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HTS Theological Studies

On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422

Herv. teol. stud. vol.75 n.4 Pretoria  2019 

On the other hand, although viewed negatively even by the former Egyptian administration of Cleopatra and Antony, events did not change in Palestine where the Herodian dynasty remained intact. Politically, to those in the North, especially Palestine, Egypt was politically an attractive destination. Commenting on political events happening at that time, Bowman (1996) says the political development of peace and prosperity:

[E]ncouraged a shift of gravity towards the delta where many of the immigrants from the Hellenised Mediterranean countries must have settled. They poured into the Faynum in great numbers too and this area went through dramatic development the actual number of towns and villages in the valley will also have increased, as did the size of many of those already in existence. (p. 27)

In reading Matthew, there is no clear textual link of Egypt's peaceful political climate to Matthew's Sondergut. However immigration theory helps us to connect unwritten reality concerning that period. Given this and using the migration theory, one can plausibly assume that Matthew's time of writing coincided with a general fascination and appreciation of the political events in Alexandria, making Egypt a pull geographical region.

Using the theory, we can plausibly reconstruct that:

Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. (Mt 2:13)

which may be a pointer towards the safety of Egypt during that time.

Similar admission to the peace and security of Egypt comes from Josephus. Citing Josephus (Anti 13.62-73), R.T. France (2007) gives interesting insight, saying:

Egypt, the south western neighbour of Judea and now a Roman province with large Jewish population especially in Alexandria, was a natural place for Jews to seek asylum when in political danger at home, a substitute for the Jerusalem temple had even been set up by Jewish exiles in Egypt. (p. 79)

The immigration theory also allows us to assume peoples' direction of movement. Given that during that time information regarding changes in political fortune took time to reach from one region to the other, one can assume that Matthew's location in telling this story is important. Scholars think that Matthew was a Hellenistic Antiochean Jew who writes during social tension between Judaisers and Hellenistic Jews concerning the inclusion of gentile Christians. Arguably his reference to Jesus who resides or migrates to gentile territory speaks about his social reality in diaspora. If located in multicultural Antioch, news within the region transmitted by travelled merchants, senators and dignitaries from the equestrian class would have spread regarding Egypt being annexed by Octavius. Similarly, given the large Jewish population in Alexandria, relatives in Antioch and Alexandria must have compared social events in their areas. It is claimed that Ptolemy I (305-282 BCE) forcefully transported over 100 000 Jews to Egypt, many of whom were conscripted into the army and some into agriculture (Barclay 1996:17).1 Given that migrants travel to regions which their fellow countrymen talk positively about, it is possible to link Hellenistic Jews in Antioch and those in Egypt as carriers of political news.


Economic pull factors - Egypt as the economic hub of the empire

Secondly, besides the political peace associated with Egypt, it was economically a pull hub. The primary reason Octavius deposed Antony and Cleopatra was to control Egypt's resources, especially the much needed grain (Bowman 1996:25). To show how economically endowed and also politically contested the region was, no member of the senate of equestrian was allowed to journey to Egypt without imperial permission. That Egypt was economically a rich region is complemented by Strabo, the geographer who reported to Rome saying that Egypt had fertile soils from the rich alluvial deposits that come down when the Nile floods the delta. In Egypt agriculture was easy because of the good soils; anything that one planted, gave a harvest of plenty. Strabo comments, saying:

The land was rich in flora and mineral resources. Many plant varieties offered nutrition or other profitable products without systematic cultivation. Wild bean, material for clothing, fibre, mats, balsam, date-palms were found in abundance. In addition the region was known of its variety of wild animals - 'birds, aquatic fowl, fish, antelope, roebuck and wild boar. The eastern desert underneath it was copper, iron, including semi-precious stones such as 'agate, onyx, sadonyx, amethyst, beryl, chalcite, chalcedony, cornlian, green feldspar, garnet, quarts and turquois'. (Bowman 1996:25)

Given its riches, Octavius secured the region under his direct supervision and through prefects. Octavius' barring of senators from visiting the region was 'to exclude potential leaders of disaffection, to obviate the possibility that Egypt might again serve as base for political opposition with military backing, as it had done for Antony' (Lewis 1983:10). Concerning Egypt, Bowman (1996) further writes:

[F]or over 350 years, until the foundation of Constantinople, one of the most important aspect[s] of Egypt's role in the Roman empire was as the supplier of a considerable proportion of the grain needed to feed the population of the city of Rome the contribution of 20 million modii of wheat under Augustus. (p. 25)

Bowman (1986) went on to further say:

[T]he arrival of the huge ships of the Alexandrian grain fleet in Italy was a political event of some significance - though not nearly as significant as the threat of their absence. (p. 38)

Egypt was a granary for Rome, which also made it a region where political conflict could happen anytime.

Using migration theory, it is possible to argue that going to Egypt via Maris would have been an economically wise decision for the holy family. In comparison to the riches of Egypt, Nazareth was not climatically endowed. Rainfall was precarious. The Markan parables being closer to the earliest tradition refer to seeds falling among thorn and rocky ground, thus giving us clues regarding the climate of the region (Kloppenborg 2006:1; Van Eck 2009). Cited by Drew Christiansen (1996), in view of the challenges associated with the refugee crisis across Europe after the Second World War, Pope Pius XII in the Exsul Familia of 1952 says:

Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models of protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution by want, is forced to leave [his] native land, [his] beloved parents and relatives, close friends, and to seek a foreign soil. (p. 7)



Using migration theory and in view of the archaeological information regarding the Palestinian region during the first century, the story of Joseph and family's supposed flight would not be an isolated incident. Instead, given the growing Jewish population in the Alexandrian delta, the story may act as a window to several similar stories of Jews and others who endured the desert trip to Egypt. Using the migration perspective, political and economic factors could be the push factors for families in Palestine leaving for Egypt. In addition, political and economic safety associated with Egypt could have made Egypt a place of destination. Politically, being under the direct control of Augustus the Emperor, Egypt was a more stable location. The entire land was protected by local and Roman soldiers. Even public figures such as senators and equestrians could not freely travel in Egypt without permission. As the saying goes: power attracts. As such, like many other families in a similar predicament, Joseph may not have resisted being under the ambit of the Empire. Furthermore, the rich soils deposited annually upon the delta made Egypt an agriculturally rich area. Various crops and minerals were in abundance. To Rome, Egypt was the Empire's granary of grain, and a strategic place for the Emperor to appease the hungry masses and yet also increase his political favourability. Epistemologically, immigration theory may have more to contribute in exploring movement of people and the theme about survival embedded within stories such as Jesus' flight to Egypt.



I dedicate this article to Halvor Moxnes - Prof. Emeritus at the University of Oslo, Norway and Gitte Buch-Hansen at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark who afforded me the opportunity to attend the Nordic New Testament conference in Iceland and helped in structuring the argument of this article.

Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.



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Kloppenborg, J.S., 2006, The tenants in the vineyard: Ideology, economics, and agrarian conflict in Jewish Palestine, Mohr Siebeck, Tubingen.         [ Links ]

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Zorodzai Dube

Received: 04 Sept. 2018
Accepted: 05 June 2019
Published: 15 Aug. 2019



1. Philo of Alexander places the Jewish population in Alexandria at a million, which is very improbable given that the entire population in the region was close to 3 000 000.

^rND^sBourke^nM.M.^rND^sChristiansen^nD.^rND^sDube^nZ.^rND^sFrance^nR.T.^rND^sMcGrew^nA.^rND^sVan Eck^nE.^rND^1A01^nBarry J.^svan Wyk^rND^1A01^nBarry J.^svan Wyk^rND^1A01^nBarry J^svan Wyk



Die uitspraak ' en saam laat sit in die hemel' (Ef 2:6) as voorbeeld van 'n eskatologiese hoogtepunt in die brief aan die Efesiërs



Barry J. van Wyk

Unit for Reformed Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa





The sentence 'to rule with him in the heavenly world' (Eph 2:6) as example of an eschatological highlight in the letter to the Ephesians: The viewpoint in this article is that the above-mentioned statement in the letter to the Ephesians can be seen as an eschatological sentence of extraordinary value. In view of different eschatological viewpoints from the past, it can be stated that this sentence is an example of eschatology not only for the future, but also for the present. It is understandable that there is a close link between eschatology and mission. The meaning of theosis (deification), a concept from the Eastern churches' theological debate, underlines the need for a present eschatological consciousness that has significance for the future of church and faith. Believers can in this way escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may become partakers of the divine nature.

Keywords: Eschatology; Christian eschatology; Theosis; Missional; Realised future.




