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«UNIVERSITY OF OSLO FACULTY OF THEOLOGY NORWAY JESUS’ KINGDOM MESSAGE AND GHANA’S NEW CHRISTIANITY: A Contextual Approach to the Praxis of the ...»

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UNIVERSITY OF OSLO

FACULTY OF THEOLOGY

NORWAY

JESUS’ KINGDOM MESSAGE AND GHANA’S NEW CHRISTIANITY:

A Contextual Approach to the Praxis of the Kingdom of God

A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree of

Master of Philosophy

In

Intercontextual Theology

By

David Stiles-Ocran

Supervisor:

Professor Halvor Moxnes Spring 2013

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I am indebted to many people who have supported me in diverse ways to complete this study.

My heartfelt gratitude goes to Professor Halvor Moxnes who supervised me in this work. His immense scholarly guidance, contributions and encouraging words shall never be forgotten.

Also, I sincerely acknowledge Professor Kjetil Hafstad, the coordinator for the Intercontextual Theology program, for organizing constructive seminars for us in Inseglan which helped me to put this study in perspective.

I also express my deep sense of gratitude to Professor Trygve Wyller, the Dean of Faculty of Theology, for encouraging me to make a presentation of a paper at a conference in Prague.

Thanks for approving the funding for all my academic trips during the study. I also appreciate all my tutors at the Faculty during my study, especially, Professor Aud Valborg Tønnessen, and Professor Oddbjørn Birger Leirvik.

I also extend my deep appreciation to the Norwegian Government for the provision of funding for my study, accommodation and living expenses in Oslo, Norway, through the Quota Scheme.

Of course, I shall not forget the International Education Office staff, especially, Michele and Lynn, for being there for me and relating all necessary information to me timely throughout my study program. What can I say to all of you? GOD RICHLY BLESS YOU AND THANK YOU.

Finally, my deepest gratitude goes to my dear wife, Elorm, and three babies (David, Daniel and Daisy) for allowing me to be absent from them to study. This study is dedicated them, my dear wife and kids. Daddy would not have made it without your permission and love. God bless you.

ABSTRACT This study critically investigates into some of the controversial practices of the neo-Pentecostal churches in Ghana with a particular focus on the challenge of the prosperity gospel and the leaders’ misuse of money. The gospel or Christianity that was introduced during the colonial rule met resistance because it was comprehended by the hearers as another form of imperial power.

Consequently, Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah called on the people to seek first the political kingdom of the nation, that is, to prioritize the freedom from colonial imperialism and its alliances over the so-called kingdom of God. Today, through the propaganda of the classical and neo-Pentecostal churches, the gospel or Christianity is growing at an alarming rate.

However, the gospel being preached by these new churches appears different from that of Jesus’ good news of the kingdom of God. It is noted that the themes propagated by the neo-Pentecostal Christianity seem to rather place the poor in bondage or suffering and enriches the pastors of these churches. Thus, the prosperity gospel or the kingdom of God they claim to preach leads to exploitation of the poor, deny them the last coin in their pockets. Thus, instead of giving to the poor, the poor are rather asked to give, a reverse of Jesus’ kingdom message.

The study has been carried out through various approaches such historical, ethnographic, systematic and contextual models. It establishes that the gospel of the kingdom that is being preached in Ghana today is a misrepresentation of Jesus’ kingdom of God. Whereas the Jesus’ kingdom centers on the liberation of the poor, building of community of sharing / redistribution or generalized reciprocity, the neo-Pentecostals focus on wealth acquisition, taking from the poor, and building negative reciprocity, a patron-client relations in society.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

ABSTRACT

Chapter 1

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

PURPOSE OF STUDY

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

METHODOLOGY

ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

Chapter 2

FROM GOLD COAST TO GHANA:

HISTORICAL AND SOCIO-RELIGIOUS CONTEXT

INTRODUCTION

THE ANCIENT GHANA EMPIRE

PRE-COLONIAL GOLD COAST

THE COLONIZATION OF GOLD COAST

COLONIZATION AND EVANGELIZATION

THE IMPACT OF THE PRE-COLONIAL SLAVE TRADE AND COLONIALISM ON CONTEMPORARY GHANA 21

INDEPENDENCE: FREEDOM FROM THE COLONIAL RULE

KWAME NKRUMAH: AN AFRICAN LIBERATOR

POST INDEPENDENCE: THE CONTEMPORARY GHANA

SOCIOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE SITUATION THE CHURCH IN GHANA

