African culture has long been interwoven with belief in magic, witchcraft and sorcery. Samuel Kunhiyop in African Christian Ethics says that almost all African societies believe in witchcraft. A personal anecdote will help.
During my first two years in Africa I stayed in a little rural village with the chief’s family. One evening, while I was away preaching, thieves broke into my room and stole most of my electronic devices. Because the chief’s wife was responsible for watching my room, she felt terrible. The next day she could be seen scurrying about with a list in her hands containing “items” the witch doctor needed. These would make the potion that would soon locate my pilfered goods. And she was a ZCC member that “believed in Jesus.”
Witchcraft in Scripture
According to Deuteronomy 18:10-11, many forms of sorcery fall beneath the umbrella of “witchcraft.” “Diviners” (v. 10) seek insight from evil spirits. “Sorcerers” (“those who cause to appear”) specialize in conjuring up ghosts and visions (Jdg. 9:36-37). “Soothsayers” like to use objects for their craft (Gn. 44:5). “Spell casters” (v. 11) hurl hexes and curses upon people (Ps. 58:5).
Notice the promotion for “power.” Notice the venue. To date, none of the blind have ever been healed
“Witch doctors” were experts at warding off evil (Isa. 47:9-12) or performing signs–like Pharaoh’s wise men turning rods into snakes (Ex. 7:11). “Mediums”, “necromancers” and inquirers of the dead could communicate with the dead–such as the witch of Endor (1Sm. 28). The latter takes the form of ancestor worship today.
The Lord abominated all of these practices. Moreover, human sacrifice was often associated with witchcraft, as seen in this passage and in others (2Kngs. 17:17).
Witchcraft in African Culture
The example above of the chief’s wife probably fits into the “soothsayer” category. She tried to manipulate divine power through a witch doctor and a host of traditional methods such as amulets and muti to ward off evil or bring blessing. Continue reading
John G. Paton was one of the great missionaries to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. He labored during the Great Century of Missions at the same time as Adoniram Judson, William Carey and Hudson Taylor. His colleagues on the islands are lesser known because (1) many of them were killed and (2) those who survived were unable to publish an account as vivid and winsome as Paton.
Improving upon Paton’s Autobiography is impossible–like trying to find an English word that rhymes with silver. Every page is special and deserves to be read by Dad at family devotions, missionaries before assailing the field, pastors in need of anecdotes, and kids in search of adventure.
But for those who cannot imagine reading a 500-page hardback published over a hundred years ago, consider my book on Paton’s life published by Banner of Truth.
Below are a few radio interviews I’ve had over the past year on the life of Paton. The programs cover Paton’s exploits and philosophy of ministry as well as some insight into our ministry here in South Africa.
- VCY America Radio
- Reaching and Teaching Podcast
- Janet Mefferd Radio
For some brief reviews of the book, check out Tim Challies and World Magazine.
John Graham Lake (1870-1935) was an American evangelist and leader in South Africa’s early establishment of Zionism and Pentecostalism, which was “by far the most successful southern African religious movement of the 20th century.”
After years in the business world and with no formal theological education, Lake declared in the early 1900’s to have received a direct revelation from God. This would be one of the many questionable claims that marked Lake’s ministry. By 1907, he was a leading figure among the followers of Charles Parham and other Pentecostals in Zion City, Illinois.
A Word About Parham
A quick digression regarding Parham is important. Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929) is considered the founder of the modern Pentecostal movement,
although his student William Seymour would surpass his influence once the Azusa Street Revival began in Los Angeles in 1906. The modern Pentecostal Movement essentially began on New Year’s Day 1901 when Parham’s students claimed to be given the gift of tongues, which they believed at the time to be the ability to speak in authentic foreign languages. Such claims of Spirit baptism quickly exploded into a revival Parham called the “Apostolic Faith Movement.”
Upheaval soon followed. He was forced to close his Bible school in Topeka, Kansas. Then, in Zion, Illinois, five of his followers were found guilty of beating to death a disabled woman while attempting to exorcise demons. The “Parham cult” was run out of town and soon became a byword for religious extremism. In 1907 Parham was arrested at a hotel in Texas on charges of sodomy and pedophilia. He was never charged. Continue reading
Tim Bayly, Joseph Bayly, Jurgen Von Hagen, Warnorn Media, 2017, 180 pages, 5 of 5 stars
As the car of American culture hurls off the cliff of biblical morality, it’s good to know there are still faithful men that can see through the fog of today’s sexual revolution.
One example is Tim Bayly and his book The Grace of Shame: Seven Ways the Church has Failed to Love Homosexuals. Bayly is a PCA pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana (one of America’s gay meccas) and a contributor at the insightful blog warhornmedia.com.
The subtitle makes one think this is just another liberal Christian apologizing for the church’s Neanderthal oppression of today’s sexual minorities. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Continue reading
We’ll be exploring several of the reasons why the Prosperity Gospel (PG) is so prevalent in South Africa. The first cause we’ll address is absentee fathers, or, single-parent homes.
Surveys show that South Africa has among the highest number of single parent homes in the world. In fact, according to a recent study, children from South Africa are least likely to live in a home with two parents. Only about 36% of South African households have both a father and a mother.
It is most likely even worse in the rural areas because so many men and women leave for Joburg and other big cities to find work.
Why do single-parent homes lower a culture’s defenses against false teaching like the PG? First, Scripture warns us that charlatans and false teachers will prey on women. “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions” (2Tm. 3:6). Continue reading
Charles Spurgeon, Christian Heritage, 2010, 254 pages, 4 of 5 stars
What happened to the prayer meeting? First we changed the name to “mid-week service.” Now it’s gone altogether.
It is common these day for churches to abandon the Sunday PM gathering. The prayer meeting is even less popular. Surgeon grabs us by the lapels and urges the reader never to abandon this sacred task. “I would have you vow that the prayer meeting shall never be given up while you live” (137).
This book is a series of studies on prayer meetings and prayer meeting addresses. Most people would yawn and close the book at this point, but Spurgeon is so full of verve, insight, color and illustration, the pages turn quickly. Continue reading
The reason biblical, clear-headed ministers of the gospel have so badly erred on the homosexual and transgender issues of today is because the world has increased the heat on the sexual revolution without the church realizing it has come to a boil.
How could so many Presbyterians and Baptists of the previous century—men who would have gone to the gallows to protect the inerrancy of Scripture—support slavery? How could those with down-the-line orthodoxy reinforce Jim Crow laws? It is because these were the socially acceptable sins of the day and they were too timid to stand against the tide of popular sentiment. So too is homosexuality and transgenderism in our modern world. What was needed most then is what is needed now. Courage. Continue reading