I met a young man from Nigeria who says he believes in Jesus and His sacrifice for his sins but says God is in everything and I did not have an answer that satisfied him. He says since God spoke creation into existence He is in everything. When he thinks God is in a tree or record player it is difficult to understand.
Hello @James3. It seems to me that the young man you met may believe in creation ex Deo, that God created the universe out of Himself. If this is the case, it’s possible for him to say that God is in everything. This is problematic since in a sense, creation is not distinct from the Creator.
In case you meet the young man again, I encourage you to submit to his force of reason. What I mean by that is not that you concede that he is right, but to learn from him, his reasoning behind his belief. You could ask him questions like, “What do you mean by God is in everything?” “How did God spoke creation into existence? Can you elaborate on that?” “How did you come to this conclusion?”
You could engage as well with him not being satisfied by your answer. Ask him why your answer was not satisfying. Through those questions, you get to understand him better, and you will better know how you will respond to him.
Anyway, I’m curious what answers you gave him which did not satisfy him. I’m thinking maybe we could talk about that.
Thanks Omar. In our talk, by the way it was quite friendly, I did not agree with him but did explain God spoke creation into existence. To this his reply was it came from God and therefore God was in it. From this I would take it that this is what he means, God is in everything. I asked if God destroys the world one day will it destroy part of God? To this he answer yes. He does not go to church but say he is a Traditionalist (Not sure what all that means except he alluded to his African heritage) and this was his answer when I asked about the book of Hebrews saying not forsaking the assembling together. Hard to cover our whole conversation but we parted on good terms, He seemed agree we need a sacrifice for our sins when I told him we are saved by grace through faith. He called sacrifice “ebo” (I think) and I had to ask him how he spelled it. All this was a little different wish you had been threre!
Hi, @James3! Sounds like you got the opportunity to have a very interesting conversation! I wish I could have been there! You said you were not sure what the young man meant by saying he was a Traditionalist. From what I understand (someone please correct me if I am wrong), a Traditionalist in Africa holds on to religious beliefs from Africa’s traditional religions. His responses in the conversation seem to perhaps indicate that he may be merging beliefs from traditional African religions with some of the theology of Christianity. As Omar said, more questions would be necessary to gain a better understanding, but this may be why it seemed so confusing. It is difficult for people sometimes to let go of other religious beliefs when encountering Christianity, because they see those beliefs and practices as a part of their people’s heritage in such a deep way (I’ve heard it helps make them feel connected to their ancestors and their roots as a people.), and so some, if they like the sound of what Christianity has to offer, will attempt to make a blend of what they like from Christianity with their traditional religions. I’m not sure this is of much help or if I am mistaken, but maybe study up on African traditional religions to help aid your understanding, too?
@James3 Praise God for your willingness to engage with this young man. After doing a bit of googling, it appears that “ebo” is a sacrifice that is made in order to elevate one’s prayer life. The African religion it derives from appears to be dualistic - the universe has both good and evil spiritual entities - when our ebo/sacrifice gets the attention of all divine beings - everyone can work together to achieve peace rather than sow discord.
It appears that for your friend Jesus is a sort of ebo/sacrifice to please the divine beings and bring about peace, but he may still be working within a dualistic framework - that of the Yoruba potentially.
How do you guys think we can bridge the gap from Jesus being an ebo to Jesus being the Lamb of God?
Here is a quote from the article linked below: "For the Yoruba, divining (Ifa) serves as an approach to prayer and shows one why they need to pray and shows one the best procedure for elevating one’s prayer via some form of sacrifice. In this world of many choices, this complex and varied approach is still miraculously accurate and effective. In this world of choices, this complex and varied approach is necessary. The variety of sacrifice includes time, song, dance, money, change and life force offerings.
Communication with the sprit realm is what Ifa is all about. Sacrifice is an attempt to rearrange the forces of the universe so that they can work for us, resulting in peace and harmony for us in our environment. Within Ifa, sacrifice (in Yoruba it is called ebo) is an attempt by human beings to send a message to all these supernatural powers of the universe regarding our own human affairs. When all the supernatural powers accept our sacrifice/ebo, everybody is happy and are committed to work for us and we can achieve peace."
