Since the outbreak of the coronavirus global pandemic, individuals, societies, institutions, organizations and systems have had to necessarily adjust themselves to embrace another way of life. This is as a result of of the rates and spikes of infection and re-infection in different waves and variants across the globe with its associated fatalities and devastation to humanity in general. As of February 2021, over 111million people had contracted the virus with over 2.4million deaths. My heartfelt condolences to all who have lost loved ones not to talk of the untold hardships it has brought to our world today.
UK Nightingale Medical Director Dr. Vin Diwakar said, “I can tell you Covid-19 is a horrible, horrible disease that leaves so many including young people, breathless and gasping for life.” Dr. Stefan Nava at Sant’Orsola-Malpighi Hospital in Bologna, Italy after testing positive also said, “The disease taught us one important thing: Medicine is a probabilistic science, 1+1 may give you 3 because something unpredictable can really screw things up. It changed my life because I got the sense of being mortal.” My prayer! Oh Lord God of all creation, the universe, the Nations and humankind, please have mercy on us, forgive our sins and lift your hands against this plague that is still sweeping across the Nations and heal the Land for us in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, some major cities in the world are still in some sort of total or partial lockdown with many more having to live with certain statutory restrictions for only God knows when. We have all been, thus, compelled to adjust, adapt or completely change our way of life and replace it with one termed as the “new normal”.
This lifestyle has, today, succeeded in transforming the socio-cultural settings of our daily lives. It is characterised by no or minimal physical contacts among persons and, when it becomes necessary, the duration and time allotted have been cut substantially. Regular washing of hands, the keeping, and maintenance of best hygienic practices at the shopping malls, markets, schools, religious, and all other social gatherings have been the order of the day. Major church programs and activities are successfully being hoisted on virtual platforms. Financially prudent and efficient measures have also been embraced by individuals and corporate organisations to meet the difficulties of the times. The “new normal”, although challenging to keep, has brought entirely new perspectives to life which can be harnessed for one’s benefit. Revival is basically bringing back to life or a renewal of a system which is threatening to die off or lose its fervency, power and relevance. Instead of focusing on the discomfort the Covid restrictions, individuals, institutions and para-church organizations should rather fish out the revival opportunities it offers.
God in times past, locked down one of His messengers with unprecedented restrictions in the belly of a fish for three agonising days and nights when He insisted on saving the people of Nineveh, which is present-day Mosul in Iraq (Jonah 1:1-17). Out of sheer disobedience, Jonah embarked upon a route and towed a particular line of action that was not going to inure to the benefit of the Lord’s vineyard business. God’s “new normal” was for the people of this great city who were perishing-bound to turn from their wicked ways and turn to Him through Jonah’s message. When Jonah attempted to resist this, God visited the shipping vessel with a violent wind until he was thrown into the sea. It was in this period of self-isolation and traumatic experience that he reconnected with God and accepted His “new normal” plan.
Jonah then called upon God for help and as part of his cry, said, “…I will look again toward your holy Temple.” (Jonah 2:4). He continued, “… what I have vowed I will make good….” (Jonah 2:9). After the prayer, the Bible says, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah unto dry Land.” (Jonah 2:10). God released him this time around to great Nineveh and not Tarshish, his familiar and comfort zone. At Nineveh, Jonah saved 120,000 souls who were bound to perish. According to Jonah 3:3, this city was so large that it took 3-days to go through it. It was, therefore, never a coincidence that Jonah had to be locked down for 3-days in the belly of the fish waiting on God for the Herculean task ahead of him and achievable in not less than 3-days. Though uncomfortable, it was a necessary evil for Jonah to stay in the belly of the fish for 3-days and 3-nights.
Even though the “new normal” the world and its socio-cultural settings are being forced to accept comes with many challenges, there are also an avalanche of opportunities God will use to His glory if only believers embrace them. Like Jonah’s case, is it not possible that the assignment ahead of us requires a total re-examination and re-alignments to God’s “new normal” according to His calendar of events? And which may not necessarily be the usual expectation? The more Jonah hid under the deck in the ship, the rougher and rougher the sea became (Jonah 1:11). Fighting the “new normal” will only result in more difficulties and frustrations. God had prioritised the salvation of the entire people of the city over Jonah’s prejudices regarding sinners.
Out of Jonah’s imposed restrictions in the belly of the fish sprout out the needed revival to possess the great city of Nineveh and its surroundings for God. As the greatest stakeholder of the vineyard business, the Lord Jesus would not allow any old-fashioned mentality, systems, and traditions that do not lend themselves to Spirit-directed improvements to stay in the way of the great awakening and revival in these last days. All humanly cast-in-stone practices that appear allergic to the Spirit’s move will have to give way to His “new normal”.
Similarly, when the Holy Spirit began taking over the territories of the Middle East region in the early days of AD 33, some of the religious zealots of the Mosaic laws determined to fight God’s “new normal” on many fronts. Led by the scribes, Pharisees, the high priest, and teachers of the law, a serious campaign was waged against the early church. As a result, many adherents to the “new normal” in Christ Jesus suffered diverse ordeals until the Lord placed Saul under a lockdown. As he was nearing Damascus to arrest the disciples, the Lord flashed a light from heaven around him, which caused him to fall on the ground. Like Jonah, for three days, Saul was blind and did not eat or drink anything. Saul began praying during this period, and he started seeing visions (Acts 9:1-12).
His lockdown restrictions turned him from a murderer to a Paul who shook the Greco-Roman jurisdiction to its foundations for Christ. Paul eventually became the apostle of the highest number of books that contributed to the canon of scriptures. Jonah’s “new normal” in the belly of the fish for three agonising days is what made him a hundred and twenty thousand souls winner. Israel’s “new normal” as a result of their 40-day lockdown in the valley of Elah and under siege by Goliath, the Philistine champion is what unleashed David who was to become Israel’s greatest king and warrior of all time. Joseph’s “new normal” when he was locked down in prison is what enabled him to become the prime minister of Egypt. What have you been seeing in this “new normal” way of doing things concerning the fallout of COVID-19? Are you concentrating on only the discomfort relative to the old manner of ways? Or you are still at a loss and sitting idle awaiting your usual way of life? As a believer, can you not see new and golden opportunities all around you? And for you to discern the times to be unleashed to your God-given potential?
Why not embrace it, be at rest with the new normal, and allow the best God wants to make out of you for your household, society, and the world at large? In any case, the more you fight this “new normal”, the more stressful it will impact your life. My deepest concerns and sympathies go out to all who have lost their jobs as a result. May the Lord make a way out to soothe the pain many are experiencing in these times. There are, however, many blessings that life in the “new normal” has brought to many individuals, households, organisations, and society.
Human and all material resources are under serious scrutiny. Procedures and processes are also being audited to eliminate all double handling for optimal operational levels across all sectors. Let us accept the “new normal” by seeking the face of God to discern the times, so we don’t fruitlessly wrestle it. By taking a sober Spirit-led reflection of your activities at the home, office, church, and your workplace, God can help improve your lot and bring the best in you. Let us also educate our households and constituents and calm their nerves, inspire hope and confidence in them to make every opportunity out of the times.
Embracing this “new normal” is what will enable us to employ all the tools in reaching out to the lost most cost-effectively as well as discipling the nations. On the third day, Jonah was vomited unto dry ground for his discomfort to cease. Paul equally received back his sight after the third day. Joseph became the prime minister in Egypt after his two years’ incarceration and Israel after forty days in the valley of Elah, saw their God-given and anointed king. The discomfort, pain, and anguish we are all experiencing today, courtesy COVID-19, will, therefore, be over sooner than later. Care must be taken not to allow it to pass by without catching every blessing, revival or renewal God has for us in the period. The church will come out more refined, purer, well-focused, efficient, and more effective than the pre-covid era. Christ insists, “I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
A historiography of Christian revivals since the Church’s observable presence in the world at the turn of the first century, demonstrates that revivals greatly informed and shaped the structure, conviction, and practice of the Church. Towards looking into the past to inform the future, this article is designed with this purview. It advances that an understanding of what revival is must not be limited to the experience that produces an inner fervency in the spirit. When the Lord of the Church enables movements within the community of Christians, substantial evidence reveals revivals that affect the general Church presence in the world; sharpens the identity and ministry of the Church. This may include issues that bother on administration, doctrines, and other structures that impact on the holistic mission of the Church. It seems that such renewals have an inherent characteristic of challenging existing missional awareness and methods to pave way for enhanced penetrance of the Church into various spaces in the world. Consequently, it is not surprising to discover interesting resistance to such renewals. Must this be the case? For these 68 years of its existence, The Church of Pentecost (CoP) has witnessed several revivals within its corporate mission. Many have been received with mixed feelings and interesting responses. In considering missional revivals in the general Church and using two examples in more recent history of the CoP for brief illustration, special attention would be paid to their context and reception. It is recommended that revivals of such nature be critically considered in the light of the experiences earned from history and appropriate reception given to them.
Apostolic Definition of Revival and its Context
Apostolic definition is used to indicate that the meaning of the word ‘revival’ would be derived entirely from scripture considering the context in which the word has been used in the Bible. An appreciation of what missional revival is would follow up. In the Bible, ‘revive’, the verb form of the noun ‘revival’ is used in a number of senses.
First, Genesis 45:27 accounts that “But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived” (NIV). The backdrop to this revival of Jacob is to be found in the state of mourning Jacob went into due to the invented death of his son Joseph (Genesis 37:31-35). Joseph was actually sold to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:26-28). Jacob said he will not cease to mourn until he also dies. A famine that struck their land may have added to his grieve (Genesis 42ff; 43ff). Essentially, Jacob’s spirit was dampened due to the loss of his dear son. He became gloomy. ‘Revive’ is here used to mean enliven or invigorate. This sense is also carried in Psalm 138:7.
Second, ‘revive’ means to receive strength from a physical weakness due to hunger or thirst. This is carried in Judges 15:19 thus “. . . when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived . . .” (KJV). This was when Samson became thirsty after he slew a number of Philistines in a fight. He thought he would actually die due to the thirst, but he had a drink by providence. He regained his strength consequently.
Third, from the reading of 1 Kings 17:22, ‘revive’ is used to mean to bring back from physical death. In the account, Prophet Elijah prayed to bring back a boy from death. The KJV, NLT, ESV, ASV, NKJV, NASB among other translations used ‘revive’ to mean to make alive. Other translations such as NIV, CSB, LSV, NET Bible used the word ‘lived’ or ‘lives.’ This sense of revival has been used in 2 Kings 13:21 and Romans 14:9 too.
Fourth, ‘revive’ is used as well to connote vitality. For instance, Hosea 14:7 reads, “They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine . . .” (KJV). Revival is a revitalization experience that produces growth in an erstwhile growth inert thing or person. When something is revived, it blossoms. Though the revival in this sense is liken to the growth of a corn which seem to make it a biological growth, the backdrop reveals that the revival of the nation of Israel would lead to the blossom of their socioeconomic and even their spiritual life.
Fifth, spiritual awakening is yet another sense of ‘revive’ used in the Bible. This meaning can be seen in Hosea 6:2. In the context to this, Israel sinned gravely against the Lord thus soiling its relationship with Him. As it seems, the people of Israel have backslidden. The people have lost touch with the Lord. The Lord pronounces judgement on Israel. The content of the judgement that is contained especially in chapter 5 of Hosea is one that would have dire implications on their well-being. The nation however took the decision to go back to the Lord. They said of the Lord in 6:2 that, “. . . he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” (NIV). This sense of spiritual awakening is conveyed in Psalm 85:6 and Isaiah 57:15 as well.
The sixth and last sense of use of ‘revive’ which I want to present is renewal. This is carried in Habakkuk 3:2 which says, “O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy” (ESV). This bears the meaning that once upon a time the Lord wrought some works among His people. His work has a certain peculiarity which has decline. The people thus yearned for a renewal. They crave for a new movement and a certain reformation. Revival, accordingly, carries the meaning of renewal or reformation.
From the first through the fifth definitions presented above, I want to suggest that in the Bible, the word ‘revival’ has a biopsychosocio-spiritual meaning. Being revived from a depressed state as seen in Jacob is psychological; revival from bodily weakness, physical death, and revival as vitality can be biological or social; and revival as spiritual awakening to rediscover one’s purpose in the Lord enabled this biopsychosocio-spiritual meaning. Let me insert here that revival of a community of Christians must intentionally take this holistic approach.
The sixth sense of revival, that is, renewal or reformation parallels the missional revival this essay is speaking for. Despite their innate tendency to shake established systems, when the Lord moves to cause missional revivals or missional renewals or reformation, the church that does not move with the Lord suffers great loss.
Missional Revival in the Church at a Glance
Arguably the movement that led to the emergence of Christianity is a revival which occurred among the Jews and spread out to other nations. In Christ, God was bringing into fulfilment the pictures we see under the Old Covenant. It has been in the divine plan of God to reveal himself in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was foretold. The Jewish religious leaders were aware of this. However, they mistook the ways of God and were not willing to understand the spirit of the reformation brought by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the preaching of His message by the early disciples. This revival was met with serious resistance. The remnants of this opposition is even seen today, where in Judaism stories of God that tells of the promised Messiah are still held as a departure from Jesus Christ who came in the fullness of time.
