Social Justice and the Gospel with Langham Author Isaac Boaheng

Isaac Boaheng is a minister and Langham author from Ghana in Africa. He has a passion for seeing Christians live out the love of Christ for all people, promoting a Biblical approach to social justice.

Isaac has felt called by God throughout different seasons of his life. He shares, “I was born into a Christian family, but I got converted around 2005. After my tertiary education, I became a teacher. And it was in that context that God called me into Christian ministry to become a minister.”

In 2013, Isaac did his initial theological study in Ghana, finishing in 2016. Then he went on to do his Masters of Theology at the South African Theological Seminary, followed by his PhD at the University of the Free State South Africa in 2021. Currently, he’s living and working in his home country of Ghana with his wife and five children.

A Biblical Mandate of Dignity

In Ghana, Isaac sees much injustice. Countless people live in poverty while others live in lavish wealth, there is much discrimination between tribes, gender inequality is still very embedded in their culture, and corruption makes it challenging to improve on these injustices! Isaac also sees God’s people engaging with the issues sin creates in the world.

Isaac reflects, “In my Christian perspective, social justice has to do with the biblical mandate for each and every Christian to uphold fairness, equality and dignity for all individuals, especially the marginalised and the vulnerable in our societies. At the core of social justice is Jesus’s [command] that we need to love and show compassion and solidarity with the poor and the marginalised.”

Christians in Ghana are working to engage with these issues of social injustice, although Isaac acknowledges there is still much to be done. The church is involved in advocacy and awareness through preaching and teaching both from the pulpit and also in schools and other public places. There is also a good culture of community engagement, with many churches running or contributing to NGOs.

However, the church can also be a problematic force for the marginalised due to the spread of the prosperity gospel in Ghana and throughout the continent.

Prosperity Theology and the Church Engaging with Poverty

Isaac shares, “Prosperity theology is a very influential theology when it comes to African Christianity. One of the reasons is that this kind of theology promises material prosperity to adherents. And Africa being one of the continents that is less endowed, with people living in abject poverty. It seems this kind of theology recommits or addresses the challenges that people are going through. And so it is not surprising that it happens to be the most influential and popular kind of theology.”

In his book, Poverty, the Bible, and Africa, Isaac formulates a theology of poverty that engages Scripture, African traditional wisdom, and contemporary African concerns to create a paradigm for understanding and alleviating poverty in Africa. His approach, however, is relevant far beyond the continent and is transferable to any context where people are seeking to effectively understand and combat poverty.

Isaac says, “Prosperity theology has both positive and negative influences. In my book, Poverty, the Bible, and Africa, I stated that when I put both the negative and the positive together, the overall impact is negative.”

In the book he acknowledges how the prosperity gospel brings people hope and empowerment – especially as they are living in poverty. Isaac shares, “People are living in poverty. They are hopeless. They don’t know what will happen to them tomorrow. They are not empowered…they have been marginalised. Then prosperity preachers will come in and say that God is going to make you rich…so it brings hope, it brings joy.”

While we know that wealth in this life isn’t the promise of the Bible, it is a compelling promise for someone struggling. While good things have come out of this being people’s introduction to Christianity, overall Isaac sees it as dangerous to people truly knowing Jesus. Isaac says, “At the end of the day, it’s not the end of the story. It breeds materialism and greed…the theology of prosperity is saying that somebody’s worth before God depends on material wealth.”

“I would say that the prosperity gospel is not doing us any good. We need to revisit it. And if we don’t take care, African Christianity cannot grow qualitatively with this sort of theology,” shared Isaac.

Empowering the Church for Social Justice 

In the future, Isaac hopes to see an empowered Christian community in Ghana and throughout Africa. Currently, as part of his work, he is visiting communities in Ghana and other places in the Majority World to empower marginalised groups to advocate for their rights. He says, “I believe people should know their rights [so they can] stand against people who abuse them.”

Isaac’s book, Poverty, the Bible, and Africa: Contextual Foundations for Helping the Poor, published by Langham Literature in 2020, is also a big part of his work to see the church empowered to address social justice issues. With a focus on poverty, the book aims to be practical and thought-provoking for those who read it. 

International Director of Faith2Share (UK), Rev. Jan C. Wessels, says about the book, “Boaheng has only one goal in mind – to develop a theology of poverty that is both theologically sound and culturally appropriate for the context of Africa. However, it is not only a book for Africa and African Christians. I really hope and pray that the whole global body of Christ will read this book and learn from it. This book stresses again the importance of biblical and holistic discipleship starting with the leaders of the church and Christian organizations as they model it and equip others.”

Hear more from Isaac on Out of the Margins Episode Six – a Young Langham podcast.

This article was written by Ngaire Buckley, Langham Partnership Australia.