Good Christian books by Africans are like diamonds. They’re precious but rare and born from intense pressure and heat. They can only be found after digging in the right places. But you are probably not going to find them in your local bookstore.
I have done some digging and I bought 25 amazing Christian books by African theologians. A couple of these books were published through an initiative of Langham Literature by Hippo Books, an imprint of Zondervan. The other books were published by InterVasity Press and also WIPF and Stock.
If you know of a great book not on the list, please let me know.
7 Christian Books on Bible Theology and Hermeneutics by Africans
1. Africa Bible Commentary edited by Tokunboh Adeyemo
Africa Bible Commentary is one of the most important Bible scholarships from Africa. It makes it easier for African readers to understand the Bible since it bridges the cultural gap. For example, Solomon Andria in Romans wrote, “Rome was a city like Nairobi and Abidjan today. Businessmen and ordinary people from many regions mingled there.” As I read Romans, I now have a picture of Harare in my mind. Furthermore, the authors used modern examples as aids in proper understanding of the Bible.
2. African Study Bible
Produced in partnership with Tyndale, Africa Study Bible is a perfect partner for the Africa Bible Commentary. Although I am not a fan of the NLT translation, I found the Africa Study Bible refreshing and engaging. The ASB related Bible passages to proverbs and stories. This was great, after all storytelling is pivotal in African societies. Above all, the Touch Points are an excellent resource for bridging the cultural gaps. For example, in John 1 the ASB gives an illustration of how forerunners worked in most African communities. As someone who met a forerunner growing up in the village, this brought to life the story of John the Baptist.
3. A Guide to Interpreting Scripture: Context, Harmony, And Application by Michael Kyomya
“Christians need more than just exhortation to read the Bible; they also need to be empowered to do so profitably,” writes Bishop Michael Kyomya. And he adds, “the burden of empowering people to read the Bible… is especially urgent in light of the many dangerous cults that have sprung up and the widespread but unwholesome reading and teaching of God’s word.” Kyomya’s A Guide to Interpreting Scriptures; is quick witty and insightful read. Throughout the book, Kyomya argued that good interpretation pursues the author’s intent and not what the original audience understood. Probably one of the best Christian books on Bible interpretation to date. (Side note: I am working on a book on effects of African Traditional worldviews on Bible interpretation.)
4. Triple Heritage: Gospels in Intercultural Mediations by Jean-Claude Loba-Mkole
There is a cultural gap that you need to bridge when you’re reading the Bible. Above all, as noted by Jean-Claude Loba-Mkole in Triple Heritage, an African reader must navigate between three cultures to better understand the Gospels; the 21st Century African culture, the church traditions (European Protestant or African Initiated), and the first-century Jewish culture. Unfortunately, a lot of ideas helpful for cultivating a good Bible reading habit are buried in theological jargon and mountains of scholarly discussions. But for an advanced reader, Triple Heritage, is an excellent resource.
5. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture by Lamin Sanneh
Fact. Most of the functional schools and hospitals across Africa were built by missionaries. However, tension exists between Africans and missionaries because of the twining of Christianity and colonialism. Lamin Sanneh makes a compelling argument that the translatability of the Bible encourages cultural pluralism since vernacular languages carry with them set beliefs and practices. “We can overcome barriers of exclusion and suspicion only when we turn to the one God in our own idiom.”
6. Christian Theology and African Traditions by Matthew Michael
“The failure of Christianity to have formidable impact on the continent is because of the failure of Christianity to engage the worldview of the African people.” Africa will have the largest population of Christians by 2050, yet Christianity fails to transform the economic, political and social thought of Africa. For example, 85% of Zimbabweans are Christians yet the country has the worst corruption rate in the world. Matthew Michael engages African traditional worldviews with honesty and wisdom. Furthermore, Matthew Michael showed how African worldviews help Christianity flourish. However, reading such Christian books doesn’t go without warning. That is, similarity of traditional practices doesn’t equate to eschatological significance.
7. Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture by Kwame Bediako
Kwame Bediako is one of the most influential African theologians. He has written several engaging and eye-opening Christian books such as Jesus and the Gospel in Africa, Christianity in Africa, and Jesus in African Culture. In Theology and Identity, Kwame Bediako brings scholarly modern African theologians, such as John Mbiti, Byang Kato and Mulago gwa Cikala Musharhamina into conversation with a grassroots second century theologians such as Tertullian, Justin and Clement. His analysis of modern theologians was brutally honest pointing out Kato’s Tertullinic approach. However, by pointing out that both theological eras belong to the same story, Kwame Bediako advises that scholarly theologians need to focus more on grassroots. Thus, he agrees with Samuel Waje Kunhiyop’s exhortation that theology should scratch were there’s an itch.
