Intercultural generosity in Christian Perspective: The ‘West’ and Africa

From Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies

Questions of generosity loom large in today’s materially extremely unequal world. The current massive divide in which a few nations’ people control vast amounts of material wealth while many others struggle to emerge from abstract poverty, seems grossly unjust. A widespread response to such perceived injustice is a practice of redistribution often engaged voluntarily by wealthy people and nations through means of donations of many kinds to the poor. Such donations are in the Western world often considered justified on the basis that they are ‘free gifts’ and nothing is required in return. The notion of free gift seems to be a strongly Christian one. This article points to ways in which the dualistic West engages with African understandings in which the material and spiritual intermingle in a complex almost indeterminable throng.


Western dualism’s tendency to naturalism at times appears to do away with a need for God. African monism’s co-identification of material and spiritual profoundly affects presupposed aspects of Western reality, such as notions of holiness. Enormous misinformation arising from the global hegemony of Western languages conceals important complexities of African life from view to planners of mission and development. Particularly in focus is the centrality of feast and celebration in Africa’s economic and social life. Current efforts at exporting useful dualistic principles to Africa may be building on a misguided foundation. The current downward spiral of misinformation and the resulting confused practice can best be arrested by a reconsideration of biblical injunctions to generosity in the light of realities brought to light through sufficient vulnerability to non-Western contexts.

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Article details
Jim Harries
Intercultural Generosity in Christian Perspective: The ‘West’ and Africa
Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies 0265378815595241, first published on August 18, 2015 doi:10.1177/0265378815595241





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