Dié uitspraak in die Efesiërbrief is nou gekoppel aan Christus Jesus soos dit in die brief deur die skrywer verwoord word. Die oortuiging bestaan dat geloof wat nie op die toekoms gebaseer is nie, en net op die verlede en die hede gebaseer is, onbruikbaar is en waarskynlik nie veel meer is as bloot 'n rigsnoer vir 'n regskape lewe totdat alles beëindig word deur die finale einde nie. As oor die lewe anderkant die einde nagedink word, geskied dit aan die hand van die nou reeds bekende Barth uitspraak,1 maar ook in die oortuiging dat die eskatologie 'n deel is van die dogmatiese loci, wat nie ligtelik verbygegaan moet word nie. Daarom word in hierdie artikel gepoog om 'n bydrae te lewer tot die eskatologiese debat, en word gelyktydig die standpunt ingeneem dat dié besondere uitspraak in die Efesiërbrief daarvoor uitnemend geskik is. Die keuse vir die uitspraak word verskerp deur die toevoeging om reeds saam te sit in die hemel, wat instrumenteel is vir die keuse van die uitspraak as eskatologiese hoogbloei. Ander uitsprake in die brief kan ook eskatologies geïnterpreteer word, soos deur vakgenote aangedui word (Ef 1:3-14; 1:20, 21; 6:10-13, vgl. Zhekov 2005).

Ter aanvang word beklemtoon dat die Brief aan die Efesiërs as 'n deutero-Pauliniese brief beskou word en as sodanig hanteer word (vgl. Van Wyk 2016).


Enkele historiese verwysings na eskatologie aan die hand van bepaalde woordvoerders

Eskatologie, nadenke oor die eskatologiese toekoms en wat daarmee saamhang in sy wydste verband, kan teruggevoer word tot die apostoliese vaders, waarmee 'n groep Griekssprekende skrywers van die eerste helfte van die tweede eeu aangedui word. Name soos Clemens van Rome, Ignatius van Antiochië, Polycarpus en Barnabas kan genoem word, asook die geskrif bekend as die Didache, die onderwysing van die twaalf apostels (Van Duijn 1999:148). Eskatologie ontstaan uit die aard van die saak in menslike denke en die ervaring dat 'n mens se lewe in die dood eindig, maar eindig alles met die dood? In die Christendom word die einde 'n dominante tema in die teologiese debat wat nou verwant is aan die godsbegrip wat in sodanige denke ter sprake kom. 'Gott wird erfahren als der heilige, unbedingt sittliche Wille, der auf die ganze Welt gerichtet ist, handelnd und fordernd, und an ihr sich durchsetzen will' (Althaus 1949:7, 9). Daarmee saam het die eskatologiese debat gependel tussen die spanning wat deur die huidige en die komende tydvakke verwoord word.

Eskatologie het in mindere of meerdere mate deel uitgemaak van die teologiese debat wat aanduibaar is in die Middeleeue, die Reformasie, asook die tydperk ná die Reformatoriese tyd. Eskatologie word ook gevind in bepaalde teologiese strominge, soos die radikale in die sestiende eeu (vgl. Balke 1999:243), die Nadere Reformasie, Piëtisme, Puritanisme, en ook in die sogenaamde Verligting (vgl. Van 't Spijker 1999:210-242).2

Tydens die oorgang na die twintigste eeu was die Christelike toekomsverwagting ietwat oorwoeker deur die indrukwekkende prestasies op wetenskaplike en tegniese gebied van die negentiende eeu. Die oortuiging het bestaan dat alle gevare die hoof gebied sal kan word in 'n steeds beter-wordende wêreld. Ten spyte van 'n vooruitgangsgeloof met 'n gepaste teologiese toonaard in Amerika, was daar in Europa, Oostenryk, Duitsland en Frankryk tekens van 'n kulturele pessimisme. Die twee wêreldoorloë wat in Europa sou volg (1914-1919, 1939-1945) het die aangeleentheid sterk op die voorgrond gedwing (Bosch 2005:502). 'Kortom - de omgang met de dood is een spiegel voor hoe de cultuur wanhopig zoekt naar toekomst - en hoe daarbij vertwijfeling en wanhoop elkaar daarbij afwisselen' (Den Hertog 1999:396).

Eskatologie is nie as die teologiese stiefkind behandel nie, maar tog geïnhibeer deur wat genoem word 'n hoop wat nie geskoei is op die koms en werk van Christus nie, maar eerder 'n hoop gegrond op die ontwikkeling en vooruitgang van menslike vermoëns en wat sou uitloop op 'n samelewing van vrye, sedelik-bewuste en verantwoordelike mense wat die samelewing soos 'n suurdeeg sou deursuur. Hiervoor was die lesings van A. von Harnack (1851-1930), Das Wesen des Christentums aan die Berlynse Universiteit gedurende 1899-1900, 'n sprekende voorbeeld (Den Hertog 1999:397; vgl. Naude 1983:15).

Die eintlike stimulus tot die herontdekking van die eskatologie het uit die geledere van die Nuwe Testamentiese wetenskap gekom, soos Johannes Weiss (1863-1914) wat aan eskatologie die betekenis heg van die 'radicaal-transendente Koninkrijk, dat het heden onder druk plaatst' (Den Hertog 1999:401; vgl. Naude 1983:79). Die naam van Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) kan ook genoem en onthou word vir wat bekend staan as sy konsekwente eskatologie, wat volledig beheers word deur die geloof in 'n spoedige koms van die Koninkryk van God wat dus deur die uitbly van die wederkoms geneutraliseer word. Moltmann (2004) is krities teenoor Schweitzer se eskatologie, wat hy 'consistent eschatology' noem, en stel:

Their error was to transpose eschatology into time, instead of seeing in eschatology a transformation of time itself. But true eschatology is not about future history; it is about the future of history. (pp. 259-266)

Schweitzer se konsekwente eskatologie kan eintlik as 'n afskeid aan die eskatologie beskou word (Den Hertog 1999:403; vgl. Naude 1983:178-182). Käsemann was ook krities teenoor beide Weis en Schweitzer in die mening dat hulle onseker was wat om met die nuutontdekking te doen (Bosch 2005:501)

Die kritieke vraag was, en is steeds, of die samelewing - in 'n poging om antwoorde op alle vrae te vind - uit eie kennis en ervaring put óf, daarteenoor, erns maak met die Bybels, Nuwe Testamentiese spreke oor die eskatologie wat normgewend beskou en bely word. Aan die einde van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog verskyn O. Spengler (1880-1936) se bekende werk, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1929), wat die ondergangsstemming in Duitsland versterk het. Al het die werk die einde van die kulture in gedagte gehad, was daarin tog geen sprake van wat die Bybel onder die einde van die tyd verstaan nie. 'Zijn toekomstverwachting is deterministisch: de West-Europese cultuur loopt onherroepelijk op een einde, en zal plaatsmaken voor een technocratie' (Den Hertog 1999:409; vgl. Van Niekerk 2017).

Wiedenmann (1965:26, 31, 39, 44) onderskei vier beduidende eskatologiese strominge in die Duitse Protestantisme, naamlik Barth se dialektiese eskatologie, die eksistensiële eskatologie van Bultmann, die aktuele eskatologie van Althaus, en die heils-historiese eskatologie van Cullmann.

Vir Barth (1886-1968) is die eskatologie nie konsekwent eskatologies nie, maar konsekwent Christologies, want die Nuwe Testamentiese eskatologie veronderstel konsekwent die feit dat die Ryk van God gekom het in die kruisiging en opstanding van Christus (Barth 1959:583). Die mening dat Barth se teologie in die algemeen en sy eskatologie in besonder as 'n uitstaande hoogtepunt in die twintigste eeu beskou kan word, verdien vermelding (vgl. Moltmann1964:28). Sy eskatologie is nóg eensydig individualisties, nóg universeel van aard. Daarnaas is sy eskatologie ook nie eensydig op die toekoms betrek nie, aangesien die ewigheid deur die opstanding van Jesus aangebreek het. Die ewigheid het met die opstanding van Jesus Christus in die hede aangebreek, en Jesus is in en deur die Heilige Gees nou reeds teenwoordig (Naude 1983:287-290).

Bosch (2005:502) beskryf die eskatologie van Barth as 'n hermeneutiese uitgangspunt: '[F]or what is ultimate and transcendent, an expression with which to repel even the slightest hint at human collaboration in bringing in the end'.