The Church on the move had to stand a number of threats to its missional revivals. These have called for a number of ecumenical councils and synods. While heresies were rightly confronted, renewals were bitterly opposed. It was against this backdrop that the famous Protestant Reformation took off in 1517 in the West. Spearheaded by Martin Luther, the Reformation sought to address the blatant errors within the Church. The magnitude of the situation that calls for this renewal may be ascertain from the number of years the Reformation was actively in the scene to engage the Church. This renowned renewal has even had forerunners such as Pierre Valdo and John Wycliffe among others. This earlier reformers pressed on until the movement breaks down due to opposition. Nevertheless, they have left marks that inspired the likes of Luther. There are many localized reformations that have advanced the mission of God in history.
Recounting the wonderful performances of these revivals pertaining to the missional fortunes of the Church, it is of great concern that even Christians who are ‘fervent in spirit’ would oppose these necessary renewals. In their quest to zealously guard things they have come to know about the Church, which things they have sadly cast in stones, they err gravely. Soon, it becomes obvious that many stand in the way of the Lord of the Church.
Concerning Missional Revivals within The Church of Pentecost
First, one of the most revolutionary missional revivals of the 21st century story of the CoP is The 2010 Communiqué of the CoP. This communiqué, a gazette of the General Council of the CoP on February 2, 2010 has, by dint of its impact, carved a niche for itself in the minds of many Ghanaians. The crux of the dispatch was a revision of the erstwhile religious dressing code and congregational tradition of the CoP. It was the practice of the women of the CoP to cover their heads as a reverend Christian religious act. As it were, the practice of head covering, which possesses Ghanaian religio-cultural implications, has been made sacred largely by a mistaken hermeneutics of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. This poses a great challenge to the mission of the CoP which has made inroads into many other cultures and would have to rethink the practice to pave way for people of diverse cultures and social standing to come to Jesus. In the spirit of the mission of God, the General Council decided to suspend the practice, which, according to the council, “has no categorical biblical foundation as a requirement for salvation.” The response to the communique within and outside Ghana has been cosmic. The resistance which this missional renewal suffered has been enormous. Meanwhile, this is supposed to be a revival that promises to advance the mission of the Lord of the Church. When people passionately hold onto structures and methods, they would find themselves resisting revivals that come from God.
Second, the reform of the Prophetic is a major revival in very recent times of the CoP. Directive prophecy being a staunch belief and also a constitutional provision of the CoP, to many people within and outside the CoP, taking steps to bring a certain kind of decorum in the prophetic amounts to attempt to dilute the spirituality of the church. ‘Tampering’ with a prevalent pneumatic phenomenon of the CoP such as prophecy has become like kicking a nerve of the church. There have been several steps towards shaping the prophetic. Those who possess such gifts are taken through teachings from time to time. However, it was realized that much more needed to be done especially regarding directive prophecies. It was seen as a weakness in the practice of the prophetic within the CoP. Against this backdrop, Apostle Alfred Koduah of the CoP presented the paper, “The Role of Directive Prophecy in the Selection of Ecclesiastical Leadership: The Church of Pentecost Experience” at the 15th Extraordinary Council Meeting of the CoP. It is my position that the method of directive prophecy with its accompanying disorder, as was formerly practised in the CoP, was part of the questions that have been posed concerning the worrying manner in which prophetism is practised in African Pentecostalism, as captured in Prof. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu’s “‘The Promise is for You and Your Children’: Pentecostal Spirituality, Mission and Discipleship in Africa.” Following from the lecture of Apostle Koduah, suggestions have been proposed to renew the prophetic. As a group that has become a global Pentecostal church and hence a church that is very much looked up to by churches and para-church groups, I deem this a key revival within the CoP. However, within the grassroots, murmuring is on the go concerning this shift.
It is of utmost importance and indeed it should not be a thing of angst if the Church of God sees reformation. A reason for this is that unspeakable are the diverse facets that are intrinsic to the ontological nature of God. I think Paul, a first century scholar and apostle, was aware of this, thus, goes an important dictum of his, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33, ESV). Why then should the Christian be overtaken with trepidation when revival comes? God has been on a mission in the world and the Church, and in fulfilling this mission, He allows His people to catch unique glimpses of His being from time to time. The task of the people of God is to discover the spirit of revivals when they come in order not to frustrate the move of God primarily out of fear that their perceived identity of the Church would be compromised. This underpins the many oppositions missional revivals suffered. Essentially, the Church of God would not lose its identity if it embraces missional revival.
The relevance of renewals is indicated for instance by the kind of verve new songs bring to a group of Christians. The CoP with its very obvious pneumatic phenomenon of receiving prophetic songs would be in a very good position to understand this. This must be the same with missional revivals. If the Church is able to catch the spirit behind reformations, it would receive new drive for greater impact.
This article posits that there is more to Christian revival than what is commonly known. It asserts that missional revival is sine qua non to advancing the mission of God. Meanwhile, sadly, missional revivals have suffered enormous hostility. To allay the anxiety people may have concerning missional revivals, it is important that in the spirit of Christian solidarity, a careful approach is used in advancing missional revivals. It is also imperative that the individual Christian opens up to the Spirit of God and not emotions. Time must be taken to prayerfully consider the Church’s role in the world at every strata of leadership. This is likely to birth consensus in event of a missional revival. The relevance of in-depth discussion of the essence of the needed revivals right from the central leadership to the periphery, and to the core of the grassroots of churches cannot be belabored. When revival comes, identity sympathetics must rethink their emotional attachment to phenotypic identities. These identities are not perpetual. The Christian must appreciate how God works in the world through the revivals within the Church. A church that is revived will not be overly conservative; it will not coil into its shells but rather spread its tentacles of mission to the ends of the earth. The local church can even take a cue from this understanding. Oxymoronic it may seem, but many are ready to sing the dirge of missional revival. It has almost become normative. Must this be the way to go? It should not be the case that the Church of God would crave for revival only to fight it when it finally comes. Missional revivals spring from the very inspiration of the Lord; the church that opens up to them will not retreat into oblivion but will shine with ever-increasing glory.
There is an emerging trend across the digital space, particularly social media and television, regarding what some people call the “Common Sense Family,” a movement that repudiates and ridicules Christianity under the guise of interpreting the scriptures. This movement is against biblical orthodoxy and seeks to sway the youth from total dependence on God’s objective Word and divine providence. Considering the alarming rate at which some people are buying into this ungodly ideology, there is the need to strengthen our faith in Christ and to respond promptly and intelligently to their activities. Our silence will encourage them to operate under the false impression that they were doing the right thing.
The focus of this article, therefore, is to deal with this unchristian ideology and to forestall the inherent danger of it indoctrinating innocent people as well as its ripple effect on today’s Christianity. I intend to discuss the characteristics of common sense as against divine grace extended to God’s creation universally. The problems and claims, biblical nature of God’s grace, and how Christians should respond to the whimsical effect of the common sense family will also be highlighted. While we do not intend to completely reject the application of common sense as a fundamental principle of society, the actual problem being addressed in this article is the position of the common sense movement that seeks to undermine the truth of God’s Word.
The Fundamental Concept of Common Sense?
The use of common sense indicates the practical judgement or rational thinking concerning issues that affect humanity on a daily basis. The phrase “common sense” originated from the reflection of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) based on the scientific perspective in the use of the five senses (taste, sight, smell, touch, and hearing) in animals to develop their sense of thinking. This was picked up by various schools of philosophical thoughts, including some Christian philosophers, prominent among whom was Thomas Reid, the proponent of the Scottish Common Sense Realism. In his Essays on Intellectual Powers 4.6 (1785:412), Reid states that common sense is “necessary to all men for their being and preservation, and, therefore, is unconditionally given to all men by the Author of Nature.” From Reid’s reflection, one could say that he uses the concept of common sense not to argue against Scripture, but to support it, noting that it is given by God.
Others, however, who oppose the common sense philosophy criticise it as a simplistic interpretation of the phenomenon. Emmanuel Kant, in his criticism, says that, “seen in the light of the day, this (common sense philosophy) is nothing but an appeal to the judgement of the crowd-applause.” The lure of science and common sense influenced the interpretation of Christian doctrine during the years of enlightenment, with some cults holding on to the philosophy. It then became an agenda in later years for those who intended to undermine Christianity in favour of modern and post-modern ideologies. It became an excuse for sections of society to resist Christianity and to indulge in whatever they desired. While the scope of this article does not cover the exploration of, the Aristotelian theories of common sense, it intends to postulate the fact that the phenomenon of exploring common sense has been an age-long praxis in both academia and human development in general.
It is felicitous to say that common sense may not necessarily be an evil thing for humanity, because we are naturally prone to apply common sense in making decisions. However, it becomes a concern in Christianity if common sense is projected as a prevailing ideology independent of the biblical understanding of knowledge and wisdom, particularly when its application vehemently rejects the authority of God. The import of this view is that the knowledge and wisdom espoused may be rational, good judgment, and sound practical sense, and yet in complete disagreement with the precepts of the scriptures.
Sadly, the common sense family has subtly adopted logical, practical sense as their premise for the interpretation of the scriptures. However, Christians must not live by any concept of common sense that is independent of God’s grace as provided in His Word. For any attempt at such an unguarded lifestyle defeats the concept of obedience to God’s Word in its totality. Further, any rational thinking Christian must of necessity recognise and uphold the authority of God’s Word while at the same time speaking to the issues raised by those who implore others to undermine God’s authority.
The Common Sense Family
The proponents of the common sense movement constitute a group of avowed critics of the Holy Scriptures. How do they conduct their activities? Apart from distorting the scriptures through the prism of worldly “wisdom,” they also urge their followers to throw away their Bible and embrace “common sense” as a substitute for the scriptures. By their rational thinking, they reduce critical Christian doctrines such as the creation account, Jesus’ teaching on miracles, etc., to logic and fallacy.
The common sense family is like secular humanists, who think human survival can only be obtained through rational thinking and sound practical sense, in neglect of any aspect of religion, particularly Christianity. A cursory observation shows that the target of this “common sense family” is not all religions per se but Christianity. They mistakenly assume that their activities can pull down the architecture of Christianity, but that is not possible. The Christian church has survived the onslaughts of stronger ideologies than those espoused by the common sense movement.
The Cardinal Claims of the Common Sense Family
Four cardinal claims with their associated problems can be identified with the ideology and philosophy of the common sense family. Firstly, they base their ideology on human reasoning with its limitations. They think the Bible does not give space for a scientific and philosophical understanding of life, forgetting that humans by their nature can only interpret issues based on their experiences and knowledge, and do not always completely understand their environment or accurately predict the outcome of events.
Secondly, they claim the use of common sense, rational laws, theories, and interpretations are the fundamentals of a peaceful life. Yet, natural activities are not infallible as the Bible, because they may be based on human misconceptions and wrong interpretation of phenomena. Even when humans think they have it right with their intelligence, the flaws are still obvious. Thirdly, this ideology attacks issues of faith and proffers answers to unexplained issues that amount to fiction, though they denounce the objective nature of God’s Word and label it as fictitious.
Fourthly, their definition of what is good and moral is oscillatory and does not have any firm basis. They subject God’s Word to several interpretations, thus negating biblical orthodoxy and praxis to the realm of mere human reasoning. They use scientific approaches such as observations, experiments, and hypotheses to make their case against Christianity while the Bible deals with faith as a fundamental principle in its communication. Science and Scripture are, to some extent, at odds with each other because the Bible does not submit to scientific interpretation; it supersedes every knowledge borne out of human philosophy and worldview.
It is worth noting that while some scientists try to use science to disprove the scriptures, godly scientists argue that the inability of science to provide evidence for many things in nature, is real proof that science has its limitation while God’s supremacy over His creation is incomparable to anything. There are things that science and common sense can never understand in this world. The caveat is that Christians should be wary of any scientific knowledge and disposition that reject the authority of the Bible. Of course, those who study science and have encountered the Lordship of Jesus Christ do not repudiate the objective truth of the scriptures and that should be borne in mind in a discussion of this nature.
The Fundamental Belief of Christianity
Christians believe that the world is sustained under the impulse of God’s common grace extended to His creation. Writing on “The Goodness of God and Common Grace,” Storms (2020) defines ‘common grace’ as “an expression of the goodness of God, is every favor, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God; this includes the delay of wrath, the mitigation of our sin-natures, natural events that lead to prosperity, and all gifts that human use and enjoy naturally.” From Storm’s definition, the concept of God’s common grace gives us an idea of the goodness of God which is available for every person to explore.
God’s common grace in terms of rain, sunshine, prosperity, life, and natural resources is provided to all persons, irrespective of their religion, race, or culture (Matt. 5:45). This grace is for everyone and that is what sustains the world. While, rational thinking may be needed, to some extent, to manage prudently the resources contained in the common grace of God, it must not be the basis of repudiating the authority of God over His creation. Rational thinking, in this context, is not an end on its own, but a means to appreciating the goodness and favour of God as well as upholding God’s creation as stewards.
