Christian Theology in a Sudanese Context. Theology is to be considered and experienced.
In Khartoum we often hear people saying: “God is great”! Only they know what is in their minds as they say it. A great person may be important because of his role as a village chief or as head of his large family. A great businessman may take significant decisions which affect many people, using the power of his wealth. A great widow may impress others by the exceptional way she overcomes the poverty and hardship brought on her by the loss of her husband in war, yet she raises her children beautifully well. Think for a moment: which of these three people just mentioned shows greatness which is like God’s greatness? God is really great! He has high status, over everybody else. All submission is due to Him. God is great in His person, in His nature, and in all of His living qualities. Then think for another moment about the greatest life ever lived in this world’s history. One of God’s angel’s told Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, that his intended wife was miraculously pregnant with God the Son. This was ‘Immanuel’ – God involved with humanity. (Matthew 1:18-25). Is God great enough to be fully living in the newborn baby Jesus, while at the same time holding His creation together, using something more than those tiny wrinkled human hands? (Colossians 1:15-20). Is God great enough to take a human body and human nature upon Himself, without losing anything of His already existing divine nature? (Philippians 2:6-11). Could God be great enough to die as this Man, Jesus, substituting Himself for humankind, in order to face His own living wrath against sin? (Romans 5:6-9).
The good news of Christianity is that our salvation does not depend on compulsory daily prayers, nor on bowing down, nor pilgrimage to the Ka’ba, nor even on jihad. About two thousand years ago, “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them”, 2 Corinthians 5:19. God displayed none of several aspects of His greatness by His plan to serve His own people. He gave Himself to set us free. (Matthew 20:25-28). Some people in Khartoum live in large houses, with several sets of stairs to different floors. They have coloured stone walls, tiled roofs, electricity powering air-coolers and fridges, plus piped water flowing into private bathrooms and toilets. Other people live in one sun-baked mud room with large settlement cracks in the walls. They sit and talk or sleep when it gets dark, and their water is delivered daily by donkey cart. Consider: which of these people are ‘free’ in the sense God intended for them? The answer may surprise you! It is not our living conditions which makes us ‘free’ or ‘bound’. No matter where people live, they are only really ‘free’ when they experience peace with God, made available through the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1-5). Once a person knows God in this way, he or she will want to get to know Him better and better as life continues. In 1972 J. I. Packer, an English clergyman who later served for many years as a Professor of Theology in Canada, wrote a book called “Knowing God”. He was convinced “that ignorance of God – ignorance of both His ways and of the practice of communion with Him – lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today”. My brief experience of the Christian church in Sudan (visiting from 1979 almost annually, and serving as pastor for Khartoum International Church 1999-2003) made me sadly aware of many Sudanese Christians who plainly do not realise just how great God is. I quickly add that thirty-three years ministry in many churches of the United Kingdom tells me the experience of many British Christians is no better!
At its very best, the church in Sudan will be made up of people from all age groups, every tribal and religious background, a whole variety of cultures and all different levels of society. Christian people will fear and love God. They will show this in every aspect of their daily lives.
Even the word ‘God’ can mean a number of different things. Using words to talk or write about God is relatively easy. Wondering what those words really mean when applied to “the God of gods and Lord of lords, (God) the great, mighty and awesome”, is the greatest challenge to every Christian mind. (Deuteronomy 10:12-22). When something about God cannot be fully explained, a humble person thinks, prays, studies his or her Bible, and worships ‘God Who is beyond full understanding’. At the same point, a proud person may simply say: “If I cannot explain it, it cannot be true”. Which kind of person do you want to be? I pray that this particular selection of Christian theology will lead you, the reader, into Christian worship that is both spiritual and true.
Please note: In the following pages, whenever I write: “I believe …..”, it means that in my personal studying, understanding, and application of Scripture, this is what I conclude the Bible is teaching us. I submit this to the reader, for his or her consideration during our Bible studies. I have tried to be consistent with English spellings that transfer from the Arabic language and script. However, as I have quoted exactly from other authors, and the way their books have been published, there will be apparent inconsistencies. I have included the everyday Arabic words in the One-line Dictionary at the end of the book. I have included ‘Thinking it through’ points for special thought or discussion at the end of every chapter. These could be used for group discussions, for homework study assignments, or for individual thought. It is important to apply what we learn to our lives. Thinking it through. (a). Describe in your own words the greatness of God.
(b). From your memory: List all the things God is; then list all that God does.
(c). How should we ‘fear’ such a greatGod?