The Ancestor Problem of Ancestor Christology: An Analytic Theological Exploration

Thomas McCall opines that the pursuit of a global analytic theology is not only possible, but might be beneficial to the now dominant Christian presence in the global south. This is an intriguing proposal given the seeming divergent ambitions and styles of both analytic theology and global theologies. For example, while analytic theology seeks more conceptual clarity and argumentative rigor, thus making it more intellectual in its orientation, global theologies tend to prioritize the decolonization of intellectual spaces in order to assert and affirm minority cultures and identities. In addition, while analytic theology generally aligns with the broad western theological tradition of faith seeking understanding, global theologies roughly conceive of theology as faith seeking divine intervention in all areas of life.

It is this seeming difference between analytic theology and global theologies that makes a proposal for global analytic theology all the more intriguing. Is it even possibility? If so, what might it look like? This essay explores the possibility and promise of analytic theology for fruitful global theologizing as an exercise in systematic theology. It analyzes what is perhaps the most popular constructive Christology from Africa (i.e., Ancestor Christology), particularly as espoused by Charles Nyamity and Kwame Bediako.

The essay considers both the conceptual motivations and inherent problems or deficiencies of Ancestor Christology. It argues that if A is the ancestor of B, then A stands in an asymmetrical causal relation to B. In other words, while A is the cause of B, B is not and cannot be the cause of A. If Jesus is our ancestor, then Jesus must stand in this asymmetrical causal relation to us. The problem that this generates prima facie is that Ancestor Christology presupposes the Fatherhood of Jesus. The paper goes further to explore a possible rehabilitation of Ancestor Christology from the point of view of Christian systematic theology.

Key Works:
Bediako, Kwame. Jesus and the Gospel in Africa: History and Experience. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2004.
Crisp, Oliver D. “Analytic Theology as Systematic Theology.” Open Theology 3 (2017): 156–166.
__________. God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology. London: T & T Clark International, 2009.
McCall, Thomas H. An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015.
Nyamiti, Charles. Christ as Our Ancestor: Christology from an African Perspective. Gweru: Mambo Press, 1984.
Webster, John. “What Makes Theology Theological?” Journal of Analytic Theology 3 (May 2015): 17-28.

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