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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

How the Scandal has Affected the African Church

Written by: on January 26, 2020

The title of the book threw me out of the balance “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” I am coming from an evangelical tradition of the Friends church in Africa, and this title was scared for sure. The church in Africa was established by evangelical movement from North America beginning from the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of the churches that came to Africa in a big number in the name of mission outlet and evangelizing to the African continent were from the Evangelical Protestant mind. They came top what was then known as the dark continent. It was known as dark because they assumed it lacked the light, which was only found in the Christian movement. Their coming was a mixed range of colonial invasion, and at the same time, slave trade going on among the Africans. But the missionaries did their part of evangelizing to the indigenous the new gospel of Christ. It was a hard task to handle ranging from the language, culture, and environmental dynamics and going against the African religion that was in place as a way of their life.

Noll is addressing the issues through the Scandal of the evangelical mind in three dimensions that the missionaries equally faced when they came to Africa. The scandal of the evangelical mind has at least three aspects – cultural, institution, and theological.[1] These are processes where the missionaries came to Africa experienced as they reached to the Africans for evangelism. They faced a cross-cultural challenge where they found other sacred practices in the communities. There was some resistance but later overcame. They put up institutions of learning where the definition of theology was set. The evangelical movement that went through the community was pro intellectual because it promoted the development of learning institutions.

Contrary to what Noll is raising up as the Evangelicals being ant-intellectual development in Christian communities. We have experienced a robust development of learning institutions in Africa through the earlier evangelical missionaries and that has seen growth in our churches were both intellectual and non-intellectuals are participating equally in the Christian movement in the countries. However, these were established and natured by the evangelical protestant. However, due to inadequate resources, they are just the framework of modern intellectual life that keeps evangelical colleges from promoting first order learning.[2] Most of our learning institutions are basic and not those that create a highly intellectual community. More seminaries were put up to train pastors and other church workers. They have done a good job and they have as effective training grounds for Christian workers.

On the other hand, Kenya is facing a serious scandal of the evangelical mind arising from the historical experience of an entire subculture, as Noll calls it. We have many evangelical churches that do not believe in the training of their clergy because they think it is a divine calling and not acquired through learning. We have seriously spiritualized everything as the church and justifying anything that seems not to conform to the scriptures. Different scripture hermeneutics are applied by different people from their point of understanding and lead people in their knowledge. The most serious objection to the promotion of Christian learning comes, however, from the scriptures. Nd even stronger check to the unqualified pursuit of knowledge comes from the apostle Paul, who, with cutting force, told the Corinthians why they should not swarm for the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:26-28).[3] This is what our many churches in Kenya are doing now. The force of search for passage is underscored by the undeniable fact that higher learning has often been a snare of faith. And more damaging to Christianity than the things learned, however, is pride in learning itself. It is believed that it may have a greater tendency to inculcate pride than some other human activities, but only relatively so. These challenges have infiltrated the many and small evangelical churches in Kenya.

[1] (Noll 1994, page 12)

[2] (Noll 1994, page 17)

[3] (Noll 1994, Page 30)

About the Author

mm

John Muhanji

I am the Director Africa Ministries Office of Friends United Meeting. I coordinate all Quaker activities and programs in the Quaker churches and school mostly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The focus of my work is more on leadership development and church planting in the region especially in Tanzania.. Am married with three children all grown up now. I love playing golf as my exercise hobby. I also love reading.

2 responses to “How the Scandal has Affected the African Church”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi John. Thanks for the cultural ‘take’ on Noll’s books and how historic evangelicalism had influenced cultural adaption (both good and bad). It is easy for us in the the English west to assume a great deal about the outcomes of evangelicalism and it’s colonial baggage. I find in interesting that different parts of Africa view training differently depending on the influence they came under. Is there an observable correlation between a particular African culture and it’s acceptance of academic Christian research and thinking?

    • mm John Muhanji says:

      I have to be honest with you Digby that the Western influence in education in Africa is beyond anything of any change. we have been put in the same box and we cannot go back to our original self. However, there is a new development in the academic Christian research field by African theologian scholars but this is done through protestant evangelicals. On the other hand, the intellectualism realized in Africa is through institutions established by Christian churches that have been adopted by the public. What churches are encouraging is for the future of the Africa economic growth through industrialization, there must be a strong move towards the academic development of the mind. This is a recent paradigm shift.

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