Theological Education and the Challenges of Post Modernism: Implications for Christianity in Nigeria

0
195

I am not a theologian by training and so in my effort to get a concise understanding of theological education in Africa, I decided to draw insights from the doctoral thesis of John K. Fulks, which was submitted in 2011 to Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in the United States as partial requirement for the fulfillment of the requirements for earning Doctor of Philosophy in Missions. The title of the dissertation is:  “Designing Effective Theological Education to Influence Indigenous Church Planting with Emphasis on Southeastern Uganda.”

I will offer a brief overview of Dr. Fulks vision of effective theological education in Africa. I will reserve the deeper analysis of his ideas to the conclusion, where I will offer a constructive critique and appreciation.  In John Fulk’s view, theological education entails that students are trained in areas that are considered essentials for the Christian faith. These are training in doctrines that are biblical, training in how to interpret and present the bible and training courses that will enable the church fulfill the great commission. The training must also include mentoring and discipleship. Indeed, any process that involves passing the knowledge of God to people is theological education of a kind.

Dr. Fulks also asserts that theological training must take into consideration the local context of the trainees which in modern theological discourse is known as contextualization. Indeed, some theologians argue that all theologies are contextual. Theological education must according to him also include teaching students the strategies and methods for the planting, reproducing and institutionalizing churches. To do this well, he thought that the strategies should focus on methods which cannot be cultivated especially if they are not rooted in biblical principles, if the duration of training is short and transient without enough time for the trainees to internalize and habituate themselves to the canon and practice.  Dr. Fulks also maintains that theological training must prepare students to reach the lost people of the world because without converting people and discipling them, the mission of the church will be lost. In this respect, conversion to Christianity has skyrocketed and Christianity has spread globally and phenomenally. The question is what is the content of such conversion and its impact? For churches to remain effective and functioning very well there is need for very well-qualified persons who can teach believers to make a difference in their communities based on inspiration rooted in their faith. Thus it is not enough to have a good theological education without asking whether the family and people in that society or community are being transformed or not.  What Dr. Fulks is problematizing here is the need for Christian churches and theological education to be not just concerned with quantitative growth without consideration for qualitative transformation. We see this problem in the form of too much knowledge sometimes without wisdom in how to use it. In the case of Nigeria, it is obvious that compared to 1960 when Nigeria got independence to the present, there has been a huge quantitative growth of churches and Christian believers. But it is obvious that there has not been a commensurate qualitative transformation in Christian character. Indeed, some would argue that there has been less fear of God at the very time that churches are quantitatively expanding.

Theological education must also address the question of the mechanism through which the word of God can be translated from the external to the heart, mind and soul of believers so that they become habituated or internalize the ethical imperative that is embedded in the word. Much needs to be reflected on the mechanisms through which the word of God can transform a culture by way of first transforming human hearts and souls, which will then be manifested in change in character and nature of human interaction in society. The aggregate effect of such transformation will transform culture and institutions, thereby radiating the glory of God. In this respect, we must remember that habituation is an argument made by Aristotle as a critique of the main reasoning in Plato’s Republic, where it is assumed that knowing the truth or the right thing to do is the key to having a decent human society.[1] Aristotle was not against the idea of knowing the truth and the right thing to do, but based on empirical observation, he argued and concluded that he saw many people in his life that knew the truth and knew the right thing to do but did not do it as expected. The explanation for this gap or lacuna to him was that doing the right thing requires more than just having knowledge of the truth or knowing the right thing to do. Doing the right thing according to Aristotle, can be costly and painful and so if people are to translate their knowledge of the truth into practice, they have to be trained (i.e., discipled) to develop the habit of doing the right thing in spite of the pain or cost of doing so.  Doing the right thing involves a lot of sacrifice.

Dr. Fulks then identified one of the major limitations of contemporary theological education, which according to him is the over-emphasis on teaching orthodoxy in the abstract sense, without coupling it with praxis (i.e., ortho-praxis), where there is a dialectical relationship between theory and practice in the sense that practitioners do not practice totally oblivious of theory or conceptual framework, and those that engage in theoretical and conceptual reflection do not do so as armed-chair theologians or preachers only. The two dimensions, orthodoxy and praxis, should constantly inform each other.  In this respect, he notes that there are denominations that emphasize church planting at the expense of theological education.  For good theological education to take place, according Dr. Fulks, there is need for a close relationship between seminary or theological institute and the churches in its jurisdiction.

Similarly, Dr. Fulks also asserts that theological education today cannot effectively take place without theological educators taking into cognizance the role of globalization, broadly conceptualized. Globalization is a very broad topic, and indeed, an issue that is relevant to this topic but outside the purview and focus of this particular paper because of time constraint.  In passing, one must note the extensive work of Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University on globalization.[2] Some scholars on the other hand, argue that theological education is at the center of what holds and keeps evangelical Christianity alive. But while taking all this into consideration, Professor Walter Brueggeman adds an important component to theological education when he underscores the need for critical reflection. As he asserted: “The purpose of theological education is (to stay within ecclesiological bounds) to reflect critically on the church’s call to obedient mission. If this is not compelling, a more extended case will not persuade” [his emphasis).[3]

In conclusion, Dr. Fulks argues that there are many types of and forms of theological education, which are: formal, informal, and non-formal .This presentation focuses on the formal.  With this general highlight of what the components and dimensions of theological education as perceived by an outsider, now I will proceed to examine what postmodernism is.   Unfortunately, no one can have an insightful discussion or presentation on postmodernism without first explaining what the Enlightenment movement was and how it gave birth to modernity and which in turn reached a certain stage of evolution and resulted in the stage of postmodernity. There is a legitimate question that can be asked whether Nigeria and Africa has indeed gone through the stages of Enlightenment and modernity such as to warrant asserting that we are now in the postmodern stage in Nigeria or Africa. It is a fact that some parts of Nigeria or Africa are still living quasi-medieval life even if there is a segment that thinks it has gone through the Enlightenment, modernity and now postmodernity. Indeed, just having this discussion if it is indeed relevant for us in this context, indicates the gross inequality that characterizes Nigerian society given that many people, indeed, the great majority have not come to terms fully with what the Enlightenment is, let alone modernity and postmodernity. Given all this, I want to lay the foundation for discussing postmodernity by discussing the Enlightenment and modernity but in a speedy manner.

 

The Enlightenment:

The Enlightenment was a broad movement that while at one level was intellectual; its consequences affected and impacted all areas of life. While all European countries experienced the Enlightenment and there are certain key issues that unite the movement, there is also diversity as it varies from one country to another in Europe in terms of the emphasis.[4]  By and large it was a movement of the 18th century and much of it was concentrated in France which was the intellectual hub in Europe at this time. The Philosophers in France led the Enlightenment. Broadly speaking, some of them are Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, and Rousseau, all from France while in other European countries, there’re persons like Hume, Gibbon, Smith, Bentham, Lessing and Kant.[5] Here are the main goals of their intellectual work.

The main goals of the intellectual work of Enlightenment scholars:

  1. They advocated for the application of the spirit of critical rationalism in all areas of social and political life.
  2. They posed serious historical and moral questions on the Christian Faith. In effect, they tried to deny its historical validity or accuracy.
  3. They were of the view that society and economics are governed by certain laws and human beings can discover these laws and use them to improve the human condition. They expected that knowledge would lead to material and moral improvement of human beings. Just as the physical nature has laws, human society too has laws that govern its processes that can be identified and harnessed for human betterment.
  4. The Enlightenment scholars embraced the idea of economic growth and development. They championed the spirit of innovation and improvement.
  5. They called for political reforms and more efficient modes of running government.
  6. The Enlightenment scholars also aimed at casting doubts on traditional modes of thought, thinking and behavior. This means that they use rationality and skepticism to question existing social arrangements. For any behavior to be accepted according to them, it has to be rational. This led to great emphasis on social change and modernity.
  7. Finally, the Enlightenment scholars supported the expansion of trade, and improvement of transformation which contributed in transforming Europe in the 18th As Europe became transformed, there was also an expansion in the number of middle class people.

In spite of the diversity among Enlightenment scholars, there was unity in their diversity in the sense that the focal points of their campaign were the following: the desire to reform thought, the desire to reform society, and the desire to reform government. They were also committed to realizing the following freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of trade, freedom to realize one’s talents and legitimate aspirations and freedom for human kind as moral agents to make their way in the world.  In terms of how the Enlightenment scholars disseminated their ideas, the greatest vehicles were: books, pamphlets, plays, novels, philosophical treatises, encyclopedias, newspapers and magazines.[6]

In terms of social backgrounds, both the philosophers and their audience were middle class people. Their audience was drawn from the prosperous commercial and professional people of the 18th century cities and towns. This group of audience had money to purchase the works of the philosophers and had sufficient leisure time to read and discuss the ideas they read about in a club.[7] The philosophers, however, did not consciously champion the goals of the middle classes but this notwithstanding, the goals dovetailed very well with that of the middle classes.  A key role played by the philosophers in relation to their audience was that they taught their audience how to ask very critical questions about state, society and social reality.

A key issue that needs to be highlighted here is the differences between the Protestant Christian reformers of the 16th Century and the Philosophers. Essentially, the protestant reformers were people who debated what was the proper or best mode of faith in God? On the other hand, the philosophers publicly proclaimed new faith about the capacity of the human persons to improve themselves without the help of God, i.e., based on their own independent initiative. Both the Protestant Reformers and the philosophers however emphasized the individual.

The work of two scientists played a key role in shaping the thinking of Enlightenment scholars. The two scholars are: Isaac Newton and John Locke.[8] Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity. He discovered the universal law through observation. The law was embraced until Albert Einstein theory of relativity which modified it. The main lesson from the discovery of such law was the capacity of human beings through observation, experience, and the use of human rationality or reason, to discover a law that underlies physical reality. The issue here is that he did not arrive at his discovery through revelation but paying attention to concrete human experience. This truly inspired the Enlightenment scholars. Yet it must be noted that Newton saw his work as still part of a theistic project. Second, in the case of John Locke his main argument was that human beings were born “tabula rasa” i.e., blank page or empty slates in their mind. The implication of this conclusion is that human personality is a product of sensation from the external and surrounding environment. If this is the case, then human personality can presumably be changed by changing the environment and therefore human nature. This opens the possibility of molding human nature through manipulating the surrounding physical and social environment that one grew up in. This idea is a fundamental challenge to the Christian belief in humankind as creatures that are permanently flawed by sin and therefore needing redemption through the grace of God. We must recall that in the book of Jeremiah 17, it is stated, the heart of man is desperately wicked, not just wicket. For Locke as for Rousseau, if the heart of man is desperately wicked the problem is not a congenital sin in the human being but the corruption came through the social environment. This shows the significance of how the Enlightenment alone has generated a lot of ideas that should be of great interest to Christians and theological education. As if all these are not enough, the Philosophers had some specific things that they said in critique of Christian religion and below I itemized the issues.

