BOOK REVIEW:
Christian Education in the African Context:

Proceedings of the African Regional Conference of the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education, Harare 4-9 March 1991.

For too long, adult education has been dominated by secular philosophies and ideologies. To a large extent, Christians have been silent so that a Christian voice has hardly developed in the halls of academic learning. Although we have trained pastors and evangelists in our seminaries, we have not made inroads into the secular university, so that we hand over our children to a bombardment of ungodly ideas as they enter such a formative stage of their lives. This book is indeed refreshing in its concern to provide very real Christian perspectives in this area of so much influence, hitherto so neglected by Christians.

 

Consisting of papers delivered at the weeklong conference in Harare, this volume primarily seeks to examine the contemporary world from a radically biblical Christian perspective. The association was formed to foster communication and cooperation amongst scholars committed to Christian Higher Education. Its goal is to promote reformation in scholarship and to determine the consequences of a Christian worldview as it applies to a variety of national situations in a changing Africa.

 

From the challenges of traditionalism, racism, nationalism, and militarism to scientism, historicism, etc., the volume explores the innumerable ideologies that hold our continent in its grip. An outstanding paper in this regard was forwarded by Dr. Nlenanya Onwu, Dept. of Religion, University of Nigeria. Onwu identifies the present attachment to pagan culture, the colonial legacy, rise of secular ideology, the strength of Islam, poverty and under-development as the pervading problems of Africa. He argues that to meet these challenges we need to think more creatively about the meaning of Christ in the various cultural contexts and ecosystems. For the African, he believes, the call to historical criticism, social origins analysis, and ecclesiastic/community reconstruction is an emergency.

 

Interestingly, Onwu identifies a stultifying definition of theology as the reason for our failure to stem the tide of increasing distortions of truth. The objective approach to the teaching of Christianity as a mere disinterested critical pursuit of the knowledge of religion over the last few decades has detracted from the relevance of Christian study. This conservatism in many theological schools in Africa has often not helped the cause of Christianity in changing Africa today. What is needed, argues Onwu, is “a categorical set of ideas, principles and values by which we guide and regulate our theological education towards a creative direction for the enhancement of our spiritual

development and the achievement of our national, social, economic and political

objectives.” In other words, he cries out for a new theological consciousness that will be formulated in such a way that the gospel challenges the various contexts of the continent - a theological education that is thoroughly biblical, genuinely contextual and wholesomely evangelical. Only then does Onwu believe that Christian educators will become real agents of change in our contemporary Africa. What a plea for our desperate continent!

 

The article by Prof. J.J.Venter, Dept of Philosophy, PU for CHE, entitled From Machine World to God-World: a changing (western) worldpicture and its worldview implications for Africa provides another revealing analysis. With the movement towards a new organistic picture of the world (which has its roots in the new physics of this century), away from the established mechanistic worldview, Venter notes that by expanding the “living being” picture to every aspect of life, the divine is introduced and opens the way to ancient pantheistic mysticism. Finding its modern form in the New Age Movement, this organistic worldview reveals many similar features to the traditional African life view and has the potential to attract many an African student. To confront such an organistic picture of the world thus provides one of the new tasks for Christian Higher Education.

 

Particularly for us as South Africans, the paper by Prof. J.L. van der Walt, Faculty of

Education, PU for CHE, “Education in South Africa since 1976 and the future possibility of Christian Education”, was exceedingly relevant. Van der Walt showed how over the last few decades the government has usurped forms of authority that it did not in principle have a right to, by prescribing the philosophy that had to be adhered to in schools and the regulations for admission to schools. That this philosophy, known as “Christian National Education”, should have certain Christian attachments is even more damaging to the christian cause. At present, this prescribed philosophy, in many ways, rightly bears the brunt of attack for change. In these circumstances, the most Christians can hope for in a new South Africa is a government which will not prohibit an education rooted in christian principles, but will allow religious freedom in society in general. Sadly, the CNE philosophy led many to believe that christian education would always be a reality in South Africa and lulled many parents to think their task of ensuring christian principles in school education had been taken over by the government. Clearly much careful analysis needs to be made in this sphere - much soul-searching, much repentance at our complacency and then a programme of renewal needs to be followed. May God help us in this crucial area of societal life.

It is my hope that a review of these few articles has wet your appetite for a really worthwhile read. It is encouraging to see adult education taken seriously from a christian point of view. Especially In South Africa, there is such a dearth of material and human resources in this field. This book provides a valuable contribution to make good that deficiency. Its main value may lie, if only to awaken the christian world to the enormity of the battles being waged upon the intellectual front. We cannot allow these battles to be fought without a very serious and thoroughly christian voice – the implications for our children, our nation, economics, politics - in fact, all areas of life - are too great not to stand up and take notice. God help us in this task - we do have much to contribute. Amen.

 

Guy Hartley

 

Many to Many Issue 3 February 1993

Back to M2M index