The AFRICA REVIEW IN FIVE: Cholera in South Africa, Nigeria’s New Prez, Boko Haram Murders


Today’s episode is HEREThe Africa Review in Five highlights African current affairs from a Christian perspective. Listen and subscribe through Youtube, Apple podcasts, or Spotify.


Today is Tuesday, May 30, A.D. 2023. This is The African Review in Five, written by Paul Schlehlein and presented by Yamikani Katunga

Cholera Rising

South Africa has experienced an outbreak recently of cholera, with a reported 23 deaths so far in Hammenskraal, a northern city in Gauteng, the nation’s most wealthy province. Hundreds more have been hospitalized. Continue reading

Yamikani and Nondumiso


Today we celebrate the union of Yamikani and Nondumiso, or, Boti Karni and Sesi Miso…as our congregation in Mbhokota Village affectionately refers to them. The word “boti” means “brother” in Tsonga and the word “sesi” means “sister”. Ironically, this means that this wedding ceremony today is not the formation of their first relationship together. God forged a relationship between these two some years ago. It was not a union in marriage. It was a union with Christ.


For some years now they have referred to each other as brother and sister. This didn’t come come through family blood but through Jesus’ blood. This has not always been the case.

The Bible teaches that no one is born in the family of God but only in the family of His greatest enemy, Satan. Paul calls unbelievers “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:3) and Jesus calls unbelievers children of their father the Devil (Jn. 8:44). No one is born a Christian, the way Muslims say they are born a Muslim or the way a boy is born a prince into a royal family or the way a girl may be born a princess because her father is a king.

Karni was born a Katunga and Miso was born a Hlela, but no one is born a Christian, even if they are born into a Christian family. Being born to Christian parents does not make you a Christian  any more than being born the child of a World Cup winner makes you a soccer star.

What this means is that salvation is really a transfer of families. When a sinner turns from his sin in repentance and looks to Jesus in hope and faith, not only does God instantly give him eternal life and the Holy Spirit, but God also becomes his Father. God makes him one of his children. For this reason Scripture uses the idea of adoption to explain how people are saved. They move from one family, a family of darkness, misery and sin, and into another family, a family of light, joy and righteousness. John says: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (Jn. 1:12). Continue reading

Ten Things I Love About Tsongas

I have lived among the Tsonga-speaking people for the past fifteen years. All of our neighbors are Tsonga. All of our children’s closest friends are Tsonga. All of our church members are Tsonga. Virtually all of my ministerial experience has been among the Tsongas. All of my seven children have been born amidst them. Here are ten things I love about Tsonga culture.