 

The Philosophers critique of Christian religion:

The philosophers, building on their Enlightenment tradition of rationality, reason and science as the foundation for a better world, attacked religion in several ways as listed below[9]:

  1. They saw ecclesiastical institutions as the chief obstacles to the improvement of human kind and the enjoyment of happiness in this world. This is based on the way such institutions functioned in medieval Europe.

 

  1. They criticized all forms of Christianity but they were particularly against Catholicism. Part of the reason for this is the Protestant Reformation is considered to be part of the social struggles and changes in Europe that led to the Enlightenment.

 

  1. Their hatred for the church was expressed in Voltaire’s assertion “Crush the Infamous Thing.” The infamous thing he was referring to was the church.

 

  1. The philosophers argued that churches perpetuate a religious worldview instead of a scientific worldview of human and physical nature. For instance they maintained that the idea of original sin in Christianity fundamentally negated the possibility of improvement in human nature except through divine grace.

 

  1. They also argued that churches created doctrinal disagreements which as they fought out their differences, it brought about great human suffering, torture and war.

 

  1. The philosophers also maintained that the concept of predestination is unscientific because it ignores cause and effect reasoning. By this they mean that it does not matter how you live your life, if you are predestined to go to hell you will go and a person who is predestined to go to heaven will go irrespective of how a person lived his or her life.

 

  1. They argued that the clergy were involved in politics and that they constituted an integral part of the decadent power elite in Europe at that time.

 

  1. The philosophers asserted that the clergy preached against political disobedience and provided intellectual justification for the social and political status quo. This contrasted with the role that Amos played at the sanctuary at Bethel.

 

  1. They thought that religious denomination contributed to corruption because being a member of a particular denomination and of a higher social class provides opportunity for prestigious political appointment for members in such denominations at the expense of others.

 

In terms of suggestions for religion, the philosophers had several recommendations. First they said that religion should be reasonable and lead someone to live and lead a moral behavior.  Second they argued that nature is rational and God created nature. Consequently therefore, God must be rational. If God is rational according to them, the religion through which God is worshipped must be rational. Third, they raised an important concern with regard to how knowledge is acquired. For them the acquisition of knowledge is only through experience, and if this is the case then divine revelation to human kind which Christianity claims was not possible.  Finally, the philosophers series of criticism led them to start a new religious movement known as Deism.[10] Unfortunately I do not have the time to address what Deism is in this presentation, suffice it to say that it believes that religion must be natural and rational i.e., not a supernatural and mystical phenomenon. It also perceives God as resembling a divine watchmaker who has the mechanism of nature to work in the world and then withdrew from the scene and left it for humans to figure out the details for their own benefit. In what sense then is it that the Enlightenment laid the foundation for modernity and what are the essential characteristics of modern society that led it to postmodernity?

Modernity and its Discontents:

According to David Lyon, “the philosophers declared that a dispute between the ancients and modernes was being resolved in favor of the modernes. Modern, post-medieval civilization based supremely on Reason as superior,” or at least so it seems.[11] So then what is modernity? Lyon defines it as follows: “the term refers to the social order that emerged following the Enlightenment.” Though its roots may be traced far back, the modern world is marked by its dismissal or marginalizing of tradition and by its global consequences. Modernity is characterized by the following social and societal features: it is forward looking because of its emphasis on progress; it elevates the power of human reason as means for producing human freedom; at its core is science and technology which are considered as great treasures. It is characterized by democratic politics, and its functioning affects or impacts the everyday life of people. Modernity is also characterized by the potential for disappointment because it seems to promise too much for people that it often ends up not providing.[12]

Related to modernity is the term modernization. Modernization is “frequently featured as a means of summing up the social and political processes associated with technology-led economic growth, modernity itself as the cumulative consequences of those processes.”[13] In most of the social science literature, modernization is often used to refer to the process of development that was pursued in the postcolonial world after the end of the Second World War. An extensive discussion of what it means to become modern is provided by Inkeles and Smith in their book “Becoming Modern.”[14]  It is important to bear in mind that modernity has recorded some achievements in human societies and to humanity even though it has also created some crisis situations.

Modernity properly understood alters everyday life of people by making things easier for humans. It also transforms the concept of time to become something abstract, just as it transformed the concept of space to become abstract.  Modernity is also characterized by the constant transformation of the forces of production which includes capital, technology, labor, power, raw materials etc. As these are constantly transformed, it leads to increased division of labor or social differentiation, which necessitates the need for new mechanism for integration.   In a modern society, there is constant attempt to apply the idea of rational calculation for the pursuit of efficiency. This pursuit of efficiency makes society to be in constant change. Generally, modernity, because of its promotion of economic development, leads to the emergence of urbanism.[15] Urbanism, however, has many consequences on mental life and social relationships, an issue that was extensively analyzed by Georg Simmel.[16]  In spite of the great achievements of modernity, there are also challenges, ambivalences and pain that modernity has caused in humans.

First, the structure of modern society causes alienation in the lives of many people in society.[17] Modern society also creates the conditions for some people to be exploited, making their lives miserable. Second, because of the rapid social change that modernity promotes, it creates a situation where the certain, old and enduring ways of doing things disappear while new effective ones are not put in place, resulting in a situation where people lack effective moral guidance in society leading to what Emile Durkheim refers to as the state of anomie or relative normlessness.[18] An anomic situation creates a conducive atmosphere for other social problems such as corruption, greed, weak institutions etc.

Another ambivalent condition created in modern society is the fact that the continuous or unending process of technological innovation in pursuit of efficiency results in a division of labor that makes humans begin to live in an iron cage according to Max Weber. After analyzing this trend in modern society very well, Max Weber was very pessimistic about the future of human kind in modern civilization where the pursuit of efficiency under bureaucratic control transforms human beings and human society. He asserts:

The calculability of decision-making and with it its appropriateness for capitalism … is the more fully realized the more bureaucracy “depersonalizes” itself, i.e. the more completely it succeeds in achieving the exclusion of love, hatred, and every purely personal, especially irrational and incalculable, feeling from the execution of official tasks. In the place of the old-type ruler who is moved by sympathy, favor, grace, and gratitude, modern culture requires for its sustaining external apparatus the emotionally detached, and hence rigorously “professional” expert.[19]

 

For Weber, we are in trouble in modern societies not because capitalism will collapse but because it will be so successful. He thought the process of rationalization (i.e., continued application of science, reason, rationality and technology in solving human or social problems), will make life become increasingly based on calculability. Also, it will make life to become “disenchanted” as science and rationality will increasingly chase away reliance on miracle or spiritual solution. Here is how he describes this future that he saw coming in modern civilization:

No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither,. mechanized petrification embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of this cultural development it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.[20]

 

Amazingly, this sense of pessimism is equally expressed by conservatives, many of whom identify themselves as evangelical Christians in the United States. Interestingly, Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School was equally concerned with the negative consequences of the culture / entertainment industry as many evangelicals are. By focusing on just the specifics of what is happening in our world today in the culture and ignoring the underlying systemic logic that is conditioning the unfolding of events and processes in the system and culture, we will miss a lot. If the trend persists without any change in the logic of the system, we should expect more pain.

Interestingly, I came across this article about an analysis by former Harvard University President Larry Summers in the Washington Post[21]. He is publicly making the case which is very unusual for him, that robotic technology will threaten some middle class jobs and not even a good education can eliminate the challenge. There are many jobs that maybe safe now but if the logic of the system persists and given the rapid pace of technological innovation, it is a matter of time before even jobs that are considered safe now, come under threat.

All these reflections about modern society and civilization led Max Weber to express this observation in fear of what he sees slowly but surely coming in the future:

Imagine the consequences of that comprehensive bureaucratization and rationalization which already today we see approaching. Already now … in all economic enterprises run on modern lines, rational calculation is manifest in every state. By it, the performance of each individual worker is mathematically measured, each man becomes a little cog in the machine and, aware of this, his one preoccupation is whether he can become a bigger cog…. It is apparent that today we are proceeding toward an evolution which resembles (the ancient kingdom of Egypt) in every detail, except that it is built on other foundations, on technically more perfect, more rationalized and therefore much more mechanized foundations. The problem which besets us now is not: how can this evolution be changed? — for that is impossible, but: what will come of it?[22]

 

Modern society also sorts and classifies people based on income and consumption, which affect where they live, who they are likely to marry, what kind of education they are likely to acquire, what church they are likely to attend and what kind of theology or understanding of God they are most likely to be predisposed to. Humans will live in society but remain strangers to each other. Such humans feel they are free and liberated but they are actually living under the domination of instrumental rationality where they can make choices, but the parameters of the choices are set by forces beyond their control.

By the time one goes through all this and reflect, one may wonder, are these observations applicable to Nigeria and Africa? Is Nigeria and Africa part of the modern world? If all these realities unfolded in the Western world where modern Christianity had its roots, can we say that the problem is just an expression of the weakness of Western people or is it a human problem? Why is it that for instance in the Old Testament, whenever the Hebrew people prospered and became comfortable they forgot about Yahweh and only remembered him when they were in desperate situations and therefore needed his protection? Can Africans or Nigerians say that they are so immune to the systemic consequences of modernity if the forces of modernity were to be fully unleashed in Nigeria and Africa, or will they fall victims to the same decaying culture that distorts religion and even the fear of God? Surely the form of religion may persist but what about the substance. It is amidst this sense of cultural evolution and confusion that postmodernism emerged in the Western world and because of globalization, its tendencies spread to other parts of the world like Africa and therefore warrant some reflection. Before discussing the key highlights of skeptical postmodernism, I consider it worthwhile to summarize how some evangelical scholars assess the manner in which evangelicals fitted or tried to cope with intellectual vocation in the modern world.

