Dunamis, Burden of Proof and the Three-kidney Controversy

By Olayemi Olaniyi Apr6,2024
Dunamis Church
L-R: Pastor Paul Enenche and the boy who allegedly grew a third kidney

There was a time when I saw things in a different light. I revelled in bashing the church at the slightest opportunity. The scales were off and I could finally see the church for what it truly is; an untaxed fraudulent corporation that sells false hope to its vulnerable adherents. I loathed how mortal men arrogated to themselves uppity titles under the imprimatur of self-reported divine calling. The facts couldn’t be clearer; for Africa to escape from the doldrums of poverty, it needs to get rid of religion. 

But recently, I’ve come to see the merits of religion. I now believe it serves a functional purpose in society. While the excesses and fraud of religious leaders are not to be excused, I’ve accepted that religion is going nowhere. Adopting that fatalistic attitude, it’s become easy for me to now admire religion, at least for its good parts. 

This caveat is necessary lest I come off as just another sky-daddy-screaming atheist. Things are mostly seen either as black or white when Nigerians engage in online spats and debates. There is a good chance that both Christians and non-religious folks would disagree with my arguments in this piece. Either side would likely accuse me of pandering to the other side. But when you upset both sides, you are probably doing something right. 

Dunamis International Gospel Centre is in the throes of an online debate over a post one Don Tobechukwu Ade (@Row_Haastrup) shared a few days ago on X. He narrated the story of a boy whose mother testified at Dunamis church sometime in 2017 of how God healed him of a damaged kidney after Paul Enenche, the pastor, had prayed for him. If you’ve spent up to a minute in a Nigerian church, stories of damaged kidneys getting healed would not necessarily surprise you. Far more extraordinary and outrageous claims of healing are testified every other Sunday. In any case, what made this boy’s miracle special was how he supposedly grew a third kidney as a replacement for the damaged one. Don Tobechukwu rightly said in his post, “Medical Science has never seen or experienced this before, ever…”

The post was intended to prove God still works miracles through people like Pastor Paul Enenche. But given its instant virality, it split the internet between two camps: sceptics and miracle-believing Christians. Notable among the sceptics is one Adelaide Tinuke (@MeePlusYou). According to her, she couldn’t confirm the miracle happened after consulting experts and contacting National Hospital Abuja, where the surgery to remove the damaged kidney took place. The Tobechukwu camp of course pushed back. They claimed it happened many years ago and knowing how poor we are with keeping records in Nigeria, it’s probable the hospital has lost all records. Besides, it would be medical malpractice for a hospital to disclose a patient’s medical record publicly. 

I stand with the sceptics on this one not because this presents me another opportunity to dunk on religion, but to simply pursue the truth. I’m agnostic when it comes to spiritual and supernatural claims. If miracles are real, some kind of evidence is needed not only to prove the existence of the divine being, but also to weed out the charlatans. By the admission of Christians, there is an epidemic of fake pastors today. They say this phenomenon proves Endtime prophecies in the Bible. Surprisingly, it seems to me that Christians are not so bothered with exposing the fake ones among them. If every pastor and church makes grandiose claims of miracles, what is the mechanism of telling real miracles apart from staged miracles? Playing the ostrich by not exposing these fraudulent pastors would be interpreted as tacit approval and subsequently, it creates a dent on the image of the church. 

In the interest of the Gospel, it should be burdensome knowing that there are fake pastors and self-styled prophets who scam people with the message that is meant to save people’s souls from damnation. There you are doing your best to evangelise the Gospel but how effective can it be when there are multitudes of fake pastors out there who through sensationalism and staged miracles have a much higher conversion rate than you? Shouldn’t that at least be of concern? 

The burden of proof in this case is on Tobechukwu and others who have continued to defend the testimony. When extraordinary claims are made, scepticism should be the default reaction. In this case, scepticism is especially needed because, again, it is generally acknowledged that miracles are staged every day. Instead of cooperating with the likes of Tinuke to get to the truth, Tobechukwu and his ilk have continued to shift the burden of proof on doubters. Think about how weird it is: you make a claim about an extraordinary event without evidence. When doubters demand proof, you tell them to go look for it. When they report that their findings reveal no such thing happened, you come up with excuses or gaslight them on how they’ve not looked hard enough. 

It is not lost on me how much of a dilemma it is for Christians to start investigating claims of miracles and healing to silence critics. For one, it is counterintuitive to believe the extraordinary claims made in the Bible while expressing scepticism when extraordinary claims are made in the church. More so, no Christian wants to be the modern-day Doubting Thomas. To subject miracles to scientific scrutiny in effect questions your faith in God. Not a convenient position to be in, I admit. But still, how do we separate fake miracles from the real ones if not by subjecting miracle claims to scientific investigations? How do we separate fact from fiction knowing full well there are lots of fake pastors and prophets who continue to scam people with outright false miracles, if not through asking pertinent questions? 

I understand the bellicose attitude put up by Tobechukwu. The church has been under constant criticism by atheists lately. More and more, people are speaking up against fraudulent practices in the church and they sometimes go over the top. There are no sacred cows when atheists and disaffected Christians go no holds barred mocking pastors whether it is Adeboye (who I call the de facto Pope in Nigeria) or the more theatrical Odumeje who is known for his meaningless neologisms. It must be heartbreaking to see your pastor or church getting trolled online. I’ve been there before. I know how it feels. I believe scepticism should not end at the level of mere trolling. This is where Nigerian atheists and sceptics need to improve. The job of investigating fraudulent practices in religious centres should be spearheaded by sceptics, not religious folks given the conflict that exists between believing in an omnipotent being and questioning extraordinary claims made in his name. This is not to downplay the investigative efforts of the likes of Gbenga Adewoyin and Tinuke.

As a piece of advice, it is high time the Nigerian church started engaging in apologetic discourse to take down the arguments of atheists. We’ve had enough preaching and a growing minority of people are dull of hearing. To save what’s left of the image of the church, good faith debates need to be held with sceptics. This means the church must bring out its best intellectuals to address the many and sometimes valid concerns and criticisms from the sceptic community. In addition, a doctrinal civil war needs to take place within Christendom. This means the good ones must name and shame the fake ones. The good ones must dissociate themselves from the ones using the Gospel for vested and pecuniary interests. This doctrinal civil war automatically puts an end to the silence. Ending the silence is putting an end to tacit indulgence. 

For Tobechukwu and his ilk, it may turn out the testimony is false. At least, so far, it has not been substantiated. They need to come to terms with the fact that It is very possible their favorite Daddy G.Os lie using God’s name. Tinuke and the rest of the sceptic community have done a good job holding to the fire the feet of Tobechukwu and everyone defending the testimony without evidence. I hope they can ride on the coattails of this success. I hope to see more of this. But I also hope in the event a miracle is proven to be real beyond every reasonable doubt, they can have the decency to admit it because intellectual honesty goes both ways. 

By Olayemi Olaniyi

Olayemi is the publisher of The Disaffected Magazine. He also hosts the Disaffected Nigerian Podcast. He enjoys everything from Evolutionary Psychology to the syncopations of Apala music to Fela's discography. He fancies himself as an Amala enthusiast. His dream is to be a travel writer someday. He can be reached on X @LukeOlaniyi.  

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