Anyone interested in African Pentecostalism, World Christianity, Christian spirituality, African theology, and the sociology of religion will find in this book a wide range of interesting and fresh perspectives.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Introduction: Pentecostalicity: The Kairotic Possibilities
- Introduction: Are We Redeemed Yet?
- Kairosity—The Deep Nowness
- Planetary Culture
- The Book in a Nutshell
- Chapter One: Poetics of Mysticality and Materiasticity
- Critical Conclusion
- Chapter Two: A History of Death
- Introduction: The All Thing Is Dead
- After “Our” Likeness
- ‘The Death of God’
- ‘The Death of Nature’
- ‘The Death of Man’
- Conclusion: Prospects for Resurrection
- Chapter Three: Rituality and Becoming
- The Ritual Epistemology
- Unsettling Reality: From Ritual to Rituality
- Hierophantic Rituality
- Entangled in the Divine Riddle
- The Primordial Ritual: Theoliminalism
- Divine-Cosmos Paradox
- Integrative Infinite Ntu-plicity
- Chapter Four: The Post-colonial Specter of Muntu
- Introduction: “I am Because We Are”
- Traumatic Resurrection of Muntu
- Unbecoming Muntu
- Reclaiming Muntu
- Ntu—The Plural-Singular Reality
- Muntu as Self-plicity
- Chapter Five: New (Post)Humanity in Christ
- Eternal Event
- The Kenoticoming (Kenotic Becoming)
- Theocarnation or Divine Becoming
Chammah J. Kaunda in this original and pathbreaking book constructs the theology of Planetary Pentecostalism. This task takes him into the labyrinth of rethinking the Pentecostal ideas of humanity, its relation to materiality, its planetary agency, and re-theologizing the new humanity in Christ from the Muntu perspective of the Bembe people of Zambia. The Paradox of Becoming: Pentecostalicity, Planetarity, and Africanity is a theoretically muscular approach to Pentecostal theology. It robustly engages what it means to think Pentecostalism and human spirituality in the light of the “emerging planetary imagination in which reality is being decentered and re-centered and is increasingly becoming multicentric or polycentric as its evolving condition” (p. 20). He mobilizes discourses of Muntu—loosely translated as human, but philosophically as planetary becoming—materialist philosophy and indigenous liberative theology to make sense of this planetary imagination, to deeply theorize it, to rethink Christology as “human-non-more-and-other-than-human Christ,” and to construct a vigorous Pentecostal theology of “human-non-more-and-other-than-human.”
What he has produced is a theology that is grounded in indigenous African philosophy, that addresses current human conditions, offers a theological theorization of planetary wellbeing, and situates vital becomings as the pulsating heart of any serious theo-talk. The four chambers of the theological heart of his book are (a) instigating a new way of knowing and thus stimulating a new passion for the whole of creation; (b) reinterpretation of religious ideas through plenary lenses to aim more humane, immanent religiosities and spiritualities; (c) openness to ongoing discoveries in natural sciences, and (d) flourishing-becoming (pp. 42, 46, 128). In sum, Kaunda presents a radical materialistic Pentecostal theology that rejects anthropocentric relational subjectivities.
Why the need for this new form of Pentecostal theology? Kaunda believes that Pentecostalism might become a planetary spirituality and it is high time the theological academy explored its potentials, practices, and principles that will inform the emerging language of flourishing-becoming of the planetary age. To clarify how we should engage this oncoming reality, he constructs a Pentecostal theology of Muntu in deep conversation with posthumanism and quantum materiality (pp. 128–130). This book is also driven by conversations about the recent questions that have emerged from the ongoing conceptual shifts in epistemological and theological contexts. This set of shifts—the decentering of the hermeneutical preferences of the North and centering those of the South—is now the point of departure for interpreting African Pentecostalism. Kaunda has deployed his remarkable grasp of African and Western theologies and philosophies to deeply interrogate Pentecostal theology in Africa in ways that engage the conceptual shifts and the vulnerability and precarity of the human conditions in our contemporary times.
