Select Page

Omotayo Kofoworola /

In part 1 we looked at Cultural Influences Among Some African Word of Faith Adherents. Syncretism has been and continues to be a major danger that arises any time the Gospel penetrates a cultural context. The merging, at times imperceptible merging, or syncretizing of false beliefs with the Gospel is nearly as ancient as the Church itself and crosses all cultures. Parts of Western society may repackage the Gospel to be the mechanism to attain the “American dream” or the pursuit of self-improvement. The competition between the Gospel and Corinthian society impacted the Church of Corinth in the first century. So, too, African culture impacted African Christianity more than people realize.

There is the concept that God is there to help with all our problems and that anything negative that afflicts us must be from the devil. This is a pragmatic approach to Christianity that enables Satan to deceive unsuspecting people who judge something as morally correct if some ritual seems to benefit one’s life. With that definition, when Sangomas offer traditional medicine that seems to grant good fortune or healing, it is regarded as good. Thus, those who follow African Traditional Religion would reject the label of witchcraft for those Sangomas, or Inyangas, who help people with their medicine. Whereas the term Sangoma regards diviners, Inyangas are regarded as traditional healers who heal peoples’ physical ailments with traditional medicine. The term “witchdoctor” would be seen as insulting to that practice. In their minds, Inyangas are “traditional doctors”, not witchdoctors. It is only seen as witchcraft if it is used to harm people or curse them. Those who practice such witchcraft are hated, and the use of witchcraft against someone may bring about violent reprisals by the intended victims of such witchcraft. The problem with this perspective is that people are making value judgments based on their cultural worldview instead of the authority of Scripture. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns occultic techniques, whether they bring good fortune or they bring harm, and it wholesale condemns contact with the dead in any form.

The dualistic idea that all perceived benefits come from God and anything that causes suffering comes from the devil permeates throughout society. I remember teaching a bible study in an area called KwaBhekephi, and instead of driving the pickup truck along the worn path back to the gravel road, I decided to take a shortcut across the field. In the process I sliced my tire along a sharp rock, which was hidden in the grass. One of the attendees of the study exclaimed, “Oh, Satan” when she saw what happened. I asked her, “Why do you blame Satan for this?” It was my fault for not sticking to the worn-out path. Yet there was the automatic reflex for associating every negative occurrence with Satan. This dualistic reflex leads some to conclude that the ancestor spirits serve under God. If a Sangoma has power that can help people, it is believed that such power must be a gift from God.

The Word of Faith bears this dualistic reflex. These talismans and good luck charms are seen as tickets to success. What matters most is not adherence to Biblical truth in correctly dividing the Word of Truth but the manifestation of power to heal and bring perceived benefits to people’s lives. Thus, if people believe that a preacher is anointed or powerful, they will follow him. These “demonstrations of power” can occur in many ways and are sometimes egregious.

Lethebo  Rabalago claimed to be able to heal people with cancer and HIV by spraying them with pesticides…some even in their faces. 1Chester Makana, “‘Pastor is ‘not a scientist’: Court bans use of Doom for religious healing’” in City Press. Mar. 20, 2017; viewed 11 May 2024 Lesego Daniel hypnotized people and had them eating grass like animals while mocking them on the video. He also claimed to have changed petrol into pineapple juice and had people drinking the petrol.2Anonymous, ‘“No one has Died from Consuming Grass and Petrol”: Pastor Daniel’ in Sowetan Live. Nov. 19, 2015; viewed 11 May 2024 Penuel Mnguni apparently fed the members of his church snakes and rats, claiming they were turned into chocolate.3Paul Ash, 2020. “The ‘Prophets’ who Profit from Selling the Word of God,”  Timeslive. Nov. 22, 2020; viewed 11 May 2024 According to a Timeslive article, he claimed to turn dog bones into the flesh of Jesus Christ, which would heal those who consumed it.4Jessica Levitt, 2018. “Snake Pastor Gives Congregants Dog ‘Meat and Blood’ to ‘Heal’ HIV & Cancer,” Timeslive. Oct. 15. 2018; viewed 11 May 2014 This deception and blasphemy is not the only blasphemy promoted in the name of Christianity. One shudders at the vision of what will occur when he stands at the Great White Throne judgment.

Shepherd Bushiri, a Malawian so-called prophet, touted himself as “Prophet number 1”, who performed so-called miracles that enabled him to live an extravagant life. He fled South Africa after he was accused of fraud and money laundering. I once saw his poster advertising a gala dinner in Pretoria. The cheapest ticket for the meal was R1000 ($54.00 US), the VIP ticket was R5000 ($271.00 US), the VVIP ticket was R10,000 ($543.00 US), and to get the pleasure of sitting at the same table as Bushiri cost R25,000 ($1,358.00 US). All for a gala dinner with him! He also started advertising so-called “prophetic cruises.”

