Feature Article of Sunday, 15 December 2002
Columnist: Sophism, Yaw
A response to Kwasi Boahene’s article,
With scurrilous caricatures and misinformation, Boahene continues his assault against Christianity. Instead of responding to the questions raised in my earlier rejoinder regarding his first article, the writer decided to adopt diversionary tactics by coming out with another anecdotal stories to feed the frenzy of his devotees who consider him as their mouthpiece. These traditionalists who see Christianity, as a threat to their traditional African religion will pounce on any concocted or exaggerated story to lash out at Christians. Any objective person reading Mr. Boahene’s article between the lines will easily detect that he has some hidden agenda. I believe he is a traditionalist who intends to use the excesses in the charismatic churches, and some individuals’ idiosyncrasies in the Christian community as a smokescreen to undermine Christianity, and to preach his African traditional religion. Why would someone intending to discuss the problems in the Charismatic churches come out with such concocted and inflammatory statements as:
Any bible scholar can easily detect where Mr. Boahene is coming from by looking critically at his earlier statements regarding the deity of Christ, the canonization of scriptures, and his claim of equality of Osiris to Christ. In the present article, he attacked the foundation of the Christian faith by his references to extra-biblical sources that have been fabricated by the revisionists to undermine Christianity. I would like to posit that Boahene’s concern is not about the problem of the Charismatic movement but a total destruction of Christianity, period!
Does it mean I am not troubled by some of the aberrations in the church? Yes, I am concerned and troubled by the proliferation of false teachers who employ socio-psychological manipulation tactics to trap their subjects in a dangerous web of subjectivism. Yes, every genuine and honest Christian should be disturbed about fanaticism, bad hermeneutics and exegesis. It will be very difficult to defend the indefensible. Notwithstanding, that is not the hidden agenda of Mr. Boahene, but rather the decimation of Christianity. I will therefore focus my discussion on sections of the article that seeks to undermine the Christian faith. I intend to refute his accusation that Christianity engenders laziness and kills initiative, creativity and innovation. Furthermore, I intend to make a clear distinction between the Christian concept of God and Boahene’s concept of God. In addition, I will critique his references to the F-sources and Q-sources, which he cited to undermine the authenticity of the Bible, and to use it to alert readers about the intention of the writer.
I must state at the outset that, I do not intend to demean any religion in any shape or form. Unlike Mr. Boahene, I believe it is within the individual’s right to decide upon due reflection and analysis what religious persuasion they want to pursue. My aim here is to explain to the attackers of Christianity what I believe and why I believe. A word of advice from Prof. Kwasi Wiredu is in order here. Prof. Kwasi Wiredu a Ghanaian Philosophy Professor and a man with great academic credentials in Philosophy and African Culture, writes, “An African is not to be debited with the colonial mentality merely because s/he espouses Christianity or Islam or any other foreign religion. It just may be that salvation lies elsewhere than in African Religions. But an African should not take it for granted that this is the case simply from having been brought up in a foreign religion. The issue, in other words, needs to be confronted in the spirit of due reflection.” Wise counseling, Prof. Wiredu! I wish many people could heed your wise advice. It is against this background that I want to approach this issue. The next section begins with definitional issues clarifying exactly my concept of God vis-?-vis the concept of God by the traditionalists as espoused by Boahene.
Boahene began his article saying, “ I met an American evangelist in Ghana, who expressed his happiness about how Ghanaians have embraced God. ‘The word of God is alive!’ he exclaimed. I replied ‘it has always been.’ He thought that it was the Bible that has brought Ghanaians closer to God. I had some moments of informed debate with him.” I have quoted this portion extensively because it is the hub of the discussion. The first essential tool in any argument or effective reasoning is a clear definition of the basis of the argument. Obviously, if the parties in a dispute have different notions of what they are arguing about or of what key terms mean, then they will end up arguing about different things (what is called arguing at cross purposes). I think this is exactly what Mr. Boahene’s was doing when he told his readers that he had an informed debate with the said American evangelist. The first and the right question that Boahene should have asked the evangelist was what God he was referring to. What do I mean when I say I believe in God? Is it the God of “AKONODI”, “TIGARE”, “ASUOFIRI”, the God of Okomfo Anokye, or what? That should be the beginning point of such religious discussion. What I intend to do in the next section of this rejoinder is to draw a clear distinction between Mr. Boahene’s God and the GOD of the Bible, and explain why there are compelling reasons to believe in this God of the Bible.
