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​Dealing With the Demonic in the African Context

edited by Kelvin Onongha and Bruce L. Bauer (Berrien Springs, MI: Theological Seminary, Adventist University of Africa, 2019).

Martha Duah, PhD, a lecturer at Valley View University Accra, Ghana.

Dealing With the Demonic in the African Context “seeks to present members, ministers, teachers, and administrators not only the theological challenges, but appropriate missiological responses specifically dealing with issues of the demonic” (1).

This book’s examination of the biblical worldview of the origin and operations of the demonic bodes well for the issues under discussion. Juxtaposed with a philosophical worldview informing the African conception of demonization, the book deepens the understanding of satanic operations on the continent and offers helpful proposals.

After establishing the framework for the book in the preliminary chapters, comparing biblical worldviews with African philosophical worldviews, the remaining chapters, 4–11, offer helpful approaches for addressing cases of demonization in the African context.

Boubakar Sanou’s chapter analyzes New Testament perspectives on discipleship. He examines witnessing and discipling, emphasizing the holistic use of the truth, allegiance, and power dimensions of the gospel. He suggests that addressing these concepts in an appropriate social and cultural setting—the African cultural context—will result in disciples who are free from African sociocultural and religious ideologies that drench them in fear. This approach assures the African that the God of the gospel is more powerful than the forces behind the demonic operations that engulf them.

Onongha complements this proposal with his chapter, “Authority and Position in Christ.” He stresses the need for believers, battling demonic operations, to acknowledge and accept that the “new privilege and status Christians have in Christ as a result of the cross and His victory over the totality of demonic hosts has the potential to bring transformation to life and ministry” (110).

In Chapter 9, from his review of biblical cases, Eriks Galenieks shares the case study of a fraudulent healing ministry, advising that the thin line between genuine and counterfeit healing can be discerned only by the Word of God.

One crucial question that arises concerns distinguishing between physical illness and demonic activities. The African view of causation attributes every occurrence to the actions of spirit beings. In light of this, many physical diseases have been treated as demonic afflictions, with unfavorable conclusions. The opposite is also true. Demon-possessed or oppressed individuals have often been treated medically for months, without any improvement.

In chapter 5, Ugochukwu Elems outlines principles that help in discerning the differences between physical illness and demonization to allow for the right diagnosis and treatment.

Finally, Onongha discusses the question of whether Christians can be demon possessed. He establishes that the enemy and his entourage may harass and obsess Christians, but he cannot possess them.

Although written to address demonic problems on the continent of Africa, it is thought-provoking that no comment is made regarding how demonization on the African continent relates to demonization in other parts of the world. Authors in the book analyze the universality of demonization, stating, “Many people believe that spiritualism and witchcraft form an integral part only of African culture and religion. However, they are wrong, as the myriads of demonic activities in countless forms and sub-forms establish themselves globally through witchcraft, fortune telling, the New Age movement, voodooism, obeah, werewolves . . .” (112).

While the authors accept the reality of the universal nature of demonization and echo the conviction of many theologians and missiologists concerning demonic beings, the book would benefit from a discussion of the concept of demonization in Africa compared to other parts of the world.

One chapter that will no doubt receive considerable attention is “A Field Manual for Dealing With the Demonized.” Michée Badé believes his proposed descriptive and prescriptive guidelines for deliverance from demonic operations are biblically grounded and fit “best the convictions and identity of Seventh-day Adventist Christians” (87). However, if healing and working miracles are gifts (1 Cor. 12), is there really a need for a manual for dealing with demonic activities?

This question is crucial, as the manifestation of the ministry of deliverance is often a money-making enterprise preying on an individual’s need for freedom. A manual for dealing with demonization should be received with caution, ensuring that cooperation with the Holy Spirit is fundamental to the process.

Irrespective of this and other questions raised by the authors, the book is essential for our era with its increase in demonic deception and the need for Seventh-day Adventist leaders, pastors, and teachers as well as church members to step up their responses to diabolical activities.

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Martha Duah, PhD, a lecturer at Valley View University Accra, Ghana.

April 2020

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