Bible and Theology in African Christianity Themes

John S. Mbiti

Christian Themes

Mbiti’s research has shown him that the people of Africa have much to contribute to the meaningful practice of Christianity. Traditional Africans have long had a practical religion that permeates all aspects of their daily life. Their all-encompassing view of life does not see people as exclusively spiritual beings or physical beings, but as both at once, without any contradiction. Therefore, in practical matters such as health and healing, Mbiti counsels that there be no opposition between the spiritual and the physical, between faith healing and the acceptance of physical remedies.

Mbiti says that the traditional view of prayer allows African Christians to draw together into a community and experience the living presence of Christ ministering to them “in mighty ways.” These can include healings, exorcisms, divine revelations, the gift of fertility to childless women, and more. Above all, he says, these prayerful communities are experiencing the “presence of the risen Lord.”

Reading Mbiti’s description of this total approach to religion by traditional Africans, one senses how he might regard them as potentially ideal Christians in that they see their lives as a religious whole and not as a random assortment of experiences leading to conflicted attitudes. In any case, Mbiti’s discussion lends itself to the concept of inclusive religion, respectful of coreligionists whose experience may have fostered significantly different worldviews.