Spiritism in Brazil – Part One

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evilin the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

As we study missions, and seek to be obedient to the call in Matthew 28:19-20, to go and make disciples of all nations, we must have a biblical foundation, and a clear understanding that it is the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of people and prompts them to salvation.  We must also understand, and believe what Ephesians 6:12 teaches about spiritual forces of evil; forces which are powerful and reign in this current darkened world in which we live.  Only the power of almighty God can defeat the powers of Satan.

In the Western world, we tend to dismiss the spiritual forces mentioned in Ephesians 6:12, and other scriptural passages.  We often think of spirit activity as superstition and that the forces mentioned in Scripture have ceased to exist.  Paul Hiebert refers to this Western neglect as the “excluded middle.” In his article “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle” he explains that contemporary westerners have a two tier view of reality: a Supernatural Realm (Angels, Demons and God – perceived by miracles and visions, people act by faith), and a Natural Realm (Man, Science, the world – perceived by sight and experience, people act by knowledge), completely leaving out the Spiritual realm.[1]  However, such activity and powers are very much a reality in the world today (as it has always been since Satan’s decent) and they are worshiped by many people throughout the world.  The practice of worshiping, offering sacrifices, and consulting such powers is called animism.  Gailyn Van Rheenen defines animism as: “the belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs and that humans, consequently, must discover what beings and forces are impacting them in order to determine future action and, frequently, to manipulate their power.”[2]

Animism is practiced around the world.  Different people groups will have different animistic practices which are referred to as Folk Religions.  Since animism is such a broad topic, for the purpose of these posts I will focus on the animistic beliefs and practices of Spiritism in Brazil.  I will also explore strategies on how to share the gospel with such animistic people with the goal of planting integral churches among them.


                [1] Paul G. Hiebert, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle” [Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994)], 5.

                [2] Gailyn Van Rheenen, “Defining an Animistic Worldview,” (presented at the symposium “Distinctively Christian, Distinctly Mongolian” in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, March 11, 2003) http://www.missiology.org/mongolianlectures/animisticworldview.htm (accessed May 8, 2011).

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About Bárbara

I am a Christ follower, wife, mother, missionary, and Online Instructor for LU Online teaching Introduction to Missions. My family and I serve at Living Bread Ministries; planting churches among the desperately poor in South America. I have an MA in Intercultural Studies from LBTS. My passion is to see the Lord Jesus worshiped among the poor and needy and to see lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.
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