As a nation that believes so much in prayers, many sometimes wonder why the myriad of challenges bedevilling the country appear to defy prayers.
Prof Bode Akinlehin, a Soteriologist, a branch of Theology that deals with the detailed study of the salvation of God in this interview, provided answers to this puzzle.
He equally addressed other vital issues affecting Nigeria, Christianity especially the misconception over the mission of the late founder of Celestial Church of Christ, SBF Oshoffa.
Nigeria is adjudged a religious nation, but in spite of this the country is still beset with daunting challenges. What would you say has happened to our supplications to God over these problems?
Religion is not Christianity. Religion does not connote knowing God. Religion is just man’s own device to reach out to higher deities. Somebody worshipping Sango is in a religion. Sango is a deity. People worship water because there is a god in the water, a demon in the water, mermaid and all the rest. There are higher deities. So man looking up to them, going to them or appeasing them are all religion. So, people can go to church, carry their Bibles and talk about Jesus, but Jesus made us to understand that there would people who will perform miracles in his name, but that does not mean they are using his power and does not mean they know him. John 10:27 says, “My sheep know me and I know them.”
So, Jesus has his own people on the planet earth. When you talk about Christian, a Christian is a person whose heart Christ dwells. That is a biblical definition of Christian which is found in Romans 8:9. So, as for the nation, we have mere religious people. And when you say let us pray, each of them prays to his or her own gods. So, if I am a religious person and my god is one of these elemental spirits in the air, so that is whom I am praying to. It is like when you say praise the Lord and people chorus Hallelujah. If you are not a Christian, your Hallelujah does not go to God, the father of Jesus. Jesus Christ says he has a father, but religion tells us that Jesus has a father, but if you don’t believe in the father of Jesus Christ, definitely you cannot be His son. So, our supplications have no meaning to God because we are not praying to the same God. If three to five people come out and say we want to pray to Jesus tonight and Nigeria will change tomorrow, surely it will change. There is ultimate power with God, who is the father of Jesus and that is the truth. Another thing is that Nigeria has no religious ideology. If Nigeria has adopted Jesus Christ as the Lord of the nation, then when we pray to Jesus, He can transform the nation in the next four to five hours. Since we have a constitution that makes us a multi-religious nation, you serve your god and I will serve mine and when it comes to prayers, we pray to different gods. So, if there is no national policy that says let us adopt Jesus Christ as the Lord of the nation it will be difficult getting people together to pray to him. When we wanted to draft our constitution then, the Nigerian government sent people to America to understudy their constitution and we eventually adopted the presidential system of government. The Americans are Christians, their constitution favours them because when they pray, they pray to one God. Nigeria will continue to be a slave to America as long as we adopt their constitution without believing in their God.
Nigerian Christian leaders have been accused of promoting gospel of prosperity ahead of gospel of salvation. Does this still boil down our being a religious people?
We are religious people as I have said. Religion is of diverse opinions. There are a lot of people that are called of God. These are people whose principal responsibility is to connect mankind to God. Then, there are others who are not called, but who see the prospects in it and ran into it. And mind you, we are dealing with ignorant masses. When a man is sick and there is somebody who can offer healing, this person who is healed is bound to believe in the god of that person and that is not likely to be Jesus, who is the Jehovah Rafah that heals. A nation where the government is busy impoverishing the people, what do you expect from such a nation? The people who govern us lack the understanding of what genuine governance is all about. So, the gospel of prosperity has become the order of the day. Nigeria is a blessed nation. Our rulers are more or less ignorant of plans and purposes of God for the nation. So, instead of blessing, enriching and empowering the people, they are enriching themselves and impoverishing the people. So, they caused the problem of religion.
There have been criticisms against some church leaders who run expensive schools where children of members of their congregation cannot afford. What do you make of this?
