Sunday, November 12, 2006

Changing Gods

Why did the English convert to Christianity but not the Japanese (at least, not yet significantly)? Why did African slaves exchange ancestral deities for the Triune God but the Navajo people have not? God's providence in this area is mysterious, but Slave Religion sheds light on the intriguing history of the transformation of the African religions into evangelical Christianity.

It's stunning to consider how thoroughly African religions were abandoned once slaves entered America, but what makes this story really interesting is how God brought the gospel to an enslaved people despite the wicked efforts of many white Christians (who couldn't envision a life without slaves) and many abolitionists (who neglected evangelizing the blacks). Small numbers of missionaries played a significant part, but so did other providential factors such as forced integration with white families and the absence of a continuing diaspora. Within a few generations the hold of traditional African religion was severely weakened in America and mass conversion ensued. To generalize, a whole people group changed their God!

This book (first published 25 years ago, but lately updated) strengthens my hope that heady days of evangelization still lay ahead. No people group is "closed" or too hard to reach with the gospel. As time ticks on more and more amazing histories of God's redemptive providence with whole people groups will be recorded. Let the nations be glad!

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