Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly [is] great, but the laborers [are] few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest - Luke 10:2.


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By Pastor Daniel Oduro                              

Pastor Daniel Oduro is from Ghana. You will be able to tell from his writings that he has a keen awareness of the spiritual needs of his nation and the African continent. Truly if Africa is to be won for the Lord it must be done by Africans as with every nation - by their own with the power of the Holy Spirit. Missionaries are simply messengers taking the gospel and making disciples of the locals so their, the local believers, can continue the work. We enable the believers and hinder the work by lingering and trying to do the work that only the Holy Spirit is aptly able to do. As you read Pastor Oduro's page, please pray for the spiritual needs of Africa and that the work will not be hindered by good intentions. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Contact Pastor Daniel Oduro at:

Understanding Ghana and the African Culture

Some scholars have rightly observed that the center of gravity of Christianity is shifting from the West to �the two-thirds world,� that is Asia, South America and Africa. The reasons for this shift are varied and complex.  However, the reasons for the growth of Christianity in Africa significantly include the way the Africans have attempted to deal with their threatening fears, especially witchcraft.  Witchcraft has been a prevailing belief in African cultures and has continually posed problems for the African people groups

Following Evans-Pritchard�s research into witchcraft among the Azande of Congo and his advancement of the misfortune or the explanation theory, the African phenomena of witchcraft have become prominent on the agenda of anthropologists.  Significant are the works of J. Clyde Mitchell, Middleton and Winter, Max Marwick, Mary Douglas and others who theorized the function of witchcraft as a release of tension within certain types of African social structure. The studies of S. F. Nadel, M. Gluckman and Debrunner also demonstrate that witchcraft belief is the outcome of social instability such as famine, rapid change, oppression and economic distress. Other works, such as Margaret Field�s case studies and analysis of so-called witches in Ghana, reveal how witchcraft is rooted in the psychological reactions of those suffering from ill health, misfortunes and inability to control their destinies.

These interpretations led some anthropologists and missionaries to think witchcraft belief was only superstitious to be dispelled with modernity.  Thus Parrinder argues, �an enlightened religion, education, medicine and better social and racial conditions will help to dispel witchcraft beliefs.� Unfortunately Parrinder lived to become �a false prophet� in the sense that, although an enlightened religion- Christianity- has grown in African, belief in witchcraft has survived and even been revived. 

The current studies on witchcraft in Africa such as those by Peter Geschiere, Birgit Meyer, Jean and John Comaroff show that the concept is no longer �traditional� but operates as a very important aspect of �modernity.� In some of these presentations, witchcraft provides images of defining modernity through the local consumption of global commodities, they show how witchcraft is domesticated in personal violence and also how the phenomenon is involved in politics.  For the African, such images are real and deadly.  For example, Geschiere has shown how in Maka area in Cameroon the state courts have started to convict so-called witches. Furthermore, in her work among the Tonga speakers in Gwembe Valley in Southern Province in Zambia, where fathers are often accused of witchcraft, Elisabeth Colson, has demonstrated how the accused do suffer and in one case a man had to hang himself to avoid such suffering.  In recent election in Ghana, Dr George Ayittey reports of how one parliamentary candidate, Professor Philip Kofi Amoah, complained, after he had been hit in the face by a crow that some people were out to fight him spiritually because of his success.  He continued that soon the professor complained of dizziness and died on his way to the hospital.

As was done in the past, protection from witchcraft activities has become a common concern.  Formerly such protection was sought from the priests of the gods or from sorcerers and medicine men.  From the early part of the twentieth century, however, a variety of exorcists activities (anti-witchcraft shrine) have dominated African states.  Even when the colonial regimes suppressed witchcraft activities because they thought they hampered progress, they re-emerged within the Ingenious African Churches and later in a form of movement within the classical Pentecostal churches. As soon as one of these movements expends itself, another of a similar nature springs up with a larger following.   As a result, at present, almost all churches include exorcists activities, referred to as �deliverance� in their programmes, since failure to do so amounts to losing members to churches that include such activities.  Thus some scholars now observe the �Pentecostalisms� of Christianity in Africa.