West African Spirituality
Sean, this was so very interesting to read. Thank you!
“How do you guys think we can bridge the gap from Jesus being an ebo to Jesus being the Lamb of God?”
This is going to take some thought and working through, which I think will be helpful for learning. This would be a lot to sort through. My first thought was to use the achievement of peace as a platform for conversation, to perhaps ask if and how he has seen peace come about as the result of these sacrifices. Depending on how the conversation goes (it’s hard to say without knowing what exactly he would say in response), in short, I might talk about the peace the one-time ultimate sacrifice of Jesus brings for those who would accept it. Perhaps that would lead to discussion on how there could be a one-time sacrifice and why evil still goes on in the world if that is so, which would then provide material for deeper conversation. It depends on how receptive the person is. I will think more on this, too, and try to get back. Before I go, one thought I had while reading Sean’s response was to ask the man how he thinks good and evil would be able to work together to achieve peace, whether, in that case, good and evil are any different from each other since both would be appeased by a sacrifice. Just thinking…
Also, even though it is not the same thing, I might talk about another people that was commanded, in laws given to them by God, to continually make different sacrifices for different sins and that God made a way for people not to have to make all those sacrifices continually, that God Himself, out of love for people and His creation, provided the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus and that it was the sacrifice to end all other sacrifices, for this sacrifice, unlike the others, was for all people of every nation and fully pleased God.
Hey! Thank all of you for your help since it opened a lot of things to think about and gave me a better understanding of where this fellow is coming from in his belief.
@psalm151ls I agree - these are good thoughts
The idea of emphasizing how Jesus was a “once for all” sacrifice rather than just another ebo is powerful.
@James3 Thank you for opening up a very interesting discussion. May the Lord open this young man’s heart to see his need for Christ and the existence of the one true God!
After reading up on “ebo” I really think this is the most powerful thing I can say to the fellow. It was like a different world with a new language, so to speak, as he tied in his thoughts about God. If ebo is just another sacrifice he truly must come to recognize that Jesus Christ was and is the one time sacrifice for sin. One statement he made that relates back to this, that I now recall, was when I said the name Jesus Christ he said, " I do not call him that". Perhaps he is not seeing Jesus as “The Christ” sent to be the Savior of the World. Maybe that relates to his thinking on ebo as Jesus being just another sacrifice for his good. I hope to befriend him and speak more in the coming days if he is willing. Our meeting was by knocking on his door one Sunday afternoon to witness. God has the answer and I pray He will have me to say the right thing.
May the Lord grant you wisdom as you learn more about His perspective to listen well and to lead him towards the truth. I will be praying for you. Let us know how it goes.
@James3 Perhaps something to find out is whether or not he sees Jesus as divine? Does he understand the incarnation?
Hi, Jennifer. I had thoughts about this as well, and I think that is where Christ’s “once for all sacrifice” could lead into a discussion as to why HIS sacrifice, as opposed to anyone else’s, could be the one sacrifice that pleases God completely. It would be a good springboard from which to discuss Jesus’ nature and roles. Bringing up the Israelites and their sacrificial system according to the old covenant might help explain Christ’s priestly (because it would go along with explaining the sacrifices and that some kind of mediator chosen by God was needed) and sacrificial roles in light of his divine nature as the Son of God. What do you think?
I’m wondering if his understanding of the nature of evil and good would affect his view of any need for a Savior and for someone who would overcome evil. From what I understand, in dualism, good and evil need to balance each other out to bring about peace and harmony. If that is the case, then to explain the need for a savior might need a different approach. I was viewing a television show in which there were two groups of people who were living in polar opposite dimensions. In one dimension, evil was the good, and in the other good was the good. The two groups of people were switched with each other through some kind of inter-dimensional mirror (it was kind of a weird show), and it threw off the balance of good and evil. In order to create balance again, a great act of evil had to be executed on one side, and a great act of good had to be executed on the other. That way harmony would be restored. If that is dualism, then Christian theology, from that perspective, would actually throw off some kind of balance and might be viewed as bad. That’s why I said it might be hard to sort through. I wouldn’t want to shoot at rubber dummies, but the understandings of the nature of good, evil, and what harmony and peace looks like seems to be far different from that which Christianity teaches and could very well affect whether or not someone thinks he needs a savior, no? Just thinking “out loud” here in case anyone has any thoughts about this or in case someone who understands dualism better than I might be able to correct me if I am misunderstanding anything.
