71. Existential Theology
71. Existential Theology

71. Existential Theology

In the past weeks, I have dug deep into the theme of inculturation. No doubt, some of these posts have been controversial, delightful for some, and rattling for others. These topics are part of the religious reasons “why we should safeguard our authority jealously”. I have already explored the ecclesiastical, Christological, sociological, and political reasons.

Yes, religious disinterest is growing among our people because of our hypocrisy as religious leaders, prosperity gospel teaching and its attendant manipulation of authentic teaching, over-emphasis on money, flamboyant lifestyle, and cultural reawakening aided by social media. As Catholic priests, religious, and seminarians, we should be concerned that our people are losing faith—a trend with religious, political, and socioeconomic consequences for the Catholic Church in Nigeria.

The Catholic Church in the West is very concerned about the high levels of religious disinterest in their countries, the shortage of clergy, and the threat to their long-term economic sustainability. Hence, we see discussions on abortion, divorce, homosexuality, women’s ordination, lay governance in the Church, and the merging of parishes and dioceses. These are first-world problems and do not always correspond to our realities. Since the Church is a western institution, some of these discussions may lead to a revision of current doctrine and law, which then becomes universal and binding on us.

Therefore, no matter how indignant we are about the direction of the Church, these themes will continue to be discussed. We will also continue to see western bishops and cardinals publicly pandering to these themes as they seek home-based solutions. If the Church in the West is pushing to resolve its challenges, why should we not be concerned about ours? Do we expect them to do for us what we should do for ourselves? 

In case one wonders about my bearing,

I describe myself as an existential theologian and my ideological orientation is Jesus, who first introduced the existential approach to theology. Thus, I begin my reflection by considering what Jesus did, his teachings, and, based on those, what he would have done. It ends with getting to heaven to be with Jesus at the end of my life.

My motto is purely Christocentric—“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) or as I summarise it in my native Igbo language “Ndụ n’uju” (Life in abundance). Life in abundance entails a holistic (spiritual and temporal) salvation. Hence, as Jesus provided the temporal needs of the people, the Church’s mission exceeds preaching the gospel to include providing temporal needs.

When we argue, it is opportune to use Jesus as the model. Even as we argue about the Church’s position in the current political situation in Nigeria, let’s remember that Jesus was very strategic in his relationship with all forms of authority. He avoided a direct confrontation with the civil authorities, even when pushed to take a side (Mark 12:13-17). He did not call Herod ‘a fox’ in his presence (Luke 13:31-33). He only responded to Pilate when he was arrested and because his time had come. Even before Pilate and Herod, he chose his responses.

However, Jesus was more confrontational with the religious authorities. Yet, he started confronting them during his public ministry, beginning at about the age of thirty. Did trading in the temple begin when Jesus was thirty years old or long before then? Was Jesus not participating in the yearly Passover as a devout Jew? Why did he wait until the beginning of his ministry to drive out traders from the temple? Why didn’t he do it when he was twelve and taught in the temple or at other times when he visited the temple in Jerusalem? Or did he not see the trading, or was he not indignant enough?

Using Jesus as the model is always salvific, liberating, humbling, inspiring, refreshing, fulfilling, reassuring, and comforting.

May God continue to help us🙏🏾


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