The main agenda of this sort of Pentecostalisation is deliverance, which is based on the fear of spirit forces, especially witchcraft.  Jane Paris struggles with the right terminology for describing such a deliverance center at Dorman in Ghana.  She calls it aduruyefo (medicine maker), but her presentation including the warding off of evil spirit from so-called contaminated Bibles, involvement of intensive prayers and invocation of the Holy spirit, indicates that she was talking about a Christian prayer center; she mistakenly thought that it was an anti-witchcraft shrine.  This paper will attempt to explore how deliverance ministry has replaced the anti-witchcraft shrines and the exorcistic activities of the African Indigenous Churches. Using Ghana as a case history, I shall evaluate this ministry to find out its positive and negative effects.  Most of the research on which this paper is based was carried out among Ghanaian Christians between 1997 and 1999. These include interviews I conducted with pastors, exorcists, traditional priests, so-called witches and delivered witches.  The data also include a survey I conducted in 1999 of 1201 participants across Ghana concerning the belief in the traditional spirit-world.  The survey showed relatively even distribution across education, occupational categories and age.  However, many people who filled the forms were males, from Pentecostal denominations.  My prior experience as a Ghanaian Pentecostal pastor of over twenty-four years is also an asset.

Christianity in Ghana

Although the initial attempt to evangelize Ghana by the Roman Catholic Mission in the fifteen century had been a failure, Christianity had firmly been established in the mid 1800s, through the enterprising missionary activities of the Basel Mission (1845),  the Bremen Mission (1847),   the Wesleyan Methodist (1840)  and the Catholic Mission (second attempt in 1880).A recent survey conducted by Operation World and published in 1993 shows that 64% of Ghanaians were Christians.

As an effort to evangelize and civilize the indigenous people, on the one hand, the missionary taught that the belief in the Spirit�forces such as the gods, fetishism, dwarfs and witchcraft was superstitious.  Yet, on the other hand, they also presented the Devil and demons as the power behind these spirit-forces.  By the introduction of a personalized Devil and the association of the gods with demons, the missionaries strengthened the belief in witchcraft, yet they failed to provide for the holistic needs of the people.  For the Ghanaian these images were real life-threatening forces.  Many people held that the power of the gods and the other spirit forces, which could be used either for good or evil purposes, operate through human intermediaries, namely, traditional priests.  Yet the human intermediaries often allied themselves with witches.  Witches were thought to feed on human flesh and drink human blood, inflict material losses on people, infest diseases on people, and make people ignoble through their misdeeds.  Consequently, all misfortunes were thought to be the work of witches. Therefore people became preoccupied with finding out from the traditional priests the supernatural causes of misfortunes if initial attempts to find a cure failed.  Tutelage under the gods was thought to be the best way of protection.  Thus as Kalu says of the logic of Igbo of Nigeria's covenant making and Meyer observes about the images of evil among the Ewes of Ghana, these life-threatening forces can be considered representations of particular fears that, in turn, are centered around the Ghanaian cultural hermeneutics. 

Since the missionaries were unable to do deal with the situation satisfactory, there emerged a prophetic ministry in Ghana which announced a new dawn of Christianity whose fulfillment was seen in the African Indigenous Churches, called spiritual churches in Ghana.  Healing and exorcism were central in their services.  Although these churches attracted a lot of adherence, their weaknesses, such as lack of theological framework and accountability from the ministers which made some involved in some questionable practices such as exploitation and immorality, caused a decline and paved a way for the popularity of the classical Pentecostal Churches.

�Pentecostalisms� of Christianity in Ghana

The origins of classical Pentecostal churches in Ghana can be traced back to Apostle Anim, who upon receipt of a magazine called �Sword of the Spirit� from the Faith Tabernacle Church in 1917, began preaching healing in Christ.  Consequently, a new movement began.  His desire to know more about the baptism of the Holy Spirit finally linked him with the Apostolic Church of Bradford, England, which sent James McKeown to assist him in 1937.

