S. Mbiti and Jesse N.K. Mugambi (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2015), 181; Palmer, “Byang Kato,” 16.


Kato, Pitfalls, 38; see also Byang Kato, “The Brave New World (Jer. 8:11–22),” (n.d.) in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


Kato, Pitfalls, 43, 97, 153; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 19; Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 32.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 38.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 19–20.


Kato, Pitfalls, 181.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 21.


Kato, Pitfalls, 129–130, 176, 184; Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 16–17.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 37.


Kato, Pitfalls, 53–55; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 42–43; see further Kato, “Written Theology.”


Kato, Pitfalls, 57.


Kato, Pitfalls, 174.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 32.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 44.


Kato, Pitfalls, 149, 163, 177.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 17.


Kato, Pitfalls, 181; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 19, 21–22; Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 37; see also Byang Kato, “Jesus Christ Frees,” Themelios 1/3 (1976), 66–75.


Kato, Pitfalls, 153, 157, 163–164.


Kapteina, Afrikanische Evangelikale Theologie, 88.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 22–23.


Jacques Matthey, “Milestones in Ecumenical Missionary Thinking from the 1970s to the 1990s,” International Review of Mission 8/350 (1999), 291–303.


Madathilparampil M. Thomas, “The Meaning of Salvation Today: A Personal Statement,” International Review of Mission 62/246 (1973), 158–169.


Kato, Pitfalls, 143–144.


Kato, Pitfalls, 142.


Kato, Pitfalls, 143, 179.


Kato, Pitfalls, 143.


Kato, Pitfalls, 154.


Kato, Pitfalls, 158; Kato, “Jesus Christ frees.”


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 16.


The Bangkok conference also became famous for the call for a moratorium on foreign missions. At the instigation of John Gatu, president of the central committee of the AACC, delegates at the conference, frustrated about Western hegemony in church politics, issued a call for the unconditional withdrawal of foreign missionaries and funds. From now on, they argued, the non-Western church should take its own course. Kato considered the moratorium debate as a blunt rejection of the universal character of the church; one that would eventually weaken its universal message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Kato, Pitfalls, 159–170; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 38, 43, 45; see further Robert Reese, “John Gatu and the Moratorium on Missionaries,” Missiology: An International Review 42/3 (2013), 245–256.


Kato, Pitfalls, 176–178; Kato, Biblical Christianity, 50.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 34; see also Kato, “Lusaka Report.”


Kato, “Lusaka Report,” para.3; see also Kato, Pitfalls, 161, 179.


Kato, Pitfalls, 161; see also Kato, Pitfalls, 148, 183; Byang Kato, “Evangelical Cooperation in Contemporary Africa,” (n.d.) in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


Kato, “Jesus Christ Frees,” para.3.


Kato, “Jesus Christ Frees,” para.4.


Kato, Pitfalls, 183.


Kato, Pitfalls, 166.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 18.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 14.


Byang Kato, “Christian Citizenship (Rom. 13:1–14),” (n.d.), para.12, in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


Byang Kato, “The Role of the Christian Graduate in Nation Building. Message Given by Dr. Byang Kato General Secretary of A.E.A.M. at the launching service of Nigerian Christian Graduate Fellowship, University of Ife, 1975,” para.12, in Perspectives of an African Theologian: The Writings of Byang H. Kato, Th.D., ed. Byang Kato (Data CD without page numbers; Nairobi: ACTEA, 2007).


Kato, Pitfalls, 129–130, 176, 183; Kato, “Jesus Christ Frees.”


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 45–52.


Kato, Biblical Christianity, 49.


Kato, Pitfalls, 143, 179; see also Kato, “The Christian Surge.”


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 12–14.


Kato, Pitfalls, 175.


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 22–24.


Mbiti, African Religions, 277.


Kato, “The Christian Surge.”


Kato, African Cultural Revolution, 23.


Byang Kato, “The Christian Home,” Today’s Challenge (August 1978), 32.


Kwame Bediako, Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa (Oxford: Regnum Books, 1992), 386.


Bediako, Theology and Identity, 413, emphasis in original.


Bediako, Theology and Identity, 413–416.


David Ngong, The Material in Salvific Discourse: A Study of Two Christian Perspectives (PhD Thesis; Baylor University, US, 2007), 131; see further Victor Ezigbo, Re-Imagining African Christologies: Conversing with the Interpretations and Appropriations of Jesus in Contemporary African Christianity (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2010), 62–63.


Oduyoye, Hearing and Knowing, 62.


Oduyoye, Hearing and Knowing, 66–66; 102–105.


Ezigbo, Re-Imagining African Christologies, 55.


Mark McEntire, “Cain and Abel in Africa: An Ethiopian Case Study,” in The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories and Trends, eds. Gerald West and Musa Dube (Boston/Leiden: Brill, 2000), 248–259; Oduyoye, Hearing and Knowing, 62–66.


Parratt, Reinventing Christianity, 62–63.


John Mbiti, “The Biblical Basis of Theological Trends in Africa,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 4/3 (1980), 119–120; David Ngong, The Material, 131; see further Heaney, From Historical, 31–61.


Palmer, “Byang Kato,” 3; see also Kapteina, Afrikanische EvangelikaleTheologie, 97–109.


Ezigbo, Re-Imagining, 59–64; Ngong, The Material, 111–133.


Ngong, The Material, 128.


Ngong, The Material, 133.


Ezigbo, Re-Imagining, 60.


Ezigbo, Re-Imagining, 62, emphasis added.


Ezigbo, Re-Imagining, 62.


Bowers, “Evangelical Theology,” 85; Ferdinando, “The Legacy,” 169–170.


Yusufu Turaki, The Unique Christ for Salvation: The Challenge of the Non-Christian Religions and Cultures (Bowie, Maryland:, 2019), 33–34.


Keith Eitel, “Contextualization: Contrasting African Voices,” Criswell Theological Review 2/2 (1988), 334.


Tiénou, “The Theological Task,”; Turaki, “The legacy.”

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