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Hymns: The Making and Shaping of a Theology for the Whole People of God

A Comparison of the Four Last Things in Some English and Zambian Hymns in Intercultural Perspective

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Brian Castle

The theological potential of hymns has never been fully exploited. This study shows how hymns communicate theology and enable those without a formal theological education to enter into theological debate. A nineteenth century collection of English hymns and some contemporary Bemba hymns from the Zambian Copperbelt are examined and compared, within their theological, cultural and social contexts, to discover their response to death, judgement, heaven and hell. From this comparison and a study of how hymns are used in these churches, a model emerges whereby hymns can be used to make and shape theology. This model is observed in a Zambian parish and is also shown in practice in an English parish. Finally, there is a reflection on the implications of this model for Missiology and Ecclesiology showing, among other things, the need for a radical reassessment of the relationship between professional theologians and the rest of the Church.
Contents: The Hymns (English and Zambian): Historical Background - Understanding the Four Last Things (Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell) against the Cultural Backgrounds - The Four Last Things in the Hymns - Comparing the Backgrounds - Hymns as a Means of Communicating Theology - A Case Study in Hermeneutics - Implications for Theology.