Bultmann sien eskatologie as die gebeure wat ontvou tussen die verkondigde Woord en die individu: 'Der Grundbegriff der Eschatologie und überhaubt der Theologie Bultmanns ist also die mensliche Existenz, die sich jeden Augenblick von Entscheidung zu Entscheidung selbst verwirklicht' (Wiedenmann 1965:31).

Die naam van Dodd (1884-1973) kan ook in dié verband genoem word omdat hy veral bekend geword het vir sy, wat genoem word, gerealiseerde eskatologie (Naude 1983):

Vir hom het die koninkryk van God met die koms van Jesus gerealiseer, maar die volheid van die koninkryk van God lê vir die individu ná sy sterwe in die transendente wêreld van God. (p. 227)

Sy gerealiseerde eskatologie is presenties-individualisties van aard en verwys na die teenwoordigheid van die koninkryk van God tydens die aardse teenwoordigheid van Christus (Naude 1983:230): 'This world has become the scene of a divine drama, in which the eternal issues are laid bare. It is the hour of decision. It is realized eschatology'. Gelowiges word onder appèl geplaas om hulle te bekeer en die evangelie te glo, want die Koninkryk van God is op hande (vgl. Mark 1:15):

It assumes that history in the individual life is of the same stuff as history at large; that is, it is significant in so far as it proves to bring men face to face with His Kingdom, power and glory. (Dodd 1971:148, 152)

Jeremias wys daarop dat die gelykenisse van Jesus in gemeen het dat hoorders opgeroep word om tot 'n beslissing te kom oor Jesus (Jeremias 1972):

For they are all full of 'the secret of the Kingdom of God' (Mark 4:11), that is to say, the recognition of 'an eschatology that is in process of realization'. (p. 230)

Jeremias dui in 'n voetnota aan dat die Duitse vorm, naamlik 'sich realiserende Eschatologie', deur Ernst Haenchen genoem is en dat Dodd daarmee saamgestem het (Jeremias 1972:230). Dit het beteken dat tyd en geskiedenis weer 'n groter rol in Dodd se siening gespeel het, soos blyk uit die adventsoordenkinge wat oor die BBC uitgesaai is (1950), waarin 'n sterker toekomsperspektief by Dodd na vore kom (Van der Merwe 1981:82).

Die aktuele eskatologie van Althaus vertoon trekke van Dodd se siening, behalwe dat Althaus waarskynlik sou verkies het om te praat van eskatologie wat in die proses is om te gebeur. Gesien in die lig van die feit dat die einde van die wêreld in die oordeel deur die Koninkryk van God in Christus gebeur, staan elke oomblik asook die geskiedenis as geheel in die teken van die einde. Die parousia is nie toekomstige gebeure nie, maar eerder die opheffing van alle geskiedenis: 'Therefore it is immaterial whether the end is "chronologically" close or distant - it is essentially always near' (Bosch 2005:503).

Die eskatologie van die jonger Barth, Bultmann en Althaus word krities beoordeel in die sin dat al drie ahistories is en gelowiges gevolglik hulpeloos laat om die uitdagings van die huidige bestel die hoof te bied, en wat ook in gebreke bly om gelowiges daarvan te verseker dat God nie net toekomstig eskatologies is nie, maar nou reeds regeer. Gelowiges leef tussen die tye, tussen Jesus se eerste en tweede koms, dit is die tyd van die Gees wat nie 'n aanduiding is van God se afwesigheid nie (Bosch 2005:503).

Die mening van Küng (1978:198-199) is van belang. Hy wys daarop dat eskatologie nóg toekomstig (konsekwent eskatologies, volgens Schweitzer) - wat die hede negeer - nóg slegs teenwoordig (soos in die gerealiseerde eskatologie van Dodd beklemtoon word) is: 'Uitspraken over de toekomst en over het heden, die beide in de evangeliën te vinden zijn, dienen serieus te worden genomen en gedifferentieerd op elkaar te worden betrokken'. Hede en toekoms staan in 'n wesenlik onoplosbare spanning. Daar kan nie sprake wees van die toekomstige ryk van God sonder om die implikasies daarvan vir die hede in ag te neem nie.

Die mening van Crossan (1999) is dalk redelik bruikbaar as klem op die belang van eskatologie as sodanig, waardeur ook beklemtoon word wat Küng reeds gestel het, naamlik dat eskatologie omvattend is en nie net huidig of toekomstig is nie:

The only way I can resolve that confusion is to take eschatology as a genus-level term and place future, apocalyptic, present, realized, or any other type of eschatology as a species-level distinction under that umbrella Taking eschatology as a genus or upper-level term accords, actually, with scholarly practice in using phrases such as realized eschatology, thorough-going eschatology, imminent eschatology, present eschatology, future eschatology, and even (sometimes but not consistently) apocalyptic eschatology. (pp. 258-259)

Dié mening boekstaaf dat die siening van Crossan bruikbaar geag word vir 'n huidige eskatologie wat, soos Barth aangedui het, Christosentries gegrond is en die totaliteit van menslik, gelowige bestaan insluit - dié mening in die lig van die Pauliniese uitspraak dat iemand wat in Christus is 'n nuwe skepsel is (2 Kor 5:17) (Runia 1999:443).

In die voorafgaande paragrawe oor bepaalde woordvoerders van eskatologie uit die verlede, is dit duidelik dat daar nie net na navorsers uit een teologiese dissipline verwys word nie. Ook Bybelwetenskaplikes word geraadpleeg, veral met betrekking tot die Nuwe Testament. Daarnaas is ook na dogmatici verwys, soos Barth en Moltmann, wat 'n besondere bydrae gelewer het tot die onderwerp ter sprake. Die noue verband tussen die Nuwe Testamentiese wetenskap en die Dogmatiek is opvallend aangesien die Dogmatiek tot 'n formulering kom ná grondige bestudering van die Skrif en wat daarmee saamhang. As Dogmatiek dan veral as kerklike dogmatiek gesien word (vgl. Barth 1964:16), is die verband nóg nouer, aangesien kerklike handelinge 'n Skriftuurlike onderbou het wat geldend is, ook vir alle teologiese dissiplines. Dit verbaas dus nie dat eskatologie ook sterk missionaal gebind is nie. Tot dié slotsom kom iemand soos Bosch ná sy breedvoerige bestudering van 'n Skriftuurlike fundering van missionaat en derhalwe dus ook 'n noue verbinding tussen eskatologie en missionaat (vgl. Bosch 2005:15-178). Eskatologie kan as die dryfveer gesien word waarom die klem op missionaat geplaas word as 'n omvattende singewing tot missionale arbeid hier en nou, wat in die onderhewige uitspraak in die Efesiërbrief besondere aandag ontvang as 'n toekomsverwagting reeds in die huidige konteks. Dit moet veral gesien word in die lig van die feit dat missionaal nie 'n onderafdeling van kerklike arbeid is nie, maar eintlik die kerk se wese en gang as geheel verwoord.


Eskatologiese trekke in die brief aan die Efesiërs, met besondere verwysing na Efesiërs 2:6

'Ja, Hy het ons in Christus Jesus saam opgewek en saam laat sit in die hemel' (Ef 2:6) (καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,).

Dié uitspraak kom in die eerste tien verse van hoofstuk twee voor, waaroor MacDonald (2008:234) sê dat die gedeelte as 'n samestelling van tradisionele elemente beskou kan word, soos Joodse apokaliptiese motiewe (Ef 2:5-7), antieke kosmologie (Ef 2:2) en Joodse uitinge van nie-Joodse sondigheid (Ef 2:2-3). Lincoln (1990:35, 41), in sy bespreking van Efesiërs 1:10, wys daarop dat daarin reeds 'n voorbeeld gevind word van 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie in die Efesiërbrief. Dit hang saam met die gedagtegang van die brief dat alles in die hemel en op die aarde onder een Hoof saamgebring sal word. Daar is spanning tussen wat reeds gebeur het en wat nog sal gebeur (vgl. MacDonald 2008:236). In verband met God se heerskappy oor die magte (Ef 1:21, 2:2, 6:12) en in die lofprysing is die perspektief 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie waar die omvattende voltooiing van God se doel geantisipeer word. Lincoln verwys ook na Efesiërs 1:12, waar die werkwoord προελπίζω gebruik word as 'n hapax legomenon in die Nuwe Testament wat hy as betekenisvol vir die eskatologiese perspektief van Efesiërs beskou. Deur die gebruik van die leenwoord ἀρραβών (Ef 1:14) uit Hebreeus (Gen 38:17-20), word op die eskatologiese spanning in die Efesiërbrief gedui. Die gerealiseerde eskatologie word ook aan die toekoms gebind deur die uitspraak in Efesiërs 1:21, naamlik: ' nie alleen in hierdie bedeling nie, maar ook in die toekomstige' (οὐ μόνον ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι·), waardeur beklemtoon word dat eskatologie nie net betrekking het op die toekoms, hede of verlede nie, maar eerder alles insluit (Lincoln 1990:65-66).

