Chapter 13




Joanah died on 6 March 2007, a day before my own (author’s) birthday. It was of course a great loss but one that God himself superintended so much that so that all who gathered around her death bed, instead of crying where only impressed about her great beauty on the bed as if she was sleeping beauty as she had earlier described her own self. That thinking pervaded the whole place for days to come. That Joanah was still sleeping and no one should arouse her. She died after recovering form a long illness. Why did not God give us Joanah for longer than we had her and why did she die the way she did? These ideas will be talked to in this chapter as we interact with the events that led to the call to glory of Joanah, the great church planter.


September 2006

I had a phone call on September 22 2006 from my elder sister Funmi, who told me she just wanted to inform me that our mother had suddenly fallen sick and that she could not even see properly. I immediately knew that death was near. We had just lost our father and buried him seven months earlier. This was not the time to loose our mother and indeed the mother of the entire Bethel family. I first of all broke down weeping in despair when the Holy Spirit reminded me that would not help the matter. In faith I came out rebuking the angel of death and appealing to the famous Hezekiah saga (2kg 20:1-6)[1]. I immediately in prayer requested for more days for Joanah for, I argued, even if she is ready, we are not ready to let her go. The divine will, despite His decrees (or indeed in view of his decrees) answered my prayer and gave Joanah another six months to help us children sort ourselves out. This was the story of the last days of our beloved Joanah.

I immediately rushed to Ibadan from Jos where, a week earlier I had just finished my term as Dean of  the Medical School of the University of Jos. I knew that for the better part of almost fifteen years, I was free to attend to Joanah. I got home to Ibadan the next morning. I had the message at 2.00pm

Pretty young Nurse Joanah

and then ordered for a ticket to place me on night bus going to Lagos. I was on the bus by 3.00pm. By 6.00am of the next day I was in Ibadan. I did not bother to request for the medical history. What was the use? I proceeded to pray for Joanah as she laid in bed, not recognizing me. I prayed; I prayed; I prayed. For next three days I stayed at Ibadan praying. After all, she taught me how to pray! God answered the prayer. By the next day Joanah could recognize me and others around her. She was now rising from her recumbent position on the bed and was taken her food. We were encouraged by this. I had a talk with her doctor, our very valuable Dr Lanloye. I told him my mission was not to interfere with his prescriptions and that his medical care is fulyl endorsed by me and that my mission was purely missionary- to pray for her recovery granting that our Father in heaven will change his decree of death as he did for Hezekiah. On the fourth day I left for Jos with a promise I shall come back as soon as I can make it. I left my elder sister who somehow by the providence of God had learnt nursing of the brain damaged persons in the USA where she had lived for 21 years. We did not know God had called her back home to nurse her own mother. Others around her included Mama Ranti (Mrs Solaide Kuti) who had been told 10 year earlier how Joanah was going to die and how she Mama Ranti would be used to take care of her on her death bed and that she would be the only one there to witness her death. That happened on 6 March 2007. She faithfully followed the instruction of God.



Mama Ranti is a very amazing young woman. Full of love, care and love for God, she is a sweet and devoted sanguine, although a little restless like all sanguines, but very loyal. She hails from Ondo in the Yoruba speaking western part of Nigeria, where Joanah also comes from. The Ondo are well recogonized for being a unique people with unique dialect in the entire Yoruba tribe. They seem to like to speak their dialect which they are very attached to. Hence Jonah and Mama Ranti would speak dialect to each other even in the toughest of situations and this was used as a means of lifting up the spirit of Joanah in those days while she laid on the bed very ill. The providence of God in making available Mama Ranti is simply amazing. We shall interact with this below.


October 2006

I came back to Joanah’s house exactly a month later. This time to spend some holiday, after a very tiring two years as Dean of the Medial school. I was to stay for about two weeks. Immediately I settled to my holiday, I had a strong conviction that I should begin to pray for Joanah and her health. I began immediately fervently to pray for Joanah. Like I reported to someone later, I had not prayed that hard any time in my life. She was okay, except that

Mama Ranti and her ‘mother’ 31 December 2007


she still needed to make it to final and complete recovery. She was a little confused and still could not see very well and as well as her premorbid state. I prayed and saw her doctor once again. He was interested in some new Japanese and Chinese medicine that was a detoxifying machine. According to him the machine was capable of removing all toxins from an individual’s body. I could not of course I argue with me. I am a research scientist and have been such since 1984 when I stopped active practice. How can I argue with a man who has been practicing longer than me? We allowed the detoxifying machine to perform its function and we saw the fluid change colour, suggesting toxins had been removed from the body. I was of course a skeptic; that is the price you pay for being conservative but nevertheless I allowed the process to continue. I was also quite skeptical about the entire medical enterprise on Joanah even at that point. Knowing fully well that she was already dead, I did not think any medicine could revive her. I was convinced only prayer could do such. I was however willing to go along with the doctors. Another doctor, Dr Fagbo prescribed the type of diet we should give to her. On my own I ordered high protein concentrates such as Casilan, the well known muscle builder which has over 90% protein. I stayed  for 10 days and was just about to leave for Jos when she had her next relapse. I had stopped all her medications – all of it- three days earlier and she was getting better. She had now started eating well when suddenly she fell ill again. Not only that, one of her children who had been estranged for almost five years demanded to see his mother. He came to see her. The next day Joanah had her first relapse


