AT 2012 Volume 32 Issue 2

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Kerk en skoolonderwys in vier kerkordes
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Strauss, P. J.
    Reformed churches in the tradition of John Calvin and the well-known Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), have a long history of involvement of some kind in school education. This article looks into the famous – at least in some circles – church order of Dordt, and the present orders of three reformed churches: the Reformed Churches in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Christian Reformed Church in North America. All three tend to be in the tradition of Dordt. In the Dutch society of the 17th century close ties between the Reformed Church and the government gave this church the opportunity to influence Dutch school education. Firstly the church used the angle of the all embracing kingdom of God in which church and school are different institutes in society but serve the same Lord. Secondly the Reformed Church also influenced school education from the viewpoint of the church as church by introducing its confessions as a point of departure and also it’s discipline in schools. The other three churches opted for a say in the spiritual direction in schools, but not to tie them to a specific church. They strive for Christian and not church schools.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Articulating (ultimate) commitments: historical, factual and systematic considerations
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Strauss, D. F. M.
    Acknowledging that religion forms a constitutive part of human life is recently confirmed by Göbekli Tepe, an archaeological site in Turkey, from which it appears that religion is basic to all the other cultural developments within human society. This opened the way to illustrate the interplay between ultimate commitments and theoretical articulations with reference to the a priori commitment to gradualism (continuous change) as found in the thought of Darwin and neo-Darwinism. Subsequently a related brief analysis is given of the ultimate commitment motivating the development of Greek philosophy and Medieval philosophy and theology. Distinguishing between conceptual knowledge and concepttranscending knowledge (concept and idea) brought the views of Plotinus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dengerink and Tillich into the discussion. Negative theology is used to show how ontic conditions play a role in the articulation of ultimate commitments. The long-standing commitment to reason, embodied in the identification of thought and being, resulted in what the physicist, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, calls faith in science which according to him is the governing religion of our time. The philosophy of science of the 20th century acknowledges that scholarly activities are co-conditioned both by theoretical commitments and supra-theoretical ultimate commitments – the central dimension of human existence in which the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian convictions is seated. Wolters emphasizes that all aspects of created life and reality are in principle equally good, and all are in principle equally subject to perversion and renewal. The aim of this article is to argue that scholarly endeavours inevitably entail theoretical commitments (paradigms) which are rooted in ultimate commitments. It opposes the traditional (positivistic) view that intellectual pursuits are “objective” and “neutral”.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Oor die teologiese inhoud van die Belydenis van Belhar
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Smit, D. J.
    The essay argues that the theological content is indeed the most important contribution of Reformed confessional documents, but that the theological content can only be understood against the specific historical, which most often means socio-political, circumstances in which these confessions were originally adopted. Regarding the Confession of Belhar, the theological content consists in three confessional claims (each including allusions to the false teaching that is implicitly thereby unmasked and rejected) within the broader framework of an introduction and conclusion, involving key theological claims as well, respectively about the nature of the church and the lordship of Jesus Christ. After some interpretive comments on all five of these structural aspects – the introduction and conclusion and the three claims – brief consideration is given to the nature of reception of confessional documents in the Reformed tradition and some implications for the reception of the theological content of the Confession of Belhar
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Belhar confession and church and society: a comparative reading in five statements
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Naude, P. 
    This essay offers a close comparative reading of the Belhar confession and the DRC witness document, Church and Society. It is argued (in the first statement) that although on the surface there are many similarities in content between the two documents, they are in fact theologically quite distinct (statements two to five). It is hoped that the DRC’s decision in 2011 to start a process of adopting the Belhar confession represents a return to its Reformed roots in the confessing church tradition. The year 2011 was a significant one for the family of Dutch Reformed Churches in South Africa. In this year, we commemorated the 25th birthdays of two important church documents, namely the Belhar Confession and Church and Society. The Belhar document2 was adopted as draft confession by the then Dutch Reformed Mission Church in 1982 and subsequently formally included as confession in the church orders at the general synod in the suburb of Belhar close to Cape Town in October 1986. Kerk en Samelewing3 (KS/CS) is a witness document accepted as policy guideline for the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) at the General Synod, also in October 1986, and incidentally also in Cape Town. The relative distance in time of 25 years allows for rich opportunities to reflect on the significance of these documents. In this paper, an attempt is made to read the two documents in a comparative manner. The aim is, however, to go beyond a mere comparison of content, which is addressed in the first paragraph below. The intention is to rather investigate what the significant social and theological divergences were (and still are?) so as to understand why the DRC took a quarter of a century to resolve in principle to accept the Confession of Belhar.4 For the sake of clarity and progression of argument, this paper posits five statements which are then explained in the ensuing paragraphs. Each of these statements could have been an academic paper on its own. The weakness of this essay is therefore that huge topics will be stated quite concisely in the hope that what is gained in breadth will adequately compensate for the loss in depth at some points.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Matthew’s sitz im Leben and the emphasis on the Torah
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Viljoen, F. P.
