The contribution of Paul Hiebert to folk religion: a missiological study among the Dendis of North-East Benin
Bade, Michee Bakande
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Hiebert contends that one of the reasons Christian mission has failed or not been very successful among folk religion, is the long ignorance of the folk religion worldview held by many of the early Western Christian missionaries (1982:35-47). Building on insights from his classic essay on the “excluded middle,” Paul Hiebert suggests a new concept and paradigm for cross-cultural mission–a three-tiered view of the universe (1982:44-47). Firstly, using the Dendi people of North-East Benin as the context of the empirical study, this research examined the impact of a phenomenological study of folk religion mission among folk religionists. The researcher argues in this research that the implications for missions of Hiebert’s three-tiered view of the universe is the development of two theological concepts: “a theology of the invisible” (Hiebert et al. 1999:370) and “a theology of the kingdom of God.” (Love 2000:40; cf. Bosch 1991:10; Glasser et al. 2003:74; Hiebert et al. 1999:25; Ott et al. 2010: 65, 315). Secondly, this researcher reviewed the Dendi responses to spirit attacks with ruqyah and adorcism and discusses how a Christian ritual of exorcism could replace these Dendi crisis rituals. The objective of this study was to evaluate how life crises or special events in the life of the Dendi people call for radical shifts or paradigm shifts. The ethnographic research of this study comprised interviews conducted in two different cities (Kandi and Malanville). The data randomly collected from 28 Dendi adult men and women was analyzed and interpreted using ATLAS.ti 9, a Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS). The qualitative data obtained from the field not only established the fact that the Islam practiced by the Dendi is still heavily influenced by the Dendi animist pre-Islamic worldview, but that a mission strategy that focuses on the people’s felt needs would be most efficient. This study concludes that the felt need approach to mission among folk religion should be preferred and encouraged in Christian mission, because it is Christological missiology, holistic mission, which leads to worldview transformation and conversion: first meet the felt needs of the people and then invite them to follow Jesus (Love 2000:91; Ott et al. 2010:276; White 1905:143).