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Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices
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Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices

by , ,

Baker 1999

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


Around the world, Christian churches face the challenge of folk religions. Missionaries brought formal Christianity and assumed that traditional religions would die out as the Gospel displaced animistic beliefs and practices. Today, it is clear that old ways do not die out, but instead remain largely hidden from view. People affirm orthodox theologies, but go to witch doctors, shamans, diviners, and healers during the week. Christianity has become an overlay, coexisting with folk beliefs in an uneasy tension. How is the Christian church to respond?

The authors, drawing on their years of experience both in the classroom and on the mission field, offer a compelling model that accounts for the continued persistence of folk religions. Arguing that Western missionaries have failed to take these traditions seriously, they present a richly detailed portrait of the belief systems and practices that characterize folk religions (illustrated throughout with numerous charts and examples drawn from particular cultures).

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Save more when you purchase this book as part of the Global Missions Collection.

Key Features

  • Offers a compelling model that accounts for the continued persistence of folk religions
  • Argues that Western missionaries have failed to take folk traditions seriously
  • Present a richly detailed portrait of folk tradition beliefs and practices


  • Split-Level Christianity
  • Phenomenology of Religion
  • Analyzing Belief Systems
  • Folk and Formal Religions
  • The Meaning of Life and Death
  • Human Well-Being and Misfortune
  • Guidance and the Unknown
  • Right and Wrong
  • The World of Sacred Signs
  • Sacred Myths
  • Religious Rituals
  • Religious Leaders and Institutions
  • Religious Movements
  • Theological Responses to Folk Religion
  • Missiological Responses

Praise for the Print Edition

Here is a book that really does what the title suggests: it effectively helps Christians understand and respond to the beliefs and practices of folk religion, at home and abroad.

—Gerald H. Anderson, director, Overseas Ministries Study Center

As a missionary in Central America, I saw professing Christians sacrifice chickens on their way to church. As a missions professor in North America, I see professing Christians consult horoscopes for daily guidance. This much-needed and long-overdue volume provides the perspective needed to understand the what and why of the everyday religious beliefs and practices—both old and new—that actually shape the lives of their adherents. Contains culturally sensitive, theologically sound, and missiologically astute guidelines for communicating biblical truth in a transforming way.

—Kenneth B. Mulholland, Dean, Columbia Bible Institute & Graduate School of Missions

Product Details

About the Authors

Sherwood G. Lingenfelter (1932–2007) was distinguished professor of mission and anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and previously taught at Fuller Theological Seminary. He also served as a pastor and missionary to India. He received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and was the author or coauthor of numerous articles and books in the fields of anthropology and missions.

R. Daniel Shaw is professor of anthropology and translation at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Tite Tienou is professor of theology of mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.