Theological education in an African context: discipleship and mediated learning experience as framework
Wahl, Willem Petrus
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The purpose of this study is to create a framework for theological education in an African context. It focuses on discipleship and mediated learning experience (MLE) because it encapsulates the fundamental idea of this study, namely that the concepts and principles of discipleship and MLE can effectively contribute to construct a framework that is appropriate for theological education in an African context. In an analysis of the discourse on theological education over the past five decades the following six models for theological education are identified: classical model; vocational model; dialectical model; neo-traditional model; missional model; and ecumenical-diversified model. Further evaluation of these six models lets four central themes emerge, namely leadership stature, practical effectiveness, relational capacity, and spiritual accuracy. These four themes are then compared with a competence-based model for learning in order to conceptualise a broad outline framework for theological education in an African context. The development of this framework must address the primary challenge of competent church leaders in Africa, but also contextual challenges like access to theological education, a lack of resources, socio-political and socio-economic illness, and an Africanized scholarship and curriculum. An analysis of the concept discipleship focuses on its use in ancient Greek, the Old Testament, the Intertestamental period, and the New Testament. Discipleship developed from the general referral to an apprentice in ancient Greek, up to a specialised term in New Testament times. Discipleship in the New Testament is the result of obedience to the call of Jesus, which often requires a cost of self denial. This cost has an effect on the relational proximity within discipleship. Following leads to imitating, this leads to representation. The context of discipleship in the New Testament is the eschatological kingdom of God. Each of the four Gospels emphasises a different aspect of discipleship, which relates broadly to the central themes identified within the discourse on theological education. Discipleship in Matthew largely relates to leadership stature, Mark to practical effectiveness, Luke to relational capacity, and John to spiritual accuracy. The conceptual analysis of mediated learning experience (MLE) focuses on its historical background, theoretical background, and core parameters of intentionality-and-reciprocity, mediation of meaning, and transcendence. MLE is rooted in the belief that the human mind is modifiable. Intelligence is not fixed but is defined as a propensity for change. A lack of MLE results in cultural deprivation but can be altered by MLE interventions. A mediated approach to learning stems from constructivism but stands opposed to its direct approach to learning. In MLE a human mediator (H) is placed between the stimulus (S) and organism (O), and between the organism (O) and the response (R); thus a relational sequence of S-H-O-H-R. Various research studies show that MLE brings about cognitive development for individuals in an African context. MLE and discipleship share a mediated approach to learning. Further comparison between these two concepts bring about three shared foci, namely: a focus on relationship; a focus on process (as opposed to product); and a focus on culture. A framework for theological education in an African context is constructed from two sides, namely: (1) from the previously defined broad outline framework for theological education; and (2) from the concepts and principles of discipleship and MLE. This construction first merges a competence-based model for learning with a mediated approach to learning against a contextual background. This basis is secondly fused with a shared focus on relationship, a shared focus on process, and a shared focus on culture. The third step incorporates the themes leadership stature, practical effectiveness, relational capacity, and spiritual accuracy into the framework as four competences and in so doing creates a three-dimensional diagram. The framework for theological education in an African context, developed by this research study, provides possible solutions for the contextual challenges theological education in Africa is facing. Eight recommendations, in the form of research questions, are made to advance the research findings of this study.