• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Bernard Lonergan started his significant theological corpus Method in Theology (1979) with this provoking statement: “A THEOLOGY mediates between a cultural matrix and the significance and role of a religion in that matrix” (11). It took me almost ages to wrap my finger around this prophetic utterance. I grew up in a young Church that was more inexperienced compared to the other Churches around her. But the greatest challenge of our Church is not her age but her quasi-inability to value her own God experience. She was made to believe that her experience was not as necessary as that of the other Churches.

She was also convinced that her story was not vital because she believed in the single story sold to her by the older Churches. This single story has been passed over to her in the name of the Universal narrative. They made her give up her own meta-narratives when they presented her with a well-orchestrated pseudo-universal narrative built within a given cultural matrix. It was this innocent Church that formed my early beliefs.

In a well-celebrated article, Contextual Theology (2010), Steve Bevans introduced his text with this fantastic affirmation:

All theology is contextual. One can even say that there is no such thing as ‘theology,’ because there is only contextual theology: African American, Latino/a, Asian, Liberal Protestant, Neo-orthodox, Congolese, feminist or womanist, Thomist, White U.S. American or European. Theology has always been contextual, whether Elohist or Priestly in the Old Testament or Matthean, Johannine or Pauline in the New Testament. Ephrem, the Syrian in the fourth century, did theology in a distinctly West Asian way; Augustine theologized in the context of controversies that raised key questions for Christianity: the validity of Baptism, the necessity of grace, the instability of the present world. Aquinas’s context was the new culture of thirteenth-century Europe and the recent re-discovery of Aristotle; Luther’s context was widespread corruption in the Church and emerging individuality in Western thought; Teresa of Ávila’s was the Catholic Reformation. De las Casas did theology as he argued for the rights of indigenous Americans; Schleiermacher theologized in dialogue with the Enlightenment’s ‘turn to the subjective’; Karl Rahner tried to make sense of a world torn apart by war, and Rosemary Radford Reuther theologizes with the conviction that Christianity must include women’s flourishing.”

It is in line with this affirmation that the beauty of Lonergan’s statement makes sense. When he says that a theology mediates between a cultural matrix, he wants us to understand that every speculation or cogitation on God is always in a dialogue between a people, language, culture, spirituality, political and historical situation, and God. Theology is never outside a cultural matrix (a context) but within and with it. It’s also a mediation, a conciliation, a dialogue between the meaning of the people ascribe to religion and spirituality and the role these play in their society, context, or cultural matrix.

The danger, however, is to take the social context not as a matrix but as the standard of theological reflection. It is here that theological hermeneutics becomes vital. Claude Geffré maintains that theological hermeneutics is the standard in every effort to theologize a social, political, and religious experience. In his book, Croire et Interpreter (2001), he explains that the role of the theologian is to consider the relationship between the experience of the first Christian community, the experience of today’s Christians community and their respective historical contexts (20). Steven Bevans (Models of Contextual Theology, 1992) will even go further to suggest that no theology should be judged authentic until it is filtered of its imported cultural packages and then incarnated in the context of the receiving community (5).

Unfortunately, but few Africans go the extra mile to bring theology to mediate with our cultural matrix. Many import the cultural matrix of Western society and impose it on our people. This practice is what Robert Schreiter (Constructing Local Theologies, 1986) calls a translational model of theology. It’s a model of theology that adopts foreign theological narratives to a new context (7). It is crucial to make a few distinctions here because often, we see it from the wrong dimension. I have heard people cite gender and sexual orientation theories and family models as imported cultural matrices. Those are false arguments. And to be truthful, it’s even the arguments they advance that are unfortunately borrowed from the West.

The cultural matrix of Africa is expressed in her spirituality, political situations, and anthropology. The historical praxis of Gutierrez is an excellent example of such theology. It’s a theology that starts not at the pulpit but on the street. Gutierrez explains in Théologie de la Libération (1974) that theology must be inspired not by simple speculations [on perfect and non-existing] principles but by an engagement and an attitude that promotes life and involves itself in the betterment of the society (20). African theologians ought to rethink their theology. Many have made a significant shift in their theological quests by adapting their language to the African situation. Yet, the truth is that an authentic African theology should not be a theology simply done by an African but done with an African cultural matrix—which is the point of departure—and African societal betterment should be its destination.

