Original Research - Special Collection: African Hermeneutics

Towards a hermeneutics of sustainability in Africa: Engaging indigenous knowledge in dialogue with Christianity

Kivatsi J. Kavusa
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2263 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2263 | © 2021 Kivatsi J. Kavusa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 April 2021 | Published: 18 June 2021

About the author(s)

Kivatsi J. Kavusa, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; Chair for Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics, Faculty of Theology, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany; Department of Ancient and Biblical Studies, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Free University of the Great Lake Countries, Goma, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the


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Abstract

Today there are a number of ecological hermeneutics, such as the Exeter project (UK), the Earth Bible project (Australia), the anti-ecological readings and the eco-feminist readings. Whilst these trends provide Christianity with valuable ecological insights, they tend to be more global than specific. The Exeter project claims even to search for the ‘universal’ eco-meaning of the scriptures. Thus, every community should learn from them and try to develop its ecological hermeneutical framework, which can sustainably address its contextual issues. This article explores whether elements of traditional Africa can be transformed into a valuable hermeneutical framework of ecological sustainability for Christianity in Africa. African traditional societies were built upon a threefold worldview, namely (1) the sacredness of all life (moral or spiritual dimension of nature), (2) the pre-eminence of the community over individual interests and (3) the cosmological dimension of the chieftaincy (governance). In the process of the Christianisation of Africa, this framework by which African people make sense of the world became so impaired that the Africans ceased to understand their world through their own cultural systems. With a proper re-configuration in dialogue with a sound biblical green theology, this triad can be turned into an effective hermeneutical vehicle of African churches’ engagement for a sustainable life in Africa.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article explores whether elements of traditional Africa can be transformed into a valuable hermeneutical framework of ecological sustainability for Christianity in Africa. It draws on ecological hermeneutics that exist in the theological disciplines. It involves the disciplines of biblical exegesis and ecological hermeneutics, African hermeneutics and insights from sustainability theories.



Keywords

sustainability; African ecological hermeneutics; traditional Africa; African cosmology; indigenous knowledge; African Christianity

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