It must be noted that God’s common grace is different from the saving grace in Christ. But what is clear is that it is not borne out of sound practical sense or the effort of humans. For a person to receive eternal life, they would need to accept the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6ESV). God requires that every person is introduced to His saving grace through His Son Jesus Christ and that is why Jesus keeps knocking at the door of every person’s heart: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20, ESV). The idea here is to draw a dichotomy between common grace and the saving grace of God. While God’s common grace is unconditionally for every person, His saving grace can only be obtained through faith in Christ. The essence of common grace offered to humanity is for us to appreciate God’s providence in the affairs of humanity and not the other way round by kicking God out of our way.
The salvation found in Jesus Christ is not only for our existence in this transient world but principally for our existence in eternity. If all we need from the Lord is for our comfort and prosperity in this transient world, as is, unfortunately, being taught by the common sense family, then we agree with Paul that, “…If only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone” (1 Cor. 15:19, NET). From this biblical passage, we are confronted with the question: What at all do we need by following Christ? Is it for earthly achievement or eternal gain? There are enough biblical passages to substantiate the claim that every genuine follower of Christ must focus on the eternal life in Christ as the main reason for their Christian lives.
Jesus queries: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-38, ESV). The import of this is that the life of a Christian is not necessarily dependent on the successes of this world, but substantially on the securing of eternal life in heaven. Those advocating the common sense family ideology may have to bear in mind that life without Christ can lead one to eternal damnation. Jesus clearly states that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV). Thus, the belief of Christians in Jesus as the Saviour and God’s Word as the foundation for victorious Christian living is not meant for the temporary and transient life of this world, but eternal life.
It is stated unequivocally that one can only access the eternal life of Christ by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The belief in Christ is also appropriated by hearing and obeying God’s Word in its totality. Unfortunately, that foundation is what the so-called common sense family seeks to dismantle so that their victims “shall not see life” and be exposed to the eternal damnation in hell (see Rom. 8:1,2). In the book of Revelation, John states that those who do not believe in Jesus, whose names are not found in the “book of life,” will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-13). However, whoever repents of his sins will be saved (Ac. 2:37-38). If eternal damnation will be the predicament of the ungodly, it is a great disservice for a person if they allow themselves to be deceived to denounce Christ or repudiate God’s Word. The truth is that whether one believes in God’s Word or ridicules it, the judgment of God upon His disobedient creation is inevitable (see Heb. 9:27), so Christians should not allow any person to corrupt their faith.
Biblical Response to Common Sense or Rational Thinking
In the midst of the attacks on Scripture and Christianity, there are many passages in the Bible addressing the situation. In 1 Corinthians 3:19, 20, Paul says: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’;and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile”’ (NIV). Paul’s response to some crafty people in the church in Corinth who attempted to use worldly wisdom as the basis of salvation indicates that even way back in the first century, some people worked, just as the so-called common sense family in today’s world are doing, to undermine the authority of God’s Word. They lay premium on the use of rational thinking and intellectual ideologies to understand God without recourse to biblical principles of godliness.
The enthralling aspect of Paul’s response to these people is that there is a vast gap between earthly wisdom and godly wisdom; God’s Word can only be appraised and appreciated by Spirit-filled people. The procedure towards the obedience of God’s Word is neither by logical fallacy nor speculative interpretation of the Word. Whenever humans read their minds into Scripture, they either become confused or tend to mislead other people into embracing heresy, because the human mind, by its natural disposition, is corrupt and limited. Ignorance is an intrinsic characteristic of the human mind and cannot fully interpret even its own life situation, let alone God’s revelations. It is rather the overwhelming grace of God in a person’s life that is fundamental to their appraisal of God’s Word as the absolute truth and foundation for victorious Christian living.
Where do we go from here?
The phenomenon of false teachings and attacks on Christianity has always been a major battle of the Church and our forebears never rested in addressing that issue. They never allowed the enemies of the gospel to have their field day. Now it is our turn and the beaming light of the gospel must repel the billows of darkness. Responding to the trend and being resolute with our faith are essential factors in overcoming this situation. We cannot afford to be silent in such a time as this when ungodly people are twisting God’s Word to draw attention to themselves. For example, in the Bible, Mordecai admonished Esther not to remain silent when the Jews were under attack from the diabolical schemes hatched by Haman to destroy the Jews (Esther 4:14). When Esther accepted the charge and acted decisively, she was able to save Israel from destruction.
As Christians, we need to understand that we, and not any other agency, must always be ready to ruthlessly repel any ideological and philosophical attack against our faith. The church must be well-equipped with the Word of God to respond to the threats of emerging ungodly ideologies and philosophies. Much as we believe that the incessant threats of worldly ideologies and philosophies cannot, in any way, destroy the church, it is equally important to consider specific responses to any critical issue raised by members of the common sense family. Allowing them to perpetuate their falsehood over a long time may sound in the mind of some people as factual.
Christians who are adequately equipped should use communication platforms like social media, radio, and television that are used in churning out the falsehood to respond to them. The church should not be passive about the threats that this movement poses to its members. Christians must use every opportunity to address the situation by way of explaining how to address the ungodly agenda perpetuated by some people. May Christian apologists arise in defence of the sacredness of Scripture and against its subjection to science-based scrutiny.
All Scripture is Inspired by God
Apostle Paul notes that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Tim. 3:16, NLT) in the sight of God. The reflection of Apostle Eric Nyamekye (Chairman of The Church of Pentecost) on this text enhances our argument that God’s Word is unique and can only be understood by inspiration from the Holy Spirit. He remarked during a broadcast on the Pentecost Hour series on Pent TV that, “There is nothing out there that can be compared with Scripture…. Scripture is good because it is worthy and genuine.” From the import of this observation, Christians need not strive for any other source of knowledge that contradicts God’s Word, no matter how philosophical it may appear. Chairman Nyamekye argues that the Word of God is good because it has been tested and tried on humans and every situation in the world and it has proven authentic and effective in totally transforming everything it encounters.
The understanding is that the Scripture is powerfully sufficient for the survival and development of humanity. There is no substitute for Scripture when it comes to the development of godliness. Stressing this, the Lord Jesus says: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15:7, NIV). The emphasis in this passage is the call to remain in God’s Word as the basis of tapping into the treasures of God. Remaining in Christ and His Word is the only certain ground to ensure that the Christian bears fruit, because without Christ we can do nothing. What can be so refreshing than this?
A Charge to Keep I Have!
In spite of the responses of various Christians to false teachers, there is still room for more Christians to keep their charge as apologists – defenders of the faith. There is a charge for Christians to keep, which is the readiness to defend our faith in the Lord in order not to be misled by false teachers and their allies who seek to cause divisions in God’s Kingdom.
Let us examine how Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, handled some challenges facing the Methodist Church at its beginning. Charles affirmed his call and commitment to the Methodist or Wesleyan tradition when some persons in England attempted to cause divisions in the Church. Instead of compromising his position, he was rather inspired to read Leviticus 8:35: “At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded” (ESV). The inspiration he drew from this Bible passage impassioned him in his defence of the church as a gatekeeper. He wrote the following song in response to the situation and also to affirm his resolve to fulfil the divine task given him towards the development of the church:
A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify, a never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill, O may it all my pow’rs engage to do my Master’s will!
Arm me with watchful care as in Thy sight to live, and now Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray, and still on Thee rely, O let me not my trust betray, but press to realms on high.
Author: Charles Wesley 1762
Charles’ position resonates very well with Peter’s charge for Christians: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). As Christians, we have a charge to keep in obeying God’s Word, defending our faith in Christ; a charge to explain the reason for our faith, to witness about Christ to humanity, and to respond to the ploys of those who distort biblical orthodoxy for their personal reasons and interest. If their aim is to distort the biblical truths upon which the church is built, then their premise is wrong from the outset and it is our task to correct it and establish the truth.
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18 does not only assure the church of its firm foundation but also sends a strong caution to those who rise against the church to understand that the foundation of the church is rooted in Christ Himself. He states, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18, ESV). Anytime people rise against the church, they forget this Scripture, living under the false impression that their schemes and orchestrations can overrun Christianity. But this is an exercise in futility. It is an impossibility, bearing in mind who they have to deal with. Jesus Christ, as the owner and builder of the Church, is not a constitutionally-elected leader as we have in the corporate world; He is the sovereign God – the One whose grace and mercy sustain the entire world. His Kingdom rests upon His shoulders, and the living faith of the saints, the solid rock upon which His church stands, can never be destroyed.
Mortal man must understand that, apart from this saving faith in Christ and His infallible word, all other grounds upon which we stand is sinking sand. We are not as strong as we think we are. We exist only by God’s grace. The Psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1, NASB). Thus, whatever be the intention and modus operandi of enemies of Christianity, God’s authority over His creation and the church cannot be contested by any person – it is absolute and so is His Word.
Although the negative influence of the common sense family may have a toll on the lives of some Christians who are not immersed in the Word of God, it has been established that the threats are not new to Christianity, similar schemes of the ungodly ideology failed to prevail against the early church. The writer calls on Christians to know the angle from which every Christ-opposed ideology and philosophy emanates and to equip themselves to respond passionately and with conviction with the gospel, though with decorum and peace in order to win those destined to be saved.
It has been realised in this article that the common sense movement does not even have the premise to judge Scripture so long as its proponents reject divine revelation and depend solely on science-based approaches and models. They have missed the argument from the start since the art of biblical interpretation must fundamentally recognise the authority of God. The Bible is irrevocably the unique sacred book by which we can get an accurate account of how God reveals Himself and His mind to humankind.
The premise of the Bible is divine and objective in its rendering. It does not derive from any human conception and contains the complete account of how God created the world and deals with those who believe in Him and those who reject His authority. The Scriptures are not just a collection of library books; they are sacred to the extent that they minister to the souls and hearts of people who access them. It is in the light of this that the discussion in this article calls on Christians to reject the fallacies and ideology churned out by the common sense family and to develop a theological response to affirm the authority of God’s Word.
“You were the best father in the world.” “You were my most priceless possession and best friend.” “You were such a treasure to this organization and humankind in general.” These were lines in the tribute of some children, a widower, and an organization, respectively, after the loss of their loved ones. Although there may be some levels of exaggeration during such occasions, they largely represent what the individuals concerned might have lived for.
When the former president of Ghana, in the person of Flt. Lt. (Rtd) Jerry John Rawlings, died on Thursday, November 12, 2020, some rushed to his residence and poured their hearts out, expressing their heartfelt condolences to his family. Many eulogized him as a patriot, hero, mentor, and democrat who loved people. Wow! Some also said, “A great oak has fallen, and he will be missed.” These and many more are to be expected in the coming days before, during, and after his final funeral rites.
Why some of these heart-warming and mouth-watering tributes which can rather encourage people to even do more are not written, read, and discussed to their hearing until they pass on, is the phenomenon this article seeks to examine. The big surprise to many who are tempted to judge some of these tributes as a display of hypocrisy is the motivation for withholding all these positive stuff about people until their demise. This aged-old phenomenon of hoarding and keeping mute on the virtues of people until their passing or exit from office is not necessarily an African thing. Although some cultures, due to their norms and beliefs, are more inclined towards such practices, it is generally one of the human flaws and weaknesses traceable to humankind’s depraved nature. Otherwise, it is incomprehensible, to say the least, why the sudden surge in the realization of one’s importance, good deeds, value, and love for people just after one leaves the scene or is no more.
As a matter of fact, there is a whole dossier of inspiration to pick from tributes people pay to departed souls for the positive impact they made on society during their lifetime. If nothing at all, it indicates what is likely to be penned down about us when we leave this life or the current office we occupy. I equally appreciate the need for certain things to be done in memory of those who paid their dues selflessly to better society and institutions they served. This commendable practice, I believe, can be done at any suitable time after the death of such persons. I am neither advocating nor craving for the appropriation of honours before their due time. What baffles me is the apparent late or missed golden opportunities and the associated helplessness and regrets for failing to acknowledge the admirable and unique God-given virtues of some remarkable persons we encounter in life. I believe some were waiting for what they probably termed as an opportune time to express their appreciation when the unfortunate occurred to those deserving of it. I think that this contributes to why some grieve excessively and cannot just forgive themselves for allowing those opportunities that came their way to slip by. Some regret their inability to at least acknowledge others to their hearing with phrases such as, “You did well” or “You made a lasting impact in my life,” “I admire your talent or gift, etc., before they departed.