Joanah’s first relapse

On the day I was to leave, Joanah had her relapse. She blamed the relapse on her lack of medication and we had to resume the medication immediately. She started to feel heavy all over her body. The doctor was immediately called and he examined her and prescribed medication. I had great faith that since I was praying while she fell sick again, it only means that God had answered my prayer. I did not panic. I left for Jos in the great belief that she would make it again recovery. My leaving her was quite painful but again it was to me an act of providence. How was I to know she was going to relapse? I came for a holiday. I did not come to pray. But some strong feeling made me suppose I was to pray and pray and pray. I had never prayed that long or hard in my life. I knew it was for a divine purpose- perhaps, as the Calvinist will put it- as ordained by divine decrees. Whatever be the case, I was sure the next relapse of Jonah would have met her dead if I had not been led by the spirit of God to pray for her at her bed! That was the divine providence.


Joanah’s admission to UCH, Ibadan

I went to Jos only to be told a week later that Joanah had been admitted to the largest teaching hospital in the country at Ibadan called University College Hospital Ibadan. It was the doctor’s prescription. I had to go along with it but knew this was an error. It would not be possible for any one to touch Joanah for she was a living dead; a person kept alive to glorify God. Her admission to UCH therefore ended up in disaster. Her blood pressure had gone beyond 280 systolic and was running this figure for four days non stop. That was what led to her admission at E2 ward in UCH. Yet no one could do anything about this blood pressure even in UCH. She had become delirious and confused. The combination of these clinical signs did much to confuse the learned doctors also. For one, they could not aggressively crash the blood pressure for fear of precipitating a serious stroke which would definitely lead her to her death. And yet if the blood pressure stays at that level it would definitely lead to one of two things- either a bleed in the brain because of burst artery (which the doctors suspected had already occurred for what else can be responsible for her confusion?) or blockage of end arteries leading to loss of blood supply to vital areas of the brain and death for those areas, which will of course spell disaster. I was monitoring everything that happened by telephone from Jos and giving my own advice, but of course not to do advise the doctors who were now completely befuddled. They simply left Joanah alone in the ward without any drugs, except a drip and no food for she was so confused she could not eat on her own. The intra-venous drip was for glucose and water and not any form of alimentation. That in itself is starvation and can kill! When I heard this, I knew we were incurring disaster. That way Joanah was going to die in the hospital. At about the fourth day of admission, the blood pressure was now going down. We were overjoyed. What we however did not know was that in coming down, the damage had already been done. Her brain had now been damaged by the mechanism we described above. Clots had blocked the end arteries to vital areas of the brain called cortices and those areas can never be regained for nervous tissue never or rarely regenerate. One of the smart doctors taking care of her in UCH ordered a CT brain scan. The report was texted to me. It was appalling! A large junk of her cerebral and cerebellar cortices had gone- infarcted, dead! I could not forgive those doctors. I rushed to Ibadan and got there and begged for her immediate discharge from the hospital. The nurses graciously agreed and requested me to sign for her discharge against medical advice. I promptly signed and took her away from UCH with great rejoicing. I was convinced whatever was the damage to her brain she will recover by the divine grace of God despite the fact that I know the brain does not regenerate. I however doubted the report of the CT scan, believing the doctors may had made mistake. I kept this in my mind, wanting to see the scan myself. It was not ready by the time we left the hospital.

On getting home, I now had to take over completely the medical as well as the spiritual care of Jonah for I said the mistake that led to her been hospitalized in UCH, or indeed anywhere else, must never be repeated. I then gave instruction that from thence on, anything that was going to happen to Joanah must be first reported to me by telephone. From that point on I now became her de facto doctor and pastor all combined together. I still believed, and more so now, that only divine healing could make Joanah recover completely and healed without any scarring, but would our God do it? Is there anyone he could use around to do it? I had to keep up my hope and faith but as a doctor I knew that was not going to be easy. When I finally saw the CT scan report. I text every one that the report was terrible. It meant she would never walk again, or even see. She was still talking though, and even communicating well at the time. She complained she had not moved her bowel. It was a week later we discovered that fecal matter had impacted her rectum and needed to be evacuated. After the evacuation, she felt relieved for her tommy was already swelling up as a result of what could have led to intestinal obstruction. Even the hand had become swollen as a result of bad intravenous injection. All these happened as a result of hospitalization in UCH- they were, as doctors called them, iatrogenic.


Nursing care

It became clear after Jonah left hospital that only nursing care and a proper one, was now needed, and not necessary medical care. Now because of the damage to her brain she could not move one side of her body and also could not stand up on her own or even recline. She was now bed ridden. I continued praying and of course also medication. What could medication do in this circumstance anyway? It was now November 2007.

