Apologetics Kenya is a ministry that was co-founded to equip believers in the African church and to engage skeptics through answering the big questions of life within a Christian worldview in the African context. We have been engaging in monthly fora since 2017 and have recorded some of our fora on our YouTube channel.
One of the most exciting sessions for me was co-facilitating a session with my colleague, Davies Kelmen on Wednesday 29 April 2020. The session was on The Resurgence of African Traditional Religions. I have had a long-standing interest in African worldviews, especially because of my personal and research interests. My late grandfather, Mugabi Muriithi, was a secretary in the Mau-Mau movement in Kenya in the mid-1900s. Later, he converted to Christianity and was a faithful Christian and servant in the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. His stories inspired me to write this forthcoming book called We Travelled Africa that is a non-fictional novel about the intersection of faith and culture among three African generations.
Since Apologetics deals with the why of our Christian beliefs, it is important that Christians be grounded in Scripture. With this as a foundation, Christians can then engage in the field of apologetics which covers: introductory issues, methods in apologetics, the reliability of the Bible, the uniqueness of Jesus, faith, science and reason, the question of evolution, atheism, world religions, postmodernism and many others. However, as it was clear on the online ZOOM seminar, there are many issues that are unique to African Christians – these include, the relationship of African culture and faith, the question of our African traditional religions, differences between the Triune God of scripture with our Traditional concepts of God, Christianity as a white man’s religion, issues on colonialism, slavery and racism among others. Although most apologetics books cover the first set of questions, I realize that as I continue to teach apologetics, there is a wide gap in a single book that addresses the latter set of questions. Here are recommended areas of study and books, that could lead to this one book on African apologetics 🙂
History of African Christianity
These books can help one grasp the historical perspective on the presence and development of Christianity in Africa. Adrian Hastings’ The Church in Africa, 1450-1950, Elizabeth Isichei’s A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to Present, and Bengt Sundkler’s A History of the Church in Africa are the classical texts on the history of Christianity in Africa. Ogbu Kalu’s African Christianity: An African Story is also helpful. The Center for Early African Christianity, began by the Methodist theologian, Thomas Oden, has FREE online resources on similar themes. The resources have been compiled into How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, The African Memory of Mark: Reassessing an Early Church Tradition and Early Libyan Christianity: Uncovering a North African Tradition.
In post-colonial Africa, many theologians have grappled with how theology has been conceived and done within the continent. Based on our chequered history, many have explored questions about African culture, African identity, African patriarchy, and African history from a theological perspective
(NB: I do not fully agree with all of the theological assumptions in these books. I like to emphasize that we should engage critically but sympathetically with those who have different views to us. That is a good mark of scholarship and intellectual humility).
I read John Parratt’s Reinventing Christianity: African Theology Today in seminary, which I found to be a helpful survey of key thinkers in African theology. Kwame Bediako (See his biography here) was a Ghanian missiologist and theologian who has written many books. The most relevant for the conversation are Jesus and the Gospel in Africa: History and Experience and Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa. Other significant African theological works include Byang Kato’s Theological Pitfalls in Africa. Others have written about African Traditional Religion and Beliefs, which can help one to understand modern African Christian thought and life. Geoffrey Parrinder’s West African Religion: A Study of the Beliefs and Practices of Akan, Ewe, Yoruba, Ibo, and Kindred Peoples and John Mbiti’s Concepts of God in Africa, (in addition to his influential African Religions and Philosophy) are helpful in this regard. Yusuf Turaki’s African Traditional Religion and Worldview is also a basic introduction. The late Lamin Sanneh was a historian at Yale University and a student of Andrew Walls, who has shaped the understanding of African Christianity – collaborating in the formation of various centers of World Christianity in major universities. Sanneh’s Whose Religion is Christianity: The Gospel beyond the West and Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture are helpful in the areas of Christian missions. The Ghanian theologian, Mercy Amba Oduyoye, brings her understanding on gender issues in her book Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman on Christianity in Africa.
African Presence in the Bible
The books in this section cover aspects of interpretation within an African worldview, apologetic issues in Africa such as the African presence in the Bible as well as practical tools for Bible Study. Prof. Elizabeth Mburu, a fantastic professor and my Masters’ Thesis Supervisor, and now colleague at the Africa Society of Evangelical Theology (ASET) has written a good book on African Hermeneutics (ASET has a partnership with Langham Publications where African theologians have engaged with a wide variety of concerns arising from their annual conferences). The late Dr. H. C. Felder, who was affiliated with the Southern Evangelical Seminary (the seminary founded by the apologist Dr. Norman Geisler) has a great book on biblical and apologetics questions – The African American Guide to the Bible. Oasis International’s Africa Study Bible and Zondervan’s Africa Bible Commentary are helpful tools for Bible Studies developed by African Biblical scholars. The Africa Study Bible has helpful articles spanning the range of African issues including deliverance, curses and blessings, cults, rites of passage, healing, ubuntu, digital technologies, demonology, suffering, fetishes and charms, political structures, in addition to the more classical questions in theology and the Christian life.
This second last section deals with some issues within the African-American context that speak to issues in the African context, especially in terms of our history. Ivan Sertima’s They Came before Columbus, Cheikh Anta Diop’s Pre-Colonial Black Africa and John G. Jackson’s African Civilizations look at the ignored history of peoples of African descent.
NB: these writers assume the evolutionary thesis as an agreeable view on origins. Some Christians are opposed to this view and have other explanatory views on the origin of the world. I am personally critical of the evolutionary thesis, especially from a secular-humanistic perspective, such as can be found in the likes of the New Atheist movement. Although sympathetic to some of the other Christian views of the creation account, I agree with TGC’s non-negotiable beliefs of creation.
Other African Americans who have reflected on the history of slavery in America include the civil-rights leaders W. E. B. Du Bois (The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction in America) and Martin Luther King Jr. Two influential theologians who have offered a theological critique and understanding of these experiences include James Cone (Black Theology and Black Power and A Black Theology of Liberation) and Howard Thurman – Jesus and the Disinherited. Different people have assessed these works differently.
The Gospel Coalition Africa
Two last recommendations. First is the extensive Dictionary of African Christian Biographies. Those looking to know African saints of the past can have a look at this. Second, I would also highly recommend the Apologetics section of The Gospel Coalition Africa which I help to write and edit, together with a fantastic team of brothers and sisters. The articles include issues of biblical interpretation, theology, and Christian life issues within the African context and from a biblical and broadly evangelical and reformed perspective. I recommend these 3 articles:
Whether you have an introductory interest in apologetics or with significant experience in apologetics ministry, with these recommendations, you should be able to equip yourself further to give a reason for the hope that you have within The Motherland 🙂