Strangely enough, others wait until some are weak, sick, or are at the point of death before piling academic laurels on them or acknowledging their contributions to society. Other institutions and organizations would also not hesitate at all to confer upon people their hard-sought promotion on the day they are laid in-state for the simple reason that they were already earmarked for those decorations. If that were the case, why at that late hour? The question remains; what blinds our judgements and prevents us from making the maximum use of the gifts, graces, and talents of others during the days of their lives? Is it hatred, bitterness, envy, unforgiving spirit, unhealthy competition, hypocrisy, jealousy, or sheer wickedness? Better still, is it procrastination, the fear of being aligned to a group, or the genuine concern that they may be puffed up with pride to their destruction should their good deeds be acknowledged? Whichever way one looks at it, none of the above reasons is tenable, judging from the mutual benefits society, generally, stands to gain from tapping into the people’s strengths and acknowledging them while they are yet alive.
A case in point is when Israel asked for a human king to rule them like the other nations in 1 Samuel 8:19-21. Even though God was not happy with that request, He chose Saul the Benjamite and anointed him through Samuel the prophet to rule them. Referred to as Seers in those days, Samuel positioned himself to offer Saul every revelatory support and guidance needed for him to succeed as Israel’s first human king. Unfortunately, and quite reminiscent of humans accorded with some small power, the more Samuel desired getting closer to Saul, the more Saul opted to do his own thing. At one instance, instead of waiting patiently for Samuel, Saul ignored counsel and offered a burnt offering himself (1 Samuel 13:9-14). The reason he gave for this grave error was the fear of the Philistines and the excuse that Samuel was late in arriving. Out of fear of the unknown, godly counsels by those God specifically sends along our paths to offer us a helping hand is at times ignored and pushed aside.
1 Samuel 15:52b says: “And whenever Saul saw a mighty or brave man, he took him to his service.” Was he, therefore, selecting his advisers based on his judgment and intuition alone? Could his failure be the result of those he surrounded himself with? In all of this, time was running out for Saul to get the most from the relationship with Samuel, his God-given mentor, when the latter was alive. In another instance, God instructed Saul through Samuel to attack the Amalakites and destroy everything that belonged to them (1 Samuel 15:2-4). Here again, Saul disregarded Samuel’s instruction by sparing the life of the Amalekite king, together with what he referred to as the best of the sheep and cattle. This time around, Saul blamed his inaction on his soldiers. It was becoming evident that he had taken Samuel for granted or thought he could always have him around when needed. Little did he know that time was ticking by the day so far as benefiting from Samuel’s ministry was concerned. These two instances, unfortunately, caused his outright rejection by God as Israel’s King.
1 Samuel 15:34-35 could not have described the frosty relationship that prevailed between Saul and Samuel during the latter’s last days any better when it said, “Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again….” Afterwards, a one-stanza harmless song by the Israeli women in appreciation of David for killing Goliath, the Philistines giant infuriated Saul to the extent that an evil spirit started tormenting him. Out of jealousy and in pursuit of his life, David had to run away from him. Meanwhile, David was the one who brought Saul the needed relief anytime the evil spirit was troubling him. The closest Saul managed to get to Samuel again was on his mission to capture David when he was told he had run to take refuge with Samuel. On that destructive mission at the great cistern at Seku, he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” (1 Samuel 19:22). What are your reasons for eagerly looking for that person? Is it to punish, ridicule, avenge or settle an old score or to patch up with him or her? Remember, time may not be on your side or their side.
Whereas David brought Saul relief anytime the evil spirit pounced on him, Samuel was always available to calm down his nerves when gripped with fear. David was, therefore, supposed to be his shield and deliverer whilst Samuel his mentor and guide at least during the days of their lives. Instead of appropriating these God-given gifts both had to his benefit, King Saul allowed pettiness, hatred, pride, and jealousy to take the better part of him. Saul least expected Samuel’s exit to be just around the corner. Around 1,012 BC, the inevitable that occurs to all humans happened when death laid its icy hand on Samuel, the last judge of Israel and the first prophet after Moses. Unfortunately, this was the time King Saul needed him the most. Apart from the absence of Samuel, exiled David had been welcomed by the Philistines who were on a military campaign against Israel.
Saul tried inquiring from the Lord about what to do when the Philistines gathered to fight Israel. God, however, did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets (1 Samuel 28:6). He then resorted to an abominable practice of necromancy [conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events] which he had earlier outlawed. Saul finally consulted a witch at Endor for direction and counselling from the dead. Ignoring all associated risk, he disguised himself and visited this lady at her cottage in the night. He starved for a whole day and night lying prostrate and confessing before the ghostly figure or fortune-telling spirit masquerading as Samuel saying, “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams…” (1Samuel 28:15).
Meanwhile, during Samuel’s lifetime, Saul had unrestricted access to sit, dine, and talk to him at any time of his choosing. The time, energy, stress, and cost associated with the fruitless search for departed Samuel’s counsel was avoidable should he have made good use of him when he was alive. Saul finally took his life when he got badly wounded in this very battle he fought against the Philistines without direction and help from God, Samuel, and David (1 Samuel 31:4). If we fail to make use of the grace and gifts of people whilst they are alive; we tend to pay a high price to access their look-a-likes when they are no more.
In another instant in Luke 16:19-31, the rich man who had every opportunity to socialize with Lazarus when he was alive rather chose to leave him at the entrance of his gate at the mercy of his dogs. After they both died and entered their separate destinations in the next world, the rich man attempted to seek help from Lazarus through Father Abraham. In this parable that depicts the next life, Jesus taught and still teaches that across the bridge of this life, all efforts to solicit help, extend reconciliatory gestures, smoke the peace pipe, and socialize do not achieve anything.
Abraham’s final reply to the rich man’s request for him to send special envoys from heaven to visit his five living brothers, so they do not end up like him strikes a chord for those of us who are alive today. He told him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them.” With these two biblical illustrations, coupled with the uniqueness with which God created each and everyone, it is likely some departed souls carried with them the counsel, direction, relief, peace, and the solution to some puzzles of life others are struggling to unravel. Why must we allow this to continually happen to us? As bitter as this truth may sound, there is no point crying over spilled milk. The simple lesson here is to try and do the needful whilst we are alive. Instead of waiting to visit your mentor, Daddy or Mummy’s tomb at the graveyard, why not get to them and make use of their counsel whilst they are alive? Why wait to lay wreaths on the coffins of others when you can extend a right hand of fellowship and mend that increasingly hostile relationship that has developed between the two of you today? Of what benefit will it be to wait and bow to the dead as a sign of showing your last respect when you denied them their first respect?
Open, therefore, your mouth, no matter your differences and try to acknowledge with much appreciation the strength and virtues of others whilst they are alive. Go to them now; if distance is a problem, pick a phone and call them to tell them their virtues you would have touted should they be laid in-state. This is not to say that they are infallible or faultless. It also does not mean that you do not have a cause or a case to insist on keeping your distance from certain individuals. It is just to suggest that you are not going to be the sitting judge pronouncing judgment on that great day when the secrets of all our deeds are revealed.
In like manner, if you find others doing the wrong thing or moving in the wrong direction, it is better to visit them and talk to them before it is too late. Castigating them after their demise when you were in a better position to offer a helping hand today is counterproductive. Who knows, you may save a soul from eternal damnation with that line of action. Let us avoid the hypocritical tendencies when people pass on and rather make good use of their gifts, seizing every opportunity to be nice to them and acknowledging their hard work while they are alive.
About the Author:
Pastor James Orhin Agyin is the Projects, Development & Estate Manager at The Church of Pentecost Headquarters.
Within every civilization, men arise who crave power and a certain glory. A major arena this is seen is politics. Mere men claim to possess a peculiar ability to be able to administer the affairs of society. Diverse views on the best means of running society are sold usually. The crux of political opinions from all angles is the promise of a utopian society. These multiple political views lead to the emergence of manifold political identities, hence multiple political caucuses. If the republic is allowed, it would have an unending number of political parties. The consequence of this is that the republic has to grabble with highly conflicting ideas towards the utopia so promised. Countrymen in their craze over popular votes adopt rather unscrupulous means to winning the masses. The society they vow to make ideal is torn asunder. He who is willing to judge aright would soon discover the real intention of those who hunt for political power. Our very short reflection will call the righteous into government; cajole the republic from drawing the name of God into the mud; rebuke the political campaigns of fallacy, and point out the futility of the power and glory so desired by the architects of bad politics.
“Under the Government of Worse men”
Many a citizen who looks upon the society that is drained by the deeds of the leaders within the state deems the court of government as the place for foul players. The upright man flees from having a say within the polity. The decadence within the state is made worse for the reason that, those who are burnt on depriving society of its wealth never get enough. Have we become the richer or the poorer because of our abstinence from the affairs of the state? To all who are righteous, must we not give ears to the sermon of Plato? In his iconic dictum, he asserts that “The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.”
Society is threatened by bad governance so he who thinks well of humanity is weary of getting involved in public discussion towards the presumable well-being of society. Though there is the problem of bad politics, the citizens of right morals, right motives, right philosophies; the wise citizen must engage in the democracy. Indeed the sin that plagues the republic gives upright men and women more reason to contribute to the democracy. This platonic counsel, if accepted with the expected attitude, will hew from the mountain of dirty politics, a stone of hygienic politics, to adopt a statement of Martin Luther King.
On the Politicization of the Oracles of God in the Secular Polity
One thing is popular within democracies; this is the invocation of the name of God. Citizens go beyond political debate into a spiritual dimension by confessing that God is in favour of their political opinion. The politics of prophecy is becoming an institutionalised means of political debates. Persons seeking political power go to do special divinatory consultation on their fortunes in political elections. The awareness that people of the republic are influenced by what seers say concerning political elections, causes seekers of power to make bad use of prophets. Interestingly, oracles from one God can speak of victory in the same elections for more than one party. Bad politics claims God said something, meanwhile he has not.
Though there are several types of governments today, theocracy remains the mother of them all. In those days, society is ruled by ecclesiastical leaders. Many thinkers on politics in the modern world are of the view that today’s government is to be secular. In any case, we see pockets of theocracy in modern governments. In the democratic regime, theocracy is almost rampant. Indeed states that define themselves as secular cannot deny the hand of the Almighty God in their polity. Sadly, the name of God is largely used in vain in the republic. Selling to the masses what God has not said as if he has said it is nothing less than suffocation of society. It thwarts critical thinking and may get worse men into ruling the affairs of the state. The so-called prophets of God in their quest to receive favour, power, and glory have become a thorn in the flesh of good politics in the republic. They claim divine ability and many citizens rally after them no matter their manner of life. They dare to poke a finger at divinity under the cloak of liars. Professor Christian G. Baëta was right when he indicated that men would emerge in society periodically claiming to possess a certain divine power and would get large following despite their blatant crooked life. Is this a pathologic vestige of theocracy within the democracy? Is it that members of the republic are attempting to contextualize theocracy into the democracy? These may be so to some extent but largely this is a mark of foul politics. Thou shall not profane the name of God in the name of politics.
True Political Campaign stands Diametrically Opposed to Ad hominem
Politics is supposed to be a competition of ideas. However, the scene within democracies shows otherwise. Politics of ideas has become politics of insult. It is expected of the good politician to deal with the real issues at hand for the betterment of the republic but to a very large extent, the power-drunk and glory-smitten politician swerves the real issues and devotes his debate to attacking opponents. This is bad politics.
What end does this bring to society? In their resolve to lay hands on glory, the bad politician proceeds in his political discourse to denigrate the glory of the person of opponents. The personality of political opponents is slurred bitterly. At the end of the day, nothing good comes out of the political debates within the democracy. In this vein, horrible politicians fallaciously appeal to the masses of the people at the emotional level. Their thinking is clouded by the wrong debate that is presented to them. The citizens and hence participants of the democracy who are supposed to be the adjudicators of the political debate must be wise if not the dust of bad politics would be perpetually thrown into their eyes and society suffers. Citizens display their folly every now and then by supporting the evil of their leaders. Many are ready to die and kill to support the political ideology they consider as true. Our engagement in democracy must be based on intellect and not on fables. Instead of exchanging ideas for the good of all, they exchange blows, stones, clubs, bullets, and all that maims and destroys. This is unequivocally folly.
It is quite fascinating that people praise the politics of fallacy. Many reckon politics as synonymous with lies thus bad politics that uses ad hominem is held as smart politics. It is not hard to hear within the democracy that a person is a good politician for the reason that he based his politics on fibs. He who wants to be a good politician for the love of society must abstain from falsehood. This good politician must place himself above the low level politics of insult and seek the mandate of society to genuinely seek the welfare of the people. The campaigns of this politician need to deal with the actual issues that confront the republic.
To Conclude: The Verity of the Vanity of Power
But to what extent does the power wrestle for by those who are consumed by it rest with them? Soon the days go by and the reality of human life becomes apparent. Those who maltreat society by their bad politics; stealing from the poor to enrich themselves, denying the innocent people of even their peace and security, and making a fool of the people, will soon be faced with the truth of life. The power and glory will soon come falling and how great is that fall. Failure to learn from history has disadvantaged society greatly. Nevertheless, the lessons are there. Many within civilizations who think they are invincible by their bad politics within a democracy have been mocked by history. Let it be known to all who desired the good of society that democracy encourages them to contribute to the well-being of life and by their hygienic politics society can be spared of bad politics. Civil obedience must be held in high esteem by them. They must exult peace within the democracy and be ruled by the fear of God.