Anim�s stance on medicine later caused a split between him and McKeown.  Whereas McKeown believed in the use of medicine in addition to prayer, Anim rejected all types of aids including medicine.�  Eventually, Anim named his group �Christ Apostolic Church,� while McKeown�s group remained as �The Apostolic Church.�  McKeown�s church, The Apostolic Church grew faster.  But this was later to be split in 1953 and again in 1962.  The churches established by Anim and McKeown, The Apostolic Church and The Church of Pentecost, The Christ Apostolic Church, and The Assemblies of God, were the main Pentecostal Churches in Ghana until the 1970s.  The Pentecostal practices of deliverance have been developing gradually since 1937. 

These developments have been necessary, since originally classical Pentecostalism had not been encouraging deliverance ministry, which has been a very important issue of African traditional religions Although, the British sociologist Stephen Hunts observes that �the growth and appeal of deliverance has come with the expansion of the �classical� Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the twentieth century,� at this period the emphasis was on speaking in tongues as an initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and also a powerful weapon for evangelism. Healing and exorcism were to be accompanied.  From this perspective, some early Pentecostals opposed those who attempted to make deliverance a specialty.  The Ghanaian Pentecostal churches held a similar position until the visit of the Latter Rain team from the U.S.A. to Ghana (and Nigeria) in 1953. The Latter Rain Movement bore many similarities to the early Pentecostal movement that originated at the Azusa Street Revival, yet it emerged with the aim to revitalize Pentecostalism, since, for them, Pentecostalism was experiencing dryness of faith.  Among other things, the Latter Rain laid emphasis on deliverance and was opposed to the establishment of human organization. After their visit, lay prophets and prophetesses emerged and exorcised people of afflicted spirits.  But some misunderstanding between them and the leadership made their ministry short-lived.  By the end of 1958, all those lay exorcists had left the classical Pentecostals to establish their own ministries.  Their ministries led the exorcists activities in Ghana in the 1960s.

Two trends developed within Ghanaian Christianity during the 1970s and 1980s, which eventually led to the formation of a �distinct theology.�  First of these are the books and cassettes from some western preachers, especially Americans, including Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Reinhard Bonke and latter on Benny Hinn which were used to enhance the preaching of many ministers.  Many sermons by the pastors in Ghana and other parts of Africa were derived from materials drawn from these ministers, especially Roberts� seed faith principle, which is centered on prosperity and Hagin�s faith healing.  The second trend (during the later part of 1980s) was the interest in books and cassettes (both video and audio) which seek to increase people�s awareness of demons and how to exorcise them.  Prominent among these materials are the books and cassettes of Derek Prince, who visited Ghana in 1987 on the ticket of the Ghana Pentecostal Council.

Prince asserts that a person can be a Christian, baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, yet one may still have demons, ancestral and other curses in one�s life, until the Holy Spirit reveals them to be dealt with.  He offers reasons for this theory. Dwelling heavily on Matthew 11: 12, among other quotations, Prince argues that casting out a demon or renouncing a curse can be a lengthy process, and it is only forceful men who can lay hold of it.  Prince's stance is similar to some ministers like Basham, This view is significantly different from the Classical Pentecostals who had refused to accept the possibility of a Christian being possessed by a demon.  However, since Prince's theory appeals to the Ghanaian world- view, some Pentecostal as well as some other Christians, accepted it.   Consequently, some Christians, both intellectuals and non-intellectuals began to reinterpret these teachings in culturally relevant ways and put them into practice.  What was going on in Ghana was also taking place in other parts of Africa. The outcome of this reformulation is what this paper refers to as �witch demonology.�

The paper uses the term �witch demonology� instead of the usual western terms �demonology� and �witchcraft,� because firstly, the traditional definitions of the terms �demonology� and �witchcraft� do not fit into the Ghanaian situation.  Secondly, the understanding and practices in the Ghanaian context, as will soon be presented, is a synthesis of both the western and the Ghanaian concepts, especially that of the Ghanaian traditional religions where the witch is always the focus. Thus the term �witchdemonology� is used in this paper to describe the beliefs and practices of deliverance ministries in Ghana.  These include witchcraft, demonology, ancestral curses and exorcism. 

