Reversion and Syncretism among the Wimbum Baptists of Cameroon, West Africa: A Missiological Problem

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Douglas Rutt


The purpose of this research was to describe and analyze the phenomenon of reversion to traditional religious practices among the Wimbum Baptists of Cameroon, West Africa The biblical literature portion of the research investigated the problem of syncretism among the Israelites in the Old Testament based on II Kings chapter 17. First Corinthians chapter 10, where Paul addresses the problem of syncretism among the believers, was also reviewed. The field portion of study was an ethnographic and phenomenological study conducted in the Wimbum territory, which combined participation observation and interviews with thirty participants using the semi-structured interview protocol. The participants, who were Baptist Christians, were asked to describe the problem of reversion and syncretism among the Wimbum Baptists of Cameroon. Among the participants were five chiefs, who assume the dual role of being Baptist Christians and custodians of the Wimbum traditional culture.

There were four research questions that were used to formulate an understanding of why the Wimbum Baptists of Cameroon revert to syncretism. 1) How do the Wimbum Baptists describe their understanding of the gospel? 2) How do the Wimbum Baptists describe their motivation to syncretism? 3) How do the Wimbum Baptists describe the meaning oftheir traditional religious practices? 4) How do the Wimbum Baptists describe the relationship between their tradition and Christianity?

The findings of this study have confirmed that reversion to syncretism is a growing, pervasive problem that the church neglects to her peril. The study revealed that the common practice of the Wimbum Baptists is to revert to their traditional practices for answers to the puzzles of life. They look for help outside the church when they do not find help in the church. The principle categories of findings included the following: 1) The problem of fear; 2) Superficial conversion; 3) Legalism as a form of syncretism; 4) Lack of cultural appreciation; 5) Theological vacuum; and, 6) Inadequate church ministry to the demonically oppressed.

The study reveals that pastors and missionaries should appreciate the need to have a fuller understanding of the dynamics and worldview issues involved in the whole phenomenon of reversion and should be more intentional in addressing the issues of syncretism in their teachings and preaching.


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