He engages the contemporary human conditions through Bemba’s “muntulogy” in which the human becoming “is not just an assemblage of all vital forces but is also a mere force among a multiplicity of vital forces which are equal and equally participate in commoning planetary life” (p. 20). Bemba philosophy decenters the human and rejects the notion that humanity is the foundation for determining meaning in creation. Kaunda deepens his analysis of human conditions and materiality by engaging Pentecostalism’s malleable-plastic spirituality, the capacity to adapt to and articulate its theology within local cosmologies, ideas of human flourishing, and social concerns.
Kaunda made all these intellectual moves of decentering, centering, and deepening in order to provide a powerful foundation for unsettling and disrupting the entrenched binaries of traditional Western Christian theology and philosophy. As he puts it, Pentecostal malleable-plastic spirituality “gives Pentecostalism infinite possibilities for constructing inclusive, equitable, pluralistic, and life-giving indigenous and science-informed cosmologies. It gives the Pentecostal epistemic capacity to contest traditional religious and spiritual imaginaries and politics of doctrinal history and anthropocentric relational subjectivities in which humans were distinguished between races, genders, sexualities, and humans and nonhumans” (p. 16).
Indeed, this book represents a radical African theology that is philosophically astute, theoretically sophisticated, and theological expansive. The book recontours Christian theologians’ understanding of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathos even as it informs and challenges their deeply held philosophical-theological certainties or niceties.
Kaunda’s theology, as exemplified here, does not follow the theological structures and categories of Western Protestant theology cherished by the dominant Pentecostal theologians in the United States and Europe. In addition, his is not a theology that is weighed down by explanations of minute details of past theological arguments; it is not one that is in search of affirmation and authentication by inherited practices or canons of uppity theological writing.
Owing to his dexterity in manipulating and navigating African and Western philosophies, respectful appropriations of ongoing discoveries in the sciences, and familiarity with transdisciplinary conversations in the academy, the book confirms and advances the kind of muscular radical theologies some African Pentecostal scholars have offered recently. Indeed, The Paradox of Becoming and the works by other African philosophical theologians put the idea of theology into a new play. For them, the idea of theology is about the transformation of religious thinking about the sacred and society, a new thinking that leans in the favor of flourishing of all creation and accents religious practices (as nexus of doings and sayings, objects, ideas, and teleoaffectivity) as they are observable in real lives, rather than focusing on texts, teachings, doctrines, and supernaturalism. Kaunda enters this circle of thought through the portal of a key question: What does the idea of the human in the African Pentecostal context mean? His response: “This book is theological and philosophical mediations on what it means to be an African Pentecostal human in the post-death of God, Nature and Man. It is a search for the life-giving resurrection of all things for flourishing-becoming. I am comforted by African Pentecostal quest to become a new creation in Christ” (p. 166).
This book is dedicated to the memory of my father, Maximo Chingi, who died just before I finalized proofreading. He remains a site of my epistemological and spiritual struggle. He taught me more about life from merely observing him from a distance without any close relationship. You’ll always live in my writings and creative struggles for the meaning of life. Rest in Peace, Tata Chingi!
… be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).
Incarnating thoughts from the abyss of the mind is never an individual task. It is the work of the hermeneutical community of all vital forces of creation (at least in a Bemba view of life). When the thoughts become words, one realizes that writing is political, is acting in and a critical way of becoming in the world. As Black theologian, James Cone underlined, “I write because writing is the way I fight…, doing what I can to subvert” global injustice and domination. Additionally, as an African Pentecostal, writing is a recourse in intellectual exorcising of minds that are possessed by death-dealing intellectual thoughts that deny life for the world. In writing we seek to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Therefore, I thank the Spirit of God for the power of deliverance in the name of Jesus Christ.