The theology of �witch demonology� is strongly based on the Ghanaian cosmology.  To throw more light on this, I shall call on data from the survey I conducted in 1999 of 1201 participants.  To the question, �Is witchcraft real?� on the whole, 91.7% said yes, 7.7% said no and 0.7% was not sure.  In terms of educational background, 100 % of all those who held first degrees said yes, while 85% of those who did not have any official schooling said yes and 15% said no.

The terms �witch� and �witchcraft� are used synonymously with the terms �demon,� �demonology� and �evil spirit.�  Demon possession is described as when a demon comes to live in one without one�s consent.  It is considered a covenant of soul and spirit without ones permission.  Witchcraft is taken as an advanced form of spirit possession. From this background, it is assumed that almost all traditional priests are witches. 

Based on some of the writings of Pentecostals, such as Dickason, Kraft and Hagin, the origin of demons is linked with the fallen angels.  It is held that these beings (fallen angels) with disembodied spirits, found themselves in rivers, seas, mountains, rocks, trees and in humans and that these have become the gods of the Africans.  All Africans are therefore under a curse because their ancestors worshiped the gods.

Ancestral curse is a new �doctrine� which has emerged with the theology of �witch demonology.�  Although this concept has its basis in traditional beliefs, the emphasis was not based on curses, but on blessings.  Yet, the Pentecostal concept of the ancestral curse is the belief that the consequences of the sins committed by the progenitors are recurrent in their family lines. The effects of these curses in a person�s life include chronic diseases or hereditary diseases, mental breakdowns, emotional excesses, allergies, repeated miscarriages, repeated unnatural deaths such as in suicides and accidents, continuing financial insufficiencies, frequent breakdown of marriages, abnormal behavior such as extreme anger tantrums or extreme reservedness. 

Linked with the origin of demons/gods and ancestral curses is the strong belief in the territorial spirit, specifically promoted by the �third wave theologian,� Peter Wagner. Territorial spirit is the notion that the demons assume a hierarchy with powers of greater and lesser ranks having specific geographical assignments.  The proponents of �witch demonology� have assumed that the real sources of African problems are the controlling powers of various territorial spirits such as poverty and idolatry.  This is to say that African�s problems do not just depend upon scientific and modern development.  Taking a cue from Wagner some African scholars such as Professor Oshun and �Evangelist� Nwankpa have stressed the need to wage �spiritual warfare� against these spiritual enemies to break free the African continent.

Beside the signs, which give an indication that a person is placed under ancestral curses, it is believed that there are signs, which hint that a person is demonised or a witch.  One of the surest signs proponents of this ministry offer is that such people are especially unease in the presence of �spiritual people.�

There are many ways through which demons are said to enter people and be passed on to their families or others.  The terms for this process is demonic �doorway� or �opening.�  Idolatry of any kind is said to be a major opening. Other demonic doorways which deliverance exponents assume, include: sinful deeds (Lk 22:3); involvement in any other religion apart from the �one prescribed by the Lord,� that is evangelical Christianity; and any type of emotional pressure from childhood experiences (Jam. 3:16). It is also propounded that demons may enter human being through emotional traumas like the death of a loved one or survival in car accident, in murder, or building explosion; those who watch such incidents on the television are also vulnerable to demon entry.

It is assumed that all evil acts have their demonic counterparts.  For example, a demon of fornication enters the one who fornicates while the demon of lust enters the person who watches pornographic video or pictures.  While the Bible reveals the seriousness of sin and the need to get over it through Christ (e.g. Eph. 4:25-32), this theology claims that all evil acts and experiences come from demons and open doors for them.  The logical inference is that demons are at work any time some evil behaviors or diseases are present in the lives of both Christians and non-Christians.

