Preserving A Worldview Pentecostalism In The African Maps Of The Universe

Preserving A Worldview  Pentecostalism In The African Maps Of The Universe

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Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002



Preserving a Worldview: Pentecostalism in the

African Maps of the Universe

Ogbu U. Kalu

Leading Questions

The recent explosion of Pentecostalism in Africa has attracted some measure of scholarly attention as an aspect of the shift of the center of Christianity from the North to the South. Two ancillary questions con- cern the reasons and nature of the shift and the implications for the global character of Christianity. Some have explained the phenomenon through the collapse of the state and the political economy of Africa; others have applied a conspiratorial theory that spies out the covert activities of the American security forces in alliance with the American right-wing fun- damentalists.


The core interest here is not the explanation of the rise of Pentecostalism in Africa but the nature of its presence in the African eco- theater. Undeniably, it can be seen as a response to the socio-economic and political forces in contemporary Africa. It would, however, be reduc- tionist to focus on this factor exclusively, for every religious form addresses the issues of the day or loses its relevance. From a certain perspective, Pentecostalism in Africa can be seen as the third response by Africans to the gospel message propagated by missionaries, following the initial response by black cultural nationalists of the nineteenth century and the pneumatic response at the turn of the twentieth century by the so-called “ Bantu Prophets” or “ Praying People,” what the Yoruba call “ Aladura.” Pentecostalism became another kind of pneumatic response characteriz- ing the modern period of African church history.




Paul Gifford, The New Crusaders (London: Pluto Press, 1991).

Ogbu U. Kalu, “ The Third Response: Pentecostalism and the Reconstruction of Christian Experience in Africa, 1970-1995,” Studia Ecclesiasticae Historiae , University of Pretoria, 24, no. 2 (1998): 1-34.

© 2002 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden

pp. 110-137


Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 1, Spring 2002

Pentecostalism is perceived here as the “ setting to work” of the pneu- matic seed of the gospel in Africa, at once showing what Africans did to the gospel message, how they responded to the presence of the kingdom in their midst and how it transformed their worldview. In the encounter, the face of Christianity, acquired a unique character. The speciŽ c context, the Africanness of the phenomenon and its place within African maps of the universe constitute the burden of this paper and the leading questions. To pose this question is to step on a creeping plant that has entangled much of African church historiography, namely, the continuity of African primal religion in African Christianity. To appreciate the matter fully may also require an anatomy of the African worldview followed by a brief his- torical discourse of the birth of the born-again, or the rise of Pentecostalism in Africa. The stage would then be set for an exploration of the Pentecostal reconstruction of the primal worldview .

Strands of Continuity in African Christian Historiography

During the Edinburgh-Yale seminar in 1992, Andrew Walls, a doyen of African church history, observed that in the history of religions,

African Christianity appears in two capacities: Ž rst, as a new period in the history of African religion, continuing the story begun in the primal or tra- ditional religions; and second, as a new period in the history of Christianity, in which the tradition is being expressed in intellectual, social and religious milieux which it has not previously entered.


Walls argued that just as the Christianity of the Acts of the Apostles was rooted in the religion of old Israel, so is African Christianity rooted in the primal religion of the continent. African Christianity is shaped by the African past and by the concerns and agenda of the people. The con- tinuity can be traced through the reordering of worldview and the intro- duction of new symbols and sources.

Professor Walls could easily have pulled together ten strands of the argument from existing literature even though the proponents were pur- suing other questions. For instance, right from the beginning of the nine- teenth century missionary enterprise, a certain consistent paradigm in African historiography emerged that portrayed missionaries as “ imperi- alists at prayer.” Castigated as path-Ž nders for colonial boots, A. E. AŽ gbo


Andrew F. Walls, “ African Christianity in the History of Religions,” in Christianity in Africa in the 1990’ s , ed. C. Fyfe and A. F. Walls (Edinburgh: Center for African Studies, University of Edinburgh, 1996), chap. 1.



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

in Ropes of Sand intoned that “ it was not one of the aims of the colo- nialists to preserve the cultural identity of subject peoples. In fact, the opposite was the case.”4 John Ngugi in his novel, The River Between , portrayed Christianity as a dysfunctional, iconoclastic force that disrupted communities and robbed people of their self-identity. From here it was a short step to ridiculing indigenous collaborators. Joyce Cary in Mister Johnson called them “ black Englishmen,” and the Ž lm version indeed traces the painful career of a schizophrenic buffoon who was used and dropped by those whose magic circle he sought in an illusionary quest. Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, caricatured them as Interpreters who watched white men from the periphery and endeavored to mimic what they saw in their home communities.

The chorus of the historians and the novelists harked to a strain heard among the “ Ethiopians” or cultural nationalists of the nineteenth century who felt that missionary Christianity was struggling too vigorously to install a prepackaged hardware of Enlightenment agenda that would de- stroy the indigenous African religion and culture. This strain consisted of a dualistic mindset, scientiŽ c racism, and the verdicts of arm-chair theorists who disengaged the dreamy origins of primitive religion from Christianity. It was decorated with ethnocentrism and hubris. The nation- alists saw their task as calling for an indigenized alternative. They had heard the priests of many shrines announcing godly whispers of a new covenant and warning that people should eat with the prospective visi- tors with long spoons. Indigenization was a call for continuity in change, rooting Christianity in the soil of Africa. KoŽ Awoonor, in his poem Easter Dawn,5 sang of the discomŽ ture that the guardians of the ancestral cal- abash feared:

The gods are crying, my father’ s gods are crying for a burial . . . for a Ž nal ritual . . . but they that should build the fallen shrines have joined the dawn marchers singing their way towards Gethsemane. . . . the gods cried, shedding clayey tears on calico,

the drink offering had dried up in the harmattan and

the fetish priest is dressing up for the Easter Service.

Of course, the missionary enterprise was not that successful, but white power and cultural iconoclasm constituted an enduring theme in church historiography. Cross-cultural mission as civilization created a bad press


Adiele E. AŽ gbo, Ropes of Sand: Studies In Igbo History and Culture (Lagos: Oxford University 5 Press, 1981).

Ulli Beier, Modern Poetry from Africa (London: Penguin Books, 1979).



Preserving a Worldview

for the gospel and may have emasculated the full impact. This should be noted as the backdrop to the rise of Pentecostalism and in understanding the nuances in Pentecostal cultural policy.

A variation of the diatribe on the collusion between the commissar, trader, and missionary focused on the jaundiced perception of African Traditional Religion. E. B. Idowu catalogued the inappropriate terms used in various genres of Western literatures to such an extent that a reviewer accused him of quarreling with dead men. But Idowu was a child of the cultural renaissance that followed on the heels of political nationalism and raised the question about the role of primal religion and culture in Christian living. Perhaps this is because culture stands at the gates, market squares, and gable ends of each community. As a new religion comes, the tensile strength of the culture of the people may determine the prospects. The relationship between religion and ecology is extensive and ecology could be geographical, human, and cultural. Idowu was concerned that the purveyors of change paid scant attention to primal spirituality, declar- ing it to be mumbo-jumbo. This attitude made Christianity a foreign reli- gion or, as D. I. Nwoga dubbed it, Supreme God as a stranger.