The Bible begins with a bold declarative statement, “ In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth.” This account of creation lays the foundation of the Bible’s view about God, human beings, creation, and the laws that pertain to mankind. This is the God that the Christian evangelist that Mr. Boahene met was talking about. In his article the writer asserts, “I had some moments of informed debate with him.” How could you have an informed debate when both of you were arguing across purposes? The Christian evangelist was talking about the GOD, and not a god. He was talking about the God who created the universe. In Deut 6:4 the Bible declares “ Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Israel’s significance lay in its status as witnesses to the living God. This is the repeated motif of Isaiah 40-55. He directed their thoughts to the mighty saving acts of Yahweh in their actual history and tells them, “You are my witnesses.” This under girds and reinforces the essential nature of the Christian faith. The gospel points to the objectivity of what God has done in history. The gospel is good news, and not a good idea. It proclaims that in the history of Israel and of Jesus, God (the creator of the of the universe) has acted in love to restore humanity to God and its destiny. This is the message that makes the Christian religion distinct from others. Are there sound and valid reasons to believe in this God? My answer is “Yes”. The next section will explain why I believe in the God of creation.
It was Socrates who made a bold statement that, “the unexamined life is not worth living.’ A life without reflection is not worth living. It is in reminiscence of this that philosophers from Thales to the present have focused their philosophical investigations on answering life’s difficult questions. I also have had moments to ponder on these questions of life: why is there something instead of nothing? How do you explain human nature? What happens to a person at death? How do you determine right and wrong? How do you know that you know? And why am I here? In my investigation of the various religions, including Traditional African religion, I have come to the conclusion that Christian Theism answers these questions better than the others. Regarding the question, why is there something instead of nothing? Christian Theism confidently asserts that, first, there was God, and nothing else, and then He created the universe by simply speaking it into existence.
To answer questions such as how do we explain human nature? Why do human beings behave the way we do? And why are we so bad, and why are we so good? I found the biblical explanation more plausible. Here too, the bible teaches that God the Holy One created human beings in His own image (noble, creative, the good part of us), but human beings rebelled against God and have since been marred with sin (the evil, destructive, wicked, negative part). This is a laudable explanation to me, when I reflect on the fact that Hitler and Mother Theresa have both lived on the same planet. Then as to the question of what happen to me after death? Here, too Christian Theism provides an answer. The Bible declares that death is a gateway that takes a person to the eternal bliss of God, the Creator or separates him or her, and takes him to a horrible place called hell. These and many other reasons compel me upon due reflection to believe in the God of the Bible. Fortunately, for me, I am not a trailblazer in this endeavor, but have gleaned from the great works of ancient philosophers and other Christian intellectual giants who have come and gone before me.