Problematizing the Evangelical Mind

Professor Mark A. Noll set out to reflect on what he characterizes as the scandal of the evangelical mind in postwar United States by writing a book titled “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”[23] The book begins by recognizing and affirming the energy, commitment and activist-engagements of evangelicals in the United States in many ways. He noted that “notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.”[24] As he further notes, “Evangelicals sponsor dozens of theological seminaries, scores of colleges, hundreds of radio stations and thousands of unbelievably diverse parachurch organizations – but not a single research university or a single periodical devoted to in-depth interaction with the modern world.” [25]

The irony is that in the past, there were people in the evangelical tradition that saw the life of the mind as an integral part of the life of an evangelical Christian as God speaks to human beings through the mind too. Yet even in Great Britain, Harry Blamires had much to lament about the evangelical mind:

In contradiction to the secular mind, no vital Christian mind plays fruitfully, as a coherent and recognizable influence, upon our social, political, or cultural life…. Except over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations. There is no Christian mind; there is no shared field of discourse in which we can move at ease as thinking Christians by trodden ways and past established landmarks… Without denying the impact of important isolated utterances, one must admit that there is no packed contemporary field of discourse in which writers are reflecting Christianly on the modern world and modern man.[26]

 

What is of great concern with regard to the preceding observations is that they are made about countries that are traditionally Christian with more resources, facilities and commitment to the value of education. If such countries in spite of all their resources and commitment still have this crisis of the evangelical mind, what more of societies like Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general where the Christian culture is not as deeply rooted and there  have been limited investment of resources in public education, let alone private. Furthermore, the leaders at the helm of affairs do not even value education as a transformative force in society and history, or so it seems.

Noll then proceeded to explain what he thought and meant by an evangelical life of the mind. He asserts:

By an evangelical “life of the mind” I mean more the effort to think like a Christian — to think within a specifically Christian framework across the whole spectrum of modern learning including economics and political science, literary criticism and imaginative writing, historical inquiry and philosophical studies, linguistics and the history of science, social theory and the arts. Academic disciplines provide modern categories for the life of the mind, but the point is not simply whether evangelicals can learn how to succeed in the modern academy. The much more important matter is what it means to think like a Christian about the nature and workings of the physical world, the character of human social structures like government and the economy, the meaning of the past, the nature of artistic creation, and the circumstances attending our perception of the world outside ourselves. Failure to exercise the mind for Christ in these areas has become acute in the twentieth century. That failure is the scandal of the evangelical mind.[27]

 

While he recognized that there are several Christian colleges and universities that seem to be contributing much to knowledge (i.e., Calvin,  Samford, Redemer,Wheaton, Messiah etc.) he still maintains that their resources do not come close to what major research universities have and can accomplish in terms of research.

For Robert Wuthnow, who is a Princeton University sociologist with great sympathy for evangelicalism, a major problem with evangelicalism is evangelicals want to change the world, but even when they have created universities and colleges, they still face major institutional constraints in the higher education landscape.[28] Noll summarizes insights from Wuthnow’s research as follows:

Wuthnow pointed out that the deep structures of modern intellectual life are shaped largely by the works of non- or anti-Christians. Nineteenth-century theorists like Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Freud established the intellectual conventions of the modern university. Their legacy, for good and for ill, provides the framework in which Christians do their advanced studies.  The same is true for the principal theorists of the twentieth century – Milton Friedman, Ferdinand Saussure, Ferdinand Braudel, E. P. Thompson, Thomas Kuhn, Jacques Derrida – none of whom is concerned about the Christian implications of his work; yet they have set the agenda for what goes on throughout the academy.[29]

 

Noll then made effort to provide explanations that account for why this problem of the scandal of the evangelical mind exists. The first explanation is that evangelicals are “bereft of self-criticism, intellectual subtlety, or awareness of complexity are blown about by every wind of apocalyptic speculation and enslaved to the cruder spirits of populist science.”[30]

Second, even though evangelicals have created colleges and universities, yet their impact on the culture is minimal because their resources are diffused given that every church denomination within the evangelical community wants to create its own institution as part of its own identity, all other things being equal. Consequently, their focus is primarily on general and rudimentary undergraduate education with no time, facilities and resources to enable them conduct research that will set the parameters of discourse in the culture. Often they just react to research questions and agendas set by secular scholars or public universities.[31]  In that respect it is a kind of reactionary scholarship. Moreover, many of the evangelical leaders that founded Christian higher education institutions have no thorough scholarly background or training in the complexity of higher education in general, let alone Christian higher education in a secular society, which is a very challenging task.

What is alarming about this whole discussion is the consequence that the scandal of the evangelical mind can have on a society. Using United States of America as an example, Noll cited the work of Richard Hofstader, which earned Hofstader prestigious award and recognition to make his case about how when religious people have a great cultural influence on the formative history of a society and they do not get certain things right, such mistakes can spillover into the larger culture. Given that the early founders of modern United States were puritans who saw faith and its propagation as the major task of humans in this world, they had an anti-intellectual attitude which led to diminishing the value of modern education and a culture of anti-intellectualism. Noll cites Hofstader as follows:

One begins with the hardly contestable proposition that religious faith is not, in the main, propagated by logic or learning. One moves on from this to the idea that it is best propagated (in the judgement of Christ and on historical evidence) by men who have been unlearned and ignorant. It seems to follow from this that the kind of wisdom and truth possessed by such men is superior to what learned and cultivated minds have. In fact, learning and cultivation appear to be handicaps in the propagation of faith. And since the propagation of faith is the most important task before man, those who are as ‘ignorant as babes” have, in the most fundamental virtue, greater strength than men who have addicted themselves to logic and learning. Accordingly, though one shirks from a bald statement of the conclusion, humble ignorance is far better as a human quality than a cultivated mind. At bottom, this proposition, despite all the difficulties that attend it, has been eminently congenial both to American evangelicalism and to the American democracy.[32]

 

The fundamental question to ask drawing insight from Hofstadter with regard to Nigeria and Africa is: what is the attitude and mindset of the evangelical Christian in Nigeria and Africa with regard to knowledge, and to what extent does that mindset and attitude shape the broader culture and is it shaping it in a meaningful and desirable way or is it also promoting a culture of anti-intellectualism? Religion can of course be used as a ready-made answer for any problem, thereby needing no serious investigation. It is presumably sinful to think deep. Is the church and Christian educators intellectually timid and therefore try to provide simplistic account of what humanity is going through without the need for deep and serious reflection? Are we fulfilling the image presented about us by Western scholars of the past? For instance, Georg Hegel in his philosophy of history argues that he would not write about the African because the African was still living in historical slumber.[33] What this meant for him was that the African had no historical consciousness and therefore could not be able to discern where he or she is coming from, let alone where he or she is now, and where he or she is heading to.

Similarly, Frantz Fanon, in a chapter titled “The pitfalls of national consciousness” in his book “Wretched of the Earth” observed that the postcolonial African bourgeoisie lacks intellectual curiosity.[34] Do we have a cultural and institutional problem not just in the evangelical context in Nigeria and Africa, but also in the broader culture with regard to anti-intellectualism? This reminds me of a Christian Professor who scolded his student for thinking too complexly because too much knowledge is sin. Yet, the modern world that evangelicals take for granted and bask in its material prosperity could not have been realized (good or bad) with the kind of anti-intellectual mindset that is being interrogated here. As if the challenges of living in the modern world are not enough, later in the 21st century Western nations will transit into the postmodern age which will present additional challenges to Christians and Christian higher education.

Key Highlights of Skeptical Postmodernism:

            Skeptical postmodernism emerged in the Western world in the postwar period, especially in the 1960s, originally in France but then spread to other areas of the Western world and to the world in general.[35] In terms of academics or scholarship, postmodernism made its initial and serious impact in literary studies, but later spread to other disciplines with limited impact. Because of the divergent voices and tendencies within postmodernism, some scholars argue that it is not a coherent movement. There is for instance affirmative postmodernism which can easily be treated as a constructive critique of society but there is also skeptical postmodernism which in my assessment is the most dangerous because of its attempt to deconstruct and delegitimize everything without providing a constructive alternative. I will summarize the main arguments of skeptical postmodernism below before critiquing it and showing the implications for Christianity and theological education, and what we can do about it.

Below, I critically analyze certain themes in the ideas of skeptical postmodernism to illustrate that when critical history run amok, it can paralyze human beings and human society.  Although the arguments made here are very much applicable to advanced industrial nations, I have decided to critique the ideas of skeptical postmodernists showing their implications for Sub-Saharan Africa, and indeed the Third World development in general.

 

 

  1. a) Death of the Author: The Lack of Personal and Collective Responsibility:

Postmodernists generally see the author as not only a person who has written something.  The concept does not also necessarily refer to an individual only, but also to a collective.  In modern sense, the author is seen as a person or group of persons with agency and the capacity to create something or bring it to pass.  Sometimes the author is portrayed as someone with legislative power in the form of being an expert in her or his area of specialty.  The author claims responsibility for something she / he or they have done.  But postmodernists totally eliminate the author from their analysis of issues in all spheres of society including education.  They sentenced the author to death because as the modern scientific expert, the author has failed to perform the expert’s role in modern society, by failing to help society get rid of its problems.[36] Postmodernists feel that scientific knowledge has increased but human suffering still remains and morality is by and large declining. Can the modern expert claim to have really delivered the promises of modernity?

Following the structuralist theoretical tradition, postmodernists assert that once authors wrote their texts, they lost control over the meaning of the text because meaning is not determined by the authors’ deliberate intentions only.  Rather, the meaning is determined by the structure of linguistic system or in the case of social science analysis, the structure of society.  The text here does not simply mean something written on paper, but any event, act, policy, or situation that authors brought into existence. Thus even though authors initiate certain things, they lose control over it in the sense that people can evaluate the action independent of the authors’ intention.  The authors cannot therefore claim responsibility for creating a meaning system. This has serious implication for how the Bible is read or taught and to what extent preachers can claim they have absolute control over the meaning of what they preach. The author is dead metaphorically speaking.

In terms of public policy, this means we cannot account for why certain public policies are formulated and implemented by looking at the leader or leaders (authors), but by looking at the structure of society. The implication of this way of thinking for Third World development is phenomenal if we apply it. It means intellectuals, experts, managers, professionals, politicians, etc. as individuals or as a collectivity cannot claim responsibility for anything they have done or are supposed to do or can do. If they cannot claim responsibility for their work, then the implication is that we cannot equally hold them accountable for their decisions.  Yet these are the people who make important decisions that affect the lives of innocent citizens in developed and developing countries. Surely this aspect of postmodern thinking will not help Third World people in anyway in dealing with problems of poverty, health, and income inequalities that are many times tied to deliberate decisions made by elites on how resources are to be used. In this line of analysis, the social problems exist without an author. To the extent that skeptical postmodernists have nothing to offer the Third World people in terms of how to account for the existence and indeed escalation of these social problems, by default, they contribute to perpetuating the problems and difficulties of these people. The idea of the death of the author is closely related to the death of the subject, another key theme in skeptical postmodern reasoning.

