Project Documents

Date of Award

2008

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Bruce L. Bauer

Second Advisor

Rudi Maier

Third Advisor

Skip Bell

Abstract

Problem

Seventh-day Adventist Christians in Kenya struggle to practice pure biblical teaching because many still practice African traditional beliefs. Many traditional beliefs are inconsistent with biblical teachings. This problem has contributed to syncretism that has weakened the Adventist message in Kenya. Many of the church members follow traditional beliefs because they fear to be condemned by members in society. The traditional belief that says a dead person continues to live and can communicate with the family is still strongly supported by many people in Kenya. This traditional belief contradicts biblical teaching concerning the dead. Other traditional issues church members struggle with that are in conflict with biblical teachings deal with widow and widowers’ issues, witchcraft and magic, demonization and how to deal with it, polygamy, genital mutilation, and several others. These African traditional beliefs have not been adequately addressed by the Adventist Church in Kenya. The problem has existed in the Church for decades and should be addressed because it contradicts biblical teachings and Adventist fundamental beliefs.

Method

This study looked at the background and practices of several African traditional beliefs. Books, journals, articles, and dissertations from the James White library helped the researcher understand African traditional beliefs in the Kenyan context. An Adventist biblical response to the issues of witchcraft, funeral rites, wife-inheritance, death rituals, and demonization was developed. A critical contextualization process was suggested so that people are involved in discussing the issues and dealing with them in biblical ways. This approach empowers church members to deal biblically with challenges traditional beliefs pose.

Results

The interviews conducted in Kenya indicated that a number of the Kenyan Seventh-day Adventists still believe and practice African traditional beliefs. Many reasons for this problem include the fact that the people’s worldview was not impacted by biblical thought, failure by missionaries to address the traditional beliefs of the people, fear of taboos caused by the spirits of the dead, and failure to openly discuss traditional issues. An analysis of the traditional beliefs on the state of the dead, death rituals, widowhood and wife inheritance, soul and spirit, witchcraft, and demonization indicate that Adventists need much biblical study concerning the dead. Biblical views of soul and spirit based on Gen 2:7 and Gen 2:21-22 do not support the traditional belief that a soul continues to live after death. While some traditional beliefs were consistent with biblical teachings, there were some which were found to be inconsistent.

Conclusion

The gospel the church proclaims is about repentance and new birth in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17; John 3:3) Jesus promised his followers the power of the Holy Spirit before they could become his witnesses (Acts 1:8-9). The new birth experience should result in believers following Jesus instead of these traditional practices which are opposed to biblical teaching. Kenyan Adventists should be educated to understand the meaning of being a true disciple of Christ Jesus, and as such should not practice biblical and traditional beliefs at the same time. Such syncretism has weakened the position of the church to evangelize the Kenyan people. Therefore, there is an urgent need for church leaders to educate members on how to deal with traditional issues.

Subject Area

Seventh-day Adventists--Missions--Kenya, Kenya--Religion

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