8 Christian Books on Theology and Philosophy by African Christians
1. African Christian Theology by Samuel Waje Kunhiyop
I agree with Aiah Foday-Khabenje, “Too much of our theological reflection in Africa is informed by Western thinkers and their understanding of Scripture.” He added, “Ignorance and ethnic arrogance have resulted in the African worldview and African religious beliefs being dismissed as primitive and heathen.” However, in African Christian Theology, Samuel Waje Kunhiyop gives caution by defining theology and its role in Christian growth. Kunhiyop explores subjects ranging from church discipline to funerals. This book should be on your bookshelf.
2. African Christian Ethics by Samuel Waje Kunhiyop
“What should be taught in African theological colleges is an ethics that is African, biblical and Christian.” Prof Kunhiyop first offers a brief introduction to the three types of ethics that influence believers: African ethics, Western ethics, and Christian ethics. African Christian ethics should biblically and sufficiently address six issues pertinent to Africa: politics, finances, marriage and family, sexuality, health, and religion. And these are the issues Prof Kunhiyop spends about 400 pages addressing.
3. The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa by Emmanuel Katongole
Africa is the richest continent yet the poorest. Emmanuel Katongole doesn’t explore this paradox, he explores the answer – social ethics. “Who we are, and who are capable of becoming, depends very much on the stories we tell, the stories we listen to, and the stories we live.” It follows then that the problem in Africa is we have let others tell our stories; missionaries coming to Africa are read Christian books by other missionaries instead of African theologians. Thus, people attempting to provide solutions to African woes bring strategies that have largely failed because they were crafted from a single story; to every David Livingstone story there is a King Leopold and to every Mobutho Sese Seko there is a Thomas Sankara.
4. Foundations of African Traditional Religion and Worldview by Yusufu Turaki
Sometimes numbers lie. You have heard that by 2025 they will be more than half a billion Christians in Africa. However, most Christians in Africa fame their lives following a Traditional African worldview. Yusufu Turaki shows that this worldview influences how we read and understand scripture. And most cases, it has led to unbiblical syncretism. “The approach of the Lord God Yahweh to the Canaanite religion and culture should be the theological norm and model for a Christian and Biblical approach to the traditional religion in Africa.” However, that doesn’t mean all traditional beliefs and practices are evil, it only means we should be more thorough before accepting and promoting them.
5. Is Africa Cursed?: A Vision for the Radical Transformation of an Ailing Continent by Tokunboh Adeyemo
The founder of Talbot School of Theology once wrote, “it is not by chance that the Negro has been a servant of servants. This fact is a prophecy fulfilled.” Is that true? In Is Africa Cursed?, Adeyemo Tokunboh disagreed, “At that hour of need when darkness reigned, an African—Simon of Cyrene—was at hand to comfort and relieve [Jesus Christ] by carrying His cross.” Unlike Emmanuel Katongole’s Sacrifice for Africa, Is Africa Cursed? discusses in detail the origins of Africa’s woes indicting globalization, corruption, colonialism, tribalism and retrogressive cultural practices. Tokunboh Adeyemo concluded by discussing the role of the church in developing Africa.
6. Theological Pitfalls in Africa by Byang H. Kato
Although Theological Pitfalls in Africa was written in 1975, it adequately raises an alarm against the lures of wholesale acceptance of African Traditional religions. Byang Kato demonstrates how the recent drive to show Christ through traditional practices (guilty as charged) can actually lead people away from Christ. “To say that Africans, or anyone else, still have the vestiges of Imago Dei, by virtue of which they arc still aware of the existence of the Supreme Being, is one thing. But to systematize the concepts and fill them up with quality of worship of God “in truth and in spirit” is foreign to Biblical Christianity.” Sadly, Byang Kato passed away a few months after writing this book, a revised and updated version is much needed.
7. Out of the Shadows of African Traditional Religion: Christ’s Deliverance of a Sangoma by Moss Ntlha
A few months ago, I stumbled upon a heart breaking story. I was watching a YouTube video of a song called Sunday by The Soil – a South African acapella group – when I saw a clip that said one of the vocalists of the trio was living the group. She was heeding a call from the ancestors to become a sangoma. But Francina’s story is the opposite; it’s a story of a girl who had four abortions, several nightmares, and a call to become a spirit medium. However, while in that pit of idolatry, Francina encountered Christ who transformed her by his love. As I read this story, I couldn’t help but pray for Buhlebendalo Mda to encounter Christ in his glory. I hope someone will give Buhlebendalo a copy of this book.
8. A New History of African Christian Thought edited by David Tonghou Ngong
David T. Ngong’s A New History of African Christian Thought is an academic book that features luminary African theologians. Youhanna Nessim Youssef of … writes on the troubling issue of martydom. Zimbabwean theologian, Masiiwa Ragies Gunda confronts homosexuality. And Rachel Nyagondwe Fielder engages feminine theology. However, most of the authors espouse to liberal theology and I don’t agree with everything they say. Reading this book, offers a clear picture of what Byang Kato warned 50 years ago in Pitfalls. Africans engage with theology at two disctinct level. for example, at grassroots level people read or listening to the Bible alone. Whereas, academic theologians engage other scholars and little on the grassroots practices. The trajectories espoused in this book are primarily of the latter.