  1. b) Skeptical Postmodernism and the Death of the Subject: The Denial of Social Agency to Humans:

Skeptical postmodernists make certain assumptions about the subject and use those assumptions to criticize modernity. The assumptions the subject make are not necessarily negative ones, only that they do not fit the skeptical postmodernist vision of humans and human society. The subject to them represents modernity and is a product of the Enlightenment movement and the rationality it represents. According to them, once modern science removed God from its analysis and explanation of social and natural phenomena, the human subject occupied the vacuum created.[37] Consequently, concepts that are central to scientific and social scientific reasoning such as theory, observation, and politics in the form of human rights, voting rights, human liberation or emancipation are rendered futile because they are based on the assumption of the human individual subject as the building block of modern society and modern science on which the latter is based.

Furthermore, influenced by structuralist perspective of reasoning such as Althuser’s, skeptical postmodernists discount the individual because his or her actions or plans make no difference in a society where structural forces are the main factors used in social explanation. “Structuralism and system analysis, then deny the possibility of a subject with any personal capacity to maintain or change social relations.[38]   Postmodernists vehemently agree with Levi Strauss for instance when he asserted that the commitment of his research was “not to constitute man but to dissolve him.”[39] Since structure over-powers individuals, postmodernists are committed to analyzing society with the subject totally banished. They are skeptical about the capacity of individuals as agents of history to change structures even when the structures are oppressive, which reinforces their pessimistic view of history and the future of humanity. There seems to be no hope for humans living under oppression from this framework of analysis. The impression is also created that structures automatically reproduce themselves, or that when humans help in their reproduction, the humans too in doing that are compelled to behave the way they do based on criteria or options created by structures. According to Ball, “human agents act in a world constituted by large scale social structures that are not the products of anyone’s plans.”[40]

In effect, skeptical postmodernists by questioning the relevance of the subject in social analysis undermine many of the basic concepts that are critical for logical and scientific reasoning. There will be no research as we know it today in the sciences with this kind of fundamental assumptions about humans and human society. Indeed, the concept “human” comes under serious challenge. If there is no social science research for instance, we will know little or nothing that is systematic about income inequality, health inequalities, and poverty, etc. Without some knowledge about these, we cannot work towards reforming them in a systematic way. Indeed, it is irrelevant to even think of reform because skeptical postmodernists do not believe in human agency and see structures as omnipotent. The implication of this reasoning to Third World development is that Third World people should live the way they are i.e., resigned to poverty, malnutrition, and poor health. There is nothing they can do about the situation. Surely this implication of postmodern thought is reactionary. But while this is the case, the postmodernists, the great majority of whom live in the Western world continue to enjoy their rights, freedoms, and high standard of living, which they take for granted. Is it fair for postmodernists in the West to have the opportunity to go to school and be educated and to continue enjoying many democratic and economic privileges while they work hard to globalize their ideas to the Third World, when the implications of the ideas are indeed inimical to the lives of the poor and oppressed people? Note that we have not even raised the implications of their ideas for the Christian faith and theological education.

  1. c) Skeptical Postmodernism and Intertextuality: The Impossibility of Identifying Specific Causal Relationship

In consonance with the two preceding themes in skeptical postmodern social thought, postmodernists also believe that we cannot establish causality, which is of course central to any kind of thinking in science and social sciences in particular.  Beyond the death of the author and subject, which also have implications for causality, they argue that in a postmodern world, every text (i.e., event, act, or situation) is related to everything, and for that reason we cannot isolate the cause because it is going to be extravagantly difficult to disentangle cause and effect. In fact, given that skeptical postmodernists do not believe in the concept of linear time because according to them, it mistakenly presupposes the idea of continued progress, establishing causality becomes impossible.[41] It is impossible to do so because in order to do that we have to establish the temporal sequence of events. Furthermore, because they argue that structures are impersonal social forces and are more important than the individual, it is difficult to isolate the temporal sequence of social structures or hold the social structures meaningfully responsible for bringing about any specific act or situation. The situation is further complicated by the fact that everything is related to everything, meaning all institutions or structures are interlocked.[42]

Postmodernists also deny causality because it is based on scientific methodology. But they consider scientific methodology as a meta-narrative and therefore a totalizing project that is exclusionary and oppressive of contrary or marginal voices. Indeed, it is an act of violence for anyone to claim to have the only correct answer and therefore banishing all other alternatives. It is logocentric. There is no way we can isolate social causes without basing it on a standard or systematic method of reasoning, but skeptical postmodernists are against method as we know it. If skeptical modernists disagree with the scientific method of explanation, then for them everything goes as an explanation. An important implication of this is that there will be no specific criteria to help us choose between a good and a bad explanation. This also implies that we cannot formulate and implement any program of reform, no public policy commitment to alleviate poverty, income inequality and inequalities of health. To do that, we need to isolate the problem, identify the cause of the problem and its effect, before designing a public policy aimed at addressing the cause with the hope of changing the effects. Surely, the skeptical postmodernists in this respect are reactionary in their reasoning with regard to the suffering of Third World people. Yet oppressed people have used scientific research methodologies to make a convincing case for their oppression, thereby making the powers that be formulate and implement public policies to address such concerns.[43]

While one does not deny the reality of epistemological politics with regard to what method best produces valid and reliable knowledge, it is not a constructive contribution in my assessment to totally discard reliance on systematic method for producing knowledge in all disciplines. To think of addressing any social problem without knowing its cause, is to act more or less blindly. To imply that people should not do anything about their problems because it is impossible to identify the cause is to be cruel and carefree towards the suffering of millions of people in the Third World. Moreover, Sub-Saharan African nations cannot cross the industrial divide without the use of science and social scientific knowledge. But postmodernist’s presuppositions imply a total lack of confidence in these. And they will argue that even if Africa crosses the industrial divide and become developed, they will just situate themselves in the complex problems that Max Weber addressed which I have made reference to earlier. And the church for postmodernists will be consumed by this confusion as it becomes disoriented and behave as business firms competing for market share (potential converts), in which case they cannot sell their product without taking into consideration consumer taste, thereby losing their biblical authenticity.

Truly there is well-documented evidence of how science and social science has been corrupted by powerful social groups and institutions.[44] But the solution in my assessment is not to totally discard science and social science. Any viable alternative to this will have to deal with the social and institutional context of their existence. Indeed, globalization of this worldview is a danger to the future of Third World people. But this problem with skeptical postmodernist reasoning is related to another aspect of their theoretical reasoning, which is the denial of the existence of objective reality or even truth out there.

  1. d) Denial of Objective Reality: Philosophical Subjectivism and The Disappearance of Human Suffering

 

Skeptical postmodernists deny the existence of an independent social reality that objectively exists outside the mind of the individual and her subjective feelings. In a sense, philosophical subjectivists do not deny that that there are things that objectively exist but they insist that they only exist because someone was able to perceive them in her or his mind, or thinking. Thus what really exists is not something objective out there, but the mind is what only actually exists. Reality for skeptical postmodernists does not exist out there but rather it is dependent on the subjective perception of the individual.[45]

One implication of their argument is that objective reality exists only because researchers in science and the social sciences have created it using theory which to them is a fictional meta-narrative or a product of logocentric reasoning. In effect, science constructs social reality. Thus, the existence of social reality does not precede social science. Related to this is the earlier point made regarding the inter-texuality and the death of author and the subject. Some skeptical postmodernists would even deny the objective existence of autonomous or independent individual capacity to perceive any reality that is external in an authentic way. The idea of humanity is in effect in question here.[46]  Humans have no direct access to the world because their access is mediated by language, or what Friedrich Hegel calls, “categories of mediation” which mediate our understanding of the world. But language is rooted in culture and culture is corrupted by the structure of class and social inequality which vitiates the use of language.

With this philosophical presupposition, skeptical postmodernists are successfully able to insulate themselves and their academic work from the suffering of people in the Third World in the form of poverty, income inequality, social inequality, malnutrition, and health problems.  To them, all these social problems do not objectively exist.  But anyone who has visited some of the poor regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the Third world would believe that denying the reality of these problems on philosophical grounds, and reducing them to mere questions of subjective perception is a serious insult to the people who are suffering because of numerous social problems. By making this philosophical assumption, postmodernists have theoretically rendered all human suffering as not existing and if they exist at all, they have disappeared because they only exist in the subjective perception of the individual.

Skeptical postmodern individuals are satisfied with withdrawing themselves into themselves and not being involved in a movement that will transform or reform society.  They do not believe in causality, personal responsibility in the form of being an author, the sense of human agency, and the objective existence of oppression and suffering.  By default, they are collaborators to any status quo that is oppressing people.  They would not condemn any oppression or exploitation because that presupposes the recognition of the objective existence of a phenomenon and some commitment to causal reasoning.

From the perspective of social science, the message of skeptical postmodernists to the suffering people of the Third World is that their problems after all are not even problems because we have no criteria for objectively confirming the independent existence of these problems to begin with, let alone organize to reform or change the situation. It appears that one can only accept such a philosophical presupposition of skeptical postmodernism if he or she is living in a developed country and have never come face to face with poverty and oppression. But there is poverty even in developed countries. Consequently, skeptical postmodernists are more a reactionary than progressive force to the people of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Third World in general, especially regarding the implications of their thought for development. But let us not rush in totally discarding them. For on a critical note, they may have something to offer. Skeptical postmodernists are also implicitly playing a significant reactionary role regarding the development of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Third World by their total repudiation of modern science and technology and over-romanticization of the precolonial and premodern past of Third World countries.

