The term Black theology is a product of North American black Christianity. Its origins lie in the response of Black Church leaders to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and especially black power.
Christology in black Theology
The main object of this theology is developing theology within the black experience rather than duplicating the theology of Europe or White North America. It represented the theological reflections of a radical black clergy seeking to interpret the meaning of God’s liberating presence in society where blacks were being economically exploited and politically marginalized because of their skin colour.
Black theology is a form of liberation theology and a protest theology. It emerged out of the experience and pains of oppression of the blacks for the liberation. It refers to a variety of black theologies which has as its base on Justice and equality of black people among the white people. Black theology has its center in the theme of oppression of black people by white people.
Major Themes of Black Theology:
- Black theology emphasizes the blackness of God. How do we speak of God in a suffering world, a world in which the blacks are humiliated just because they are black? God is a God of oppressed and revolution and who participate in the liberation of the black.” The white God is an idol…and we blacks must perform the iconoclastic task of smashing the false image. (Cone)
- The definition of Jesus as black is crucial. The historical Jesus who identified with the oppressed must be black if he continues to be present among the black. Jesus is black not in a facile racial sense, but theologically, in a situation where the colour of a person’s skin determines his/her opportunities in life; the gospel is not color blind.
- Eschatology is interpreted in existential terms. “Hell-future makes little impression on blacks living in a hell-present” (Cone)
- Sin is structural and relational.
Methodology of the Black theology
a) The Concept of God and Jesus Christ:
James Cone, compared black people’s struggle with Israel’s bondage in Egypt, by saying the United States to Egypt, and he predicted that oppressed people will soon be led to a promised land. Also, Jesus’ work is considered as liberation for poor people. Becoming a slave himself, He opens realities of human existence formerly closed to human.
Their suffering becomes his suffering. So that only he died on the cross and resurrected and living in this world and delivering people from their bondage. Jesus was considered black by the black people. This brings simply the sense of freedom of black people who find in the Jesus of the black gospel liberation which was denied them by white Christianity.
b) Black Power:
It has been argued that it is the spirit of Christ himself in the black-white dialogue which makes possible the emancipation of blacks from self-hatred and frees whites from their racism.
Through black power, blacks are becoming worthy humans, and whites are forced to confront them as human powers. Black power in politics means blacks controlling their political destiny by voting for black people and perhaps eventually forming a coalition with poor whites against middle-class whites.
Economically it may mean building stores for black people. Religiously it means an inner sense of freedom from the structures of white society which builds its economy on the labour of poor black and white.
c) The Use of the Bible:
The Bible is the witness to God’s self-disclosure in Jesus Christ. Thus the black experience requires that Scripture be a source of Black Theology.
Scripture enabled slaves to affirm a view of God that differed radically from that of the slave masters. Black theology’s notion of the Bible as the word of God carries the implication that there is such a thing as a non-ideological appropriation of scripture.
Black theologians have told about the scripture as the absolute non-ideological word of God that can make ideological only by applied to the situation of oppression.
e) The Concept of Church:
The church is the focus of social expression in the black community where the blacks can express freedom and equality.
It is a unity in total commitment to each other in a corporate life in Christ, a life of action which has liberation as its goal.
Proponents of black theology are concerned mainly with the political and theological components of salvation greater than the religious.
In other phrases, salvation is physical liberation from white oppression, or “the white enemy” in preference to freedom from the sinful nature and acts of every person man or woman.
Providing heaven as a reward for following Christ is visible as a try to dissuade blacks from the aim of Real liberation in their complete men and women.
James Cone was an American black theologian, born in 1938. He studied at Garrett Theological Seminary and North Western University, Evanston. Like most College and Seminaries students of his generation. He studied Philosophy and Theology from the pre-Socrates to modern existentialism; and linguistic analysis from Martin martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Karl Barth, Bultman, and Tillich.
He was expert on Karl Barth and knew well the theological issues that shape his theology. Cone later becomes a Professor at Union Theological Seminary, New York, and a pioneer in Black theology. He is the author of numerous articles and books regarding Black theology. Cone concluded his formal education with a Ph. D dissertation on Barth’s anthropology.
Black theology is an attempt to deliver and regain equal respect to the black people; from their bondage and suffering of the life which make by white people. It is a recent development as a formal program of theology.
It has yet to emerge as an experienced project and has to become practical everywhere by everyone. Because the teaching of Jesus mainly focuses on loving your neighbor as yourself.
Through this way as Christian, churches, and Christian ministers we can make harmonious life and peaceful life in this society. Then only our theology can make real sense in our world.
Black theology first appeared in the period of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s. However, its root goes back to centuries of experience and suffering.
Black theology affirmed the value, aspiration, culture, and story as the story of courageous people undergirded by faith in God; who have struggled against oppression and survived despite long and brutal mistreatment.
First, as an enslaved people; and then as repeated targets of racist attitude and practices in both the wider society and the established churches. Black people have made a distinctive witness to the God of the Gospel.
Black theology does not wholly derive or determined by social context. While emphasizing that what people think about theology is shaped by their particular history and status in a given society.
Black theology, however, insisted that the faith of the black people cannot explain by any kind of reductionism. The Christian gospel speaks with power, both out of and to the experience of black people.