There is a great truth, which Plato discovered (with some assistance from the Pythagoreans) that there is a real intelligible world which underlies the sensible world of our experience and which we discover by asking questions about that sensible world. There is such a person as God and we are indeed within our epistemic right in believing that there is. One of the most important answers that was given by John Calvin (and before him, of the Augustinian, Anselmian, Bonaventurian tradition of the middle ages): God, said Calvin, has implanted in humankind a tendency or nisus or disposition to believe in him:
Calvin is especially impressed in this connection, by the marvelous compages of the starry heavens above:
In this section, I will pursue the concept of God as seen through the eyes of the traditionalists. Whereas almost all traditional African philosophers and anthropologists admit that the Africans had an idea of God before the arrival of the missionaries/westerners, there is no agreement as to what the concept of God was/is among the Africans. I will venture to say that the concept of God in Judaic Christian theology is different from African traditional religion both from metaphysical and experiential standpoints. This assertion is in line with Professor Wiredu’s remarks. In the words of Dr. Wiredu, ” There are definite incompatibilities between Christianity and various African religions. These are not incompatibles that lie at the peripheries of these religions; they do go to the roots. Wiredu continues “ Consequently, on due reflection one may admit frankly, with stated reasons, that s/he rejects the religion indigenous to his/her culture. There is nothing wrong with this in principle. What is wrong is the apparent attempt on the part of some African Christians to have it both ways.” He argues that the Akan Supreme being is thought of as a cosmic architect rather than a creator out of nothing. From a practical standpoint our worship of God is through intermediaries that are natural or artistically fashioned objects that is regarded as the habitation of deity. The artistic workmanship being designed to make it a more adequate representation of God. This is the kind of God I believe Mr. Boahene is referring to, when he talked about the God of Okomfo Anokye. I say I believe, because he may come out with his own concept of God different from what I have described.
While Boahene sees only the problems of the church without asking probing or analytical questions, some scholars who have done good research to understand the present problems in the church trace it to our traditional religion. Mercy Ama Oduyoye a theologian from Ghana was John A. Mackay Professor of World Christianity (1994-95) at Princeton Theological Seminary. In her article, “The African Experience of God Through the Eyes of an Akan Woman” asks, “How do our experiences of God in Africa relate to the building of the Body of Christ in Africa? How do the churches respond to peoples’ experiences of God? These are questions that anyone intends to dig deeper into the problems we are experiencing in the churches will seek to research and to find answers. Oduyoye writes, “ Africans move to these churches to hear God through prophets, as they used to do through the divination of African religion. They seek and experience healing of body and soul and the efficacy of communing with God in prayer.” This scholar continues, “Religion comes alive; it ceases to be a formal gathering with the ambience that is devoid of African culture. Those who flock to join these churches presumably do so because they experience the presence of God they yearn for. These churches are building up the Body of Christ by seeking to meet the felt needs of the people.” In another related article, Oduyoye states, “the struggle for survival in Africa invites the gospel of prosperity.” While Oduoye’s analysis does not provide good grounds for the charlatans and rogues to exploit the innocent and poor people, it does throw light on why the people behave the way they do. These are the findings that help in designing measures to solve these problems and not the incendiary and anecdotal writings by Mr. Kwasi Boahene.
In his article, Boahene claims that Christianity has engendered laziness in Ghana. This assertion is far from the truth, and I will demonstrate this both theologically and experientially. First of all, the Scriptures are full of praise for the work of human hands, hearts, and minds. Even God is described by analogy to human work, as the one who makes, forms, builds, and plants(Genesis 2:4. 7,8,19, 23). Work skills are described as the gift of God: “the LORD has called Bezaleel…and he has filled him with the spirit of God, with ability, with intelligence, with the knowledge and with all craftsmanship” (Exodus 35:30-32, Ps65: 9-13; 104:22-24; Gen. 10:8-9). This theme is continued in the New Testament. The apostles were mainly of humble background and sometimes returned to their work after being called by him. Jesus was a carpenter for all but the last few years of his life. His parable refers to the sowers (Matt13:3), harvesters (John 4:35), house building (Matt. 7:24). Paul criticized idleness and exhorted Christians to work (2Thess3:6). Paul himself worked with his own hands so as not to be a burden to the church. He worked to support others. He encouraged this practice with other Christians. Even Scriptures hint that the new heaven and new earth will include work, Isa65: 21-22. So how could Mr. Boahene read the scriptures exegetically and come to this conclusion that Christians are responsible for the economic problems of Ghana. He does this not by any exegetical study by himself, but rather by quoting from preachers who are pouring their own meaning into the bible.