  1. e) Denying the Contribution of Modern Science, Rationality and the Enlightenment: Over-Romanticization and Idealization of Precolonial and Premodern Past

 

Skeptical postmodernists deny the significant and positive contributions that modern science and the Enlightenment have made to human history and civilization.  It is, however, true that humans have made negative use of modernity as represented by modern science, rationality, and the Enlightenment.[47] For skeptical postmodernists the use of reason to arrive at a rational conclusion on a topic only result in a preferred opinion rather than a conclusion based on solid scientific evidence. Reason is therefore a product of one’s personal taste, feelings, and preference, — nothing objective. All knowledge acquisition is guided by certain kind of human interests and the interests will vary from one group to the other.[48] Consequently, modern science to skeptical postmodernists does not constitute any privileged position that is superior to religion, cult, or witchcraft. “Logic and reason are ‘on the same footing’ as myth and magic.”[49] Because reason and science suggest that only a particular approach to a situation constitute a formal and preferred solution, it is oppressive, exclusionary, and dictatorial. It does not allow for diversity of voices and it does not tolerate difference. According to skeptical postmodernists, science, rationality, and reason have been used to provide legitimacy to oppressive bureaucracies, regimes, political, and economic systems. Surely one can cite several historical evidences to support the preceding point made by skeptical postmodernists.[50]

But it seems to me that the problem is not reason, science, and rationality per se, but the social and institutional structures that employ the use of them. If it were not so, then science, rationality and reason would have been used the same way across all societies, and across time and historical contexts. But on the contrary, there are evidences of where reason, science, technology and rationality have been used to liberate rather than oppress people.[51] Unfortunately, skeptical postmodernists ignore the reality of political systems, institutional and organizational structures because conceding to their real existence would amount to accepting the objective reality of their existence as independent reality out there. Their criticisms can by and large be accommodated by making adjustments rather than totally discarding science, rationality, and reason.

Skeptical postmodernists repudiate reason because it presupposes the assumption of continued progress. Unfortunately, the dominance of reason and modernity has not solved the numerous social problems that continue to exist in contemporary Western societies.[52] There is some truth in this argument but a comparison of developing and developed countries clearly shows that that in general, science, reason and rationality have made some desirable contributions to the improvement of the life chances of human beings even though this is characterized by unevenness and inequality. The implication of this position of postmodernists for the development of Sub-Saharan African countries and the Third World in general, is the reactivation of premodern and precolonial and traditional African society, assuming they are perfectly egalitarian. But the fact is that they were not all egalitarian. Consequently, the issue is better addressed by examining the social and institutional contexts in which monopolistic possession of knowledge, power or resources can be used for oppression or control in both traditional societies of Sub-Saharan Africa, and modern societies. In this respect, one might even argue that in modern society, even when control and oppression continue to exist, the possibilities of escape and choice are better compared to a peasant society, as demonstrated by anthropological research.[53] Weber would however caution against this line of reasoning as highlighted above about his prediction of the future of modern western society becoming an iron cage.

There are two other relevant implications of skeptical postmodernists with regard to their repudiation of modern science, reason, and rationality vis-à-vis the development of Sub-Saharan African countries or developing countries in general. Development economists have documented good reasons why developing countries need to engage in national development planning in order to mobilize resources to hasten the development process. The reason for this has to do with some of the peculiar conditions of developing countries. Of course this development planning is based on rational economic principles and modern science.[54] But by repudiating reason, rationality, and modern science, skeptical postmodernists are suggesting that Third World people should not engage in development planning at all.

To plan means to prioritize your goals or objectives, but in order to prioritize, one has to have values or criteria for making evaluation and postmodernists do not agree that there is anyway one can have such valid criteria. One can concede that modern rational planning which is based on reason and modern technology can do better by increasing the participation of local people with their local knowledge.[55]  There has been a lot of discussion on the participatory approach to rural development, but one cannot equate that with a total commitment to lack of planning and the irrationalism of skeptical postmodernists.  Anyone familiar with the situation of Sub-Saharan African rural areas will attest to the fact that even if rural people were to be granted full opportunity to design and implement development policies for themselves, many of them lack the necessary skills and experience to do this in the first place, and to learn these skills will still mean them receiving some training from someone that is more informed, unless if our vision for them is not to take advantage of the benefits of modern society at all, notwithstanding some of its drawbacks.

Finally, contrary to the position taken by skeptical postmodernists, a transformational leadership can reform public organizational institutions to become more efficient and increase productivity.[56]  But skeptical postmodernists are opposed to the idea of efficiency because it is based on rationality.  By opposing efficiency, skeptical postmodernists ignore historical facts that strongly suggest inefficiency in the management of public resources can cause great human suffering.  Without increased efficiency and productivity, many societies would find it difficult to meet the needs of their citizens.  Our attention should therefore be devoted to how we can increase efficiency and productivity in a humane and environmentally responsible manner, and distribute the benefits in a more egalitarian manner.  To suggest to people who are oppressed that they should care less about efficiency in managing resources and the need to increase productivity because these are goals derived from modern science and economic rationality is to cruelly mislead the people. In the next section, I examine the implications of postmodernism in general for the Christian faith in Africa and by implication theological education. It is difficult however to discuss postmodernism in Africa without discussing modernity because Africa cannot be said to have fully experienced modernity, let alone the key problems or issues associated with postmodernity. This is especially true as I have highlighted earlier that there are parts of Nigeria for instance where people’s way of thinking and living is still quasi-medieval.

Implications of Postmodernism for Christianity and Theological Education

The first lesson and implication of postmodernism for Christianity and theological education is that it highlights the danger of having knowledge without wisdom. Surely, postmodern scholars for any serious scholar have raised important questions that cannot just be ignored. But what got them into a dangerous situation is when they do their theoretical and conceptual analysis without applying wisdom. In the same way there are many Christians who think of their Christian beliefs and theological education in a provincial way. Indeed, the tone is very imperialistic and one of entitlement. It has a tendency like the postmodern scholars to assume that only Christians have the right to exists and if other people exist at all they are relevant as spiritual evangelical project of conversion, i.e., people that have to be fixed. In the 21st century, this will be difficult to sustain and there is need for some deeper reflection on this in our theological schools and the church.

Postmodern scholars are very lukewarm or irresponsible about development and the suffering that people find themselves in. Christians are not like that, but we also have a trend in Christian beliefs which infuses theological training that is just concerned about saving souls without being as much interested in the material conditions of people. Salvation is the only and key issue that is emphasized. But there is enough reason even in the Bible to make us believe that the extreme of poverty or wealth can corrupt a person’s faith. Moreover, Benjamin Friedman of Harvard University in his book titled “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth” argues that the reason why growth especially when it is fairly shared and inclusive is important is because among other things, when people feel economically secured in their lives they are more likely to be tolerant and caring of each other.[57] Where people feel insecure because of exclusive economic growth or unfairly distributed benefits of growth, there is a tendency for them to be mean to others because they perceive others as a threat owing to the zero-sum nature of the economic growth. What Friedman is saying is that a society can be more tolerating and caring even if less religious if most of the people in the society feel very secure. The issue is how can this be factored into theological education? The relevance of this issue also shows that postmodernist scholars are wrong in trying to discard modernity hook, line and sinker.

Returning to where this paper started, I will say that Dr. John Fulks was right in recognizing the role of globalization in our society and how it can affect theological education. But at a deeper level he fails to appreciate the devastating social, cultural and institutional consequences of neoliberal globalization, which is dominated by the ideology of money making and hedonistic culture. Let it be stated clearly that capitalism and globalization are as evangelical as evangelical Christianity. In Christianity it is believed that for the kingdom of God to reign, the word of God has to capture the mind, soul and body of the believer, so that his or her social imaginary will be dictated by biblical moorings. But so also, capitalism and globalization want to expand and bring many if not all areas of human life under the logic of market rationality all over the world. For them to thrive, they have to find a way to capture human consciousness, desires and aspirations. In effect, capitalism and globalization want to capture the mind, heart and soul of a human being. This is a precondition for the market to continue to succeed and thrive in this new era of globalization.

Indeed, when one looks at the world, it is not that globalization and capitalism are adapting to the religious sensibilities of people but it is religion that is adapting to the broad environment created or shaped by the market under the regime of neoliberal globalization. The typical kind of human that the market and globalization wants to create is “homo-economicus” and not the transformed, humble and committed believing Jesus follower.[58] Many Christian theological schools have however by and large tried to be agnostic about globalization and capitalism. They pretend as though that the ethics and morality of the market and capitalism can be squared with the ethics and morality of Jesus. There is a tension and serious tension indeed between globalization, consumerism and the market on the one hand and the vision of Jesus Christ for humanity on the other hand.

One argument that can be drawn from postmodernism that is consistent with a point made by Jurgen Habermas in his book “Knowledge and Human Interest” is that all forms of knowledge acquisition, whether religious or secular, are guided by human interests.[59] The factors and social processes that shape the emergence or construction of human interests are too numerous. It will be simplistic to assume that because people are Christians and they go to church, then their human interests are totally and completely shaped by the love of God. But even when it is shaped by the love of God, Froese and Bader’s work titled “America’s Four Gods” shows that there is more fighting between and among people who believe in God but have different interpretations of who He is, than there is conflict between atheists and theists.[60] Moreover, which conception of God one arrives at, and is predisposed to, is shaped more by his or her past life experiences and upbringing. What this means is that Christian teaching and theological education do not take place in social vacuum. The most dangerous thing is when Christians pursue their human interests that may have nothing to do with Christianity but then use Christian teaching to rationalize that. Certain teachings and ideas are emphasized more than others and we need to pay attention to why many church denominations and theological schools focus on certain areas of the Bible while ignoring others even though there are legitimate reasons why all parts of the Bible should be addressed. The main explanation for this selective emphasis in teaching and reading of the Bible is the elective affinity between the social and material interests of believers and the teachings. Often, however, even when there is teaching in the Bible, if it does not fit well with the social and material interests of believers, the ideas tend to be diminished or ignored. Thus we should evaluate the teaching of a church or theological instruction by not just what they teach but by  also examining  what they ought to teach but they refuse to teach and why?

Postmodern scholars raise an issue that is very critical for the question of how people read and interpret the Bible or any book of spiritual significance.  In my assessment, the easiest answer to this among especially evangelical Christians is to dismiss the issue by saying that Christians do not have only five senses but they are somewhat extra-human for having an additional sense, which is the Holy Spirit that guides them in their reading and interpretation of the Bible. Assuming this as simple as stated, then if we have solid evangelicals, whether they are in diverse places like Pakistan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, the United States or South Africa, when they read a verse in the Bible they will naturally read it the same way and interpret it the same way in spite of the differences in time, history, location and social class. If this was the case, there will not be many denominations. The fact is that often Christians, who fully satisfy the requirements of being a solid evangelical, read the same Bible translation and the same verse but come up with diametrically opposed interpretations.[61] Evangelical believers vote differently, they think about poverty differently and their attitude to racism and ethnic chauvinism are different. It is obvious that the Holy Spirit cannot inspire two evangelicals or Christians to have diametrically opposed interpretations that do not complement each other but are at loggerheads.

