Christianity and Animism in Melanesia

Four Approaches to Gospel and Culture
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In this book, Kenneth Nehrbass examines the interaction between traditional or animistic religion (called kastom) and Christianity in Vanuatu. First, he briefly outlines major anthropological theories of animism, then he examines eight aspects of animism on Tanna Island and shows how they present a challenge to Christianity. He traces the history of Christianity on Tanna from 1839 to the present, showing which missiological theories the various missionaries were implementing. Nehrbass wanted to find out what experiences in the lives of the islanders distinguished those who left traditional religion behind from those who held on to it. In the end, he contends that there are twenty factors of gospel response and cultural integration that determine whether an animistic background believer will be a mixer, separator, transplanter, or contextualizer.

  • ISBN: 9780878084074
  • Pages: 245
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: William Carey Library


Ever since Allan Tippett’s “Solomon Island’s Christianity”, modern missiological inquiry has richly benefited from case studies addressing the spread of Christianity into the South Pacific. “Christianity and Animism in Melanesia” continues that rich tradition by examining a variety of missiological practices and their outcomes in forming Christian communities in Vanuatu that has implications for missions around the globe.

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Table of Contents





Note on Vernacular Orthography


Part 1: Biblical and Anthropological Models of Animism

Chapter 1: Folk Religion for the Bible and Early Church Fathers
Chapter 2: Folk Religion and Modern Anthropology

Part 2: Kastom on Tanna

Chapter 3: Kastom and Knowledge
Chapter 4: Cosmology (Ghosts and Spirits)
Chapter 5: Magic and “Goodness”
Chapter 6: Healing “Badness”
Chapter 7: Ethics and Taboos
Chapter 8: Cargoism
Chapter 9: Ritual

Part 3: Kastom and Christianity on Tanna

Chapter 10: Mission History and the Integration of Kastom and Christianity
Chapter 11: The Gospel-response Axis
Chapter 12: The Cultural-integration Axis
Chapter 13: Mixers, Transplanters, Contextualizers, and Separators


Appendix A: Glossary of Frequently USED terms in the Southwest Tanna Language
Appendix B: History of Resident Missions on Tanna
Appendix C: Gospel/culture Assessment Tool
Appendix D: Gospel/culture Grid

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