December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas from the Divito family!

During this holiday season, John will be taking a brief hiatus from blogging here at African Apologetics. Don't worry, he'll begin posting again after ringing in the new year. Until then, let us all celebrate the birth of our Savior into this world!

As we focus on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we leave you with this insightful quote from John Owen:
His conception in the womb of the Virgin, as unto the integrity of human nature, was a miraculous operation of the divine power. But the prevention of that nature from any subsistence of its own--by its assumption into personal union with the Son of God, in the first instance of its conception--is that which is above all miracles, nor can be designed by that name. A mystery it is, so far above the order of all creating or providential operations, that it wholly transcends the sphere of them that are most miraculous. Herein did God glorify all the properties of the divine nature, acting in a way of infinite wisdom, grace, and condescension. The depths of the mystery hereof are open only unto him whose understanding is infinite, which no created understanding can comprehend. All other things were produced and effected by an outward emanation of power from God. He said, "Let there be light, and there was light." But this assumption of our nature into hypostatical union with the Son of God, this constitution of one and the same individual person in two natures so infinitely distinct as those of God and man--whereby the Eternal was made in time, the Infinite became finite, the Immortal mortal, yet continuing eternal, infinite, immortal--is that singular expression of divine wisdom, goodness, and power, wherein God will be admired and glorified unto all eternity. Herein was that change introduced into the whole first creation, whereby the blessed angels were exalted, Satan and his works ruined, mankind recovered from a dismal apostasy, all things made new, all things in heaven and earth reconciled and gathered into one Head, and a revenue of eternal glory raised unto God, incomparably above what the first constitution of all things in the order of nature could yield unto him.

December 19, 2008

Weekly Round-Up

Here's a couple of new articles for this week's round-up:

1) "3 armies raid rebel camp in eastern Congo" on Armies from Uganda, southern Sudan, and the Congo have come together to begin a new advance against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). As I have written before, the LRA is a terrorist organization led by Joseph Kony, who claims to be a spirit medium. They have been in open rebellion against the Ugandan government for decades, wreaking havoc throughout northern Uganda and beyond. May Christ quickly bring peace and stability to the region!

2) Adam Sparks, "Salvation History, Chronology, and Crisis: A Problem with Inclusivist Theology of Religions, Part 2 of 2" in Themelios Journal. Last month, I linked to the first part of this important essay. Now the second part has been posted. Sparks has given the church an invaluable resource by defending the exclusivity of the gospel and the necessity of faith in Christ. Be sure to read both articles!

December 17, 2008

Book Review: Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists

Dale Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists. Glendale, AZ: Life Assurance Ministries Publications, 2003; 383 pp.

Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day AdventistsSeventh-day Adventism has had amazing success around the world, especially in Africa. (There are some 1.5 million Adventists in East Africa alone.) Since my exposure to Adventism has been limited, due diligence demands that I become well acquainted with the movement’s history and beliefs. In this important book Dale Ratzlaff introduces evangelical Christians to the troubling doctrines of historic Adventism—and confronts Adventists with the seriousness of their error. As a fourth-generation Adventist and former SDA pastor, Ratzlaff has the insight and experience necessary to critically evaluate Adventist doctrine and the personal authority required to call Adventists to repentance.

He begins by taking us back to the Millerite movement, with its failed predictions of Christ’s Second Coming in 1843 and 1844. When the latter date came and went without Jesus’ return, a vision by one disappointed Millerite led many to believe that the prediction had been misunderstood; instead of Christ’s reappearance, it marked when He invisibly entered the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary for the first time, beginning a new phase in his atoning work. Ellen G. White was among those who embraced the new doctrine, and she quickly developed a following as one who had the end-time “spirit of prophecy.” Through her leadership and authority, the Church grew in size and influence, and further defined its distinctive beliefs of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the “investigative judgment.”

Having carefully placed these and other central SDA beliefs in their historical context, Ratzlaff provides biblical, theological, experiential, and ethical evaluations. From examining Adventist interpretations of Daniel 8:14 and Revelation 14:6–12 to showing how these errant beliefs weave themselves throughout the SDA doctrinal system, Ratzlaff leaves no stone unturned. He concludes by contrasting the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the investigative judgment with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he appeals to SDA leaders to follow God’s truth instead of their traditional beliefs.

The book is amazingly informative. I began Cultic Doctrine with little familiarity with Seventh-day Adventist teachings and ended with a substantial understanding of what makes Adventism “tick.” What’s more, Ratzlaff’s reasoning is well laid out and convincing, documented with numerous extended quotations from Ellen G. White and other major Adventist authorities.

I especially appreciate Ratzlaff’s evenhanded approach to the Seventh-day Adventists themselves. He distinguishes among different streams of Adventism, including contemporary historic Adventism, liberal Adventism, and evangelical Adventism. He admits that evangelical Adventists should, as individuals, not be shunned as cultic, but emphasizes that denominational Adventism fully deserves the label until it repudiates its teachings on the heavenly sanctuary and the investigative judgment—false doctrines that corrupt the gospel of Jesus Christ and demand biblical refutation.

Cultic Doctrine does have the usual problems one sees in independently published works, including typos and formatting issues. It also could have been more concise through robust editing. Nevertheless, these minor points should not detract from the importance of Ratzlaff’s book. Any Christian who wants to better understand Seventh-day Adventists and engage them with the gospel of Christ should read Cultic Doctrine. And Adventists themselves should wrestle through the issues that Ratzlaff raises. May our Lord continue to use this work and Life Assurance Ministries to draw people to Jesus!

December 15, 2008

Our Year in Review

This year will soon be over. But what a year it’s been!

Two themes stand out in my mind as I reflect on ACFAR’s progress in 2008: Prayer and patience.

Divitos in UgandaOne fruit of your prayers for ACFAR—and the highlight of the year—was returning to Uganda with my wife in April. God has given me a deep love for this country, and she also fell in love with the people and the area. While we kept busy with research, planning, and ministry, our days in East Africa were unforgettable and marvelous.

This year the Lord also gave us greater opportunities than ever to raise awareness about the urgent need to advance biblical discernment in East Africa. I’ve spoken and preached in several states. Our web site and blog continue to attract numerous visitors. We even had a special evening in Southern California with Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason as our keynote speaker (feel free to download and listen to his message in MP3), and we produced a video to spread the vision for ACFAR.

So by God’s grace, we gathered a great deal of momentum in 2008. More and more people are catching the vision. Fellow believers, both here and in Africa, are getting excited as we work toward helping our African brothers and sisters in Christ defend our common faith. We’re closer than ever to reaching our goal and launching our ministry.

Now for the part about patience.

This year brought its share of challenges. Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, adding expenses and delaying our target date for departure until May. The global recession is limiting our opportunities to raise awareness and support. As the year closes, we still need at least 28o new prayer partners, $5,800 in additional monthly support commitments, and $30,000 for one-time special support to reach our goal.

We’re trusting in Christ, knowing that he can generously and abundantly provide! And we praise God with the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Where do we stand as we head into 2009?

If I were to add a theme to carry us into the new year, it would be “persistence.” Because one thing is certain: We can’t slow down.

As you can imagine from reading the “Weekly Round-Up” on this blog each Friday, my spirit is provoked within me (cf. Acts 17:16) as I watch the steady stream of news from across East Africa—cult controversies, charismatic confusion, the surge in occultic practices—all posing a challenge to the Body of Christ and its witness.