The abyss of the mind is a dark deep and ambivalent ocean of untamed chaos, emptiness and turbulences. It is a liminal space, a dynamic site of unimaginableness, of paradoxes, phantasms, rhythmic order and an unimaginable disorder, of serenity, destruction, joy and terror, confusion, helplessness and despair, unknown and ecstasies of hopefulness and the like. Indeed, the Bemba paradoxical ontology of thoughts is deeply entrenched in everyday quantum natural consciousness (with its otherwise imaginations) of pluralities, a multiplicity of simultaneous intense passionate plays and encounters of singular and plural selves embedded in a collective consciousness and spirit, bridging time and space. Thoughts are forces of life and death. Thoughts are not given and do not arise by themselves. To secure life-giving thought amidst such a turbulent oceanic mind, one always needs an anchor. I am immensely thankful to numerous anchors of my turbulent ocean of a mind. They helped to calm the raging storm, and quietened the torrent waves to secure or call out the thoughts that now manifest in the pages of this book. These anchors are the guardian spirits that hovers over the face of the deep (Gen 1:2). The book arose in dialogue with the anchor-hermeneutical community of mentors, colleagues, friends and families. I am deeply grateful to them for accepting to gaze into the abyss of my mind even as it ferociously gazed back into theirs.
This is another way of saying many friends, acquaintances, strangers, nonhuman and spiritual forces of life contributed incalculably to incarnating my chaotic thoughts into a singular-plural living reality—the book. However, these esteemed anchors are not responsible for the weaknesses and views in this book in anyway whatsoever.
Acknowledgments are too numerous to mention, so I confine to those who critiqued, read through the book and took a risk to recommend it for publication.
I would like to express my particular appreciations to Prof. Nimi Wariboko for writing a critical foreword to the book. Prof. Wariboko’s writing is emblematic of Paul’s “cloak, and scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13) that are intentionally constructed to provide warmth in the unfriendly winters of a lonely academic life. Especially, for an isolated African Pentecostal scholar working in South Korea.
Mukashi wandi (my own woman), Mutale M. Kaunda—I cherish our so-called bedroom theo-talks, those heated discussions that ferment radical theological imaginations. I am honored to participate with you in life in all its intricacies and complexities. You and I are boundedly entangled in an intensely amorous, passionately intellectual journey of life. I am totally grateful for your unfailing, critical and erotically reasoning love and unswerving encouragement that you always give to me. I thank my children who are always curious about what I write and why I keep on writing even through seasons of immense discouragements. They create a warm atmosphere of keep on moving and creative thriving for what appears to be possible.
I would like to thank the reviewers of the manuscript for their insightful comments and suggestions for improving the work. I also thank Prof. Knut Holter for his positive and encouraging recommendation of an offbeat kind of a book to be published in the “Bible and Theology in Africa” series of Peter Lang.
I acknowledge that some might find the book difficult to understand. And I know, it is easy to make something simple complicated. I decided to do exactly that. However, the book would be an encouragement to anyone seeking to break with mainstream thinking and engage in otherwise-intellectuality. The ever-policed international academic standards are deeply entrenched in Enlightenment constructions of religion and the reality and only perpetuates classical Western philosophical structures and hermeneutical categories. If there is anything that recent history has disclosed is that we need a radical break with such inherited intellectual worldviews and critically embrace ways of writing and thinking embedded in oralitological imaginations. Oralitological imaginations refer to the deep understanding of the complex nature of thoughts as the vital trans-flow of life and reveals thoughts and discourse meshwork of interconnected living forces that are identical with the transformation and trans-flow of life. It engages human imaginations as dynamic realm imbued with eventual ruptures of critical meaning that interrupt the flow of things and reorients natural reality. Oralitological imaginations are critical in the planetary era as a locus of possible resurrection of all things and should be classified as a “post-all-posts” condition. A new beginning!
It is my prayer that as books today are increasingly becoming graveyards of thoughts, rather than birth places of these vital forces, the Spirit of the Lord will grace this book to be read and give rise to new thoughts. So, shall it!
Lesa Acindikwe! (To God be the glory!)
Abstract: The introduction frames the argument for African Pentecostal planetary turn by engaging ideas of pentecostalicity, kairosity, planetary culture and pneuma-materiality (spirit-material entanglement). It gives attention to various critical thinkers in field of Pentecostal studies, and interrogates the ongoing critique of religion by giving attention to planetarity as the condition of contemporary reality.
