A Confirmed Atheist on the Power of the Gospel

kinnon —  December 28, 2008 — 3 Comments

in Africa.

From Matthew Parris in The Times:

…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 ideological 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.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.   [emphasis added]

And later

Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete. [via Gideon Strauss]

Penn, now Parris! Which atheist will be next to comment positively on the Gospel and its proponents?



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

3 responses to A Confirmed Atheist on the Power of the Gospel

  1. Maybe the atheists are beginning to emerge from the confines of traditional atheism! 🙂

  2. This is an interesting commentary on whether we should proselytize or not. It shows that in the West the church is stuck in some 19th century time warp. We either live the Gospel or we don’t. I don’t think you can parse it out so finely.
    Also, Philip Jenkins’ works concur. The future of Christianity is southern hemispheric.

  3. Amazing. I wonder…how much time and effort will be required before people are saying the same thing about Christianity in the Western context?


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