Ugandans in PrayerWill we answer the cry from our brothers and sisters in Uganda? They’re asking us to equip them with the tools and the training they need to grow in biblical discernment and to resist and refute the intrusion of cults and false teaching. Will we help them to win cultists to Christ?

With just five months to go, our target date is aggressive. But we’re placing our trust in Jesus and keeping our eyes on the goals set before us.

It’s hard to express my thanks for the many of you who pray. Most of the answered intercession we’ve seen this year began in your hearts. Your continued interest, encouragement, and support are both moving and humbling. Please prayerfully consider how can you help ACFAR in 2009. Let’s serve our Lord together for the sake of His kingdom in Africa next year!

December 12, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Cults and False Teaching in East Africa, New Apologetics Resource, and Historical Background to Islam

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Peter Thatiah, "In God’s name" in the Eastern Standard newspaper (Kenya). A very important news report on several contemporary cults and false teaching that is all too common in East Africa today. If you want to understand better the challenges facing Christians in Africa, then I suggest reading this article.

2) Tim McGrew, "Historical Apologetics: 1697-1893" on the Resurgence blog. This is an excellent annotated bibliography including some great resources on the defense of our faith from an important period of Christian history. McGrew also provides links to download all of these resources for free. What a tremendous resource!

3) Michael A. G. Haykin, "Historical Background to Islam" (MP3) on the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies web site. Haykin's lecture on Islam from a conference earlier this year has finally been posted online. To learn more about the formation and early development of Islam, you'll want to download and listen to this message.

December 10, 2008

Book Notice: African Christianity - Its Public Role

Paul Gifford, African Christianity: Its Public Role. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998; 368 pp.

African Christianity - Its Public RoleAmericans are used to hearing about the separation of church and state. Religion is said to belong in the private sphere, while politics is in the public domain. But what of Africa, where Christianity is rapidly growing and this public/private distinction is not recognized? Paul Gifford provides a survey of the socio-political influence of Christianity in Africa, where the church has had a foundational place in the building and development of many countries. Especially relevant to ACFAR is the chapter on Uganda, which gives special attention to controversial charismatic movements like Robert Kayanja’s Miracle Centre, Simeon Kayiwa’s Namirembe Christian Fellowship, Handel Leslie’s Abundant Life Faith Centre, and Samuel Kakande’s Holy Church of Christ (now Synagogue Church of All Nations).

From the back cover:
“This is by far the most informative book about contemporary African Christianity around; nobody could have written a study as richly detailed and as informed by real insider knowledge as he has done.... It will be the most significant study of African Christianity to appear at a time when its importance for Africa is becoming ever more widely recognized.” —J. D. Y. Peel

“A sophisticated political and social analysis of the various Christian groups is allied to a most original, consistent exploration of their different theological positions and thinking.... An interesting, important critical assessment of the extent to which the churches are playing a major role in the emergence of a civil society.... Gifford’s overall analysis and his four case studies are so fresh and so important that ... they cry out for immediate publication.” —Richard Gray

Paul Gifford analyzes African Christianity in the mid-1990s, against the background of the continent’s current social, economic, and political circumstances. Gifford employs concepts taken from political economy to shed light on the current dynamics of African churches and churchgoers and assesses their different contributions to political developments since 1989. He also evaluates the churches’ role in promoting a civil society in Africa. Four case studies—Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, and Cameroon—cover all strands of Christianity: Catholic, Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, and Independent. These detailed analyses of the state of the churches in each country also suggest more general patterns operating widely across sub-Saharan Africa.

Paul Gifford is Lecturer in African Christianity at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His previous books include Christianity and Politics in Doe’s Liberia and The Christian Churches and the Democratisation of Africa.

Table of Contents:
Preface, iii
The Context: Africa Now, 1
African Churches: Their Global Context, 21
Ghana, 57
Uganda, 112
Zambia, 181
Cameroon, 246
Conclusion, 306
Select Bibliography, 349
Index, 363

December 8, 2008

Working Together With Rose Publishing

As we prepare to launch the ministry of the Africa Center for Apologetics Research, we’re always on the lookout for good material to help East African believers grow in their ability to defend the Christian faith. Thankfully, we’ve developed excellent partnerships with several other ministries, allowing us to bring some of the best material available to Africa. I’ve already described our partnerships with Stand to Reason and the Institute for Religious Research; today I want to focus on Rose Publishing.

Christianity, Cults, and ReligionsYou may have seen Rose’s fine work without realizing it. Chances are good that their Bible charts and maps are being used in your local church. Interestingly, the company was started by a Sunday-school teacher and a public-school teacher who were having trouble finding good visual teaching materials for their classes. They began to create their own, and as time went by more and more people starting requesting them. Today, Rose produces some of the very best Christian books, pamphlets, wall charts, timelines, PowerPoint presentations, and maps available.

A number of Rose’s apologetics-oriented resources (including the “10 Questions and Answers” series) are edited by CFAR’s own Paul Carden. And with Rose’s permission, CFAR has already translated and/or adapted a number of their pamphlets on the cults and apologetics into Russian, Hungarian, Spanish, and other languages. By making such high-quality resources available to CFAR, Rose helps us to put otherwise unavailable discernment tools into the hands of pastors and Christian workers. Whenever pastors and other church leaders receive Rose pamphlets, they’re immediately impressed and want to know how to get more.

And thanks to Rose, we’ve already taken many pamphlets and wall charts on cults, comparative religions, the Trinity, and Islam to East African Bible colleges and seminaries. In the future we plan to create special African editions of the Christianity, Cults and Religions pamphlet and other materials to meet the unique needs of believers there.

As my family moves to Uganda to start ACFAR’s ministry, it’s certain that materials from Rose Publishing will be critical to our success in inoculating and equipping Christians. Rose is a treasured partner in our work, and we praise God for their help in advancing biblical discernment.

Note: A number of the pamphlets we use are gathered in The Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, Time Lines and Rose Bible Basics: Christianity, Cults & Religions.

December 5, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Lord's Resistance Army in Congo, Witchcraft in Tanzania, Basics on Islam, and Missions Reflection

Here's this week's round-up:

1) "Africa's rogue army is reborn" in the Sunday Vision newspaper (Uganda). A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Lord's Resistance Army. This news article points us to the latest horrific development: the LRA is now crossing borders into north Congo. May Christ bring peace to this appalling situation.

2) "Albinos targeted in Tanzania" on CTV (Canada). Here is one of many recent reports on a repugnant practice in Tanzania. Local witchcraft beliefs lead to the slaughter of albinos because their bodies and blood are thought to contain special powers. I know that I have said it before, but witchcraft is a very serious problem in East Africa. Christians must respond in love with the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

3) Colin Smith, "A Brief Introduction to the Qur'an: The Structure of the Qur'an" on the Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog. Would you like to know more about Islam's sacred book? This series should serve as a helpful introduction.

4) Peter Leithart, "Desert Like a Rose" in First Things. With such confusion surrounding missions work today, Leithart provides amazing insight from the Word of God. He writes, "The Bible provides a theology of missions that is neither accommodation to existing culture nor total war that leaves the existing culture in smoking ruins. Mission is more like cultivation, a process of nurturing the hidden but unforeseen potential within a culture."

December 3, 2008

Viral Video: The Doomsday Cult - Uganda

For this month's viral video, I want to direct you to an important documentary on the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God and the resulting Kanungu Massacre. If you want to see the severe challenge of cults in East Africa firsthand, then be sure to watch this twenty minute video.