Theologizing is a risk that requires entering into the dark terrains of precarious liminal spaces of unknown in search to redeem the language of redemption, and perhaps, God.
Writing on African Pentecostalism is performing pure madness. This performance of pure madness sinks us into an altered language and metaphorical speech that characterize divergent spiritualities found among African Pentecostals. It is entering the terrains of ambiguities and paradoxes, interruptions, disorders and distractions. It is about allowing the mind to think not what it judges and to believe not what it thinks. There is a thin, dark veil between the mind and pentecostalicity—otherwise lived imaginations. The mind cannot exhaust the conceived, the unruly, the complexities of often fragmented and scattered pieces of Pentecostal experiences. It can only make sense of some facets or aspects of them. Pentecostalicity is a search to live in time-timeless or otherwise possibilities. Pentecostalicity does not follow normative Western Protestant theological and philosophical structures and categories that now dominate many Pentecostal theologians around the world. In the old Pentecostal thinking, they are unconsciously quenching otherwise-intellectual fire of the Spirit or killing distinctive Pentecostal mytheological ways of thinking and becoming in the world. Pentecostalism emerged and continues to be an offbeat spirituality embedded in an unconventional imaginations and ways of doing things. Pentecostal conviction was and is rooted in reality and experiencing the Holy Spirit as foundation for moral regeneration for transformation of the world as against being politically right and merely subscribing to abstract doctrines which intellectualize the mind and simultaneously robbing its capacity “to recognize the insight which directs everything through everything.”1 Pentecostalicity embodies cosmo-sophia-ic thinking (life-giving-agapeic-thinking) in which techne, episteme, phronesis, sophia, perception, sense-related, taste-related, intellectual, cognitive, scientific, nous, praxis, theory, religious, spirituality and so on are a singular fabric of mater(i)eality and underlies the condition of flourishing-becoming in the world.
This book resists embracing intellectual maturity at the expense and attending an academic funeral of Pentecostal otherwise-intellectuality. It transgresses against forgetting what early Pentecostals fought for and became labeled as anti-intellectuals. Pentecostalicity is an academic radical embrace of the Pentecostal ferment of otherwise-intellectuality. Here we are dealing with radical de-historizing of history and eschatologizing the nowness as Becoming-in-the-world rather than Martin Heidegger’s historization or “Being-in-the-world”2. The Pentecostals are among otherwise-intellectuals Friedrich Nietzsche describes as undermining the process of history to “live in timeless simultaneity”.3 The fulfillment of humanity does not lie in an obscured future because “the Christ who is, was and is to come” (Revelation 1:4) is the God of nowness—the expansive infinite active potentiality within creation which is constantly discovered and actively actualized. Christ “is to come” not just in a literal sense but in the sense of being incessantly and actively realizable potential for the flourishing of all life in the nowness. As Nimi Wariboko argues, it is not just about what rationally makes sense but what makes the spirit—“speaking from, to, and for the whole belief system or the Holy Spirit”.4 This “is not limited to the sacred, religious, or private sphere of believers but is entangled in the ‘immanent frame’”5 and relational overflow of the more-than or, overlived, and overexistence in the excess-nowness or presentness. Again, Wariboko is instructive here:
There is no it-makes-spirit that is not at the same time it-makes-sense insofar as spirituality paradoxically carries with it the potential of both discursive self-legitimation and self-transcendence. Put differently, it-makes-spirit is also it-makes-sense because it-makes-spirit is always already an interpretation, a deconstructive proclivity of rationalism, and a meaningful (re)construction of “sense” that is dialogically embedded in everyday social intercourse. As an interpretation, it is also a transgressive and disruptive penetration into the logic of dominant (post-)Enlightenment discourses of knowledge production (authentication) and epistemological credentials.6
In humility, therefore, writing Pentecostalism requires acknowledging the possibilities of deception—not in the sense of being deceived by the Pentecostals, but rather, deceiving oneself in the claim of understanding the Pentecostal phenomenon.
