The subject of the spirit world is awfully overlooked in Christian theology. What contributed to this theological omission was largely due to the Enlightenment presuppositions which essentially denied the existence of the spirit world. This caused early missionaries to simply fail to see a natural consequence of the primal worldview which allows for the interrelationship between the natural world and that of spirits and gods or simply between the material and the spiritual worlds. This secular or non super-naturalistic worldview tends to exclude such a relationship, so it questions the whole concept or phenomenon of spirit possession. Witchcraft and sorcery are explained and analysed in psychological, medical and non-religious terms.
Dear Prof Hattingh,
I am currently leading an Assembly. The men’s department decided to have a discussion about ancestral worship. I need your help regarding the following verses: 1 Samuel 28: 15/16 & Luke 16: 24-29.
After the discussions I will be required to give direction on this matter. Can you kindly clarify these verses for me within the context of ancestral worship?
The story in 1 Samuel 28 is one of the most strange and inconceivable stories of the Old Testament. It is also a very sad story of Israel’s first anointed king falling into sin and the grip of darkness, so much so that he afterwards killed himself. Furthermore, it is also a display of the strange reality of darkness and evil – it is a story of the night.
It is strange, if you read the story hastily, that a saint of God like the prophet Samuel responded to the call of a medium and spiritualist. She was, however, shocked and cried out in fear when she saw Samuel and immediately recognised Saul, the king. She was not fully clued-in with the situation.
The African spirit world is one area that has been, for a long time, neglected or overlooked by the traditional (western) Christian theology with disastrous effects (Pomerville 1985:77). Even though the African worldview is akin to that world of New Testament times (see Malina et al 1996:14; Mugambi 1989:56g).
The Holy Spirit – A subdued Person
Equally overlooked in western (traditional) theology is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual and the community of faith. Menzies (1979:69) shows that until Reformation the doctrine of pneumatology developed only in terms of the essential being of the third person of the trinity.
Even in contemporary mission theology, the absence of the Holy Spirit is conspicuous. Melvin Hodges, a classical Pentecostal missiologist, describes the silence on the Holy Spirit as a neglect of an indispensable qualification for missions – the endowment of Pentecostal power (Hodges 1977:149). He links the relative success of Pentecostal missions directly with the place that Pentecostal give to the Holy Spirit – a place similar to that which New Testament believers gave to the Holy Spirit.