Learning about animism was very intriguing. We had covered some of stuff in previous classes, but it was great to have a short summary. Animism is a worldview, and most tribal people groups in the world have this worldview.
What is animism?
“Animism is the belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have powers over human affairs and consequently human beings must discover what beings (or forces) are influencing them in order to determine future actions and, frequently, to manipulate their power.” -Gailyn Van Rheenen
There are also many forms of animism, such as folk Islam or folk Christianity. For example, in folk Christianity people would look to the priests (instead of the witch doctors) to talk to God and manipulate Him for them. I hadn’t realized how much animism was in our lives, even as Christians in America.
One of my best friends recently was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and she went to talk to her pastor about some future plans. Her pastor instead talked to her about her sickness and told her it was the result of some unknown sin from several years ago. He believed that God was punishing her for an unknown sin in her life and that she should look to ways to please Him and ask forgiveness. Now this is pretty subtle form of animism, and but we can contrast this worldview with God’s worldview. We know from the Bible that we do not get sick because of unknown sin in our lives. Sickness on this earth came from the Curse or the result of Adam’s sin, not ours. Yes, God might discipline a believer who is sinning and knows it, but an unknown sin won’t break fellowship with God. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ and in Romans 8:15 we learn that because we are adopted by God we don’t need to fear Him in that way.
Other forms of animism in our culture would be Catholicism and sometimes prayer. We pray before a test hoping to please God and get Him to give us the answers (though we should’ve studied), sports players cross themselves before making an important play on the field, we burn candles, or sometimes our motives in doing our devos is to get on a better standing before God (though nothing we ever will or can do can change our position before Him).
Animism is also found in movies, like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Avatar, and Little Mermaid.
There is a high powerful and impersonal “God” at the top.
Then in the middle are the spirits that control basically everything in life (from crops, health, weather, death, etc.) These spirits can be manipulated and contacted by the next group of people or by the actions of the “average people”.
This session was hilarious as we listened to everyone trying to make different sounds with their mouth. We had a brief overview of the speech apparatus (above) and the universal consonant and vowel charts.
Why is language so important?
In the Joti language it is very easy to say:
“God created the world over 20 years ago and I saw Him do it.”
“God created the world in the distant past and I didn’t see Him do it.”
The way people are saved is through hearing the Word of God, understanding it, and believing it.
Without clear communication, those we are trying to reach will not be reached!
This afternoon we participated in another language learning session with the “tribal people” on campus. This time they could understand some English and we were trying to learn some of their nouns, verbs, and verb tenses. We are both so excited to learn a language, but we also know the fun won’t last forever and possibly three years of learning a language can become pretty discouraging. We are glad that we will still be continuing our training with New Tribes Missions to be better prepared in the area of linguistics.
Tonight we had an amazing class on Buddhism. It was so impactful and challenging. But I’ll have to blog about that some other time.