African Theology as Liberating Wisdom

Celebrating Life and Harmony in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana

Series:

In African Theology as Liberating Wisdom; Celebrating Life and Harmony in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana, Mari-Anna Pöntinen analyses contextual interpretations of the Christian faith in this particular church. These interpretations are based on the special wisdom tradition which embraces monistic ontology, communal ethics in botho, and the indigenous belief in God as the Source of Life, and the Root of everything that exists. The constructing theological principle in the ELCB is the downward-orientated and descending God in Christ which interprets the ‘Lutheran spirit’ in a liberating and empowering sense. It deals with the cultural mythos which brings Christ down into people’s existence, unlike Western connotations which are considered to hinder seeing Christ and to prevent existential self-awareness.
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Biographical Note

Mari-Anna Pöntinen, Ph.D. (2011), University of Eastern Finland, is head of mission and development studies in the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission. She has edited several books and articles on contextual theology, postcolonial mission, and African theology and thought.

Review Quotes

African Theology as Liberating Wisdom by Mari –Anna Pöntinen is an excellent book written by a well-seasoned systematic theologian and pastor. This book contributes in a significant and unique way to the development of contextual theology in Africa. The author blends together her rich African experience in Botswana as a missionary and her deep theological knowledge accumulated over many years of study to write about the relationship between the Christian message and culture in Africa. The book is well researched, excellently written, innovative, thought provoking and critical in its approach. I highly recommend this book to the general readership particularly to students doing theology and religious studies in university departments and theological colleges. This book is an excellent introduction to those who may wish to carry out in-depth study on African Christian Theology today.
James N. Amanze, Professor Theology & Religious Studies, University of Botswana

This book is an exciting study that based on extensive field work in Botswana which involved observation, interviews, and extensive critical dialogue with the people in Botswana. Grounded in African philosophical thought and a systematic analysis approach, this rich ethnographic work is an intertextual theological analysis whose starting point is local wisdom and what it unveils is indeed a celebration of life and harmony through a theology of liberating wisdom. The research base is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana, but this is also an engaging ecumenical conversation that should be read and used in classes by all interested in philosophy and theology in the African context today.
Elias Kifon Bongmba, Harry and Hazel Chavanne Chair in Christian Theology, Rice University

Mit African Theologies as Liberating Wisdom hat Pöntinen eine Studie vorgelegt, die einen sowohl breiten als auch inhaltlich tief gehenden Zugang zu Theologie und Praxis der Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana ermöglicht. [...] Gleichzeitig vermittelt Pöntinen einen umfassenden Einblick in epistemologische und hermeneutische Debatten in African Theologies und gibt Einblick in Diskurse der letzten 50 Jahre. Damit ist es Pöntinen gelungen, theologische Spezifika und Entwicklungen einer singuären Kirche exemplarisch einzutragen in den breiteren Diskurs.
Andra Fröchtling, Theologische Literaturzeitung 140:3, 2015

Table of contents


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ... ix
ABBREVIATIONS ... xiii

1. INTRODUCTION ... 1
1.1. Challenges of African theology and the context of the ELCB ... 1
1.2. Aim of the study, its methods and previous research ... 15
1.3. Sources and structure of the study ... 25

2. AFRICAN THEOLOGY AND THE HERITAGE OF WISDOM ... 35
2.1. African theology ... 35
2.1.1. Characterising ‘African’ theology ... 35
2.1.2. From Africanising theology into African theology ... 47
2.2. African oral wisdom as philosophical and religious inquiry ... 64

3. EPISTEMOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES OF THEOLOGICAL THINKING IN THE ELCB ... 87
3.1. Theology as liberating wisdom ... 87
3.1.1. Interplay of faith and understanding ... 87
3.1.2. Relationship to contextual theories ... 105
3.2. Principle of contextual theology and the Lutheran spirit ... 125

4. CULTURE PHILOSOPHICAL EMPHASES OF THEOLOGICAL THINKING IN THE ELCB ... 153
4.1. Holistic perception of life and the ontology of spiritual monism ... 153
4.2. The Tswana humanity principle ... 176
4.2.1. Communal human existence ... 176
4.2.2. Botho as an ethical principle ... 198

5. RELIGIOUS IMPLICATIONS AND THEOLOGY OF SPIRITUALITY IN THE ELCB ... 219
5.1. Theology of relationship and African spirituality ... 219
5.2. Modimo, the Source of Life and the Father and Mother of the universe ... 238
5.3. The Life principle in the context of Tswana thought ... 262
5.3.1. Celebration of Life ... 262
5.3.2. Harmony as a state of mind and being ... 278
5.4. Participation in Life through Christ ... 287
5.4.1. Christ, the Saviour, the Liberator and the great Ngaka of the sinners ... 287
5.4.2. Possessed by Christ ... 302
5.4.3. Christ as the Mediator and the role of badimo as saints ... 310
5.5. Separation from the traditional explanatory theory ... 324
5.6. Community of God and the prophetic mission of the Church ... 337

6. CONCLUSIONS ... 363

APPENDIX: Interviewees ... 385

BIBLIOGRAPHY ... 389
Sources ... 389
Unpublished sources ... 389
Published sources ... 390
Interviews ... 391
Literature ... 391

INDEX ... 415

Readership

All interested in contextual theology in general and African theology in particular, especially African Lutheranism, and anyone concerned with African traditional wisdom, Tswana philosophy, culture and religion.