This past Sunday evening I participated in a radio debate with two other panelists and the subject matter was ‘Christianity and the consultation of ancestors.’ On the panel with me was a gentleman who represented African traditional religion (ATR) and a Christian minister who advocated for the idea that there is nothing untoward with Christians who venerate the dead. The gentleman representing ATR was articulate and clear on the tenets of his religion. He agreed with me that heaven and hell are concepts that do not exist in ATR and that in their spiritual hierarchy Jesus does feature.
Proper adherents of ATR never pretend to be Christians and do not mix their religion with Christianity. My contribution in the programme was to bring a biblical position on the veneration of the dead and I am glad that this is one of those subjects the Bible is not silent on. The Scriptures expressly prohibit this practice and in fact call it an abomination to God. Therefore you would expect that those who represent God would articulate His position on issues, right?
Sadly what we have in South Africa are Christians who view the world in a manner that is at odds with how God views it but still refer to Him as someone who is sovereign and all-knowing. How do we deal with this kind of contradiction? As things stand we are told that over 70% of South Africans are Christians but there is hardly any sign of this in the social fibre of our nation. In fact countries with a miniscule Christian population fare much better than us.
The problem of South Africa is nominal Christianity that does not go beyond mere lip service and this was what was abundantly clear from the contribution of the fellow radio panelist who advocated for the mixing of Christianity with elements of African religion. What was strange about this minister, who is advanced in years, is the fact that he did not quote one Scripture in the two hour discussion. And I should also mention that he came to the radio station dressed in the distinctive regalia normally worn by reverends.
During the discussion I had to restrain myself from calling him a hypocrite and disgrace to the Gospel but some listeners who called in did not spare his feelings. They put in to him that his position was untenable and tantamount to mixing water and paraffin, which are things that do not mix. And the idea really behind syncretism is trying to mix a belief that originates from the earth with the one that originates from Heaven.
Christianity cannot compare to any religion or any culture for that matter. It is superior to culture and can never be subservient to it. Therefore reclassifying an abomination like necromancy as culture does not make it acceptable to God. It is not only in the area of culture that Christians are found wanting when it comes to having a Biblical worldview but also in politics, economics, etc. Somehow we think there are areas where man has more authority than God.
I think the greatest challenge we have today is not the people who do not believe in God but those who do and yet live their lives as if He does not exist and His views do not matter. These are Christians who subject truth to the whims of denominational, racial or political considerations. My parting shot in the radio programme was that those who consult the dead are sinning against God and my fellow Christian minister was quick to protest that he is not sinning at all when he decides to honor his departed parents by slaughtering an animal for them.
So we are both Christians and yet could not agree on what constitutes sin and sin being a major subject in the Christian Scriptures. It is time we read the Bible afresh.