Pentecostalism is “an assemblage of practices, ideas, and theologies—and interpretations of reality—whose tangled roots burrow deep into the three segments of African [a]temporalities … the ‘spirit’ of African Pentecostalism does not signify a distilled essence, changeless core, irreducible substrate, or perfection of being but is deployed for the sake of highlighting specific observations, contemplations and questions that point to something of broader significance for understanding the multidirectional openness of African Pentecostal social life without presuming a constrictive universalizing framework.”7 It is ongoing assimilations, appropriations and expressions of the gospel through various cultures, customs, ideologies, technologies, sciences and religious traditions of African people. It is not one thing, but an emergent diversity of beliefs and practices engendered by indigenous materialist appropriations and expressions of the gospel “through more or less effected local idioms, but in any case, without necessarily the European Enlightenment frame.”8 Pentecostalism is Christianity after Christianity and African religion after African religion. It is the movement in radical transition; Pentecostal becoming. This means that the theologies that would define and determine African Pentecostal imaginations remain fluid and dynamic. The fate of Pentecostalism would be decided in the ways it would respond to contemporary planetary discussions. Its advantage lies in its capacity to appropriate the gospel through indigenous logic without neglecting views from other global systems of thought. This advantage entrenches in Pentecostalism the potential and openness to embracing materialism/science and its belief systems as cohesive and unified aspects of meaning-making. The indigenous logic that informs and shapes Pentecostal reading, interpreting, and understanding of the scriptures and engendering local theologies is rooted in a complex paradoxical ontology (see Chapter One).
To avoid unnecessary essentialization, which honestly cannot be avoided, I have drawn much of the indigenous resources on Muntu from a worldview, by claim, I am familiar with—the Bemba-speaking people of Zambia. The Bemba epistemology and spirituality of the ritual9 regard Muntu as rooted in nature, as matter itself, as part of cosmic flux and creative becoming and as an apparatus for mediation of cosmic experiences.10 The idea of Muntu is a crucial resource with which we cannot adequately articulate African Pentecostal experiences without giving adequate attention to it. The dominant African Pentecostal ideas of “human” are pneumacentric, rather than normative nature mastering anthropocentrism. The challenge is that the Holy Spirit is conceived of only in terms of anthropo-indwelling and little attention is given to the cosmic nature of Spirit indwelling in all things.11 In this sense, prevailing or normative Pentecostalism could be described as pneumatological anthropocentrism and like any other anthropocentrism, is inadequate for understanding and engaging the reality that has radically shifted to “Christ is all and is in all” imaginations (Colossians 3:11). This is a Cosmo-Christo-pneumatological magnetic network and harmonic resonances of life—the human-non-more-and-other-than-human condition. This kind of thinking of Christ has an affinity with the idea of Muntu, an infinitely perpetually ritualized reality (as explained in Chapter Five). The argument is that African Pentecostalism needs a more constructive and planetary language that can empower them to respond effectively to critical questions emerging from a contemporary critique of anthropocentrism and negative Anthropocene. It has to exploit and transform the language of life that it has inherited from pneumatology and indigenous religious heritages. Despite Pentecostalism being a ritualistic movement, not much attention has been given to making sense of the principles that undergird the language of kenosis in dialogue with the African ritual realm as critical for interpreting and understanding Christ as paradigmatic human-non-more-and-other-than-human-becoming.
