Mystical powers in ATR: Missiological implications for the Church in Africa.
The pursuit of mystical and spirit powers are very strong with man in traditional Africa. The pursuit of mystical and spirit powers is one of the moral laws which govern the morality and ethics of man in traditional Africa (Turaki 1999: 125). Christian morality and ethics have to address this traditional pursuit of powers which often lays aside the principles of “moral action” or “moral behavior” in order to achieve the desired ends.
A. Means of Exercising Control over the Spirit World
1.) Word Power (Incantations); 2.) Symbolic Power (e.g. colors, clothing, gesture); 3.) Magic, 4.) Charms (Amulets and Talismans), 5.) Fetishes, 6.) Witchcraft, and 7.) Sorcery.
B. Fundamental Questions
- Why this excessive desire and pursuit of powers?
- People go to the witch-doctors for security so spirits or witchcraft won’t harm them. On the other hand, they need life free of bad luck or ill-health. The witch doctor offers that. How does Christian’s African worldview provide insight into this aspect of deliverance from mystic powers?
- Do witches and sorcerers attend churches? Is witchcraft still going on in Christian religion? Is it real? Can Christians be involved in witchcraft knowingly or unknowingly?
- What does the Bible says about mystical powers? How can the Christian stands against witchcraft or the fear of bad spirits?
C. How are life and Spiritual Powers Acquired?
- Traditional Ways
- Traditional Africans believe in luck or chance. Luck may bring such needed power or it may come through birth or heredity.
- Through the tangible senses by means of: drugs, severe discipline, self-emptying, the discipline of silence, fasting, dancing and the power of music.
- Through ancestor linkage by means of: close association with ancestors, lineage, status and powerful persons, such as, heroes, leaders and warriors.
- Through regular participation in religious celebrations, liturgies and rituals.
- Through the sacrifices and the use of blood, the burial of animals and sometimes even human beings in strategic places.
- By charms, sacred objects, tattoos, incantations, weapons and other paraphernalia.
There is corresponding tendency to mysticism and syncretism in African Churches. In some contemporary African churches, mystical emphasis is placed on the spectacular. It is not the ordinary gifts of the spirit, but the extraordinary gifts of the spirit that are emphasized. Miracles are stressed and sometimes the so-called gift of tongues.
II. Mystical Powers in Biblical Perspective
- Satanic deception and enticement behind mystical powers. Mt. 4:1-17, Gen. 3: 1f, Eph. 2:2; 6: 12
- Demonic activity in magic and divination. Exod.7: 11,22; 8:7; IITim.3: 8; Dan.1: 20; Rev.13: 13f
- Demonic activity in witchcraft and sorcery. Exod.22: 18; ISam.28: 3f; IIKing23: 24; Isa.8: 19
- Specialists deceive people and opposed the gospel. Acts13: 6-10;
- Use of mystical powers forbidden by God. Lev.19: 26; Deut.18: 9f; Ezek.21: 21; Rev. 21:8; 22: 15
III. Missiological Implications and Applications
- Contextualization: Avoid uncritical acceptance, ignorant denial of mystical powers manifestation.
- ATR worldview is close to Biblical worldview. Scriptures provide necessary corrections.
- Emphasizes pneumatology – Doctrine of the Holy Spirit as the source of true power.
- Equip and train believers for spiritual warfare. Luke10: 17-19; IJohn4: 4; Eph. 6:12
- Recommends power for service and ‘Power Evangelism’ Acts1:8; 2:1f; 8:14-17; Gal.3:14