There is yet another problematic passage in the Corinthian correspondence besides the 1 Corinthians 11 passage that we have considered. It is the passage people have used to argue that Paul sanctions an exclusively male church leadership: 1 Corinthians 14:33 – 36, reproduced below:
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?
Scholars have observed that this passage gives off a First-Century Jewish synagogue undertone, and, of course, Christianity was essentially a sect of Judaism at the time. A typical synagogue meeting would have men and women seated in different sections, and women were not allowed to speak in those services. Married women could not even ask questions of their husbands during service because of the seating arrangement; apparently, they had to wait until they got home.
We have told the story of Bishop Ajayi’s early life. The teenage Ajayi was captured by his compatriots and sold into slavery. But for the interception of a British squadron, Ajayi would have been sold in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and might never have been known—just like the innumerable millions who perished in that grand evil scheme. It is hard to imagine that Ajayi, especially as he would later have learned about what could have been, would not have felt like he owed his life to Britain. Not only was he saved by British sailors, but he was also educated and introduced to Christianity by British missionaries. Considering the history of Britain at the time, we may assume that racist and hegemonic inclinations tainted the Christian education he received. So, it should not be shocking if we find vestiges of eurocentrism in Crowther’s works. What should be more critical is what Crowther willfully believed and defended.
Èṣù in Yoruba Metaphysics: A Brief Note
Traditionally, Yoruba conceives of the world as an interconnected three-tiered cosmos: Ọ̀run (meaning, heaven), Aiyé (meaning, the earth) Ilẹ̀ (meaning, underground; netherworld). Ọlọ́run (literally, “heaven’s owner”) inhabits Orun with the over four hundred gods in the Yoruba pantheon, many of whom walked the earth as humans with supernatural abilities. Ọlọ́run, also known as Ẹlẹ́dàá (literally, “the creator”), is the supreme being. Aiyé is the world of humans, and Ilẹ̀ is the world of departed souls, especially of ancestors. The dividing wall between Ọ̀run and Ilẹ̀, especially regarding deified souls, is quite ethereal.
Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s contributions to African Christianity are well attested in the Christian world, especially in the Global South. In his native land, however, the Bishop is mainly seen as a villain than a hero. He is seen as an able instrument of colonialism used to undermine Yoruba metaphysics. His significant achievement, a Yoruba version of the Bible, is critically described as a courier of “Euro-Christian ideas, beliefs, and cultural logics” (Adefarakan, 45) written in the Yoruba language. Among the adherents of the traditional Yoruba religion, Bishop Crowther is a traitor who willfully allowed himself to be used in the corruption of what he once held dear.
Clearly defining terms
Anyone who carefully reads the book of Genesis can quickly tell that the first eleven chapters are markedly different from the rest. Indeed, readers have noticed this feature for millennia. Genesis 12 describes the call of Abraham and the rest of the book chronicles events in the lives of Abraham’s posterity. Genesis 1-11, however, is quite different. The scope of these parts of Genesis is cosmic and global. Genesis 1-3 describes the creation of the cosmos, earth, and humans. William Craig argues that when read in light of the whole of Genesis, the Pentateuch—of which Genesis is only one part—and the ancient Near East (ANE) contexts, Genesis 1 to 11 is best understood as a myth with a keen interest in history. Genesis 1-11 functions to situate the nation of Israel within the cosmos. As Craig writes, it “is a sacred preamble to the history of Israel” (54).
If the Copernican revolution defended by Galileo Galilei displaced humans from the center of the universe, the Darwinian revolution completed what was left by stripping humans of any sense of unique worth. Whereas people had embraced the idea of being created by some supreme being as the science of human origin, Darwinism offered a radically different narrative in which a human is no more special than a SARS-CoV-2 particle. Indeed, the former owes its existence to viruses which are her genetic ancestors. While not challenging the Gospel of Jesus, the Darwinian idea seeing 32ly invalidates the message of the first few pages of the Bible. For the theologically minded persons, those were very trying times. Theologians and skeptical scientists levied critiques against Darwinism—a not unusual development; new scientific ideas always benefit from reviews. These critiques helped refine the Darwinian thesis. Today, Darwin-inspired evolutionary science is the scientific consensus—even if substantive debates continue about various aspects of the dogma. All in all, theology yielded grounds to the unstoppable mighty Darwinian force in all of this.
An Everlasting Myth
Every schoolchild knows something about Galileo Galilei. She may not know that the 16th-century Italian scientist studied at the University of Pisa or designed telescopes that he later used to observe mountains on the earth’s moon. But she knows that Galileo was a bold scientist who stood up against the Pope and the Catholic Church with his scientific findings and got severely punished for so doing. Indeed, even today, people continue to formulate Galileo’s friction with the Church as an archetype of science versus religion or reason versus faith. In many people’s minds, religion is just the sort of thing that hinders scientific progress, as the story of Galileo showed. This story is a myth, an untruth, as I shall show below.
The Big Human Factor
It is no news that science and religion often make claims concerning the same things. Sometimes they concur in their proclamations; other times, they do not. For instance, for some 2000 years while science, under the influence of Aristotelianism, maintained that the universe was eternal even though the first page of the Bible vehemently disagrees, proclaiming that the universe had a finite past. Similarly, Galileo, a Christian and scientist, knew about the church’s teaching that the earth was the center of the universe when he proposed heliocentrism. These observations need not be surprising. Whatever else one may think about religion and science, this is true: humans play considerable roles in both endeavors and do so with their messy humanness.
Eurocentricity infects every pillar of society in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Sometimes, the presence of eurocentrism is subtle and hence difficult to detect. Such is the relationship between African Pentecostal Christians and science, as this blog series will elucidate. But, first, let us sketch the history of how eurocentricity infested African Pentecostalism.
Africans embraced Christianity along with the foremost Apostles of Jesus from the very beginning. When Europeans introduced the faith to sub-Saharan Africa, however, they mixed it with European politics. The earliest missionary attempts in sub-Sahara Africa focused on commerce and slaves than they cared to preach Jesus. By the 19th century, European missionary works in Africa were a competition between Catholicism and Protestantism. The indigenes who inherited this fragmented faith often also embodied the interdenominational rivalries which existed among their European counterparts. Reverend Anthony Erhueh writes (84):
A yet pervasive racism-aiding thinking error among Africans is the assumption that because colonizing white people no longer live in sub-Sahara African States, racism does not – some people even say cannot – exist in these spaces. It is a reasoning colonizer would like very much since it excuses them from the harmful consequences of their destructive escapades on the continent. This illogic sees racism as essentially a matter of how a white person treats non-white persons. Racism, for them, is relational. When construed in this way, racism cannot exist where white people are not present in large numbers and with colonization intent. Relational racism is, however, only a tiny slice—and a comparatively less significant slice at that—of racism. In places where white and black people share spaces, most black people would care less about relational racism as they would institutional racism. In post-colonial Africa, however, the problem takes different forms.