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In Africa, particularly where black nationalist sentiments arise, it is not uncommon to hear the title of this post thrown around in conversation. Similarly, half-formed sentiments are uttered about missionaries who replaced the harmonious earth-religion of the peaceful indigenous people with their foreign religion, so as to steal their land and subjugate them.

The saddest irony of these assertions being made is that these sentiments are not even African. They were really birthed by Europeans influenced by the Enlightenment (particularly Rousseau and his “noble savage” idea). Those most vociferously calling for a pure African religious identity purged of the infection of European missionaries are unwittingly busy borrowing from other, less honourable, Europeans.

What is more important is whether there is any truth to these accusations. First, was the missionary movement of Christianity merely a disguised land-grab? Second, didn’t missionaries simply have their own culture, which they then imposed upon the indigenous people, unnecessarily displacing perfectly healthy cultural patterns?

Land-grabs in the name of religion are a painful and evil part of history. No defence of these can be offered, except that Jesus said his servants were not to fight for an earthly kingdom (Jo 18:36). When it was done, it was certainly not an act of obedience to Christ, or a legitimate part of missions. Missionaries are to plant churches, not conquer land. Too often, opportunistic politicians piggy-backed upon the genuine mission-work of missionaries (think Cecil John Rhodes using David Livingstone’s work).

The second question suffers from misunderstanding the meaning of culture. Did the missionaries have “their own culture”? Of course they did, as do we all. But if a culture is the incarnation of a religion, a religion externalised, then to the degree that those missionaries were allegiant to biblical Christianity, and to the degree that they had been shaped and formed by healthier forms of Christianity, their culture would have been a valid expression of Christian ideas.

The fact that these particular Christian missionaries were Caucasian is besides the point. What matters is if Christianity had come to dominate the worldview of the region in which they grew up. As it turns out, Christianity, in the broadest, trinitarian sense, came to dominate Europe for 1000 years. Pagan, warlike, and superstitious people in Europe were progressively transformed into the people that produced Milton, the Chartres Cathedral, the Magna Carta, Shakespearian Sonnets, and Bach. It had nothing to do with the amount of melanin in the skin, and everything to do with what worldview came to dominate.

In God’s providence, Christianity’s centre moved through the centuries from the Middle East, to Asia Minor, to North Africa, to Western Europe and to North America. During the era of the modern missionary movement (1750s onwards), Christianity was strongest in Europe and North America. Wherever it remained, it shaped those people, and their entire culture. Not perfectly, nor completely, but significantly. When Christians left their homelands to take the Gospel somewhere else, they were necessarily bringing the Gospel and their particular Christian culture to a people largely or totally bereft of it.

The same providence that centred Christianity in certain regions during certain eras also allowed that some continents or lands experienced centuries of what Romans 1 describes: the devolution that idolatry brings. That does not mean that no common grace existed in those places: Acts 14:17 says that it did. But to the degree that cultures were formed around animism, sun-worship, or some other form of idolatry, is the degree to which we would expect the image of God in them to have been further defaced and marred. We would expect their cultures, as the missionaries found them, to be externalisations of idolatry, as pre-Christian European culture certainly was.

Were those missionaries coming to a non-Christian culture then supposed to present a “culturally-neutral” Christianity to the people they evangelised? Such a thing is difficult to even conceptualise, let alone practise. A missionary not only teaches ideas, he teaches the people to sing, to speak purely, to dress modestly, to worship, to obey God in all of life. He must, and necessarily will, shape the culture of the people he evangelises.

He must start somewhere, and present the newly converted people some cultural forms, especially if the indigenous ones he finds present are irredeemably idolatrous in meaning. (This is worth exploring further, and we’ll do so in the next post.)

As an example, we might reference Robert Moffat in southern Africa, who not only translated the Bible into Tswana, but also many hymns. He produced the first Tswana hymnbook, and the first original hymn in Tswana.

Is this imposing “white culture” upon “black culture”? No, it is presenting translated forms of a Christian culture that grew up in Europe to an infant Christian culture in another place. As these people imbibe Christianity, and it shapes them for generations, they will eventually speak in their own voice. But you must learn to walk before you can sprint, and one of the healthier things that a newborn Christian culture can do is hear the songs, histories, poems, sermons, biographies, of the church universal. Avoiding these cultural forms in the name of ethnic nationalism is simply pride, and will not produce a pure “African” or “Asian” Christianity. It will likely produce another syncretised Christianity with idolatrous ideas mixed in with Christianity. The only way to see the idolatry in your own culture is to step away from it by being exposed to the culture of historic Christianity, which has spanned five continents, and two thousand years.

It took more than a millennium of Christian ideas in Europe to produce a Bach. We may still be centuries away from an African Bach, or a Chinese Notre Dame, or a Polynesian Watts. But that is a function of time, not of skin colour. In many ways, Christianity has taken hold in Africa, South America and south-east Asia a lot faster than it did in Europe. True, often the Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep. Often, pop culture is secularising the Christianity that emerges. But it remains to be seen how true Christianity will leaven the cultural lump in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Will Europeans and North Americans eventually be saying to missionaries from Africa, “We don’t want your black man’s religion”? Perhaps it will be sadly be the case. For man, ever seeking justification for his rebellion against God, finds great convenience in the excuse that the Gospel must be untrue because it was brought to him by people from a foreign nation, who had it before he did.