The discourse so far indicates that everybody including Christians could be witches, demon possessed or could inherit ancestral curses.  It is purported that in addition to salvation, every African Christian needs deliverance from witchcraft, demons, ancestral curses or diseases, before they will be set free.  In my survey, when asked the question, �Considering the Ghanaian background, does every Christian need deliverance?� 55.1% said yes, 41.2% said no, and 3.7% no idea.  It is not uncommon for those who answered �no� and �no idea� to seek explanations in ancestral curse when they are faced with problems that seem to prolong and baffle their minds.  Therefore, prayer groups have been formed within the churches to cater for this need.  Within some churches, especially the Church of Pentecost, which is the largest Protestant church in Ghana (with over 920, 000 membership), residential Prayer centers, have been established to accommodate the sick.  Deliverance becomes a major activity there.  In such centers, the leaders prescribe specific days of fasting and prayer to the clients. So-called witches are chained until they are delivered or otherwise.

Deliverance Session

There are two types of deliverance offered, mass and personal. Mass deliverance, which is our focus now, though begins like the normal Pentecostal type of service, the focus is on testimonies and preaching about the works of demons and how God�s power can set people free from them.

Before the main deliverance session some clients might have seen the exorcists already in their homes.  Often a form with exhaustive questionnaires seeking information about the background of the person is required to be filled, after which an interview is conducted to find out the supernatural causation of problem.  Such people who had seen the exorcists already as well as others who need deliverance are asked to move to the front of the congregation and form queues.  The instructions differ from person to person.  But often following Evangelist Tabiri�s innovation of �breaking,� instructions are given to participants to write names of parents and family members known to them and keep them for the breaking rituals.  After the initial instructions, the congregation sings with much expectancy, accompanied by clapping and musical instruments.  The leader may then pray and also give instructions on how to pray.  Prayer is often said repeatedly with gestures to �break� (bubu), �bind� (kyekyere),  �bomb,� trample on them (tiatia wonso), �whip with canes,� �burn with fire of God,� �strike with the axe of God,� �cast out demons� behind diseases and �break� curses.  As these things are done with gestures, for example,  bombowon, shooto won (bomb or shoot them) are usually followed by the sound poo, poo, pee, pee with the paper in their hands.  Some leaders sell special canes at Church for the purpose of canning the witches spiritually. The �blood of Jesus� and �the name of Jesus� are used repeatedly to rebuke witches and all evil powers.  Meanwhile the team members move among the people and lay hands on them.  As the prayer goes on people begin to sob, groan, shout, roar, fall down and struggle on the ground.  The leaders pay special attention to those who show such signs without falling down, by commanding and sometimes pushing them.  Unlike the Charismatic, especially the Catholic Charismatic who, according to Csordas, consider falling down as resting in the Spirit, falling down is interpreted here as a manifestation of demons.  Therefore, when someone struggles or falls down, some of the team members continue to cast, bind or break the power of evil in them.  When there is resistance, the leader engages in dialogs with the person, asking the name of the demon.

Sometimes people begin to speak in some forms, which show that some spirits have taken over. Such people become points of attraction and the leaders engage in active dialogs with them.  As the process of deliverance goes on, people may cough, vomit or urinate.  Through the teachings of deliverance proponents such as Prince it has come to be accepted that demons may go out through any one of the orifices in the human body.  Thus these acts are considered as signs of successful deliverance.  The process may take two to three hours, until the rumpus cools downBut this is not the end of the session.  The leader may call those with specific needs and pray for the groups in turns. After this, the leader often requests testimonies of deliverance and healing from the members.  Thereafter the leader may instruct the participants to go out delivered, however, since it is claimed that a person needs constant deliverance, s/he may instruct them on how to do self -deliverance.

