The frequent narrative is that Africans were introduced to Christianity as a result of slavery. But we have heard rumors that this might not actually be true. It's quite possible that Christianity had spread from northeast Africa to Central Africa long before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. We did a deep dive with Dr. Felder to uncover the truth.
Discussion with Dr. Felder
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We invited our friend and colleague, Dr. Harold Felder, back on the show for our Juneteenth episode! Dr. Felder joined us 2 years ago on the show and you can check out that episode here:
"What Does the Bible Say About Slavery?": https://www.youtube.com/live/QwEk_IpEFNc?feature=share
Dr. Felder is a seasoned theologian and graduate from Southern Evangelical Seminary. Dr. Felder is the Founder of Giving an Answer Ministry and author of the book, "The African American Guide to the Bible."
Here are some highlights from our discussion:
Common stereotypes about Christianity:
Claim: Christianity is a white man's religion.
Response: This is simply not true! Read Acts 2...there were Jews gathered from all parts of the known world when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Over 3,000 people believed and Christianity was born! Shortly after, Philip shared the Gospel with the Ethiopian Eunuch and he was the first Gentile to come to Christ (Acts 8:26-40). In other words, he was from Africa! This new Ethiopian convert brought the Good News back home to his Queen and Christianity spread further. Therefore, Christianity simply is not a white man's religion!
Christianity spread and was maintained in Africa until Islam began to come into the continent around the 7th century. Over time, Christianity began to wane while the people converted to Islam or returned to their ancestral, animistic religions.
What about slavery in Africa?
Slavery was present in Africa long before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which took place from the 16th-19th centuries. Africans enslaved fellow Africans and Muslim people enslaved Africans before and after the trans-Atlantic slave trade into the Americas. We are not attempting to downplay the horrors of American slavery! However, it is important to note:
**Christianity did not invent slavery!
**Christianity does not condone slavery!
People claiming to be Christians may have participated in slavery and upheld its ideals; however, Christianity as a religion does not condone slavery!
Dr. Felder goes further to explain the it was Christians who helped eradicate the practice of slavery! The Abolitionist Movement that started in the 1800s initiated the belief that all people had dignity, value, and worth, bestowed by a higher authority (aka, the Creator, God). This ideal was borrowed from Christianity; no other religion had this belief, which fueled the abolition of slavery.
Claim: Descendants of African slaves should separate themselves from their colonization and return to their roots of African spiritualism.
Response: This is a false belief because Christianity was already in Africa before the white people came in. Even some of the slaves that were taken into the Americas and Europe were already Christians.
Remember: God's Providence is a key factor to taken into account. Of course, we don't want to minimize the horror of slavery, BUT if it brought revelation and clarity into a person's life as to the Truth of Jesus, we should see that as God's Providence.
Also remember, slavery is still happening today! It has been eradicated in some places and to some extent, but there are still many, many people under the bondage of slavery. There is still more work to be done! Sadly, it is a condition of our sinful hearts to want to rule over one another.
The team recommends these resources:
Dr. Felder's book: "The African American Guide to the Bible":
Dr. Felder's article: "Is Christianity a White Man's Religion?":
"A History of Christianity in Africa: From Antiquity to the Present" by Elizabeth Isichei:
Connect with the Guest
Dr. Felder's website: https://givingananswer.org/
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