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  1. Avatar David

    Ebenezer Boamah

    There is a reality which majority of people who fear YAHOWAH are missing. The truth is that the Scriptures were set in the African culture ( ancient Hebrews and Egyptian were black African, not Jewish European Khazarian Ashkenazi Proselytes, nor Arabs or Caucasians of any type. There is not one evidence that the Hebrews were Caucasians both in Scriptures and extra biblical evidence to what is widely today. On the contrary there are tens of both biblical and extra biblical evidence that the Hebrews were in fact ancestors of many black Africans of today.

    Paul make an important observation to the point I am going to make: ” For Jews (Yehudi) demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,…”

    This is still true today, for the African believes prevalently in the Supernatural, while the European believes in Scientifically proffered evidence. The point is that the Fear of YAHOWAH, which has almost morphed into “Christianity” a religion, is highly deficient of the Scriptural Truth. How? 1) The Scriptures set in the African culture, virtually diametrically opposed to the European milieu has suffered great interpretational violence, both in spirit and letter by having the opposing European culture doing the interpretation and packaging of doctrines of that which is alien. While the writer could honestly note that the Scriptures (“Christianity”) had influenced the European culture for years, we fail to realize the scientific truth that the European pagan culture then also had influenced and formed what we call today Christianity, in greater measure of about 6:4 or more.And this is all over in Doctrine, Worship culture, Festivities, Theologizing, Diction and the general Christian Tradition. One distinct evidence of this reality is the fact that after Adam the whole Scripture is rife with Polygamy, as in the African culture today, of which Yehushua, the Messiah Himself NEVER condemned, yet Christianity, as packaged by European Culture has made it an anathema, yet rather friendly and even courting in the clergy homosexuality. From the Christianity’s understanding of Elohim, doctrine of Trinity to the very names of the days of the week are all crafted after European paganism, of which fact we are very quick not to see or know.

    Have we ever questioned the fact that Constantine who himself was the God as the Roman Emperor, thus an ardent pagan could overnight become the Archbishop of the “Church”, a novice convert, with no mean a title of Holy Father, judging and decreeing as to what the Church must believe, instituting liturgy, festivities, and the brutish way those who fell foul or his theological thinking and leaning were treated. Why do we so treat that important face of the Fear of YAHOWAH which Satan ripe its Soul off into Christianity and Christendom so brushly and in good favor. Why don’t we question the intent of the Emperor, and maybe point to the fact that he used a fake conversion to subjugate the children of Elohim, and make the powerless to consolidate his Godship over all?

    The true Fear of YAHOWAH can only be expressed and disseminated in its true form by the culture through which it was delivered. The Hebrew Africans know and understand that though there are many lesser gods, Elohim, YAHOWAH the creator of all, is single and that Son of Elohim is not another, but He who had then always been spirit, the holy one, unlike any other spirit, the distinguishable one, only took on flesh via a woman, for the Messiah is said of Scriptures as Elohim Himself but not another. Therefore Christianity is European and can either revert to the original or remain the same, but fear of YAHOWAH is of Himself and has chosen to express Himself African.

    • Avatar David

      Ebenezer Boamah

      In conclusion, the practical resultant of the Fear of YAHOWAH haven to go through constantly, the ever evolving sophisticated European philosophical and scientific and technological culture is every hour getting far removed from nature and the practicality of day to day living which is the norm of the original Fear of YAHOWAH as per the African nature which is only expressed as a way of living and unified in all aspects, not compartmentalized and conceptualized like the European, who speaks to tell what he believes and show who he is. The European is of so many facets, switching as he goes like a charmelion to suit his current environment. The culture is that of experts as according to the division of labor, the African is every body in one man, unified. Christianity has been panel-beaten from the time of Constantine to date having danced to the tune of the Self-Believing Humanity which is trying to find its perfect philosophy and culture that eliminates the tyranny of a God, supernatural being. Thus the Hammers that has beaterealities Enlightenment, Modernism, postmodernism, liberalism, post liberalism, until Relativism and Pluralism, all coupled with ever changing scientific and technological realities.

      The result today is that of the Christianity which has no center, which produces third grade believers after the Church Fathers, and not even the Apostles. Christianity that has its believers believe one thing for it, and believe another set in their homes since the beliefs are only head concepts that does not answer to practicality. Christianity that lacks supernatural power even though it believes that it is powered by a supernatural being. A Christianity that only showcases itself by mouth and not by its living, and so on and so forth, the negative goes, a Christianity that is working hard to catchup and be accepted by a world it criticises everyday, all because it is wrongly framed and updated by a alien Western Culture that does not understand the fundamentals of the Fear of YAHOWAH.

      For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom!

  2. Avatar David


    Wow: polygamous, anti-trinitarian, anti-theological, anti-ecclesiastical “Christianity” is supposedly “African Christianity”. I was born in Africa, and I disown every tenet of such an “African Christianity”.

    • Avatar David

      Ebenezer Boamah

      Good for you. The rant of such terminologies does not change the Truth and Realities of YAHOWAH and Scriptures, nor does it make meaningful logical engagement. You can serve yourself any meal, it is your choice. Shalom.

    • Avatar David

      Ebenezer Boamah

      “African Christianity”. No, what a poison that that would be, for Christianity itself is heavy idolized syncretism of the Fear of YAHOWAH, and to talk of resyncretizisation is scary.

  3. Avatar David

    Ebenezer Boamah

    How can a Christianity that believes that the African or for that matter anybody of non-Western culture is centuries away from the mere Bach, produce a human being after the perfect image of YAHOWAH, Elohim, as He has demonstrated in the flesh as the Messiah, in its(Christianity’s) life time? This is what I mean by saying Christianity produces “third class believers “, this thing Christianity is European and definitely does not equal the Fear of YAHOWAH.

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