Met verwysing na die dood van Christus as 'n keerpunt in die menslike bestaan, kan aanvaar word dat Christus se opstanding 'n aanduiding vorm van lewe wat in die vooruitsig gestel word. Wie daarvan uitgesluit is, bevind homself in 'n doodsbestaan. Ten spyte van die fisiese dood wat elke gelowige (Rom 6:23) gedeeltelik in hierdie lewe ervaar, is daarin tegelyk 'n voorbeeld van gerealiseerde eskatologie, wat raar genoeg deur die fisiese dood vergestalt word:

The realized eschatological view of death in Col 2:13 and Eph 2:1 as a natural continuation of such thinking, as the past is contrasted with the present experience of resurrection life. (Lincoln 1990:93)

Deur die gebruik van die aoristus ('saam lewend gemaak') (συνεζωοποίησεν) in Efesiërs 2:5, word die aandag gevestig op die voortgaande gevolge van die redding vir die hede, en strook dit met dieselfde werkwoordvorme in vers 6 as aanduiding van 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie (Lincoln 1990:105).

In verband met Efesiërs se gerealiseerde eskatologie, val die aandag veral op Efesiërs 2:6, (' ons in Christus Jesus saam opgewek en saam laat sit in die hemel') ( καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ) wat sonder 'n datief weergegee word, maar deur die τῷ Χριστῷ van vers 5 versterk word, en ook aangevul word deur ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ as aanduiding van hoe die saam opwek en saam laat sit in die hemel moontlik is en dikwels in die brief aangewend word (MacDonald 2008:232). Thielman (2013:3887) meen die opvallende van die drie werkwoorde wat met συν- begin, setel in die feit dat al drie in die verlede tyd geformuleer is as aanduiding dat dit reeds gebeur het, waarvan die stelling dat gelowiges nie net opgewek is nie, maar reeds saam in die hemel is, besondere aandag trek.

Dit is moontlik dat die uitdrukking ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ slegs beteken dat dit deur Christus moontlik is, maar Lincoln is van mening dat die sterker betekenis van 'having been incorporated into Christ' hier gepas is. Die betekenis is 'n aanduiding dat dit wat met Christus gebeur het, ook met gelowiges gebeur. Gelowiges is dus in Christus ingesluit as die verteenwoordiger van 'n nuwe mensheid. Die klem op 'saam' (συν-) in die twee bogenoemde werkwoorde in vers 6 veronderstel 'n verhouding van solidariteit en intimiteit tussen Christus en gelowiges:

The statement that God has both raised up believers with Christ and seated them with him in the heavenly realms spells out the implications of the relationship of incorporation in Christ in their most developed form in the Pauline corpus. (Lincoln 1990:105, [author's own italics])

Arnold (2016:3522-3548) argumenteer dat gelowiges lewend gemaak is deur 'n dinamiese eenheid met Christus, waardeur hulle in staat gestel word om in die voordeel daarvan te deel. Volgens Arnold pas die skrywer toe wat reeds (Ef 1:20 en Kol 2:12, 3:1) gesê is. Deelname aan die opstanding van Christus word verrassend aangepas en verleng tot 'n deelname wat ook as 'sit in die hemel' moontlik word. Beide uitsprake skep spanning met die tipies Pauliniese uitsprake dat opstanding en hemelvaart vir die toekoms gereserveer is (vgl. 1 Kor 4:8; 2 Tim 2:18). Wanneer daar sprake is van die deelname aan die opstanding van Christus (Rom 6), gaan dit nie oor die opstanding van die eie liggaam nie. Dit is vir die toekoms gereserveer, maar is 'n deelname aan die opstanding van Christus met gevolge vir die hede.

Dit word beklemtoon deur die in Christus en die saam belewenis wat in die twee betrokke werkwoorde geformuleer is, as 'n aanduiding van die aard van die opstanding en verhoging. Die draagkrag van die deelname tot selfs in die hemel nou reeds, kan gevind word in Efesiërs 1:20-23, waarin beklemtoon word dat sy heerskappy oor alles kosmologies is, waaraan alle magte en kragte onderwerp is. In die eerste hoofstuk word die verhouding tot die Triniteit beklemtoon, terwyl in hoofstuk 2 aangedui word hoe dit gelowiges raak tot in só 'n mate dat gelowiges reeds in die hemel is (Hoehner 2013:6542). Dit is wat die skrywer wou meedeel: 'By virtue of their union with Christ, they now share in his power and authority over the principalities, powers, authorities, and, indeed, any spiritual power they can think of'. Dit was van besondere troos vir gelowiges wat bose magte gevrees het (vgl. Kol 2:8). Daarom is die noue verbintenis aan Christus, wat hoër en groter en kragtiger is as enige bose mag, van besondere troos. Hoehner (2013:7109) sluit hierby aan met sy mening dat 'the position of being seated with Christ in the heavenlies gives the believer a heavenly power to overcome the power of sin and death'. Die verhouding tussen Christus en gelowiges verleen toegang tot 'n bestaan wat in die hemel is ten spyte van die aardse bestaan.

Die idee om opgewek te wees in Christus is nie uniek nie, maar kom ook voor in Kolossense 2:12 en 3:1 (wel in die passiewe werkwoordvorm), terwyl Efesiërs aandui dat God gelowiges opgewek het in Christus, soos geformuleer in Efesiërs 1:20 waar soortgelyke begrippe voorkom (MacDonald 2008:232). Die feit dat die Efesiërbrief dit anders formuleer, word geïnterpreteer dat daar afgewyk word van die tipies Pauliniese siening soos in Romeine 6:1-11 gevind word. Romeine 6 stel twee vorme van denke, naamlik dat dit vir die gelowige in Christus moontlik geword het, maar dat die voltooiing daarvan nog in die toekoms lê. Paulus beklemtoon ook daar dat in Christus gesterf word in reaksie op die sonde (Rom 6:7). Soos Christus uit die dood opgewek is, só sal ook sondaars daaruit opgewek word. In Kolossense 3:3-4 word die toekoms beklemtoon wat nou nog verborge is, terwyl Efesiërs aandui dat dit gebeur het as voorbeeld van 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie. Alhoewel Efesiërs 1:20 nou aansluit by 2:6, is daar ook 'n belangrike verskil in die sin dat sit aan sy regterhand (καθίσας ἐν δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ) ontbreek. 'Although believers share in Christ's exaltation, his position in the heavenly realm and his relationship to God are unique' (Lincoln 1990:106-107; vgl. MacDonald 2008:232).

Die uitspraak om reeds in die hemel te sit, is waarskynlik beïnvloed vanuit Kolossense, en ook vanuit die Gnostiek, maar kom meer voor in apokaliptiese literatuur, asook in die Nuwe Testament self, met verwysing na Matteus 19:28 en 1 Korintiërs 6:2. Die verwysing word ook in die selfverstaan van die Qumran gemeenskap gevind (vgl. Lincoln 1990:107; MacDonald 2008:234; Talbert 2007:62). Wanneer die gemeente van Kolossense onder druk verkeer en daar verwys word na misleidende filosofieë en aanbidding van engele, antwoord die skrywer deur wat genoem kan word 'n gelowige genoegdoening en afgrensing teen die onbruikbare in die lig van wat in Christus reeds voor hande is en as 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie tipeer kan word. Efesiërs sit die argument voort met die klem dat dit in Christus gebeur het en seker is, omdat gelowiges in Christus daaraan deel kry. Behalwe die Kolossense agtergrond, word daar ook in ander Pauliniese teksgedeeltes spore gevind van 'n teenswoordige belewenis van die hemel (vgl. Gal 4:26; 1 Kor 15:47-49; 2 Kor 12:2-4; Fil 3:20).

Wanneer Paulus hierdie beeld gebruik (Rom 6), het hy nie een of ander religieuse ervaring in gedagte nie, maar '[he] rather thought of believers as having been Christ's partners in the events of past redemptive history' (Lincoln 1990:108). Christus se dood hoort by die ou orde waar sonde heerskappy gevoer het, terwyl Christus se opstanding 'n nuwe bedeling ingelei het waarin Hy regeer as God, as Hoof van die kosmos en daarom ook van die kerk (Ef 1:22). Gelowiges deel daarin en al is dit nog voorlopig, is dit tog dialekties en daarom eskatologies gerealiseerd; 'n opwindende toekoms wat reeds gebeur het. Wanneer die skrywer sê dat die lesers dood was maar deur Christus opgewek is, dui hy aan dat die Christus-gebeure ook op gelowiges van toepassing is - so asof alles reeds voltooi is.