The aim of this book is to construct a deep Pentecostal theology of human-non-more-and-other-than-human by utilizing resources from indigenous ideas of Muntu and the human-non-more-and-other-than-human Christ. I have argued that a postindigenious critical dialogue between the incarnation of Christ and Muntulogy is critical for constructing a Pentecostal kenotic humanity or new (post)humanity ethics of becoming which requires transcending local geographies and conceiving the self as extensive and expansive, a radical move beyond anthropocentric and locally culturally confined humanities. I utilized an interdisciplinary maneuver through bounded entanglement and theoretical lenses of indigenous (Bemba) materialism, Africana posthuman critical theory and kenotic rituality, in conversation with critical thinkers such as Catherine Malabou (plasticity), Hannah Arendt (natality), Victor Turner (liminality) and Pentecostal thinkers. I have created a postindigenous12 framework that synthesized these various theories into what I have described as poetics of mysticality and materiasticity (materiality and plasticity). I have elucidated this conceptual framework in Chapter One. This conceptual metaphor helped me in the process of engaging the model of incarnate Christ, not only a template of new creation and kenotic humanity/new (post)humanity but a paradigmatic reality of flourishing becoming. I argued that the major disruptions in new materialist thought have placed the search for planetary humanisms at the center of “planetarity” and bounded entanglement. I have shown that Pentecostalism has inherited a rich and complex paradoxical ontology for constructing a critical theology of “kenotic humanity or new (post)human in Christ”. Following the Bemba worldview, I contend that immanent pentecostalicity pleads for acknowledging that the condition of matter-energy, the Zoetic nature of matter as such, a material pneuma-vitalism (Spirit vitalism) that lives in and through all, exists, but is extraordinarily or mysteriously hidden to give existence the full freedom to choose its course and destiny. This is crucial as Pentecostalism might become a planetary spirituality which has potential to shape and inform the emerging language of flourishing-becoming in the planetary age. Before explaining that, let me delineate my use of the notion of pentecostalicity and its related terms in this book. I turn to this now.
Pentecostalism has become a prominent faith at a time when the epistemic center of gravity is increasingly shifting from anthropocentrism to planetarism. The world’s primal spiritual frequency is being rediscovered, reclaimed and reconstituted. Jesus Christ is increasingly conceived as the human-non-more-and-other-than-human-savior-redeemer. Kwame Bediako has observed that “the Christian presence has undergone literally a sea-change in Africa. It has gone from being, and from being perceived as, a Western factor in African life, to becoming, and being experienced as, an African reality. It seems that it is now time for scholarship to recognize generally, and work with, this transformation of African Christianity.”13 At the heart of this transformation is pentecostalicity which is the defining principle of the character and orientation of World Christianity. African Christianity as a whole—Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Initiated and Pentecostalism—is an indigenous discovery of the principle of pentecostalicity.14 According to Ogbu Kalu, “The Pentecostal story must be woven into the broader tapestry of Christian presence and African responses. Contemporary scholarship tends to focus on the present manifestations of the Pentecostal movement, and without a long view miss much of the significance of the movement in the Africans’ encounter with the gospel.”15 Kalu has established how a historical trajectory of African Christianity represents a single “trail of ferment” in which pentecostalicity (capacity of ever beginning and never-ending renewals and revitalizations) is interlaced through African Christianity. Kalu claims this is a result of consecutive “cycles of charismatic revivals that became part of African Christianity.… (E)ach cycle moved the church forward in a new direction and character” which have perennially entrenched pentecostalicity on African Christianity as a whole.16 The translation of the Bible into mother tongue created safe conditions that enabled African Christians to rediscover their “pneumatic spiritual resources of the gospel” in ways that now shape African Christianity in both the continent and diaspora.17 A pentecostalicity “trail of ferment” is thereby drawn through the Christian history of the entire continent and diaspora, weaved through the mainline churches, and reinforced in the Pentecostalism. Thereby it gives African expressions of Christianity a distinctive and unquestionable indigenous stamp and identity.18 “The core argument is that the prophetic movements, revivals and other forms of charismatic religiosity were appropriated by Africans to establish a charismatic spirituality that would define African response to the bible.”19
- XVIII, 252
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2023 (July)
- Africanity Pentecostalicity Kairosity Poeticality Mysticality Materiasticity Kenoticity Rituality New (Post)Humanity Paradoxical ontology Muntu Becoming Chammah J. Kaunda The Paradox of Becoming Pentecostalicity, Planetarity, and Africanity
- New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, Oxford, 2023. XVIII, 252 pp., 4 b/w ill.