As you know by now, we at Truthinator’s Blog are conducting interviews with notable people around the world for the purpose of gaining insight from their knowledge and experiences. The names are kept secret because we are not trying to impress you with our list of notable friends & acquaintances. This is about the information only.
We must also say that the opinions and/or beliefs of this or any other interviewee do not necessarily represent the views of Truthinator’s Blog, its employees, or volunteers. Please be edified…
Truthinator: Please give us some biographical data about yourself.
Guest: I am a an African , a white African male, Calvinistic in my theology and convictions and saved by God’s amazing grace from the trappings of a religious institution. I was studying for the Methodist Pastorate when the Lord in His Grace apprehended me and made me face my own depravity. I left the mission station I was working at and came back to Johannesburg where I live. I got married and at age 43 had a daughter, who is now seven and the light of my life. I attend a Baptistic type church and I am currently busy completing my degree in theology. Whether I will stand in a pulpit again is another story, it is not something I take lightly. By all accounts I should have been a sound convert to Catholicism and my theology should be Emergent and liberal in type. But God in His mercy has rather shown me a better way. I have embraced the doctrines of Grace as my very own.
T: In your part of the world, is Biblical Christianity dominant or at least heavily represented? If not, what is the major religion.
G: South Africa is a melting pot of all kinds of beliefs, a large part of the population have a kind of syncretistic nature to it. A person might go to church on Sunday for communion and on Wednesday to the local witch doctor. I saw this first hand when I worked on a mission station in the rural areas of South Africa.
T: Does the religious confusion coming from America impact your area? How?
G: Most of the books I managed to get hold of to teach myself in the Word of God when I came to Christ first in 1979 were books written by mainly Word faith preachers. Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Bob Mumford and the like. The prosperity gospel and the “discipling” movement led by Derek Prince, Bob Mumford and others also had a big influence on me. Praying in tongues and the charismatic gifting I never felt comfortable with so I did not engage much in that.
I left the Word Faith church in 1992 and joined with the South African Methodists in 1993. There I came under the influence of Christian mystics, so called like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Ken Gire, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning and the like. These led me along a path of making myself look and feel religious but the contemplative spirituality of the mystics in reality was for me no different than the mixed up message of the Word Faith preachers.
My first introduction to Reformed Theology was through the internet, discovering what TULIP meant and other such doctrines, for that I owe much to the online ministry of Dr John Piper and John MacArthur.
T: Does the average person on the streets of your town have any Bible knowledge? If yes, then does it affect the way they live? If not, why?
G: In general, I would say no, for the most part most there is a total lack of discernment, most I know would go to church on Sunday and still pretty much live as they please. In a very real sense,South Africans who profess to be Christians are not much different than those who profess to be Christians in America. Even in our local church the light of the gospel is only slowly dawning on some, but as for the way in which people approach and live life, the sentiment is there that God is for Sundays and on Monday behaviours can be the same as the rest of world around them. Even the white population of South Africa which had its roots in reformed teachings two generations ago, have returned to paganism and much of the blame for that lies in the fact of the syncretistic approach most South Africans have. Even orthodox Christians have a hard time matching their profession with their way of life.
T: Do the Christians in your area live differently than those who are not Christian? If yes, how?
G: Those who are truly saved yes. Christians from all South African culture groups who have embraced the gospel are warm hospitable people for the most part. Those who are not Christian have what I call a “entitlement complex’ They think they are entitled to all the worlds material goods and the current politic climate does nothing to help that. Christians I have known and loved do not seem to have that racist arrogant attitude that was prevailing in both the White and Black cultures.
T: Is there an evangelical emphasis in your area? Is it based squarely upon the Bible or upon man-made techniques?
G: The only evangelists I come across in our area are either Mormon or Jehovah’s Witnesses, since both these groups have headquarters in Johannesburg. The only real evangelism tool or methodology is the teachings that I have seen is effective is Ray Comforts “Way of the Master” It works for everybody, present the law then the gospel. Much other evangelism I have come across even the kind I used in earlier days was more Charles Finney style, the emphasis being on a “sinners prayer” once said, makes you a Christian. This doctrine I had to unlearn the hard way.
T: Has the quasi-Christian/quasi humanist teachings of Rick Warren, Rob Bell, and others had an impact on Christianity in your area? How so?
G: I came across the work of Rick Warren after I left the Emergent Methodists and really the pragmatism was very attractive. I needed to “do” something and Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and those who their ministries connected to, appealed to me. But not for long. I had found by this time a Bible teaching church where I heard the gospel presentation, maybe for the first time. That would be after nearly 20 years of being a “Christian” I became a Christian. Unfortunately Rob Bell, and Rick Warren’s books abound in our bookstores. What is very unfortunate is that both Bell and Warren’s theology, if I can call it that, appeals to the African mind which loves a syncretistic religion.
T: Is church discipline used in churches where you live?
Yes there is, I have not seen much in action but a lot is being done in the Baptistic and Presbyterian reformed churches to bring about the counseling that comes alongside of that not only teaching people how to live but teach them how to unlearn bad habits and false teachings. This is still not such a big movement in South Africa since literature and reformed preaching are lacking in most part.
T: What percentage of people go to a Bible-centered church in your area?
G: I will be generous and say about 20 percent if that. The Word Faith Churches still have a strong hold and their mega church setups are big and attractive. But I have found many just like me who have left that movement and joined with Reformed Bible teaching churches. So there is an interest but most still cling to their traditions or just become worldly and indifferent.
T: What impact do Christians have where you live?
G: Our church which has been in the area for nearly 30 years is very much a community church. People from the community “come to church” and very often hear the gospel for the very first time. I cannot say how much true impact Christians have in our area but there is much ministry and opportunity to take in our direct community. It is difficult to get past a mindset where the ruling government of the day is more in favor of ancestor worship than to hear the true gospel. Light has come to Africa but we have yet to see what God would do next in our nation. What impact do Christians have in our area currently? Not that much. As I have said, the Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons are more active than most Christians I have met. And that is an indictment on the South African churches too.
T: I thank you for taking the time to share this information with us. Blessings to you.