Statistical Situation of Christianity / Religion in Ghana

Typology of the Church in Ghana

CONFIGURING THE CONNECTIONS

Chapter 3

THE MISSION OF JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

INTRODUCTION

PERCEPTIONS ABOUT THE MISSION OF JESUS

Page 1 of 127 VARIOUS PERCEPTIONS ABOUT WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS





The Kingdom of God is Present and Future

The Kingdom of God and the Prosperity Gospel

GENDER AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

CONCLUSION

Chapter 4

THE CHURCH AND THE POOR

INTRODUCTION

CARING FOR THE POOR

Micro-Loan Support

Church Banquets or Picnics

SOCIAL RELATIONS IN THE CHURCH

THE MEANING OF POVERTY

THE CAUSE OF POVERTY

Witches

Ancestral Curse

Personal Responsibility

HOW TO COME OUT OF POVERTY

Giving or Offering

Deliverance / Exorcism

Anointing Service

CONCLUSION

Chapter 5

THE GOSPEL OF PROSPERITY AND THE FUNCTIONING OF THE NEO-PENTECOSTAL LEADERS

INTRODUCTION

Prosperity Gospel

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL

THE THEOLOGY OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL

The Word of Faith / The Faith Gospel Teachings from United States

The Nigerian Influence

The Prosperity Theology: The Ghanaian Situation

Page 2 of 127

THE PROSPERITY THEOLOGY IN CONTEXT: CONFIGURING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROSPERITY

GOSPEL IN GHANA

THE NEO-PENTECOSTAL PREACHERS AND MATERIAL PROSPERITY

CONCLUSION

THY KINGDOM COME:

INTRODUCTION

“KINGDOM” AFRICAN IN CONTEXT

Colonialism and Christianity: Reception of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God

POST-COLONIAL PERSPECTIVE OF JESUS’ KINGDOM OF GOD

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

JESUS’ KINGDOM AND THE POOR

The Economic Poor

The Sociological Poor

The Dialectically Poor: Sharing / Giving Among the Rich and the Poor in the Kingdom.................. 107 The Spiritually Poor

Chapter 7:

CONCLUDING REMARKS: RELATING JESUS’ KINGDOM OF GOD TO GHANA’S NEW CHRISTIANITY......... 113 CONCLUSION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

–  –  –

PURPOSE OF STUDY

The basic reason for this research is to study the religious justification for some of the controversial teachings and practices of the neo-Pentecostals churches in Ghana. In doing this, I have also set out to examine the classical Pentecostals’ views about the kingdom of God in order to ascertain the background of the study. The issue of particular concern is the prosperity gospel and the way money is being misused by the leaders of the neo-Pentecostal churches. And, as a nationwide prevailing issue since their emergence in the 1980’s, Paul Gifford, in his book

Ghana’s New Christianity, echoed:

Ghanaians themselves view their new Christianity with some unease, and many have profound misgivings about it, sensing that it is socially dysfunctional… One editor says that all these new churches should have been ‘one of the best things to have happened to Ghana, but unfortunately the reverse is the case.’ The disquiet arises on several scores. There are frequent reports on sexual lapses by these new pastors… and about theft and fraud, particularly over visas…There are misgivings also about the effects of their teaching…Many think the faith gospel’s prosperity emphasis is self-serving: ‘The establishment of a “Christian” church has become the shortest route to raise oneself above the poverty line.’ It is evident today that a great deal of adherents and non-adherents of these new churches have expressed their displeasure towards the avarice life-style of the leaders. This includes amassing wealth, extorting from the poor and living expensively. One of the ways by which the individual Christian believer is taught as a means to socio-economic stability is to ‘give’ to the church. This doctrine of giving has really enriched these congregations and the leadership so much that one can easily see a sharp distinction between the rich and the poor in the same congregation.

Ghana’s media has not been silent on the issue.2 The Spectator, a popular Ghanaian weekly See Paul Gifford, Ghana’s New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalising African Economy (London: Hurst & Company, 2004), pp. 191 – 192.