Lincoln (1990:91; vgl. Hoehner 2013:7127) sê dat hoewel daar geen eksplisiete verwysing na die doop in Efesiërs 2:1-10 voorkom nie, daar ook geen rede is om te argumenteer dat die lesers as gevolg van hulle omwenteling van hoe dit vóór Christus was en hoe dit ná Christus daar uitsien, as gevolg van genade en hulle deelname aan wat met Christus gebeur het, hoegenaamd nie die betekenis van hulle doop in herinnering sou roep nie. Die vermoede bestaan dus dat lesers hierdie totale omwenteling waardeur hulle nie net opgewek is nie, maar spreekwoordelik en eskatologies reeds in die hemel is, deur hulle doop ervaar het (Lincoln 1990:109). MacDonald (2008:235) stel dit nog sterker met die mening: '[I]t is almost beyond question that the recipients would have recalled their baptism as they heard 2:1 and 2:5-6 proclaimed in the midst of the ekklēsia'. Behalwe die doop-moontlikheid, voeg MacDonald (2008:232) die volgende in verband met vers ses by: 'This verse has many points in common with Col 3:1-4, but the perspective of "realized eschatology" stands out even more sharply in Ephesians'.

In verband met die egte Pauliniese literatuur, argumenteer Thielman (2013) dat Efesiërs en die briewe wat as eg Paulinies aanvaar word slegs in balans verskil:

Ephesians clearly emphasizes the realized aspect of the tension. Nevertheless, what we find in Ephesians does not stand in contradiction to the theology of the undisputed letters but places emphasis on one side of the typical Pauline eschatology because of the situation that the letter addresses. (p. 3959)

In die lig van 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie, is die mening van Hoehner (2013) van belang:

On the one hand, we have a realized eschatology but, on the other hand, we wait for this eschatology to be fully realized. This corporate solidarity is a reality now but in the future its reality will be enlarged as we fully bond with our Saviour, with new bodies and without sin. (p. 7136)

Na aanleiding van die onderhewige teks, meen Talbert (2007:73-74) dat die Efesiërbrief 'n toekomstige hoop én 'n gerealiseerde (inaugurated) eskatologie verwoord. Dit was en is steeds 'n besondere vertroosting om te hoor dat gelowiges reeds in die hemel sit, waardeur aangedui word dat gelowiges ver bokant elke owerheid, gesag, mag en heerser (Ef 1:21) verhef is en sodoende eintlik oor hulle heerskappy voer. Dit hou die belofte in dat gelowiges oor sonde en vyandige geestelike magte heerskappy kan voer; nader gesien: moét voer. Noudat gelowiges verseker word dat hulle spreekwoordelik reeds in die hemel sit in afhanklikheid van Christus, is dit moontlik om die boosheid koninklik te oorheers. Efesiërs leef onder die indruk dat daar bose geeste in die lug is (Ef 2:2; 6:12), wat die vraag na vore gebring het of Christus magtiger is as die gewaande bose geeste. Daarom fokus die brief op God se mag wat toeganklik is vir gelowiges, wat nou opgeroep word om die wapenrusting (Ef 6:10-20) aan te trek. Volgens Efesiërs was gelowiges dood, maar is opgewek - selfs daarby verby in die nuwe bestaan van saam sit in die hemel, bokant al die magte en kragte wat die lewe van gelowiges bedreig.

Talbert (2007:74-75) beskou Efesiërs se eskatologie temporeel, wat nie net in hierdie bedeling geld nie, maar ook in die toekomstige (Ef 1:21), wat die hoop is wat sy roeping inhou (Ef 1:14), waarborg van gelowiges se erfdeel (Ef 1:14), hoop van die roeping (Ef 4:4), verseël vir die dag van bevryding (Ef 4:30) en dat geen immorele persoon deel het aan die koninkryk van Christus en van God nie. Twee beelde versier die eskatologiese diepgang, naamlik gelowiges (die kerk) as tempel van die Here (Ef 2:19-22) en die menslike liggaam wat groei tot volwassenheid (Ef 4:11-16). Beide beelde is tiperend van die groei van die kerk tot en met die einde. Efesiërs behou die alreeds maar nog nie van die egte Paulusbriewe, maar beklemtoon die huidige ter wille van sy lesers. Efesiërs behou die temporele eskatologie van die egte briewe, maar beklemtoon die huidige deur gebruikmaking van ruimtelike metafore as aanduiding van die groei van gelowiges (die kerk) in die tyd voor die einde.


Eskatologie in missionale konteks

Tydens die Willingen-konferensie van die International Missionary Council (IMC) wat in 1952 plaasgevind het, is in meer algemene begrippe na die 'entrance of the eschatological foundation of mission into the ecumenical discussion' verwys (Bosch 2005:502). Soos reeds aangedui, was daar op dié tydstip vier onderskeibare eskatologiese rigtings ter sprake, verteenwoordig deur Barth, Bultmann, Althaus en Cullmann, wat elkeen 'n bepaalde invloed uitgeoefen het op missionale denke. Bosch (2005:504) dui aan dat die genoemde eskatologiese rigtings in verband met die missionale debat tog 'offshoots of the salvation-history approach' was, selfs al sou dit ontken word (vgl. Flett 2010:150).

Cullmann (1967), in sy heils-historiese benadering van die eskatologie, is van mening dat:

the root of all New Testament eschatology lies not in the expectation in and of itself that the end is imminent, but in the tension characteristic of the New Testament's salvation history, and that this is already present in Jesus. (p. 38)

Daar is egter nie twee verskillende geskiedenisse nie, maar twee maniere waarop geskiedenis verstaan kan word. 'n Gelowige mens sal die hand van God in die geskiedenis nie kan miskyk nie. Christelike eskatologie beweeg in die verlede, hede en toekoms. Die koninkryk van God het gekom, kom steeds en sal kom in sy volheid. 'n Missionale eskatologie is op die toekoms ingestel, maar beweeg in die hier en nou. Eskatologie hou die alreeds en nog nie in kreatiewe en verlossende spanning; die wêreld van sonde en opstand, is die wêreld wat God lief het. Die nuwe het reeds begin, maar die ou wêreld het nog nie geëindig nie (Bosch 2005:508). Bosch verwys na Freytag en Cullmann, wat beklemtoon dat eskatologie outentieke betekenis aan die missionale opdrag gee. Freytag (1961:222) reageer teen die katastrofiese gevolge van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog en lewer 'n pleidooi om af te sien van suksesdenke en om te doen wat gedoen moet word, ongeag die uitkoms daarvan. 'The validity of the views of Freytag and Cullmann lies in their unflagging insistence that there is no authentic mission without a fundamental eschatological disposition' (Bosch 2005:506).

Moltmann (1964:28) verwys na die bekende en reeds aangehaalde uitspraak van Barth, waarin hy stel dat die uitspraak van Barth 'als een programma' klink. Hy meen dat die omgekeerde waar is van wat Schweitzer beweer het, naamlik dat die geskiedenis die eskatologiese toekomsverwagting in 'n krisis geplaas het. Dit is eerder so dat die eschaton, wat op transendentale wyse aanbreek, die geskiedenis in sy laaste krisis verplaas. Daardeur word die eschaton self transendentale ewigheid, sin en betekenis van alle tye.

Daar is dus meriete in wat Agaard beweer (soos aangehaal deur Bosch 2005:507), dat sedert die sestigerjare van die vorige eeu daar in Europese missionêre kringe 'n sterker eskatologiese perspektief na vore gekom het. Die appèl ontstaan om 'n missionale teologie te formuleer in die lig van 'n outentieke eskatologie. Bosch is oortuig dat eskatologie bepalend is en die horison vorm vir alle Christelike begrip. Vir hom kan die klem nie net op eskatologie val nie omdat die krisisse van die wêreld sodoende misgekyk word. Eweneens kan ook nie net eensydig op die missionale uitdagings gefokus word met uitsluiting van die transendentale dimensie nie. Daardeur word gelowiges gestroop van begrip en die teleologiese word onderwaardeer, waarsonder niemand kan oorleef nie (Moltmann 1975:20-24).