The fact that Bushiri enriched himself by fleecing the attendees of his meetings was not seen in a negative light by his followers. If the chief of the tribe, or the royalty of a nation, lives opulently, why wouldn’t those who claim to be particularly anointed? Their opulence is seen as a sign of success, which then leads people to follow them. “They must have done something right.” Sowing money into such ministries is almost like playing the lotto. “My time will come.” The prophet then, with his mysterious magic and “powerful anointing,” is just a Christianized Sangoma, using the name of Christ for his own agenda.

Of course, these statements must be understood as generalizations and do not represent all in African Word of Faith circles or South African black society. Many people see these preachers as fraudulent. However, the danger of these extremes is that they made the less extreme heretics seem orthodox by comparison. When Word of Faith theology is judged by the extremes rather than by the substance of its theology, it is easy to reject the extremes as an abuse of Word of Faith theology.

This is what we sought to do with the documentary “Seeds of ‘Faith.’” Instead of highlighting the most disturbing extremes of Word of Faith theology, our presenter, Zinhle Pondo, attempted to understand how the essence of Word of Faith theology results in the kind of fruit many people have experienced in these kinds of churches. Nevertheless, the affinity between “Word of Faith” hyper charismatic Christianity and African Traditional Religion can be demonstrated in certain central elements, among which are some that have been mentioned within this article. It is indicative that the attraction to Word of Faith is not merely explained by the economic hardships of those who follow these false teachers, but it is related to the struggle that all new believers have. New believers still think like the old man, and their thinking and identity are not yet fully rooted in the Christ of Scripture. In numerous cases, these Word of Faith churches have plenty of unregenerate “believers” chasing healing and fortune instead of pursuing the Christ Jesus of Scripture. Sometimes, there is a lack of Scriptural teaching and discipleship, leaving young Christians open to seduction and deception. But it is imperative that we allow the Lord to change our cultural outlook and worldview by the truth of God’s word.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states that if anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation. The problem we have when we are born again is that we are new, but we still think like the old man in so many ways. The Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:2 teaches us:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect. (LSB)

Our choice is binary. Either we conform to fit in with the Word of God, or we try to twist God’s word to fit in with us. We must realize that our salvation is a radical disjuncture that alters us forever. When we accepted the Gospel, we died to our old life and began a new life with Christ Jesus. He has not come into our life. Rather, He is our life and has brought us into newness of life. He is not an addition to what we already have, but He is the maker of all things new. When we accepted the Gospel, we did not only die to our old life, but our culture was crucified with us. Culture does not exist in the material world but in the hearts and minds of people. Taking a sociological viewpoint of culture, JS Krüger argues that people interact with the world through a triangle of individual people, being placed in a physical environment (nature), and through society. The interaction of all three is seen as creating patterns which are then used by Krüger to define culture as “the objectified product or sediment of action.”5J.S Krüger,  Along Edges (Religion in South Africa: Bushman, Christian, Buddhist). Pretoria, South Africa: UNISA, 1995. P. 37 This may account for the way people see the world and interact as a society with the world, but we serve a God who changes human hearts.

If culture is composed of communally accepted norms and customs reflecting the community’s belief system and worldview as it touches the environment, then Christ changes culture because He transforms our worldview. Thus, when we die with Christ, our culture dies with us. However, we do not only die with Christ, but we are also raised to a newness of life, and our culture is also raised in newness of life. That is why Paul can exhort his readers to remain in the condition in which they were called. If a man was uncircumcised before he was saved, he should remain uncircumcised. If he was saved as a circumcised man, he is not to become uncircumcised. (1 Cor. 7:17-20) The issue of circumcision was not only an issue of anatomical surgery but was surrounded by the trappings of cultural identity according to rabbinic interpretations of OT law. Gentiles are accepted as Gentiles but must reject the pagan aspects of their culture. Thus, the supremacy of God’s word must be our corrective, regardless of the cultural background in which we live. Our commitment to God’s word must trump our family commitments, our political affiliations, our cultural practices, and the worldview we were brought up to believe. Only when we allow God’s word to stand in judgment over our own beliefs, worldview, and outlook will we be preserved from the dangers of teachings, such as the Word of Faith, no matter where in the world we live.Ω

Salvador Ung Hayworth (BA, B.Th, Cert. Tesol, M.Th), was truly born again in 1998. He has served as a missionary in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal with his wife Dianne. He has produced and directed two documentaries. The first is a drama/documentary called “Allegiance: Walking with the Dead” about four people saved out of ancestors and necromancy, and the second is a documentary called “Seeds of ‘Faith’” exploring Word of Faith theology in the South African context. They are currently ministering with Kokstad Family Evangelical Fellowship (KwaZulu Natal, South Africa), where Salvador serves as a founding pastor.

© 2024, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

Link partner: pokerseri autowin88 vegasslot77 mantra88 ligasedayu warungtoto luxury138 luxury777 bos88 bro138 sky77 roma77 zeus138 batman138 dolar138 gas138 ligaciputra babe138 indobet rtp zeus luxury333 ligagg88