This does not mean that Africans have always been silent in this theological conversation. On the contrary, a strong presence of that desire to bring theology to the African palaver abounds already. James H. Cone and many other black Africans and Americans have done a great job on that. Also, the courageous action of the martyrs of the Igbo landing is a robust theological act of self-liberation. On arriving at the Dunbar Cree, Georgia, in 1803, a band of Igbo slaves took control of their ship and decided to take control of the narrative of their own earthly life journey. They posed a decisive liberation theological question when they refused to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land (Psalm 137, 4). Today again, through the multiplication of sects and churches, many keep on working for an African theology of liberation, says the Jesuit theologian Engelbert Mveng, S.J. (F.-X. Akono, Explorer la théologie d’Engelbert Mveng, 2011, 49–50). Though perpetuating a translational theological model, these local initiatives are how young Africans wish the streamline theologies to mediate with and within the African cultural matrix.

Finally, an authentic African theology must work to realize the kingdom of God in the African land. It should respond to the prayer of Christ, “Thy will be done on earth (on the African soil) as it is in heaven” because when the will of God is done, the daily bread of Africans will be assured. But we know that hunger is still killing millions on our continent. It is then either that the African theologians are yet to do theology from our cultural matrix, or their voices are not yet strong enough as those of the profits they are called to be. In her book Jesus of Africa (2004), Diane B. Stinton presents Jesus as the liberator in the works of Jean-Marc Ela. She states that African theology must stand firm against every form of oppression “because the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands our participation in the struggle to free people from all forms of dehumanization” (216).

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

When the First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, informed us that Some cabals had hijacked Nigeria, we joked about it, thinking that it was one of the political excuses of this present government. However, what we ignored was that the primal fear moved her.

Primal fear is an innate fear programmed into our brain. The instinct of survival triggers off this form of fear. Only such instinct could force the wife of a sitting president to denounce the government of his husband. Yet, we ignored her call that Nigeria needs rescue from a few cabals carefully prepared and sustained by powerful men hiding under a fake religious agenda.

The problem is that these hijackers understand Nigerian mentality more than average Nigerians. Their project outdates this pseudo-presidency. They planted the seeds as far back as when democracy returned in 1999. It started as a bit of insurgency in Boko Haram, and now it has magnified. With its master plan well formulated, it has grown from an armed uprising into a full-fledged pseudo-democratic movement. They understood how Nigeria is; divided into ethnic and religious factions. They blended into the situation like a chameleon and keying into its weakness; they erected a system that thrives in the division.

We all consider Buhari problematic, but maybe our enemy might not even be him. He’s oblivious, and as a toothless lion, he can no longer chew even a roasted beef. What we’re suffering isn’t Buhari. He’s simply a piece in their whole game of thrones. The problem is not even about Islamization or installation of the Fulani dynasty in this nation; they are but some tools to disrupt Nigeria. The hijackers understand that anyone can comfortably hide behind these to draw either sympathizers or enemies in Nigeria.

Nigerians are now fighting a wrong enemy. Some Muslims might rejoice thinking that Buhari is employing Muslims, or some Christians annoyed by such agenda, but the truth is that Buhari could be a figurehead. He could be the best candidate they needed to carry out their plan. It could also be that Osibanjo was chosen as his vice to complete the chessboard.

They have a complex project with a master plan that includes creating an international network for controlling the entire world. When we read the article on the involvement of the NASCO Group founder, late Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, in the financing of terrorism, most of us saw it as an isolated case. Have we considered that if the US government couldn’t stop it, it might be because they have gained more ground than we might want to accept? Was Nigeria included in the list of countries restricted from entering the United States by the former US government accidentally? The FBI seems to know more than they let us think.

Nigeria might be facing a new stage of their plan. I don’t know if we observe the number of young people in the present Nigerian administration. They seem to have even crossed into the opposition party. The political affiliation of all these young people that rode the corridors of power in Nigeria should be preoccupying. They’re all connected to one popular Nigerian Islamic cleric. Check them out! Their motivation is neither ethnic nor religious, so to say. They all pay allegiance to someone known to have verbally attacked other Islamic confraternities in Nigeria.

They have even started placing some of their cards on the opposition party in case they decide to dump the APC government. I don’t see the recently nominated PDP youth leader as a hazardous choice. Every serious Nigerian should question his alleged connection with the same cleric. We might need more prove to understand if he’s one of the elements of these gangsters holding Nigeria hostage.

The world hasn’t yet seen the complete plan of these evil genius. It’s still growing, and they involve the youth, likely because the brain behind the program was also picked up very young and groomed under the leadership of Ahmed Bello. It seems he wants to groom other young people to continue the agenda in the future.

Furthermore, though most of them are Muslims, they’re not from the mainstream Muslim group. They’re politicians using Islam as a platform to realize their political agenda. Who knows if their source of income might be from one of the Arab States planning on creating an alternative global power?

