In my last post I indicated that many African theologians want to portray Jesus as an ancestor. They want to create an authentic African Jesus. At the end of the day, this is a liberal Jesus created in the image of the African theologians. Yet, these issues need to be addressed by evangelicals since they do affect the African church negatively.
What does seeing Jesus as an ancestor really mean?
Jesus as “Brother-Ancestor”
The deceased African brother-ancestor plays the role of mediator or intercessor on behalf of family and clan members, maintains ties with the living, becomes closer to God in position after death, and requires mandatory and regular communication from the living in the form of libation, invocation, ritual offerings, sacrifices, etc. He has to have lived a distinguished and exemplary life in the community, and goes on living through the lives of those still alive.
Jesus’ role parallels that of the brother-ancestor. Jesus is a mediator between us and God, intercessor on our behalf, and models good and proper conduct for us. We maintain a sacred communication with him, and he maintains ties with us, and is alive in us who are still alive. Jesus meets all the prerequisite conditions for an ancestor and therefore he is qualified to be brother-ancestor. Yet, he is unique because he is the Son of God. For this reason, his status as ancestor transcends that of the brother-ancestor in that he perfects and completes the role of brother-ancestor. He is the universal “Brother-Ancestor” par excellence.
Jesus is “Proto-Ancestor”
Another and most important role for the African ancestor is to be the source of life for his/her family members. As one who saves, Jesus identifies with the saving role of the African ancestors. He is thus the “Proto-Ancestor.” In support, one author paraphrases Hebrews 1:1-2 as follows:
“For after God had spoken to us at various times and in various places, including our ancestors, in these last days he speaks to us through his Son, whom he has established as unique Ancestor . . . from whom all life flows for His descendants” (Bujo, 83).
Thus, for the African theologians who advocate this view of Jesus as ancestor, Jesus is the unique ancestor because he “completes and perfects all there is in the African conception of ancestor” (Orobator, 77).
Many questions come to mind: Should African church leaders be concerned? Should evangelicals make a stronger effort to bring more solid theological education to Africa? What is the place of the Bible in developing an African theology? Is the Christ of the African liberal theology a savior?
We will continue the discussion in future posts.
 The following discussions are gleaned from these two representative sources on the topic: Benezet Bujo, African Theology in Its Social Context, trans. John O’Donohue (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1992 ); Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, Theology Brewed in an African Pot(MaryKnoll, New York: 2009).