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Victor over the demons

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Archives / 1991 / April



Victor over the demons

Moses Oladele Taiwo
Moses Oladele Taiwo serves concurrently as a pastor and as a theology teacher at the Adventist Seminary of West Africa, Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria.


Christianity seems to be gaining more ground than any of the other religions on the African continent. Nevertheless, as in the time of the Colossian heresy (see Col. 1:13-23; 2:8- 3:5), many have not seen the sufficiency of Christ. Many converts see no conflict in going to church, listening to sermons, praying, singing, and giving tithe and offerings while at the same time, especially in trying and difficult situations, visiting an oracle diviner (babalawo) or a traditional practitioner (onisegun) to find what the future holds.

I strongly believe that our missionaries, pastors, evangelists, and local preachers need to address their gospel messages to this situation. I am not saying that we should change the gospel as presented in the Scriptures, but I am quite sure that in New Testament times the gospel was never preached in a vacuum that distanced it from the environment. We must relate our preaching of Christ to our diverse cultural milieus.1


The Colossian and the African worlds

The world the church faces in Africa today closely resembles that of Colossae in Paul's day. That was a world filled with spirits and all forms of cosmic powers that had to be placated constantly for one to sense the Divine Presence. The inhabitants of that world faced a hostile universe with its numberless arched (principalities) and exousiai (powers). Their observance of the orderly movements of the stars had led many to conclude that the stars possessed power over human affairs and that the particular configurations of the heavenly bodies at the time of birth shaped one's destiny. They believed that to gain happiness in life, people must try to understand and if necessary to placate the astral spirits.2

Similar beliefs exist today in many parts of the world as they do in Nigeria, particularly among the Yoruba-speaking people. Africans live in constant fear in a world infested by spirits and demons, which they believe abide in stars and in natural forces like wind, thunder, lightning, and rain. They fear also those who they believe can use these spiritual forces for good or evil ends.

The Yoruba believe there are hundreds of spirits and divinities not only to be revered but also to be worshiped. Traditionally, nobody would act without consulting one of the divinities because it was believed that these gods and spirits control access to the Divine Presence. For this reason Africans look to religion to provide not only salvation for the soul and direction in the moral life but also protection against these empirical cos mic powers.

Only as it addresses the above problems is the preaching of Christ fully meaningful to an African. To African Christians, "salvation in Christ alone" must cover the whole sphere of life. It must offer victory over demonic powers, continued protection from these powers, the provision of daily needs, and security for the society in which Africans find themselves--in other words, it must provide for the person's total well-being.

But I am sorry to say that our evangelists and local preachers and pastors have woefully failed in addressing these needs. Some have totally denied the reality of demonic powers, characterizing belief in them as superstitious. Others have half-heartedly accepted their reality, but have made little effort to relate the gospel mes sage to these problems. Instead, they have emphasized the salvation of the soul and the moral life.

This failure to relate Christianity to the world in which Africans live has led to the idea that Christian salvation is primarily concerned with the life to come. Because of this approach many Africans believe either that Christ is not concerned with the cosmic beings that they must fight daily or that He has no power over them. A song popular at festivals among the Yoruba tribe to which I belong says:

Awa O s'oro ile wa O.

Awa O s'oro ile wa O.

Igbagbo o pe ka'wa ma s'oro.

Awa os'oro ile wa O.

"We shall celebrate the cultic festival of our home.

"We shall celebrate the cultic festival of our home.

"Christianity never forbids, no, Christianity never forbids participation in cultic festivals.

"We shall celebrate the cultic festivals of our homeland."

It is because Christian churches have seldom dealt adequately with this situation that many African independent churches are emerging today and the African Mission churches increasing. This approach has also influenced the trend of Christian theology on the African continent.

What must we do?

Our preachers must contextualize their evangelistic inreach and outreach. They must show how the gospel of Christ meets people's diverse needs. While in our evangelism we must preach the forgiveness of sin through Christ, we must also show people the total adequacy of Christ for all their needs now and in the hereafter. They must see this in their day-to-day experience.

The proclamation of the gospel must not only present the reality of demonic enslavement, but also proclaim the emancipation Christ provides. As K. Koch wrote: "Where the unusual phenomenon of possession, as the extreme manifestation of the evil dominion of the wicked one, actually appears, we must confront it with the glad tidings of the message of deliverance." 3

We must make people aware of the constant presence of Jesus and the victory His death and resurrection achieved on behalf of believers. Our people need to know about the power of prayer.

We must preach Christ in the light of the cultural understanding of our audience, with a view to eliminating the problems of the double life with which many of them still wrestle daily. Only as we relate Jesus to their everyday world can they see Him not only as the Saviour from sin but as the Victor, to whom all power both in heaven and on earth has been delivered; the One who is sufficient for all their needs. Here Paul is our greatest example.

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1 J. Warneck, The Living Forces of the Gospel
(New York: Fountainhead Pub., Inc., 1970), p.
232; see also S. O. Abogunrin, "The Background
to St. Paul's Concept of Freedom," Orita, June
1977, pp. 28-40.

2 H. C. Kee and F. W. Young, The living World
of the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman,
andTodd, 1974), pp. 18, 19.

3 K. Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism
(GrandRapids: Kregel Pubs., 1973), p. 338.

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