Ntumbuluko and Christian faith : an evangelical perspective on some aspects of a Tsonga worldview and the implication for Christian mission in southern Mozambique.
This thesis consists of a detailed study of ntumbuluko (Tsonga life force or worldview) as it emerges from field research which investigated Tsonga traditionalists, academics, artists, Christian practitioners and Bible translators to establish the meaning and use of ntumbuluko. The aim of the thesis is to uncover the impact of ntumbuluko in Tsonga Christianity by assessing its relationship with the gospel and to discern its influence in the apprehension of Christian faith among the Tsonga people of Mozambique; and finally to propose an evangelical perspective on the encounter between gospel and culture in Mozambique. The study demonstrates that ntumbuluko is a very pervasive concept or worldview. It has a highly integrated view of life and reality, thus, resisting a dualistic conception of life, the universe and the reality thereof. It is in ntumbuluko that the Tsonga find the essence of life, reality and humanity in harmonious correlation with the cosmos. Thus, ntumbuluko is a heuristic key for interpreting reality, including Christian faith. It provides a system of meaning for everything. It is at this point that ntumbuluko's relationship with the gospel needs to be examined. Tsonga people see ntumbuluko as the pre-established divine order of things and as a firm foundation of Tsonga existence. Tsonga society can be compared to a house built upon a bridge. Cracking the bridge is labouring towards one's own demise. Therefore, any affront against or disregard for ntumbuluko with modernist or faith argument threatens the centre of gravity of the Tsonga existence. Such an attitude warrants a counter response to maintain cosmic harmony to ensure a harmonious and balance existence. If Christians attempt to use the gospel to alter or disregard this principle, the gospel is viewed as "bad news." The peaceful encounter between and co-existence of ntumbuluko with the gospel is replaced with an antagonistic one. All in all, ntumbuluko is very ambivalent; it can be either positive, negative or neutral. Regardless of the fact that ntumbuluko is so often used negatively in the Bible and in official Christian discourse, most Christians concur with their traditionalists counterparts in perceiving, describing and using ntumbuluko in a more positive and/or neutral sense rather than negative sense. Christian practitioners, although indirectly, join the traditionalist attack on modernity (colonialism), Marxism and Christianity (Western missionary Christianity) for having destroyed ntumbuluko, thus weakening the life force therein. The alleged result has been humanitarian, ecological and environmental disasters (wars, droughts, flooding, disease, infant mortality, short life-span, etc.). Any religion and/or ideology which could be logically acceptable and desirable in Tsonga society would be the one that tunes into the ntumbuluko maintenance system or principle, thus ensuring cosmic harmony and an increase life force, with the subsidiary benefits thereof. This is why Christian faith is either resisted (the Tonga Mission 1560-1562 story) or undermined (as many informants indicated) in its encounter and co-existence (relationship) with ntumbuluko. This researcher argues, therefore, that the depth, complexity and pervasiveness of ntumbuluko require an approach such as "translation" and "interpretation", historically associated with John the Apostle. The gospel of John is the example par excellence. The author (John, for argument's sake), translated the divine truth, revelation and incarnation into Hellenistic cultural thought forms (Arche and Logos) and interpreted his translation with Christian truth, thus giving these age-old known concepts new meanings, Christian meanings. In that way, Arche and Logos mediated a deeper understanding and apprehension of the Christian faith to the Greeks. In so doing, the author bypassed the question of the relationship between Jesus and the above concepts in the Greek thought. Dealing with ntumbuluko from an evangelical perspective will also require translating the divine revelation and incarnation into Tsonga categories of ntumbuluko and interpreting it with new meanings, Christian meanings, to enable or mediate a deeper and profound apprehension and understanding of the Christian faith in the Tsonga cultural milieu, thus producing a vibrant Tsonga evangelical Christianity in Mozambique.
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