Primal Religions as the Substructure of Christianity
During all periods of Christian history, argues Andrew Walls, the majority of those who have embraced the Christian faith were previously adherents of religious traditions that would be designated as ‘primal’ religions. Around the world in modern times as well, whether in the Philippines, Korea, Burma, India, the islands of the Pacific or across the Americas, the Christian message has made its way into similar societies and found a home by interacting with primal world-views.
Modern Christian theology, however, takes little account of primal world-views, and like more secular intellectuals, theologians have dismissed primal faiths as primitive or as mere superstition. Yet the primal world-view has deep affinity with the biblical world-view and this is probably a major reason for the massive accession to Christian faith among peoples of a primal world-view. Primal religions provide spiritual substructure for the beliefs and practices of the majority of the world’s Christians, and may well under gird Western Christianity in ways no longer understood. The issues arising from the relationship of Christianity and primal faiths are thus no longer local, or regional, or even continental, but are worldwide.
This project addresses the scholarly and practical neglect of these issues by convening interested scholars from different parts of the world who have been working —as theologians, historians of religion, or pastoral thinkers —with the issues that arise from the interaction of Christian faith with cultures shaped by primal religions. The Nagel Institute, in partnership with the Akrofi-Christaller Institute for Theology, Mission and Culture, in Akropong, Ghana, will host a seminar of 15 scholars from various study centers and programs worldwide in July of 2007 to address the issues that arise from the interaction of the Christian faith with cultures shaped by ‘primal,’ also commonly called ‘traditional,’ religions. This project would promote reflection on how primal worldviews interact with and even shape the Christian faith, and how such reflections help illuminate the theological, pastoral and broader culture-engaging thought and practice in today’s churches.
Project leaders include Andrew Walls of Edinburgh University, Gillian Bediako and Ben Quarshie of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute, and Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu of Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana. Other participants will include scholars from South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Peru, South Korea, India, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and Taiwan.
- Share ideas and perspectives in order to develop topical chapters for a book of essays;
- Assess the potential for launching a larger project on this topic; and if the outlook is favorable;
- Lay plans for the organization and funding of a larger project that would:
- Engage a number of institutes and study centers worldwide
- Advance theological reflection and pastoral wisdom in various settings regarding the interaction of the gospel and culture
- Publish and otherwise propagate the studies’ findings and reflections on several continents.