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African Traditional Religions in Christian Mission and Christian Scholarship: Re-Opening a Debate That Never Started

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In this essay I wish to argue that denial, outright dismissal, distortion and dismissive containment have been and continue to be aptly descriptive of the manner in which Christian mission and Christian scholarship have related to and dealt with African Traditional Religions (ATRs). This, I want to further suggest, has been as true of the South African situation as it has been true of the rest of the continent. Although most prevalent during the earliest periods of contact between Christianity and ATRs, the attitude which I am characterising as outright dismissal is by no means totally extinct today. This article seeks to re-open the question of the place ofATRs in the world of religions with particular reference to their relation to Christianity. This will be done by reference to three important 'voices': Okot p'Bitek, African theology and South African Black Theology.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Systematic Theology School of Theology University of Natal Pietermaritzburg Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209 Republic of South Africa


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