Some apologists rose in defense to argue that Africans had knowledge of God before the missionaries came. They utilized the Greek concept, spermatikos logos precisely because they were educated in missionary schools. Nationalists cried foul against the hellenization of African pri- mal religion. But John Mbiti ignored the red ag and employed the con- cept of praeparatio evangelica , arguing that “ we can add nothing to the Gospel, for this is an eternal gift of God; but Christianity is always a beg- gar seeking food and drink, cover and shelter from the cultures it encoun- ters in its never-ending journeys and wanderings.”7

The incarnational nature of the gospel provided African theologians with much food for thought through many years because culture loomed large in the enterprise. Soon Roman Catholic theologians shifted the ter- minology to inculturation, arguing that the discussion should go beyond the initial insertion of the gospel into cultures and deal with making the gospel “ a principle that animates, directs and uniŽ es the culture, trans- forming it and remaking it so as to bring about a new creation.” Similarly, Protestant biblical scholars such as Kwesi Dickson, the former Moderator


E. B. Idowu, African Traditional Religion: An Introduction (London: SPCK, 1973); Donatus 7 I. Nwoga, The Supreme God as a Stranger (Ekwereazu, Mbaise, Nigeria, 1984).

John S. Mbiti, “ Christianity and the Traditional Religions of Africa,” International Review of Missions , 59, 236 (1970): 430-41.



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of the Methodist Church in Ghana, sought to establish the kindred spirit between the Old Testament world and the African.


The elements of con- tinuity not only served to restore the bashed image of the African but pointed toward evangelical models.

The most thorough and extant work is Kwame Bediako’ s Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture Upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa . He essentially urges a shift from a paradigm that conceives of Christianity and African primal religion as the correla- tion of two entities thought to be independent. It would appear so in the Christianity written by intellectuals; but living faith, in real-life situations and in Ž eld experience, operates differently: in the very process of indige- nous assimilation, the decoders weave a new pattern following the lines of congruence, making their religious experience an organic, uniŽ ed one. This reciprocity enables us to study the fate of the gospel in a commu- nity from the perspective of the receivers— the decoders of the message. Attention should, therefore, turn from the mode of transmission toward the mode of assimilation. However, the fact that many Africans bore the brunt of evangelization meant that, quite often, the pursuit of elements of continuity was an ongoing task. In Christianity in Africa , Bediako set out to show the prospects and adequacy of the faith for the realities of African life; to root it by claiming for it a past in the spiritual harvest of African pre-Christian religious heritage.


Lamin Sanneh’ s seminal contribution explored the irony that the mis- sionaries were forced by the logic or exigencies of the mission Ž eld to realize the debilitating effect of iconoclasm and turn to translating the message. Translation destigmatized indigenous languages and cultures as proper vehicles of conveying the gospel, opened the innards of cultures, preserved them from extinction, and became an instrument for uplifting many peoples. Whenever the name of God was rendered in an indige- nous tongue, the Almighty was brought into the center of the people’ s lives and woven into their pre-Christian past. Translation was a potent evangelical tool.


Thus, the pursuit of the strands of continuity has always been a response to the exigencies of the Ž eld, of power encounter, a real-


Aylward Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988), 9 11. Kwesi Dickson, Theology in Africa (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1984), 146.

Kwame Bediako, Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa (Oxford: Regnum Press, 1992); Christianity in Africa: 10 The Renewal of a Non-Western Religion (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995), 76.

Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message: Missionary Impact on Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1989).



Preserving a Worldview

ization that certain kinds of iconoclasm can be self-defeating and as an evangelical tool.

It was more than these because translation introduced new aspects into African Christianity by buttressing certain elements in African religious experience that the Enlightenment had forced missionaries to abandon. For instance, Africans perceived biblical support for revelatory phenom- ena such as dreams, visions, and prophetic utterances. They discovered the possibilities of new models of church polity; the ethics in Leviticus underpinned their concerns for ritual purity, while the satanic or demonic challenge to God and man humanity with their precarious vision of the universe. Christianity may have introduced the Ž gure of Jesus obtrusively but the enlargement of the God component of their cosmology came to their aid. Translation raised the issue of discontinuity by providing exits to be pursued later.

These factors became palpable in the implosion of Aladura spiritual- ity: its reconstructive, pneumatic challenge to mainline churches tapped the vibrancy of primal African spirituality, substituted black for white power in church matters, and incorporated ingredients of African culture into polity, liturgy, ethics and doctrine. The literature has burgeoned to the point of romanticization despite the fact that some of these are not Christian. As Walls would say, for many scholars,

The effectiveness of Christian faith, or of any particular manifestation of it, is accordingly open to the test whether it gives access to power and pros- perity or protection against natural or spiritual enemies, purposes to which much traditional practice was directed, and satisfactorily enforces familial and social unity.


It was the career of Archbishop Emanuel Milingo (Lusaka, Zambia) that brought this pursuit of spiritual continuity into the ambits of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa. It touched off a furor both within the church and among anthropologists. As Aylward Shorter attacked Milingo, Adrian Hastings and M. L. Daneel rose in defense.


The pursuit of continuity not only sparked the discussion on exorcism or deliverance but introduced another conceptual scheme, namely, the covenant idea in African church history and theology. This posits the relationships between Africans and their gods as binding covenants; rituals and festivals become



Walls and Fyfe, Christianity in Africa in the 1990’ s , 6.

Aylward Shorter, Jesus as the Witchdoctor (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985); Adrian Hastings, African Catholicism: Essays in Discovery (London: SPCK, 1989); M. L. Daneel, “ Exorcism as a Means of Combating Wizardry,” Missionalia 18,1 (1990): 220-47



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re-energizing sacred moments. This explains why the spirits that guard the gates of communities have remained unconquered, thereby creating a dilemma and calling for a revisit to inculturation theology. Covenants can only be reversed by recognizing their existence, potent reality, character, and appropriate rituals of disengagement. They are legally binding and may not be simply wished away without due processes.

The net effect of all these has been a new method of studying African traditional religion, no longer as fossilized or exotic religion but as a liv- ing faith to be taken seriously. It contains elements that proffer abundant life as well as those that threaten life. This is what Laurenti Magesa has done recently in his African Religion: The Moral Foundations of Abundant Life.13 The Christianization process must take cognizance of the element of continuity in the religious lives of Africans instead of binding every- thing together under the umbrella of syncretism. Undoubtedly a dirty epithet, the word began life in the search for an appropriate quality of the mix, the enduring problem of Christ and culture. Africa is currently boiling with much religious ferment and has, indeed, become a “ great theological laboratory, dealing with issues literally of life and death, of deformation and reformation, of fossilization and revival.”14

Finally, some years ago, Robin Horton (1971-1975) drew attention to the intellectualist approach in explaining religious change. He was trying to deal with both primary and secondary conversion. What makes the African abandon the gods of his or her fathers for the Christian God or shift from mere attendance to indulgence in Charismatic spirituality? Horton suggested looking into the changes in worldview, wherein, he argued, reside the elements of continuity and discontinuity.


In summary, these ten strands have informed the Pentecostal empha- sis on African primal worldview its theology and determined its charac- ter and response to the challenges of that worldview. They have also given African Pentecostalism a peculiar avor as it seeks to share the gospel with power amidst the pulsating problems of the ecosystem. The quest


Ogbu U. Kalu, “ Unconquered Spiritual Gates: African Inculturation Theology Revisited,” Journal of Inculturation Theology 1, no. 1 (1991): 25-37; “ The Dilemma of Grassroot Inculturation of the Gospel,” Journal of Religion in Africa 25 (Feb. 1995), 48- 72; Laurenti Magesa, African Traditional Religion: the Moral Foundations for Abundant Life14(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997).