The world today is not like the one that God created in Genesis 1:31. Adam’s disobedience toward God brought about damning changes that affected not only each one of us but also creation itself.
From a garden of tranquillity where humans and animals coexisted in harmony, we were transitioned into a new world where we prey on each other. Furthermore, there is an increase in earthquakes and other natural disasters that continuously threaten life and property. But worst of it all is the animosity fueled by the differences in the cultures among the people of the world, which traces back to the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible (Genesis 11:1-9).
This incredible story involves the people of Babel attempting to build a tower that would reach to heaven in direct contradiction to the command of God for them to multiply and fill the whole earth. To forestall this rebellion, God brought into existence multiple languages, thus, dividing humans into various linguistic groups that were unable to understand one another.
This is one of the saddest and yet most significant stories in the Bible. It is sad because it reveals the widespread rebellion in the human heart which resulted from the introduction of sin into our world. On the other hand, it also brought about the reshaping and development of all the cultures that highlights the differences among all the people of the world. Peace is, therefore, essential because it is the only means by which such different groups of people can coexist or cohabit in this world.
The question then becomes, how do you obtain peace in a world that is more opposed to good than evil, more divided than united, and more imperfect than perfect? It would, therefore, require a conscious effort of its inhabitants to pursue what is in the best interest of all. After all, we cannot do much about our differences, but we can make an effort to live in peace with each other when we value and appreciate our diversity.
In this regard, Ghana, a country that boasts more than seventy different ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language, has been a shining example since its independence in 1957. Aside from the many blessings of natural resources and vast arable lands, Ghana is generally blessed with peace-loving people. For many years now, we have rallied around our Ghana flag and remained a united nation earning us the enviable accolade as the beacon of democracy on the African continent.
However, this has not come on a silver platter, rather, by a conscious effort by all and sundry to commit to maintaining peace, especially during the past seven presidential and parliamentary elections, which we have successfully organised in a peaceful, fair, and free manner with very minor security concerns.
As we head to the December 7 polls, we must not rest on our oars, but continue to remind ourselves of the need to maintain the peace in the country and consolidate the gains made so far in our young democracy.
As a very religious country, with Christians forming the majority of her population, the leadership of the various religious bodies ought to preach peace to their followers and insist on it. This, among other reasons, led The Church of Pentecost to introduce the “Agent of Peace” campaign in 2016 to drum home the need for the citizenry to be agents of peace before, during, and after the elections. This year, the second edition of the campaign was launched at the Burma Camp Worship Centre to raise more awareness on the need for peaceful general elections in order to maintain the tranquillity and stability of the country.
In her address, the referee for the electoral process, Mrs. Jean Mensa (Electoral Commissioner), who was the Special Guest of Honour for the event, assured the citizenry of her commitment to presiding over a free and fair election and also called on the Christian community to continue bearing her up in prayer for the enormous task ahead.
The “Agent of Peace” campaign is under the theme: “Seek Peace and Pursue It” (Psalm 34:17) and has since been replicated at the various areas and districts of the church.
The Christian population must therefore not relent but continue to pray into the general elections; consistently calling on our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to look favourably towards our nation during this sensitive period.
The electorates, especially the youth, are also advised to pursue peace and not to allow ourselves to be used to disturb the peace of the nation. We are all entitled to one vote and so let’s be content with it.
We must not forget that, in the end, it is only one candidate among the lot who would emerge victorious. This means that the likelihood that many would be disappointed after the results is a reality, however, it is important to stress that, it is not so much about having our preferred political party or candidate in power, but accepting the choice and will of God for our country.
In a nutshell, a peaceful general election requires all stakeholders – religious bodies, security agencies, political parties, the Electoral Commission, and the citizenry – contributing their quota towards the electoral process.
So, let us seek peace and pursue it, because a victory for Ghana, is a victory for all.
The call for peace and tranquility during general elections is a responsibility of all peace-loving persons and civil society organizations because peace is invaluable while violence is very expensive in its destruction. The negative effect of violence has no particular formula and it is not also a respecter of persons – anyone can be a victim in violent situations. This is why a peaceful society/environment is a very significant factor in every democracy and it must be jealously guarded by all parties involved in any electoral process.
Praying for and promoting peace in the nation is the divine responsibility of every peace-loving person as indicated in Jeremiah 29:7, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (NIV). As our nation heads for general elections on December 7, 2020, the church as a prophetic voice in society considers herself as an agent of peace with a responsibility to preach, exhibit, and model peace and harmony in the Ghanaian society. This is because peace in the nation is peace for our very existence and development as people.
As a nation, there is every cause to thank God for His sustenance of the Ghanaian democratic system since the adoption of the 1992 constitution that ushered us into the fourth Republic. We have had six general elections with the forthcoming polls on December 7, 2020 being the seventh in the series. However, all the previous elections conducted in Ghana were not without some kind of troubles or violence. There are still hotspots and flashpoints in the nation which have always been characterized by violence-related elections. Over the years, reports by the media have also indicated some acts of vigilantism and extreme political activism that infuriate passion during general elections.
It is against this backdrop that peace campaigns have become a critical factor in the preparations towards general elections in Ghana. The ultimate goal is to ensure “peaceful and orderly” balloting and that is why The Church of Pentecost (CoP) and some other agencies are spearheading a nationwide peace campaign ahead of the December 7, 2020 elections. The CoP, for example, with her membership close to three million in Ghana, seeks to add her voice to the ongoing education among the Ghanaian populace by governmental and civil society organizations on the need for another peaceful elections this year.
Activities towards the elections call for other peace-loving institutions to emulate the move by the CoP and to join the peace campaign trail to drive the message of peace across all spheres of the Ghanaian society. The CoP, in particular, successfully embarked on a similar peace campaign during the 2016 general elections as its social contribution towards the peace-building process of the Ghanaian democracy. This year’s peace campaign of the Church was launched on Sunday, 27th September, 2020 and it was attended by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Mrs. Jean Mensa, the Chairpersons of the political parties contesting for the elections, security services, religious leaders, and civil society organizations. The message of all the stakeholders was to send a very strong signal to the general public that every Ghanaian citizen has the responsibility towards peaceful balloting on the December 7, 2020 polls.
The Nature of the Situation
The situation of Ghana’s political system, at times, causes unnecessary tension during general elections in the country. Although the Ghanaian democratic system may be considered a “multi-party” system, partisan politics in the country appears to be operating on a dualistic political system that tends to divide the nation behind two major parties – the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). This development appears to affect the social cohesion of the people of Ghana with the tendency to create tensions during general elections in the country.
The cause of the tensions may be attributed to the approach initiated by the political parties and their followers to deal with what they perceive to be “inappropriate conduct or actions” by either their political opponents or other agencies involved in the electoral process. Sadly, in some instances, their approaches rather turn out to be problematic and that affirms Albert Einstein’s assertion that “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” The import of this statement is that peace must be sought before it is attained; it is neither commanded nor enforced without recourse to a due process. When peace is enforced without a thorough understanding of stakeholders, the seed is inadvertently sown for societal crises or rancour. How then do we act as agents of peace in all aspects of our activities in the run-up to this year’s general elections? Obviously, each of the following groups of people has a critical role to play in ensuring the attainment of peaceful elections this year:
The Electoral Commission (EC)
The unbiased role of the EC as the main umpire in the electoral process is cardinal in safeguarding the peace and stability of the nation. Prudence in ensuring free and fair elections, as the tenets of its constitutional mandate, has a far-reaching, positive impact on the entire electoral process to avoid violence-related elections. Free and fair elections help to avoid rigging and malpractices that may result in a dispute during or after the elections. For us to achieve our aim of free and fair elections or avoid post-election disputes that could trigger a conflict situation, the EC, as the principal actor and arbiter of the general elections must be seen to be markedly fair.
If the EC excels in its constitutional mandate with transparency as expected, the kind of unnecessary apprehensions and contentions that had characterized our previous elections may become minimal in this year’s balloting. Ghanaians look forward to seeing remarkable progress in our electoral process this year as against those of previous years because we have come far as a nation. The clock must not be rewound backwards – and the EC’s positive role is crucial if we are to progress with our expectation of free and fair elections.
During the launch of the second edition of the agent of Peace Campaign organized by the CoP at its auditorium at Burma Camp, Accra, the EC Chair, Mrs. Jean Mensa assured that Ghanaians, thus: “I must work and undertake all my duties to ensure that it is the will of the people, which is the will of God, that stands. As an Agent of Peace, I should be truthful and not seek to alter the will of God. The Onus is on me to abide by this principle. God being my guide and helper I am confident that I will not let Him and the people of Ghana down; in Jesus name” (Pentecost News, 2020). This statement is very reassuring and Ghanaians are looking forward for the practicability of it in the way the EC will conduct the elections this year.
The Political Parties
Our political parties have the responsibility to maintain the peace and harmony of the Ghanaian society. To achieve this, we urge them to desist from any attitude, action and inaction that may incite the general public to violence during the electioneering campaigns. Whether one likes it or not, our politicians and their political parties might have invested heavily in their preparations towards these elections. The energy and resources they invest in elections may sometimes make a politician develop an audacious passion that he or she must be the only winner of the elections without considering anything otherwise. Their investments notwithstanding, they should also learn about how they must conduct themselves in the event of winning or losing the elections. The principle of “learning to lose” election applies in this context because the elections being entered by two or more contestants may not tie.
Generally, when two or more politicians enter for the polls, one is finally declared a winner of the total votes cast and that calls for political candidates to adopt the principle of “learning to lose,” or “losing honourably”, long before they cast their vote. It is when politicians are adequately prepared to handle losses in an election that they will not hesitate to accept the outcome of the electoral result. The readiness to accept losses, if they happen, must always be at the back of the mind of every mature politician as long as we take into consideration that it is not likely for the election to tie. It is also not likely that the party which is audaciously passionate about winning the elections must, by all means, be declared a winner.
Politicians should understand that the energy invested in preparing their acceptance speech when they win an election, the same energy must also be used to concede defeat because there will definitely be a loser after the polls. It could be Mr “A” or Mr “B”, but the bottom line is that only one person or political party will be declared a winner of the polls in a constituency while the rest will join the losing trail. On the flip side, winners must also be gracious and magnanimous in their celebrations, taking the emotions of losers into consideration; we must do unto others just as we may expect them to do unto us because with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (see Matt. 7:2). For instance, if you are the loser, how would you have expected your opponent to treat you? This is a food-for-thought for all of us!
The verdict of the ballot is more powerful than the emotional sentiments attached to the energy and resources invested into the electoral process. Therefore, the verdict of the ballot in the light of free and fair elections must have a bearing on the desire of all stakeholders because it is the will of the people; the electorate. It is the verdict of the ballot that determines the result of the poll; not the wishes and the passion of an individual about the polls. The verdict of the ballot may not compliment with the effort of the huge resources invested into the electioneering process. Whenever the verdict is pronounced after the polls, the next expectation of all peace-loving people of losing political actors, or better still, politicians, is to concede defeat (something that all contestants of the polls should have prepared along with their victory speeches long before the elections), congratulate their political opponents for their success in a battle well-fought, and move on with their lives.
Naturally, any person contesting an election must bear in mind that there are “two six o’clocks” in a day – one in the morning and another in the evening. If one misses the morning six o’clock, one is likely to catch up in the evening one. Politics is a dynamic and progressive process; the loss today can be the win tomorrow. With time, the destiny and the political ambition of every person will be determined by the ballot, so there is no need to resort to violence or utter misconduct when one loses an election. For example, there are politicians in this world who have lost elections on several occasions, but with patience and re-strategizing with a progressive pursuit of peace and development, have won in their subsequent attempts. The antidote to failure, is patience and repeated and consistent attempts. If one is consistent, resolute, and progressive with one’s strategy as one continues to keep faith in God victory will surely be on their side.
The media owe us the responsibility to promote peace across the various political spectrum and social groups in the country. Religious organizations and civil society organizations may always talk about the need for peace and national cohesion, but the input of the media is crucial for the sustenance of peace and harmony in the nation. Arguably, some of the keys to peace in the country are in the hands of the media and the Ghanaian media is lauded for using these keys creditably and responsibly over the years towards ensuring the peace and tranquility of the nation. They have demonstrated over the years that preserving the peace and harmony that have existed in Ghana for years is a collective responsibility of us all, regardless of our political affiliations. This is highly commendable and we are proud of them!
Nevertheless, much as the media in Ghana have a very good record, there is the need to be consistent and progressive with their achievement considering the fact that every general election presents itself with its peculiar challenges. Yesterday’s approach may not work properly today – depending on the dynamics on the ground in terms of the political situation in the country so the model of this year’s peace campaign must address the real issues pertaining to the context of the elections. It needs a pragmatic approach and innovations for packaging the ongoing peace campaign. The media, therefore, have a huge responsibility to sincerely be in the forefront of the various peace campaigns launched across the country ahead of the elections. Their involvement in the peace campaigns as agents of peace in Ghana can be a good starting point for the discourse about the role of the media towards the peace-building process in the country. The peace campaign agents need their proactiveness, innovations, and robust approaches to addressing peculiar challenges for this year’s elections.
