Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 29, 1968
NUMBER 42, PAGE 3b,5b

African Concept — Or Is It Yours, Too?

Leslie Diestelkamp

The "Sunday Times," Nigeria's largest newspaper, carried two articles on Jan. 4, 1968, debating the validity and success of Christianity. A University professor criticized while a denominational preacher defended. I shall not review their arguments, but I do wish to point but two basic fallacies of both men, emphasizing at the same time that these same errors are almost universal among professing Christians.

1. The professor, in criticizing the religion which was brought here by European missionaries, complains that this was imposed upon the African people without regard to their natural spirituality. He argues, correctly I think that the missionaries brought rituals and ceremonies which were unnatural and unequal of the spiritual needs of the people. We must agree that the cold formalism and the empty ceremonial liturgy of most denominations would fail to fulfill the need of any really spiritually minded person.

Then this professor proceeds to argue that Christianity, if it is to be "viable" here, must adapt the natural African ideology. This might include ancestor worship, polygamy, noisy rituals, etc.

In more sophisticated cultures some people are satisfied only with pomp and ceremony. Their carnal mind cannot be impressed with a simple, understandable worship that consists of joint participation in spirit and in truth by all Christians. Others associate worship entirely with places and circumstances. Thus a great cathedral, or at least something similar, is a necessity to them. Their response is to the effect of stained glass windows, very high ceilings, a cross, pictures, statues, etc.

So, herein we see one nearly universal error, namely, that the principle purpose of religion is to satisfy the natural emotions of man. But it is not so. True religion is intended to control those natural emotions. And significantly, when thus controlled, the spiritual man thus developed is also a deeply satisfied man (Read Rom. 8:6-14).

5. The "Sunday Times" preacher made an equally unscriptural argument and one which is also shared by most believers everywhere. He emphasized the success of Christianity in Africa based upon strictly social gains. Slavery, he said, was cast out because of the influence of Christianity. Education, literacy and better health standards came with the work of the missionaries. He, like so many people everywhere, burdens the church with every social, political and economic reform.

Significantly, neither writer even mentioned sin or salvation, heaven or hell, death or judgment. To them, and to others too, religion is a "this world" affair only. Its benefits, they think, are necessarily secured in this earthly life. Success is measured in terms of influence upon society for peace and plenty, for education and enjoyment, for equality and brotherhood.

But the Word of God emphasizes the "other world" concept. This world will soon be gone (II Pet. 3:10). Our bodies will disappear (Jas. 4:14). Persecution and trouble may be our lbt here, but our goal is not here, but hereafter! Here we have no permanent assurance, but we seek an everlasting home (Heb. 13:14).

Oh, if believers everywhere could just get a real comprehension of spiritual birth (Jn. 3:3-7), of spiritual worship (Jn. 4:24), of spiritual work (I Tim. 3:15) and of spiritual nature (I Pet. 2:5). Physical benefits often are real by-products of this spiritually centered life. 8ut it is the "poor in spirit" who will have the kingdom of heaven — that is, the ones who are deeply conscious of their own guilt because of their own transgression. And, it is the obedient (Rom. 6:17, 18) not the cultured, the submissive (I Pet. 1:22) not the pleased, who will have real and abiding joy in righteousness (I Pet. 3:10) here and in anticipation of heaven hereafter (I Pet. 1:3,4).

"What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Indeed, if we could secure every reasonable and desirable social objective, life would still be a miserable failure without the spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3), namely: regeneration (Tit. 3:5; Rom. 6:3,4); relationship with God (Gal. 3:26); fellowship with Christ (I John 1:3) and hope of heaven (Mt. 5:12).

— P.O. Box 498, Yaba, Nigeria