Fyfe and Walls, Christianity in Africa in the 1990’ s , 14; Ogbu U. Kalu, “ Gospel, Culture and Mission: Revisiting an Enduring Problem,” Skrief en Kirk 19, no. 2 (1998): 283-300.15

Robin Horton, “ African Conversion,” Africa 41, no. 2 (1971): 87-108; 45, no. 3 (1975): 219-35; 45, no. 4, 373-99.



Preserving a Worldview

by Pentecostals to root their message into the African maps of the uni- verse is buttressed by the efforts of African Christians of various hues, scholars, novelists, and political nationalists to interpret the gospel from their meaning systems. Admittedly, some of these efforts arose from antag- onism and others from antistructural intentions to establish a different and more kerygmatic Christianity.

The Anatomy of an African Worldview

Some scholars have argued that each culture is a universe of signs comparable to language, a conŽ guration of images, concepts, and inter- pretations. Through the process of enculturation, this grammar is acquired unconsciously by the individual members of a society. Underlying cul- ture is the worldview as the hermeneutic that interprets the creative pat- tern of human action or, as M. Kraft puts it, “ the cultural lens through which human experience is viewed.” Various anthropologists have sought to capture the character of worldview as “ mind-world” ; the unconscious patterning of behavior in society; the way a people characteristically looks outward on the universe; the patterns of thought, attitude toward life, con- cept of time, a mental picture of what ought to be, and the order of things, and their view of self and others all are included in a people’ s worldview.

Paul Hiebert organized the content of worldview into three categories— cognitive, affective, and evaluative. These refer to abstract ideas, inter- personal structures and ethical values. Charles H. Kraft concluded, “ At the core of culture and, therefore, at the very heart of all human life, lies the structuring of the basic assumptions, values, and allegiances in terms of which people interpret and behave. These assumptions, values and alle- giances we call worldview.”16 Worldview is a picture that points to the deep-level assumptions and values on the basis of which people generate surface-level behavior; it provides the motivation for behavior and gives meaning to the environment. Like the rest of culture, it is inherited uncon- sciously but deliberately transmitted. It could be encrusted in customs, myths, proverbs, folklore, music, and dances.

Cultural change can often be depicted as waves battering away at the crusts, initiating a process of separation, reconstruction, and reprioritiza- tion as a new way of viewing the world emerges. Worldview serves three


Charles H. Kraft, Anthropology for Christian Witness (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), 10; Paul G. Hiebert, Anthropolgical Insights for Missionaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1985), 46; M. G. Kraft, Understanding Spiritual Powers (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995), 20.



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functions: explanation, prediction, and control of space-time events. It is a mental construct that enables us to make meaning of our realities and, like theory-building, it enables us to pursue a quest for the underlying simplicity in our complex world and brings into causal relationship wider vistas of reality and everyday life. On the religious front, it helps us to dig deeper than the structures into the allegiances that constitute the core of religiosity.

The size of the African continent and her myriads of cultures could defy any attempt to construct an African worldview. But scholars agree that there is a deep-seated and underlying cultural pattern that makes us all Africans. Details in the out-workings of the pattern may certainly vary; exceptions may crop up here or there while the inner core persists. Two predicates appear useful, namely, Time and Space. How a people understand time and conceive space may betray how they perceive their universe.

Africans conceive time in a cyclical pattern. Life moves from birth to death and back to life by reincarnation. This movement of time is derived from the agricultural cycle among preindustrial peoples. As their pre- dominant economic activities move from planting to harvest and back to planting, as the sun and moon appear and disappear only to return in an endless cycle, life is conceived as following a similar pattern. Reality is divided into two: the human world and the spirit world. But each is a replica of the other; thus if an important person or a chief dies, he will still live like one in the spirit world. This explains why some communi- ties bury slaves to continue serving their master in the spirit world. Tied to this is an anthropology in which a creator deity delegated subalterns to mold human beings from clay while he himself breathed life-giving breath into them. The blood transmits life throughout the entire body system. At death, the personality-soul or life-breath continues a new life cycle in the spirit world, now as an ancestor who is still a member of his earthly family.

This is the concept of the living-dead. Death is not an end but the beginning of a new vista of living. Imbued with vibrant spiritual powers, the ancestor provides a guardian role for the earthly family. Ethical con- straints bind either party: a person must have lived a moral life to merit the status of an ancestor. This may be indicated by the fact that the per- son did not die from certain inexplicable diseases suggestive of a pun- ishment from the gods, or by being struck by lightning, which is regarded as an overt display of godly anger and punishment for a wicked secret offence. Everyone desires to live to old age with dignity and to qualify in death as an ancestor. The human family celebrates the death with appro-



Preserving a Worldview

priate rituals, spaced out into Ž rst, second and even third burial cere- monies. If the family fails to provide a decent burial or to maintain any of the covenanted obligations with spirits woven by the dead person for the prosperity of the family, he will visit them, making demands and caus- ing trouble for them until they learn to satisfy the conditions. If all oblig- ations are kept, the dead will travel through the spirit world and reincarnate.

Thus, when a child is born, diviners will be consulted to indicate who has returned. The umbilical cord is put in a calabash and sprinkled with certain herbs; an old man of the family speaks incantations over it and buries the calabash under a tree at the back of the family’ s compound. The child is rooted to the earth, the land of his ancestors. The identiŽ cation determines the name that the child is given on the eighth day at an out- door ceremony. Various rites of passage are performed as the individual progresses from adolescence through adult roles to the status of an elder of the community. Different social organizations further root the person into a sense of community: some are achieved, others ascribed; some are open, others are secret.

It should be mentioned that this cyclical perception contrasts with the New Testament concept of time that has informed Western imagination. It is as if the circle has been stretched out; time is imaged as linear, a continuum, moving ineluctably from the past to the present and to the future. The Greek, abstract notion of time as kronos, measured out chrono- metrically, is contrasted with the African concept of time as kairos, time as event. Time is peopled with events and is so reckoned. The past and the present are very dynamic but the future is attenuated; the notion of eternity or eschaton is foreclosed by the myth of eternal return. In the New Testament conception, however, the intrusion of the not-yet period into the here-and-now period brings the two aeons together and creates an organic concept of the world similar to that prevalent in the symbol of the circle that unites the spiritual and the earthly realms in the African worldview.

This organic perception is underscored by the conception of space. The African perceives three dimensions of space: the sky, the earth (consist- ing of land and water), and the ancestral or spirit world. It is a living uni- verse as each space is peopled with some of the four components of spiritual powers: the Supreme Being as the creator and the major subal- tern divinities inhabit the sky. Manifesting as the sun, lightning, thunder, moon, or stars, they serve as oracles, arbiters in human affairs and agents in ritual dynamics. The major force or divinity on the earth is the Earth deity which is responsible for fertility and the nurture of human, animal,



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and plant life. Land looms large in this cosmology. In many myths of ori- gin, it is said that, during creation, the Supreme Being sent some deities to perch on anthills and dry the marshy earth; thus was the world formed. Some stayed back and inhabited rocks, trees, caves, streams, and rivers and thus imbued physical nature with divine power. Beyond nature spir- its are patron spirits for certain professions such as farming, hunting, Ž shing, blacksmithing, trading and other economic pursuits.