While I would normally include the video in my post, for some reason the distributor has disabled the embedding feature (why would anyone not allow this option?). Regardless, you can follow the link below to view the documentary.

December 1, 2008

How We Honor Christ in Our Hearts

The most commonly quoted Bible verse on defending the Christian faith becomes even more powerful when we pause to study it in greater depth.

The Apostle Peter writes:
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14–16).
First Peter notes our status in Christ, plainly stating something that few of us want to hear: We will suffer in Christ. As His followers, we must expect to suffer. Jesus explains that “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18–20).

For believers, suffering isn’t optional; it’s inevitable for everyone who is faithful to Christ. But we should also be encouraged. Why? Because we will also be blessed. Even though we will face suffering, we ultimately have nothing to fear—not humiliation, not physical harm, not even death! When we’re united to Christ and receive His blessing, we have all that we need in Him!

Having established our status in Christ, Peter instructs us regarding our responsibility to the Lord. He first gives a negative requirement: Do not fear or be troubled. This command is drawn from Isaiah 8:11–13, which tells us that we’re not to fear man, but the Lord. Our security and hope rests in Him alone.

The ThinkerHaving set aside our fears and troubles, we must honor Christ as holy in our hearts. The heart is the core of our being, the origin of all our behavior, and the place where Christ must reign supreme. And notice how we’re to do this—by “always being prepared to make a defense” of our faith. The phrase “make a defense” is a translation of the Greek word apologia, from which we get the English word apologetics. Apologetics means simply a defense—in this case, a defense of the Christian faith. So God commands all followers of Christ to engage in apologetics, and we’re to do this with anyone who asks about our hope, with no favoritism or discrimination.

Peter takes us a step further, instructing us in the manner of apologetics. We’re to engage others gently and with reverence before God. How easy it can be to get caught up in winning an argument! In our zeal to prove Christianity true, we can appear rude and demeaning. But we’re not defending our faith for the sake of having intellectual battles; we’re doing it out of love for God and for others. We want nonbelievers to embrace God’s truth, and when we defend our faith kindly and reverently, we’ll keep a good conscience—and those who oppose us will be shamed.

Of course, these truths aren’t just applicable to Christians in the West; African believers are likewise commanded to make a defense before their challengers and opponents. And many of them face much harsher persecution! As obstacles and opposition to biblical faith multiply in Africa, we must stand with them and do all we can to equip them, that they might always be prepared to respond. And that’s the special focus and calling of the Africa Center for Apologetics Research.

Join with me in praying that God will raise up a mighty army of bold and humble apologists to bear witness to Christ throughout all of Africa, beginning in Uganda!

November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!" (Psalm 107:1)

First Thanksgiving
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. While we’re called to continually give thanks to God for His abundant mercies, I appreciate the chance to set aside a special time each year to focus on His blessings to us. Here are just a few of our many reasons for rejoicing:

I thank God that I have been reconciled with Him through Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ as my substitute, I would be without hope and justly face God’s wrath for my sins. But by His grace, I have been saved. Praise God!

I thank God for my wife. Next to Christ, she is my most precious gift. She encourages me, takes care of me, challenges me, and loves me. I simply wouldn’t be the man I am today without her.

I thank God for my children. Having four kids certainly keeps me busy, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world! Children are truly a blessing from the Lord.

I thank God for my church. I’m edified and built up through the ministry of my local congregation. We’re centered on the Word of God, we have great fellowship with one another, and we’re committed to ACFAR’s vision in East Africa.

I thank God for this ministry. I have the privilege of preparing to serve Christ in Uganda. He could have chosen a much better candidate for this task, but I pray that He will be glorified through our efforts in Africa.

I thank God for Paul Carden. As CFAR’s executive director (the ministry I’m serving through), he has to put up with me! Still, he is patient, helpful, wise, and supportive.

I thank God for our supporters. Without the many believers who partner with us through their prayers and sacrificial giving, there would be no ACFAR. They are truly essential to the success of our ministry. I’m humbled to be working with them to advance biblical discernment and cult evangelism in East Africa.

Of course, there are many more things for which I should thank God, and I plan to devote Thursday to doing so. I hope you’ll join me and take advantage of this opportunity as well.

I’ll be back next week with another blog post. See you then!

November 21, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Witchcraft, Street Preachers, Islamic Conflict, and New Conference Audio

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Joachim Buwembo, "Ugandans losing their heads to a new generation of witchdoctors" in the East African newspaper (Kenya). Witchcraft is a very serious reality in Uganda and East Africa. I have written about this ever-present challenge before, but Buwembo reminds us of the fear, suffering, and even death which Africans struggle with constantly. I pray that the gospel will overcome this darkness!

2) Claire Nabwire, "Street preachers" in the Sunday Monitor newspaper (Uganda). Here is an interesting news story on street preachers in Uganda.

3) Madinah Tebajjukira, "Rebels Muslims seek own mufti" in the New Vision; Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, "Mubajje now an imposed Mufti" in the Weekly Observer; and Paul Amoru, "The troubled cleric" in the Daily Monitor newspapers (Uganda). Mufti Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje may have begun as a popular Muslim leader in Uganda, but his going to trial for fraud has created many problems for the Islamic community. While he was acquitted of the charges against him, many Muslims still believe that he is guilty. These reports help explain the challenges Mufti Mubajje continues to face.

4) "Karis Theology Weekend Audio Now Up" on the Karis Blog. A few weeks ago I mentioned an upcoming conference with (now Evangelical Theological Society President!) Bruce Ware. This week the church sponsoring the conference has posted the audio, including a discussion on Jesus and salvation. You'll want to download and listen to these MP3s!

November 19, 2008

Book Review: Five Views on Apologetics

Five Views on ApologeticsSteven B. Cowan, ed., Five Views on Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 398 pp.

The Apostle Peter exhorts Christians to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Believers recognize that God calls us to the defense of our faith—that is, to the practice of apologetics. But how do we defend our faith? How do we give an answer? Throughout church history, Christians have approached the task of apologetics in a variety of ways. Steven Cowan has brought together proponents of five different views to defend their apologetic method and interact with the other contributors. The result is Five Views on Apologetics.

Five scholars participated in this printed discussion advocating their views: William Lane Craig, the classical method; Gary Habermas, the evidential method; Paul Feinberg, the cumulative-case method; John Frame, the presuppositional method; and Kelly James Clark, the Reformed epistemological method. This book follows the typical format established by previous titles in Zondervan’s Counterpoints series. Each contributor begins a section by summarizing and defending his method, followed by a response to the initial presentation by each of the other authors. After the last view is presented and engaged, the original advocates have a final opportunity to reply to the other contributors. By the time the reader finishes the book, he or she should have a much better understanding of each individual approach and the differences among the methods.

I really enjoyed this book. Apologetic method has always interested me, and bringing together several of today’s leading evangelical apologists to interact with one another on how we should defend our faith was sure to bring forth fruitful discussion and insight. While I won’t focus on which methodology I prefer (even though some of you may already know!), I can say that I richly benefited from each presentation and the back-and-forth of the contributors.