Everybody is looking for means of survival. If you want to offer the best of education to the people; you will want to employ the best lecturers. Definitely you are going to pay some price. So, all these are non-issue. Really, we still need more universities. By and large, we still have schools that offer education to the populace at cheaper fees. What obtains today are non-issues; it is the fallout of the failure in governance. If government universities are all doing well, if education is well funded, this controversy would not have arisen.
At a gathering recently, you made a statement about the mission of the late founder of Celestial Church of Christ in the forest where he was reported to have received the divine instruction which birthed the
Celestial Church. How come your position at the gathering appeared divergent to the opinions of most of the people in attendance at the event?
I am a Seterologist. Seterology is about the redemption plan of God.
Seeing that people are in the church without knowing God, is that not bad enough? There are a lot of controversies about the white garment people.
I personally went into Celestial Church. Of course, I grew up in the church. I left the church for several years to other places. But I have come to understand that the people, who are the leaders of Celestial today, do not really have the understanding of what Celestial is. The Celestial constitution says that Oshoffa went to pray in the wilderness where he met God. Oshoffa did not go to the wilderness to pray; he was lost in the wilderness then he had the word ‘luli’.
That word is found in Titus 2 verse 11. It refers to the grace of God that appears to mankind. Even though Oshoffa narrated to them what obtained in the wilderness, the people tried to make it look more palatable and presentable, but at the end of the day they lost the whole thing. That is why none of them can replicate what Oshoffa was doing then. If Oshoffa was here and they bring in a dead person, Oshoffa would not leave his seat. He would just say take that water and sprinkle it on the person and the person would jump up. Oshoffa raised a lot of dead people, but the majority of the people who claimed to be following Oshoffa today lack this knowledge. They have turned the whole thing into political movement and this is exactly what is happening to the majority of today’s great denominations.
What then is the fate of their followers?
That is the problem of humanity. Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden and lost the track. Then God made a promise that he would bring human generation back to himself through a salvation plan. But as long as
man rejects this salvation plan, there is no way to help them. Everybody went to Oshoffa in his lifetime to seek solutions to their problems, but what Oshoffa was telling them was not palatable to most of them. Those who wrote the Celestial constitution concealed a lot of things because they wanted Oshoffa to look mysterious. People in religion try to make so many things mysterious to the people so that they can make themselves gods and goddesses to the world. That is what we have today. So, we don’t really have Christians, what we have are religious gods and goddesses. The same thing happened to Oshoffa. Those early followers who were educated were trying to make a mystery out of the whole story. In the other denominations, the story is the same. The church is to rescue man and usher him to the kingdom of God. This means that when a church wins a soul; it nurtures the soul, grows it to maturity and when it is mature, the soul begins to reproduce.
Your view about who is a true born again Christian arose curiosity at the event. What is concept of a truly born again Christian?
If you never know the God who created heaven and earth how can he send you on an errand? People don’t know the God that created heaven and earth they know several gods and goddesses, that is mere religion. There are many elemental spirits going around and claiming to be gods.
Angel Lucifer was cast out of heaven because he wanted to be another god. So, he came to Adam to deceive him that what God was telling them was not the right thing, so he told him to do it in a different way.
Adam and Eve did it that way and they became slaves to him. So, anybody who is not liberated from that slavery remains a slave for life. So, when you talk about being born-again now, it means being liberated
from the slavery to the ancient serpent to serving the seed of the
woman, which, of course, is Jesus Christ. The serpent gave birth to all the demons and fake prophets. It is only Jesus that can liberate man from the power of that ancient serpent. If anybody is not liberated, such a person is not born again. Millions of General Overseers across the world are not born again, millions of bishops and other religious gurus are not born again. When you are born again, you see heaven clearly. So when you see people running to acquire mansions and other worldly things, it is clear evidence that they are not born again. They are only living under deception. When Jesus was in the world somebody asked a question on where he lived, he answered him that he had nowhere to live. So, when we talk about being born again, it is not a religious matter; it is being transformed from a carnal being to a spiritual being and the first thing that will happen to you is that you will begin to see heaven.