The Global South: Charismatic, Spiritual Warfare, & Biblical Literalism

yiukmjtrhytgeAs Christianity shifts southward, the nature of Christianity itself evolves. The Global South appears to have more in common with Azusa Street than the high church traditions of the West. A hallmark of the Global South would be its distinct Charismatic and/or Pentecostal practice and theology. African and Latin American services are marked by rapturous singing and rhythmic handclapping, with…prayers for healing and miraculous signs.[1] The Global South takes the New Testament world and claims its spiritual climate and veracity as its own. Healings, exorcisms, tongues-speaking, prophesying, and other “miraculous” endeavors of the earliest Church are common realities within the indigenous communities of the regions. For many new believers in the Global South, stories of miracles and healing are so self-evidently crucial to the early Christian message that some suspicion must attach to any church that lacked these signs of power.[2]  The practice of healing is one of the strongest themes unifying the newer Southern churches, both mainstream and independent, and perhaps their strongest selling point for their congregations.[3] The idea of cessationism is so foreign to the indigenous people of the Global South reading the Bible, that it rarely exists.[4] Western missionaries are introduced to exuberant and vibrant worship styles and services as they visit their brothers and sisters in the Global South.

gfbhdsgfeWith their preoccupation with Charismatic theology and practice, spiritual warfare becomes a real, tangible observance among believers in the Global South. Paul tells the Ephesian believers that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” As empirical rationalism and arrogant scientism pervades the Western mindset, believers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa take Paul’s words at face value. Exorcisms and seeing Satan involved within the power struggles of the local “enemies” of the Gospel are very common. It may be that the Global South experiences more spiritual manifestations of the miraculous gifts and demonic forces because they’re more open and accepting to the occurrences. Rightly or wrongly, what we may call a personality disorder and fix with pharmaceuticals that cost hundreds of dollars, a Christian in the Global South may fix with prayer and exorcism.

ryhbrygterfegvrrAs Southern Christians are quite at home with biblical notions of the supernatural, they also resonate with the Bible’s core themes of social and political themes, like martyrdom, exile, and oppression.[5] The threats of persecution, martyrdom, and political exile are crucially applicable to many of the Christians in the Global South who live in war-torn countries where their personal freedoms are taken away or where they do not even exist. Forcible removal from their homelands makes the Hebrew experience within the OT and the spiritual exile of the NT believers that much more relevant in the lives of believers. Furthermore, because the Southern churches read the Bible as a document of immediate relevance, they are accepting not just of the New Testament, but also the Old. This often gives rise to beliefs and practices that look Jewish rather than Christian.[6] It appears that their hermeneutic is very literal.

[1] Phillip Jenkins, The Next Christendom the Coming of Global Christianity.. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2011, 68.

[2] Ibid., 128.

[3]Ibid., 124-125.

[4] I remember talking with a Swazi about the gifts of the Holy Spirit who was honestly stunned that some in America do not believe in the “miraculous” gifts of the Holy Spirit. His remark, “What about the Bible?” is fitting to show that theological Charismaticism and practice are predominant at least in that region of Africa.

[5] Jenkins, 217.

[6] Ibid., 131.


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