Would a school qualification or government regulation end the problem of immoral pastors in Zambia?

Question:

Looking at the unprecedented occurrence of scandals committed by Christian pastors (especially those of the new mushrooming churches) in Zambia, isn’t the government in order with its plans to start regulating churches by ensuring that only people trained in recognised colleges of Theology  should be allowed to be pastors?

Response:

Will educating pastors really help alleviate the problem of scandals, fake miracles, and all sorts of deceptive schemes that have infiltrated churches in Zambia? Will education deliver Christian congregations from the immoral behaviour of pastors? Is that what the Christian reverend, at the helm of the Ministry of Religion and National Guidance, sees as the solution? Well, we have the biggest Christian denomination that has the most educated preachers but yet continues to make shocking headlines.

  • BBC News, 26 February 2019

Catholic Church child sexual abuse scandal

From Australian country towns to schools in Ireland and cities across the US, the Catholic Church has faced an avalanche of child sexual abuse accusations in the last few decades. High-profile cases and harrowing testimony given to public inquiries have continued to keep the issue in the headlines.

In the most recent of these, Cardinal George Pell was convicted of abusing two choir boys in Melbourne in 1996. He is Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, and was previously Vatican treasurer – meaning he was widely seen as the Church’s third most powerful official. And Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal in the US, was defrocked over abuse claims just 10 days earlier – making him the most senior Catholic figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times.

Meanwhile alleged cover-ups continue to dog the Church, and victims groups say the Vatican has not done nearly enough to right its wrongs. In an effort to address the problem, Pope Francis recently held an unprecedented summit on paedophilia in the Church.

  • BBC News, 2 December 2018

Pope Francis ‘worried’ about homosexuality in the priesthood

Pope Francis has said that homosexuality in the clergy is a “serious matter” that “worries” him.  The comments were made in an interview about religious vocations, given to a Spanish missionary priest as part of an upcoming book. The pontiff described homosexuality as “fashionable”, and urged clergy to observe their vow of celibacy.

Jesus on Trial

Zambia is a Christian nation and this is enshrined in the nation’s supreme law of the land – the constitution:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF ZAMBIA: ACKNOWLEDGE the supremacy of God Almighty; DECLARE the Republic a Christian Nation while upholding a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion.

Now, let’s summon the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, to stand before our proposed piece of legislation which intends to set  minimum academic requirements for a preacher or teacher of the Gospel. The question is, Would he pass the judgement and hence be licensed to preach the Gospel in this Christian Nation? Before we do that let us ensure that our court session is in the same context as those which were in the tims of Jesus and his apostles. Let us look at three things which  characterised the religious systems in the days of Jesus Christ and his apostles:

1) Like today there used to be established schools of theology which also produced learned men, including those who were revered and esteemed as “doctors”. In Luke 2:46 we read that the boy Jesus, was found “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions”.

2) Like today there were established institutions which were responsible for authorising men to preach. It is for this reason that one day when the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law found Jesus preaching to a congregation they asked him, “who gave thee this authority?” (Mat.21:23).

3) Like the proposed piece of legislation would require, even then preachers were expected to be literate; they were supposed to be able to read and have knowledge as an educated person. It is because of this that people marvelled at Peter and John when they “perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men(Act.4:13).

So, seeing that our modern society is characterised by the same three norms above, our trial of Jesus Christ would be very much in context. Let us thus proceed with the prosecution by seeing it through what the Lord and his apostles already went through:

1. Who authorised Jesus and his apostles to preach?

The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were faced with the same question. In that time there had been incidences of influential men who misled people into false hopes (Act.5:34-39) and the Pharisees may have felt justified in accusing Jesus of teaching doctrines which they believed broke tradition and led people into error. They decided to legally implicate Jesus by inquiring about his preaching license: “who gave thee this authority?” (Mat.21:23). In answering them he distinguished between men called by God and those who rise by the authority of man:  “I also will ask you one thing …The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet” (Mat.21:24-25).

Note that this in no way implies that Christians must not obey authorities. What we must know is that Jesus never meant to launch an organisation. His teachings were about a life to be lived, not a religion! People who receive the same inspiration of living like Christ can come together to pray, share the Word, and glorify God as a family, not a bureaucracy! Trouble begins when men institutionalise what was supposed to be a simple life into a full-fledged money-making scheme and organisation. History testifies that any revival which began with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but later cooled down to formality quickly extinguished as spiritual men eventually got replaced with carnal ones who met the minimum requirements set by a system.

2. Was Jesus a learned (or trained) preacher?

It is interesting to note that the founder of Christianity, Jesus, never went to school and he actually criticised the then established (traditional) institutions. He condemned them to have had no real life of God’s Word – “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye” (Mark 7:13). But although Jesus was not educated, he wasn’t an ignoramus. He was knowledgeable and full of wisdom and that is what confounded His critics: “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (Joh. 7:15-17).

Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus, had gone to a school of theology and had acquired the revered status of Pharisee. However, upon meeting the Light of the Gospel, he threw away all his theology and called it “dung” (there is a modern term for that  – shit!) – “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phi.3:8). Paul declared that the doctrine of Christ he had was not learnt from man ( through a  seminary or school of theology) – “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, NEITHER WAS I TAUGHT IT, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal.1:12).

3. Were apostles Peter and John educated?

Well, here is what happened one time when they had been arrested by some religious authorities: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Act.4:13).

May I state here that education is very important. There are many problems that can be overcome in Africa and other Third World countries by eradicating illiteracy and empowering people with knowledge of science, financial management, entrepreneurship, health, etcetera. Such education should also inform people about human behaviour and how to relate with one another. True knowledge is light that can flash a beam to dissipate dark clouds of superstition. It is important to note here that many Christian congregants are duped and abused by false prophets and apostles not because the pastors are not educated but because people are poor, ignorant, and foolish! Our government should ask itself: How is it that there are many developed countries with Christian churches but which have not wasted any tax-payers money into establishing some ‘Ministry of Religion and National Guidance’? Why are there countries which have moved from Third World to Developed status within decades but without having had to call for  a national day of prayer and fasting? If we apply our hearts to sincerely  seek answers to these important questions we will realise that ignorance of the masses is the number one problem.

In Zambia the ignorant masses have been exploited by both false prophets (whether educated or not) and politicians (whether educated or not). A false prophet can claim to  create miracle money and a politician is that messiah who is always able to save people from their poverty! Don’t both these deceivers often boast of academic credentials? Don’t they both ride on people’s ignorance? A politician can mess up an economy through poor fiscal policies, an immoral governance system or perpetrating rampant corruption; his people may be hungry and angry for a while but all a politician may have to do is go into a solemn religious prose and call for a day of prayer, and the ‘peace-loving people’ will applaud their great humble leader. In the light of all this, it should be seen that if we ever think education can solve the problem of immorality in the church then it should be masses who should be educated, and not the so-called prophets. If anyone thinks education is the tool to heal a person of immoral or deceptive behavior, let them check the academic credentials of men in power who destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Dearly beloved, the problem of strange practices in  churches today is not a result of having uneducated pastors; it is the moral compass which has ossified in man! If educating the clergy produces morally upright men Catholic clerics would be angels! Those who know scriptures understand that it was already foretold that “there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Pet.2:1-3).