Original Research

Understanding Christianity in the history of African religion: An engagement with theological and anthropological perspectives in the pursuit of interdisciplinary dialogue

Retief M
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 2 | a874 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i2.874 | © 2014 Retief M | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2013 | Published: 06 August 2014

About the author(s)

Retief M, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


There is ample ground and good motives for interdisciplinary engagement between theology and the ‘new’ anthropology of Christianity. Theologians can learn much about the character of the church in all its plurality from the often insightful descriptions of anthropologists who have recently started to take a strong interest in Christianity. On the other hand, theologians can help anthropologists come to more complex understandings of the meaning of Christianity. Concerning contrasting anthropological perspectives of anti-essentialism and culture theory regarding the nature of Christianity, this article suggested that the work of missiologists, such as Andrew Walls, might usefully aid the progression of the debate and referred to the historical interplay and conflict between Christianity and indigenous knowledge in southern Africa by way of illustrating this point. The argument pursued in this article hinges on the prioritising of an interdisciplinary approach in theological studies, a cause which Prof. Julian Müller has long championed. Therefore, this contribution sought to honour his legacy by illustrating a further avenue of interdisciplinary engagement.


anthropology of Christianity, theology, African indigenous Christianity, missiology, teleology


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