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Togo April 2017, ESBTAO School

Lome, Togo April 7-22, 2017

We are collaborating with the Ecole Supérieure Baptiste de Théologie de L'Afrique de l’Ouest (ESBTAO), translated West African Baptist Advanced School of Theology. They are an African led seminary training students for pastoral ministry, missionary service, teaching in Bible Institutes, and assisting Bible translation projects throughout Western Africa. Courses: OT Wisdom Literature NT Exegesis: Gospel of Mark

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Togo April 2017, ESBTAO School

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Posts Tagged: job

Apr  21st,  2017Satan in Togo

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      Mawenah raised his hand and said, “This passage teaches us that Satan can come among believers.” I was a little puzzled. We had just read the passage in Job 1 where Satan and YHWH discuss the case of Job. I had asked the class what observations they could make about the role of Satan from these verses. Wrongly guessing at the intent of Mawenah’s question, I gave an unhelpful answer about the meaning of “the sons of God” gathering before YHWH (Job 1:6). During the break Koffi came to talk to me. “You see,” he explained, “there is a debate in our context about whether Satan has power over the life of believers. Many people here associate Satan with sorcerers, witchcraft, and demon possessions. They believe that Satan is trying to kill you with magic all the time, and so people in the churches are anxious to know whether the power of Christ can protect them from such things or whether Satan can still kill them even if they are a Christian. This is a big debate.” So this is where Mawenah’s question was headed—if Satan can afflict Job then that means that Satan can “come among believers,” i.e., afflict them.

     Whew. It doesn’t matter where you teach, the passages about Satan will raise lots of questions, but these questions were a little different from the ones I was ready for. I decided to spend a bit more time the next day trying to think through the role of Satan in the life of believers. We started by clearly describing Satan’s role in the Old Testament. Satan is not a name, but a title. In Hebrew he is actually called the satan, and “satan” simply means “accuser” or “adversary.” If YHWH is the judge then the satan is like the prosecuting attorney. He is the opponent of God’s people who brings whatever charges he can against them to see what will stick (see Zechariah 3:1–5) and incites them to sin (see 1 Chron 21:1). Second, as a result of this we see that everything the satan does is under the authority of YHWH. The satan is a part of his heavenly court and his actions are limited by YHWH (Job 1:6, 12; 2:6). Nevertheless, the satan can certainly afflict believers—Job obviously, but also Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness and Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” are attributed to the satan/the devil.

    My point in all of this is that the work of Satan is under the authority of God for his glory and for the growth of the church. Without adversity we would not grow. Without trials and temptations we would never be refined (Rom 5:3–5; Jas 1:2–4). In this way we can see that in God’s design, Satan plays a thankless but necessary role in testing believers to refine them and prove their faithfulness. There is no justice without a good prosecution.

    The students seemed to be blown away by the idea that the role of Satan could be understood to have a positive aspect in God’s plan. They found this deeply encouraging, especially when they could see clearly the limits of Satan’s power over believers. So yes—Satan can “come among believers,” but this is very different than saying that Satan “has power over believers.” I will not deny for a moment that there are evil spiritual forces in the world, but we are not at the mercy of some Voodoo sorcerer. In fact, we can boldly proclaim the empty power of such things because on the cross Jesus triumphed over all spiritual evil. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13).

Alex Kirk
International Trainer, TLI
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Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  africa, voodoo, priests, witchcraft, power over believers, sovereignty of god, god's plan, spiritual warfare, magic, accuser, job, justice

Apr  20th,  2017Reading Proverbs in Togo

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We have come to the end of our first week teaching. For me, I must admit, that things got off to a poor start and I can’t even tell you why. Chalk it up to a bad frame of mind, translation issues, spiritual warfare—I don’t know. But at the end of day one and going into day two, I was discouraged. Was I going to enjoy these two weeks at all? Were the students going to get anything out of it? Would we be able to cover half of the material that I hoped?

By God’s grace, the week turned a corner on Tuesday. After really wrestling over how to explain a number of key concepts things seemed to start to fall into place. Then on Wednesday, Pastor Happy (that’s his name) arrived to take over from David who was exhausted by the attempt to interpret both for me and for my colleague Kevin (6 hours of interpreting across a 10-hour day). By the end of the day we had found our groove—conceptually and linguistically.

We’ve done a lot of good work this week. I am teaching a course that is dear to my heart—the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes). Monday and Tuesday were background on Wisdom—definitions, origins, theology, and biblical context. Wednesday we began Proverbs and covered authorship, audience, date, structure, and content. On Thursday we focused on how to interpret biblical Hebrew poetry with a focus on examples and forms in Proverbs. Today we talked about the prosperity gospel and the need to interpret the promises of Proverbs properly so we don’t distort the Biblical message and run aground in our faith. We concluded by thinking about how Lady Wisdom is a type of Christ that points us to “the one greater than Solomon” (Matt 12:42) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).

I am not sure if there have been any earth-shattering moments, but there have been so many small victories. Good conversations, excellent questions, moments of confusion and clarity, moments of laughter and gravity. I especially enjoyed seeing the students run with the concept of parallelism in Hebrew poetry and listening to them wrestle over the right interpretation of Prov 26:4–5 (which elicited some bursts of laughter when we read it aloud). What a gift.

I am truly honored by the students’ attention when I am a privileged white guy who doesn’t even speak their language. I am honored by the students’ patience when I have to try to figure out how to communicate concepts through interpretation and culture. I am honored by the students’ incisive questions, which show that they are working hard to understand exactly what I mean and what I am trying to teach them. This week was a good week. May we all grow through wisdom to be mature in Christ (Col 1:28).

Job and Ecclesiastes next week...

Alex Kirk
International Trainer with TLI
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Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  togo, proverbs, wisdom literature, prosperity gospel, distorting biblical message, faith, wisdom, job, ecclesiastes