In contrast, for instance, when God inspired the apostle Peter to meet with Cornelius while Cornelius was still not a Christian, the two revelations complemented each other as when the two met, Peter was reprimanded for his racist arrogance as a Jew given how he initially perceived Cornelius as an inferior gentile. Both became transformed after the encounter.  But some of the encounter that today’s Christians have who all claimed inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not complementary in nature but subversive of each other.  In brief, we cannot ignore the need for a hermeneutic of suspicion when Christians rush to claim that when they interpret the scripture or any book of spiritual significance, they singularly approach the text based on the guidance of the Holy Spirit without some social, cultural or personal baggage influencing them as human beings. This analysis is not a denial of the role of Holy Spirit but an admission of how our fallibility as human beings complicates things. Postmodernists are by and large correct that readers while constrained in some way have so much latitude in how they listen and interpret a message. To avoid this problem, a first step is to read or interpret with humility, and make concession for one’s fallibility and limitations. Humans can try to get to the real essence of a message in the Bible but given the historical gap, some scholars argue that one can never capture that 100%.

In this respect, some scholars argue that there are two broad ways that people read or can read the Bible and interpret it. One can read the Bible either from the Center or from the Margins.[62] Reading from the center means reading it from the point of view of people or persons in positon of power and privilege. Generally, such readings are primarily concerned about maintaining the status quo or what some scholars call “bourgeois Christianity” because the interpreters and readers are very establishmentarian. On the other hand, reading and interpreting the Bible from the margins means reading it from the perspective or positions of persons who are socially marginalized, or the wretched of the earth i.e., those treated like a pair of sandals according prophet Amos.[63] For instance, a concubine in the Bible had her body cut into twelve pieces by her master, and we are not told the concubine’s full name, suggesting a state of marginality and nonentity.[64] Some people in the Bible suffered because they were not just the chosen people and they were at the wrong place and the wrong time, given that they were told to leave because the God of Israel did not like them or had no plan for them. He was not their God and even though He created all humans in His image, He later decided to abandon them or so it seems.[65]

Postmodernists will argue that these are terrible and difficult moral acts as some Enlightenment scholars would argue similarly, but mainstream Christianity can dismiss it because of its logocentrism i.e., in this case we judge every story based on our particular framework or metanarrative of understanding that we privileged or prioritized against all others and through which everything could be judged as flatly wrong or right, except what is consistent with the logocentric framework. The flipside of that is someone in another metanarrative tradition with a different logocentric framework that ignores the lives and history of all Christian believers can equally thingify humans, i.e, treat them as things. How does one judge this divide? Postmodernist will not deny that Christians will consider their framework right and superior but so will others consider their framework and tradition superior. How do they sort out their differences? Should they have dialogue or start killing each other. Our theological education institutes would need to wrestle with this kind of situation that is a conundrum and a quagmire. Indeed, this will entail the need to design and implement a serious and authentic inter-religious dialogue, difficult as it may sound.

Reading postmodernism also, it is oblivious to such scholars that human consciousness or even conscience is not neutral or innocuous. Human consciousness is encased in the human body, soul and mind. These in turn are rooted in a particular place, culture and history / time.  Thus, it is impossible for any human consciousness to claim it exists in vacuum or operates from outside social and cultural history. Humans operate in a concrete historical reality. They surely will have conscience but such a conscience will be developed within a certain concrete history and culture. Many Christians have been part and parcel of terrible human acts that today will be considered crime against humanity.[66] They have conscience but because their conscience operated in concrete historical contexts that were corrupt, many of such people could not transcend it. Examples of these are: the colonial domination and abuse of non-Western people, the role of some Christians in Nazi Germany’s holocaust against the Jews, the enslavement of Black people in the Americas, the ethnic killings in Africa such as was the case in the Rwandan genocide and in Kenya, the killings after the 2007 elections etc. A more recent example is how over 80% of White evangelicals in America voted for Donald Trump in spite of what has been revealed about him publicly. They defended him on grounds that he was not a Sunday school teacher.[67] The point here was not that his opponent is a perfect person, but how does Christian conscience justifies itself in such complex issues.

The issue here also brings to mind Robert Card’s concept of agentic shift, a situation where even when people have clear moral principles that they subscribe to, ultimately their behavior or choices are determined by the social context and situations they find themselves in.[68] This means that otherwise normal people can end up doing terrible things. Indeed, it is concern about this gap between personal morality and immoral society that led Reinhold Niebuhr to write an important theological reflection titled “Moral Man and Immoral Society.”[69] What prompted him to do that was that it may be sometimes easier to train a human being to elevate himself or herself to a higher level of morality and ethics, but when it comes to elevating groups and societies, it is difficult and so what ends up happening is we have people who can be personally moral, while because of the complexity of transforming groups and the rigidity of societal institutions, the people end up being immoral at the collective level.  Our theological education needs to wrestle with such difficult issues because we know that there are moral people who know the right thing to do but they end up doing nothing and societal immorality continues to thrive or flourish, i.e., quantitative church growth accompanied by moral decay and decline.

To conclude this section, one must note that H. Richard Niebuhr based on his book “Social Sources of Denominationalism”  is of the view that when one looks at the great divisions among Christians who all for instance call themselves evangelicals, one cannot account for the existence of such denominations in strict theological terms.[70] The reason for this is that theology itself is always a contextual issue in terms of time, culture and history. And so it is socially conditioned. To understand any theology one has to understand its social context broadly defined. It is the social issues or concerns that people have based on history, culture, power struggles etc. that lead to the creation of diverse denominations. The church then needs to engage in reflexivity in the sense that it has to have an anthropological and sociological understanding of itself and the manner of its operation because it is not just a spiritual organization; it is also a social and human organization subject to many problems that typical human / social organizations experience. This of course strongly leads me to suggest that there can be no good theological education that is not interdisciplinary in the 21st century.[71] No one single discipline, not just theology can get a thorough understanding of its subject matter without going beyond the discipline to get better and deeper insights that can shade light on what it is studying. We can concede the intertextuality of social reality without admitting the extreme positions of postmodernism about causality. One cannot understand the kind of Christianity and theology dominant in Christian churches without understanding the history of colonialism, the desire for human power and material accumulation among some Christian leaders and the division in the Nigerian society between the elites and the masses, among other things.

Indeed, some of the elites do not see anything wrong with such a wide gap between the elites and the masses in our society and churches because they feel entitled to their position.  They have lost the capacity to interrogate themselves and their social context as prophet Amos did at the sanctuary at Bethel where normal religious rituals were going on fine but Amos told people at the sanctuary that God was not impressed. Of course, Amaziah as the official priest responded by recommending that, Amos, the sycamore farmer and herdsman from Tekoa be banished because of his message that was presumably subversive. But subversive against who? His message was subversive because of his acerbic critique of the ruling elites who were among other things “buying the poor for cash, and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling chaff mixed in with the wheat” (Amos 8:6, International Standard Version).

 

Conclusion: The Gospel in the Era of Postmodernism:

I will like to conclude by drawing some lessons based on insights from late Stanley J. Grenz’s book titled “A Primer on Postmodernism” which was written for Christian audience especially in the evangelical tradition.[72]  While I may not agree with everything that Grenz said, I believe he is a very good example of an evangelical scholar who took postmodernity seriously for the sake of the gospel.

In the 20th century, many evangelicals have used the methods and strategies rooted in the Enlightenment tradition to make a case for the gospel in the form of apologetics and systematic theology, notwithstanding the limits of the modern tradition.  Indeed, systematic theology is an area of theological study that is rooted in the modern tradition but many modern arguments have brought out its limitations of relying on propositional truths into sharp focus. Here I want to conclude by providing some suggestions.

First, unlike the postmodernists, theological education and educators should never venture into making a thorough critique and condemnation of a society without working hard in advance to think of and put forward a constructive alternative plan or workable vision.  Theological education and the church cannot solve all societal problems but their education has to go beyond knowledge of the Bible by knowing what is going on in substantive areas, and offer what could be constructive and viable alternative based on Christian inspiration.  Doing so will give theologians and theological schools greater credibility in public parlance than a situation where they criticize but on close examination they are abysmally ignorant about the specifics of any substantive area of societal concern. Doing this will require a transformation in theological education and indeed require greater amount of resources, in addition to having extremely dedicated leaders.

Second, theological education must take Dr. John Fulks’ recommendation for the contextualization of theological education seriously. Paulo Freire argues along this line of reasoning in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.[73] Freire discusses cultural invasion as a critical component of the theory of anti-dialogical education. The aim of cultural invasion is conquest.  In Freire’s own words:

The invaders penetrate the cultural context of another group, in disrespect of the latter’s potentialities; they impose their own view of the world upon those they invade and inhibit the creativity of the invaded by curbing their expression.[74]

 

I am not however one of those who think that contextualization amounts to abandonment from learning other scholarly traditions such as those of the West, East, the United States and Latin America, etc. What I mean is a synthesis of the global and the local, which in the literature today is known as “glocalization” by combining the terms global and local.[75] It is hard to find any problem whether religious or societal that only Nigeria or Africa only faced in the world or in history. By learning the experiences of the struggles, success and failures of other traditions, we can learn lessons that we can adopt and adapt to our local conditions. Whether we like it or not, Africa is part of the modern world and she cannot isolate herself. Modernity also in spite of its inherent contradictions is irreversible, I am sorry to say. But to be able to do this requires serious scholarly training that will take long duration, mentoring and discipleship – an observation that John F. Fulks stressed. I am also convinced that there are people in the Western world who are committed to supporting a contextualization of theological education. Indeed, contextualization in higher education in general, knowing full well that saying this does not mean hostility, isolationism or provincialism in thinking.

Third, Stanley Grenz made this important observation:

More radical than the rejection of the … theory of truth is the postmodern despair concerning the quest to discover all-encompassing truth. In fact, the postmodern ethos arises from the assumption that there is no unified whole that we can call “reality.” Postmodern thinkers have given up the search for universal, ultimate truth because they are convinced that there is nothing more to find than a host of conflicting interpretations or an infinity of linguistically created worlds.[76] (p.163).

