Christianity and Culture: Enemies or Friends? A Lesson from the Church in Nigeria

It is no more news that the center of gravity of the contemporary world Christianity has shifted from the global North to the global South. The Nigerian Church especially its Evangelical/Pentecostal brand is a major contributor to this shift. Besides the will of God, scholars have argued that American evangelicalism/revival, missionary enterprise, indigenization, vernacular Bible Translation, contextualization, and globalization are some of the factors responsible for this unprecedented growth.[1] Post-independence cultural awakening is an additional factor to consider in the phenomenal growth of Christianity in Nigeria.

Right from its beginning, Christianity has been a faith rooted in specific cultural contexts traceable in history. That explains why Christianity and its theologies are contextual in nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles ministered within particular cultural contexts. A big part of Jesus’ teachings as well as those of his Apostles are responses to the cultural questions of their days.

We must always appreciate the unfathomable contributions of Western missionaries to the growth of Christianity in Nigeria. However, unlike Jesus and his Apostles, many of these missionaries failed by not taking advantage of the cultures they found on ground to transmit the gospel.

The modern Nigerian Church has learned that the gospel cannot be isolated from peoples’ cultures. People’s identities are rooted not only in their faith but also in their cultures. The late Nigerian historian and theologian, Ogbu Kalu echoes similar sentiment when he said, “African Pentecostalism has grown because of its cultural fit into indigenous worldviews and its response to the questions that are raised within the interior of the worldviews.”[2] While it is a fact that not all aspects of any culture is good; the good parts could be a vehicle for transmitting the gospel when used complementarilly.

[1]Mark Shaw, Global Awakening: How 20thCentury Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010), 11.

[2] Ogbu Kalu, African Pentecostalism: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008), 170.

2 thoughts on “Christianity and Culture: Enemies or Friends? A Lesson from the Church in Nigeria

  1. So precise. There is a tendency of the conservatives to propagate the missionary suit without thinking the impact of culture in doing theology. some questions to ask for future reference are: Is christ for culture, above culture, againist culture, in the culture? Contextualization is a key word here even though most fundamentalists get it unfitting when it comes to addressing issues of syncretism. Review Byang Kato Theology vs Mbiti’s on these issue.

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