Still, I do wonder if the editor could have chosen better advocates for the viewpoints presented. Almost none of the contributors could be accurately described as a “purist.” As Frame points out in one of his responses: “In my view, not a great deal of difference exists between the methods of William Craig, Gary Habermas, and Paul Feinberg” (132). Kelly James Clark begins his response to Craig by saying, “I could have written William Craig’s essay (at least major parts of it)” (82). Such statements occur frequently, with those involved voicing their general agreement with one another. William Lane Craig even comments: “What we are seeing in the present volume is a remarkable convergence of views, which is cause for rejoicing” (317). Maybe so, but in a book seeking to introduce readers to the peculiarities and differences among various apologetic methods such a “convergence” only muddies the waters. Perhaps including an “eclectic method” or “integrationist method” as a separate attempt to bring together the other views into a new approach alongside more traditional presentations would have been more beneficial.

The work also seems overly technical. Multiple-view books function best as introductions to the central issues of contemporary debates. Having to wade through difficult philosophical concepts and the probability calculus of Bayes’ Theorem is far beyond the capability of most lay Christians. Restricting the discussion of apologetic method to such a high academic level severely limits the book’s usefulness. And this is a shame, since such scholars could greatly help our brothers and sisters in Christ to think more clearly about how to defend our faith.

Consequently, I finished this book with mixed thoughts. On the one hand, it’s an informative work on an important topic for contemporary Christians; on the other, I can’t see recommending it often to fellow believers. Nonetheless, I’m sure it will give helpful insights to those who are somewhat acquainted with philosophical and theological issues related to apologetics, as well as to others who are willing to slowly and carefully work through its contents.

November 17, 2008

The Lord's Resistance Army

Joseph KonyChances are, if you hear anything about Uganda on the evening news, it will have something to do with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This terrorist organization is led by Joseph Kony, a spirit medium seeking to establish an independent state based on a synthesis of Christianity, Islam, and local (Acholi) beliefs and traditions. Kony and his LRA are widely known for abducting children and using them as soldiers and slaves in their ongoing war, which has created a humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda.

There are few in-depth analyses of the LRA that discuss its cultic dynamics. Thus I was glad to discover an article on the LRA in the latest issue of the Cultic Studies Review (Vol. 7, No. 2), published by the International Cultic Studies Association.

“Innocent Murderers? Abducted Children in the Lord’s Resistance Army” was written by Terra Manca, a master’s student at the University of Alberta, and probes the history, beliefs, and practices of the LRA, with an emphasis on its use of child soldiers. The article’s abstract states:
For over twenty-one years, a guerrilla force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been terrorizing the people of northern Uganda. The LRA abducts children to help it fight against local civilians and the Ugandan government. LRA commanders use extreme violence to control these children. The LRA justifies the use of this violence with its secretive spiritual and political ambitions. Many of the children in the LRA commit horrendous acts, such as mutilations and murders, against civilians in a effort to survive while they await the opportunity to escape. Some of these children eventually internalize the violence that the LRA subjects them to and become willing participants in the movement. In this article, I discuss how to the LRA’s organization, its use of religious doctrine, and its use of physical coercion manipulate children in an effort to create obedient member of the LRA.
Manca begins by summarizing the historical milieu in which the LRA was born. During the colonial period, Christian missionaries brought the gospel with them, but due to a lack of contextualization Christianity was largely mixed with local traditional beliefs. Additionally, the British generally divided Uganda into the North and South, with the North mainly used as a source of soldiers, labor, and foodstuffs while the South was developed commercially. This separation continued once Uganda gained independence, with the North generally on the losing side of dictatorial rule and political struggles. Many Northern soldiers eventually formed a rebel army to liberate themselves from the oppressive central government. Their ongoing struggle left them at odds with the current administration of President Yoweri Museveni and ripe for Kony to take over what rebel soldiers remained from the conflict, including remnants of the Holy Spirit Mobile Force led by Kony’s cousin, Alice Lakwena.

At first, Northern Ugandans were tolerant of Kony’s group, as they had never enjoyed a good relationship with the government in the South; but by the early 1990s, the focus of the LRA changed from fighting the Southern army to “purifying” the Northern Acholi people themselves. Kony began forcibly abducting children to join the LRA because of his belief that they are ideal for building his future “pure” race and bringing about his dream society.

Because the traditional African worldview doesn’t distinguish between the sacred and the secular, the LRA becomes hard for Westerners to classify. It’s a terrorist organization, a religious movement, and a counterculture all wrapped into one. Consequently, children who want to escape the LRA struggle with physical coercion, spiritual manipulation, and social ostracism. Most live in constant fear for their very lives and completely surrender to their commanders to survive. Some eventually internalize the LRA’s ideology as their own. Still others risk death to escape to freedom (to appreciate the plight of children who leave the cult, see the documentary film War/Dance).

Manca’s article goes into far greater depth than I can cover in this post, including the role of spiritualism in the LRA and a description of the nightmarish life of the cult’s children.

In any case, she has produced an insightful and detailed overview of an important and complex situation in contemporary East Africa. Since her analysis was written from a strictly secular perspective, numerous questions remain, especially concerning the spiritual side of the LRA. For example, how should Christians further research the movement and critically engage it with the revealed truth of our Savior? And how can we reach out with the Gospel to members of the LRA specifically, and to the Acholi people generally? These and other fundamental issues must be carefully addressed as the Africa Center for Apologetics Research develops.

November 14, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Sserulanda Special Edition

Normally, our weekly round-up brings together several sources to keep you up-to-date with the latest developments in Africa and apologetics issues. Nevertheless, so much has developed recently with the controversial Sserulanda sect that today's list will be devoted to this spiritual group.

As I have mentioned before, the Sserulanda Nsulo Yobulamu Spiritual Foundation believes that its leader, “His Infinite Grace” Mugonza Bambi Baaba, is “God Almighty” on earth. They are also in the process of trying to establish a special free trade zone and run it as an autonomous territory called the Ssessamirembe Spiritual City. While their independent city seemed to be progressing rapidly, now they are under governmental investigation and being accused of crimes and other problematic practices.

Here are the latest reports:

November 12, 2008

Book Notice: Ashes of Faith

Robert Bwire, Ashes of Faith: A Doomsday Cult's Orchestration of Mass Murder in Africa (Amsterdam: Frontier Publishing, 2007), 166 pp.

Ashes of FaithOther than the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the best-known Ugandan cult is certainly the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. Eight years ago, this Roman Catholic sect ended violently with the murders of roughly a thousand members. The Kanungu Massacre, as it has come to be known, has left many people around the world searching for answers. Robert Bwire, a Ugandan epidemiologist in the greater New York City area, spent time with followers of this cult while working in his home country. Ashes of Faith is one of only a handful of investigative works attempting to reveal what really took place in Kanungu. Bwire also describes other contemporary prophetic movements, including the “Covenant Box Descended into Uganda,” World Message Last Warning Church (Wilson Bushara), and Holy Spirit Movement (Alice Lakwena).

From the back cover:
The "Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God", a Ugandan millenarian cult proclaimed the end of the world on December 31, 1999. The cult claimed that Virgin Mary had delivered this message directly to its three leaders: a half-insane failed politician, a defrocked Catholic priest and a former prostitute. When the world failed to end, the disillusioned faithful demanded a refund of property and money generously donated to the cult leadership.

Unable to quell the rising tide of unrest, the cult leaders conceived a macabre plan of permanently stifling dissenting voices. On March 17, 2000, the cult led its unsuspecting followers through a baptism of fire. Over 550 men, women and children perished in a fire as they waited for their salvation from a sinful world. Subsequent investigations uncovered a series of mass graves, bringing the total killed to over one thousand — the largest linked to a doomsday cult in recent human history.

