Many Challenges and Our Only Defense
The Church in Africa is facing many challenges and threats, perhaps even more than our counterparts in the Western world. However, this should not discourage us from recognising the potential to address these issues. Ultimately, the African Church needs to re-establish its firm foundation in the comprehensive teachings of the Bible and relinquish all heresies and superstitions.
This conclusion emerged from a three-day consultation of Bible colleges held north of Pretoria. Delegates attended from various African nations, including Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as well as South Africa. It was arranged by Mukhanyo on behalf of the Theological Education Association of Southern Africa (TEASA), centred around the theme “God’s Word for Bible Education in Africa.”
The presentations delivered by confessional theologians in Africa demonstrated their comprehensive understanding of both Western and indigenous African heresies.
In his opening keynote address, Rev. Dr Siegfried Ngubane, the regional director of SIM (Serving In Missions), highlighted various concerns within the church, including disunity, materialism, the lavish lifestyles of church leaders, ethical shortcomings, moral misconduct, and the emergence of self-proclaimed “apostles” who lack understanding of Christ’s teachings and propagate their false doctrines. He pleaded for the establishment of a network of sound Biblical education institutions with collaboration and fellowship based upon the whole Word of God.
During the meeting, Rev. Isaac Makashinyi, academic dean of the Lusaka Ministerial College and lecturer at African Christian University, shed light on the perilous influence of liberal theologians who manipulate the interpretation of the Bible to conform to specific cultural contexts. Additionally, he emphasised the escalating challenge posed by the authority of the senior pastor figure, commonly referred to as “papa”, within African societies. Despite the teachings of Scripture, the statements of this revered church leader are revered and regarded as infallible truths.
In the realm of Bible education, it is vital that every course in the curricula recognises and honours the authority of the Bible. It is imperative to guard against succumbing to temptations such as “democratising” the curriculum, yielding to political correctness, or commercialising the pursuit of Bible education.
Makashinyi strongly criticised endeavours to “Africanise” hermeneutics as a means to distance oneself from “Western” hermeneutical approaches. Such efforts, he argued, often involve the promotion of African culture and traditions, which may lead to incorrect contextualisation and the blending of ancestral beliefs and practices, including those associated with sangomas (witchdoctors), with biblical truths.
According to Rev. Rodgers Atwebembeire, the regional director for Eastern Africa at the Africa Centre for Apologetics Research in Uganda, African cults misinterpret Scripture by blending its truths with their ancestral beliefs. These cults claim to accept the Bible but assert that its understanding necessitates additional revelations.
Scripture is distorted through various means, with a minimum of 20 identified methods. These include the employment of erroneous or selective quotations and the assertion that the Bible bestows divine authority upon particular individuals.
Rev. Dr Victor d’Assonville, dean of the Reformed Theological Seminary in Heidelberg, Germany, and a seasoned cross-cultural missionary who dedicated around 20 years to his work in South Africa drew upon J. Gresham Machen’s famous book Christianity and Liberalism. He expounded on the prevalent tendency in Africa where humans endeavour to shape God in their likeness. Christianity is firmly rooted in the Bible as the divine Word, forming the bedrock for both its belief system and way of life. Conversely, liberalism finds its foundation in the transient emotions of fallen mankind.
The consensus among all twelve speakers was resolute: the authority of the Bible should remain unviolated and unchallengeable. They emphasised that the true understanding of God’s Word can only be attained by attentively heeding the Bible and employing hermeneutics – a God-given method that has proven its efficacy throughout the ages – to faithfully expound its teachings.
All keynote addresses of the Consultation are available at www.TEASA.co.za. This year’s event was another great blessing for more than forty Bible education institutions. It was a collective affirmation, recognising Scripture alone as the ultimate authoritative source: Sola Scriptura!