Wish I could recall all his responses but some have faded. I did tell him Jesus is God, that He is completely God and completely man and he and I were just men. As I remember he did stumble on that statement on Jesus being God. Maybe I should have pursued that moment more rather than stating God was One in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This ebo thing and his understanding of Christ may very well be another way to speak with him to gain his understanding of the one time atonement. Thanks again Jennifer and psalm151ls
I’m glad you had the opportunity to be challenged @James3! This is priceless!
When he says that he’s a Traditionalist he’s definitely not stating that he’s Christian. In much of African Traditional religion, and narrowing it down specifically to the Yoruba Tradition, it’s very much an animist way of viewing the world. There are some key points in regards to the tradition that may help in your understanding, which I think he gave some openings to you, especially when he affirmed that a part of God would be destroyed if the world was destroyed - he’s not seeing the eternality, sovereignty, indestructability, and magnitude of God. Here are some other points that may be helpful to you should you have the opportunity to speak with him again. I believe some of them may help you bridge some gaps.
- Odumare/Olodumare (names for the most high God, there are more) - is distant and impersonal; he works through emissaries called Orisa (oh-ree-sha) and doesn’t have direct contact with humans
- Orisa - the emissaries of Olodumare are the embodiment of the forces of nature. I.e. Oya is associated with tornadoes and violent storms involving wind, she’s also associated with the dead and cemeteries. It’s typical for Yoruba practitioners to pray to these ‘deities’ for favor, help and so on. It is believed that all of the Orisa were incarnate at some point in time and possibly reincarnated. This gets a little complicated, so there’s no point in going deeply into it all. The primary point is most are associated with nature in some way and/or some aspect of life/human experience.
- The religion involves ancestor worship. Though many will explain it as veneration, it is worship and petitioning of the deceased.
- Many modern day Traditionalists, even in the diaspora, tend to synchronize traditional deities, beliefs and worship with other religions. The most easiest and prevalent has been Catholicism. This was made possible because of the employment of the saints. I.e. Babaluaye (god overseeing diseases and the healing of such) is synchronized with St. Lazarus.
- Ebo, the sacrifices are offered to the Orisa and are prescribed by a priest through the process of divination. This is how one obtains favor from the gods and get them to work in their favor or petition Olodumare on the person’s behalf.
- Reincarnation … that’s self explanatory.
The Yoruba tradition, just as most other African Traditional Religions have all of the hallmarks of self-sufficiency. There doesn’t have to be group worship at all, so this is part of the mindset that leads a person to believing they can find God anywhere on their own and worship God anywhere in anything - because everything has a spirit.
Most importantly, the man doesn’t know Christ. If he can say that he’s a Traditionalist, he unfortunately doesn’t know our Lord. He may know of Christ, and he may believe that he performed great miracles, but he hasn’t come to know Him and live in relationship with him. There are many who mesh up many beliefs; they will go to church and then go see the diviner. They will use the bible as a talisman and do the same with scripture as if it’s just another incantation out of their own ancestral traditional.
If he has questions, do your best to answer them. I think that the better you understand his worldview and how he sees God, the better you’ll be able to communicate with him and possible plant some seeds that can bridge some gaps.
@James3 So much good advice and wisdom in all of the responses.
One question I would ask you at this point: how can you communicate one big idea that would invite this young man to consider Jesus more closely?
Dualism and animism have so many shortcomings that it would be easy to get caught up in discussing theological details, but the most important thing may be doing your best (with the help of the Spirit ) to make him thirst for more. And it will probably be easiest if you just communicate one core concept and have some stories you could share with him to drive it home - since people like stories and remember them better than theological nuances.
Obviously you will need to flow with the conversation as you listen and respond - but it may help to have your own thoughts organized so that you can bring the conversation back to one thing you really want him to hear and you are well prepared to explain / illustrate.
Do you have a chance to build an ongoing relationship with him or invite him to your Church? Introducing him to local Church members would be great so that they could continue the process if you are not going to be there more long term.