  1. Laughter. Tsongas will laugh until their back teeth show. In general they are happy to laugh at themselves. They laugh in greetings. They laugh at funerals. They laugh at foreigners trying to speak Tsonga. An interesting phenomenon is that robust laughing sometimes makes their legs lose power, so that they begin leaning on each other or falling to the ground. Conversely, robust laughing sometimes makes their legs gain power, so that they start running to and fro. 
  2. Greetings. The ladies will often curtsy or kneel. The men will almost always greet, considering it rude if you get down to business without first exchanging pleasantries. You often must sit before greeting. You must say “How are you” to everyone individually. There are no bulk greetings. 
  3. Singing. Tsongas, like many African tribes, use a “call and respond” method of singing. One person, often a lady, will start the first line of the song and the rest will follow. Gifted male singers have a handsome deep sound that is difficult to duplicate. Churches and funerals often use over half the service for singing. 
  4. Funerals. In funerals, Tsongas live and move, and have their being. Funerals are a central part of African life. Among other things, it is a great way to reconnect with family and friends. They spare no expense at funerals, regardless of personal income. They’ll purchase niceties such as huge portions of food, tents, limos and marching bands. I love preaching at funerals. It provides an audience I would never have in church. 
  5. Ku heleketa. Tsongas almost never part ways in the home or at the doorstep. They walk you out of the gate and often down the road as you return home. Often I’ve had men walk me back to my house a km away. This makes me wonder–am I now to walk them back home? This could go on forever. I like this custom because it’s as if they’re not quite ready for you to leave. “[Jesus] acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ’Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went to stay with them.” (Lk. 24:28-29).
  6. Language. Tsonga has made this missionary’s life easier by keeping difficult sounds to a minimum. There are almost no clicks in Tsonga and only a few sounds absent in English (“sw”, “v”, “q”, rolled “r”). Sure, Tsonga is limited in some ways, but there is much it can do. For example, unlike English, each Tsonga noun is assigned a concord, making the pronoun “it” less ambiguous. Tsonga also has two Bible versions, one modern and the other archaic. 
  7. Memory. As an oral culture less dependent on the written word, Tsongas have an uncanny ability to remember things. I may say that such and such took place a few years ago. They’ll say: “Such and such happened in September 2012.” They seem to recall with precision objective facts like names, phone numbers and dates. 
  8. Colors. Formal Tsonga dress is full of bright reds, blues, yellows, purples and greens. The women often wear some kind of head covering. Their formal skirt is called a shibelana, which, when unfurled, is about 6 meters long! Uniforms are also common at churches and funerals. Tsongas like to match clothing at dances too. 
  9. Children. Though the family sizes are shrinking, Tsongas still love children. My social standing in the village grows with each child we have. They love to hear each one of the children’s names in Tsonga. Having many children is still a great honor for Tsonga men and women. It’s common for Tsongas to talk to my kids before they talk to me. Xivongo xa kula, they say. Your surname is growing.
  10. Demeanor. Tsongas are not fighters like some other South African tribes. They are humble, friendly and peaceable. They are one of the smaller tribes in South Africa and often maligned. When speaking to another language group in a neutral setting, Tsongas are much more willing to greet and speak the other person’s language.

Why is South Africa so Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (4) Limited Good

Fun Lover Coaches for Fun Loving Theology

The concept of “limited good” denies that wealth can be created. It supposes that since there are not enough good things for everyone to enjoy, a person can only increase his or her wealth/blessings/good at the expense of others.

Notice this kind of limited good thinking in Pumla Gqola’s book Rape: A South African Nightmare:

“[The desire for wealth] seduces the poor into working harder, in search of the elusive ease, but no matter how hard they work, there are finite resources in the world. Therefore wealth requires the hoarding of resources, which means taking away resources that would allow the poor to live decently in an equitable world” (38).


“Limited Good” in Africa

Prof. Koos Van Rooy, an anthropologist and linguist for decades among the Vendas in rural South Africa, defines the African idea of limited good this way:

“There is only a limited amount of good (that is: life force, good luck, prestige, influence, children, possessions) in the cosmos. Each person is allotted a fixed quantity of this good. It can only be increased at the expense of someone else, by way of black magic, ritual murder or theft.”

Think of a pie. Limited good thinks that by cutting out a piece for oneself, the person is taking from others. Wealth, as the thinking goes, can only be transferred from one person to another. If I become rich, someone else must become poor. Continue reading

Why is South Africa so Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (3) Witchcraft

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

Why is South Africa So Vulnerable to the Prosperity Gospel? (1) Single-Parent Homes

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

If Polygamy Prevents a Childless Marriage, is it Good?

Some in African culture believe that barrenness is a curse and that procreation is the primary purpose of marriage. A barren marriage is a marriage that did not achieve its goal. Samuel Kunhiyop gives a practical example:

Among the Bajju of Nigeria, [a barren woman] is referred to as anakwu, meaning “one who is distressed for a child.” The word is closely related to the word dukwu, meaning “death”, and indicates that she is as good as dead. When she does die, a priest steps between the legs of the corpse and says, “go away, you worthless woman.”

Continue reading

Does Polygamy Help Alleviate Poverty?

The thinking in some cultures is that because labor is difficult, having multiple wives (and thus more helping hands and more children) will help alleviate some of the work responsibility for one family.

John Mbiti writes of African culture: “Within the context of life, polygamy is not only acceptable and workable, but is a great social and economic asset.”

Here are several objections:  Continue reading

Is Polygamy a Valid Restraint to Immorality?

Because infidelity is relatively common among married men who work far from home, John Mbiti suggests polygamy is the best solution.