Bosch (2005:508) stel dit duidelik: 'n missionale eskatologie wat op die toekoms gerig is, maar nie perspektief op die hede verloor nie, is bruikbaar. 'n Eskatologie wat die alreeds en nog nie in kreatiewe en verlossende spanning hou. 'n Wêreld van sonde en rebellie, maar wat God liefhet. Die nuwe bedeling wat reeds begin het, terwyl die ou bedeling nog nie geëindig het nie; geregtigheid en regverdiging. Christelike hoop spruit nie uit wanhoop in die huidige bestaan van gelowiges nie, maar hoop in wat reeds ervaar word, al is dit nog nie volledig nie. Eskatologie wat in Christus gedrewe is (vgl. Barth 1989:325), fokus nie net op die verlede nie, maar put uit die verlede met die oog op die toekoms tot singewing van die hede. Daarom het eskatologie alles met Christus te doen, want die evangelie van die gekruisigde en opgestane Heer is die enigste alternatief vir die bestaan bokant menslike begrip.

Dit is die rede waarom die uitspraak in Efesiërs 2:6 die oog vang, want dit spreek van eskatologiese diepgang vir mense wat aan die aardse bestel gebonde is, maar wat tog hoor dat die huidige reeds deur die toekomstige bestaan in die hemel bepaal word. Die kerk bly in gebreke om homself te verstaan indien die kerk die fundamentele verhouding tussen die Koninkryk van God en die wêreld miskyk. Anders gestel, eskatologie gaan vooraf aan ekklesiologie (Flett 2010:51).

Wiedenmann (1965) was oortuig daarvan, wat steeds geldig is, dat die dialektiese verstaan van eskatologie, soos verwoord deur Barth, Hartenstein en Kramer, in mindere of meerdere mate die grondpatroon gevorm het vir die eskatologiese verstaan van missiologie:

Nach der dialektischen Eschatologie besteht der eschatologische Charakter der Mission darin, dass Gott auch das Ende' der menschlichen Missionstätigkeit ist, d.h. dass er in ihr der eigentlich und allein Handelnde ist (vgl. Flett 2010:11-17). (bl. 191)

Margull (1959:30) wys daarop dat, veral na afloop van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog, die missiologiese debat ook gevoer is deur Nederlandse teoloë soos Van Ruler (1908-1970) en Ridderbos (1879-1960), naas Kraemer. Van Ruler (1948:20-21) sien die kerk in volle eskatologiese lig en ruimte. Die apostolaat van die kerk is 'n eskatologiese funksie. Die kerk is apostolies wanneer dit deur God aangewend word om die eskatologiese bestemming van mens en wêreld te realiseer. Margull (1959) het in die sestiger jare reeds daarop gewys dat alleen:

im eschatologischen Ergriffensein wird der neue Gehorsam möglich sein, den das Wort fordert, wenn es heute in die Welt will; nur im Glauben an das eschatologische Handeln Gottes mit seiner Kirche ist Erneuerung denkbar. (p. 92)

Na aanleiding van die eskatologiese klem wat in die missionale debat sedert die Tweede Wêreldoorlog na vore kom, is dit gepas om te stel dat eskatologie belangriker is as wat dalk normaalweg besef word. Missionale arbeid sonder 'n toekomsverwagting is waarskynlik diensbaar tot uitbreiding van die getalle van die kerk, maar gaan mank aan Bybelse diepgang. Daarom stel hierdie artikel dat opwekking deur Christus, gevolg deur saam sit in die hemel, 'n dimensie verleen wat anderkant menslike kreatiwiteit lê. Daarin setel die eskatologiese voorrang van die uitspraak, omdat vir gelowiges meegedeel word dat hulle reeds daar is, al is hulle tog nog hier, maar terselfdertyd tog verseker word dat die toekoms tot daar strek waar gelowiges nou nog nie is nie.


Theosis (θεωσις) en eskatologie

Dit is redelik algemeen aanvaarbaar om te sê dat alle godsdienste poog om 'n antwoord te gee oor die verhouding tussen mens en die god wat in sodanige verband bely word. Enige godsdiens wat sy beloftes waar wil maak, kan dit alleen doen deur antwoord te gee op die mees voor die hand liggende vraag wat gestel word: 'What is the way back to God, to live with God, to live in God and share in the divine?'. Christelike teologie het uit die staanspoor aan sy volgelinge 'n antwoord probeer gee deur middel van 'n leer van vergoddeliking en/of eenheid met God. Die soeke na eenheid met God is ongetwyfeld die leitmotif van godsdienste in breër verband (Kärkkäinen 2004:1, 2). Polkinghorne (1991:103) is van mening dat, in die debat tussen moderne wetenskap en teologie, die aanname van Ortodokse teoloë dat die werklike einde van die skepping in vergoddeliking (deification) of theosis geleë is, aandag verdien. Die aangeleentheid word teruggevoer tot Irenaeus se uitspraak oor vergoddeliking: 'God became human that we might become divine' (Peacocke 1993:189). Blackwell (2010) stel:

Irenaeus is often noted as the patristic writer who lays the foundation for deification in the eastern tradition, which leads some to apply liberally the term deification to the whole of Irenaeus' soteriology. (p. 30)

Kärkkäinen (2004:4) wys daarop dat theosis in die Oosterse en regverdiging in die Westerse teologiese debat een ding in gemeen het, naamlik eenwording met God as uiteindelike doel. Braaten (1983:63) se standpunt is dat soteriologie die geheel van die teologiese debat beheer en dat die Godsleer, Christus, kerk, sakramente en eskatologie vanuit die perspektief van die verlossingsleer bepaal word. Kärkkäinen (2004:96, 97) verbind theosis of vergoddeliking nou aan eskatologie omdat, na sy mening, laasgenoemde die volvoering is van die proses wat 'n Christen bokant sy natuur uitlig tot die bonatuurlike vlak van God. Hy vervolg verder met die argument dat daar 'n groeiende konsensus is tussen die Oosterse siening van gelowiges se eenwording met God, soos verwoord deur theosis, en die Westerse siening van eenwording met God, soos aangedui deur die regverdigingsleer:

Theosis, both on an individual and cosmic scale, is not exiguous in its eschatological perspective, either. Theosis testifies to the inexplicably grand mystery of God's divine intimacy with human beings. (Kharlamov 2011:1)

Volgens die Oosters-ortodokse siening van theosis, kan die doel van persoonlike eenheid tussen skepsel en God gesien word as 'n eskatologiese volvoering van bestaan in God wat sakramenteel voorafgegaan word in die Nagmaal. Eskatologie kom in die theosis debat sowel as in 'n persoonlike en kosmiese verband sterk na vore. Dit dui op die misterie van God se intimiteit met mense (Kharlamov 2011):

The process of the reconciliation and glorification that was accomplished by Christ requires active human participation. It is a transformative experience that enables human beings to 'become not who Christ is but what he is'. (p. 5)

In dié sin is theosis sinoniem met verlossing en heiliging. Gorman (2015) dui aan dat:

theosis - Spirit-enabled transformative participation in the life and character of God revealed in the crucified and resurrected Messiah Jesus - is the starting point of mission and is, in fact, its proper theological framework. (p. 3)

Theosis begin met die doop en verloop deur die lewe van gelowiges wat neerkom op 'n eskatologiese voltrekking van die proses wat Christene oor die menslike beperkinge lei tot die bo-menslike vlak van God (Kärkkäinen 2004:96).

Alhoewel Bonhoeffer (1966:289) nie dieselfde begrippe gebruik nie, was dit vir hom ook vanselfsprekend dat gelowiges nie kan stol in hulle bestaan wat nooit verander nie, maar hulle móét, deur Christus na te volg, soos Christus word. Dit is die uiteindelike bestemming van 'n dissipel, naamlik om soos Christus te word. Wie homself aan Christus oorgee, moet 'n beelddraer van Christus word. Moltmann se mening dat eskatologie nie net te make het met die laaste uiteinde van alles nie, is bruikbaar. Dit dui op 'n verskraling van die eskatologie indien eskatologie net ter sprake gebring word aan die einde van die kerklik-teologiese besinning. Christelike eskatologie het nie te make met finale oplossings nie, maar met die skepping van nuwe dinge: 'Christian eschatology is the remembered hope of the raising of the crucified Christ, so it talks about beginning afresh in the deadly end' (Moltmann 2004:75). Dit herinner aan Bonhoeffer se laaste woorde aan 'n medegevangene, Payne Best, in die Flossenbürg konsentrasiekamp toe hy gesê het: '[D]it is die einde, maar vir my 'n nuwe begin' (Moltmann 2004:83). Indien eskatologie slegs vir die einde gereserveer word, kan dit netsowel gelaat word omdat eskatologie op dié manier redelik betekenisloos word vir die huidige, vir die lewe.



