A BOOK REVIEW ON LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY – CHIKE OFILI

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Pastor Isaac Awotanmi who strongly makes a persuasive case against the ravaging cancer of liberal Christianity which he scholarly argues was born in the 19th century where “liberal theology arose out of new intellectual, social, moral, scientific, philosophical and religious developments… [that] are fairly intricately related.” For Awotanmi, it was a scriptural fulfilment of the biblical verse of a rejection of “The faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) has been replaced by new ideas.” As a result “Everyone did what was right in his own sight” (Judges 21:25) without any need to follow “a code of conduct”. For him, “liberalism arose in order to adjust the ancient faith that the modern world” (2019:57-58).

Yet, ” The old Gospel theology dwells on the fundamentals of Church doctrine”, which Isaac Awotanmi argues rightly is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ Himself the chief corner.” This in turn, “spells out stricter codes of conduct for Christian piety, separation from the world, world allurement, non-alliance with or compromise with certain social and immoral practices which have been adopted as norms” (2019:43) to be followed.

Awotanmi argues that the followers of this old path Christianity have been abandoned and made to seem that they are living wrongly in error because they do not allow for the “lukewarm and laissaez-faire teachings [that] are in vogue” and the n practise. They are therefore made to “look stupid, a misfit, and an inappropriate ideal for the modern world”(48). He further posit that it has been alleged that” the old school theology or traditional ways of the church service stagnates the growth and development of the people.”

This has in turn inflicted “spiritual and social inferiority complexes” on the church. “The new age gospel theology has created crisis and confusion in the church and society, he asserts. Thus the destiny and eternity of many church members are at risk” (52-53). As a result, making the true upholders of God’s old path Christianity “sighing everyday!” Yet they are the persecuted and denied while the liberals pampered. “Financial sponsorship is accorded them in the purchase of airtime on the Internet, television, and radio; they organize seminars, and Bible teachings on acquiring property and other conveniences. They believe that material enlargement proves divine consent” (p55). Whereas the Bible’s clear position is that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:5-6).

Awotanmi shows how the upholders of the old path standards are dealt with. They are labelled “too strict”, or “too hard”. “Avoidance, blockage, prevention from preaching or teaching in the church programmes are experienced by such” says Awotanmi. “He/she may suffer sudden transfer or conspiracy against him/her. The enemy of the Church (Satan) is really raising up brethren against brethren… This makes their behaviour not to match their beliefs” (56).

Yet in spite of the need to uphold landmark standards, put against the churches that attempt to keep doing this and their Christian practices, one sees inability TO RENEW AND MAKE ANEW THE ANCIENT PATH in a way that will continue to make it relevant and not just reduce everything to fossilised religiousity that neither inspires nor compels attraction.

Immagine how at Pastor Isaac Awotanmi’s church, The Apostolic Church, Nigeria (Lawna territory) Ketu, Lagos; venue of this book launch, the windows of the hall were all shut. This is inspite of the fact that the airconditioners were not working, leaving only the ceiling fans and one brought in standing fan to the take care of those at the high table. Yet, merely opening the windows could have given us all far more comfort. Not even when I suggested this to an usher. The implication is that people were made to endure needless discomforts that they saw no need to complain about; with the further implication that the amateur photographer had no natural light to brighten his photography as the pictures used here attest to. This type of Christianity makes obedience slavish and slave to initiatives that can bring about positive and progressive change. So mere traditional obedience buries thinking and initiative as it does to people in the Nigerian government civil service where their entire operation has been reduced to “I HAVE BEEN DIRECTED TO…” that robs them of personal initiative that is necessary to grow individuals, institutions and organisations.

This is similar to their total relegation of the women in their midst to not deserving a place on the high table. They are not even thought of in the increasingly loaded high table with men. This is much similar to banning Saudi Arabia’s women from driving in the name of religion and leaving them terribly behind their contemporaries across the world who have not only gone pass driving a car, to owning one and being engineers and makers of cars.

The challenge here is how to mediate the constant demand for renewal without disfiguring the landmark old model. Much like delicately restoring the damaged parts of a museum. A total, radical transformation may violate standards as we know it in matters spiritual; since it is not a creative product, but a handed down tradition. YET THE DAMAGED OR IRRELEVANT PART REQUIRES RENEWAL FOR NECESSARY CONTINUITY.

A stubborn refusal NOT to do so, will amount to arriving late to truth like the Saudis on their women. That is if the women are not forced into rebellion to change their condition. Or you are left with a constant physical clash between the old school and the new schools as we have endlessly seen with Islam; Boko Haram being our lattest experience to banish any other type of education that is not old time Islam. The consequence of this we are sadly and tragically leaving with as a nation here in Nigeria.

Chike Ofili

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