Many things surprise me. But nothing amazes me more than the debate on the question of inculturation. I just do not see how the need for inculturation can be questioned. But, of course, I am not immune to error in whatever form.

My conviction in this issue is, however, unshaken. God, in his goodness, has created us social beings. Before we knew of other societies, we had been immersed in our own.

It is true that all human beings are rational and free. We are all subject to the same moods and aspirations. Joy and sadness, gaiety and melancholy, patience and anger, extroversion and introversion are found everywhere on our planet. We all want to be loved. We all dislike lies. Granted that physically there is little to choose between a Kikuyu and a Thai, subject as both are to the laws of nature; it is also admitted that anywhere in the world a human person can be cruel or kind, sinful or virtuous, selfish or generous, hard-hearted or hospitable. In short, we all fall under the species homo sapiens we are all human.


But this is only one side of the coin. On the other side is the fact of our being conditioned by our environment. We are the children of our surroundings. We speak different languages. We eat different foods. Our ideas are shaped by what we see around us. Our imagery and metaphors are meaningful only in the context of what we experience constantly. Our concepts of time, space and religion are all tinted by our ecological glasses. It is hardly possible, for example, for the land-locked Burkinabé to owe allegiance to a god of the sea.

It is this social conditioning that forms a people's culture. Culture comprises that complex or sum-total of ideas, behaviour patterns linguistic tradition, legacy of institutions and concepts of life, of the human person and of the world around that have been learned and passed on from generation to generation in a given society. The person is born into an existing culture. There is nothing he can do about it. The culture is going to make him what he is: a Maori and not a Navaho. Christian thinking would assert that it is the will of God the Creator that that person be part of that culture.

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