It was at this point that we needed the help of our elder sister most and God used her mightily. She, drawing on the experience with brain damaged persons at the USA, was to nurse Joanah to health. The problems were numerous. Joanah had lost appetite, could not recline unless she is carried and could not rise up from the bed etc. Suddenly I had a bright idea. Why don’t we celebrate the health of our mother by the end of December and do a mighty party for her? It sounded like a very good idea. At least it brightened up our spirit.



I had started telemedicine in Jos as Dean of Faculty of Medicine. I now had to practice it on my mother. This is name given to practice of medicine at a distance. I would be on telephone (mobile phone) almost five times a day or more asking about her condition and given prescriptions of drugs based on what they say. For example, they could say she has not moved her bowel for five days or she has not slept for two days (a common complaint in those days). The greatest problem was from her inability to sleep, called insomnia and also her confused state which sometimes leads to severe agitation. She was managed with major tranquillizers, sometimes doses very high. I sometimes had to manage her by telephone from far away places. On two occasions I was away on national assignment with the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC) accreditation team to various Universities. Once I was even the Chairman of the team. Every little time I had I called home to find out how she was doing and to prescribe treatment or nursing care etc. She survived and we had a big party in her honour on the 31st of December. She could not dance at that party, but she used her hand to mimic dancing and we took her picture at this party. Almighty God gave us that!


Joanah on 31 December 2006 at the party in her honour dancing with her hands.



January 2007

On the first of January 2007, the New Year’s day, Joanah began to walk, taking a few steps at a time. We could not believe it. We were overjoyed. Despite the damage to brain shown very clearly by CT scan she could walk. We gave this testimony at the church in Ibadan and also went to give the same on 7 January 2007 at Ife.



Thanksgiving  for Joanah’s health at Abadina, Ibadan University 31 December 2007


It was Joanah’s birthday on 29 January 2007. The children alone gathered at her residence to mark this with again a big party. We praised God, with songs and psalms for three hours. Joanah became exhausted and we had to take her back to her bed and we continued praising God. She was very happy indeed and we ended the day praising God that Almighty God kept her alive.

Ife thanksgiving 7 January 2007


Complete cure

On 15 February 2007, it was amazing that Jonah had shown signs of complete recovery. This was to exhibit itself for the next one week. She was able to use her own mobile telephone herself. Her confusion disappeared. She was also able to walk and climb the stairs and perform many activities, including writing her own name and her signature beautifully. We had stopped all visitors from seeing her when her confusion was very high. She was now able to recognize her family members and even understand events and remember thing. She had always had good memory and was never affected by amnesia of old age or senility of any kind. Before her illness of 22 September 2006, she was completely sane, wise and prudent. Many still relied on her wisdom and consulted her on many matters. She was the epitome of wisdom, knowledge and indeed understanding.

But now all these came back like a rush of the wind. She telephone me in Jos and when I asked her whether she knew me as her son she said yes. She could now recognize all her children. She had, in the height of her confusion not recognized her children and tended to call some brother, sister or niece etc. She could now recognize everyone. She only requested for one thing. Take me away from this house and take me Jos, she said to me- The house is evil. We did not know she may have been saying the truth at the time. We thought it was still part of her confusion.


Second terminal relapse

On 22 February 2007, exactly a day before the first anniversary of internment of her husband, Jonah suffered a permanent relapse. We could not determine what was the cause. Earlier she had had hypertensive encephalopathy. Now we could not fathom what was the problem. It could have been the same thing or the continuation of the previous thrombotic process in the brain. Whatever be the case, she lost her ability to talk, (which we interpreted to mean that the brain speech centre had become damaged) walk or even move. She just laid in bed in one position with her eyes looking forward unable to even blink or sleep. If the point about speech area was correct, that would be grave, we noted. She could no longer respond to her environment. By then four people stayed with her permanently, day and night. Three of them were two house boys and one house girl. Their leader was the ubiquitous Mama Ranti who was now responsible for her. The children could no longer stay permanently with her for they have to attend to their work places. I myself had to go back to Jos. The D day now came and true to the instruction I had given to them, no one called a doctor. I was called in Jos. I came running. I saw her condition. It was bad. She was now reduced to vegetable. She could not move her body at all and could not speak. She could not even recognize her environment but she was not unconscious. And we could tell when she was sleeping or awake. She refused to take any food and so I ordered her to be force fed using casilan and complan fluid meal. We prayed for her and she began to move her leg first, then hands and finally she could seat up! I stayed in the house for 10 days to make sure she was full recovered before I go away to any place. She got better the next day and could now sit up or recline. She could still not walk and could not respond to anyone who talked to her. I personally felt she could sometimes respond reflexively but could not will a response. That was consistent with a massive damage to the cortex of the brain once again.

Real human brain showing speech area, motor area (which controls walking) and cerebellum. All were damaged beyond repair in Joanah due to hypertensive encephalopathy.


