Friday, December 29, 2006

Africa Bible Commentary

I was thrilled today to receive the Africa Bible Commentary, the first one-volume commentary written exclusively by evangelical African theologians. It is a section by section commentary of the whole Bible from a non-Western perspective, mining new insights into passages of Scripture,. There are also about seventy articles on issues related to ministry in an African context but give insight to the global Body of Christ. I am eager to begin using it in teaching and sermon preparation.

I am acquainted with three of the seventy scholars (70? - Is there some allusion to the Septuagint here, also published in Africa (Alexandria)?) who contributed to it. One I have met, Emeka Nwankpa, in 1997 at a meeting in Guatemala City. He is a Nigerian attorney who founded the Africa House of Prayer and Intercessors for Africa.

Here are a few lines from the preface on Scripture and tradition written by Kwame Bediako, a Ghanaian Presbyterian who directs the Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana.
"Acknowledging the centrality of Scripture to our identity does not mean that we demonize our own traditional culture"

"Scripture is the authoritative road map on our journey of faith, . . . Too often, preachers tend to pick a particular text and use it as a launch pad for presenting their own ideas, but apostolic preaching was not like that. It presented the meaning of Scripture as a whole and applied that meaning to the concrete cultural and social situation of the hearers. That is what we have to do if Scripture is to be the road map for getting us to our destination."

"Scripture is not just a holy book from which we extract teaching and biblical principles. Rather, it is a story in which we participate. When David Livingstone preached in Africa in the nineteenth century, he is said to have always referred to the Bible as the 'message from the God whom you know'. In other words, Scripture speaks to us because Scripture speaks about us. And it speaks about us because we are a part of the gospel we preach. Paul was very aware of this. He emphasized that God had had mercy on him, and now he was called to preach to others (1 Corinthians 15:8-11).

"We should not focus on extracting principles from the Bible and applying these to culture. Scripture is not a book existing independently of us. Scripture is the living testimony to what God has done and continues to do, and we are part of that testimony. The characters in Scripture are both our contemporaries and our ancestors. Their triumphs and failures help us understand our own journey of faith (Romans 11:18). Scripture is not something we only believe in, [sic] it is something we share in. . . . We will gradually come to share in a family likeness that is not measured by ethnic particularity but by nothing less than Christ Himself (Ephesians 4:13).

"Mother tongue Scripture has a fundamental place in the engagement of gospel and culture. If people recognize that Onyankopon (as God is called by the Akan of Ghana), the God they have known from time immemorial, is their Saviour, and that the coming of the gospel is what they have looked forward to, then God is continuing to ensure that they will hear him each in their own language so that they can marvel at his majesty and his love for the. Our mother tongue is the language in which God speaks to each of us. He does not speak in a sacred language, but in ordinary language, so that we may hear him and realize that this gospel is about us and that we have been invited to join a company drawn from every people, tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Revelation 7:9)."

By the end of this century, Africa, China, and India will have the most Christians in the world. China will control the world's money by mid-century, and India will run the world's communications. It remains to be seen whether Christ's message of reconciliation will penetrate the cultures and governments of Africa so that Africans can rise out of the squalor of war and ethnic violence to take their places on the world stage as mission-senders, teachers, and mentors. This work is grand evidence to that end.