Thus all the realms of life are sacralized; there is no distinction between the sacred and the profane. The ecotheology in this scariscape is very important but cannot be pursued here. There are human spirits on the land because each human being has a guardian spirit who determines his or her fate in the passage through life. In some cultures, the individual makes a wooden Ž gure of the personal daemon and sacriŽ ces to it daily for empowerment in the pursuits of life. In the gender construct, the marine spirits are imaged as daughters of the Earth deity. Marine spirits can be muniŽ cent and give riches to devotees. Barren women propitiate marine spirits for children; musicians consort with them for melodious songs; artists too, seek for inspiration. The connection between commerce and the arts on the one hand and marine spirits on the other runs as deep as the depths of the sea. But marine spirits can be wicked beings, making those they control to be morally unstable and wayward. Their ashy gifts do not last; marriages contrived by them do not succeed and children from marine spirits are often plagued by inexplicable illness. These elements of instability force the af icted to consult diviners who assist in extricat- ing the individual from covenants made by parents or by the person with marine spirits.

Next to the deities and spirits, the third component consists of the ancestral spirits that inhabit the earth-beneath. Imbuing the whole of the world of the living are the fourth component, spiritual forces that indi- viduals can acquire through rituals for enhancing the life-force. They are nonpersonal beings such as those called mana in the Oceania: a mysteri- ous, ubiquitous power that permeates all areas of life and can be used for good or evil to harm or diminish the capability of another person’ s life- force, fortunes, and resources. The powers can be employed negatively through words, thoughts, attitudes, and behavior in sorcery or witchcraft practices. Witchcraft is the use of human psychic powers to do evil, unlike sorcery, which employs magical incantations, implements, objects, med- icine, and other paraphernalia. With either method, curses are put on indi- viduals and families by the envious or wicked people. Evil forces lack bodily forms; thus, they embody people, animals, and physical objects



Preserving a Worldview

and manipulate these to harm people. The vision of existence is a pre- carious one as evil forces, which besiege the human world, endeavor to ruin the capacity of individuals, families, and communities to live a pros- perous life. Ruth Marshall has shown that this scenario applies equally to the modern urban setting in Africa:

With increasing economic hardship and zero-sum struggle for survival, great strain is put on the extended family as the basic domestic unit. Relatively successful family members often resent the pressure put on them by a vari- ety of near and distant relatives. . . . Young people striving for upward mobil- ity not only desire a relative freedom from such pressures, but also protection from resentment and jealousy in the form of witchcraft, most feared and dangerous in the hands of blood relatives.


Apart from the anxiety created by the continued in ux of dangerous strangers to urban centers as a result of increased rural-urban migration, the extreme instrumentalization of social relations, and the breakdown of many patron-client networks during the past decade have introduced a kind of urban paranoia about evildoers who are out to cheat, deceive, rob and kill. The old forms of community— ethnic, kinship, professional, hometown, neighborhood— have proved unreliable sources of support. Rituals of sacriŽ ces, libations, offerings, prayers, taboos and other forms of sacred acts are employed in seeking the intervention of the good spir- its in the combat with evil spirits. While some spirits are propitiated, oth- ers are driven away through prescribed rituals. J. S. Mbiti in The Prayers of African Religion has recorded the liturgy for driving away an intrusive nature spirit among the Banyankore of Uganda:

Come and go with yours—

This is your goat—

This is your road—

Go and don’ t return.


Af iction is a pivotal issue in the theology of the African primal world and can be caused by a contravention of the moral code. For instance, the Earth deity supervises the moral order on the land. Matters such as stealing, adultery, incest, other forms of wrong-doing and breakdown in social relations are abomination to her. Failure to propitiate her is visited with af ictions that take different forms such as illness or misfortune. The


Ruth Marshall-Fratani, “ Mediating the Global and Local in Nigerian Pentecostalism,” Journal 18 of Religion in Africa , 28, no. 3 (1998): 278-315, see p. 283 .

John S. Mbiti, Prayers of African Religion (London: SPCK, 1975), 106.



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manifestation may be individual or communal. Political instability, eco- nomic disaster, upsurge in the mortality rate, increase in robbery and other unwholesome social facts are regarded as disease, requiring divinatory diagnosis and spiritual cure. Disease could, therefore, be caused by reli- gious, social and natural causes. To reestablish the security of the moral order and reconcile broken social relationships, medicine becomes impor- tant. A diviner diagnoses the problem and provides curative and protec- tive spiritual powers— either through herbs or by covenanting the individual or community to protective spirits. Festivals, dances, masquerades, and commensality are employed to re-energize ancestral and other covenants and heal the community from untoward conditions. Finally, it has been shown through a survey of six hundred and Ž fteen spirits that attract the religious ardor of the Igbo of South-Eastern Nigeria, that different cul- ture theaters in Africa prioritize which deities are central for their needs. The challenges of the ecosystem are core determinants for prioritizing their choices.

This is a religious worldview. Going through life is like a spiritual warfare and religious ardor may appear very materialistic as people strive to preserve their material sustenance in the midst of the machinations of pervasive evil forces. Behind it is a strong sense of the moral and spiri- tual moorings of life. It is an organic worldview in which the three dimen- sions of space are bound together; the visible and the invisible worlds interweave. Nothing happens in the visible world that has not been pre- determined in the invisible realm. The challenge for Christianity is how to witness the gospel in a highly spiritualized environment in which the recognition of the powers has not been banished in a Cartesian ight to objectivity and enlightenment. The power question is ultimate and suf- fuses the African primal worldview, demanding an answer from the new Christian change-agent. It points to the need for continuity in change. Earlier missionary efforts to sidestep the question with charitable institu- tions and the Western worldview failed, leaving the Ž eld open for reevan- gelization. The born-again people have picked up the gauntlet. The argument here is that Pentecostalism in Africa derived her coloring from the tex- ture of the African soil and from the interior her idiom, nurture, and growth; her fruits serve the challenges and problems of the African ecosys- tem more adequately than did the earlier missionary fruits.



Preserving a Worldview

The Birth of Born-Agains: The Vertical Expansion of Pentecostalism in Africa

Early commentators tended to emphasize the roles of Americans in the explosion of the born-again syndrome in Africa, depicting it as an extension of the American electronic church and hostile to the creative impulse that was emerging in African Christianity. The dissenting position here is to perceive the phenomenon Ž rst within the strand of continuity, and second as the fruit of missionary enterprise in Africa, bearing seeds of discontinuity. Attention should be paid to periodization precisely because, in the twenty- Ž ve years under review (1970-1995), both the reasons and the pattern of vertical expansion changed. For instance, there was Pentecostal ferment prior to 1970 when the Wind of God began to blow like a gale. In the mid-1980s, it assumed a different character with the increase of the Faith Movement and the proliferation of Prosperity preachers. A high growth pattern continued into the 1990s but with a sobering return to holiness emphasis in many countries in which the Intercessors for Africa became more visible in the paradigm shift to a theology of political engagement.

Three models characterize the historiography of the origins of Pente- costalism in Africa. The Ž rst is the cultural-historical model, which empha- sizes the African roots of Pentecostalism. Scholars have traced the spirituality of the Azusa Street phenomenon to West African spirituality. That is not quite the point here; rather, the rise of the movement is an aspect of the African attempt to link the resources of a new religiosity with an ongo- ing effort to solve problems in the ecosystem. It is a continuation of African religiosity and emerges from the African worldview, but it cri- tiques the old solutions that lost efŽ cacy as the old system fell apart. As the exilic-type conditions of Africa intensify, the quest for new moorings not only intensify but take different shapes. Adrian Hastings has traced the import of this through the careers of William Koyi (a South-African Xhosa), Frank Zigubu of Shonoland, Molimele Molele (a Sotho), Samuel Kona (a Fingo), Eliachib Mandlakusasa (a Tsonga),Wade Harris, Ivory Coast, Garrick Braide, Niger Delta, Sampson Oppong (Ashanti), and sim- ilar individuals whose charismatic ministries had no connection with Azusa Street but emerged in the pressure of primal religion and culture on the Christian message: “ What was happening in place after place was a spir- itual revolution sparked off by native evangelists in conditions created by the unsettlement of early colonial rule.”19


Adrian Hastings, The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 453.



