Developing a Contextual Theology in Melanesia with Reference to Death, Witchcraft, and the Spirit world
Bartle, Neville Robert
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One hundred years ago Christianity was practically unknown in Pupa New Guinea, but today 95 percent of the population identifies itself as Christian. Christianity was brought to Papua New Guinea primarily by Western missionaries whose western worldview was very different from the worldview of Melanesians. Consequently many questions that are raised by Melanesian worldview are not answered adequately by Western theology. The research was to develop a biblical theology that speaks to the issue of death and the spirits of the dead. In the process of doing ethnographic research, the issue of witchcraft emerged as a dominant concern for Melanesian Christians. A model for constructing a Melanesian Christian theology was developed and applied to these problems. The model has seven essential elements: Scripture, cultural context, church tradition, reason/dialogue, life experience, Christ centered, and directed by the Holy Spirit. These are arranged diagrammatically to resemble a house, which made the model easy to understand and remember. By testing the m0odel in three conferences attended by pastors form Church of Nazarene, Melanesians were able to see its usefulness and effectiveness, and developed a theology of death and the spirits of the dead. They also discussed the churches response to the problem of witchcraft. The biblical drama of Jesus’ death, His descent to the world of His death, His resurrection and ascension to the highest place as the Lord of Creation, is connected with the reality of the Melanesian spirit world. The resulting theology is true to scripture and related to the fears, questions, hopes, and myths of Melanesian culture. It shows Melanesians can live victorious Christian lives over the fear of death, the problems of witch craft, and the fear of evil spirits, while remaining vitally connected to their own culture. In this way the Christian gospel becomes a transforming power within the culture.
Asbury Theological Seminary
This dissertation, entitled "Developing a Contextual Theology in Melanesia with Reference to Death, Witchcraft, and the Spirit world" written by Neville R. Bartle and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Missiology has been read and approved by the undersigned members of the Faculty of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism Asbury Theological Seminary.