For [men who work a long distance from home] the most practical way of leading faithful lives, is to have one wife looking after the family on the land, while the other is with him in the distant town or city where he works. This to me seems like a very plausible, practical and understandable way of facing the situation of life honestly and fairly. It is more sensible and moral than chasing after prostitutes.

Continue reading

Is There Love and Harmony in Polygamy?

Some argue that love thrives in polygamous unions just as it does in monogamous marriages.

John Mbiti argues: “I believe that where there is deep love and understanding on the part of the couples (or triples) concerned, and where their community accepts and assimilates them, polygamous marriages can be as successful and happy as monogamous ones, even if monogamy is ideally better.” Elizabeth Isichei agrees with Mbiti: “Missionaries familiar with the story of Jacob and Rachel were, for the most part, blind to the way in which love could flourish in a plural marriage.” Continue reading

Apartheid and Personal Responsibility

As certain as the world is round, water is wet, and what goes up must come down—racism will exist in this sinful world. Unless one embraces one of several human utopias such as Marxism—which one theologian called an atheistic form of postmillennialism—there will be no complete eradication of the tangled roots of racial prejudice until Jesus comes back.

Racism is simply a lack of obedience to our Lord’s command to love one another as he has loved us. Those who continue castigating others based on their skin pigmentation are destined for perdition and will not inherit the kingdom of God (1Co. 6:9-10). All believers, regardless of race, are baptized into one Spirit (1Co. 12:13). Continue reading

8 Great Quotes on Poverty from Walter Williams

As we continue our observations on various causes of poverty in rural South Africa, it is important to focus on the items we can fix. Poverty through natural disasters or crimes by former regimes is out of our control. As Wayne Grudem has said, the main drawback with blaming outside factors for poverty (e.g. colonialism, banks, rich nations, etc.) is that it does nothing to solve the problem.

The young people in our village need black heroes they can emulate. Walter Williams is one such example. He is an economist and author of several books, including The State Against BlacksRace and Economics and South Africa’s War Against CapitalismHe also writes a weekly column addressing issues on race, poverty, and economics. Continue reading

8 Great Quotes on Poverty from Thomas Sowell

My recent post on various causes of poverty in rural Africa stemmed from Scripture and my own experience in the village setting.

My point was that while there are many villagers who are honest and hardworking and have survived terrible crimes in the past (e.g. apartheid), the predominant cause for poverty in the rural areas is one of morality, not victimization. Ultimately, it is only the gospel of Jesus Christ and the principles within the Word of God that can free people from their poverty, either in this life or the next. Continue reading

14 Reasons for Poverty in Rural South Africa

[Please see followup post] Living in a rural African village for over a decade has taught me that poverty doesn’t come by accident. There is a reason rural South Africa is poor. Often, it stems from sin.

This does not mean the poor are always at fault. Ultimately, the Lord himself causes poverty (1Sm. 2:7; Dt. 8:17-18; Job 1:21). The poor will always exist on earth (Jn. 12:8). Jesus commended the godly church in Smyrna and they were very poor (Rev. 2:9). Many of those in deep poverty are honest, devout, and hardworking. Continue reading

Five Thoughts on South Africa’s Sexual Revolution

Satan has many strategies for making sin palatable. One tactic is the use of language. If he can make wickedness a part of everyday parlance or if he can edit out certain vocabulary with confining baggage and replace it with more appetizing terminology, half the battle is won.

Nowhere are these methods more obvious than in the arena of today’s sexual revolution. This is not merely a Western problem. The vessels of homosexuality washed up on African shores years ago—an innumerable fleet behind them. Continue reading

A Call for Biracial Banquets

thumb_image-10-20-16-at-5-25-pm_1024The wall of animosity between South African whites and blacks has shrunk since the formal fall of apartheid in 1994. Government has tried to mandate equality, but only the gospel of Christ can bring true unity.

My experience in Africa has taught me that among the last dominoes to fall in unifying Christians of different races is not church membership but table fellowship. In the pews, the votes may count the same, but around the dinner table, we are more like Joseph’s court:

They served him by himself…because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians”(Gn. 43:32).