Clearly, the methodology for the deliverance session is a mixture of a wide range of practices, including African traditional, spiritual churches� and biblical.   For example, like the traditional shrines and the spiritual churches, psychology is implied in the confession of witches, the drumming and the repetition of the songs that builds up pressure on the people before deliverance is carried on.  Again, like the spiritual churches �magical methodology� is apparent in the repetition of the �prayer languages� during deliverance.  In addition to these, the techniques of hypo �therapy are applied indirectly during the teaching and testimonies around demons and deliverance.  The use of psychoanalysis is also evident in the questionnaires and the interviews conducted by the exorcists before and during deliverance.  The fasting, prayers and commands are the re-interpretations of some scripture verses and how Jesus dealt with the demonic.



The discussion so far shows that the theology of �witch demonology� gets its demonstration foundation from the missionaries� interpretation of African traditional beliefs and practices and other religions.  Yet it departs from the missionaries� interpretation, when it comes to the concept of power and deliverance where it derives its demonstration strength from the ministries and materials of the North American deliverance exponents.  Gifford observes that, �undoubtedly the U.S. charismatic demonology has traditional African beliefs; but the demonology of Africa�s contemporary charismatic churches may well be getting its special character through the power of American literature.�  What comes out here is that in the attempts to appropriate foreign Christian materials for their use, the proponents of �witch demonology� are concerned about demonstration, especially of the African traditional practices, and how to exorcise such demoniacs things, which they believe are threats to their successful living.  Yet by putting such emphases on demonization and deliverance, the proponents of this ministry have been too harsh on other religions and also rejected their own cultures.

Many scholars such as Gifford, Dijk, Marshall, Hackett, Schoffeleers, have observed this strong position which neo-Pentecostals have taken, that which Hackett describes as �somewhat merciless toward �traditional and �ancestral beliefs� and practices.�   Meyer feels the scholars have played down the role which demonology played in the spiritual churches.  She writes, �they drew a much stricter boundary between non-Christian religion and Christianity than earlier studies of such churches might suggest.  But Meyer�s point is weak here, since continuously her works appear to communicate the Pentecostals� �rigid stance towards traditional religion� more than the scholars mentioned. 

This paper identifies with those scholars who conclude that neo-Pentecostals see more demons than the spiritual churches.  The reasons are that, for example, whereas both accepted the African world view and dealt with it accordingly, the spiritual churches did not promote the issue of the ancestral curses, complete annihilation from festivals and family gathering.  For these spiritual churches, throwing away idols and stopping worshiping them were enough.  But, neo-Pentecostals or proponents of �witch demonology� do not only advocate complete abstinence from traditional practices, they also see demons associated with them and �impose� deliverance for all its adherents.

From this perspective, that is the neo-Pentecostals� emphasis on ancestral curses and deliverance, Meyer has postulated that, for neo-Pentecostals, to �become modern individual� means breaking with the past. By this Meyer identifies with many of the current anthropologists such as Comaroff and Comaroff, Geschiere, Colson and Parish whose works in Africa have demonstrated that �witchcraft is a finely calibrated gauge of the impact of global cultural and economic forces on local relations�.� That this partly holds for the deliverance ministry in Ghana is seen in the fact that 23% of those who expressed the reasons for visiting prayer centers during my survey included those who wanted success at business or prosperity in another area.   Yet make no mistake here, the quest for wholeness (e.g. prosperity, dignity, health, fertility and security) has its bases in the Ghanaian cultures, but within the cultures, such desire was to enable one to support the extended family.  Thus here Meyer, as well as the said anthropologists, does well to unearth the ultimate outcome of the deliverance ministry that is, promotion of individualism, as against the interest of the traditional extended family system. Nevertheless, this assertion does not take into account the main reason why many clients consult exorcists.  As found out through my fieldwork, the rationale behind consultation is often toward abisa, that is, the desire to find out the causation of one�s problems.  Deliverance often becomes a remedy after diagnoses had been made.

Beside this point, such scholars mentioned and others including Kamphausen, Asamoah-Gyadu and Meyer herself elsewhere see deliverance ministry as a response to modernity, where individual riches and foreign commodities are often seen as of demonic origin, which need to be exorcised.  Kamphausen, for example, notes that �the hermeneutically key to the decoding of the Pentecostal symbolic system seems to be implied in the concept of Western commodities being of strange origin.�  Thus �[becoming] modern individual� cannot be the real concern of the deliverance advocates. 

