By Paul Dada
Christian biographies, I believe, are necessary. And we have many of them. In fact, stories of Old and New Testament saints in the Bible are biographies ( some are autobiographies). We also have available to us biographies of saints who have lived in different generations since the early apostolic era. Biographies help us to know the exploits, struggles, strengths, weaknesses, victories and defeats of those who have gone before us so, we may learn from them all.
Many years ago, I bought and read the book, “Deeper Life: The Extraordinary Growth of Deeper Life” written by Allan Isaacson, a Briton who came from his country to make journalistic findings about the Deeper Christian Life Ministry and the Deeper Life Bible Church. He put his findings in a book. Isaacson’s book is not wholly a biography but it contains a great deal the story of Pa W.F. Kumuyi and the history of Deeper Life from its infancy to its expansion. But there is something remarkable about the book, Isaacson being a non-Deeper Lifer mentioned the things he disgreed with about Deeper Life even if he did it mildly. And Pa Kumuyi was open minded enough to endorse the book despite the few objections of the author to the ways of Deeper Life.
And this is why I prefer that book to the new biography of PK, titled ” Kumuyi: Defender of the Faith.”
It is my personal opinion that biographies of Christian leaders should be written after their death. I think that it is necessary to let them finish their race successfully first. I think that if at all, a biography must be written about a Christian leader who is still alive then a neutral person should be commissioned to write it.
To my mind, the new biography of PK is more of praise singing than an objective telling of his story. And the reason for this is that the writers are members and leaders in Deeper Life. So, it would be unrealistic to expect something different. But how does this praise singing really benefit the true church of Christ?
True, the book gives detailed information about PK than you cannot find elsewhere. You might also find it interesting and inspiring to read about a young Kumuyi who was not afraid to preach the gospel in a school owned by a militant atheist. You would most probably find it a challenge to read about a young Kumuyi who refused a scholarship offer to go for doctorate because of his consecration and commitment to the ministry. Yes, you may want to thank God for the miracles done through him. But if you are spiritually sensitive you would find it worrisome that the whole book looks like a Public Relations attempt for PK. It sounds, I must say, mind-bogglingly sycophantic.
Now, let us consider the biographies and autobiographies of saints in the Bible. They generally do not only reveal the strengths of these saints but also their weaknesses. Today we do not only know about the faith and faithfulness of Abraham, we also know about his lying that Sarah was not his wife. We know about his sleeping with Hagar.
We do not only know about the meekness of Moses, we know he got angry and consequently missed the promised land. We know so much about David’s courage, piety and humility. But we also know about his sins of adultery and murder.
Even in the New Testament, we have records of the failings of some saints. We know Peter denied Jesus at some point. We know he was rebuked by Paul for a hypocritical action. We know Paul made the mistake of speaking rudely to the High Priest.
See, the writers of the Bible were very faithful and balanced not to hide the failings of God’s saints where necessary.
Also, biographers of many saints or prominent Christian characters that lived in different generations are not shy to tell us about their weaknesses even as they tell us of their exploits.
We have read about the unholy hatred of the reformer, Martin Luther for the Jews. We have read about the cruel intolerance of John Calvin for those who opposed his views.
Spurgeon was a wonderful preacher but we read about his weakness; his love for tobacco smoking. John Wesley, an ardent evangelist and zealous holiness preacher made a very poor choice of a wife. The wife was his tormentor.
Jonathan Edwards who preached “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” a message which shook and brought godly fear on his listeners, was a smoker.
We can go on and on.
Now compare the biography of PK to the Bible and the extra-Biblical examples I gave. This book about Kumuyi fails in this aspect. If care is not taken, you’d think he is next to Jesus. In fact the book unnecessarily describes him as probably the most astute teacher since the era of men like Wesley and Spurgeon; a very sycophantic, bogus and and unedifying statement.
You see, this is the sort of thing I warned about in my recent love letter series to Deeper Lifers. While some saw it as a beautiful and timely exhortation, many got angry and offended as they saw it as a denigration of PK.
When we praise sing preachers or package them as someone without fault or the best thing that ever happened, we are neither helping ourselves nor the preachers. And God cannot be pleased.
When would our people learn? When?
*Paul Dada, journalist, public affairs analyst, gospel artiste, once worked with Tempo, our sister publication.