For many white believers, it is a bridge too far to have blacks equally, joyfully, and freely join them at table. We coddle our conscience: “But the foods, manners, tastes are too different.” Maybe. Maybe not. But even if we grant the former, is not a change in menu or method but a small price for unity? As John Flavel said, “If you take away union, there can be no communion.” And if there is no communion outside the church walls, can we really argue for unity within them? Continue reading

Africa’s Need for Noble Men

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-10-37-42-pmThomas Watson once said, “A father is a looking glass that the child often dresses himself by. Let the glass be clear and not spotted.”

When the nobleman in John’s Gospel believed in Christ, so did his whole household (Jn. 4:53). This would have included his wife, children, and workers. He did not give faith to his family, nor force them to believe, but was the positive and pervasive instrument God used to lead that home to saving trust.

This is why Paul encourages spouses in mixed marriages to remain and not divorce. Fathers and husbands have tremendous spiritual influence in their homes because they man the gospel rudder. “The unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband (1Co. 7:14).

Father Abraham was the appointed apparatus to teach his children the righteous way (Gn. 18:19). So was Joshua (Jos. 24:15).

Sadly, in rural African culture, a child’s looking glass is often the family member or relation that happens to be around at the time. A bike rides best with two wheels—the family with two parents. The rural African home is learning this the hard way as it drags along slowly from one generation to the next.

In our village context, and a hundred others beside, the people wonder why their culture continues to be ravaged by crime, poverty, and bad education. Certainly AIDS, corruption, and distant jobs play a part, but ubuntu is the greatest culprit. Ubuntu is the African worldview that says I exist because of the whole. Or as Hillary has said, it takes a village. This supposed “togetherness” of Africa was meant to be a contrast with the individualism of the West. Instead, it has devastated the home because grandparents, uncles, aunts, and neighbors are all viewed as sufficient and often superior trainers of the children. Single moms are rampant. Women are encouraged to seek careers. What else are grandparents for?

Africa needs fathers and husbands who will lead their households to Christ. Africa needs men who act as mirrors, before which their children can see an accurate picture of themselves and the gospel. African men need to abandon the cloak of pseudo-humility used to cover their bad character and instead urge their wives and children to follow them (1Co. 11:1). What Africa needs is an army of noble men.


Is Polygamy Adultery?

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The first wife looks the least happy.

Groucho Marx once said: “I find television very educational. Every time someone turns it on, I go in the other room and read a book.”

When it comes to polygamy, I resonate with Marx. Every time someone talks about this matter, it forces me to dig into books, namely my Bible.

Phil Hunt is a friend and fellow missionary church planter up in Zambia. Recently he forwarded me a doctoral dissertation by Honoré Afolabi on polygamy. Having written a similar paper on the subject, I was anxious to read Afolabi’s work. I was not disappointed. The paper was excellent.

Afolabi took the majority of his time to show that polygamy is sinful and contrary to God’s plan. With this I wholeheartedly agree. We differ, however, on two basic questions: (1) Is polygamy adultery and (2) should active, converted polygamists be barred from church membership? Afolabi denies both; I affirm both. Here, I would like to address only the former. Continue reading

Answering Some African Ethical Dilemmas

A few weeks back I sent out an update letter regarding ten ethical dilemmas we are facing.  Here’s how I would answer them.

