Original Research - Special Collection: NWU Africa Conference: Evil spirits in Africa

The African background of Pentecostal theology: A critical perspective

Marius Nel
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 4 | a2418 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i4.2418 | © 2019 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 October 2018 | Published: 29 May 2019

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Marius Nel, Pentecostalism and neo-Pentecostalism, Unit for Reformed Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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African Traditional Religion (ATR) represents a primal worldview that encapsulates a certain culturally-innate sense of the world of transcendence and involves belief in a sacramental ‘enchanted’ universe in which the physical is indicative of spiritual realities, in contrast to western Christianity, that to a certain extent abandoned belief in malevolent powers. The assumption is that Africans live in an ‘intentional world’ where nothing happens by chance; all events have spiritual causes. Negative events can be resisted by imprecatory prayers and curses. Sacred and secular realities are inseparable. For this reason, it is argued that pneumatic Christianity is close to the grain of African culture and its worldview resonates with the indigenous worldview. In this article, the African background of Pentecostal theology is investigated. By operating within a worldview that allows ample space for the invisible world determining what happens in the visible world, African Pentecostalism was endeared to Africans. For Africans, what happens on earth is directly interrelated with what happens in the dimension of the spiritual, agreeing with the cosmic principalities and powers that provide the mystical causality of a worldview found in the New Testament. The African Pentecostal narrative is concerned with the solution of personal and societal problems that is interpreted in terms of the African view of rulers, authorities, evil powers, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces in the heavenly realm that focuses on how the spirit world impinges on the visible world to hinder or foster human flourishing. Pentecostalism’s pneumatic spirituality is discussed from a critical theological perspective.


Evil powers; African worldview; Demons; Ancestors; Evil spirits; Cosmic powers; Authorities


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