Earlier on, before the Gifford’s work, Divine Kumah, an editor, had aired his sentiment about the influx of the new prophets in The Watchman, a local Newspaper in Ghana, saying: ‘The sudden rise in the use of titles, hitherto not Page 4 of 127 newspaper, had earlier on, lamented about the heightened desire of the contemporary prophets in extorting money from their clients.3 The paper, thus, warned the people to beware of these new prophets4 whose “prophetic ministry has become a big profession for all who want to make money.”5 Further, lamenting on the dangers the new Christianity can pose to the society, the web

page of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation writes:

Ghana’s new religious Christian movement has assumed a complex kind of phenomenon which if not well handled, could create a chaotic situation and affect the moral fiber of society. Their messages now place tremendous emphasis on self esteem, ambition, confidence, power and miracles. The exploitative dimension that some of these new religious movements have assumed call for a more decisive way to have a more pragmatic approach as regard the constitutional provision of the right to practice any religion and manifest it. It is high time the entire citizenry declare religious crusade against the charlatans and the self imposters who defraud the gullible and exploit the flock in the name of religious freedom. The traditional Christian community should be able to adapt and to cope with the changing times by reviewing some of practices which tend to encourage people to move to the new faiths. 6 The situation is ambivalent in the sense that whereas most neo-Pentecostal preachers overemphasize the importance of giving – tithing and offering – as an antidote to one’s chronic poverty and deliverance from demonic influence, others encourage diligence to work beside giving in their strive towards their wellbeing. Today, the impact of these neo-Pentecostal churches cuts across all facets of the nation and beyond – political, socio-economic and religion.

common to us, gets many people confused at sight… Now, all of a sudden, the title PROPHET is becoming the dominant one, only second to Bishop. Why everyone is becoming a Prophet now is just strange. Just sit by your TV set at the time of the evening’s announcements and you’ll not be able to count the number of Prophets.’ See David Stiles-Ocran, ‘Prophetism in Ghana: A Case Study of some Charismatic Churches’, an Unpublished M.Phil Thesis, University of Ghana (2004), p. 5; See also Divine P. Kumah, ‘The Prophetic “All-Nights” And Anointing For Sale’, The Watchman 18 (10 – 23 November, 1996).

The Spectator, 787, ISSN 0855 – 1499 Saturday, February 22 – 28, 2003, p. 2.

Cephas N. Omenyo, an Associate Professor in Church History at the Department for the Study of Religions at University of Ghana, sees the correlation between the neo-Pentecostals and the new Prophets. He relates: ‘The most recent stream of the Pentecostal movement in Ghana is a movement which, simply put, is a new manifestation of prophetism in contemporary African Christianity, hence the label “Neo-Prophetic” movement which has been assigned to it.’ Cephas N. Omenyo, “Man of God Prophesy Unto Me: The Prophetic Phenomenon in African Christianity”, Studies in World Christianity 17.1 (2011): 30 – 49, DOI: 10.3366/swc.2011.0004, Edinburgh University Press: www.eupjournals.com/swc: October 16, 2012, p. 40.

The Spectator, 787, ISSN 0855 – 1499 Saturday, February 22 – 28, 2003, p. 2. See also, David Stiles-Ocran, ‘Prophetism in Ghana’, p. 5.

Nicholas Asmah-Sey, “Commenting on Challenges of Religious Pluralism in a Democratic Constitution”, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation: http://gbcghana.com/index.php?id=1.702844 – October 23, 2012.

Page 5 of 127 In light of these accusations, I want to sketch the history of these churches and to investigate the preaching of the kingdom of God they claim to preach and how does that correspond with their praxis. And since the gospel has been turned into the gospel of money for themselves, as a student of religion, I want to measure the gospel of prosperity with Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God.

Thus, the purpose of the study is, first, to discuss the various perceptions of the Kingdom of God in the neo-Pentecostal Christianity and, second, to evaluate the prosperity gospel and its impact on contemporary Christianity in Ghana as well as Africa. In doing this, I have set out to discuss the views of the classical Pentecostals on the kingdom of God, and also stated the position of the latter on gender which stands in sharp contrast to that of the neo-Pentecostals, The background of the study introduces that.

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Christianity is one of the fastest growing religions in Africa today. In this regard Kwame

Bediako7 arguing whether Christianity is suited to the African writes:



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