Primitive Imagination and Early Christianity

African theologian Kwome Bediako makes the claim that African religious DNA more closely matches the worldview of the Early Christians.  I am attempting to weigh his six-fold claim.  Here I will deal with the first two: 1. kinship with nature, 2. a deep sense of humanity’s finitude.

Kinship with Nature: St. Francis writes about his brother sun and sister moon, but that is in the early 13th century.  We are exploring the Christianity of 11 hundred hears prior.  Parables with sparrows, a star to guide the magi, speaking donkeys, a Holy Spirit showing up as dove, the list could go on. But one passage sticks out among the rest (Romans 8): “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected in, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Paul seems to think here that we exist with the whole of the cosmos in an interrelated kinship relationship.  When we are redeemed so will the creation.  Our destinies now and in the future are interdependent.

A Deep Sense of Humanity’s Finitude. Of course, we can look to the stories like the Rich man an Lazarus and know that the early Christians experienced vividly their mortality.  But one verse stands out among the rest (I Corinthians 15), “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?… If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” Now, the point is this: the Early Christians lived in a culture where some if not many knew well their fate.  Take note of the quote Paul uses.  They realized that the were not infinite in time or space.  Theirs was a posture of dependency, espeically on Christ’s resurrection.