Besides, many of us have noticed that every effort to cut loose the Shia cleric, Imam Zakzaky, has proven abortive. These guys have found his method archaic and not in line with their more carefully prepared political agenda. No wonder they have always succeeded in stopping every effort to make him a victim. That’s a genius plan if you ask me. Also, if these guys have fought against other Sunni fraternities, why would they support a Shia group? It’s ahistorical to think it necessary.

The agenda is to protect their own at all costs. No wonder they defend the bandits and continue to aid every Boko Haram soldier captured. And those of them who decide to retire are settled as repented insurgents. Those are well-orchestrated master plans.

Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are behind the Unknown Gun Men’s ammunition supply in the eastern Nigeria. No other group can access arms and ammunition in this nation like these cabals. Even Nnamdi Kanu and his huge fans can’t sustain the insurgency going on in the East. The biggest problem is that these guys aren’t interested in Nigeria alone. The independence of Biafra might not stop their global agenda. It’s an international criminal plan that will affect many countries if not completely rooted out early enough.

Therefore, Nigerians should wake up, forget our religious and ethnic differences, and fight these vultures. Their plan might still be incubating, but when it hatches, many Nations might go down, including, if not mainly, the Western Countries.

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Here is a follow-up to my observation on Satisfaction and Substitutionary Atonement Theories. So many people have underlined the difficulties in questioning those crucial theories, which obliges me to state my position and reservations. So, I want to do that through this long comment.

Permit me to state that I have no specialization in theology, but I like asking awkward questions. I like questioning even questions and answers. And when a theological position becomes too good to justify its “raison d’être,” I doubt it.

Haven said that, let me state that the first problem with the Satisfaction and Substitutionary atonement theories, from my perspective, comes from the way their proponents applied the Bible in the build-up of their ideas. Let me explain myself.

Faced with the reality of their time, they picked a situation in their society, went back to the scripture to get some back-ups, and interposed it to the case in question. And bam! a theory is born that explains away many things. It’s a beautiful way and legitimate, one would say, yet any critic levelled against the system that served as a background to their theories could become a critic of the approach they propose.

Like in the case of Anselm, the satisfaction theory became handy when placed in line with the feudal legal system. But conversely, the satisfaction atonement theory shattered when the feudal legal system became obsolete. No wonder both Aquinas and Don Scotus found it problematic a few years after it was proposed.

Furthermore, the major problem with such systems is that they often ignore the historical-critical analysis of the Bible. Thus, suppose one reads the Easter narrative purely as a historical event and not a hermeneutic—an interpretation, a reconstruction or re-actualization—one fails to grasp that those narratives are in themselves interpretations of the Christ event. In other words, they took the experience of the first Christian communities as a Christ-event [here I mean seeing the incarnation as a historical event and not a theology].

But what I think those who support these theories today ignore is that, to comprehend the Bible, it’s vital to place Jesus in his historical context [the Roman Empire, Judaism]. Then, consider the Easter narrative—the second destruction of the temple, the exile of Christ’s followers, the religious misunderstanding between them and their Jewish brethren, the presence of non-Jews among his followers. In other words, It is essential to read the Easter Narrative in line with the historical context of Jesus.

Once we consider all these, we might better understand why Jesus’ message was presented in those terms. In other words, once we realize that the New Testament is already hermeneutics, we ought to ask what’s the message they’re reinterpreting; what message are they reconstructing for their communities? It’s that central message that should guide us. The structure in which they are presented could be discarded but not the main message. This is what I think we ought to do with both the satisfaction and the substitutionary atonement theories.

We must ask ourselves, what’s the central message that those who proposed those the theories wanted to safeguard?

Then, what’s the structure on which they inserted the message?

Once we disassociate them, then we can now do our hermeneutics.

James Cone, for example, shows us how we can reread the story of the crucifixion from the position of the oppressed in his book “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” Likewise, in “Sisters in the Wilderness,” Dolores S. Williams takes the same question a little bit further by stressing how we ought to be more conscious of all the intersectionality that plays along in our Christ’s Crucifixion narratives. What we might ask as Africans today would be:

What are the African lynching trees?

Who are the African Roman Emperors?

What are the possible causes of death that Christ would have willingly embraced, not because he must, [and this last statement is essential], but as a choice he would freely make?”

We cannot comprehend the goodness of God from the point of view of substitution or satisfaction. It is a choice, not dictated by a father who must have his pound of flesh. It is also not the choice of a God who needs his ego to be appeased. It is instead the choice of the God-Man who loved the world so much that:

Being in the very nature of God, [he] did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—EVEN death on a cross!

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