Plan to take Joanah to Jos

Joanah had kept on insisting she wanted to leave her own house. Initially we did not take her seriously. When we began to, my elder sister Funmi suggested I took her to Jos. I thought about this for a whole day and concluded that it was the proper thing to do. I made arrangements with Mama Ranti to take her also along together with two of the house helps. I now decided to go to Babcock University Ilishan, to conclude my unfinished work there before I would take her to Jos with me in the next three days. I was to be in Ilishan to teach and supervise practical. I had left for Ilishan only in 24hours, and Jonah gave up the ghost within that period.


Babcock University, Ilishan.

I woke up at Ilishan at 3.00am on the fateful day of 6 March 2007 to continue my computer work. I was working on a book project which I wanted to finish in the next ten days. I was so bent on this that I was startled to have received a call at 4.00am. My first impulse was not to respond. After all, it could be a mischief maker at this time of the night. Then on second thought felt I should respond. After all, it could be from those taking care of Joanah at Ibadan. It turned out to be Mama Ranti. She was very frantic. I have been calling you since 4.00pm yesterday, she said to me. I had actually called her at that same 4.00pm to inquire about Joanah and she told me she was okay. It was after you called that she began to gasp. Even the doctor saw her and said he was coming back. She was now saying she had tried to call me since then but could not get through. What do we do? I was convinced there was no problem at all. Joanah used to have orthopneoa and I was convinced that was the problem. Prop her up- that was my recommendation. I will call you again. I tried calling ten minutes later. I could not get through. Then the charge on my phone failed. I started to charge the phone. Note I was so calm, and felt there was no problem that I did not even begin to pray.  I continued my work! At exactly 6.00am I now decided to call Mama Ranti. This time it went through. She told me in a serious voice, I can still hear today. Joanah had died at exactly 5.30am.


Joanah’s death

That was a big bomb! I was confused. I did not know what to do next or even to think. How can she die Lord? Who deceived me to come to Babcock University to do a piece of work I could have left for another 10 years. What was the hurry about my work at Babcock that I was not beside Joanah at the time of her death? Why did she not give up all the ten days I was at home? Who deceived me to go to Ilishan? The questions were endless, but no answers. Why would God do this to me and to Joanah? I then concluded it must mean He wants to glorify His name. It means He wants to raise Joanah from the dead. Didn’t Joanah herself tell me she had died two times and God had sent her back during this period of her illness? I was now very sure. God will raise her from the dead. All I needed to do was to get to Ibadan as quickly as possible. I immediately packed all my things and headed for the University gate running on foot. I got to the gate and requested a motorcycle man (Okada) to take me to the nearest place I get a charter vehicle to Ibadan. He got me to the place in 10 minutes. In 12 minutes I was on my way to Ibadan, and exactly 7.00am I was at the bed side of Joanah. I prayed in the vehicle through the period. Her body was till warm, as if waiting for me. She did not look dead. She was not stiff. She appeared to be sleeping. I began fervent prayer for God to restore her. I shouted; I prayed. At a point  I broke down weeping to God on her body and doing a combination of praying and cardiopulmonary resuscitation by hitting on her praecordium. At this point, the house helps (three) and Mama Ranti, feeling what I was doing was futile, attempted to drag me away from the body. I held onto the hand of Joanah. Instead of dragging me they were in actual fact dragging Joanah. I then ordered all of them to leave the room and let me stay alone with her. I prayed for her for one hour. During the prayer, she lost her temperature, and her body begun rigor mortis and therefore stiffened at the position of dragging which occurred earlier. This was to give me problem during the subsequent embalming. I came out of the room sweating and accepting the inevitable will of God. During my prayer session the Holy Ghost struggled with me and my faith and helped me through all my questions. Why did Jonah have to die? Everybody must die was the answer. Why did she have to go like this? She was to go before now. God added six months more to her life because of your prayers. You should therefore be grateful to God and not the opposite. That cured me. My eyes now were opened wide. Joanah was actually dead since 22 September 2006. She was kept alive because of the prayers and the love that surrounded her in her illness from her children.


Immediate post death

I came out of the room to meet Doctor Lanloye. He was quite relieved that everything went well and that God was in control. We discussed for about one hour, and became more cheerful. He told me his wife Mrs Lanloye who is the Pastor in charge of the Abadina Bethel Assembly, University of Ibadan, actually had an accident as she was coming to see Joanah the previous day. Some how everyone who wanted to be around could not come for one reason or the other to fulfil the prophecy that on her day of death, only Mama Ranti would be there. But why? I cannot answer that question till today although several people have provided both theological, medical and other reasons why this is supposed to be so! Some of the theories include conspiracy theory involving Satanists. But then why would God allow Satanists to murder his own daughter and make sure no one is around at the time of the murder? That was why God had made this provision long before then! The answer seems to be curt as if to say -do not ask any more questions. I quickly informed Joanah’s children and Professor AMA Imevbore about the death of their mother by mobile phone. I could not tell the eldest Funmi who had to be told to come to Ibadan urgently for some activity. She was told when she arrived!


