Volume 21, 2001
R. Neville Richardson
On Keeping Theological Ethics Theological in Africa
The Quest for a (Southern) African Theological Ethics
What is the direction of South African theological ethics as that country moves out of the apartheid era into a new democratic future? Following its struggle against apartheid, how will theology respond to the new challenge of making clear its distinctive stance in a democratic, multi-faith society with a secular constitution? A danger, similar to that previously discussed in the United States, exists in South Africa as theology evolves from a mode of resistance to that of compliance and accommodation, especially under the guise of "nation-building." The essay plots a trajectory by means of a consideration of four works representing nonracial liberationist theology which emerged at key points in the past fifteen years—the Kairos Document (1985), and works by Albert Nolan (1988), Charles Villla-Vicencio (1992), and James Cochrane (1999). For all their contextual sensitivity and strength, these works appear to offer little of a distinctively theological nature, and little of Christian substance to church and society. The way lies open for the development of an African Christian ethics.