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

This fact points also to two directions: Ž rst, the relationship with the Aladura at the inception. The early Pentecostals emerged in the garb of Zionists. Later, some abandoned the use of instruments and became more fully Pentecostal. Second, it draws attention to the relationship between the phenomenon and missionary enterprise. Pentecostalism was a pneu- matic response and a setting to work of the missionary message. The impact of translation and the roots of many “ Bantu Prophets” in mission churches have been mentioned.


A good example can be taken from the origins of the Assemblies of God in Nigeria. A certain Wogu who was a member of Faith Tabernacle found himself suddenly baptized in the Holy Spirit and he started to speak in tongues. Some friends joined him but all were excommunicated. They formed the Church of Jesus Christ in 1934; Ž ve years later, they invited the Assemblies of God from the United States to take over their church. The Welsh Apostolic Church was invited to Ghana and Nigeria by indige- nous founders who wanted legitimacy under the hostile colonial envi- ronment. Rev. James McKeown’ s pioneering effort was supplementary to Babalola’ s charismatic ministry in Nigeria and Peter Anim’ s in Ghana, as the latter had received the spirit baptism four years before linking with the Welshman. The Garrick Braide movement (1914-1918), the Spirit Revival among the neighboring Ibibio (1927-1928), the deliverance min- istry of the Welsh Apostolic pastors, Idris Vaughan and George Perfect, 1930-1933, on the Cross River, all these set the southeastern parts of Nigeria a ame with spiritual Ž re from 1914 through 1940.

The reaction of the Qua Iboe Mission was typical. At Ž rst, they rejoiced at the Spirit Revival, saying that they had prayed fervently for it. But soon they feared the spiritual freedom of their black converts and sought to restrain the spiritual exuberance. Racism scorched the fruits of their prayer and message.


This is reminiscent of the reaction to the Balokole revival movement that swept from Rwanda in the 1930s through Uganda, Kenya, and most of East and Central Africa, yelling “ tukutendereza Yezu,” “ We praise you, Jesus.” The largest Pentecostal church in Africa is, per- haps, the Deeper Life Bible Church, founded by William Kumuyi in Nigeria, with branches in most parts of Africa. As Matthew Ojo has shown, Kumuyi was a member of the Apostolic Church and imbibed his holiness


Ogbu U. Kalu, “ The Demonization of the Aladura in African Pentecostal Rhetoric,” Missionalia 21 28, nos. 2/3 (Aug./Nov. 2000): 121-42.

Ogbu U. Kalu, The Embattled Gods: Christianization of Igboland, 1841-1991 (Lagos and London: Minaj Publishers, 1996), chap. 10.



Preserving a Worldview

ethic from the discipline of that church.


Pa S. G. Elton, a veteran mis- sionary of that church, would later become a key inspiration to the gen- eration of Pentecostals of the 1970s in Nigeria. He linked Benson A. Idahosa to Rev. and Mrs. Gordon Lindsay of Dallas, Texas. The couple trained, ordained and funded Idahosa’ s successful ministry in the West coast of Africa.

A second explanation model is the providential. When the Classical Pentecostals entered Africa before 1970, there was little vertical growth to write home about until the gale blew all over the continent in that year. A providential explanation of this fact shifts attention away from Azusa Street to a perception of the movement as universal in origin, a sponta- neous global outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is contented by Paul A. Pomerville in The Third Force in Missions and is the “ Ž nger of God” conceptual scheme in history.


Case studies from most parts of Africa agree on the explosion of the phenomenon from 1970. Quite typical of this is the unprecedented growth of both the Bethel and Transcea churches in Liberia. As the case of Liberia shows, the fatigue of mainline churches and their collusion with years of corruption and power monopoly elicited a pneumatic challenge perceived by some as God’ s judgment and recla- mation of God’ s people. One key characteristic of the 1970s is the pro- liferation of young preachers called aliliki in Malawi. Richard van Djik has done a good sociological analysis of the ages and backgrounds of the young preachers in Malawi.


The spiritual radicalization of students of both secondary schools and universities provided the midwives for the birth of the born again.

In Nigeria, for an example, the movement in the southwest was pio- neered by the students of the Universities of Ibadan and of Ife (renamed Obafemi Awolowo University). Graduates of tertiary institutions pioneered the evangelization of northern Nigerian cities. In the southeast secondary school students, members of the Scripture Union came to the force as the Scripture Union which had been a sedate Bible study body, suddenly started exhibiting charismatic signs and wonders, including the raising of the dead at a rally in the sprawling commercial city of Onitsha. Students


Matthew Ojo, “ Charismatic Movements in Africa” in Christianity in Africa in the 1990’ 23s, ed. Fyfe and Walls, 92-110.

Paul A. Pommerville, The Third Force in Mission (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985), 24 41-62.

R. van Djik, “ Young Born Again Preachers in Post-Independence Malawi” in New Dimensions in African Christianity , ed. Paul Gifford (Nairobi: AACC, 1992), 66-92.



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

from Nigeria, who went for French language study, evangelized their fel- lows in Ivory Coast, Benin, and Guinea.

In Kenya, the Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS) facilitated the spread throughout eastern Africa. The impact of the FOCUS training course held in 1974 and the role of Kenyan university students in pro- moting the movement in the rest of the region was tremendous. Similarly, the movement started from secondary schools into tertiary institutions in Tanzania in the same period. Political and ideological factors delayed the spread into Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe till the 1980s. The youthful pattern visible as well in Ghana and Sierra Leone was not quite so evident in South Africa and Zaire.


In South Africa, as in Zimbabwe, the European ideological factor was prominent, prompting the suspicion that the insidiously gloved hands of the anti-Communist American Religious Right was gaining a grip in Africa. When FRELIMO opened the doors to Christianity in the 1980s many Pentecostal churches from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Malawi rushed along with mainline churches and hundreds of NGOs into Mozambique. These Pentecostals, such as the Rhema and Faith Ministries from Johannesburg and Harare, had support from the U.S.A. Other American groups deŽ ed the Mozambican government to aid RENAMO rebels in an obviously ideological manner. These groups included Open Doors Ministries, End-time Handmaidens, Don Normand Ministries of Florida, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, the World Missionary Assistance Plan of California, and Christ for the Nations of Dallas. Two conclusions emerge: Ž rst, in spite of African initiatives, there was foreign in uence in the proliferation of Pentecostalism in Africa. The degree of this in uence varied in different countries according to the resource base-educated manpower, Ž nance, and population. The trend increased in the 1980s. The nature of the relationship is another matter precisely because Africans were tending more toward more independence. Foreign contact was useful for prestige, legitimation, rapidly-acquired degrees that the pastor could not earn from home universities, and funds for the infrastructure and media costs. It was not a South-North trend only; there was also a South-South, lateral relationship in ministerial for- mation of African pastors.


Second, the movement was not always a


C.Omenyo, “ The Charismatic Renewal Movement in Ghana,” Pentecostal Theology 16, no. 2 (1994): 169-85; D. R. M. Smith, “ A Survey and Theological Analysis of Spiritual and Pentecostal Evangelist Churches in Freetown, Sierra 26 Leone” (Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, 1994).