Telephone calls

I now began to receive condolence calls from every where in the world. The first came from Eddie, the first daughter of Professor Imevbore. Another came from Aije, Professor’s niece, followed by yet another from Lizzy Dikibo, the Abuja based Port Harcourt amazing lady who was one of the strongest admirers of Joanah I had ever known. Others came in subsequent days to me and the rest of the family.



I had now only one task to do. Embalm her. I am a Professor of Anatomy but ordinarily I do not embalm bodies. That work is done by technologists- in fact the most junior persons. But I vowed to do the embalmment of my mother myself. And so I did. She had earlier requested she would not want to go to mortuary or anywhere else and so we had to keep her wishes, but I personally would not have wanted her to go there anyway. I went to town to get chemicals and got them about eight hours later. I did not recognize the terrain of modern Ibadan well since I had left that city since 1979. I prayed for God to help me and he did. I got the chemicals. I had no instruments to perform the embalming. I went to the nearby University department of Anatomy to request for assistance. I was told to bring the body. Of course I could not do that, so I had to improvised through and through and improvise I did. It was a perfect job. We finished 10 days later. Myself, assisted by one of the house helps, secured a properly embalmed body which laid on the bed dressed up as if she was sleeping. We then surrounded her bed and room with flowers and serious decoration. This is the picture that was taken on the day of her lying in state or ‘lying in bed’! But the actual truth is that since the last day of embalming, she had laid there on the bed as if she was asleep and has been open to people to see if they so desire; even on internet. This

Joanah’s death bed by which she went to heaven.

Her embalmed  figure has been deliberately removed

from the picture


embalming is fit only for earthly kings for celestial glory is for a different world.



Many came to the house to pay their last respect and give condolence to the family. We got a condolence register and people used it. What surprised me most in all this is that no one came to cry, every one was genuinely happy or so it seemed to me. I was also surprised I learnt from these people. I could have easily degenerated into classic depression which I would have been unable to handle. But God helped me even though my eyes are still misty a number of times. But I took the cue from the visitors. No need to cry; God has done his very best for our Joanah. We should be thanking him. Some visitors impressed me. The CAC President of Supreme Council Pastor (Dr) N.E. Udofia was one of them. He calmly demanded to see Joanah’s body. He was impressed and deeply touched!


Praying to the dead

One incidence deserves mention. As I attempted to enter Joanah’s room, I saw one person there praying. I rebuked her immediately and told her it was necromancy to pray in the place of the dead. God is not a God of the dead but of the living and Joanah is alive in heaven. Do not bother to pray to her or for her here. Do not pray to the dead or speak to the dead. It is an abomination. This was what has turned some churches evil and cultstoday.[2]


Past medical history: hypertension

Joanah had had labile hypertension since she was juts over thirty. She had grappled with this problem, appearing only at odd times, and being only a thorn in the flesh rather than a serious medical problem. Certainly Satan must use something to kill, if not medically speaking such severe hypertensive crisis that she had, which damaged her brain beyond repair is no history that she should have arisen from her labile hypertension.


Joanah’s theology of death

How do we analyze the death of Joanah? Was it biblical? Was it right? Does it indicate she was not righteous person but a pretender to the family of Christ? Is there a conspiracy of the devil involved? Did she die a death from natural causes or was she cursed? Is this how a true general of God should die? We shall attempt to interact with these questions. Let me warn you though that we can never have all the right answers.

Firstly it is important to note that death is the natural end of everything as ordained by God on earth. Hence the Christian is not necessarily shielded from death or death of any particular means. One, if it is the time to die a person can go by any agency unless of course the saints pray and ask for a specific means by which they wish their loved ones to die. Secondly, it is possible for Satan and his agents to actually kill a Christian or even a man of God. This would be permitted if there time is up. The devils know this but use it nevertheless to disparage or destroy the names and reputation of such men of God. Arminius (1560-1609) died of tuberculosis, which was incurable in those days, just as he was to defend his theory of Arminianism openly. Martin Luther (1483-1546) died of pulmonary disease before he was 70. Kathrene Kulman in the last century died of heart disease at the age of 69 etc. All these show some activity of satanic agents rather than natural causes, although it could still be argued that the natural causes are better as theory than the conspiratory ones. But in each of the cases, the Satanists have come forward to say it must have been God punishing them for their sins and for their falsehood. In the case of Joanah she lived to 83 years. Hence it would be difficult to say that God did not bless this woman enough with long life. But He did a merciful thing. God allowed her to live for another six months after she would have died because of the fervent prayers of her children. This was a time to get together, to love each other, make up for quarrels and misunderstandings and a time which will be remembered by members of the family for ages to come. It came from God as a special gift to that family.


