A component of the Missiology part of our intercultural studies is ‘Living Faiths’, where we look at current religions to gain a better understanding of them and how Christians can interact with people from these sorts of backgrounds.
We looked at animism and African Traditional Religions (ATR) this week. The whole worldview is incredibly different to a western worldview but one thing I found particularly fascinating was hearing about ATR creation myths. The contrast with the biblical creation myth was especially intriguing.
Here are the elements of ATR creation stories as they were explained to us:
- God creates the world for man (non-gender inclusive)
- God sends an animal with a message for the man but the animal fails to convey it. (The animal varies.)
- So things get stuffed up.
- The man is lonely, so woman is created and he is given 7 (or so) wives.
There are some similarities with the biblical creation story – paradise and a ‘Fall’, for example – but two striking differences:
- The world’s brokenness comes about as a result of the animal’s failure. Unlike in the biblical story where Adam and Eve are given boundaries and they transgress them, resulting in what Christians call ‘the Fall’, in ATR, there is a different origin of sin and brokenness and humans are not responsible for it.
- The creation of woman comes after the Fall in ATR but before the Fall in the biblical story. In the biblical story, both male and female are made in God’s image, the earth is given to both of them and together they are charged with filling and subduing it. In ATR, polygamy makes more sense because the world and everything in it, is created for man. What a contrast to the biblical creation story where woman is an equal partner, with equal dignity and value to the man!
I have loved comparing the biblical creation myth with those of the ancient world and seeing the differences there and how the Genesis account is written as a polemic against those. It’s even more exciting to see that this same story continues to be tremendously distinctive and wonderful in our world today as well!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.