Max Weber (1864-1920), the German sociologist and perhaps Germany’s leading cultural figure of the early 20th century was undoubtedly among the first to look at the relationship between culture and development. In his well known book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), he concluded that a set of values and attitudes associated with Protestant ethics, such as hard work, thrift, honesty, rationality and austerity, had become the base of achievements and material progress. For instance, regarding capital formation he writes” when the limitation of consumption is combined with this release of acquisitive activity, the inevitable practical result is obvious: accumulation of capital through ascetic compulsion to save. The restraints which were imposed upon the consumption of wealth naturally served to increase it by making possible the productive investment of capital.” The revival that swept through New England was accompanied by increased productivity and production.
To support his claim that Christianity has impoverished Ghana, Mr. Boahene asserts, ” For those seeking statistical evidence, please model food security or GNP growth as function of relevant variables and number of churches-the latter is positive and significant at 0.1%.” Anyone even with a modicum of econometrics will ask serious questions regarding this assertion. What are the relevant explanatory variables that Mr. Boahene is talking about? I wonder how many econometricians will use church growth as a relevant explanatory variable in predicting GNP? Does Mr. Boahene know that in constructing a multiple regression model or any economic model, the explanatory powers of independent variables are affected by the important variables that enter into the equation or the model? I will challenge Mr. Boahene to publish his economic model for all forumers to see. He should detail the assumption of his model regarding: proper specification of the model (if relevant variables are omitted from the model, the common variance they share with included variables may be wrongly attributed to those variable, and the error is inflated). I will also like to see his assumptions regarding over fitting, cross-validation, continuity of data and other relevant assumptions. Is Mr. Boahene aware that even if the number he quoted is correct; one has to go beyond that to make any conclusive statement regarding the number as presented? There is a difference between association and causation.
Even Karl Marx in his critique and analysis of religion (Christianity) didn’t lay the blame of societal problems at the feet of religion as it is often misquoted (“religion is the opium of the people”). One Marxist scholar writes, “one of the reasons that the quote is probably so often misunderstood is that the full passage is often not quoted.” What Marx intended was that religion (Christianity) is meant to create illusionary fantasies for the poor. Economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in life, so religion tells them that this is all right because they will find true happiness in the next life. Marx is not entirely without sympathy. He believed that people are distressed and religion does provide solace, just as people who are physically injured receive relief from opiate-based drug. So in spite of his obvious dislike of, and anger towards religion (Christianity), Marx didn’t make religion the primary enemy of workers and communists, regardless of what might have been done by 20th century communists.
When Boahene writes, “ Remember that Judaism (parent religion of Christianity) had earlier learned from other religions and stopped human sacrifice.” And then referred his readers to the F-sources, he was referring to the reconstruction of the Hebrew History by the Graf-Wellhausen school. The Wellhausen School started with the pure assumption that Israel’s religion was merely human origin like any other religion, and evolved through stages. These scholars deny the miraculous elements of the scriptures, which results from their naturalistic assumption. They assert that the religion of early Israel was both idolatrous and polytheistic in nature, and that infant sacrifice was sanctioned by primitive faith of early Israel. This is in reference to Exodus 22:29 that says that a first-born son must be redeemed by special offering. Dr. Gleason L. Archer in his book “A Survey of Old Testament Introduction” contends that these scholars completely ignores the perfectly reasonable principle enunciated by the Hebrew text that God challenged a special propriety in the firstborn because of His having protected all Hebrew firstborn during the Passover.
These liberal scholars also argue that materials that appear technical must be assigned a late date-even if a great variety of evidence reflects an earlier period of composition. Julius Wellhausen (1844), a prominent leader in the critical movement, claimed that the Israel of Moses’ day could not have possessed a code containing the complicated civil and social laws that are reflected in the Pentateuch. Accordingly, the laws necessarily must have arisen at a later date. The discovery of archaeology, however, has demolished that assertion. A number of law codes have been exhumed from the ancient past, i.e., the Sumerian systems of Ur-Nammu (c. 2050 B.C.) and Lipt-Ishtar(c. 1850 B.C.), the Akkadian laws of Eshnunna (c.1950 B.C.), and the code of Hammurabi(c. 1792-50 B.C.), These systems, which were several centuries before Moses, were as technical as the Hebrew code (though the Mosaic law is morally superior by far).
