Paul and the powers in relation to Christ's supremacy : re-visiting the Pauline concept of "supernatural powers" from an African worldview perspective
The Pauline concept of "supernatural powers" underlines the supremacy of Christ over "supernatural powers". They were created in him, through him and for him (Col 1: 16-20). Christ's death was not only their defeat, but also their humiliation (Col 2: 15). Christ's resurrection and exaltation clearly speaks of his supremacy (Eph 1: 20f; Phil 2: 9-11). Christ is also supreme since "supernatural powers" cannot separate believers from the love of God (Rom 8: 38f) or thwart the existence of the church, through which the manifold wisdom of God is made known to them (Eph 3: 10). Paul's teachings about the "powers" in relation to Christ's supremacy do not seem to have had much sway in the African context. This happens due to two opposite but related errors: that of believing "supernatural powers" exist and allowing them to determine human existence and that of denying they exist. Yet the Pauline concept neither denies the existence of "supernatural powers" nor allows them to be given allegiance or worship as if they are equal to Christ. Due to these two errors, which also represent the missionary legacy and the African response to it, most African believers hold a dual religious heritage that causes pastoral problems for the African church. Rather than engaging the dual religious heritage, most of the studies on "supernatural powers" seem to have complicated it. The trend among anthropologists has been to deny that "supernatural powers" exists and/or to reduce them to psychological or social or political or religious functions. Several biblical scholars, who deal with "supernatural powers" from the perspective of myth, maintain that "supernatural powers" were marginal in Paul's thinking and irrelevant for modern Christians. They maintain that Paul demythologised "supernatural powers" so as to refer to existential realities such as sin and death or to the structures of human existence. As a result, most of the anthropological and biblical treatises on "supernatural powers" do not seem to engage the full measure of the African beliefs in "supernatural powers". This is largely because their interpretations of "supernatural powers" are shaped by the Western worldview and are mainly from a Western worldview perspective. But the interpretation of reality as people perceives it is usually shaped by their worldview. For that reason, it is vital to re-visit the Pauline concept of "supernatural powers" from an African worldview perspective, taking into consideration that Paul initially spoke to a context similar to the African context with regard to the beliefs in, and fear of "supernatural powers".