A missiological study on African traditional religious worldview and charm-dependency in the Zambezi Evangelical Churches
Charm-dependency hinders discipleship in the Zambezi Evangelical Church in South-Central Malawi. Belief in traditional religious charms is rooted in African Traditional Religion and animated by deep-seated worldview motifs, which are shaped by the historical and contemporary religious beliefs and practices of the people in the demographic, including spurious notions about God and witchcraft related fears. The challenge is to break this charm-dependency and related practices by transforming worldview in a way which respects the traditional religious cultural heritage, but is also faithful to Scripture, and pedagogically sound for the context. Thus, this research lays foundations for an effective missiological approach, focusing on three key areas: (1) contextual, (2) Biblical, and (3) pedagogic. The methodology is eclectic, employing literary compilative means as well as empirical, qualitative ethnographic research, in the form of interviews and focus groups. In developing the first foundation, understanding both the receptor culture’s worldview and how to transform a worldview are critical. For the former, the nature of charm-dependency in the churches is investigated and an anthology of related stories compiled. A Chewa worldview is also posited, establishing clear links between worldview motifs and practice. The latter requires a critical realist approach to epistemology which recognizes that people are not only cognitive creatures, but also affective, spiritual beings. Thus, transformation is the deep-level inward change of worldview assumptions, which is dependent on both Word and Spirit, and manifests in changes in character and conduct. Secondly, potentially reformative Biblical texts are selected by means of a ‘thick description’ analysis of animating worldview motifs, especially the underlying motives and purposes for charm-usage. These texts are studied for their theological and practically applicable significance in the context, in the light of a practical missional hermeneutic which depends on the authority of Scripture. A type of customized critical contextualization process leading to transformation is envisaged, as bridges and barriers to communicating and understanding the ‘new’, redemptive Biblical picture of God, are identified. Thirdly, a contextually appropriate approach to pedagogics is outlined. Grounded upon the identity-centered truth of the gospel, effective communication/reception of Biblical truth considers the need for learner participation, group-work, ongoing dialogue, and experiential reflection. Thus, a multidimensional ‘problem-based learning’ approach, focused on cognitive, affective, behavioral, and spiritual development is ideal, one which is field-dependent, story-centered and case-study oriented. Foundational resources are provided in the form of: an anthology of stories of charm-usage, the articulated worldview with contemporary examples, apposite Biblical texts with developed theological and practically applicable significance, and a collection of material on ATR background and culture, relating to the Biblical texts. These foundations stand to be built upon for the creation of a missiological approach to break charm-dependency and related ATR practices within the ZEC, but also across denominational lines throughout Malawi, and even further afield.
- Theology