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Keith Burton: The Blessing of Africa

 

Keith Augustus Burton, The Blessing of Africa: The Bible and African Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 294 pages, ISBN 9780830827626.

The recent increase of books about the African continent might seem almost mind boggling for readers interested in learning about Africa and its relevance to Christian theology. Just where does one begin? Thankfully, a reader might just want to begin here.

To an ever increasing collection of media comes a short yet comprehensive perspective for beginners and experts alike. While Burton’s viewpoint is by no means exhaustive or encyclopedic, it offers “a brief survey of the historical place of the Bible in the rhetorical land of Ham.” It offers information “…about biblical ‘Africans’ and significant ‘African people’ and events throughout the history of humanity.” It also places the story of the Bible and African Christianity in the wider global context (13).

Keith Augustus Burton, Ph.D., (Northwestern) is president of Life Heritage Ministries. He is also adjunct instructor of religion at the Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences and coordinator for the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University, where he previously served as a professor of theology.

Burton says outright that some have ignored the basic teaching about the inclusive God of Scripture. He explains that “some have used God’s Word to perpetuate the myth of a cursed race—the dark skinned sons of Ham.” In his view, these individuals “have placed the text about the curse of Ham in their own imaginative Bibles right next to the verses like’ cleanliness is next to godliness’ or ‘God helps those who help themselves’” (11). It is these gross interpretations that have oppressed dark skinned peoples for over a millennia. He intends that his book will join “the growing battery of research that aims to set the record straight” (11).

Burton also promises that this book lacks “a reactionary Afro centric agenda.” He stresses that it does not seek to repudiate, but rather to agitate and educate (12). His work truly provides a perspective about the seamless relationship of Africa to the Biblical world, a connection that has been too often ignored by Western thinkers. So as a result, his work serves an ecumenical purpose. He wishes to draw Black Africans into greater solidarity “with their lighter skinned Hamitic siblings in the northernmost sections of modern continental Africa and the Middle East” (13).

Burton has divided his book into six parts. The first part gives a definition of Biblical Africa. The second part discusses the relationship between African ethnicity and geographical location. This is then followed by the third section which explains the openness of Africans to the gospel message. The fourth division sketches the development and spread of Islam in the Biblical land. In part five Burton explores the influence of European colonialism, and then concludes with an evaluation of the Bible in modern land of Ham.

 

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Category: Church History, Summer 2008

About the Author: Carolyn D. Baker serves as Assistant Professor of English at Mayville State University, Mayville, North Dakota; as Adjunct Professor of Bible and Theology for Global University, Springfield, Missouri; and Pastor for Bible and Discipleship at All Nations Assembly of God, an African Refugee church, in West Fargo, ND.

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