“The One Who Comes From Above!”(Jn.3:31-36).
There is a growing protest against the gospel in Africa. There is possibly a justified reason for this protest. The main reason is the way the gospel is presented and the way in the hands of some people it is used as a tool of manipulation, suppression and a means of forcing people to submission.
This protest which advocates a return to African spirituality gives the impression that African spirituality provides a higher and best way to have communion with Deity by any name.
While we may want to talk of spirituality in isolation to religion, it doesn’t seem to stand on its own without religion.
Among the many definition of religion, let us settle for this: “Religion is commitment to a kind or quality of life that purports to recognize a source beyond itself (usually but not necessarily called God), and that issues in recognizable fruits in human conduct (e.g., law, morality), culture (e.g., art, poetry), and thought(e.g., philosophy).”
There is nothing like Higher or lower religion. The six feature analysis of Harold Turner as a common denominator in primal religions applies even to world religions since no religion that has moved man started as a tabula rasa (blank slate). Even if the slate was blank, then the slate was already there.
- In primal societies there is a profound sense that man is akin to nature, a child of Mother Earth and brother to the plants and animals.
- Man is finite, weak and impure or sinful and stands in need of a power not his own.
- There is the conviction that man is not alone in the universe for there is a spiritual world of powers or beings more powerful and ultimate than man himself.
- There is the belief that man can enter into relationship with this benevolent spirit world and so share in its powers and blessings and receive protection from evil forces from these more-than-human helpers.
- Man’s relationship with the gods and his kinship with them enables him to share life with them even after death. This is known because there are those who have seen into the invisible world and the realm of the dead, and brought back word of what lies beyond death.
- Lastly is the conviction that the “physical” acts as a vehicle for the “spiritual” power; so to say, “men live in a sacramental universe where there is no sharp dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual.”
The paucity and egocentric nature of man is what causes him to see what he believes in to be the only true way.
The true way here is the focus of the tension. Should we adopt a “live and let others live” approach or should we insist on “our way being the only way?”
To us Christians John’s gospel insists that if we go through the six feature analysis above, then Jesus Christ is the Only Way.
Jesus Christ is the one who comes from above and who is above all. John the Baptist as one who has an insight into the dynamics of the spiritual universe certified that God is truthful.”
My friend, God by any name remains God. God has revealed himself through the Son. We can accept him or not. “Whoever believes the Son has eternal life…” This eternal life is not just something that will happen after death, it is a present possession.
The great African theologian and scholar, Prof John S. Mbiti of blessed memory have these words which we Africans should deeply reflect on. Talking about the dominant religions in Africa: African Traditional Religion, Christianity and Islam, he says, “The final test for the continuing existence of these religions in our continent is not which one shall win in the end. The test is whether mankind benefits or loses from having allowed religion to occupy such a privileged and dominating position in human history, in man’s search for his origin and nature of being, in the experience of responding to his environment, and in the creation of his expectations and hope for the future.
What do you choose? As for me I made a conscious decision to believe in the Son of God. He holds the future, firmly and securely.
Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for opening the door of the spiritual universe to those who believe in you. Amen!
Have a blessed day! Peace be with you!
Rev Babila Fochang.