Consequently, there is a paradox in the neo-Pentecostal�s concept of �witch demonology.�  On the one hand, they are seen as carrying the message of the missionaries by considering traditional practices as demonic, and on the other hand, they reject the missionary interpretation that belief in witchcraft and demonology is superstitious, and carry on the practices of anti-witchcraft shrines by exorcising anything which gives them cause to doubt their origins and authentication.  Thus �witchdemonology� cannot be placed under modernity (or mission Christianity), neither can it be identified as pre-modernity (or traditional religion).  Clearly, it derives its strength from postmodernity, where part of the traditional religion and part of Christianity can peacefully coexist as a coherent theology; �witch demonology� is a synthesis of both.  That post modernity is a possible way of explaining the acceptability of deliverance within the churches in Ghana is that whereas exorcism had been featured prominently in the history of the churches in Ghana, it had not come into the limelight. But within the postmodern world where �homogeneous plurality within fragmentation of cultures, traditions, ideologies, forms of life, language games, or life worlds,� is a key feature, deliverance with all its contradictions is welcomed.  With the emphasis on biblical text, therefore, the desire of the Pentecostals cannot be associated with just �[becoming] modern individual,� rather it can better be associated with what Cox calls ��primal spirituality,� that which he explains as the �largely unprocessed nucleus of the psyche in which the unending struggles for a sense of purpose and significance goes on.�  Cox rightly observes that this is found in Pentecostalism worldwide and also underlies original biblical spirituality.  A nuance of Cox�s assertion, �the sacred self,� is what Csordas proposes as the center of charismatic healing and deliverance ministry in North America.  Thus Csordas sees an inquiring into the sacred and the search for meaning as the underlying factors of charismatic healing and deliverance ministry.  Not coincidentally this sort of �primal spirituality� intersects with the African traditional spirituality. For example, in Ghana it goes well with abisa (consultation) and the rituals that may follow. Therefore, the theology of �witch demonology� has come to stay among Ghanaian and African Christianity.


The positive aspects of the theology of �witch demonology� are seen in several ways:

First, it offers its adherents the opportunity to oscillate between the traditional and Christian beliefs and practices.  Here people are able to express their fears in witchcraft and other life threatening forces and seek protection from them.  For those who think that ancestral spirits are hampering their progress in this modern world, they have the opportunity to be �exorcised.�  Some people see this way of �deliverance� as cheaper than the expenses incurred in counselling that will be offered in the Western concept.

Second, it offers women equal access to places of leadership within the classical Pentecostals, who have refused to ordain women into the pastorate.  Women who exhibit some charisma can establish prayer centers.  Third, the proliferation of the deliverance ministry has caused Classical Pentecostals and other churches to reconsider their beliefs and practices.  The prayer centers are characterized by many reports of miraculous phenomena over against few in the conventional church services.  Fourth, many new people, from top government officials to the very low in society, join the Pentecostal churches and other churches through the �witch demonology� ministry. 


The positive side of this theology of �witch demonology� does not, however, preclude a negative assessment of it.� The negative aspects include the following.

First, accusations of witchcraft relinquish people from acknowledging the responsibility for their wrongdoing, their sins and their inadequacies, and putting them on someone else, often a poor person, who becomes the enemy of the whole community. Yet Pentecostals claim to support the oppressive and the poor in society.   Thus Shorter rightly sees witchcraft accusation as �auto-salvation or self-justification.�

Second, teachings on witchcraft and demons, coupled with testimonies from �exorcised witches� subject the congregate to pressures quite disproportionate to the phenomena described.  Thus people are psychologically led to confess antisocial behaviors and nocturnal issues which baffle their understanding as witchcraft activities.  These confessions can attract stigmatization from other members of society, and thus instead of deliverance and healing leading to liberation, the physical and psychological conditions of such people worsened and in extreme cases lead to death.

