Rationale and Methodology

     African Christian theology, thus far, has focused on theological anthropology or ethnography - particularly exploring the theological perspectives of African communities in response to Western influences. Consequently, the brand of theological education provided in Africa is primarily deductive. The deductive method in theology treats the classical doctrines of the church in such a way as to give them a universal relevance, even though they were formulated to solve very particular problems in specific historical circumstances. The inductive method in theology articulates the encounter of God with individuals and communities in particular localities and cultural situations. “The inductive method articulates theology from the perspective of the believers or respondents, whereas the deductive method portrays the perspective of the classical doctrines of the church – the institution.” (John Mugambi, Christian Theology and Social Reconstruction)

     Furthermore, Western theology has been imported onto the continent with little attempt at collaboration with the recipients. As Kwame Bediako trenchantly remarks: “… these forms of theological training in themselves constitute a crisis for Africa, in that they appear not to connect with the redeeming, transforming activity of the Living God in the African setting, and so are ineffectual in equipping God’s people for mission and for the transformation of African society”. (Kwame Bediako, “The African Renaissance and Theological Reconstruction: the Challenge of the Twenty-first Century”, Journal of African Christian Thought Vol. 4/2 (December 2001), p. 29.) We must dismiss the fallacy that Western theology is a universal theology. Additionally, since “methods are the framework for collaborative creativity” (Bernard Lonegran, Method in Theology), it is critical that we examine our methods. African Christian theology may be more multi-disciplinary in its methods than the West. Western theological hermeneutics introduced into Africa deductively, do not properly take into account, not only its Greek/Latin origins, but ignores the interpretive dynamics of African culture which is closer to Biblical culture than that of the West. African Christians can rise above reactive theologizing (to colonial Western influences) via a proactive, creative theological methodology that can serve to bring greater self-definition to the African Vineyard churches.

      This rationale suggests an innovative methodology which includes several considerations. Firstly, the gospel originates out of a particular culture and is then communicated within a particular culture. The future of theological education in Africa must include an appropriation of cultural and religious traditions birthed on the soil of Africa. This theological enculturation must be exercised with hermeneutical tools which accommodate the context.

     Secondly, consideration of the contemporary context is critical. An “African” theological curriculum should also include some basic knowledge and skills in social, economic, and political analysis and transformation. The argument for such a multi-disciplinary approach to theological education has many rationales not the least of which is the need to keep informed on the growing Islamic influence on Sub-Saharan Africa.

     Thirdly, Vineyard theological distinctives must be preserved. We are committed to the theology and practice of the Kingdom of God. Vineyard theology and ministry practice is culturally adaptable and can be implemented without requiring those of other cultures to adopt Western motifs and ministry styles.

     Fourthly, this opportunity is particularly salient in regards to Biblical interpretation as this discipline is integral to all subsequent theological education. The recommendation is for an inductive, contextual approach to interpretation. This approach can be described as consisting of four commitments. The first commitment is to Biblical interpretation which begins in the context and lived reality of the average African who must be empowered and equipped to ask interpretive questions. The second commitment is for Biblical interpretation to take place in community. The third commitment is to interpret the Bible inductively and critically. This means that interpretation begins in the local context and asks structured and systematic questions of the Bible. The fourth commitment is to a Biblical interpretation which leads to personal and social transformation. These four commitments need to be expressed through specific methodologies.

    How then would African Biblical interpretation impact African theological methodology and how would this be different from the classical Western approach?

Inductive

     In African Biblical hermeneutics the Biblical text should be approached from a perspective where African comparative material is the major dialogue partner and traditional exegetical methodology is subordinated to this perspective. This will invariably impact the ensuing theological perspective.

Contextual

     It is essential for all peoples to find their identity in the pages of Scripture. For Africa, other dominant cultures have often superimposed their identity onto Africans through Biblical interpretation and subsequent theologizing. It is critical that Africans conduct their theological education from the framework of their own cultural expressions and identity.

Communal

     The communal ethos of African society makes it much easier to implement a collaborative learning approach. Collaborative learning can enhance the educational process by challenging any conceptual framework that is not Biblical. These conceptual frameworks are often unspoken or even unconscious grids by which we understand our world and these are often times discovered or challenged through constructive dialogue.

Praxis-oriented

     Orthodoxy and orthopraxy must be co-mingled. Our theology must have feet. Instances of contemporary socio-economic injustices and political inequalities can be compared with similar scenarios in the Scriptures. Responses to these injustices can also be found in the Bible providing guidelines for us today. In this educational model there is no separation between Systematic and Practical Theology.