Primitive Imagination and Early Christianity

I heard a concern voiced recently about the danger of African pagan influence on African Christianity.  I was happy to let the concerned soul know about the influence that European paganism has on American Christian theology today. We all must allow our readings of scripture interweave with our culture and its religious roots.  What I am exploring this week is the claim that the primitive imagination is a more advantageous place to begin if we want to understand the early Christians.

Point six of the indigenous worldview includes: a mental structuring of a sacramental universe with no sharp dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual.

Take for example Athanasius’ definition of the “whole universe”:  a great body (41).  This great body, for Athanasius, was a dynamic force ordered and imagined quite specifically.  He offers a taxonomy and sorts this great body in “all dimensions”: above (in creation); below (in incarnation;) deep (Hades); and wide- (throughout the world) -15

In the end, my estimation is that indigenous religions indeed come closer than a Western enlightenment worldview when trying to understand the early Christians.  There are of course, divergences, and it would be put better to claim that the early Christians were offering an indigenous alternative to a culture, which embodied the primitive imagination likened to contemporary African, SE Asian, and other indigenous groups. Well, either way in the coming years, it seems, we would benefit greatly from a careful listening to African theology and the African theologian.

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