Imago Dei and faith-healing practices in the Newer Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches (NPCCs) in South Africa: a human dignity perspective.
Maphumulo, Nkanyiso Kingdom.
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Faith-healing practices in the third wave movement of Pentecostals, the Newer Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches, hereafter referred to as the NPCCs, have been in the public domain recently. These unorthodox faith-healing practices depicted, among others, pastors making congregants eat grass, snakes, drink petrol; pastors were shown jumping on prostrated bodies of the congregants, and spraying them with doom (house-hold insecticide). These faith-healing practices have raised issues for concern of human dignity in the church. Consequently, the government intervened by establishing a commission of inquiry into the commercialisation of religion and abuse of belief systems (2017), to investigate and make submissions to parliament about how to regulate religion in South Africa. During the proceedings of this Commission of inquiry, theologies underpinning faith-healing practices were unearthed; namely, health and wealth gospel, NPCCs’ Pneumatology and Hermeneutic principles, and ‘exclusive’ name-and-claim-it gospel. Using the human dignity perspective, this study investigates these theologies through the theoretical framework of Christian anthropology, namely the royal functional model of imago Dei. The study demonstrates that underpinning faith-healing practices in the NPCCs are theologies that have undergone a paradigm shift from the principles of the ‘first’ wave of Pentecostalism, the classical Pentecostals, to the degradation of the dignity of its adherers. I, therefore, argue that imago Dei has practical ethical implications that can be used to scrutinize Church practices in general and faith-healing practices in the NPCCs in particular. Keywords: Faith-healing, Imago Dei, Newer Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches, human dignity.