    The role of the Torah is the subject of a full scale discussion in the first Gospel. This article investigates the socio-historical setting that produced this text with such an emphasis on Torah observance. To address these issues, the Matthean text is read to discover issues that were prevalent in the community where the text was produced and read. This is followed by an investigation into developments in the broader Jewish society in the second half of the first century C.E. It becomes clear that the Jewish society was fragmented, and this led to an urge to consolidate. During these developments the Torah was used by newly formed communities to define their norms of existence. In the first Gospel the author defines their position terms of specific Torah observance. While countering some form of Christian libertinism and allegations against the Torah observance of his community, he assures his community of their convictions
  • ItemOpen Access
    Towards an Abrahamic ecumenism?: the search for the Universality of the divine mystery
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Van der Kooi, C.
    This contribution explores the notion of an Abrahamic ecumenism as proposed by Hans Küng and others in search for a way in which Islam, Judaism and Christianity can live peacefully together. It is argued, however, that to pursue a viable political pluralism, it is more promising for Christian theology to take into account the historical development of the image of God instead of an orientation on a common historical origin in Abraham. The elaboration of the universality of the divine mystery in history does not have to be won by going back to Abraham, but by going forward to Jesus Christ and by thinking of and living out of Him.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Closing gaps in open distance learning for theology students
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Oliver, E.
    UNISA’s policy documents state clearly that the Open Distance Learning (ODL) concept aims to bridge the time, geographical, economic, social, educational and communication distance between student and institution, student and academics, student and courseware as well as student and peers. Blended learning and student-centredness remove barriers to effective learning, provide flexibility, and construct learning programmes with the expectation that students can succeed. Student-centredness and blended learning are the main drivers behind the intense evaluation and planned upgrading of the courses taught within the Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology. The student profile showed that our students are indeed a unique group with diverse interests and expectations from the theological courses for which they enrolled. By adjusting the values of the four components of blended learning and using both active and passive learning tools, students can learn course content and develop a core of applicable, transferable skills needed to succeed in the Open Distance Learning environment
  • ItemOpen Access
    Towards a Christian ethic of work in South Africa
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Kretzschmar, L.
    This paper draws on the academic field of Christian ethics and focuses attention on an ethic of work within the South African context. Key terms such as ‘an ethic of work’, ‘a work ethic’ and ‘ethics at work’ are discussed in relation to varied experiences of work. The issues of why one ought to work and what constitutes ‘good’ work are discussed with reference to current ethical and economic challenges. I argue that a Christian worldview, or understanding of reality, provides a much more credible contribution to an ethic of work than either a materialist view of reality or a system of patronage. Recently I read a historical novel set in Wessex – what is today southern England. This was part of the Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great in the 9th century. It was a time of war, brutal violence and suffering. Contrary to the violent culture and religion of the Danes, Alfred saw it as his calling, his work, to create a land in which justice, peace and prosperity were central features. In the historical note at the end of the book, Cornwell (2011:334) wrote this of Alfred: He was, by any measure, a most intelligent man, and he was also a good man. ... Alfred wanted a kingdom where the people of each market town would want to defend their property and their king because their prosperity was the state’s prosperity. He made a nation to which people felt they belonged because the law was fair, because effort was rewarded and because government was not tyrannical. It is not a bad prescription. Alfred’s Christian faith had an impact on his attitude to his people and the way in which he acted. Given the difficulties Wessex continued to face and the striking differences between that context and ours, what struck me about this passage was that this ruler combined intelligence with goodness and that he did not separate his prosperity from that of his people. His rule was legitimate because justice and effort rather than corruption and entitlement were rewarded. What is it that most people, whether in 9th century Wessex, or 21st century South Africa want for themselves, their families and their country? Is it not to be defended from corruption, injustice, incompetence, violence and policies that threaten the future of their country? Did not they hope for work, homes, food, health and education for their children? Did not they (and do not we) want to live without fear and with a sense of hope and purpose? My aim in this paper is to discuss the links between a Christian ethic of work and the challenges of the South African workplace. Within this context, where some are employed, even over-employed, and many more are unemployed or under-employed, this is a vital theme. In particular, different experiences of work, the issues of why one ought to work and what constitutes “good” work are discussed. Several biblical texts relevant to the various dimensions of an ethic of work are noted to highlight the importance of this theme, although space does not permit a detailed discussion of the literary and social contexts of these scriptural passages. In what follows, definitions are provided of Christian ethics, an ethic of work, employment and the context of work. Thereafter, varied work experiences and the issues of why and how one ought to work are examined with reference to the particular economic, social and environmental challenges facing South Africa. In this latter section, I contrast a Christian ethic of work with a materialist world view in which “growth” and “need” are often confused. A materialist view of reality is one which elevates the importance of material things such as money, possessions and status, above that of people and of peoplecentred values such as love of neighbour, the wellbeing of the whole community, and concern for the poor. When material considerations enjoy priority such values will be undermined, and a materialist economy will inevitably be an unjust one (Economic Justice in South Africa: A Pastoral Statement, 75). Nürnberger (2011:61-64) speaks of the distortions of “acquisitiveness and irresponsibility”, huge budget deficits, the commodification of all of life, easy credit, corruption and crime. A Christian ethic is also compared to the system of abusive patronage now common in many African countries. Patronage (or clientism) can be defined as a an extreme, unethical version of group loyalty and the unethical promotion of one’s family, ethnic group or political supporters at the expense of other members of the population (De Sardan 1999; Guest 2004:110; Kretzschmar 2008:89). Hence, patronage leads to the abuse of power and the looting of public resources. In the final section of the article, I consider when work is “good”.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Open-ended narrative and moral formation
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Klaasen, J.
    A narrative approach for moral formation must take the shortcomings of abstract reason seriously. Two specific attempts to a narrative approach, narrative as a means to an end and the supra-narrative approach, do not address these shortcomings and are inadequate approaches for moral formation. An open ended narrative approach considers reason as an important phenomenon for moral formation. The shortcomings of using abstract reason such as the neglect of tradition, community and the particular finds relevance in the way reason is used in an open ended narrative approach. Reason is not rejected, but it is used in a more holistic way that includes critical reflection.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A critical assessment of John Milbank’s christology
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Vorster, N.
    John Milbank is well known for attempting to develop a participatory theology. This article specifically assesses his Christology. The first section provides a synthetic explication of his Christology by focussing on his notions of participation, paradox, poesis, incarnation, the cross, and ecclesiology. The second section provides a critical assessment. The central argument is that Milbank’s Christology is inadequate in a participatory sense, because it lacks particularity and personal relationality. This inadequacy is probably due to the way in which he fuses Neo- Platonism and postmodern lingualism in order to construct his ontology. In order to maintain his non-violent and poetic ontological position, Milbank needs to revert to a general, “high” and impersonal Christology, and disregard “low” Christology. However, if one’s ontological construction leads to a detached Christology, which does not adequately affirm the central notion of one’s theology, serious doubts arise concerning the legitimacy of one’s method.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Spiritualiteit in het Lucasevangelie: verscheidenheid en gemeenschap
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Welzen, H.
    The themes in the Gospel of Luke connected to building up the community are important for the intended readers who, in the last quarter of the first century, were part of Christian communities which comprised various groups. Among them there were differences in social and economic positions and in cultural and religious origins. For these intended readers the themes of poverty and wealth were of great importance. Poverty and wealth relate in the first instance to economic positions. But they could also denote spiritual openness or spiritual closeness. While the poor are oriented towards God, the rich are oriented toward themselves and focused on preserving their future. Jesus’ contact with tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees’ and scribes’ opposition towards this behavior, mirror the social contact with people who have hardly or no prestige in the Christian community. Table companionship in which everyone, whatever his or her position, is allowed to participate is not only realized in Jesus’ relationship with real people, it is also an image of the eschatological realization of the Kingdom of God. For the Christian communities with their many groups at the end of the first century, the liberating initiative of God becomes concrete in a community spirituality with its concern for the poor, the lowly, the not esteemed and the oppressed. This spirituality is messianic and prophetic. It is rooted in the orientation on God who has solidarity with the poor and the oppressed. At the same time this community spirituality is eschatological. For those who accept the announcement of liberation this liberation is completely realized in the coming of the Son of Man.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Spiritualiteit in het Lucasevangelie: geschiedenis en bevrijding
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Welzen, H.
