Project Documents

Date of Award

1988

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Russell L. Staples

Second Advisor

Walter T. Douglas

Third Advisor

Abraham Terian

Abstract

Problem. Every Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Zimbabwe at one time or another has had to deal with a situation where church members consult their ancestors when threatened by sickness, death, misfortune, or a series of tragedies. The Adventist church correctly takes a strong stand against ancestral practices. Despite such a stand the ancestral practices have persisted among many Adventists. Paradoxically, while church members are given the correct teaching before baptism, many continue to regard the ancestors as the court of appeal in times of crisis. This study is undertaken to understand the nature of this traditional religion in order to promote Christian faith among Adventists in Zimbabwe.

Method. A description and an analysis of the traditional religion is undertaken through utilization of the already abundant anthropological literature on this religion. An attempt is made to determine the basic tenets of the cult and the meaning the cult has to its adherents. This approach has helped to determine the reasons why many Adventists resort to this cult in times of difficulty. The Epistle to the Hebrews is used to provide answers to the human predicament.

Results. Investigation shows that this religion is operative on three levels: first, the level of Mwari, the high god, who is beyond the reach of individual members of society but who can be approached through mediums during a national crisis; second, the spirit world inhabited by ancestors, alien and avenging spirits; and third, the living members of society among whom the mediums of the spirit world operate. These levels form entities of power from which blessings and curses derive. Hence, the individual in society attempts to acquire, retain, and utilize appropriate powers in order to deal with the human predicament.

Conclusions. This study concludes that an understanding of the portrayal of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews as creator, sustainer, son, heir, brother, pioneer, forerunner, prophet, priest, and king invalidates the role of the ancestors as an answer to the human predicament.

Subject Area

Religion and culture--Zimbabwe

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