1.1 Background of the Study
Africans from the onset of time are Homo-Religious beings. They recognized God as the Supreme Being, the High God, who is the creator of all the universe, and mankind. The Supreme Being is magnificent, Omnipotent and Omnipresent. He is all knowing and the highest being which oversees all other duties performed by the lesser beings. Africans also recognized the lesser beings which carry out duties from all departments of life for example, God of the rain which is responsible for rainfall, God of harvest, all the lesser being had either various responsibilities which they carried out, Although the High God is invisible, it is accessible; the lesser being are the link between the worshippers and the Supreme Being, and sometimes they offer prayers direct to the High God. Along the line, a new religion was brought to the Africans and these is “Christianity” which came to present uncompromising monotheism. This is explicated in Deuteronomy 6: 4 says “The lord our God is one. You shall have no other God before me”
This is in contrast with the tolerant polytheism practiced by the African people; Christianity is the worship of one God, which is the Supreme Being. The missionaries who brought this religion asserted that Africans had no Religion, thereby condemning what they came to meet.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
From the above, it means that for quite a long time the religiosity of the African people had been in doubt. This is in fact what informs Neckebronise (1990:50) to report how some writers had put forward that the Africans had no concept of God and not even religion. What they meant by God in the concept of the High God, or creator or Supreme Deity.
And after it’s had been established that the African are deeply religious and have knowledge of the High God, it was later said that the High God, for the African does not play an important role in the everyday life of the people (Ekanem 2018); and that the role then seems to be played by the lesser deities and spirits. This gave rise to the description of African Religion as polytheistic: The worship of many gods.
There would have been no problem if things were left at this point. In the course of time, however, the religious world of the Africans was split open, giving way for the infiltration of foreign religion, namely Christianity with its attendant contradicting theological underpinning. This infiltration was effected by Christian missionaries who came unto Africa for evangelism and eventually conversion of the so called heathen African to the new religion. While African traditional religion has an accommodating monotheistic High God, the God of Christianity is uncompromisingly monotheistic and jealous. Thus, the altars, shrines and images of the lesser gods and spirits were tagged idols and their adherents, worshippers of idols, which is an abominable act for Christians to engage in. Through such missionary contacts many Africans have been converted to Christianity and some of the gods and their shrines and images destroyed. The fact, however, is that Religion is not a matter of external but something deeply inherent and rooted in each person. While many Africans have been converted to Christianity, the African religiosity of believing in lesser spirits to govern the different departments of their day to day life is very strong. Can they then be considered as being genuinely converted and authentic Christians and if they are not, can Abak people lay claims to the fact that they have genuine Christians?
The problem of the High God and lesser deities is even more compounded when Christianity teaches the Trinitarian God to her converts- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And then after she teaches that the three Gods are only one. How deeply and convincingly have Abak Christians believed this doctrine and if they find it difficult to believe in the oneness of this God then it is a great problem and posses enormous challenge for Christianity. And if after their conversion for many years Christians continue to erect shrines and altars of the lesser gods and divinities in their homes while they continue to pay allegiance to their High God and Supreme God as it has been established, then this is a serious problem posed for this research.
1.3 Purpose and Objectives of the Study
The overall purpose of this study is to examine the challenges posed by the concept of the high God and the lesser gods in African Traditional Religion on the Christians in Abak. In the light of this, the study seeks to achieve the following objectives:
To examine the concept and roles of the High God among Christians in Abak.
To find out the concept and the roles of the lesser gods among Christians in Abak.
To investigate the possible factors that compels Christians to occasionally resort to the lesser gods in Abak.
To examine the effects of resorting to the lesser gods among Christians in Abak.
To make some strategic recommendations that could help change the trend among Christians in Abak.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The research project is significant in the sense that it will add to the growing literature in African Traditional Religion domesticated in Abak Local Government. Apart from this, judging from available literature, this research seems to be unique in the sense that it looks specifically at the challenges that the belief in multiple gods of the Christians converts in Abak vis–a-vis their received monotheistic concepts of God. The result of such findings will be of great help to Christians, clergymen and women in their bid to consolidate the faith of Christians thereby producing Christians who are not just baptized but genuinely converted. This research project will spur on other researchers to pick up interest in other comparative areas of African traditional religion and Christianity in Abak and elsewhere.
Research of Methodology
The researcher will utilized the following research methods:
Expository: by exposing the concept of the High God and the lesser gods.
Analytic method: It is to analysis the beliefs of different Christians.
Oral interview was another instrument used to gather data for this research The interview questions were structured to elicit respondents’ view on the subject matter. The interviewees were scheduled on different dates based on their availability
Library: data for this study were also gathered through library research and this formed the literature review of this study. Information were gathered through the readings of books ,journals, seminar papers, dictionaries, encyclopedia and internet materials
Furthermore participant observation was also another instrument used for the collection of data for the study. This involved observing the ordinary character of the people on what they do in order to aid proper understanding of the study.
1.7 Scope of Study
This work is centered on the High God and the lesser gods in African Traditional Religion. The researcher used Abak as a case study, and this does not refer to Abak Town but the people of Abak Local Government Area, however not all the with that make up Abak Local Government Area but selected population of the five clans, namely Otoro, Midim, Afaha-obong and Abak.
1.8 Definition of Terms
The High God refers to the Sky God. He is the Supreme Being, the creator of all things including man and animals and all other living beings. Although He is invisible, He is accessible, prayers and sacrifices are made in is name, and He is called upon in times of trouble and there are various names used to describe him.
Lesser Gods: Just as the name implies, they are under the High God, and are messengers – a link between the people (worshippers) and the High God. They are in various departments of life, and they are also involved in the day to day activities of man.
Christians: These are followers of Jesus Christ the founder of Christianity and by the Christian specifically, I mean Christians in Abak.
African Traditional Religion: This is the indigenous Religion of the African people which has no written scripture but it is written in the hearts of its worshippers, and handed down orally from generation to generation.