  1. On adulterous church members living as neighbors – Though I strongly encouraged Sally to find living quarters elsewhere, her deep poverty would not allow this. She lives with her two small children in a 8’ x 12’ room on about $100 a month. I then implored her to break off all forms of communication with Ruth’s husband, not enter Ruth’s yard, and follow the biblical rules of seeking forgiveness. Its been difficult, but she has followed this advice and comes faithfully to church every Sunday.
  2. On providing for your family v. your church – No pastor wants to leave his flock, but the situation of Pastor Lawrence in Zimbabwe was getting desperate. He should find another piece of property and forget about the government’s promise for reimbursement of his home that was demolished. Soon after, the police forced all men, women and children in the camp to sit outside in the sun from morning till night. Day after day they sat. His wife was beaten severely. Thanks to generous donors, Lawrence is building a new homestead.
  3. On US funds for a building – Third-world believers have difficulty learning hard work, frugality, and planning when foreigners buy them a new church building. To the charge that says such people don’t have a building to meet in, I say, neither did the NT church. To the charge that it will take them years, perhaps decades, to save enough for a adequate building, I say it is valid to give only enough so that their legs don’t buckle, not so they can relax.
  4. On watered-down forms of marriage – In order for Kojo to marry his girlfriend according to Genesis 2:24, he needs to declare before others his commitment to her according to Genesis 2:23. Whether surrounded by bowties and baroque or cattle and clansmen, he must make a public commitment. If not, Kojo must not touch her.
  5. On partaking of stolen items – St. Paul actually talked about this, but the item under discussion was idol food not Coke Zero. Unless I know for sure that the soda was stolen, I should enjoy it to the last drop (1 Cor. 10:27-28).
  6. On exorbitant mission trips – I would strongly discourage foolish use of funds such as mission trips that spend more on plane tickets that double the structure they are building. If the goal is to help financially, just send the money. This would make the money go farther and encourage the people to do the labor on their own. If the goal is to “experience” the field yourself, rather spend the day studying the language, being in people’s homes, and evangelizing.
  7. On attending risqué cultural events – When they give me the opportunity to preach, I attend such affairs but use the time when men are gawking to shake hands and meet with the community. The event is such that my character would not be in jeopardy simply for attending.
  8. On HIV testing – I believe the Gospels and 1 Corinthians 7 makes divorce and remarriage a valid option for Maria. But there is also value in striving to make the marriage work. In the meantime, the Golden Rule demands—for the sake of her children and others—that she get tested for HIV. Maria did so and was negative.
  9. On single moms – I’ve previously posted on this.
  10. On dealing with bandits – The villagers don’t respect those who are soft with thieves. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself” (Pr. 27:12), and that might mean in the bushes with a baseball bat. Protecting hearth and home is a good thing (1 Tim. 5:3-5).

Bite the Hand that Feeds You

A recent South African newspaper addressed the unsanitary conditions in Limpopo’s government schools, and since I live in Limpopo and teach once a week in a school there, I thought I’d add my two cents—which is worth about 22 Rand cents these days. So what I have to say is valuable.

I do not disagree with what the problem is. Mr. Milambo, the concerned parent, is certainly correct that “toilets are scary places.” I rarely see the youth at our government school use the bathrooms, complete with shattered windows, broken pipes and feces on the floor and walls. And this is with running water. The issue is why.

The parent said much more work needed to be done, which I can only assume means—much more work to be done by the government. The same government that gives his children a dozen years of free education and the right to pass grade twelve with just a 30% score is now to blame for the dirty toilets as well.

But only a small part of this story is in the light, while the truth is out there somewhere relaxing in the shade getting ignored. So before looking at the toilets, lets take a look at the classrooms. There you will find walls layered in graffiti, broken doors, busted lights, and desks with “F*&@ You” carved deep into the wood. I’m guessing the principal didn’t do this. At our village school, between the toilet rooms there are mutilated chairs stacked three meters high. But writing an article about that brings the guilt too close to the students—and then the parents—so the story channels toward the toilets instead.

Moreover, suppose we visited the toilets at the student’s homesteads? I have visited hundreds of homes in our village and the vast majority have outdoor pit toilets. Most of these, by the way, were built and paid for by the government. And what do you think we would find? Not places of care and beauty, but most often disheveled and foul-smelling shacks. Could it be that the students are acting from morning and afternoon at school the same way that they are acting in the evening at home?

Filthy toilets in government schools should not surprise us. That students do not care for property they did not work or pay for is a microcosm of why socialism does not work. The answer to the problem here is not that government should give more, but that they should give less. And it’s not only unbelievers that want more government cookies; Christians are drinking in these worldly assumptions from a fire hose.

Until we realize that more personal character, more parental responsibility, and less government means cleaner toilets, the only place these students will help themselves will be in the bush.