Rosalind I. J. Hackett, “ New Directions and Connections for African and Asian Charis- matics,” Pneuma: Pentecostal Theology 18, no. 1 (1996): 69-77.



Preserving a Worldview

youthful affair; as it aged its character changed, and the patronage soon involved adults. President Chiluba, who declared Zambia to be a Christian nation, was not engaging in political gymnastics; he was born again before he acceded to power.

The year 1985 is a watershed. Reinhardt Bonnke’ s Harare Fire Conven- tion brought together four thousand African pastors from forty-one coun- tries for over a week of training. The theme was a declaration that “ Africa shall be Saved.” The impact was enormous and created a band of enthu- siastic evangelists, many of whom participated in organizing over eigh- teen Bonnke outreaches within the next Ž ve years. The 1980s witnessed increased outreach, including Prosperity ministries, Intercessors for Africa, Charismatic bands within the mainline churches (a survival strategy as women and youth dominated the charismatic movements), and the growth of such groups as Gideon Bible International, Full Gospel Businessmen’ s Fellowship International, and Women’ s Aglow. These last two provided born-again professionals with alternatives to humanistic sodalities such as the Rotary Club and Lion’ s Club and saved them from the clutches of Rosicrucians and Freemasons.

The period 1985 to 1995 also witnessed the enormous collapse of African economies. Legitimacy crises, environmental degradation, civil wars, droughts, and a host of misfortunes touched off vast emigration and refugee trends. These untoward backdrops have given rise to a third model, namely, the functionalist model, which explains the rise of Pentecostalism in Africa appeal to materialist and instrumentalist factors. The context in which conversion takes place is crucial because religion is basically related to problem-solving. The only cautions are to avoid complexity-ignoring monocausal analysis and reductionist explanations. Karla Poewe has shown that the functionalist model re ects a dilemma presented by the use of the social science method to study a religious phenomenon. In the case of South Africa, she debunked some of the so-called scientiŽ c Ž ndings that attributed the growth to the fears and paranoia of white Charismatics.

27 It should be noted that some growth occurred due to a host of internal reasons, including splintering caused by personality clash, the immoral- ity of a leader, clash of vision, a faithful, and vigorous evangelistic pro- gram, and the cellular nature of the movement.

The pre-1970 growth is explained against the backdrop of in uenza on the West coast of Africa between 1919 and 1925 and the psychosocial


Karla Poewe, ed. Charismatic Christianity as a Global Culture (Columbia, SC: University of Southern Carolina Press, 1994), chap. 2.



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

pressures of colonialism. In the 1970s, civil wars, upward mobility trends in the midst of buoyant economies, youthful rebellion against patriarchal authority patterns, and monopoly of resources are adduced. In Southern Africa, the quest for belonging fueled the movement among blacks while black political insurgence drove whites into a quest for security in the warm embrace of the Holy Spirit. The collapse of the state as an agent of modernization enlarged the political space for religious actors, includ- ing the Pentecostal moral diagnosis for political and economic woes. Evangelicals who had avoided certain forms of Charismatism soon merged into the born-again groups, thereby blurring the lines of division that appear more boldly in the West. Quite interesting is the patronage of dic- tators of this new form of populism, as could be shown with the recep- tion accorded to Bonnke in Kenya, Togo, and Ivory Coast. As Marxist states collapsed, the Ž eld widened for Pentecostals and Evangelicals in the period dubbed the Second Liberation of Africa.

Statistical study of the growth pattern is needed. Commentators have no doubts that the Pentecostal Ž re has continued to spread rapidly, thereby detracting from the African Independent Churches. By strategically open- ing themselves to Charismatic in uences, the mainline churches have not only stemmed numerical loss but have experienced real growth. Meanwhile, an internal debate continues within the bastions of orthodoxy. The growth of the movement has been aided by a plurality of peculiarly African voices and typology. The born-again people are a broad movement consisting of (1) Interdenominational fellowships; (2) evangelistic ministries, such as the Deeper Life Bible Church; (3) deliverance ministries, specializing in exorcism; (4) prosperity or faith Ministries, sometimes promoting posi- tive thinking, such as Benson Idahosa’ s Church of God Mission; (5) Intercessors: members of Intercessors for Africa and Prayer for the Nation groups; (6) Bible Distribution Ministries, for example, Gideon Bible International, whose members must be born-again and active in their churches; and (7) Classical Pentecostals, such as Four Square Gospel and Assemblies of God (who came from outside Africa). The lines of divi- sion are between fellowships (sometimes referred to as para-churches) and churches and between holiness and prosperity groups. A wide range of ministries that are not strongly church-types enable large numbers to percolate among the various groups and their mainline churches. Much clientele relationship exists. “ Strong men of God” attract large numbers to their retreats, outreaches and power-ministrations. Two organizations have arisen to mobilize born-again across Africa but a dominant feature



Preserving a Worldview

of Pentecostals in Africa is a resistance to ecumenicity. The degree of competition could best be analyzed with a market model.

The theological emphases are equally contextual: the Ž rst component is the doctrine of salvation by faith and Holy Spirit baptism as a second birth— the born again experience. But doctrinal afŽ rmations are eclectic depending on whose in uence is pervasive. The second component is sanctiŽ cation as a process, requiring measures to ensure that the believer does not backslide but runs a good race so as to win a crown. Holiness ethic plays a major role with Bible study, prayer, and fasting. The third component is victorious living. The key is power for abundant life in a precarious socio economic and political environment. Thus, holiness ethic is pursued as a prerequisite for harnessing the healing, signs, and won- ders that follow belief in Christ. Prosperity and deliverance are signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’ s life, and they equip for service as well. Tongues, as heavenly language, serve certain purposes: sign of being born again, identity, aid for praying, and a means of confusing Satan in the quest for victorious living as these pilgrim people wait for the rap- ture. So, a familiar greeting is, “ Brother, be rapturable!” This conscious- ness of the terror that will come at the end constitutes a core evangelical message. Everyone wants to rapture before the great tribulation or even the second coming! The charismata, computed up to twenty-seven, are coveted in a highly spiritualized Christianity. Victorious living is pursued through defense against the demons in the culture and offense against the principalities, powers, and their cohorts.

The broad character of African Pentecostalism is very ecumenical, against ethnicity or tribalism while effecting a new unity in Christ among Christians of various hues. Aggressive evangelism is buttressed with strong encapsulation strategies; thus clear lines are drawn from a range of “ unbe- lievers” that include primal religionists, lukewarm Christians, Muslims, Aladura, and those who cannot profess with certainty that they are born again. This noninclusive attitude causes rancor, allegations of sheep-steal- ing, hubris, and crossless Christianity. But it is the old Evangelicalism writ large with pneumatic salting, emphasizing biblicism, conversionism, crucicentrism, social activism, and missionary zeal. There is a streak of anti-Catholicism because of its Mariology, veneration of saints, use of candles, holy water and other ritual objects.