Divine healing

It will be impossible to end this section without mentioning the providence of God and his mercy in answering our prayers. It was indeed a miracle for Joanah to have walked at all after the damage to her brain and to the parts of the cerebral cortex that takes care of walking. You can see the scan yourself. After damage to the cerebellum, she is supposed not to have been able to stand up at all. For her to even write her name and her signature after then shortly before the last relapse is a great miracle. See the CT scan yourself to appreciate the miracle of God. Yet that does not answer the fact that she still died and why I was not given the opportunity to take her with me to Jos. Some have suggested that if I had the opportunity, she would not have died at the time she did  but she may not recover completely and therefore would only be suffering when the glory prepared for her since the beginning of time is waiting for her in heaven. But I still cannot help but blame myself for going to Ilishan instead of taking her to Jos.


Suffering and evil perspective in Evangelicalism

The slogan of the Christian is


I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil 3:10.


Suffering is a philosophical concept in Christianity. The religion is known amongst philosophers as a religion of suffering. Jesus Christ was designated suffering servant (Is 53).  Paul boasted about his sufferings (2 Cor 11:25) and there are several texts in the Christian Scriptures which enjoins the faithful to take up his cross and follow Jesus (Mt 10:38). Jesus told his disciples


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. Jn 16:33.


The text is the summary of the evangelical Christian position about suffering and evil.[3]  Evil belongs to the world. Once you are in the world, you will encounter evil. But you do not need to be afraid of the evil in this world because as long as you are in Jesus you have peace, no matter what the evil.  He also said to the disciples


Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Jn 14:27.


The kind of peace in the face of trouble that Christians have baffles scholars and philosophers alike. What in the face of terrible persecution and death, they keep on smiling. Do they feel that torture of  pain at all? I doubt it! The very first Christian martyr Stephen was looking up to heaven and seeing Jesus as HE was being stoned to death. Did he feel any pains? Even if they feel pain, these Christians behave as if there is no pain. Without the persecution and death of the Apostles and church fathers, there would be no Church today. For it is their blood that cried out to be heard that Jesus is alive for no one can die for a lie.

So to the Christian, there is no such thing as evil.

Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Ps 23:

In evangelical doctrine, just as Job experienced evil from the Devil, evil is assumed to come from the devil. Appeal is made to the text ‘accuser of our brothers’ Rev 12:10.  Hence it is assumed that the devil originated evil. This is equally supported by the parable of the Weed ‘The enemy has done this.’(Mt 13: 24-30).  Generally speaking there seems to be thrust in evangelical circle that the Christian cannot experience evil, for even if it appears evil at the time, it will ultimately turn to good on his behalf. For the Bible says


And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ Rom 8:28.


Hence evil has been conquered by Jesus Christ on the cross and the believer need not fear anymore.

For the evangelical man, evil can be permitted by God until such a time that God shows the reason for the evil by transforming it into good.  It is the same God that provides, therefore, the understanding of what evil is and what it is not; he is the higher intelligence that can see the future and determine if it is for good when the individual experiences ‘evil’ from his own perspective. 


Where comes the bad and the ugly?  Are they from God according to Calvin? The Bible says clearly


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Jas 1:17.


This is the most common explanation of the providence of God even amongst the African


Origin of Evil

Epicurus can be said to be one of the first philosophers to address the issue of evil when he said


Is he (i.e. God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?[4]


Others followed.  But Job is considered the first to understand the principle of evil and that evil can come from God without an individual being sinful. Before Job, evil  was considered punishment for sin or wrong doing in Judaism. With the arrival of Job comes the belief that evil does originate without sin and that its source is not God but Satan, although we were not told whether Job knew this or not for he said to his wife


Shall we receive good from the hand of God and shall we not receive evil? Job 2:10.[5]


But the writer of 2 Esdras captures the imagination in what can be termed a pre-hellenistic philosophy of the Judaic variety when he explained the nature and the origin of evil and its final fate.[6]  This was followed by the understanding of evil by Christian philosophers such as Origen (185?-254? AD)[7], and Augustine (354-430 AD). Others are Blaise Pascal[8] (1623-1662), Pierre Bayle[9] (1647-1706) Leibniz[10] (1646-1716), David Hume[11] (1711-1776) Betrand Russell[12] (1872-1970) and contemporary theodicists such as Alvin Plantinga (1932-  ) and  J L. Mackie (1917-  ) etc.


Theodicy issue
We shall examine the various positions on the theodicy issue by Mackie but we must first define theodicy following John Robinson


A theodicy is an attempt to “justify the ways of God to men” -an attempt t explain how an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God could justifiably permit evil. If theism is to be intellectually respectable, it must provide a theodicy (or failing that, explain why the demand for a theodicy is inappropriate).[13]


Mackie talks of the following options in theodicy argument


In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There are some contradictions between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false.[14]


Propostion 1. Good cannot exist without evil. Or Evil is necessary as a counterpart to good.

Proposition 2. Evil is necessary as a means to good.

