Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 15 (2018)

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Church Doctrines as Living Rules in African Perspective - by Jim Harries

Jim Harries - Alliance for Vulnerable Mission;


Diverse mechanisms in the contemporary world are concealing differences between Africa and the West. At the same time, Western Christian denominations believe in the distinctiveness of the churches they have planted. Perhaps in Africa only genuinely indigenous churches have 'true' doctrines, because only they guide their church lives in the light of local contexts and avoid a distorting adherence to Western modes of theology. Biblical criticism, and rejection of a holistic framework to make space for the 'secular', has weakened the cultural-linguistic dynamic that could contribute to doctrinal formation by Western churches. Such weakness helps secularists to apportion blame to churches for various contemporary maladies. A re-appropriation of holism could take the church back to a pre-modern position, thus creating a space in which cultural context could once again be central in doctrinal formation. Doctrines established in living contexts promote inter-church dialogue and change. The cultural-linguistic dynamic calls for African churches to use their own languages in order to form doctrine which has value for indigenous contexts.