16.12. Celebrating Life and Harmony. Theology as Liberating Wisdom in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana.

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of Systematic Theology
Doctoral candidate: M. Theol Mari-Anna Pöntinen
Time and venue: 16 December at 12 noon, Agora AT100, Joensuu campus

African oral theologies have been mostly researched as they arise among African Independent Churches. This study analyses contextual interpretations of Christian faith in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana (ELCB). The method used is systematic analysis that focuses on the theological thinking and its structural principles. Since these interpretations are based on oral culture, this study utilises qualitative methods in collecting and analysing oral interpretations. The theoretical framework of this study draws both from African theology and contemporary African philosophy.
 
Epistemologically speaking, the theological thinking in the church is based on the integration of the head (intellect), the heart (faith), and the context (transformation). Hence the interplay of rational understanding and faith is juxtaposed. This connects the approach to the wisdom theological tradition of the Church. Since rationality includes contextual awareness, and faith affects liberation, one can rather speak of theology as liberating wisdom in the ELCB. Yet the constructing theological principle in the ELCB is the downward-orientated and descending God in Christ. This principle embraces the ‘Lutheran spirit’ in a liberating and empowering sense. It also deals with the cultural mythos which brings Christ down into people’s existence, whereas the Western connotations are considered to hinder seeing Christ and to prevent existential self-awareness. This mythos draws from spiritual, monistic ontology - affecting holism - and embraces botho which perceives self in a communal sense and underlies cultural morals. This philosophical approach differs from Western interpretations in general and the missionary inheritance in particular. Whereas botho embraces relationships, the life principle draws from the indigenous belief in God as the Source of Life, and the Root for everything that exists, God him/her/itself included. In the relationship with Christ the vital force flows to Christians who become possessed by Christ, the unique Mediator, great Ngaka, Saviour and Liberator of all people and creation. Christians ‘live out’ Christ which act is seen as the mission of the Church towards the downtrodden. Simultaneously they are partakers of the mysterious Community of God in the Trinity.

The doctoral dissertation of Master of Theology Mari-Anna Pöntinen, entitled "Celebrating Life and Harmony. Theology as Liberating Wisdom in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana." will be examined at the Faculty of Philosophy. The opponent in the public examination will be Professor Elias Bongmba, University of Rice, and the custos will be Professor Antti Raunio, the University of Eastern Finland. The public examination will be held in English.

Photo available for download at http://www.uef.fi/vaitoskuvat

For further information, please contact: Mari-Anna Pöntinen, p. 040 961 1661

Publishing year: 2011

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