By John Moyubi Amoda
TALCOTTÂ PARSONS, the Moses of American Sociology translated Max Weberâ€™s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism from German into English.
The cover note on this translation describes Max Weberâ€™s bench mark work as â€œa classic study of the fundamental relationships between religion and the economic and social life in a modern cultureâ€.
The connections between religion and socio- economic life traced by Max Weber in the case of the emergence of capitalism in Christian Western Europe and not in Confucian China or Buddhist India, provides a model for the tracing of the connection between a form of Old Testament Christianity and the development of new entrepreneurial enterprises by its leaderships.
The late Oral Roberts was the notable pioneer of this Christianity that gives expressions to modernistic capitalist impulses on the basis of Old Testament principles of religious followership.
We have to go to the origins of kingship in ancient Israel to apprehend the spirit of this modern pentecostal entrepreneurial project-oriented doctrines of obedience. When the people of Israel asked Samuel to give them a king so they could be governed by kings instead of by judges appointed them by God, Samuel revealed to the people what God said about Israelâ€™s kings.
â€œAnd he said, this will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you. He will take your sons and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen, and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear (plow) his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give them to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your men servants, and your maid servants, and your goodliest young men, and your assess, and put them to his work.
And he will take the tenth of your sheep, and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king, which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that dayâ€ (1Samuel8:11-18).
The king which the people desires and will choose from among their brethren will transform their society constituted of equals into a society of a master-king and class of subjects with a middle class constituted of his officials. Today in Nigeria, we do not have to look too deeply to find that a socio-economic organisation of congregational properties similar in structure to that foretold of God through his prophet Samuel is already established.
The difference between Israel under Samuel, Israelâ€™s last Judge, and contemporary Pentecostal congregations is in the form of the kings they have chosen. These modern Christian kings are not called kings though they rule as such; they are called pastors, overseers, general overseers, bishops, and archbishops. Often they are first generation kings who are yet to fully address the issues of succession.
Their Old Testament role model is not Samuel or David but Solomon. Like Solomon they build palaces called churches, they acquire lands called prayer grounds, they build cities called camps, and they invest in banks, and build mega structures of universities, hospitals, and even transport systems that are the envy of elected officials- and over these vast empires that are now becoming global, they rule on the basis of Old Testament kings foretold by Samuel.
Theirs is not a theocracy as it was in the days of Samuel, but Solomonic autocracy. Solomon achieved his mega projects by enslaving Israel. His son, Rehoboam had a choice to restore Israel to its pre-Solomon egalitarian order or to continue in the onerous taxing of Israel to continue his fatherâ€™s â€œYamasoukrouâ€ Epic Projects.
The following is the record of Rehoboam meeting with Israel bent double by the burden of project informed taxations of Solomon, his father.
â€œAnd Rehoboam went to Shechem; for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt heard it, (for he was fled from the presence of King Solomon and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt).
That they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, thy father made our yoke grievous; now therefore make thou the grievous yoke which he put upon us, lighter and will serve theeâ€. (1 King 12:1-44).
The issue being addressed is the predilection of Israelâ€™s kings to build their visions of grandeur on the sweat of their brethren. Israelâ€™s culture under Solomonâ€™s tyrannical rule was however still egalitarian, and so is todayâ€™s Pentecostal culture essentially egalitarian.
The difference is that Christian Pentecostal fellowship continues to legitimise the emerging Solomonic stratification of the Pentecostal congregation into kings, nobility and subjects on the basis of Old Testament doctrines of obedience. The leadership has a free hand to rule with autocratic liberty that even heads of states are constitutionally denied.
Todayâ€™s congregations are indeed not different from those of Galatia that provoke this following scathing criticism of their followership by faith.
â€œO foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the work of the law, or by the hearing of faith?â€ (Galatians 3:1-5).
The question Paul asked the Galatians goes to the heart of the problem. Paul seeks to know upon what basis do the leaders of the churches rule their congregations? Is the authority of the pastors based on their followersâ€™ obedience of the law of commandments contained in ordinances or on the basis of the leading by the Spirit? Hierarchy and kingly authority can only be on the basis of laws of commandments, and never on the basis of the redemption.
The law ordains the regime of the rule for sinners, under the dominion of sin. The Spirit rules the spirit of sons of God by His witness to their spirits, for the Spirit leads only the children of God:
â€œFor as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby, we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God; And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified togetherâ€ (Rom. 8:14-17).
It is not by works of righteousness that believers in Christ receive the adoption of sons and daughters of God.
â€œFor as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jews nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christâ€ (Galatians 3:27-28).
The Gospel declares that â€œYe are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesusâ€ (Galatians 3:26). In Christ Jesus therefore there are no redemption basis for hierarchy, classes and differences in rights. There is a gaping gulf between the gospel relationship and constitution of the church of Christ and the relationship between the Pentecostal clergy and laity.
The followership legitimizes the un-gospel stratification of Christian Congregation and supports the â€œroyal priesthoodâ€ of the Pastors; but upon what basis? And if the Gospel provides no ground for the inequality of power and privilege in the affairs of the church, how do we reconcile pastorâ€™s teachings on Christian Obedience with the declarations of the Gospel?
And more specifically in the area that is most relevant to Pastoral entrepreneurial activities, that is, in the finances of the church how are the doctrines on Christian giving popularized in Pentecostal Congregations to be reconciled with the Gospel of Christ? These issues will be addressed in subsequent expositions in this column.