The liberals also maintain that Moses could never have authored the Pentateuch, since the art of writing was unknown in his day. The claim was made that writing was invented only at about the time of David (c. 1000B.C.). Archaeological discovery, of course, has long since dissolved such misguided charges.
Dr. Alfred Edersheim (a Jewish scholar), in his book “ In Prophecy and History” that deals with Pentateuch revisionism declares that there is in plain language only one word to designate these critics, FRAUD. I raised these issues to alert readers to the position of Mr. Boahene and his devotees. He should come out and boldly declare his war, instead of hiding behind the charismatic failures and excesses.
As if his attack against the Old Testament was not enough, he referred his readers to the Q-sources. The “Q” or “Quelled,” is a German word for “source”. This is also another extra-biblical sources used by anti-Christian movements to distort the New Testament. It has long been observed that Matthew and Luke have additional materials (about 250 verses) than Mark. The idea is that Mark (the shortest of the three), was written first, and was later substantially incorporated into both Matthew and Luke. Some scholars claim that there are about 250 verses that were not available to Mark. These scholars have designated this material as the Q sources. This has become another extra biblical source with unsubstantiated materials used at the present by the Jesus Seminar to undermine Christianity. Proponents of Q-sources have brought into question the very authenticity and validity of the gospel, which lie at the center of Christianity’s credibility. An average Christian might have read this portion of Mr. Boahene’s article casually, while concentrating on his anecdotal stories about the Charismatic church.
Scholars have rejected the Q hypothesis mentioned by Mr. Boahene as mere fabrication. One scholar remarks that investigation into its strata, studies of the communities that were behind it and analyses and their theology has been found wanting. There is no manuscript of Q in existence. It is believed that no one has yet found even a fragment of Q. New Testament scholars and archaeologists have noted that no ancient author appears to have referred to Q or mentioned its existence. No reputable scholar believes in Q. Yet Mr. Boahene requested his readers to go and read from the Q. Indeed, the Biblical Archeology Review reports that the Jesus Seminar scholars who are popularizing the Q sources are doing so “ because they refuse to believe in the incarnation and the Resurrection, and are left with no alternative but to evoke text, which they excruciatingly manipulate into plausible verbiage.” Scholar Rabbi Jacob Neusner of University of South Florida describes the work regarding Q sources, as “It is either the greatest scholarly hoax since the Piltdown Man or the utter bankruptcy of New Testament studies.”
Still my question is why would Mr. Boahene make references to these materials knowing very well that they are just a reconstruction of the New Testament documents with fabrication meant to destroy Christianity? What have these documents got to do with the problems in the Charismatic movement in Ghana? It is against this background that I believe that the writer has an intention of removing the edifice or the pillars of the Christian faith.
In all, I would like to state that while I am troubled by the current abuse of charlatans and rogues parading the corridors of the Christian communities as church leaders, I am also disturbed by Mr. Boahene’s unprovoked attack against Christianity. He has some hidden agenda to destroy the Christian faith and to reestablish African traditional religion. The writer is hiding behind the excesses of some charismatic churches, and sometimes I think some syncretic churches to shoot his arrows. I would suggest to Mr. Boahene to do his own objective investigation regarding Jesus of Nazareth and the Scriptures. I believe if he does that, he will come to the same conclusion as I have come to. Dr. Frank Morrison (a rationalist lawyer) decided to take three years off from his practice to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. His years of probing, however, led him to discover the validity of the biblical record in a moving, personal way. He ended up writing a book that was completely the opposite of what he had originally set out to do. The first chapter title of his book is “The Book that Refused to Be Written.” Also, Dr. Simon Greenleaf (a Harvard University Professor of law) states: “According to the law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus than for just about any other event in history.” I am strongly convinced that if Mr. Boahene investigates the claims of the Bible he will come to the conclusion that it takes more faith to disbelieve the Biblical account than to believe it. Dr. Ravi Zacharis an Indian scholar, noted, “A man rejects God and Christ neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God and Christ because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God and Christ.” Let us come Coram Dei: Before the Face of God.