"Ashes of faith" investigates the background of this bizarre millenarian cult and also provides a rare glimpse into the darker world of extreme religious fanaticism in Africa.

Table of Contents:
Acknowledgments, 9
In the Thrall of Christianity, 11
Apparition Mania, 25
Cult Trinity, 39
The Seer and the Rock, 55
The Ten Commandments, 69
Seeking Thy Kingdom, 91
The Faithful, 107
Last Supper—A Reconstruction, 119
Looking the Other Way, 133
Inferno Aftermath, 143
Conclusion, 157
Notes, 159

November 10, 2008

Tabletalk Magazine on Africa

For many years, I have appreciated Tabletalk magazine. A monthly topical study and Bible devotional combined into one, Tabletalk is published by Ligonier Ministries and covers everything from theological doctrine to church history. Each month readers are treated to edifying material which supports and builds their relationship to Christ.

Tabletalk MagazineNovember's issue is no exception--it is devoted to missions and the global body of Christ. Dr. Peter Hammond, the missionary director of Frontline Fellowship, provides an insightful article on the church in Africa. I was both challenged and encouraged by what he wrote.

Hammond begins by recounting the tremendous amount of persecution that followers of Christ face throughout much of Africa. From Nigeria and Sudan to Angola and Mozambique, believers suffer for their faith. Nevertheless, there is a growing revival amidst the persecution. Thousands of Muslims are regularly reported to convert to Christianity. Our faith is expanding into difficult and oppressive regions including Marxist territories. Praise God for His grace in Africa!

At the same time, Hammond points out a looming danger in the midst of all this growth:
The greatest spiritual needs in Africa at this time are good Bible-based discipleship books, CDs and manuals, and leadership training -- particularly Bible teaching. All of these could be made available for Bible College libraries throughout Africa....

Most pastors in Africa have no formal Bible training. Most pastors have no access to a library, and most own only a few books. Many do not even own a full Bible. Operation World reports that one hundred million Christians in Africa do not even possess a copy of the Bible.

Numerous leaders have gone on record as saying that Africa's greatest need is discipleship. As one pastor put it: "The church has done a good job of evangelizing, but a poor job of discipling. Christianity here is a mile wide and an inch deep!"
I thank God for fellow missionaries who are helping to equip believers in Africa learn God's Word. Nevertheless, I am once again reminded of the great need for biblical discernment and the defense of the faith in Uganda and East Africa. The body of Christ is simply not adequately equipped to counter the errors of cults and other false teachers. Imagine trying to refute a Jehovah's Witness without a full Bible or any other critical information.

The task before us is great, but God's glory shines brightly through meeting these challenges! Lord willing, he will use ACFAR to further build His kingdom early next year.

November 7, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Ugandan Evangelicalism, Kenyan Challenges, Ghanaian Jehovah's Witnesses, and Defending Exclusivism

Here's this week's round-up:

1) "Evangelists on the rise in Uganda" on France 24. You simply must watch this video on the growth of evangelicalism in Uganda. While the reporters obviously do not have a firm grasp on contemporary Protestantism, evangelicalism, and the charismatic movement in Africa, they still have produced an eye-opening inside look into Uganda's religious atmosphere.

2) "Churches up in arms over shady pastors" in the Saturday Nation newspaper (Kenya). Because of all the prosperity gospel preachers and other charlatans taking advantage of Christians in East Africa, more and more church leaders are calling for additional oversight and regulation by the government.

3) Francis Asamoah-Tufuor, "Jehovah's Witnesses Do Vote In Ghana" in the Ghanaian Times newspaper (Ghana). This news story is fascinating. JWs usually do not vote or get involved in politics, but the JWs in Ghana plan on being a part of their country's political process.

4) Adam Sparks, "Salvation History, Chronology, and Crisis: A Problem with Inclusivist Theology of Religions, Part 1 of 2" in Themelios Journal (in PDF format). When thinking about missions and those belonging to other religions, one of the most debated questions today is on the salvation of non-Christians. Could people be saved by Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross without ever hearing the gospel or believing in Him? Followers of Christ must firmly answer "No," since God has revealed that faith in Christ is our only hope of salvation. Sparks helps us to better understand the exclusivity of our Savior's gospel.

November 5, 2008

Ask Anything Wednesday: How Will We Prioritize

Welcome to Ask Anything Wednesday. Normally this series is once a month, but I received two great questions last week, so I'm answering the second today. Nevertheless, please keep the questions rolling in! Just submit your question--on anything!--in the comments section below and I'll consider responding to it in this monthly feature.

"With the need to counter the cults in Africa so great, how are you going to prioritize?"

You’ve asked an important question—one that I’ve given much consideration. At the same time, I’ve only visited Uganda twice and would not presume to yet have enough knowledge or exposure to form a specific plan of prioritization.

With this in mind, for at least the first six months after arriving in Uganda, my focus will be on learning more about the overall religious situation through rigorous, in-depth research. During this process, I’ll seek to discern a specific strategy by asking several crucial questions:

• Which groups and false teachings do East African Christians feel are causing the greatest harm at this time? For example, are they most concerned about syncretism, the prosperity gospel, certain Western cults, and/or specific local groups (like the “abaikiriza”)?

• Which groups and false teachings objectively need the greatest emphasis and response, given the severity of their theological error and their success in proselytizing? Some movements, like the Branhamites and New Apostolic Church, are among the largest and most active, yet (strangely) seem to be among the most neglected.

• Which groups and false teachings have already been addressed by local apologists, and to what extent? In this blog I’ve described a handful of locally produced resources that are still in circulation; other Ugandan Christians are attempting to defend the faith as best they can. We want to complement—not compete with—them and, whenever possible, we will work alongside them.

• Which groups and false teachings already have Christian responses ready for use in early inoculation and training? Through materials we’ve developed and others available through our ministry partnerships, we can immediately place much-needed resources in the hands of Christian leaders and other leaders. (In fact, a shipment of materials for pastors in southeastern Uganda is leaving this week!) For example, we’re providing IRR tracts on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism, a CFAR manual on practical discernment for pastors, a CD-ROM on relevant cultural issues from Stand to Reason, and pamphlets from Rose Publishing.

The needs before us are evident, and the opportunities to address them are numerous. Above all, as we develop a specific strategy we’ll need much prayer—both during the initial phases of research and outreach and throughout our years of establishing a regional apologetics ministry. Please share in the privilege of advancing biblical discernment among our African brothers and sisters through your daily intercession!

November 3, 2008

A Final Warning

Ephesus TheaterEphesus was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia and a place where the Apostle Paul spent much of his time as a missionary. He briefly visited this city at the end of his second missionary journey, but stayed for about three years during his third. By God’s grace, and through Paul’s faithfulness as well as that of other believers like Aquila and Priscilla, many people were saved. In fact, Paul’s ministry was so successful that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

Paul dearly loved the church at Ephesus and eventually wrote a letter to them which is now included in our New Testament (Ephesians). Nevertheless, after staying with them for so long he had to return to Jerusalem. What would he say to the Ephesian church leaders in his final farewell? We find his words in Acts 20:18–35.

In this parting address, Paul includes a sober warning:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears (20:28–31).
Pay careful attention! Be alert! Why? Because “fierce wolves” and false teachers will attempt to divide and destroy the church of God, drawing Christians away by corrupting the gospel and God’s revealed truth.

