Spiritism and the Gospel

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All the east African missionaries and their families posed for this group picture at the conclusion of our seminar.

The devil and his demons seem to employ different tactics depending on the culture in which they are working.  In North America and other modern western societies these wicked spirits generally keep a rather subdued profile.  Witchcraft and the occult, while certainly present and increasing, are still rare enough that they are not a daily fact of life for most westerners, and many in the west (including some Christians) still are able to dismiss such things as mere superstition.

This is certainly not the case in Africa.  In many places the Christian church in Africa is only a few generations removed from “the old ways” of traditional African pagan religion, and the devil does not concede his ground willingly.  The appeasement and veneration of ancestral spirits, the evil eye, the casting of spells, supernatural powers, and demonic oppression and possession are all well-known phenomena in Africa.  Many Africans who do not yet know Jesus Christ are still trapped completely in this spiritual darkness, and many more who do profess the name of Christ are always tempted to return to the old ways when times are hard or to mix Christian and pagan belief and practice.

This past weekend all the LCMS East African staff and their families gathered together at a retreat center just north of Nairobi for our fall continuing education weekend.  The topic for our two-day seminar was “Spiritism and the Gospel”, taught by Concordia Seminary professor Rev. Kou Seying.  Rev. Seying did a wonderful job helping us think through in a biblical way the experiences we have here in Africa as we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and minister to hurting people.  His presentation was relevant to our context and permeated by the message of reconciliation between God and man by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.  It was good learning and good refreshment.

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him

(A Mighty Fortress, Martin Luther, verse 3)