As has been stated earlier, the whole process of electioneering campaigns is very expensive in terms of investments made and the resources invested. However, much as we exhort our politicians to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner during the elections, the media must also help us to achieve this objective. The media should acknowledge the fact that losing an election is a very disheartening and soul-wrenching experience which, therefore, calls for circumspection in reporting election-related news, particularly during and after the elections. Any distortion of information about a particular political candidate or party may evoke tension.
The onus, therefore, lies on the media to be cautious in exercising their editorial rights during elections. The way the media conduct political interviews, documentaries, or debates must be shorn of all contents that could instigate their readers and audience towards violence. The overriding point here is that the media is a crucial actor in the country’s democratic dispensation, just as elections are vital for every democracy to thrive. Persons on any media platform making wild and unsubstantiated claims or allegations must be asked to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt to avoid creating chaos in the nation. It is, thus, a divine call for the media as agents of peace to exercise restraint in reporting anything that is tantamount to causing mayhem in the society.
In the democratic system, leaders do not impose themselves on their people; they are elected and those who have the constitutional powers to elect leaders through the ballot are the electorate. The electorate in this sense are all the citizens whose names are properly captured in the voters’ register compiled by the EC and have satisfied “all righteousness” to vote in any election in Ghana as per the electoral regulations of the Commission. They are eligible voters because their voting rights have not been disputed by any person while their conduct during the electoral process resonates with the laws of the land. They are law-abiding in their actions towards the elections. The conduct of the electorate is summarized in 1 Peter 2:17, “Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (NLT). Equal respect for all, including the rules set by the state for its citizen to be law-abiding, is the recipe for good conduct in all activities relating to the general elections.
With this insight, it is permissible to say that the electorates are the most significant segment of the electoral process. Without them, no political candidate will be declared a winner during general elections in Ghana. Thus, the responsibility of the electorate in ensuring and maintaining peaceful elections is as crucial as that of the political parties, EC, and civil society organizations. While it is the civic right of every Ghanaian citizen to exercise their franchise through the ballot, it is equally their civic responsibility to be agents of peace – that is, to safeguard the peace and harmony being enjoyed in the nation.
There is no dichotomy between the rights that quality someone to exercise their franchise through the ballot and the responsibility on the individual to promote peace in the country – both are legitimate “Rs” that must be pursued by the electorate. If we cannot predict the magnitude of violence, then we must all understand that the best alternative for every Ghanaian in this our peaceful state is to be an ambassador for peace. We must preach peace and talk peace before, during, and after this year’s elections. This means the electorate should go to the poll with two responsibilities – the first reason is to vote to elect their preferred leaders and the second reason is to ensure that the peaceful atmosphere in the nation is protected against disturbance. How can they achieve these two objectives?
There are good procedures put in place by the EC for the electorate in Ghana to follow and every Ghanaian must be well informed on those procedures. The electorate need to understand that at the end of the entire process, the good news expected by every patriotic citizen is the counting of the total ballot cast and the peaceful declaration of the winners of the elections by the EC, and not necessarily the number of violent situations recorded during the process. The electoral process is not the platform for a person to unleash terror against their fellow compatriots; it is rather the opportunity given by law for citizens to choose the leader(s) after their own heart and desire.
It must be reiterated that no matter how disgruntled one may be, violence is not an option of every democratic system. Violence-related election is an unfortunate incident in the electoral process because it is not expected to occur in any civilized society. We should all bear in mind that violence-related election is not part of anybody’s budgetary allocations or planning activities towards the electoral process and it must be renounced in no uncertain terms during any election. It unleashes havoc on humanity and it is counter-productive with an unpredictable devastation on lives and properties. Thus, it must not be entertained in society, no matter how miffed any misconduct in the elections might have caused a particular individual.
Any person who subtly beats war drums must understand the fact that violence has never been a solution to any legitimate concern. There is nowhere in our constitution that recommends the use of violence to solve a legitimate concern. Violence rather aggravates the situation of people and makes life unbearable to the extent that sometimes even the initiators of any kind of violence tend to regret their actions because in violence situation any person can be a potential victim. There are legitimate procedures prescribed by the legal systems of Ghana to address election disputes and as we prepare for the polls, this must be at the back of our minds.
The NCCE, Civil Society Organizations, and Religious Institutions
Usually, during campaigns in this country, the focus has always been on the politicians and their political parties preparing for the polls, but less attention is paid in educating the general public about some implications in the electoral process. A thorough understanding by the electorate is vital and that can mostly be championed by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and its related organizations. Of all the various areas of educating the public about general elections, one of the things the NCCE ought to consider is to prepare their mind about the outcome of the ballot. The electorate needs to be adequately prepared ahead of time to be aware of the possibility of their candidates losing the elections.
We should not only talk about conducting a peaceful election when some people have not envisaged that losing an election is also part of the electoral process. Those who have not considered this fact may react with shock and frustration when their candidates fail to win the elections, but with an adequate education of the NCCE, and other organizations the electorate will be ready for whatever may be the outcome of the polls. Therefore, every person or social group needs an equal proportion of education about the nature of the electoral process and the need to accept in good faith the verdict of the ballot box. This is important because peace-building during elections is a collective responsibility by all well-meaning people in society. Another area the education process of the NCCE should focus on is capacity building of civil society and religious organizations in the country.
In the run-up to general elections, these organizations (from the grassroots to the top) would also have to learn much about the procedures for mediating conflict-related elections in the country. The bottom line, however, is that we want to have incident-free elections and every person or social group has a stake in the process which needs an adequate preparation for the process by all.
Consequences of Violence-Related Election
It must be thoroughly understood that violence-related election is not a respecter of a person or the cherished heritage of any society, nor does it have regard for their property acquired over the years. It ought to be reiterated that whenever violence strikes, it has no restriction in terms of its sphere of destruction and that is why every good citizen must sacrifice their resources to promote peace and harmony in society. When we consider the countries that have experienced violence-related elections, it can be noticed that the experience is one of the worse situations to happen to any civilized society.
Victor Frankl is reported to have said that, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” If we all have the “power to choose our response,” as is evident in this popular quote of Frankl, then let us all use the power at our disposal, including our political and religious impulse, to once again promote peace and harmony before, during, and after this year’s general elections as we have done in the past. Until the December 7, 2020 polls end, we should not rest on our oars – we must pray for the nation and promote peace in every corner we find ourselves in. The Psalmist says, “The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace” (Ps. 29:11, NLT). This passage evinces peace as a blessing of God and we must all tap into it as a nation. Wherever there is peace and harmony, the people abound in God’s blessings.
There is no doubt that Ghana is a beacon of contemporary democracy in Africa in terms of the free and fair elections the nation has had during this Fourth Republic, freedom of expression, and, above all, the general governance system of the nation. It is important for every peace-loving person to understand that the peace and harmony enjoyed by Ghanaians need to be consciously guarded as we approach the December 7, 2020 polls. This presentation has demonstrated that the peacefulness and orderliness that is expected to be recorded in the elections would be consequential to our existence and safety as a people. Having seen the need for a peaceful election through this presentation, it is felicitous for me to opine that we must all exercise our religious virtues of peace and love as a people in the face of threats, acrimony, and wickedness. The time to put into practice the inherent peace espoused in our various religious organizations is now. When that happens, triumph will be celebrated in the light of God’s will for our nation.
Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:1-3 NIV)
On 12th March 2020, the Minister of Health in Ghana, Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Manu announced to the Ghanaian public of the first cases of the novel corona virus infection recorded in the country. This was after weeks of uncertainty among Ghanaians regarding the spread of the virus in neighbouring countries. This was due to the devastating effects Covid-19 has had on superpowers like China and Italy. In the minds of most Ghanaians, countries with excellent medical facilities and emergency response systems were being “humbled” by the novel virus and thus, Ghana “stood no chance” in dealing with the situation if a case was recorded in the country. The government of Ghana initially banned travels to Ghana from countries with more than 200 cases of the coronavirus. In a press conference, the Minister of Information, Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah stated, “All travel to Ghana is strongly discouraged”. Citizens and resident-permit holders were required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. This did not stop the importation of the virus. After recording 137 cases, the president declared a partial lockdown of the Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolis to help curb the spread. This did not however stop the spread as more cases were reported through routine surveillance and contact tracing embarked on by health professionals.
A post supposedly attributed to the Italian Prime Minister, Minister Giuseppe Conte reads; “We have lost control, we have killed the epidemic physically and mentally. Can’t understand what more we can do, all solutions are exhausted on ground. Our only hope remains up in the Sky, God rescue your people.” The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic at a news briefing on March 11, 2020.
On 19th March 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo called on Christian leaders to seek the face of God amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the country. He again declared 25th March 2020 a National Day of Prayer and Fasting against coronavirus. He also re-echoed the words of King Jehoshaphat when he was overawed by the enemies, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). This was greeted with mixed sentiments among the populace. Some Ghanaians made mockery of the declarations. In the comments section of a popular news portal in the country, one poster said; “Ghanaians need economic stimulus package to save businesses and lessen the burden on our livelihood. Not fasting and praying at this time. We need to be Serious. Selfish and Greedy Leaders”. Yet another posted, “We need to change our attitude. We don’t need prayers but need to care for humanity”. Another posted, “Mr President, we are very pleased with your words but let us face the fact with honesty, prayers we know won’t do anything…”. A popular musician in Ghana, in an interview during the lockdown said, “It is now time for pastors and Christians to show that indeed their God is real by calling on Him (God) to heal just ten of the infected people.” The naysayers increased by the day.
But the church did not relent. Most church leaders declared fasting and prayers for their members. The Church of Pentecost in particular declared Friday as a day of fasting and prayers to call on God to intervene. After one such prayer sessions, the Chairman of The Church of Pentecost, Apostle Eric Nyamekye declared, “The roots of the virus have been uprooted and burnt.” This was also greeted with mockery when the cases kept going up each day.
Fast forward to 28th September 2020, Ghana had recorded 46,444 cases, 299 deaths and 45,646 recoveries with an active case count of 499. In percentage terms, only 0.15% of the population have been infected with the virus. 0.6% of those infected passed away while 98.3% have been clinically discharged. Only thirteen (13) countries in the world have better recovery rates than Ghana. In Africa, only Djibouti has a better recovery rate (98.7%). Djibouti however has 0.55% of its populace infected with the virus with 1.1% of those infected passing away. The total cases worldwide stand at 33,585,750 with 24,903,199 recoveries (74%) and 1,007,196 deaths (3%). In as much as we praise the government for its interventions, we cannot deny the hand of God in the impressive statistics stated above. Indeed, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in a recent address to the nations bemoaned the fact that most Ghanaians were not adhering to the safety protocols put in place to help curb the spread such as the wearing of nose masks and social distancing. However, the number of active cases keep reducing although testing is still being carried out.
This might be an indication that the fewer active cases is not entirely the work of government and its agencies but something else is involved. That “something else” is God in action. Contrary to the mockery and doubts, God has shown again that “…the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b). This should increase our faith in Him and increase our appetite for prayer in our personal circumstances and also intercede for others. People will not stop ridiculing the church but the church (you and I) should stand strong, “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
And so it has been today through the pandemic. When sceptics ridiculed and scorned at Christian leaders and the church saying, “Where is your so-called God who heals?” The answer is and has always been this: He is always with us and answers our cry anytime we call. We are His witnesses to the world. And we join voices with the Psalmist to sing;
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory. (Psalm 97:1-6 NIV)
Our Lord Jesus Christ planted on earth the most powerful “institution”, the Church. His departure speech which seems to premise the fact that the Church will prevail come what may states, “I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). It comes to fore that never will it be said of the Church that the people who God has called from the world to form a community of Christ have succumbed to the storms of life and retreated to become a ghetto movement. Pursuance of this hangs very much on the kind of ecclesiology (understanding of the nature, structure and purpose of the Church) that is presented to the people of this community of Christ. I discuss here that Apostle Eric Nyamekye, the Chairman of The Church of Pentecost has caused a shift in the understanding of the Church and this emboldens the church to face the storm of the present global pandemic. This is done with special reference to The Church of Pentecost (hereafter CoP). For the sake brevity, I shall limit myself in my exploration of the cases I reckon as given place to this homiletic treatise.
Apostle Eric Nyamekye comes into the scene as chairman of a classical Pentecostal church that has arguably translated into a global Christian denomination in the last decade. This era of the CoP is very critical. One reason is its presence in over 100 nations. Making incursion into over 100 nations within 67 years of its establishment is a great missionary feat. A graphical representation of the growth pattern will show that per its numerical growth the curve is still peaking. The CoP has enormous human resource at its disposal to live a great mark on world Christianity. The CoP is a leader in current world Christianity. One implication of this is that the kind of “doctrine of the Church” the CoP upholds, which would ipso facto inform its approach to Christian ministry is to be considered critically. Apostle Eric Nyamekye took this up and shaped the CoP’s understanding of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He caused a sharp shift in the ecclesiology of the CoP that could make the CoP strive even within the present global pandemic. This shows a maturing CoP.