Die standpunt wat in hierdie artikel ingeneem word, is dat Efesiërs 2:6 - naas ander uitsprake in die Efesiërbrief wat eskatologies geïnterpreteer kan word - 'n besondere plek in eskatologie inneem en as sodanig hanteer moet word. Soos verskillende woordvoerders uit die verlede met betrekking tot eskatologie en toepasbaar op bogenoemde uitspraak aangehaal is, kan opnuut met instemming na Crossan verwys word, wie van mening is dat eskatologie omvattend is en nie net huidig of toekomstig, konsekwent of gerealiseerd, is nie. Soos wat ekklesiologie bruikbaar getipeer word as Christologiese ekklesiologie (vgl. Van Wyk 2017), kan dié standpunt ook van toepassing gemaak word op die eskatologie. Dit sluit aan by die kosmologiese uitspraak oor Christus, wat 'n besondere dimensie aan die brief verleen in verband met die kerkbegrip wat in die brief ter sprake kom (vgl. Efesiërs 1:22-23). Dit is 'n omvattende uitspraak wat verskil van die egte Paulusbriewe en wat daarop dui dat die hoofskap van Christus omvattend is, en wat nie net die handelinge van alle mense, ongeag, bepaal nie, maar ook van alle gelowiges, en derhalwe ook van die kerk.

Die bekende Barth uitspraak, ten spyte van kritiek, kan nie buite rekening gelaat word nie omdat omvattend Christologies daarin geargumenteer word, waaronder eskatologie ingesluit word. Christus het gelowiges uit hulle doodsbestaan, wat deur die sonde veroorsaak is, gered. Diegene wie se lewe deur die sonde beheers word, is eintlik dood. Maar nou is almal deur Christus nuutgemaak deur 'n omkeer van die dood na die lewe. Die opstanding van Christus uit die dood dien as parallel vir die bemoeienis van God deur Jesus Christus met mense sodat, soos wat Christus uit die dood opgewek is, só is hulle óók opgewek. Die eskatologiese diepgang van die uitspraak is dat gelowiges nie net opgewek en uit die dood verlos is nie, maar reeds saam sit in die hemel. Dit terwyl die lesers steeds in die wêreld, in dié immanente bedeling, verkeer. Wat ter sprake is, gaan nie oor wat Wright (2011:105) 'n eskatologiese dualiteit noem nie, naamlik die huidige tyd en die tyd wat nog moet kom nie; ook nie oor 'n ontologiese dualisme tussen die bose aarde en die volmaakte hemel nie.

Eskatologie, wat letterlik 'n studie van die laaste dinge beteken, verwys nie net na die dood, laaste oordeel, hemel en hel nie. Die oortuiging bestaan eerder dat die geskiedenis iewers heen op pad is, onder die hand van God, tot 'n nuwe wêreld van geregtigheid en hoop. Eskatologie is omvattend en opwindend, veral omdat in die Efesiër-uitspraak gestel word dat gelowiges hier en nou reeds veel meer beleef, en onder leiding van die Gees (vgl. Ef 1:14) eens die volheid sal geniet:

I remain convinced that the way forward is to rediscover a true eschatology, to rediscover a true mission rooted in anticipating that eschatology, and to rediscover forms of church which embody that anticipation. (Wright 2011:276)

Die kerk moet uit sy, soos Wright dit noem, skisofrenie ontsnap wat slegs daarin bestaan om siele te wen en goed te doen aan elkeen wat dit wil ontvang. Dit gaan oor meer as dit. In die lig van die 'saam laat sit in die hemel': oor véél meer as dit. Dit is 'n unieke voorreg om aan gelowiges hier en nou te verkondig dat hulle reeds dáár is en dat die aanvegtinge van die tyd aan die verbygaan is. Daarom is die lesers van die Efesiërbrief opgeroep om die wapenrusting (Ef 6:10-17) aan te trek in diens van oorlewing. Die standpunt word ingeneem dat 'n Bybels-gegronde eskatologiese bewussyn stimulus gee vir opwindende kerklikheid, ongeag wat die sogenaamde tydsgees gelowiges wil laat glo. Die immanente word ver oorwoeker deur die transendente, deur die eskatologie waarin gelowiges hoor dat hulle reeds in die hemel is, die aardse bedeling ten spyt.

Theosis, soos belig vanuit die Oosters teologiese denke, sluit nou by eskatologie aan in die sin dat reeds hier rigtinggewend geleef word om al hoe meer só te leef sodat aan die einde die begin realiseer; dit in die lig van Skrifuitsprake soos 2 Korintiërs 3:18 en 2 Petrus 1:4. Eskatologie, Christelike eskatologie, omvat verlede, hede en toekoms. Wright (2011) stel die volgende mening, waarmee hierdie artikel volkome saamstem:

And the church that is renewed by the message of Jesus' resurrection must be the church that goes to work precisely in that space, time and matter, and claims it in advance as the place of God's kingdom, of Jesus' lordship, of the power of the Spirit. (p. 277)



Mededingende belange

Die outeur verklaar dat hy geen finansiële of persoonlike verbintenis het met enige party wat hom nadelig kon beïnvloed in die skryf van hierdie artikel nie.


B.J.v.W. was die enigeste outeur betrokke by die skryf van die artikel.

Etiese oorwegings

Hierdie artikel volg alle etiese standaarde vir navorsing sonder direkte kontak met mens of dier.


Hierdie navorsing het geen spesifieke toekenning ontvang van enige befondsingsagentskap in die openbare, kommersiële of nie-winsgewende sektore.

Data beskikbaarheidsverklaring

Data-deling is nie van toepassing op hierdie artikel nie, aangesien geen nuwe data in hierdie studie geskep of ontleed is nie.


Die sienings en menings wat in hierdie artikel uitgedruk word, is dié van die outeur (s) en weerspieël nie noodwendig die amptelike beleid of posisie van enige geaffilieerde agentskap van die outeurs nie.



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Barry van Wyk

Received: 24 Oct. 2018
Accepted: 19 Mar. 2019
Published: 15 Aug. 2019



1. 'Christentum, das nicht ganz und gar und restlos Eschatologie ist, hat mit Christus ganz und gar und restlos nichts zu tun' (Barth 1989:325).
2. In dieselfde uitgawe van Van't Spijker (red.) (1999) kan ander bydraes nagegaan word wat handel oor die radikale in die sestiende eeu, Nadere Reformasie, Piëtisme, Puritanisme en die Verligting.

^rND^sBalke^nW.^rND^sDen Hertog^nG.C.^rND^sMacDonald^nM.Y.^rND^sRunia^nK.^rND^sVan Duijn^nM.^rND^sVan 't Spijker^nW.^rND^sVan Wyk^nB.J.^rND^1A01 A02^nSeverine^sDeneulin^rND^1A03^nAnn^sMitchell^rND^1A01 A02^nSeverine^sDeneulin^rND^1A03^nAnn^sMitchell^rND^1A01 A02^nSeverine^sDeneulin^rND^1A03^nAnn^sMitchell



Spirituality and impact evaluation design: The case of an addiction recovery faith-based organisation in Argentina



Severine DeneulinI, II; Ann MitchellIII

IDepartment of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom
IIDepartment of Theology and Missiology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
IIIDepartment of Economics, Pontificia Universidad Católica, Chile, Argentina





The importance of the spiritual dimension in the lives of people living in conditions of poverty and social exclusion and the often-critical role of faith-based organisations has gained increasing relevance in development research and practice. A growing line of research focuses on how to integrate the faith dimension into the evaluation of social programmes and on quantifying the effects of faith. The objective of this article is to propose a framework for integrating a spiritual dimension into the design and practice of impact evaluation by using the concept of integral human development (IHD). Integral human development emerged within the Catholic social tradition, but is not specific to it. It is a perspective on human development that integrates the material and spiritual, recognises the interdependence between humans and their environment or territory and demands change at both the individual and collective levels. This framework is then applied to the design of an impact evaluation of a faith-based programme that accompanies people with drug and alcohol addictions in Argentina. The article highlights the following characteristics of an integral impact evaluation: the interaction between multiple well-being dimensions; the use of knowledge and methods of analysis from multiple disciplines; the importance of understanding the diverse pathways to improvements in well-being; the assessment of the spiritual dimension through changes in one's relationships with oneself, others and the environment; and the importance of assessing personal change within the context of social and community transformation.