    This first article of a series of three is about the spiritual nature of the gospel of Luke as a historiography. Luke presents his work as a history guided by God in which the reader of his book participates. God takes initiative in history to liberate the people of God and each of its members. The liberating character of this divine initiative is revealed in the ministry of Jesus as a Davidic king and as a prophet. At the same time the texts about Jesus as a prophet show the consequences of accepting or refusing the offer of God. In addition it becomes clear that the prophet who announces the divine liberation risks his life. The last section describes the semantic content of liberation as a theme in the gospel of Luke: it is about liberation from death and threats to life, from illness and demonical possession, from social and economic marginalization, from oppressive sabbatical laws, from everything that obstructs the alliance with God and traps one in the snares of Satan.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Faith development of the teenager during the Sunday evening worship service
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Jansen, H. P.
    From church conversations with teenagers (born between 1974 and 1994), publications in recent times appeared worldwide and the qualitative investigation in the article is utilized. It seems there are problems in the practice of the faith formation of teenagers in the evening service. The aim of an evening service must always be that God receives all the glory and honour; therefore, the teenager‘s faith may be enriched. The article chooses for the use of the communicative approach to communicate the gospel to teenagers. The article attempts to use the empirical research method to determine which evening worship needs are experienced by teenagers. The article aims to provide the basis of an adjusted practice theory to propose an improved praxis. The article would provide guidelines for all stakeholders that are involved in the planning and execution of the liturgy of the evening worship service. The purpose of this article is to inspire new thinking and doing. The evening service liturgy should be arranged so that every teenager attending the evening service will be aware of the presence of God.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Mercy, love and salvation in orthodox spirituality
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Dumitrascu, N. 
    Mercy was demonstrated in the Hebrew and Greek traditions. The ideal state of Plato’s Republic exhibits mercy in a form that contrasts sharply with the Christian concept. The latter does not distinguish between those of different social conditions. In the Jewish tradition, non-observance of mercy was perceived as a transgression against a divine command which could potentially bring divine retribution on the entire community. For the Christians, mercy is not limited to members of one’s own community, but includes others, regardless of race, social class or even religion. It is a form of love which is not wasted in temporary and sentimental effusions, but actualised in concrete deeds, with the ultimate example supplied by Christ. Mercy also functions as a medicine against social inequality, serving to suppress the kinds of injustices present in every political system, as well as social solidarity. Mercy is the practical manifestation of interhuman love; it raises man from the image to the likeness of God
  • ItemOpen Access
    Augustine on election: the birth of an article of faith
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) De Boer, Erik A.
    The doctrine of divine election is part of the heritage of Western Christianity. Discussions in the reformed tradition point to the older Augustine as the one who developed the doctrine of double predestination in the controversy with the semi-Pelagians. The thesis of this study is that the birth of this doctrine can be found in the writings of the young Augustine in the early years of his episcopacy. Personal explorations into St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and written questions from Simplician of Milan prompted him to write on Chapter 9. Augustine’s reading of Romans 9 is compared with the preceding works of Marius Victorinus and Ambrosiaster. The account of Augustine’s conversion in his Confessiones document indicates his involvement in Romans. Especially his Ad Simplicianum documents “a veritable revolution in his theology” towards a fully developed doctrine of grace. The concept of God’s foreknowledge of human acts no longer sufficed to understand the diverse fates of the twins Esau and Jacob. There is a book titled Augustine the Algerian. The place where he was born in 354, Thagaste, is now called Souk Ahras and is part of modern Algeria. The fact that Aurelius Augustine, the famous church father, was born an Africa and worked in North Africa all his life appeals to me. The more recent book title, Augustine the African, is less anachronistic but still somewhat romantic. Augustine never went so far south that he crossed the Sahara on a camel, let alone rounding the Cape of Good Hope on a ship. It speaks to the heart of the present author, a Dutchman who is honoured to be invited to teach patristics in South Africa, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ reached the north of this beautiful and terrible continent as early as the second century A.D. I hope to share with my students and colleagues my encounters with Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Arnobius and Lactantius – to name but the Latin “big five”. Currently, in the Netherlands, many people take an interest in the church fathers. The steady stream of new translations of their works suggests that there is a market. The Center for Patristic Studies (CPO), a joint venture of the Amsterdam Free University and the Tilburg Catholic University, draws quite a number of scholars together and is training a new generation. Where does this renewed focus on the fathers come from? First, the realisation that the Christian church is a minority in society directs our attention to the early centuries when Christianity had to find its way in a non-friendly environment. Second, the fragmentation of the Church into many denominations, factions and groups fosters a longing for catholicity when the Christian church could rightfully be called one. The chair for patristic studies at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein has been inspired by a more academic motive: Theology should be grounded in the knowledge of its source texts. When theology is true to its vocation, it can help the academic community to react to the vivid interest in the early Church.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Enhancing of teaching and learning through constructive alignment
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Dames, G. E.
