Matthew Parris – As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Prelude

Back in March 2014, I listened in on a Ravi Zacharias, Michael Ramsden, and Nabeel Qureshi discussion at University of Uppsala ( Universitetshuset), Sweden.

Here are links to the  RZIM’s videoes:

Everyone knows these guys dig deep.  Here are some of what was shared:

Ravi Zacharias:

  • Laws
    •  Moses gave 613 laws
    • David took the 613 and reduce it to 15
    • Isaiah reduced it to 11
    • Micah reduced it to 3  – “What does the Lord require of you ? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”
    • One would have thought Jesus will reduce it to 1, he didn’t. He reduced it to 2 — “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself on these 2 commandments stood all the laws”
  • Discipline your prayer life
  • An expenditure of words without an income of ideas will lead to conceptual bankruptcy
  • Learn how to define pleasure
  • Live in such a way that you will draw lines that you will not cross

Here is another of Ravi’s take on Mosaic Laws and how different Kings and Prophets have interpreted it:

Interpreting Failures, Conserving Victories
http://library.generousgiving.org/articles/display.asp?id=150

When you read the law of Moses, there are 613 precepts there. If you go 500 years past Moses to King David and read Psalm 15, those 613 are reduced to eleven. If you go a bit further to Isaiah, he reduces the number to six. A little later the prophet Micah reduces them to three: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Later still, the prophet Habakkuk reduces them to just one: the just shall live by faith. And the New Testament writers repeat that one command three times over. The whole moral law is reduced to one statement: your faith in the living God. (And if you want to unpack it further, you can read James to see what faith really looks like.)

In the same video series, there is a short but important mention of Loyal D. Rue’s work.  Please refer to the Reference section and follow the link to get a summarized read on Loyal’s work.

At the end of the 2nd video, Michael Ramsden spoke about Matthew Parris’ dated opinion piece.

Matthew Parris

Here is Matthew Parris Opinion piece:

Matthew Parris: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
By TIMES ONLINE

Added: Wednesday, 07 January 2009 at 4:00 PM


http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/3502-matthew-parris-as-an-atheist-i-truly-believe-africa-needs-god

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians.

€œPrivately,€ because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There’s long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for Anathema€; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don’t follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the €œbig mana€ and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety – fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things – strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won’t take the initiative, won’t take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds – at the very moment of passing into the new – that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? €œBecause it’s there, he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It’s… well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary’s further explanation – that nobody else had climbed it – would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal group-think. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the know-how that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

References

References – Noble Lie

References – Matthew Parris

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