The Polygamy Problem in Tsonga Culture

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President Zuma of South Africa has numerous wives in his harem

The South African Constitutional Court has recently decided that a Tsonga man who wants to take an additional bride must first receive permission from his first wife. This follows a lengthy court battle whereby the first widow of a polygamist wanted to void the marriage of the second widow because the first widow had never given her consent. Both marriages were finally recognized after the matter went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Since consent is the grid by which South Africa determines morality, government officials were tripping over themselves as they tried to explain the Supreme Court’s ruling. “If Ron can marry consenting Jim, then how can you allow this marriage if Ruth does not consent to July joining the harem? This line of argumentation proved too much for the powers that be, so they decided to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.

We’re planting churches among the Tsonga people and there are scores of polygamists in our village, so I thought it would be helpful to do a series of posts regarding the biblical position on polygamy and how a minister should pastor polygamists.

There may be exceptions that allow for polygamy, something we will soon discuss, but without a doubt monogamy is God’s design for the human race. It took just over fifty verses before the author of Genesis began defining for us the meaning of marriage, and it is this passage to which we will turn next.

“Isms” Bound for Failure: Why Paedobaptism and KJV Only-ism Don’t Make it in Rural South Africa.

Upon my arrival in Africa I was astonied, as the KJV says, at the number of missionaries trying to foist 16th century English on 21st century villagers. It never seemed to last. Try explaining to your neighbor with a 5th grade education the superiority of the Textus Receptus–a Catholic’s translation that in turn must be used in your Protestant church. Either the mission church or school remains small with a resilient few, or the missionary leaves—disgusted with such superfluity of naughtiness in his stubborn parishioners.

Which brings us to paedobaptism. A friend of mine is fond of saying that a substantial theological doctrine that cannot survive in a poor, uneducated context is most likely not taught in Scripture. This doesn’t mean preaching won’t take time, or that theology is always simple, or that Scripture is equally clear to all, only that the Bible is meant to be understood. So if I take unending Bible studies trying to show Mandla that the days in Genesis 1 and 2 are really not days, and need quotations from a scientist in Sweden to substantiate my point, its best I kick the doctrine to the curb.

In the late 19th century, Evangelical Presbyterians from Switzerland inundated our particular region of Limpopo. But the EPC now, and according to my surveys—the EPC then, does not baptize infants. That’s like the YMCA not allowing exercise. Why would a denomination abscond such a core doctrine? One possible reason, if I may be so bold to judge motives, is that the Presbyterian missionaries in South Africa—a nation with a long history of racism—may have been leery of baptizing black infants as children of the covenant while inwardly concluding that many of them would fall away.

Another possibility is that doctrine was just too complicated for their people to understand. The Baptists have it easy. Immersion comes after trust in gospel, as all the narratives in Acts reveal (e.g. Acts 2:41; 8:12; 10:47-48). The Presbys, however, must go to the Old Testament to show that circumcision was an outward sign of entrance into Israel, demonstrate that the new covenant community is now the church, and that today’s parallel to circumcision is baptism (Col. 2:11-12). Even more difficult is preventing children from having false assurance in their infant baptism, which Grudem calls a symbol of “probable future regeneration.”

I graduated from a Presbyterian seminary, but my experience in the village is that paedobaptism would be difficult to explain (in Xitsonga, no less) and even if I was able to persuade some, I cannot image my disciples being able to convince others from Scripture with any kind of deftness. I’m guessing I’d find similar things throughout Africa. I once asked a Presbyterian pastor friend of mine who lives in Zimbabwe how many of his people could explain the doctrine of paedobaptism and he said: “If I had to be honest: few to none.” And this was from a man whose preaching I’d be honored to sit under. Few to none?

Now there are hundreds of Reformed churches in South Africa that baptize babies, but this is the Dutch Reformed Church, brimming with whites and the cultural elite. Which is exactly my point. So should we conclude that one of the two pictures of the gospel given to us by our Lord is so complex as to leave most of the lower class believers in an entire country befuddled?

I trow not.

A Boy Named Miserable


The always popular “Starvation”. Sometimes the people here name the child after what they are feeling at the time.