 

I do not suggest by any means that Christians or theological educators should abandon the search for universal and ultimate truth. But there are certain difficult truths we have to acknowledge. One of these is that even when Christians believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, they still have to interpret it and after that they have to ask themselves what does it mean i.e., the problem of meaning which is a huge one. Even when people agree on the interpretation of scripctures, they may not agree on the question of meaning, let alone appropriate social action. The fact is that we have to admit that in the real world we are living in today, while it may not be nice to say, but the observable reality is that Christians will never all reach the same conclusion for too many reasons that have been addressed e.g., the social sources of denominationalism. People may believe in the triune God and the inerrancy of Scripture but still disagree on what is the best way to worship the God, as Thomas Hobbes said long ago in the Leviathan.[77] Ultimately, no one single denomination can claim to have truth with capital T. But more importantly, even when one has truth with capital T presumably, in a liberal democratic society, where there is freedom of expression, choice and beliefs, one cannot impose it on everyone as that would become a dictatorship. In such circumstances the best way of making a case for the ultimate truth in my assessment given the constraints of liberal democracy is for our lives to incarnate our faith, which can be costly and very sacrificial to do. We should be reminded however that the pietist tradition, for instance, argues that if people can live out their faith and incarnate it, their lives alone will be a testimony, a sermon and reprimand to others.[78] We cannot abandon our metanarrative as Christians but in a postmodern world, there would be other competing metanarratives, and ultimately, we cannot wish other metanarratives away beyond making our case. If we simply call others, the lost and unbelievers based on our metanarratives, they too can call us infidels or gentiles based on their own metanarratives and there is little we can do about that in a liberal democracy. So where do we go with all these and from here, especially given the strong assertion Grenz made as follows which I quote with great caution and concern:

In short, we simply cannot allow Christianity to be relegated to the status of one more faith among others. The gospel is inherently an expansive missionary message. We believe not only that the biblical narrative makes sense for us but is also good news for all. It provides the fulfillment of the longings and aspirations of all peoples. It embodies the truth – the truth of and for all humankind.[79]

 

The key issue for me is to incarnate our faith so that like a magnate, the beauty and efficacy of the Christian character can draw people to us. This is a huge issue and area that needs to be addressed more closely in theological education in the postmodern period. Stanley Grenz based on what I cited above would disagree with my position here, as others here may, but we need to be careful because with the power that some Christian nations have and with what Grenz says above, it is just a short distance to Christian cultural imperialism even if for good reasons. I will counsel against that.

Grenz in my assessment fails to recognize as I highlighted earlier in response to Dr. John Fulks that just as the gospel is inherently expansionary, so also are capitalism and globalization. Both of them are competing for a stake in the body, soul, heart and mind of human beings. Unfortunately, the true gospel requires paying a price, sacrifice and carrying one’s cross while neoliberal globalization appeals to human desires and hedonism. The evidence so far suggests that neoliberal globalization is making inroads in the heart, mind, soul and bodies of Christians even in the church.[80] This is regrettable but more importantly, we believe in the universality of the message of the gospel to all, just as some other traditions believe in the universality of their message. And all religious traditions use criteria within their beloved tradition to prove the inherent superiority of their case or faith. We should avoid creating an atmosphere of irreconcilable differences that can lead to violent conflict. If we are willing to pay the price, cost, and sacrifice for living out the truth of the faith, our lives will be the testimony and make a strong compelling case in an otherwise very difficult environment.

Fourth, theological education must create room for articulating the voices of socially marginalized people. At the global level there is a complaint about the need to decolonize theology.[81] Many Africans have no clue as to what this is all about because they never studied the history of western civilization closely to know the context that shaped the evolution of Christian theology, which was later brought to Africa. For instance, there are five different theories of atonement and none could be understood well without understanding European history and culture and how it shaped the thinking of Western theologians.[82] Many African denominations are used as raw materials for data for western theologizing while Africans are expected to consume the finished theological product of such processed raw material. There was a kind of economic international division of labor in the past where Africa produced raw materials and Europe or the West in general, processed and manufactured the raw materials and send the manufactured products back to African markets for purchase and consumption. Similarly, there is what looks like an international theological division of labor or at least something like that. In this case the lives of Africans are raw materials for western theology. Westerners can theologize on the lives and struggles of not just Africans but all hitherto colonized people and then export it to the Global South for consumption. On rare occasions, African theologians can be permitted to theologize on grounds that they get “license” to produce, i.e., western centers of theology who see themselves as operating at the transcendental level have to grant approval for the legitimacy of what the African theologize, based on western standards and expectations. It is in this respect that the liberation theology movement in Latin America became an excellent example of subaltern voice in Christian theological thinking.[83]  And many African theological schools have accepted this bargain because they lack resources and courage.

On a critical note, this is not a problem of Westerners vs. Africans or simply hitherto colonized people per se. It is not simply a racial issue as such. It is rather a problem of power and privilege. Thus within Africa, some people, some men, have arrogated to themselves the status of licensing theological ideas while denying subaltern others the ability to articulate their voices. Consequently, the voices of women and other socially marginalized social groups are excluded. The average man assumes that his patriarchal upbringing in a continent like Africa never affects his reading of Scripture because the Holy Spirit is guiding him. Indeed, his masculinity is a special advantage. We need humility to concede our fallibility even in Africa. According to the orthodox teaching of Christianity, what matters in terms of living a genuine Christian life is not your masculinity or gender, education or wealth. It is submission of life to Christ Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in Scripture or Christian tradition that says that when Jesus ascended to heaven He promised a maximum of 50% guidance of the Holy Spirit to or faith to women but 200% to men. It is not fair to deny women the opportunity to develop their potentials and use their gifts appropriately because of cultural reasons or traditions while using the Bible to justify it.[84]

Related to this, few theological institutions in Africa take the biblical teaching on social justice seriously.[85] They are often satisfied to preach about prosperity and miracles.  The prophetic message in the Bible related to social justice is diminished and is increasingly becoming a distant echo. It is trivialized as social gospel. Social justice however is a biblical issue of concern.[86] There is more discussion on social justice in the Bible than on homosexuality. But the reason why in Africa people are more likely to articulate the positon of the Bible on homosexuality while keeping relatively quiet on issues such as poverty, widening inequality and corruption is simply because a serious jeremiad on poverty, inequality and social justice will not fit well with the social and material  interest of many church leaders. The church has become agnostic about some of the moral and ethical problems of capitalism that cannot be squared with the mission of Christ. Indeed, if the Christian message and mission is the functional equivalent of a drug, and social oppression, widening inequality and greed are the diseases to be cured by it, then in many cases, in the decades since African countries became independent, in many respects the diseases seem to have developed some kind of immunity as Christianity is flourishing but yet with little impact on such social problems.[87] These challenges and the problem of increased quantitative growth while there is declining qualitative growth have to be at the center of theological education and reflection.

Fifth, I also want to suggest that the future of theological education must be more aggressively interdisciplinary. I have already made reference to this.[88] But I want to further elaborate. In the 21st century, any minister that can only talk about the Bible will probably come across as provincial in his or her thinking before a congregation of highly informed people. Theological education needs to provide adequate preparation in various disciplines and globalization because of the impact of these on people’s lives daily. Pastors should be concerned holistically about the lives of people in their society. Theological students will need training in collecting data, analyzing it and drawing conclusions about it because they cannot just afford to be armchair teachers, theologians or pastors. They need to find a way to make connection between the macro and micro social processes in society and use that to inform their teaching. It is not satisfactory to just dismiss and close the discussion on social issues and problems by projecting everything to the devil or Satan. That would amount in the strict sense to intellectual laziness. Even when the devil is responsible, we need to know the process and mechanism through, which he or she intervenes. Why is it that there are majority unbelievers in China and Nordic countries but they do not have some of the social problems that we have in Africa, or at least the same magnitude. Why is it that the devil or Satan does not operate there as much as in Africa? Is it because the devil prefers tropical climate, instead of temperate? These questions suggest these kinds of issues cannot be easily settled by blaming the devil or predestination. We need to examine how societies design their institutions and how such institutions incentivize good or bad behavior.

Sixth, based on insights from postmodern social analysis, the gospel in this postmodern era must decenter the individual.  The gospel has to be more communitarian than individualistic. Modern theology is built so much around the assumption of the autonomous individual. But insights from postmodern analysis show that the individual is socially constructed. He or she can out of ignorance claim independence, but even the parameters of his or her private thoughts are shaped and constrained by his or her country. Individualism in the tradition of modernity literally privatized faith. Yet, the main concern of Apostle Paul’s letters was geared towards the integrity of Christian communities even if the epistle was written to an individual. The idea of an authentic faith that is solitary and not communal is problematic. Thus in this case, Christians can learn from the postmodern critique of individualistic epistemology as have many communitarians of the Left and Right. Grenz makes a case along this line:

In the postmodern world, we can no longer follow the lead of modernity and position the individual at the center stage. Instead, we must remind ourselves that our faith is highly social. The fact that God is the social Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit — gives us some indication that the divine purpose for creation is directed towards the individual-in-relationship. Our gospel must address the human person within the context of the communities in which people are embedded.[89]

 

Theological education should shift away from simplistic individualistic epistemology to building communities of supportive believers where faith is nurtured and it flourishes as part of a community.

Seventh, the Enlightenment and modernity were built on the use of reason and rationality.  Postmodernist analyses have not only problematized reason and rationality, but they have also raised fundamental questions on building knowledge just on that foundation. Christians in the postmodern age can gain insights from the postmodern critique of reason and rationality. We cannot totally abandon reason and rationality as the postmodernist want us to because we have to acknowledge that as part of the Enlightenment contribution to human evolution. Yet there are things in faith that reason and rationality cannot account for. Reason and rationality is only a prat of the makeup of the individual. In this respect, Stanley Grenz again counsels us as follows:

…. .We cannot simply collapse truth into the categories of rational certainty that typify modernity. Rather, in understanding and articulating the Christian faith, we must make room for the concept of “mystery” — not as an irrational complement to the rational but as a reminder that the fundamental reality of God transcends human rationality. While remaining reasonable, therefore, the appeal of our gospel must not be limited to the intellectual aspect of the human person. It must encompass other dimensions of our being as well.[90]

 

Whether it is theological education or the church, Christians should avoid the temptation of talking as if they have downloaded the mindset of God on their flash drive and they can check whatever God is thinking by putting their flash drive on their computers. Often some Christians feel tempted to do this out of the desire to demonstrate that they are very committed and serious Christians but in the process they tend to elevate themselves to the status of God, to the extent that there is nothing mysterious about Him that they cannot account for or explain.

