Thursday, March 13, 2014

Esther E. Acolatse, assistant professor of the practice of pastoral theology and world Christianity at Duke Divinity School, has written a new book arguing that Christian pastoral practices in many African churches include too much influence from African traditional religions. 

The book, “For Freedom or Bondage: A Critique of African Pastoral Practices,” challenging current African approaches to pastoral care and the spiritual world was published in March by William B. Eerdmans.

In the book, Acolatse explores the pitfalls of overvaluing the spiritual world and also the language of principalities and powers in biblical interpretation and pastoral practice—themes that have been central to the global expansion of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.

Acolatse examines independent Charismatic churches in Ghana as a case study, offering theological and psychological analysis of current pastoral care practices through the lenses of Barth and Jung.

In Ghana today, many people who suffer from a variety of human ills wander from one pastor to another in search of a spiritual cure. Because of the way cultural beliefs about the spiritual world have interwoven with their Christian faith, many Ghanaian Christians live in bondage to their fears of evil spiritual powers, seeing Jesus as a superior power to use against these malevolent spiritual forces.

Facilitating a three-strand conversation between African traditional religion, Barthian theology, and Jungian analytical psychology, Acolatse interrogates problematic cultural narratives and offers a more nuanced approach to pastoral care.

Andrew Walls, former director of the Center for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, describes it as an important book that begins a much-needed conversation between African and Western theologians, with huge pastoral implications. 

The book offers a “holistic and dialogical model for pastoral care, one that engages with the ecumenical tradition … expertly reappropriating global South perspectives, sensibilities, and cosmologies,” states Amos Yong, dean of the Regent University School of Divinity.

Acolatse has taught pastoral theology care and counseling with an eye to the global church for 10 years at Duke Divinity School.