“DELIVER US FROM EVIL” A critical analysis of soteriological discourse in African pentecostalism
In the history of Christianity a number of distinct soteriological models have developed over the centuries. In the Patristic period, victory over death and destruction was emphasised. In late medieval Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation and evangelical circles, the focus was on reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of sins, while modern liberal notions of salvation emphasised the need for education and moral upliftment, if not enlightenment. In the twentieth century, other soteriological motifs became dominant, including development (in the tradition of the Social Gospel), self-actualisation (in existentialist theologies), liberation and emancipation (in liberation theologies, feminist theologies, etc). With the emergence of global Pentecostalism in the 20th century, two other forms of soteriology resurfaced, namely an emphasis on healing and deliverance from evil. This study will contribute to Pentecostal discourse on deliverance as a soteriological motif. In Western forms of Pentecostalism the need for deliverance from evil is recognised, in contrast with evangelicalism where the emphasis is on forgiveness of sins. Deliverance from evil is typically understood in personalist terms as affliction, namely as the need to overcome forces of evil inside the human psyche, typically associated with personal vices. This suggests a ministry of exorcism in order to be delivered from such vices that are then described as “demons”, evil forces, dominions and principalities. In political and liberation theologies, there is likewise an emphasis on evil forces, but these are understood in societal and structural terms, namely with references to ideologies, oppressive structures and forms of exploitation. In African forms of Pentecostalism (as in the case amongst African Instituted Churches) there is a similar emphasis on deliverance and the need for exorcism. However, this is especially understood with reference to witchcraft. Here, the one in need of deliverance is regarded as the victim of (demonic) possession beyond one’s locus of control. Deliverance is thus understood as victory over forces outside one’s own psyche that cause psychological trauma and have medical, social and economic consequences for the victim. This research project will explore a corpus of literature on the understanding of deliverance in the context of West-African Pentecostalism (or neo-Pentecostalism). It will analyse and compare views in this regard emerging from amongst Western African Pentecostals with Western Pentecostal scholars that seek to understand the distinct understanding of deliverance in the context of West-African Pentecostalism. More specifically, it will describe, analyse, compare and assess the contributions of Allan Anderson, Paul Gifford, Ogbu Kalu, J Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, and Opoku Onyunah in this regard.