Eighth and my penultimate suggestion is that the gospel in the postmodern age must move beyond the modern binary conception of the individual that sees humans as divided into mind and matter. Matter is devalued and the mind or soul is elevated. One major implication of this is that in many cases Christian missionaries and church planters have emphasized saving the soul, while ignoring the body or matter because it is assumed that what is of preeminent concern is a person’s salvation. Postmodern scholars show clearly that the human has to be understood as part of a social environment, social structure and cultural context. We must see the human person in a unified, holistic sense, — an issue that the Enlightenment ignored by focusing on the dualism of mind and matter. Grenz again provides an excellent counsel on this issue as well that is worth quoting and reflecting on:

But postmodern Christian holism must go beyond reuniting the soul and body torn asunder in the Enlightenment.  As we noted earlier, our gospel must also put the human person back onto the social and environmental context that forms and nourishes us. We must not dwell merely on the individual in isolation but also on the person – in – relationships.[91]

 

Finally, I strongly suggest that based on the examination of postmodern thought, we should avoid acquiring knowledge that is not accompanied by wisdom or knowledge that is not nurtured or rooted in Christian moral and ethical compass. Knowledge alone without wisdom and moral and ethical commitment is the functional equivalent of equipping someone who is good in shooting with AK47 but without some deep moral and ethical guidance on what, where, and when to shoot. Theological knowledge, no matter what it is, that is not founded on Christian moral and ethical mooring can be terribly dangerous for society and humanity. Today, many Christian leaders use teaching from the Bible to dupe millions. Grenz had this to say about the need to go beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge without paying attention to the supposed moral, ethical, cultural and institutional consequences of the knowledge acquired:

…….. We must not restrict our goal to the amassing of a wealth of knowledge for its own sake. Nor should we be under any illusion that the possession of knowledge – even biblical knowledge or correct doctrine — is inherently good. Paul adamantly rejects such beliefs among the Corinthians (1Cor. 8:1). Knowledge is good only when it facilitates a good result — specifically, when it fosters wisdom (or spirituality) in the knower.[92]

 

This is a good place to end. I hope my presentation provokes and stimulates your thinking and reflection about these issues. Education and indeed all forms of serious education come through dialogue and intellectual curiosity and provocation. It is my desire that this presentation plays some role in this direction. Thank you very much for listening.

 

Prof. Andrew Haruna                                            Gindiri, 10th February 2017

 

 

 

 

[1] Aristotle., and W. D. Ross. 1959. The Nichomachean Ethics. The world’s classics, 546; World’s classics, 546. London: Oxford University Press; Plato, G. R. F. Ferrari, and Tom Griffith. The Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

[2] Stiglitz, Joseph E. Globalization and Its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002; Stiglitz, Joseph E. Making Globalization Work. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2006.

[3] Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 100

[4] Jordan, Stuart D. The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012.

[5] Kagan, Donald., Steven E. Ozment, Frank M. Turner, and A. Daniel. Frankforter. 1980. The Western Heritage. Volume Two; Since 1648. New  York.: Macmillan Publishing Company

 

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Jordan, Stuart D. The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012.

 

[9] Jordan, Stuart D. The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012; Kagan, Donald., Steven E. Ozment, Frank M. Turner, and A. Daniel. Frankforter. 1980. The Western Heritage. Volume Two; Since 1648. New  York.: Macmillan Publishing Company

 

[10] Jordan, Stuart D. The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2012

[11] Lyon, David. Postmodernity. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 9.

[12] Lyon, David. Postmodernity. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

[13] Lyon, David. Postmodernity. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 20.

[14] Inkeles, Alex, and David Horton Smith. Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

[15] Wirth, Louis. “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” American Journal of Sociology 44, no. 1 (1938): 1-24.

[16] Simmel, Georg. “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” Metropolis, 1995, 30-45.

[17] Braham, Peter. Key Concepts in Sociology. London: SAGE, 2013.

[18] Ibid

[19] Coser, Lewis A. Masters of Sociological Thought; Ideas in Historical and Social Context. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), 231.

[20]Hamilton, Peter. Max Weber: Critical Assessment 2.9 London: Routledge, 1993), 309.

[21] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/03/robots-are-hurting-middle-class-workers-and-education-wont-solve-the-problem-larry-summers-says/

[22] Coser, Lewis A. Masters of Sociological Thought; Ideas in Historical and Social Context. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), 231-232.

[23] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994.

[24] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994:3.

[25] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994:4.

[26] Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? London: SPCK, 1963: 4, 7.

[27] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994:7.

 

[28] Robert Wuthnow, “The Cot of Marginality,” in The Struggle for America’s Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals and Secularism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1989.

[29] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994:17-18.

[30] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994:14.

 

[31] Mark A. Noll. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William b. Eerdmans, 1994:16-17.

[32] Richard Hofstader, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. New York: Vintage, 1962: 48-49.

[33] Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi. Race and Enlightenment: a reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998.

[34] Fanon, Frantz, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Constance Farrington. The wretched of the earth. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965.

 

[35] Kivisto, Peter. Key Ideas in Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1998.

[36] Rosenau, Pauline Marie. Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 25-91.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy. (London: New Left Books, 1971), 160.

[39] Levi Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind.  (London: Weidenfeld, 1966), 247-255.

[40] Ball, Terence. Idioms of Inquiry: Critique and Renewal in Political Science. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987), 7.

[41] Rosenau, Pauline Marie. Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 25-91.

[42] Edelman, Murray J. 1988. Constructing the Political Spectacle. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

[43] Root, Michael. 1993. Philosophy of Social Science : The Methods, Ideals, and Politics of Social Inquiry.Oxford, England: Blackwell

[44] Harding, Sandra G. Feminism and Methodology: Social Science Issues. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987; Shiva, Vandana. Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. London: Zed Books, 1988.

[45] Fokkema, Douwe Wessel. Literary History, Modernism, and Postmodernism. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub., 1984.

[46] Rosenau, Pauline Marie. Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 25-91.

[47] Horkheimer, Max. Eclipse of reason. New York: Seabury Press, 1974

[48] Habermas, Jürgen, and Jeremy J. Shapiro. Knowledge and human interests. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.

[49] Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

[50] Scott, James C. Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998; Alway, Joan. Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Conceptions of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

[51] Dobson, Mary. Disease: The extraordinary stories behind history’s deadliest killers. London, United Kingdom: Quercus, 2007.

 

[52] Rosenau, Pauline Marie. Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 25-91.

 

[53] Long, Norman. An introduction to the sociology of rural development. London: Tavistock, 1977.

[54] Todaro, Michael P., and Stephen C. Smith. Economic Development – 11th Edition. Boston: Pearson Addison Wesley, 2012.

[55]Scott, James C. Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998

[56] Chemers, Martin M., and Roya Ayman. Leadership Theory and Research: Perspectives and Directions. San Diego: Academic Press, 1993.

[57]Friedman, Benjamin M. The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. New York: Knopf, 2005.

[58] Ferber, Marianne A., and Julie A. Nelson. Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

[59] Habermas, Jürgen., and Jeremy J. Shapiro. 1971. Knowledge and Human Interests. Boston: Beacon.

[60] Froese, Paul, and Christopher Bader. America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God– & What That Says about Us. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

[61] Gay, Craig M. With Liberty and Justice for Whom?: The Recent Evangelical Debate over Capitalism. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1991.

[62] A., De La Torre Miguel. Reading the Bible from the Margins. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002.

[63]Kelley, Page H. Amos, prophet of social justice. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972.

 

[64] Judges 19:28-30

[65] Jenkins, Philip. “Dark Passages: Does the harsh language in the Koran explain Islamic violence? Don’t answer till you’ve taken a look inside the Bible.” Boston Globe, March 8, 2009. < http://archive.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/03/08/dark_passages/>. Accessed, February 6th, 2017.

 

[66] Finkelman, Paul. Defending slavery: proslavery thought in the Old South: a brief history with documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.

[67] Sarah Pulliam Bailey. “White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, exit polls show.” The Washington Post, November 9, 2016. < https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/exit-polls-show-white-evangelicals-voted-overwhelmingly-for-donald-trump/?utm_term=.47201b0af764>. Accessed February 6, 2017.

[68] Card, Robert F. “Individual Responsibility within Organizational Contexts.” Journal of Business Ethics 62, no. 4 (2005): 397-405.

[69] Niebuhr, Reinhold. Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics. New York: Scribner, 1960.

[70] Niebuhr, H. Richard. The Social Sources of Denominationalism. New York: Meridian Books, 1957.

[71] Repko, Allen F., Rick Szostak, and Michelle Phillips Buchberger. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2014.

[72] Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996.

[73] Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1997.

[74] Ibid, p.133

[75] Gopalakrishnan, P. S. Glocalization: thinking global, acting local. Hyderabad, India: Icfai University Press, 2008.

[76]Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 163.

[77] Hobbes, Thomas, and A. D. Lindsay. Leviathan. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1914.

[78] Vision Video. “Count Zinzendorf: A film detailing in four programs the life and ministry of Count Zinzendorf who set aside a life of wealth, politics and privilege to follow God’s call.” < https://www.visionvideo.com/dvd/500851D/count-zinzendorf>. Accessed, February 6, 2017.

[79] Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 165.

[80] Shelley, Bruce L., and Marshall Shelley. The consumer church: can evangelicals win the world without losing their souls? Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

 

[81] Sugirtharajah, R. S. The Bible and the Third World: Precolonial, Colonial, and Postcolonial Encounters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[82] Olson, Roger E. The mosaic of Christian belief: twenty centuries of unity and diversity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002

[83] Gutiérrez, Gustavo. A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1973; Boff, Leonardo, and Clodovis Boff. Introducing Liberation Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987.

[84] Daniels, Debra Bendel. Evangelical feminism: the egalitarian-complementarian debate. 2003

[85] Gifford, Paul. African Christianity: Its Public Role. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

[86] Calvez, Jean-Yves. Faith and Justice: The Social Dimension of Evangelization. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1991; Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Journey toward Justice: Personal Encounters in the Global South. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013; Kelley, Page H. Amos: Prophet of Social Justice. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972.

[87] Smith, Daniel Jordan. A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

[88] Repko, Allen F., Rick Szostak, and Michelle Phillips Buchberger. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2014.

 

[89] Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 168-169.

[90] Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 170.

[91]Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 172.

[92] Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 173.

 

 

 

THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION AND THE CHALLENGES OF POSTMODERNISM: IMPLICATIONS FOR CHRISTIANITY IN NIGERIA TODAY

 BY  PROF. ANDREW HARUNA

VICE CHANCELLOR, FEDERAL UNIVERSITY GASHUA, YOBE STATE

  

 31ST CONVOCATION LECTURE, GINDIRI THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

GINDIRI, PLATEAU STATE,10TH FEBRUARY, 2017

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here