David Ngong’s chapter in Pentecostal Theology in Africa is on pneumatology (theology of the Spirit), which in African Pentecostal thought is closely connected to soteriology (theology of salvation). Indeed, the connection between the Spirit and Jesus is so intimate that rarely is distinction made between them. It’s not that ‘Spirit’ and ‘Jesus’ are used interchangeably, but the Spirit is more often referred to as ‘The Spirit of Jesus Christ’ than on its own.
The believer is protected against malevolent spiritual forces, such as witches, because where the Spirit of Jesus is present, other malevolent spiritual forces are dispelled. In the same manner, the Spirit of Jesus Christ effects healing from various forms of diseases, including even those that cannot be healed through scientific medicine. Even more, the Spirit enables individual transformation, such as changing the moral outlook of the believer. Being born-again is the expression used to describe this process of moral transformation.
Though the language sounds very ‘spiritual’ to western ears, many Pentecostals use it to stress human responsibility. Ngong recounts the story of Ghanaian pastor Mensa Otabil who was asked to pray for a woman because witches were stealing her money. He told her to put it in a bank where if it’s stolen, she’ll be reimbursed. Ngong says:
Thus he attempts to create in his congregants an imagination in which the Spirit is present and powerful, not only in miraculous ways, but also in ordinary human activities.
This echoes what we saw last week with the importance of the wisdom tradition and how that intersects with how God brings healing in the world.
The paragraphs pertaining to Acts 2 and the coming of the Spirit were my favourite part of this chapter. They elucidate a phenomenon we know only too well!
Notice that the call came in the form of a ‘sound’ or an audible phenomenon that was used to bring the multiple together (v.6)… Audibility and ‘loudness’ is often associated with Pentecostalism…. Pentecostal worship, music, preaching, and prayer are often noted for being sound intensive and distinctly audible due to the vibrant worship, dynamic preaching and ecstatic utterances such as prophecy and speaking in tongues. This phenomenon is of course tied into the experiential nature of Pentecostalism, but it is also related to the idea that, for Pentecostals, when the Holy Spirit is present there has to be some audible or demonstrative evidence.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.