Proposition 3. The universe is better with some evil in it than it could be if there were no evil

Proposition 4. Evil is due to human free will


Other subsidiary theories of theodicy mentioned by Mackie are


Some have said that evil is an illusion, perhaps because they held that the whole worldo f temporal, changing things is an illusion, and that what we call evil belongs only to this world, or perhaps because they held that although temporal things are much as we see them, those what we call evil are not really evil. Some have said that what we call evil is merely the privation of good, that evil in positive sense, evil that will really be opposed to good, does not exist. Many have agreed with Pope that disorder is harmony not understood, and that partial evil is universal good.[15]


We argue in support of the free will proposal of Mackie, i.e. Proposal 4. In our argument, we are supported by Plantinga who says


We may therefore conclude that the Free Will Defense successfully rebuts the charge of contradiction brought against the theist. The problem of Evil (if indeed evil constitute a problem for the theist) does not lie in any inconsistency in the belief that God, who is omniscient, omnipotent, and all good, has created a world containing moral and physical evil.[16]


            Plantinga summarises the argument against free will in Mackie’s proposition as follows

(1) God is omnipotent and omniscient and all-good.

(2) If God is omnipotent, He can create any logically possible state of affairs.

(3) God can create any logically possible state of affairs.

(4) That all free men do what is right on every occasion is a logically possible state of affairs.

(5) God can create free men such that they always do what is right. (3,4)

(6) If God can create free men such that they always do what is right and God is all-good, then any free men created by God always do what is right.

(7) Any free men created by God always do what is right (1,5,6)

(8) No free men created by God ever performs morally evil actions (7).


Finally, we examine the view of Calvin on human free will. Calvin maintains that the human will is not free at all and that it is controlled entirely by divine free will which of course  raises the dust again on the theodicy issue. If God is absolutely responsible, then he becomes absolutely responsible also for evil. Since this is not the case, we rest our argument by saying evil came to the world that was good through man’s free will and that man selected to do evil rather than good. God is therefore not the author of evil.




Joanah praising her God




Aune, David E. Apocalyptism. In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. G. Hewthorne, R.P. Martin, and D.G. Reid, eds. Leicester: IVP, 1993, pp. 23-35.

Calvin, John, Institute of the Christian Religion, Books 1-III. Transl. Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing,1997, last edition by Calvin 1545.

Cameron, N.M. deS. Providence. In  New Dictionary of Theology. Sinclair F. Ferguson and David F. Wright eds. Leicester: IVP. 1988.  pp 541-542.

Geisler N. L. and Amanu J Y A. Evil. In New Dictionary of Theology. Leicester: IVP,

1988,  pp. 241-243.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Leicester: IVP. 1994.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, 3 vols. Reprint edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970, First Published 871-1973.

Hume David. God and the Problem of Evil. From Dialogues Concerning Natural

Religion, Parts X and XI. The Philosophical Works of David Hume, vol II. Edingburgh: Adam Black and William Tait; and Charles Tait, 1876.

Leibniz Gottfried. The Problem of Evil. From Theodicy by G W Leibniz, translated by

E.M. Huggard, Austin Farrer ed. Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.

Mackie J.L. Evil and Omnipotence. From Mind. Vol LXIV, No 254. April 1955.

Metzger B.M. The Fourth Book of Ezra (2nd Esdras)- Late First Century A.D. In; The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1. J. H. Charlesworth ed. New York: Doubleday,

1982, pp. 517-559.

Pascal  Blaise. Why I am a Christian. In The Challenge of Philosophy. Introductory

Readings. Paul F. Fink. Ed. San Franscisco: Chandler Publishing Co, 1965,


Peel, J. D.Y. 1968  Aladura: A Religious movement among the Yoruba. International African Institute/ Oxford University Press.

Plantinga  Alvin. The Free Will Defence.  In Philosophy in America. Max Black ed.

Cornell University Press. Nd.

Popkin R and Stroll A. Philosophy made Simple. London: W.H. Allen.

The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia. Franklin Bookman. Burlington: Franklin Electronic Publishers. 1994.

Row William I. And Wainwright William J eds. ed. Philosophy of Religion. Selected

Readings. New York: Harcourt Brace Jouvanovich, inc. 1973.

Robinson, John. The Religious Inadequacies of Traditional Theism. In Philosophy and Religion. Selected Readings. William I Rowe and William J Wainwright eds. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1973., 231.

Russell Bertrand. Why I am not a Christian. In The Challenge of Philosophy. Introductory Readings. Paul F. Fink. Ed. San Franscisco: Chandler Publishing Co, 1965, pp. 167-181. 156-165.

Wesley, JohnThe Journal of John Wesley. Chicago: Moody Press. abridged. Nd.




[1] 2 Kings 20:1-6  In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.  And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.’

[2] I am an anatomist and work well with dead bodies and have been doing that for over 25 years. I have never seen a ghost. Yet there are stories of ghosts which appear in cemeteries and other so called haunted places, but certainly not in anatomy departments. I would be a fool not to believe in ghosts even if I have not seen one. But I am fully convinced that it is demons around the dead that impersonates ghosts. Ghosts are therefore unreal and they appear only if there is enough justification for demons to inhabit the dead bodies of departed people. This can happen with incantations to the dead, prayers to the dead, black magical practices and of course voodoo.

