A Discovery as Old as the Hills

Bert Witvoet, a free lance writer, has come up with a discovery in a recent issue of an AACS periodical, the Vanguard (December, 1972). The discovery is actually as old as the hills.

Bert Witvoet was toppled over with excitement to see his friend John Boer, missionary to Africa. Bert had just become parent to a fifth child at the time of writing up the interview, and it stands to reason he added some embellishments. Dialogues can be so boring; Bert claims modesty prevailed. The missionary may not be to blame for Bert’s critical observation, for it is always second hand; no quotes.

John De Boer is critical of Africa (Nigeria) and this is a common phenomenon of missionaries with no experience. They are generally armored with high ideals and often become critical to the point of creating animosity. De Boer was hesitant in saying that natives as well as white were a bit “standoffish.” To gain better communication, Fran, missionary Boer’s wife, employs a girl who works “topless” in her home. That information might have bypassed any reader, had Bert not devoted a lengthy paragraph to this situation, and made reference to the bosom subject again in another paragraph. Both Bert and De Boer feel evidently they have discovered an intimate avenue of approach to the native’s customs and culture. Fran does not think (perhaps) that the dignity of clothes have anything to do with a man’s approach to Jesus. The girl must feel free in her home according to her tribal modes of life. They should not interfere with her commitment to Jesus. “Peter wrapped himself before he swam to shore to greet the Master.” It was quite customary, and still is, to swim in loin cloth, but Peter is meeting Jesus on the shore. A noted difference when you meet Jesus.

Nigerian culture is the only avenue we can use to meet the needs of the native. Of course, no one denies that. But there is also a change when a man meets Christ. Furthermore, Bert says, “We should not do away with polygamy, we should try to undermine the values which are assumed in polygamy.” Bert tries to prove his point with Bible references stating that the Bible must be given broader interpretation. True enough, Naaman was allowed to load his donkey with Israel’s soil to have a little God-corner in his land, but Bert, or Boer, want a little more native Soil (culture) and God perched on top. Precarious, when the native will have to make little manifestations that his choice is God. The Mormons and Catholics had such an approach with the Zuni Indians when I worked there, years back. They had a great harvest of people but retained very few souls. There was constant turnover; it made little difference whom the Zunies served. Take one spirit out and fill it with seven others, says the Bible.

Polygamy—even though Bert cites a sorry story—is not the answer. Bert himself, concedes that husband-and-wife relationships in Nigeria are not comparable to the western family relationship. Boer camouflages the chiefs family with a cultural shroud, nevertheless. “It is important that the chief have many wives; he is a man of stature when he does; it gives him a chance to have many children” and Bert says; good and well, Scripture has a relaxed position on polygamy.

How handsomely and how ingloriously the truth is twisted. Nathan was comparing the lamb (you carry the young lamb in your bosom) with the many wives that David had inherited from Saul’s palace. Bert understands it to mean that it was proper for David to have that many, that God condoned it . . . it being the cultural (pagan) thing of the day. Nathan merely meant to point out that these mistresses of endearment to David were numerous, and Uriah had only one, and that One David had coveted also. So what is the message of Nathan (quite the opposite of what Bert reads):

“I will cause your household [your many wives included] to rebel against you.

“I will give your wives to another man.

“I will do it openly in the sight of all Israel . . . .” And read the rest about David’s wives, not to mention the unhappy influence this had on Solomon.

David had the same alibis as the Nigerian chief:

– he did it to gain prestige

– he needed many children; they were even promised an inheritance . . . but the many wives led him away from God.

Let’s not be better than the Bible. Sure the heathen wives may become Christians and we must work for that. But to say that we must give a broader interpretation and relax our position is against New Testament rules for the Christian.