Saturday, April 05, 2014

"Woefully out of touch"

Craig Keener, in the first appendix of Authentic Fire, though recognizing that some of his concerns are valid, even being recognized by many African Pentecostals, writes that it is a blanket judgment that easily leaves a false impression about African Christians, [AF, 358]. 
As much as both Brown and Keener wish to put a happy face on international charismatics, both men are woefully out of touch and naive. The testimony on the ground from genuinely concerned Christians who live in those countries paints a bleaker picture of the situation than both of them are willing to admit.

Let's compare Fred's allegation with Keener's actual statement:

Many claim that the majority of African charismatics (or African Christians more widely) teach prosperity; whether or not this claim is accurate, the survey evidence on which it rests is not as clear as some suppose. Certainly the extreme teaching is widespread in Africa, including on television, and many young Christians eagerly believe whatever they are taught. Nevertheless, many Africans do not read the survey question about the connection between faith and prosperity the way Western evangelicals expect, that is, against the backdrop of materialistic teaching. (The question, reported on p. 30 of the Pew survey, reads, “God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.” The survey thus summarizes, “In nine of the countries most pentecostals say that God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.”) 
My wife, for example, is not charismatic, and she and other African Christians who firmly reject prosperity teaching tell me that they would have viewed the question as ambiguous and answered it positively. Their understanding of the question is simply that we must depend on God to supply our needs—an unquestionably biblical concept. It is questionable whether the “vast” majority of charismatics (p. 15) support prosperity teaching in the sense in which we normally use the phrase.
Does it seem to you that Keener is "naive," "woefully out of touch," and putting a happy face on the situation? 
In addition, Fred's appeal to testimony on the ground is one-sided. For a comparison:

Finally, there's the question of whether the charismatic presence in Africa has been exaggerated: 

Maybe the problem is not what Keener is willing to admit, but what Fred is willing to admit. 

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