Toward a Black Theology

What is black theology?

Black theology has its roots in the period of slavery in the United States. Although not identified as such, it was fashioned out of the prevailing belief of that time, when white churches attempted to justify slavery, some saying that it was “ordained by God.” Theology “is about the manner in which individuals seek to understand through spiritual eyes their relationship with the known and unknown aspects of the seen and unseen world that impacts their lives,” according to the Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture. It embraces the feeling, passion, and expressiveness of black Christianity and a systematic attempt to interpret the faith of the church. Black theology questions the black experience in American culture and acknowledges that God accepts blacks. Black people developed a sense of pride in their heritage, while their new theology saw them as people declared to be heirs of God. Black theology became “a theology of hope, liberation, and the sovereignty of God.”

The period of black liberation theology influenced James Cone to publish Black Theology and Black Power in 1969. After that a host of other theologians and scholars elaborated their views on what should be included in a program of black theology. These scholars include Gayraud Wilmore, DeOtis Roberts, Major Jones, William Jones, Charles Long, Pauli Murray, Jacquelyn Grant, and Cornel West.


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