The Ecclesiology of the CoP
The CoP understanding of the nature of the Church follows the general classical Pentecostal tradition to a large extent. I shall touch on only two aspects relevant here. First, events surrounding the formative years of modern Pentecostalism play key role in the classical Pentecostal understanding of the nature, structure and role of the Church. The Church is seen by Pentecostals as “Pentecostal churches.” This is to the extent that non-Pentecostals are comfortably regarded by Pentecostals as being lost due in part to what they regard as over laxity in other Christian traditions. This understanding of the nature of the Church makes classical Pentecostals inward-looking and they will usually not associate with other Christians. To them, association with other professing Christians will “spoil the church.” Professor Allan Anderson, a renowned scholar of global Pentecostalism who visited Pentecost University in August of 2018, explains the reason behind the attitude of self-isolation of Pentecostals thus, “The older churches viewed them [Pentecostals] with various degrees of disdain, amusement and opposition because Pentecostalism attracted only the economically and culturally deprived classes – or so they thought.” This disposition poses a challenge for people who may want to adopt a Christian ecumenical approach to ministry in the CoP. This has been the orientation of the CoP. Despite the progress of Pentecostal missionary enterprise, this mindset lives many places of the larger society that could have been taken by Pentecostals unconquered with the Gospel.
Second, to the CoP, the Church is structured such that it will have nothing to do with the secular. To them, the Church must be completely “separated” from the world and must have no dealings at all with things outside the Church. The Church must be conservative enough to not engage itself in anything not sacred. Its ministry becomes reduced to proclaiming the Gospel, getting people baptized and translated into full fellowship of the church, gathering constantly for public worship and forming a community only of themselves. This creates the picture of the life within the first-century Christian community prior to the ministry of Apostle Paul which saw a new understanding that the ministry of the Church is not limited to gathering for public worship and promoting only the welfare of believers. Things are getting better in recent times.
“We need to stop thinking church”: The 43rd Council Meetings
Christian history has shown that council meetings have the knack of causing cosmic changes in Christianity. I deem the 43rd general council meetings as one of the most remarkable ones in the CoP. It is a remarkable event as its repercussion is the ushering of one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world into rigorous ministry “outside the church.” This statement would be one of the statements that would undoubtedly engage the thoughts of councillors and the members of the CoP at the close of the meetings. The statement is contained in the acceptance speech of Apostle Eric Nyamekye after his election as chairman. I find the backdrop to this statement as a response to the pervasive ecclesiology in the CoP. Having been in the full ministry in the CoP for 27 years prior to his chairmanship, Apostle Nyamekye is well aware of the widespread understanding of the nature, structure and role of the church in the CoP. He was speaking to such a perception. This insight was to inform the vision 2023 of the CoP. The statement has set a new tone and presents a sharp shift in the Pentecostal idea of the church. It’s arguably a thought-provoking highlight of the 43rd general meeting of the leaders of the CoP.
The Dual Identity of the Church
One focus of the “vision 2023” of the CoP is to teach its members “the dual identity of the church.” This has been very much discussed by Apostle Nyamekye. This nature of the church presented by the Apostle is directly a complex of Christian thought on salvation, church, and missions. The references given as biblical foundation for the “vision 2023”: Psalm 22:27-28; 76:1-2, 4; Revelation 11:15; Ephesians 3:7-11; and 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 carry these senses. The dual identity of the church is defined like this, “the church is called out of the world to belong to God and sent back to the world to witness and serve.” In his expose of the 2019 theme of the CoP during the November 2018 meeting of the heads of the CoP, Apostle Nyamekye reveals that the motivation behind the theme, “I will build my church” is to bring to bear the twofold identity of the church. He holds that the Bible bears witness to this identity.
With this focus, he questions the social segregation of the church from the world. Meanwhile, he charges Christians not to sacrifice the standard of the Christian faith. His clarion is for Christians to venture into the systems of the world and confront them with the principles of Christ. This is in sharp confluence with a staunch position of his predecessor, Apostle Opoku Onyinah who is of the view that Christians need to speak to contemporary issues emerging in the world. This is summarized in a statement he (Apostle Opoku Onyinah) made in May 2017 during the 15th extraordinary council meetings of the CoP thus, “don’t put church on one side and the world on the other side. The church must move into the world. You must move in with the language that they will understand.”
Apostle Eric Nyamekye in many instances points to the brevity of church public worship in contrast to the many hours Christians spend outside church meetings. He uses an interesting analogy to demonstrate this along this line. He presents that the Christian life is like a football match. Meeting for church service is like a half-time break where players come for refreshment and comments on their performance thus far. After the short break, the players go back to continue the football match. He maintains that the real influence of Christians is in the public space outside church meetings. This hangs on the double purpose of the church he posits. With this ministerial ethos of the church, no threat to public gathering will negatively impact the influence of the church for the Christians become aware that church life goes beyond church auditoriums.
Solving the Paradox of African Christian Spirituality: The Sacred and the Secular in Continuity
One of the staunch positions of Apostle Nyamekye which is a path towards solving the rather paradoxical phenomenon within Christianity in Africa is how he sees the interplay between the sacred and the secular (an in-depth consideration of this is being done in another work). African religious spirituality sees that religious beliefs and practices are intertwined in the everyday life of people. The whole of life in African is seen as sacred. Religious beliefs are not expressed only during public gatherings for religious reasons. Nuances of African primal religion is seen within Christianity in Africa. In this respect, to enhance effective penetrance of the Christian faith into African societies and in fact into other cultures, Christian thinkers have been calling for contextualization of the Gospel. Considering the fact the religious orientation in Africa is that religious beliefs and practices are inseparable from everyday life, it is quite puzzling that when the Africans became Christians they could not see their Christian religious beliefs, principles and practices as part of their everyday life. They struggle to bring their Christianity to bear in their public life. This is a paradox! An indicator of this is the soaring rate of social injustice amidst an increasing number of Christians in Africa.
Apostle Nyamekye is grappling with the issue of the huge percentage of Christians in Ghana not being in commensurate with the impact of Christianity in the public space. He incessantly refers to this situation in the last two years. He pins this on the gab Christians have created between the “sacred” and the “secular.” He builds a case from God’s nature of being spirit. Like Paul to the Athenians, Apostle Nyamekye presents that the Lord God does not dwell in mere temples. He posits that God can not be confined to one place. Thus Christians must worship in temples without boundaries. This translates Christian worship beyond church auditoriums. For the reason that God cannot be confined, Apostle Nyamekye asserts that whatever you do in whatever place you find yourself becomes your worship. The Christian engagement in the secular means that their worship extends to the public space. We see here a position that Christian spirituality finds continuity with the secular. He stated during a session of his series of extended sermons on Living a Victorious Christian Life that “There should be no dichotomy between the sacred and the secular; whatever you do is your act of worship.” This same position was presented earlier on February 29, 2020. Whilst speaking on Ghana’s national television, GTV, Apostle Nyamekye explains that humankind is a tripartite being. He endorsed the trichotomy school that holds that humankind is a spirit, have a soul and lives in the body. He indicated from this backdrop that, “you don’t see the spirit. What you see is the physical. If you are spiritual then show it by the way it is manifested. It is manifested in the day-to-day kind of life. So there should be no dichotomy between the secular and the spiritual.” As an example, he adds that when Christians serve in their workplace it is also worship.
This steadfast position of the apostle speaks to the age-old problem of African Christians inability to bring their Christian principles to bear in the public space. Such teaching that the worship of the Church extends to the secular space preaches the active presence of the Church even without gathering for joint worship as a community.
In Lieu of Conclusion: Rethinking Ecclesiology amidst the Present Pandemic
Whilst a global pandemic may not primarily be the underpinning of Apostle Eric Nyamekye’s paradigm of the church, it prepares the church to face and survives any threat to their gathering together in public worship. Such threat may not be limited to a pandemic like the present COVID-19 pandemic. It could be various persecutions, war, national injunctions or migrations of Christians. I dare say that any Christian denomination that hangs its survival only on public worship in this postmodern world is treading dangerously. Being an Apostle, Chairman Eric Nyamekye spoke to the times. I deem this a providence of God. The Lord God has shown forth himself once again as omniscient. He sends forth his servants in due season to prepare his people for work of service.
Whilst it is of utmost importance that Christians do not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), Christians in general and Pentecostals, in particular, must embrace the model of the Church being pursued by the chairman of the CoP. There are spiritual dimensions to the church that would not be explored here but indeed the marks and role of the Church go beyond gathering in an auditorium for public worship as Apostle Nyamekye is discussing. The Christian must look beyond the walls of the church. This puts on the cutting edge the profound charge of the Master to his disciples to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13, KJV). Whilst meeting together, proclaiming the Gospel, promoting koinonia, encouraging worship and upholding the welfare of the Christian community must be pursued with diligence, its incumbent on Christians to embrace this shift in the understanding of the nature of the Church. The Church would be toughened to stand tall in all circumstances and Christ would be glorified.
On July 23, 2020, Ghana succumbed to the traumatic news of a 90-year old woman who was stoned to death because she was accused of possessing witchcraft. Through the mediation of the new media, the video footage of the lynching of the woman received global attention.
The response was sporadic. Condemnation came from virtually everyone who had the chance of watching the video. For a while, we were shocked because we never thought such a barbaric act could happen in twenty-first century Ghana. Many of us had assumed that the “modern” world had no space for “superstition” and such a grotesque act.
It is, however, important to mention that our surprise was precisely because we thought that the pervasiveness of Christianity and the “modern” mechanisms of investigating the “mysteries” of life would dispel witchcraft and push it to the backwaters of history.
During the nineteenth century, the missionaries were intentional about suppressing any beliefs in the existence of powerful malevolent spirits. But as Birgit Meyer, a religious anthropologist who has written extensively on Pentecostal Christianity in Ghana, has observed the translation of the Bible into the various languages of the colonised people reinforced beliefs in the metaphysical world.
Instead of Christians dismissing or severing relationship with their ancestral past, the presentation of the spiritual forces in the indigenous world as the demons of the Bible became the aporia of mission work. This is because it revitalised the existential realities of the spiritual world of indigenous religion.
The missionaries emphasised a fusion of rationality and faith in Christ as the way of salvation. This led them to build schools, hospitals and founding of vocational schools, hoping that it would dissuade the indigenous people from making recourse to the religious functionaries of the indigenous religions.
But this approach towards mission work, framed as the 3Hs – Head (rational education), Heart (Gospel) and Hand (vocation) – did not appear to have made any significant impact.
This is to the extent that writing in the 1960s, K.A. Busia, Ghanaian academic and former Prime Minister of Ghana, after he assessed the impact of Christianity among the Akan he remarked that the religion was either superficial, alien or both. In sum, he said Christianity was like a thin veneer that did not interact well with Akan traditional religion.
Be as it may, just before the moratorium that marked the end of missionary activities in Ghana in postcolonial Africa in the 1960s, the rise of the African independent churches, including the Mosama Disco Christo Church (founded by Jemisimiham Jehu Appiah) and the Twelve Apostles (founded by Maame Harris Grace Tani and Papa Kwesi John Nackabah), responded the “impotence” of rationality in dealing with the African indigenous worldviews.
These figures incorporated practices such as exorcism and deliverance to deal with the malevolent spirits in the indigenous religions. They also sacralised the Bible as a living text that could ward off evil spirit. But in all of this, witchcraft was the main target of exorcistic exercise.
The rise of the Pentecostal movement in the early twentieth century through the instrumental role played by Peter Anim, regarded as the Father of Ghanaian Pentecostalism, and James McKeown, an Irish missionary who was in the Gold Coast in 1937, did not dispel the belief in witchcraft.
If for any reason at all, the Pentecostal movement reinforced the belief in witchcraft, except that it offered new approaches. The new approach discounted the use of religious items like Florida water, incense, and candles in exorcistic exercise.
Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah, the immediate chairman of the Church of Pentecost (2008-2018), Ghana’s largest protestant church, wrote his doctoral dissertation, submitted to the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, on the preponderance of witchcraft in Ghana.
In his book, Pentecostal exorcism: Witchcraft and demonology in Ghana, he perceptively argued that in indigenous worldviews, “the principal evil is attributed to witchcraft since it is held that all evil forces can be in league with witches to effect an evil act” (Onyinah, 2012:1).
To corroborate Onyinah, in The Encyclopedia of witches, witchcraft & wicca, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, observed that “witches have never enjoyed a good reputation. Almost universally since ancient times, witchcraft has been associated with malevolence and evil. Witches are thought to be up to no good, interested in wreaking havoc and bringing misery to others” (Guiley, 2008: xi).
These observations are based on the non-binaries between the material and the immaterial worlds in most indigenous worlds. In many of the indigenous religions in Ghana and across the world, there is a fluid relationship between the physical and the metaphysical worlds. Spirits interpenetrate the two worlds and can impact on both worlds.