7 Christian Books by on Christianity in Africa
1. The Preachers of a Different Gospel: A Pilgrim’s Reflections On Contemporary Trends In Christianity By Femi B. Adeleye
Televangelists have single-handedly ruined centuries of Christian growth in Africa. Millions of people in Africa now treat the gospel as a get-rich-quick scheme and the practices of righteousness as tools for earning God’s favor. Especially Pentecostals like me. The prosperity gospel is raging havoc and Femi Adeleye stands up to speak out against it. Femi Adeleye’s book reminds me of the prophetic calls of John the Baptist. Largely ignored yet extremely important. The Preachers of a Different Gospel does a great job to show how misreading scriptures and unchecked cultural beliefs can be a hindrance to Christian growth.
2. The War Within: Christians and Inner Conflict by A.C. Chukwuocha
“If turning from God to our own ways is the core of sin, then salvation involves the very opposite, wrote A.C. Chukwuocha. He advised, “Instead of turning our backs on God and defiantly choosing to sin and be estranged from him, we turn around to face God and submit to him.” David wrote in Psalm 31:1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” We have received the blessing that David longed for. That is, Christ’s death and resurrection broke the power of sin in our lives. To continue reigning over sin, Chukwuocha advised:
- Keep your eyes on fixed on Jesus
- Hunger and thirst after righteousness
- Allow God’s love to compel you to act
3. The Trinity of Sin by Yusufu Turaki
“It is important for African Christians who want to be authentic and relevant to have a thorough knowledge of the African terrain.” And, “Unless we know what it is that we need to renew and transform, we cannot make progress in the transformation. Until we know and understand the people we wish to transform.” Turaki navigates the complex landscape of African traditional landscape like a skilled farmer winnowing corn. With earnestness, Turaki reveals how African worldview undermines believers from experiencing victory over sin. (Side note: I have read several Christian books on sin, but I only discovered I had a wrong concept of sin after reading this book. When I sinned, I used to cast, bind and rebuke demons for making me sin – something encouraged by my African traditional worldview.)
4. No More Cheeks to Turn? Sunday Bobai Agang
Why did Sunday Bobai Agang put a question mark on his paradigm shifting book? Sunday survived the Biafra war and lost loved ones. He had no more cheeks to turn, yet he questioned that. This book is an invitation to a life of compassion for the perpetrators. Thus, he writes, “We know where we will be when we die, but our oppressors have no hope.” Sunday Bobai Agang engages the horror of tribal wars and genocide with grace. He reveals how the humanity of the incarnate Christ helps him to pursue forgiveness even though it is hard. Most Christian books on forgiveness lack such Christ-centered honesty and humility.
5. My Neighbour’s Faith: Islam Explained for African Christians by John Azumah
I first learned about militant Muslims from watching Hollywood movies. My experiences were contrary. Growing up a Muslim was simply someone who wear a funny heart when they go to the mosque. There was nothing scary about them. Before the resurgence of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Qaeda in Uganda and Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, Muslims coexisted with Christians in most African countries. And they still do. John Azumah offers ways that Islam poses challenges to Christian growth. This is one of the best Christian books on Islam you will ever find
6. Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda by Emmanuel Katongole & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Sometimes in April is a heart-wrenching cinematic depiction of the reality of the Genocide in Rwanda. What made the horror tragic was not the debates on the definition of the word genocide. Rather, it is the fact that Christians killed other Christians a week after celebrating Easter together. “The only hope for our world after Rwanda’s genocide is a new kind of Christian identity,” wrote Emmanuel Katongole. Using stories of the victims of the genocide, the authors offered three challenges the reader.
- Look at the mirror
- Remember who you are in Christ
- Pursue the Christian mission.
7. A History of Christianity in Africa By Elizabeth Isichei
The history of Christianity in Africa is often written by people who are not Africans. As a result, it tends to focus on the activities of non-Africans ignoring the sons and daughters of the soil. However, Elizabeth Isichei understands the history of Christianity in Africa is about how Africans interact with the Gospel. She began the journey in North Africa and ends in the early 1990s. However, like most academic Christian books, the book is too heavy on endnotes. However, an update on the history of the church in Africa is overdue. (Side note: I am working on a memoir that traces the history of Christianity)
9 Christian Books by Africans I Look Forward to Read
- First Things First: Growing in Pastoral Ministry by Ken Kamau
- Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West by Lamin Sanneh
- Becoming All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice
- Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African by Lamin Sanneh
- Patterns in African Leadership by Kirimi Barine et al.
- The Church: God’s Pilgrim People by David Zac Niringiye
- Pastoral preaching: Building a People for God by Conrad Mbewe
- The Human Condition: Christian Perspectives Through African Eyes by Joe M. Kapolyo
- Isesomo: God’s Servant in Congo by Joshua Maule