Of the many instructions that Paul could have delivered in his last words to the Ephesian elders, he was compelled to prepare them for this singular challenge. They couldn’t be taken by surprise, or sit by in bewilderment, as destruction unfolded. They had to be constantly aware of the danger posed by cunning and merciless deceivers—and fully prepared to refute them with the truth of Christ and His gospel.

Little has changed since the days of the apostles. The calculated twisting of God’s Word is an ever-present challenge to His church—especially in Africa, where many pastors and church leaders have little if any biblical training. Too often, shepherds in East Africa cannot hear and apply Paul’s warning because they’re unable to practice biblical discernment, properly differentiating between scriptural truth and clever falsehoods.

Will you pray with me that Paul’s impassioned warning will ring loudly in the ears of church leaders across Africa? May we give them the tools and training they need to protect their flocks from the fierce wolves entering their midst!

October 31, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: East Africa Gathering, Piper on Missions, and Theology in Africa

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Grace Samson, "Call2all East Africa" in the Lausanne Connecting Point - October 2008. In this report, we read of a gathering of Christian leaders in East Africa coming together to reach the least and the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that the glory of Christ will shine in East Africa!

2) John Piper, "Bad Times Are Good for Missions" on the Desiring God blog. I appreciate John Piper's insights on missions as we face an economic downturn.

3) "Living on the Seam of History: African Christianity Part 7, Towards a Missiological and Theological Renaissance" on the Koinonia blog. This post includes some insightful quotes and even a video with Christopher J.H. Wright on Christianity in Africa and the Global South.

October 29, 2008

Ask Anything Wednesday: Material on Witnessing to Mormons

Welcome to Ask Anything Wednesday. This month I received two great questions, so I'll answer the first this week and the second next Wednesday. At the same time, please keep the questions rolling in! Just submit your question--on anything!--in the comments section below and I'll consider responding to it in our monthly feature.

"What do you suggest I read to learn to better witness to Mormons?"

Speaking the Truth in Love to MormonsWhile I have responded to a similar question before, I appreciate the opportunity to expand my answer. In considering books, I highly suggest reading Mark Cares' Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons. Cares is a Lutheran pastor in Idaho who has faithfully witnessed to Mormons for years. His book is easily the best work that I have read on this topic. Additionally, his ministry's web site has a lot of helpful information and his blog is also excellent.

There are many helpful resources elsewhere on the web as well. James White's "Verse Memorization System: Verses Relevant to Sharing the Gospel with Mormons" is very useful. You could learn a lot from web sites such as Mormonism Research Ministry, the Institute for Religious Research's Mormons in Transition, the Mormonism section of, and others.

If you would like to learn more about Mormonism in general and how their beliefs are different from historic Christianity, I suggest checking out Is the Mormon My Brother?, Mormon America, and Mormonism 101. And if you are firm in your faith and want to dig deep, nothing can replace actually reading Mormon sources themselves. I would start with Gospel Principles.

I could continue, but I'm afraid that this list has already become too long. Feel free to ask me additional questions on witnessing to Mormons. Praise God for your desire to bring the light of the true Jesus Christ to Latter-day Saints!

October 28, 2008

Ask Anything Wednesday Tomorrow

Ask Anything Wednesday is tomorrow! Do you have any questions about the Africa Center for Apologetics Research? Do you have a question about witnessing to cult members? Do you want to know what I am reading right now? Anything is fair game!

Just ask and I'll try to answer it. The easiest way to submit a question for tomorrow is simply to post it as a comment below. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

October 27, 2008

Witchcraft in Africa

Since our culture celebrates Halloween this week, I thought it would be good to briefly focus on the reality of witchcraft. Too often we think of witches on brooms, classic Disney movies, or Harry Potter. We may also consider the Salem witch trials or the rise of Wicca in the western world. But I am not referring to any of these things. If we want to understand the very real presence of witchcraft, we need to turn to Africa.

Witchcraft is an ever-present reality in Africa. Witches are generally an integral part of African Traditional Religions, acting as intermediaries between people, the living-dead, and the Supreme God. Even today, with the growth of Christianity and Islam throughout the continent, witchcraft beliefs and practices remain strong.

Africa Bible CommentaryIn the Africa Bible Commentary, Nigerian church leader and scholar Samuel Waje Kunhiyop writes:

Belief in witchcraft is approaching epidemic proportions in Africa. While it is easy to understand how nominal Christians can cling to this deep-seated belief, it is disturbing that it is widespread among Christians too. Christian rituals are sometimes seen as little more than a form of protection against witchcraft. Thus mothers 'cover' the beds of their children with the blood of Jesus to ward off witches and evil spirits before putting them to bed. It is also 'poured' on roads to ward off the witches who cause accidents.

The Bible does not support the doctrines of demons, evil spirits and witchcraft that derive from traditional beliefs, but many professing Christians are unaware of what the Bible teaches on this subject. One reason for this is the tendency to interpret the Bible in terms of established opinions and beliefs. Church leaders and missionaries have also tended to dismiss witchcraft as mere superstition, rather than developing an adequate understanding of it rooted in the doctrine of evil. There is an urgent need for the culturally postulated reality of witchcraft to be addressed pastorally with seriousness, sensitivity and respect (374).
The church of Jesus Christ needs to take witchcraft seriously. Syncretism (the mixing of different religious beliefs) is a serious problem in Africa. Christians go to church on Sundays and then to the witchdoctor during the week. Even pastors corrupt God's revealed truth by combining it with witchcraft.

Christians in Africa need to see how our faith relates to all of life. As Kunhiyop says, witchcraft must be addressed. To counter this challenge, I have been researching witchcraft in Africa. You can see my reviews of Free Indeed From Sorcery Bondage and Who Are The Living-Dead? as well as the book notice for Unveiling Witchcraft.

Lord willing, through our ministry many Africans will be set free from the bondage of witchcraft through the gospel of Jesus Christ!

October 24, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Gadaffi and Islam, God in Kampala, Faith in Africa, and Theology Weekend

Here's this week's round-up:

1) "Gadaffi crowned ‘King of Kings’ as he seeks to create ‘Africa govt’" in the East African newspaper (Kenya). Here's an article I recently came across on Libyan leader Gadaffi's continued involvement in Africa. If you haven't seen his zeal for spreading Islam throughout the continent yet, then make sure to watch our video on his mosque in Uganda.

2) "God of This City--Kampala, Uganda" (video). I cannot put into words how much this video caused me to long to move to Uganda. Watch it!

Africa - God of This City from Katlin Miller on Vimeo.

3) "Living on the Seam of History: African Christianity Part 4, My Neighbour's Faith by John Azumah" on the Koinonia blog. This post has several excerpts from Ghanaian scholar Azumah on the multi-faith environment in Africa. We are left with much to dwell on.

4) Kevin Larson, "Theology Weekend 2008 Just Ahead" on the Karis Blog. Kevin is a good friend of mine and this will be an awesome weekend addressing an essential topic. Who wouldn't want to hear a debate on "Only One Way? A Forum and Discussion about Jesus and Salvation" with Dr. Bruce Ware? If you are in the area, you'll want to check this out for yourself.

October 22, 2008

Happy Anniversary to You, James White

In light of the 25th anniversary of the founding of Alpha and Omega Ministries, those impacted by James White over the years were invited to write about how the Lord has used him in their lives. Below is my testimonial. While he may still post this on his blog, I also wanted my readers to know how much respect I have for Dr. White and his ministry.