The fusion of the material and immaterial worlds leads to what is generally referred to as mystical causality in explaining an event. This means that nothing happens by accident. Everything must have a cause. Even if doctors provide a post-mortem report on the cause of death of a deceased person, most people will still probe to know the “why” of the death of the deceased.
For example, science was able to explain the cause of my father’s death that occurred on December 13, 2008. But because he was not visibly ill and died peacefully at home at the age of 65 years, some of my paternal relatives were not convinced about the outcome of the post-mortem that was done at the Ghana Police Hospital, Accra. They felt a witch had terminated my father’s life.
This belief in mystical causality is so strong because the work of a pathologist that uses a scientific approach to ascertain the cause of a person’s death answers the “how” questions and not the “why” questions.
It is this fixation for answers to the “why” questions that led Edward Evans Evans-Pritchard (an English anthropologist who studied the phenomenon of witchcraft among the Azande in Congo) to conclude that witchcraft has a certain logic, as it answers what is rationally or logically inexplicable.
The answer to the “why” questions is invested in the activities of witches. Witches are individuals who are able to utilise the powers invested in nature to exert impact on the material world. In some stories, witches are said to have the power to suck the blood of their victims. They are accused of causing all the sickness and evil in the world. Witches are believed to cause their victims to suffer mental psychosis.
Growing up in Maamobi, an urban slum in Accra, some of the religious functionaries told us that there was a tree at the what used to be called Montreal Park, where the Turkish government has sponsored the construction of the largest mosque in Ghana. As children, we were warned not to go near the huge baobab (known as “goji mayu” “witches’ tree) since it was believed to be the epicentre of witches in the community.
In the 1980s, words went around that the witches were responsible for frequent cases of convulsion among children in the community. Incidentally, just under the baobab tree was the place where some young men produced “ganda” (in Hausa) or “wele” (in other languages, including Twi). As children, playing under the baobab tree in the evening was not just fun, after the sun had set, but it was an adventure to get “ganda”.
Sadly, many children, including myself, suffered convulsion. Those days, partly because of the removal of subsidies on health, as a result of conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, cash-and-carry (pay-as-you-go to receive healthcare) made it difficult for many people to access healthcare at the hospital.
And given that Maamobi is a low-income community, many people resorted to alternative forms of medication in the event of illness.
With the huge cost of receiving healthcare, children who suffered from convulsion were taken to religious functionaries (mallams – from mualim ‘teacher’) who had built speciality and reputation for treating convulsion.
So, when I suffered a convulsion, believed to have been caused by witches, I was taken to one such mallams, who made multiple incisions (three each) on some parts of my body, including the temples of my forehead, instep, knee, and breast and applied a black powder on them.
In the end, I was resuscitated, as my mother who then (in the early 1990s) belonged to one of the local African Independent churches, Prince of Peace, had prayed the mallam to keep making the incision.
According to my mother, I died, because the mallam almost gave up when I was not responding to the incision and the medicine that was applied. My late father concluded that I should just be given a simple burial. But as a mother, my mother felt more could be done to resuscitate me. Indeed, I survived the convulsion to write about witchcraft today.
In the 1960s, a major variety of secularization happened in history. This was the secularization of moral values. Instead of people turning to God through religious text as the source of moral values, the Bible, in particular, was trashed. Morality was relativized and at the behest of individuals.
People were free to determine their own version of moral values. So long as they did not interfere in the life of others, they were good to go. It was this period that witnessed the era of the sexual revolution, giving rise to all forms of sexual practices, including homosexuality.
Reflecting the moral climate in the 1960s, many scholars anticipated that the secularization of morality would consequently lead to the marginalization of institutional religion. Consequently, the popular scholarship, including the works of Peter Berger and Harvey Cox, at that time was that religion would run into recession as science and technology advanced.
It was also believed that superstitious beliefs, including the belief in witchcraft, would fade away. If religion was to survive at all, it was expected to be liberal and not emphasising fundamentalism or evangelicalism.
The predictions of these secularization scholars did not materialise especially following the Iranian revolution in 1979. The Iranian revolution, staged by Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did not only affect the political temperature of the Arab world, especially with the overthrow of the liberal Shah government, led by Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. It led to the resurgence of religion that spread to the Middle East and other parts of the world, including Africa.
Consequently, by the end of the 1970s, many of the scholars who predicted the demise of religion had recanted. Peter Berger wrote an important article on de-secularization. While Harvey Cox admitted that he was wrong. The resurgence of religion led to a renewed interest in investigating religion.
The 9/11 attack on the United States further recuperated religion in the world. As the world witnessed the near-collapse of America, the acclaimed superpower, following the terrorist attack, believed to have been led by Usama bin Ladin (founder of the pan-Islamic militant organization al-Qaeda), many turned to religion for hope.
The aftermath of the attack on the United States led to a revitalization of religious practices and scholarship.
A book that I enjoyed reading about the resurgence force of religion in the recent world was co-authored by an atheist and a Catholic (Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait). The title of the book is: God is back: How the global rise of faith is changing the world. when I read the book, the questions I asked was: did God actually go anywhere? Do we determine when He is present or absent?
Notwithstanding these questions, the revitalization of religion did not affect only Christianity and Islam. It impacted on neo-traditionalization. In the 1980s in Ghana, Dr Ɔsɔfo Ɔkɔmfo Damuah Vincent Kwabena Damuah, a former Roman Catholic priest, founded the Afrikania Mission. His goal was to revitalize indigenous religions in Ghana.
Given that he was a member of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government, headed by chairman J.J. Rawlings, he had a near-monopoly over the state media to advance his religion.
The interesting aspect of the resurgence of religion globally is that it increased atavism for merging the spiritual and material worlds. It brought back witchcraft in the western world as a craft to study and practice as a profession, not an evil to exorcise.
Similarly, in 2019, there was a news item about the process of “de-sacralization” and “de-mystification” of witchcraft as a subject of study at the Venda University in South Africa.
But in all of this, there is no uniform and stable definition of witchcraft or who a witch is. Probably because it is an esoteric practice, much of what is known about it is speculative and the occasional, hysterical confessions of alleged witches.
In many cases, the confessions of alleged witches tend to confirm the beliefs built around the practice. More importantly, it helps Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals to affirm and denounce the spiritual forces of indigenous religions.
It also brings the practices of the Pentecostals closer to indigenous religions. Professor Birgit Meyer in her article, “Make a complete break with the past”, has, for instance, observed that:
The proponents of Pentecostalization stood much closer to traditional worship than they themselves were prepared to acknowledge. Exactly because they regarded the local gods and spirits as really existing agents of Satan, they strove to exclude them with so much vigour, thereby placing themselves in the tradition of ‘Africanization from below’ which was developed by the first Ewe converts and which had much in common with African cults propagating radical cleansing (Meyer, 1998:319).
Among some of the Twi-speaking people, the word for a witch is “Obeifoɔ” which is believed to be a contraction of “ɔbre yie die ase fo” to wit, “someone or a group of people whose actions undermine progress.”
This definition leaves the reasons for witchcraft open and fluid. For example, anyone who may not possess witchcraft, but engages in anti-social activities could be labelled as a witch. In the same way, anyone who really possesses some form of spirit and is believed to be causing havoc is also considered a witch.
But sometimes the index used to identify a witch is so nebulous that anyone who performs incredibly in a particular profession could be termed a witch. For example, European inventors are considered to be witches.
Great footballers are said to be witches. Professor Onyinah gave an example of Opoku-Afriyie, a Ghanaian footballer, who was nickname “bayie” for his agility in scoring goals. A brilliant student, usually females, are easily tagged as witches.
Other anti-social practices may also lead to a person being classified as a witch. For example, someone who is stingy could be referred to as a witch. A person who is always alone could also be called a witch.
A person who sleeps late and wakes up late also qualifies to be called a witch. Other qualities like “excessive” “beauty” or “ugly” could qualify one as a witch. Excessive wealth and poverty are also marks of witchcraft. Given this, G.K. Nukunya, a Ghanaian professor of sociology, argued that the belief in witchcraft can socially function to ensure order in society.
Unfortunately, the category of witches has been extended to include the aged. So, in the last few decades in Ghana, older women are easily tagged as witches. This could be because life expectancy is expected to be short in Ghana and so, if a woman crosses 70 years and starts to develop facial wrinkles, she is likely to be tagged as a witch. This is especially when her grandchildren begin to die while she is alive.
The other reason for branding and killing old women/men as witches/wizards may be explained by the lack of knowledge that as some individuals age, they experience some form of mental and physical degeneration.
A co-tenant of my family in Maamobi was so old that (probably over 90 years) that she was dried in the early mornings before 10 am. She forgot the names of her own children. She called them based on where one of them stayed. One of her children stayed at Kawokudi, also in Maamobi. So, she called her “Kawokudi”. And even when she had eaten, she would say she had eaten nothing and was starving.
It is partly because of the above that old women are lynched on the accusation of witchcraft. In November 2010, a 72-year-old Ghanaian woman, Ama Hemmah, was burned to death on suspicion of being a witch.
The killing of such vulnerable women may be daily occurrences, except that they are not reported. It is so sad that at a time when everyone expected to cherish old age as a signifier of wisdom, some inane individuals would kill the aged.
It was the supposed danger posed by alleged witches that camps have been created for them in some parts of Ghana. They are usually hedged from society. Their influence on their communities is allegedly curtailed as they stay in the camp under the leadership of a “witchdoctor” who is expected to exorcise them. As the alleged witches suffer social death and ostracization, they form a fictive family at the camps.
In 2011, I visited one of the so-named witch camps in Ngani in the eastern part of Yendi in the northern region of Ghana. I could not believe that women and a few men and children could be ostracized and labelled as witches. The camp was very deprived in many ways. No regular supply of water, no electricity and befitting sanitary facilities. I could not help but walk with a few of them to their small farms.
I joined them in their recreational activities, which included singing and dancing. At least, I could tell that even as encamped people, they could still find time to pursue recreation activities. I also realized that the camp was politically structured with leadership well laid out.
Some of them felt they were more at home in the camps than the villages where they had come from. Majority of the members of the camp were from the Northern Regions. But I found a few Akan women there, as well.
In all of this discussion, the other issue about witchcraft is the fact of modernity paradox. While modernity is tipped to end superstition, it appears to indirectly enforce it. In the world of social media, facilitated by speed internet connection, many of the youths of Ghana cherish more online activities than offline activities.
They prefer to have virtual friends, some of whom they would hardly meet for face-to-face conversation. For example, on July 16, I celebrated my birthday. I had over a hundred people writing to express their best wishes for me. But not a single one of them called me.
More dangerous with social media is the fact that most of us have become virtual beings. Our sociality and quest for offline social activities appear to be dwindling. Information is also freely shared on the internet. Most of the youths are more likely to ask for information from their peers on social media than their parents or grandparents.
We live in a time where parents and grandparents, especially those born before the advent of the internet (known as BBC – Born Before Computer) are forced to learn from their children. There is an inverse of the flow of education – most parents and grandparents now rely on their children and grandchildren for current information. The situation is perhaps worse for “illiterate” parents and grandparents.
Some social practices that invested the material for marriage (bridewealth) in the hands of the older generation, giving them control over the younger generation, has also almost disappeared. Through western education, most of the young men and women tend to secure jobs that empower them economically more than their parents and grandparents.
The implications of the above are very troubling for the future of older women and men in Ghana and elsewhere in the world. This is because we now live at a time where the inherent dignity of man (in the generic sense) has largely been substituted to “acquired dignity”.
This means that instead of human beings having inherent dignity because they are made in the image of God and needed to be treated with respect, we now see them based on their “utilitarian value”. We are defined by our functionality in society.
This also implies that if a woman cannot perform any role considered economically and politically significant, she is written off. The sanctity of human beings, conferred on them by God has been questioned. In the end, we “liquidate” people who we perceive do not contribute to productivity.
The future of old women and men and children with some form of physical or mental disability is very precarious. They do not only risk being branded and killed as “witches”, but they also risk being neglected. Most of them risk being socially ostracized.
The challenge pose by modernity is also such that as people get frustrated as they pursue the illusions of materialism that is displayed on social media and online outlets and suffer alienation in a fast-tract world, they are likely to vent their anger on the older generation.
As I conclude, I firmly believe that the Christian concept of God and man has the key to resolving the “liquidating” of people. The Biblical theology of God as the sovereign creator of the world implies that He is in charge of everything that happens.
This means that when we feel threatened by a malevolent spirit, we can trust Him for our ultimate protection. Second, as sovereign God, He determines the beginning and termination points of our earthly lives (Matthew 10:29). We don’t die until He wills it. So, Christians do not need to fear.
Third, the belief that man created in the image of God has important implications for protecting the “vulnerable” members of our society (Genesis 1:26). This is because the Bible categorically enforces the inherent value and dignity of every human being.
Every human being, therefore, has an inalienable right to life, happiness, protection, and prosperity (Genesis 9:6). The Bible holds that we are in the image of God, not in the image of production.
Let us all join hands to protect the vulnerable in society.