Third, many of the symptoms taken as witchcraft or spirit possession can be explained away by medical sciences. In such cases repeated deliverance worsen the person�s condition.

Fourth, the socio-economic factor in Africa causes many people to begin prayer centers just as means of financial support.  Since it does not need any training, certificate, or formal recognition from a body of Christians to begin a prayer center, charlatans and the unemployed who have strong personalities can easily claim spiritual encounters and begin centers with a profit motive in mind.  Linked with this socio-economic factor are the deliverance teachings at the centers, which consider health and wholeness as the result of obedience to biblical principles on blessing, at the neglect of biblical principle of suffering (e.g. 2 Cor. 12:7-12; Luke 13:1-5; Rom. 8: 35-39).  This causes people to strive after modern riches at their own peril.

Fifth, by the demonization of all other faiths apart of the Evangelical/Pentecostal, in this pluralistic world, neo-Pentecostals deter healthy ecumenism and often cause unnecessary tension between Pentecostalism and other faiths.

Sixth, the process of deliverance which often involves breaking links with families eventually divides the traditional extended family system and promotes individualism. 

Seventh, the theology of �witch demonology� reinforces the �primitive animistic � belief system that keep communities in servile fearfulness and hampers progress.  During my fieldwork there were many instances where people had stopped building houses in their hometowns for fear of witches.

Eighth, the uncritical approach adopted by both proponents and adherents of this ministry encourage dubious people to deceive others with their exaggerated or fabricated testimonies.  People who attempt to challenge some of the testimonies are branded as skeptics.  Beside, it is assumed that theologians cannot understand �spiritual things,� and by implication cannot teach such people.  The major problem with this is that such exorcists can lead genuine people to doom, just like the massacre of over 780 members of the Church of the Ten Commandments in Uganda in the year AD 2000 and other cult-inspired deaths elsewhere in the world.


Deliverance in contemporary African has been shown to be based on the persistent belief in witchcraft and other spirit forces which has been culminated in the formation of a theology called �witch demonology.�  Using the Ghanaian situation as an example, it has been demonstrated that the theology of �witch demonology� is based on the synthesis of both African traditional religion and Christianity.  Important aspects of this theology were seen as the attempts to identify and exorcise demonic forces in people� lives (whether in an individual�s life or at a corporate level) in order for them to succeed in the contemporary world.  The complex problems that one encounters in evaluating this theology of �witch demonology� are evident after considering both the positive and the negative effects. On the one hand, it takes the culture of the people into consideration, by dealing with related beliefs and threatening fears in their newly acquired faith, through a synthesis of both old and new patterns.   As Meyer concludes, �in contrast to the �mission- church Christianity� [it]� offers the possibility of approaching in safe context of deliverance what people seek to leave behind but still disturbs them.�  Gifford also concludes that deliverance is relatively harmless. From this positive assessment, then, the theology of �witch demonology� represents a remarkable contribution to a paradigm shift in Christianity in Africa.   In a way, it is a further attempt to contextualize the gospel to the African people, beside the efforts made by the Independent Churches and the exponents of African Theology.

Nevertheless, the assessment of the negative effects makes this ministry very much alarming.  Its preoccupation with demons and witches shows that it is an affirmation of the old order.  They appear to have fallen into the weaknesses of the anti-witchcraft shrines and some of the African Independent Churches.  Similar to what Sundkler observes about the Bantu prophets in South Africa, their assertions and promises are �more high sounding than they are sound.� The approach may fit well into African cultural milieu, but the emphasis is a threat to the progress of Christianity and modernity in Africa.   In spite of their rapid growth, by their approach, they cannot bring the African out of the fear of witchcraft and other supernatural powers.  This does not mean that this ministry should be suppressed.  The discussion so far reveals that this ministry has been progressive among the African peoples and suppression had never been successful.  Rather, this is to suggest that it is an incomplete ministry, which needs theological analysis of the spirit-world to complement it.  This theological analysis, therefore, needs to be the concern of African Pentecostal theologians.

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This page was last updated 10/19/15