John Divito and James White
Dr. White,

You can count me as another follower of Christ deeply impacted by your ministry. While I was raised as a Mormon, I came to a crisis of faith in college. I was trying to convince my girlfriend (now my wife) of the "fullness of the gospel" when I began to see overwhelming evidence against Mormonism which simply could not be refuted. By God's grace, I found real freedom in the true Jesus Christ.

At the same time, He used you to help me navigate through the many challenges that I was struggling with. Many of your books made Christ's revealed truth understandable. Is the Mormon My Brother?, The Forgotten Trinity, and The Potter's Freedom are just a few of your books that were foundational in my budding faith. As a tech-geek, I read through much of your web site (even though you struggled to keep it up-to-date!) and started listening to the Dividing Line online (back when it was still a Phoenix radio show). Once I began seminary, my fellow schoolmates and friends would get tired of me mentioning you so they poked fun in return by always asking "what does James White say?"

Even to this day, God continues to use you in my spiritual growth. Your blog is in my feed reader. I continue listening to the Dividing Line and reading your books. My wife and I were even able to finally meet you in person through being a part of last fall's AOMin cruise. I have included a picture of us together from the cruise.

You have been a gift from God in my life as well as a gift of God to His church. Without you, I can honestly say that I would not be preparing to defend our Lord against cults and error in East Africa. I pray that Christ will continue to bless your ministry as you "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints"!

Because of His grace,
John Divito
Director, Africa Center for Apologetics Research
Web Site:

October 20, 2008

Cross-Cultural Stress in Marriage

My family continues to prepare serving Christ in East Africa. While we have a lot to get ready for in our ministry, we also face fundamental changes in our personal lives. How will our move across cultures impact our marriage? What will it mean for our family? How will we be discipling our children in Africa?

EMQ October 2008This month's Evangelical Missions Quarterly is devoted to helping address these crucial questions, and I have benefited greatly from its articles. One was written by Sue Eenigenburg, "Preparing Missionary Couples for Cultural Stress." She begins by confessing to getting so frustrated in her cross-cultural challenges that she considered leaving her husband in the mission field. Eenigenburg says:

Culture stress can make or break a marriage. My husband and I had a solid foundation for our marriage and went to minister overseas after eight good years of marriage and three children. I would have never imagined that I would find myself daydreaming about leaving him. With the language and cultural differences, the stress of dealing with ministry in and out of our home, keeping up with laundry, and cooking and cleaning for our family of six, I was ready for a trip to Hawaii--without him and the kids. I felt tempted to charge my trip to his account and let him take care of the bill, the kids, and the laundry. I wasn't sure if I even wanted to come back (422).
I appreciate her openness and honesty. I am also glad that she devotes the rest of her article to helping missionary couples prepare for the cross-cultural stressors that can challenge and even overwhelm the best marriages. She lists twelve: 1) lack of privacy, 2) public displays of affection, 3) time spent together, 4) competition in language [acquisition], 5) competition in ministry, 6) physical distress, 7) emotional issues, 8) feeling pressure, 9) treatment of spouse, 10) spending time together, 11) expectation of roles, and 12) environment.

Wedding RingsEenigenburg then provides missionary couples with six steps to proactively face these stressors as well as lists 25 questions and ideas to discuss before moving overseas. She has packed a great deal of helpful information into the few pages of this article. I may not be able to provide all of her suggestions in this post (if you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out her article), but she has definitely caused me to realize the need to work through these issues now, before we move to Uganda.

Please pray for my wife and I as we prepare to serve our Lord in East Africa. I ask that you not only pray for our ministry but also for our marriage and our family. We continue to trust in Christ, knowing that only He can provide the strength we need to successfully handle the cultural stress we will face. May my wife and I glorify our Savior together!

October 17, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Prosperity Gospel, Sserulanda Spiritual Foundation, Emergent Movement, and Ethics in Africa

Here's this week's round-up:

1) "How preachers fleece their poor flock," "Poor worshippers pay for preachers’ lavish lifestyles," "Regulate churches - religious leaders," and "Tame errant churches" in the Daily Nation newspaper (Kenya). This newspaper dedicated several articles in an issue from last week to the problem of the prosperity gospel and those taking advantage of Christians for financial gain. These reports are truly saddening. May the true gospel of Christ expose this counterfeit gospel!

2) Carol Natukunda, "Religious sect stores dead bodies" in the New Vision newspaper (Uganda). Here is yet another report on the Sserulanda Nsulo Yobulamu Spiritual Foundation led by Mugonza Bambi Baaba, a "god in human form". This sect will definitely need to be closely monitored.

3) Tim Keel, "Video: Amahoro Africa" on the Emergent Village Weblog. The Emergent movement in Africa? Yes, this largely heretical group continues to make inroads in Africa. Now they even have a slick video. Be sure to watch for Brian McLaren:

Amahoro Africa from Andy Michael on Vimeo.

4) "Living on the Seam of History: African Christianity Part 4" on the Koinonia blog. The latest post in this series on African Christianity focuses on ethics. As always, there is much to think about.

October 15, 2008

Book Review: A Gentle Wind of God

A Gentle Wind of GodRichard K. MacMaster and Donald R. Jacobs, A Gentle Wind of God: The Influence of the East Africa Revival (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2006), 403 pp.

As I prepare to serve Christ in Uganda, I am continually seeking to better understand Christianity in East Africa. Upon the advice of Dr. Solomon Nkesiga from Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST), I have been focusing my research lately on the Balokole and the East Africa Revival. One of the few books readily available in America on this topic, A Gentle Wind of God serves as an introduction to this largely unknown but central movement in Africa and its growing influence in the Western world.

The authors begin their account as the revival begins in Rwanda and then Uganda in the early 1930s. It started with a few men who desired renewal in the Anglican churches in East Africa. They had been deeply impacted by the cross of Christ and desired to live repentant lives in union with their Savior. Their devotion quickly spread throughout the region, causing many to meet together regularly as they grew deeper in their relationships to Christ. Through much opposition and struggles, these Balokole ("the saved ones") continued to expand and meet together, impacting many churches and denominations with their Christ-centered faith.

At the same time, the revival not only took hold among Africans--many Western missionaries were deeply affected as well. They took the East Africa Revival home through correspondence, return visits, and ministry opportunities. This was especially true of many Mennonite missionaries serving in Tanzania and elsewhere. As a result, this book devotes a great deal of space to the influence of the revival in the West. What was the message of the East Africa Revival?
If one were to try to summarize the message of so-called revival, it would be something like this. Come to Jesus with your sins; repent and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ; live in the immediacy of the presence of Jesus, and walk in open fellowship with the brothers and sisters; absorb yourself in the Word of God by life-changing Bible study; allow Jesus Christ to do good deeds through you by the enabling of the Holy Spirit; and witness with word, life, and action that Jesus Christ is the head of the individual and of the body of believers (21).
When reading this book, I couldn't help but be moved by recognizing God's hand at work in East Africa. I have found many new heroes of the faith, including Ugandans such as William Nagenda and Festo Kivengere. I stand in awe of the Holy Spirit, who drew many thousands of people to Christ through this movement. The authors are to be commended for bringing together such a powerful testimony to God's glorious kingdom.

At the same time, I thought the book was somewhat imbalanced. A disproportionate amount was devoted to the transformation of the American Mennonites. It seemed as if the actual revival in East Africa was somewhat glossed over while great detail was included for such Mennonites as the Leathermans and the Mausts. Maybe this was due to the authors being Mennonites and the publishing house being a Mennonite press. Nevertheless, I wanted to read more about what was happening in Africa. Additional balance would have been appreciated.

