We Christians don’t tend to get a particularly good press these days, which is why Matthew Parry’s article, ‘As an Atheist I truly believe Africa needs God’, though a few years old now (The Times, 27.12.2008), still stands out. Parry writes:
‘Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi… It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.’
According to Parry, African converts to Christianity ‘were always different… Their new religion did not confine them, but seemed to liberate and relax them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life… They stood tall and were able to break free from the communal and superstitious mindset that suppresses individuality and leads to “‘big man” and gangster politics because of their belief in a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God… That is why and how it liberates.’
He concludes that in order for Africa to be competitive in the 21st century, Christian evangelism is absolutely essential. ‘Materials and knowledge are not enough: A whole belief system must first be supplanted’ without which Africa will be left ‘at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.’
It’s a remarkable testimony from a not-yet-Christian man, isn’t it! And what Parry says is absolutely spot on: What Africa (as indeed Australia) needs more than anything else is for the Gospel to be preached! For the Gospel alone has the power not just to save those who believe (Rom 1:16), but also to transform us, so that we offer up our lives as a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1) to the glory of God and for the good of all people.
In his grace,