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Change in Continuity: Reconstruction of a Primal Worldview

The character of Pentecostalism informs its activities: from the aware- ness that the mainline churches have practiced powerless Christianity that has left unconquered the spirits governing the gates of communities, there has followed a process of reevangelization of the entire continent. Missionary fatigue has compromised the gospel, allowing people to have their feet in both primal religion and biblical Christianity. The answer is to utilize charismatic or power evangelism as well as modern resources such as media and management techniques in promoting personal faith commit- ment to Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit baptism. The extensive and creative use of the media by Pentecostals elicits a revision of the view that they are antimodern. Much to the contrary, commentators argue that Charismatic churches have the distinct ability to explore innovative ways of bringing together various cultural backgrounds, from tradition and village to moder- nity and the global level. Other innovative strategies include new forms of polities that open opportunities for service to all, cell groups, prayer, fasting, Bible study, retreats, tracting, popular outreach in stadia, pro- duction of newsletters or house magazines, new hymnody (choruses), preaching in buses, door-to-door evangelism, and mail-prayer ministry. Some specialize in billboards and car stickers. The expansion has turned the architecture into “ Warehouse Temples.” Many cinema houses and pub- lic parks and schools have been taken over. In many cities both insecu- rity and the availability of home videos have decreased interest in public cinemas. The liturgy has beneŽ ted from the innovations initiated by the Aladura; percussion has improved with electronic and other instruments. The temper radiates with the indigenous African mode of joyful worship with much dancing, clapping, and free movement. These innovative strate- gies bring the impact of the gospel into the daily lives of the people as a transformative experience.

The major contribution of the movement is the way it addresses the continued reality of the forces expressed in African cultural forms, espe- cially in the second and third components of their endeavor. Contrary to the early missionary attitude, which urged rejection, Pentecostals take the African map of the universe seriously, acknowledging that culture is both a redemptive gift as well as capable of being hijacked. They perceive a kindred atmosphere and resonance in a biblical contrast between a godly covenant and the snares of other covenants and, therefore, acknowledge the need for testing of spirits. They appreciate the tensile strength of the



Preserving a Worldview

spiritual ecology in Africa and the clash of covenants in the effort to dis- place the spirits at the gates of individuals and communities with a legit- imate spiritual authority. Salvation is posed in a con ict scenario. The Garrick Braide missionaries re ected this in a simple chorus that declared that “ Jesus has come and Satan has run away!” Pentecostals, therefore, explore the lines of congruence that go beyond deconstruction to a new construction of reality.

First, at the structural level, the perception of a three-dimensional space is shared by both biblical and African worldviews in spite of a cyclical concept of time. But the declaration exists that at the name of Jesus “ every knee shall bow,” whether it exists in heaven, on earth (land and water), or in the earth-beneath (ancestral world). Second, both afŽ rm that “ things which are seen are made of things which are not seen” (Heb. 11:3b) and that con icts in the manifest world are Ž rst decided in the spirit world; therefore, “ the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” Third, the bibli- cal worldview is that life is just as precarious as the traditional African imagines; the enemy is ranged in a military formation as principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and wickedness in high places. The Pentecostal goes through life as keenly aware of the presence of evil forces as the African does. Fourth, there are human beings who are given false pow- ers by evil forces to exercise control over individuals, families, and com- munities. Satan even promised Jesus some of these powers if he complied. Thus, Pentecostals perceive dictatorial and corrupt rulers as being “ pos- sessed.” Fifth, the Pentecostal perceives witchcraft and sorcery as real, soul-to-soul attack.

To explain these assertions: the Pentecostal does not ignore the fact that the word kosmos can refer to the material universe and the inhabi- tants of the world, but fastens on the third usage referring to worldly affairs-the worldly goods, endowments, riches, pleasures and allurements (kosmetikos) that seduce from God. Thus, behind the classical idea of kos- mos as an orderly arrangement is a mind behind the system, a world sys- tem established after the Fall by a kosmokrator , a world ruler, the prince of this world, in rebellion. Friendship with him is enmity with God. It is a short step from here to perceiving territorial spirits allocated to various spaces for ungodly activities. This idea was, after all, very prevalent in Judaism and in the early church. There is a con uence of the spiritual and material worlds denying the myth of materialism. Walter Wink in his trilogy (1984-1992) has explored the language of power in the New Testament and concluded that



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

Every power has a visible and invisible pole, an outer and inner spirit or driving force that animates, legitimates and regulates its physical manifes- tation in the world. Principalities and powers are the inner and outer aspects of any given manifestation of power. As the inner aspects, they are the spir- ituality of institutions, the within of corporate structures and systems, the inner essence of outer organizations of power.


He argues further that the language of power pervades the whole New Testament, and while it could be liquid, imprecise, interchangeable, and unsystematic, a clear pattern of usage emerges. “ Powers” can refer to heavenly, divine, spiritual, invisible forces as well as to earthly, human, political, and structural manifestations as long as we realize that “ the world of the ancients was not a physical planet spinning in empty space in a rotation around a nuclear reactor, the sun; it was a single continuum of heaven and earth, in which spiritual beings were as much at home as humans.”29 Paul used dunamis to focus on the spiritual dimension of power in its capacity to determine terrestrial existence for weal or for woe. Later, it assumed more the designation for God’ s enemies, engaged in a cosmic struggle to assert lordship over the earth.

Some have assumed that African Christians have manufactured demons and enlarged their space in theology. These demons abound in Jewish lit- erature as defecting angels; they sired giants who were drowned in the ood, their spirits live on as demons, evil spirits or “ powers of Mastema.” Their leaders were variously called Azazel, Mastema, Satan, and Beliar. Early Christians devised elaborate instructions on how to discern them. The ministry of Jesus was very much a cosmic battle in which Jesus res- cued humanity from evil powers. African Pentecostals have equated prin- cipalities, powers, and demons with the various categories of spirits in the worldview and as enemies of humanity and God. They reinforce the causality pattern in the primal worldview before providing a solution beyond the purviews of indigenous cosmology. They rework the Pauline structure with the following native ingredients:

Principalities :

Apollyon (Rev. 9:11)




Walter Wink, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament (Philadelphia: 29 Fortress Press, 1984), 5.

Ibid., 15.



Preserving a Worldview

The Beast; symbol: the leopard



Ashteroth (agricultural deities)

Baal (shrines on the earth and other forms of earth worship) Magog or Ogun (Yoruba powers for medicine related to cutlass, gun,


Beelzebub (witchcraft, wizardry)

Asmodee (sexual immorality)

Mammon (powers related to love of money and control by the allure

of money)

Paimon (celestial demons that empower occultists)

Aritan (magic, satanic justice)

Rulers of Darkness :

Ogeaso (Bini), Ogbanje (Igbo): spirits of children who come with

a pact to return early into the spirit world

Jezebel, dark goddess of the loins, seductive spirit, harlotry Moleck, promoter of nudist fashion and pornography

Leviathan, a spirit that attracts people into unwholesome covenants Jeptha, patron of thieves and robbers.

By turning the Bible into a canon of tribal history and incorporating the worldviews, Pentecostals directly address the problems of evil forces:

(1) they mine the interior of the worldviews to establish that the same

covenantal structure exists in both; therefore the solution to prob-

lems of af iction and defeat in life is to exchange the covenant

with the wicked spirits for the covenant with Christ;

(2) they produce large quantities of literature as discourses that expose

these forces and show individuals and communities how to over-

come their dangerous and destructive in uences;

(3) they enable individuals and groups to constitute historical agents

empowered to do battle with these principalities and powers; and (4) they incite public testimonies about the works and victory over

the wicked forces.

Former agents of the spirits describe in gory details their years of bondage to the false spirits. Testimonies in public worship become cere- monies of degradation and bridge-burning. They do not reject the past wholesale but engage with it, refashioning history and domesticating it; they combine a wide range of self-help discourses with exposures of spir- itual machinations at ground-level, occultic, and territorial spirit levels.