    This article elucidates issues about practical knowledge/deep learning on the current teaching and learning preaching practices in the Department of Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology of the University of the Free State. The action learning and action research methodology is applied. Growing evidence indicates that there is a disjunction between the level of student competencies and incongruent teaching practices in the Faculty. Failure in the operationalization of both an interdisciplinary and a constructive alignment approach is at the core of surface learning. It appears that former and current students find it difficult to align their studies and to adapt to an unfamiliar, diverse, pluralistic and complex postmodern society. We teach content and assess students on the basis of what they know. The content does not relate to students’ own experiences or the broader issues in society. We are talking about a change that is deeper than surface alterations to the syllabus or to classroom teaching techniques. We are considering a radically different way of framing the ministry of preaching and of viewing the task of those who seek to learn and to teach preaching.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Reflection on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger (pope benedectXVI)
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Corkery, J.
    This essay looks at ways in which the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, shows affinities with Reformation theological thought. Following a brief look at the background to my own interest in Ratzinger, I present some important features of his theology, shedding light on it particularly through drawing attention to those theological figures in the Christian tradition, Augustine and Bonaventure, who have influenced him the most. A brief treatment is then offered of how these theological forefathers are reflected in his work and, following this, Reformation “flavours” shown to have been present in his writings are traced, briefly, through examining three areas of his thought: ethics, his theology of political life, and ecumenism. The purpose of the article is to indicate, in an incipient way for an audience largely of the Reformed tradition, that Ratzinger is not as distant from their theological concerns as might easily be imagined. An address that I was fortunate to have the opportunity to give to the Professors and students of the Faculty of Theology at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, in July 2011, forms the background to this article on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger and its affinities with Reformation thought. Occasioning these reflections also is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, which has led to a sprouting of conferences and commemorative lectures throughout the world – in Roman Catholic circles in particular. Joseph Ratzinger has been vocal, indeed controversial,among the Council’s main interpreters and much interest has developed in his theological views and in the main factors influencing them. Among these are his German origins, his upbringing and education in the land where the Reformation began, and his professorial work in Catholic theological faculties in several German universities side by side with colleagues in parallel Protestant faculties. Even a superficial glance at his writings leaves no doubt that this Germanborn theologian, whose “theology has always been in intense conversation with the Reformation traditions” (Neuhaus 1998), exhibits an interesting affinity with themes and concerns that are important to the Churches of the Reformation. My purpose here is to try to highlight some of these themes and concerns and thus indicate how this theologian, who is currently head of the Roman Catholic Church, is closer than one might expect to the heritage of the Reformation. A rhetorical question that is sometimes posed in English to indicate a lack of surprise is: “is the Pope Catholic?” But here I am asking: in what sense might the Pope be Reformed?!
  • ItemOpen Access
    Cyril of Alexandria’s critique of the term Theotokos by Nestorius constantinople
    (Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, 2012) Artemi, E.
    The God Word became truly human. He had the real human nature (body and soul), but without propensity to sin. Jesus Christ was the incarnate Word of God. He was born of the Virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. His divinity is manifest in the extraordinary circumstances of His birth and, in particular, in the preservation of the virginity of the Theotokos. His humanity is guaranteed in that He was born of a woman, a real historical person. Nestorius of Constantinople rejected the title Theotokos for the mother of the incarnated Word. He insisted that Mary as a human being could give birth only to a human being, and not to God. He persisted in calling the Virgin Mary Christotokos. This teaching jeopardised the salvation of the human race. Cyril of Alexandria disproved this erroneous belief and supported the reason why the mother of God should be called Theotokos.