At our stomping grounds, we have quite a variety of names, including Miserable, Loudness, and Happy Boy. The name of the most prominent man in our village is “Xidonkana”, meaning “little donkey.” The West has “A boy named Sue.” The Tsongas have “A man named Honey Bee.”

The names in my colleague’s neighboring village surpass us: Hitler, Kill Me, and Froggy.

But as Joseph Norwood points out in “A Boy Named Humiliation”, the Puritans had their own fondness for unconventional names, both strange (Ashes, Abuse-not, Dust), cruel (No-merit, Humiliation, Sorry-for-sin), and virtuous (Tenacious, Trinity and Verity). 


Norwood concludes:

Despite their eccentricities, the Puritans did leave us some beautifully resonant names. Names like Verity, Felicity, and Hope more than make up for the Humiliations, Die-wells, and Kill-sins. Kill-sin Pimple probably wouldn’t have agreed. But, to be fair, his first name was only half of his problem.

“Sickness is Illegal” and Other Prosperity Sound Bites

IMG_0224Here are some gems from a recent prosperity crusade in a nearby village:

  1. “This DVD is anointed. Buy it for R150.”
  2. “Tonight is our night to receive our healing. In the name of Jesus, no one will die.”
  3. “For you to receive your healing, you must establish in your heart that God is not your enemy. For you to receive your healing, accept yourself. Love yourself. Forgive yourself.”
  4. “I have good news for you. You are healed.” [Spoken to the entire crowd of hundreds]
  5. “I am angry at sickness. You have the right to live in divine health.”
  6. “Sickness is illegal in your body.”
  7. “It is very possible to live life with no sickness in your body. I am an example. When pain comes, I command that pain to leave my body. God wants you to live without sickness.”
  8.  “I’m not trying to boast. The last time I had a headache was in the 80’s. I protect myself with my words. The Bible says: ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ I command my body in the name of Jesus.”
  9. “I want you to bring your R100, I will touch it, and when you take it to the bank, it will become a million Rand.”
  10. “Say bye-bye poverty. Say bye-bye sickness.”

Africa’s Condom Nation

676x380Andrew Verrijdt in his recent Mail and Guardian article “Teens Have Sex, Get Over It” has plainly yet painfully summarized the pervasive mentality among most South Africans regarding teen sex.

Verrijdt’s assumption is that teenagers simply will have sex, and the best adults can hope for is that it be “safe” sex. As Hollywood, Bollywood, and Follygood have well taught us, waiting until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse is an unthinkable notion. In fact, sex is so associated with teenage life that Verrijdt calls South Africa’s attempts to control underage promiscuity “attempting to legislate away the act of being a teenager.”

His title is telling: “Teens Have Sex. Get Over It.” If by “get over it” he means, “don’t hide your head in the sand, adults. Recognize the problem and address it”, then I have no qualms. But that is not what he is saying. For him, “get over it” equals “accept it.” But then I ask, what would stop Verrijdt from saying: “Teens do drugs. Get over it”? Or, “Teens cheat on exams. Get over it”?

We are beginning to see the quicksand Verrijdt has fallen into, as have all the cultural left that want to throw sexual restraint to the wind and yet still make moral judgments. He says that “adult contact with children is bad” and it is OK for youth to engage in “age-appropriate sexual experimentation.” But why is adult contact with children bad? Says who? And who should decide which age is appropriate for sexual liaisons? Verrijdt never tells us but does hint at the formula he uses to define sexual morality: Consent. If partners agree (regardless of age or gender), why not?

Al Mohler has observed:

The children of the sexual revolution have gravitated toward a sexual morality that boils down to consent. In its essence, this sexual morality holds that anything consenting individuals do with each other sexually is beyond moral censure. And anything means anything. An ethic of consent is all that remains after the ethic of moral rules is discarded in the name of liberation.

So consent is the idol to which all other moral issues must bow. Mpho can sleep with his 16-year old neighbor, if she consents. Baloyi can add Mamayila, Maria, and Lacy as wives to his harem as long as they agree. Steve may have relations with a consenting Stanley. And Thandi can abort the baby in her womb as long as the child…wait. Scratch that example.

Then there are his comments about condoms. Continue reading