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

With the spiritual diagnosis of social malaise goes the raising of an army to recapture the land. For instance, corruption is attributed to the opera- tion of the hunter or Nimrod spirit among African rulers, descendants of Ham. The shedding of blood through fratricide (civil wars) brings curses reminiscent of the Cain and Abel saga in which the land withheld her increase. Africa’ s economic woes are caused by polluting the land with blood. Emigration follows ineluctably as the earth spews out her people.

All of life is subjected to the authority of Christ and, while not deny- ing personal responsibility, Pentecostalism recognizes that individuals and circumstances could be driven by forces beyond their control. Here, the Pentecostal explanation for witchcraft and sorcery by appeal to a biblical anthropology is fascinating. Arguing that God formed humanity and breathed himself into the body so that the human became nephesh, a liv- ing soul, the Fall is imaged as a house that collapsed, burying the spiri- tual resources. The soul (psuche), consisting of the intellect, will-power, and emotions, constitutes the strongest part of the human person, seek- ing to dominate both the spirit ( pneuma) and the body (soma). Salvation comes by the Spirit of God, taking over the pneuma and pouring the power into the psuche, redeeming the constituent parts and recovering the soma which is driven by lusts of the esh, eyes, and pride of life.

In this anthropology, witchcraft operates in the quest to tap the latent powers of the soul and use them to perform false miracles or hurt other people by a soul-to-soul attack. Sorcery worsens matters by using things that provide contact with the victim. It could be the hair, clothes, food, and such-like. Since incantations are used and curses pronounced, Christians are admonished also to speak the reversal using the name of Jesus, the blood and the resources of the Holy Spirit. As Wink said, onoma (name) is a metonymy, the part representing the whole. The name of Jesus designates his ofŽ ce, dignity, and the power of God in him. The text often cited is 1 John 5:8 along with many others recounting the powers of Jesus and his position in the Godhead. They avoid the use of instru- ments, limiting these to olive oil and anointed handkerchiefs and the lay- ing on of hands.

The language of God in Pentecostal liturgy buttresses this fact. Pente- costals explore the language used by communities in addressing their sustaining divinities, ancestors, and the Supreme Being and use these to describe God and Christ, showing that they are superior to all the pow- ers available in the people’ s map of their universe. The reconstructed world is brought home to individual lives and circumstances by applying a “ bumper sticker” hermeneutics or “ experiential literalism.” Cheryl B.



Preserving a Worldview

Johns said that Pentecostal hermeneutics is praxis-oriented, with experi- ence and Scripture being maintained in a dialectical relationship. The Holy Spirit maintains the ongoing relationship. The truth must be fulŽ lled in life experiences. Lived faith is the result of a knowledge of the Scriptures.


The emphases are on the experiential, relational, emotional, oral faith, immediacy of the text, and a freedom to interpret and appropriate the mul- tiple meanings of the biblical texts. By a pneumatic illumination, it rec- ognizes a spiritual kinship between the authors and readers and an ongoing continuity with the New Testament church. Personal and corporate expe- rience weave into the hermeneutical task. The literature on this matter has burgeoned; sufŽ ce it to point to the emphasis on the power of the Word in spiritual formation, resisting forces that can lead one to backslide, reversing curses, deliverance, and commanding the things that the Lord’ s hands have made. The “ brethren” arrive for Bible studies and Sunday worship with notebooks to take down the message or “ revelations” in order to apply these during the week for victory. Everyone is urged to be an overcomer and “ demon destroyer.”

This is hermeneutics for conscientization choreographed with a vig- orous homiletic that mines the people’ s experiences, dramatizes them, props them up with “ real-life” testimonies, and brings the promises in the Bible to respond to the problems so that no one should leave bearing the burdens of yesterday. A pastor would tell the story of a woman who was carrying a heavy load. A car stopped and the driver offered to assist the woman; she accepted the offer and got into the car but continued to carry the load on her head instead of setting it down. The congregation would indicate that it was a foolish thing to do. Often a sermon would be inter- rupted with choruses to bring home a point. Pentecostal homiletic is lan- guage crafted in a transformative manner and choreographed as a ritual of validation and commitment. As Rambo argues,

31 the songs, dances, and yells elicit audience participation and help believers to perform religiously before rationalizing the process. Such rituals offer knowledge in a dis- tinct form that enables the believer to understand, experience, and embody the new way of life.

The Pentecostal approach to the African map of the universe comes out most clearly in the response to the current legitimacy crises and eco- nomic collapse. When there is drought or famine or social distress, Africans



Cheryl B. Johns, Pentecostal Formation (ShefŽ eld: Academic Press, 1993), 86.

L. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 113-16.



Pentecostal Theology, Volume 24, No. 2, Fall 2002

look to the land, to their relationship with the earth deity. The economic and moral orders fall within her purview. The Pentecostals bring to the problem the importance of the land among the Israelites. Brueggemann said that “ land” referred to actual earthly turf and also functions as a sym- bol of the wholeness of joy and well-being characterized by social coher- ence and personal ease in prosperity, security and freedom. Land as promise, holy and a symbol of our covenant relationship with God has tremendous resonance in the attitude toward land in African primal soci- eties.32 The “ brethren” plumb the resonance and move to the impact of pollution caused by the actions of rulers and the ruled. Shrines, festivals to Baal and Ashteroths, witchcraft and corruption are all listed as sources of the woes. IMF and World Bank are evangelists of the Beast who is equally behind the European Union and the divinity of the market econ- omy that is “ SAPping” African countries with debt repayment. SAP is Structural Adjustment Program and comes with “ conditionalities.”

Certain literature on the end-time prophecies from the West provides the armory for this application of the Bible both to contemporary events and to the African primal map of the universe. Both the internal and exter- nal forces are brought under the gospel in a manner that the unlettered could understand because behind the macroeconomics of the global mar- ket is the divine will. Pentecostals urge members to avoid judging by sight but rather by revelation as to which spirits are operating behind manifest events. Land deliverance is only one of the strategies employed. It is sub- tle and avoids overt iconoclasm: believers can “ walk” around hostile ground or polluted ground and command the spirits to leave; sometimes, at emotional crusades, those with authority over the land and affairs of the community will be asked to confess the iniquities of the fathers being visited upon their progeny and to hand over the land to the authority of Jesus. This will ensure prosperity for all the people. In these ways, the born-again brethren in Africa bring a spiritual solution to the great issues of the day, taking the context, the worldview, and the ecology seriously but within the gospel mandate.


In conclusion, though the Pentecostals engage in many forms of char- itable works in response to social problems, it is essentially a form of African Christianity rooted in primal religiosity. It can best be understood


W. Brueggemann, Land (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 2.



Preserving a Worldview

within the strand in African church historiography that has urged atten- tion to the connection between religious ecology and the forms of Christian allegiance. It is a response to the deep-level challenges of the ecotheater, applying the pneumatic resources of biblical theology that missionary the- ology and practice had muted. Working within African maps of the uni- verse, they have shown how a creative use of biblical promises can transform the lives of many with tools of hope in the midst of the dark- ness that has hit Africa at noontide. They have exploited the elasticity in the African worldview, its capacity to make room within its inherited body of traditions for new realities, which, though seemingly from outside, come in to fulŽ ll aspirations within the tradition and, then, to offer quite signiŽ cantly the basis of self-understanding within the tradition. Kwame Bediako says that this is what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews did with Jewish traditions.


Pentecostals have eshed out the faith in the con- text of contending religious and social forces in Africa.


Bediako, Christianity in Africa , 84.



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