The material in salvific discourse: a study of two Christian perspectives.
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Ngong, David Tonghou.
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African theology and Christianity are deeply concerned with promoting human material well being, especially in the present deteriorating African contexts. Because of this concern African theology and Christianity have uncritically appropriated the African traditional religious worldview which promotes an immanent and anthropocentric view of the material realm. This immanent and anthropocentric vision, it is claimed, cannot adequately lead to improved material well being but only to greed and corruption because the material realm is viewed as the highest good or an end in itself. This view of the material realm is especially evident in the popular Neo-Pentecostal Christianity or the 'New' Christianity spreading throughout the continent, growing on the promise of improved material well being of its adherents. This project claims that rather than dismissing this New Christianity as inordinately materialistic, as some African theologians do, we should rather suggest a more helpful understanding of the material realm that may aid not only the adherents of the New Christianity but also the African and global church. In doing this the project locates this New Christianity within the context of African theology and Christianity, suggesting that this New Christianity is not new, as some claim, but rather intensifies the immanent and anthropocentric view of the material realm characteristic of African traditional religious cosmology. It then attempts to overcome this immanent and anthropocentric vision of the material realm by appropriating the Augustinian theocentric vision espoused by Radical Orthodoxy, especially as represented by its proponents such as John Milbank, Graham Ward, and Philip Blond. This theocentric vision does not see the material realm as an end in itself but rather as finding its end in God so that it is not loved for its own sake but for God’s sake. Here the material realm is seen as a means to the end of enjoying God. This vision relativises the material realm and thus makes it possible for material well being to be enhanced because what is sought is not material well being for its own sake but as a means of creaturely participation in transcendent and eternal divine life.
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