Framing Interreligious Encounters Theologically: Interpreting the History of Religions in Tropical Africa in Dialogue with John Mbiti and Wolfhart Pannenberg
John Mbiti and Wolfhart Pannenberg both offer a tremendous amount of theological insight into Christianity’s relationship with other religions, albeit in vastly different cultural and ecclesial settings. While Mbiti writes extensively on the relationship between Christianity and traditional religions in Tropical Africa, Pannenberg reflects more broadly on Christianity’s place in the history of religions as a basis for his own dogmatics. This dissertation engages with the contributions of both scholars to construct a model that enables Christians and people of other faiths to theologically interpret interreligious encounters in a concrete and critically inclusive manner.
This study begins with an in depth examination of the encounter between African traditional religions and Christianity during the age of Western missions, a meeting that triggered important theological changes in both religions and serves as a concrete backdrop for my engagement with Mbiti and Pannenberg. Mbiti treats traditional religions as praeparatio Evangelica, arguing that they prepared African peoples to receive the gospel and thus remain a vital source for authentic Christian theology in the region today. Pannenberg proposes a theological reading of the history of religions that relates all faiths in light of their shared proleptic yearning for the unveiling of God at the end of history, an event which Christians believe to be revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. By evaluating both of their proposals in light of the data provided by the encounter between African traditional religions and Christianity, I critique Mbiti and Pannenberg and develop a new model that relates the two religions using the theological category of hope. This model can then be applied to other instances of interreligious encounter; empowering Christians and other people of faith to not only reflect theologically on encounters with religious others, but critically shape the new forms of faith that so often emerge from such interactions.
PHD in Theology
Christianity and other religions, Folk religion, Africans, Interfaith relations, Africa
Missions and World Christianity
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