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Amaharo and abiblical

I’ve started (at last) listening to the audio of the Amaharo conference, which was held in June in South Africa.

Roger Saner has very kindly put up the recordings of the event here

The talks I’ve listened to so far are:

Edward Simiyu – The ministry of presence
Kelly Nikondeha – The Amahoro story
Postcolonialism and why it mattersDr Kenzo Mabiala
The African ReformationBrian McLaren

Once I get some more bandwidth I’ll download and listen to some more.

Alright, now what did I think? Feel? Both?

Actually, both are a good way to explain what the talks have so far meant to me.

Mabiala’s talk about postcolonialism was quite fascinating. This is because it began to unravel and reveal the colonial thinking in my own head, particularly in areas of which types of thinking are ‘biblical’ and which are not.

Example? Well, Mabiala made some references to TIME. For the African, the watch is not something that comes from their culture. The African gets up when he gets up, goes to work when he goes to work, etc.

Now I’ve begun to realise how my own colonial mindset sits in judgement over this thinking. A concept of time such as this is far less ‘efficient’ than the Western concept of time, in my thinking.

From a background perspective, I know that Africans tend to view time in the form of “now – backwards” whereas Westerns view time more of “now – forwards”. This has led to Westerners being more interested in progress, while Africans more interested in the past (ancestors, etc.).

Ancestral worship aside, the very concept of time from the African was not only viewed as ‘inefficient’ for me (and one could discuss what ‘efficiency’ really means anyway, which I’ll probably reserve for a future post) but also as ‘unbiblical’.

But is it unbiblical or just… different? Or, is it not that bringing in both concepts of time, forming something together will show us something truly biblical? Is that the answer? A form of pluralism?

Or, even more so, perhaps the concept of time has nothing to do with the Bible whatsoever? In other words, it’s ABIBLICAL.

What does the Bible say about progress and efficiency? The BIBLE, not my own protestant work ethic or Western tradition?

Seems to me the Bible has a few things to say about work. It implores us not to be lazy, to work with our hands, to be diligent in our work and to watch our herds carefully. It also reminds us that wealth is seasonal, or that we should work with seasons in mind. But it doesn’t say anything about what the RIGHT philosophy of time is, it simply says that as long as we stick to these basic guidelines we’re ok.

What’s my point? My point is that rather than putting everything into a category of “biblical” or “unbiblical”, which is how I’ve always measured things (or thought I was), there is now a third category opening up to me – “ABiblical”. Something that is neither WRONG or RIGHT, but simply dependant on either my taste or what is necessary for the culture I find myself in.

For instance, when I am in Africa I must do as the Africans do. If I throw my watch away and live as the Africans do am I doing something wrong? Unbiblical? Or am I just taking on another culture, or parts of another worldview, for a time so that I may reach those in this culture and worldview with the Gospel?

See, there are certain things I may feel I must ‘teach’ Africa as an educated person, and that these are ‘biblical’ concepts. Some examples are: We must be on time, we must work from 8 to 5, we must wear respectable clothing, we must do this and that. And so Africa seems like this huge challenge because ‘basic things’ of ‘life’ and the ‘gospel’ need to be taught.

But are these not rather ABiblical things that, even myself, who is not racist and loves cultures, somehow at the back of his mind still judges his ‘culture’ as ‘more right’ than another? Is it about one culture being better than another, or is it about forming a colourful culture together, with one Head and King, Jesus?

For one, as a white guy, the talks so far have made me understand the African better and also see my own ignorant colonial thinking.

Last night my wife and I watched a bit of Sting’s “All This Time” DVD. I’ve always loved world music, and I felt God really speak to me last night, while enjoying this spectrum of music and musicians from all parts of the world. It’s time to break loose of the pressures of my own culture and greco-roman, even stoic thinking, that has for too long disguised itself as ‘biblical’ when it is nothing of the sort (or, rather, some of it is just abiblical) and be free from concepts such as what ‘success’ really is, what ‘efficiency’ really is, and what Biblical really is, what Kingdom really is, amongst others.

This frees one up to preach the GOSPEL, not their own culture’s view of the gospel, or their own culture as the Gospel. While I never for once thought I was doing that, it seems that I have been doing that without even realising it. After all, Paul in the Scriptures said “I have become all things to all men so that I might save some.”

About Ryan Peter


Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.

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