Wednesday, October 06, 2010

African Hermeneutic

I am embarking on a brand new investigation for PhD research. I will write more about it as it becomes clearer, but it looks as if I will be looking at 'South African Hermeneutics', probably mixed up with Evangelical and Wesleyan hermeneutics and also that of Paul.
In the meantime, reading an article on African Hermeneutics I find one statement that everyone says is true, but with which I strongly disagree and one with which I strongly agree.
1. "It is impossible for the African to separate interpretation and understanding from all other aspects of life" I think the author is referring to the idea that Africans have no separation between the secular and the spiritual. This is pretty much what John Mbiti concluded from his study of African religions. I have no doubt that he was correct. However, I think that the today's urban African has an enormous seperation in his thinking between the secular and the spiritual. How does one explain the crime rate in South Africa (high) when one sees the apparent commitment to Christianity (apparently 79%) if one does not accept that people's faith is not affecting their lifestyle? In other words, the spiritual is separated from the secular.
2. "The text that African Hermeneutics tries to understand is much wider than the biblical text, or western-oriented theology, since it includes the African world as text." I find this to be true - most African Christians (in my opinion!) give their culture and lifestyle equal status to Scripture. For them 'truth' is found in text and context (by which I mean social context). This is a difficult tension to hold - yet I think the way forward is to find the most Christian way of holding this tension, rather than to pretend that it doesn't exist.
Point 2 really interests me - but it veers away from Biblical studies into whatever the study of culture is, so I may not be able to work on it in my PhD!


Thomas Scarborough said...

Someone who writes on this kind of thing is Prof. Sam Kunhiyop. Which you might know already.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks, I'll look him up. I didn't know of him.

Steve Hayes said...

You might find these useful, if you've not already read them:

Comaroff, Jean. 1991. Of revelation and revolution: Christianity, colonialism and consciousness.

Comaroff, Jean & Comaroff, John (eds) 1993. Modernity and its malcontents: ritual and power in post-colonial Africa.

Featherstone, Mike (ed) 1990. Global culture: nationalism, globalization and modernity.

Separation of sacred and secular is a characteristic of modernity, and Africa is rapidly modernising and is on the cusp of modernity. That's why you find things like witchhunts, which were also characteristic of Early Modern Europe.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Steve. I have seen the Comaroffs quoted, but not read their actual work. I am not a fan of western post-colonial thinking (postcolonialism), but i hope that I will find an interesting African (black and white) perspective.
I'll look up your suggestions!