n Missionalia : Southern African Journal of Mission Studies - Secularism and pentecostalism

Volume 40, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 0256-9507



Whereas secularism may be variously defined, it very simply may be described as any movement in society directed away from other-worldliness to life on earth. The church, to the extent that it is a human organization, exists in the world in the midst of secularizing forces. Sometimes, the church has perceived and confronted its own worldliness with respect to secular forces, but at other times it has failed to see how much its life and mission has been shaped by secular ideologies and, therefore, has not seriously confronted its depth in secularism. This latter failure appears to be especially so in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement that began in the early twentieth century and has become a fundamental force in African Christianity, especially in Nigeria. Many in this tradition identify God's blessings with material prosperity and healing from ailments. The ways in which these concerns of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement have affected African Pentecostalism have not been sufficiently pursued. African core values of simplicity, frugality, community, respect for elders, morality, hard work, dignity of labour, to mention but a few, have been significantly reshaped and remodelled to make the Pentecostal-Charismatic offers relevant to the faith of worshipers. And this has been done through the powerful instruments of colonialism, neo-colonialism, westernisation, capitalism, globalisation and empire. Pentecostalism has seriously secularised African traditional values through all of these means. Most interesting is the way in which these values, so secularised, have found hermeneutical justifications as the will of God, over against traditional sensitivities. The nature of the Christian faith and the activities of the church have been greatly reshaped by these values in ways that seem not to be in keeping with Christian faith and the intuitive beliefs of Christians. One of these reshaped values is individualism, whose resultant effects require evaluation. This is attempted in this paper, and the success or otherwise of the evaluation depends on whether the secularist presuppositions are recognised and appreciated.

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