[3] After a long period of silence about suffering, following the conversion of Constantine (4th century AD) and the Christianisation of Rome, people forgot this message. Aside from  the Waldenses (of Peter Waldo-12th century AD)) and the Lollards (of John Wycliffe-1328-1384), the very first record of this kind of peace which is said to come from Christ, and is  able to smile at the storm was recorded by John Wesley in 1736.  It involved the Moravians who were a remnant of the followers of John Hus (they still exist till today and some say because of the martyrdom of John Hus himself in 1414. Wesley records this in this Journal on Friday, 23 January 1736 ‘At four it was more violent than before, At seven I went to the Germans (Moravians). I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behavior. Of their humility they had given a continual proof by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired and would receive no pay, saying, “it was good for their proud hearts,” And every day had given them an occasion of showing a meekness which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck, or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the spirit of fear as well as from that of pride, anger and revenge.

                ‘In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sang on. I asked one of them afterward, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No: our women and children are not afraid to die.”’ John Wesley’s Journal, pp. 35-36. These smack of something unintelligible. Even if the adults were not afraid, how come it included the children? Providence, you might say?

[4] Taken from David Hume God and the Problem of Evil.

[5] Popkin and Stroll  say ‘The Book of Job reveals the defects of the traditionally-held view about the nature of the world. Because of these, a different, and more rationally defensible, theory had to be sought. Several possible ones are examined in the course of the Book, and finally the only remaining solution is that, man is unable by means of reason, to discover any satisfactory answer (on the nature of his evil). Rather than rest content with inconsistent theories, or unjustifiable ones, the philosophical writer of the Book of Job could only pose a question. The people who live ‘the unexamined life’ tried their best to avoid facing the problem, but the philosopher, because of his need for intellectually satisfactory beliefs, had to examine it. Even if he could not find a better theory than the traditional one, at least he would not accept a view that he knew was inadequate’ pp. xvii-xviii.

[6] The Book of 2 Esdras can be quite easily dated, because of its monist philosophy before the return from exile which took place in 538 BC.  The internal witness of the Book itself places its scene at about 30 years after the destruction of our city (Jerusalem) Babylon’ 2 Esd 3:1.  This places the date at about 556 BC during the reign of Belshazzar (Dan 5:1). But another section of the book ascribes the writing to Ezra during the reign of Artaxexes of Persia (2 Esd 1:3).  This problem could easily be solved by noting that scholars have placed the first and last 2 chapters of the Book later than the body and consider them part of the work of a redactor. (See Metzger 1982 who incidentally places the Book at 1st century AD.  The Book obviously was popularised by Christians in the late 1st Century AD but I disagree with Metzger about this date because of the pre-hellenistic and monist philosophies of the book which are quite primitive  and not part of the early or late hellenistic era.  But Ezra who is the purported author of the  book did not return to Palestine with his own exiles until 458 BC and during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 BC).  He could not have been the same person who was alive at the time of Artaxerxes and also have been born in 538 BC a year before Darius the Mede took over the kingdom of Babylon converting it into Persia.

[7] ‘Origines Adamantius, Christian philosopher; b. Egypt. Origen taught  in Alexandria for 28 years and became  famed for his profound interpretation of Scriptures. He attempted to synthesize the principles of Greek philosophy, particularly Neoplatonism and Stoicism, with those of Christianity. The most influential theologian of the early church, he is said to have written 800 work, of which few survive.’ The Concise Columbia Encyclopaedia, 1994.

[8] ‘French scientist and religious philosopher. A mathematical prodigy, Pascal founded the modern theory of probability, discovered the properties of the cycloid, and contributed to the advance of differential calculus.’ In The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, 1994.  Pascal having suffered himself for a long time because of an injury and a medical problem, developed a profound theodicy. See Blaise Pascal. Paul E Fink ed. 1965, p. 156-165.

[9] See below

[10] ‘Gottfried  Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), a successful German jurist and diplomat, was also known as a logician and mathematician. He shares, with Newton, the honor of having discovered the calculus. His major philosophical works include the Monadology and the Discourse on Metaphysics.’ In William I Rowe and Wainwright W, 1973, p. 177.

[11] Scottish philosopher best known for his refutation of traditional theistic arguments mostly of Thomas Aquinas.  He said ‘His (God’s) power we allow is infinite: whatever he wills is executed: but neither man nor any other animal is happy: therefore he does not will their happiness. His wisdom is infinite: he is never mistaken in choosing the means to any end: but the course of nature tends not to human or animal ferocity: therefore it is not established for that purpose. Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men?’ See David Hume, 1876.

[12] Betrand Russell gives several reasons why he could not have been a Christian and some of these arguments are derived from the consideration of evil. ‘If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.’ See Paul F Fink, p. 172.

[13] Robinson, p. 172.

[14] J.L. Mackie, 206.

[15] J.L.Mackie, p. 207.

[16] Plantinga, p. 230.