Nevertheless, I still recommend MacMaster and Jacob's work. America and the West are not the only places where God has blessed His church. Hopefully, many more Christians will come to know and cherish the East Africa Revival.

October 13, 2008

Working Together With the Institute for Religious Research

As we continue preparing to launch the Africa Center for Apologetics Research in Uganda, our ministry has been blessed to have many partnerships with other Christian organizations who are also devoted to defending our common faith. I have already mentioned our partnership with Stand to Reason. Now I'd like to focus on another apologetics ministry. By working together, we are already making a different for the kingdom of God in East Africa!

One of ACFAR's most important partner ministries is the Institute for Religious Research (IRR), based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. IRR is widely known as a model ministry, characterized by its balance, integrity, and innovation. Led until 2007 by the late Luke Wilson, IRR is now headed by veteran apologist Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

In my mind, Bowman is one of the foremost Christian apologists alive today. He has written or co-written many books and journal articles, including one of my favorites on defending the faith: Faith Has Its Reasons. As a former Mormon, I also appreciate IRR's Mormons in Transition ministry.

IRR Swahili TractAdditionally, we have a long history serving Christ together. IRR was one of the founding sponsors of the first Center for Apologetics Research in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1993. Since then, IRR and the Centers for Apologetics Research have teamed up on a number of projects, including the translation and adaptation of IRR’s tracts, pamphlets, and videos in Russian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, and Portuguese.

IRR is one of the few North American countercult ministries that shares CFAR’s vision and commitment for international, cross-cultural apologetics outreach. We look forward to distributing their English- and Swahili-language resources in East Africa and to partnering in the translation of key materials into other local languages across the continent!

October 10, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Christian and Islam in Tension, Buddhism in Uganda, the Holy Spirit in Africa

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Joshua Mugabi, "Church forced to bow down to moon" in the Sunday Monitor newspaper (Uganda). This opinion piece shows the ongoing tension in East Africa between Christians and Muslims.

2) Florence Baingana, "Happiness over material needs" in the Sunday Monitor newspaper (Uganda). It looks as if this Soka Gakkai Buddhist is now regularly writing a column in Uganda. As always, she is extolling the practice of her faith.

3) "Living on the Seam of History, Part 3: The Holy Spirit" on the Koinonia blog. Every one of the posts in this series has been immensely informative. The latest entry is on the African doctrine of the Holy Spirit (known as pneumatology). A quote from Timothy Tennent is especially thought provoking:
"If, in this study [of pneumatology in the context of world Christianity] I have neglected the 'mote' in the Pentecostal eye, it is only because I am so painfully aware of the 'beam' in my own eye. In other words, I maintain that despite the incongruities, Pentecostalism remains the most important corrective to the blind spots in our pneumatological theory and practice on the planet today. By God's grace, we (western evangelical Protestants) may very well represent the most important corrective to the blind spots in their (Christians in the East) pneumatology.... To be effective, the twenty-first century church desperately needs the dynamic union of both."

October 8, 2008

Book Notice: The Uganda Cult Tragedy

Bernard Atuhaire, The Uganda Cult Tragedy: A Private Investigation (London: Janus Publishing Company, 2003), 138 pp.

The Uganda Cult TragedyThe Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was a cult born in Uganda which ended in tragedy. The lives of roughly a thousand members, including many women and children, ended eight years ago in what is now known as the Kanungu Massacre. To understand how and why this Roman Catholic sect ended so violently, Ugandan scholar Bernard Atuhaire traveled to Kanungu to personally investigate the movement.

From the back cover:
On 17 March 2000, over 500 people died in the blazing inferno in the remote hills of southwest Uganda. Shortly afterwards, hundreds more bodies were discovered in mass graves across the country.

Those who died belonged to a religious cult, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, who believed that only those who committed themselves totally to the sect’s revival of the Ten Commandments would be saved on the day of reckoning—which was close at hand.

The Uganda Cult Tragedy is an account of the formation and growth of this cult, in particular examining the reasons why it rooted itself so firmly in Uganda, passing unnoticed by the authorities until it was too late...

The author believes the cult phenomenon is not only highly dangerous but is now universal and growing. He has researched his subject thoroughly with former cult members in the hope that this revealing account of the terrible, but not widely publicized, tragedy in Uganda may act as a warning—to prevent such appalling loss of life in the future.

Table of Contents:
Introduction, x
The Beginnings, 1
Recruitment, 27
Entry and Training, 33
The Centres: Practices and Daily Life, 47
Opposition, Indifference and Support, 65
The End?, 81
Reflections and Conclusions, 99
Appendices, 103

October 6, 2008

Dialogue with Non-Christians

While I posted this entry on a previous blog, my current studies on missions work and engaging with people from other religions reminded me of an important journal article that I read on the topic. So I have decided to share a little from it again for the readers of the ACFAR blog.

In thinking about such issues as evangelism, apologetics, missions, and Christianity's relationship to other religions, I ran across an older but excellent and informative article: I. Howard Marshall, "Dialogue with Non-Christians in the New Testament," Evangelical Review of Theology (16): 28-47. Unfortunately, this article does not appear to be online. Nevertheless, it is essential reading for all Christians interested in sharing the gospel with others. It begins where we all should start in working through these issues--God's Word. While I'd love to post the whole article (but am equally sure that I cannot!), below is the introduction to whet your appetite. Hopefully it will serve as a "hook," leading you to find a copy and read it in its entirety.

The place of dialogue with non-Christians in relation to the evangelistic task of the church has received renewed attention recently in the pages of the Evangelical Review of Theology. It is clear that some Christians regard dialogue as an important form of witness, and think that the church's evangelistic task should be carried on by means of dialogue as well as by proclamation.

We may roughly contrast the two possible approaches as follows. In proclamation the evangelist (X) has a message (G--the gospel) which he communicates to his hearer (Y) as something which is to be accepted or rejected; the evangelist himself has received this unchanging message, and he communicates it virtually without change. In dialogue, however, the message is not something which the evangelist already possesses in normative form. Rather he must enter into discussion with his hearer, both participants contributing to the dialogue and thus together reaching an understanding of the gospel.

G ---> X ---> Y

X ---> G <--- Y

The question which is posed by juxtaposing these two types of approach is whether the Christian message is something 'given' to the evangelist which is passed on unchanged to the potential convert, or whether the truth of the gospel is something that emerges in the course of dialogue. Obviously the issues are not as sharp as this in practice. Any evangelist must shape his proclamation to the situation and character of the hearer; it is no use speaking in German to somebody who only understands Tamil, and illustrations and concepts must be chosen which will be intelligible to the hearer. Similarly, even in a situation of dialogue the evangelist will have some understanding of the gospel, even if his understanding of it may undergo radical alteration in the course of dialogue. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to ask whether the essential content of the gospel is something 'given' to the evangelist or can undergo radical alteration in a common search for truth along with a non-Christian.

It is surely essential that in discussing this matter we have a clear understanding of what is meant by 'dialogue' in the New testament and determine whether it was practised as a means of evangelism. We shall look first at the meaning of the Greek verbs which suggest the idea of dialogue, and this will involve us in a study of the church's evangelism as portrayed in Acts. From there we shall turn back to the synoptic gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] to see whether the dialogue form can be found there, and then we shall move forward to see whether Paul's letters reflect the use of dialogue, and finally we shall consider the Gospel of John as a source for dialogue. The essay will close with some brief conclusions.