Keywords: Religion; Impact evaluation; Integral human development; Capability approach; Youth; Addictions.




At the midday meal of a neighbourhood addiction attention centre of an Argentine faith-based organisation (FBO), Jorge,1 an 18-year-old young man, showed us proudly a picture of himself on his cell phone at age 16 at the height of his addiction to paco, or cocaine base paste.2 The picture showed an emaciated boy with his eyes looking downward and a cap trying to hide his face. Jorge comes every day at noon to the centre, to take his place at a long table in a dining room and eat with others who suffer from addiction problems and with the volunteers and paid workers of the organisation. After the meal, everyone helps to clear up, clean the premises, or do household chores. There are also sessions with social workers or psychologists. And so the routine goes on every weekday from 12 to 5 pm. Jorge is now a smiling and more healthy-looking young man, eager to make social contacts with everyone. The staff, however, tells us that he is still at risk and can relapse into addiction at any time.

Drug use and addiction has escalated in Argentina during the past two decades (Epele 2011; SEDRONAR 2017). Substance abuse negatively affects not only the health, education and long-term opportunities of drug users and their families, but also the wider community by increasing violence and insecurity (Organización de Estados Americanos 2014). There is also a strong relationship between drug consumption and the territorial and sociocultural context of disadvantage in Latin America (Ullmann 2015).

One study on informal settlements in Greater Buenos Aires showed that 22% of youth had consumed drugs during the preceding month (Rival & Salvia 2016).

Within this context, in 2008 Catholic priests living in three of the City of Buenos Aires' informal settlements created 'neighbourhood centres' to provide an integral response to socially vulnerable people who suffer from addictions. The guiding principles of the neighbourhood centres include, in the words of its leaders, 'to welcome life as it comes', to create a community family and to understand that each person has a unique path and possibilities for addiction recovery. Today, the Hogar de Cristo ([Home of Christ] in Spanish) is a federation of 123 neighbourhood centres throughout Argentina.

As this special issue notes, the international development sector has increasingly recognised the role of such FBOs in addressing poverty and social exclusion, especially among youth living at the margins (Le Roux, Hankela & McDonald 2018). There is also an emerging literature on how to integrate the faith dimension into the evaluation of FBO programmes and on quantifying the effects of faith (Heinrich, Leege & Miller 2008; O'Neill 2017). The existing literature, however, falls short of taking into account the full theological underpinnings of incorporating faith into impact evaluation.

The objective of this article is to propose a framework for integrating a spiritual dimension into the design and practice of impact evaluation by using the concept of integral human development (IHD). The IHD concept emerged within the Catholic social tradition, but is not specific to it. It is an integrated perspective for social analysis which integrates the material and spiritual dimensions of life, recognises the interdependence between humans and their environment or territory and demands change at both the individual and collective levels.

Our proposed framework for an integrated perspective on impact evaluation is based on three sources of information and analysis. Firstly, we examine the concept of IHD as expressed in the Catholic social tradition, identify its defining characteristics and explain its relation to Amartya Sen's capability approach and how the approach serves to clarify and operationalise the IHD concept. Secondly, we review the literature on impact evaluation focusing, in particular, on the strategies that have been used to incorporate a spiritual dimension into programme evaluation. Our third source is qualitative empirical research with the Hogar de Cristo. During the 4-month process of designing the impact evaluation, we carried out interviews with organisation leaders, spoke with programme participants, observed neighbourhood centres' activities, read numerous documents describing the organisation's guiding principles and mode of operation and spoke with government officials at the national Argentine agency responsible for the prevention and treatment of persons with drug addictions (SEDRONAR).

For illustrative purposes, we apply the proposed framework for integral impact evaluation to the design of an evaluation of the Hogar de Cristo. Our research project's objective is to evaluate how the organisation contributes to improving the lives of participants, their families and communities, focussing, in particular, on understanding participants' perceptions about what changes have occurred in their own lives and why. The project aims to help the organisation develop a system for monitoring its activities and outcomes and gain insights that can contribute to improving the effectiveness of the organisation's activities.

The impact evaluation will be carried out in the neighbourhood centres located in the City of Buenos Aires,3 the locality with both the longest history and the largest number of participants.

The article is structured as follows. Section 'Integral human development' presents the IHD concept and its relation to the human development literature and Amartya Sen's capability approach. Section 'The spiritual dimension in impact evaluation' reviews the literature on the spiritual dimension in impact evaluation. Section 'Hogar de Cristo' describes the faith-based drug addiction recovery programme Hogar de Cristo. Section 'Integral impact evaluation' proposes a methodology for accounting for the spiritual dimension in impact evaluation and applies this framework to the design of an evaluation of the Hogar de Cristo.


Integral human development

Despite recent growth in the literature on religion and international development,4 little effort has been made to integrate a spiritual dimension into the very concept of development. Advances in this direction, however, have existed since at least the 1960s within theological circles and faith communities. A pioneering document, entitled Populorum Progresso (On the Progress of Peoples), which sets the ground for integrating spirituality into the concept of development and written in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, makes the first reference to the concept of 'integral human development'.5 It states:

The development We speak of here cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each [wo]man and of the whole [wo]man. (p. 14)6

The document discusses how recognising the 'wholeness' of human life implies also recognising the human person's openness to the Transcendent. An integral perspective on human development does not separate the material and spiritual dimensions of life, but rather integrates them. This spiritual dimension, the document highlights, is especially expressed in the 'values of love and friendship, of prayer and contemplation' (PP 20). In a document which furthers the concept of IHD, entitled Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home published in June 2015, Pope Francis associates the spiritual dimension of life with 'openness to the gift of God's creation' (LS 85), for there is 'mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person's face' (LS 233).

A first implication of integrating a spiritual dimension into development is recognising the uniqueness of each human being, with a special attention to those who live in or are vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion, what the Catholic social tradition calls the 'preferential option for the poor'. This also points to the need to take into account the territorial environment in which a person lives, for the human person is inseparable from the natural environment of which she is part (LS 6). Therefore, the promotion of the human person must be united with the care of the physical territory in which he or she lives, for the deterioration of the environment negatively affects the human person and vice versa (LS 48-49).

A second aspect of IHD, and of recognising the 'whole of [wo]man' (PP 14), is multidimensionality.

In a document entitled Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) published in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI talks of 'authentic human development' (CV 11) as concerning 'the whole of the person in every single dimension'. This concern, he argues, 'requires a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of peoples' (CV 30). Pope Francis extends this multidimensional aspect by analysing how the relational, social, economic, cultural, political, ecological and spiritual dimensions interact in the context of climate change (LS 101-136). This is why he argues that no branch of knowledge and science, including different forms of wisdom, can be left out when developing actions to address poverty and ecological degradation (LS 63). He puts special emphasis on the relational dimension, which includes the relation to oneself, to others, to God and to the natural environment (LS 65-66), and the agency or freedom dimension, that is, our capacity to make decisions and how we choose to live out these relations.

A third aspect of IHD is the recognition that 'everything in the world is connected' (LS 16, 91, 117, 220, 240). This awareness of how everything is interconnected is the foundation of solidarity and responsibility towards each other and the environment. In a document entitled Sollicitudo Rei Sociales (On Social Concerns) published in 1987, John Paul II defined solidarity as a:

[F]irm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. (SRS 38)

As everything is interdependent, the way we use our freedom to act has consequences for others and the whole of creation, including our own lives (LS 33, 205). Pope Francis describes interconnectedness as an invitation to 'develop a spirituality of global solidarity' (LS 240), for there is a relation between 'a sort of super development of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation' (LS 109). The Catholic social tradition links this situation of injustice to the sum of individual actions which produce and consolidate certain structures, which become unresponsive to individual action (SRS 36-38), for example, a culture of over-consumption and waste is not transformed by isolated individual actions. This is why an IHD perspective demands change at both the personal and social levels, for social problems are tackled 'by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds' (LS 219).

Although the concept of IHD has essentially been developed from within the Catholic social tradition since 1967, it is not confined to it. We find traces of the key characteristics of IHD in the concept of development put forward by Amartya Sen (Sen 1988, 1999, 2017; United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] 2016). We highlight some ways in which Sen's capability approach to development incorporates the features outlined above and can serve as a useful tool to evaluate social programmes from an integrated perspective.

At the heart of Sen's capability approach to development (which conceptually grounds the human development framework advanced by the UNDP's Human Development Reports) lies the argument that progress should be assessed 'in terms of what people are able to be or able to do [i.e., their capabilities], rather than in terms of the means or resources they possess' (Sen 2017:357). There is progress when people are able to be and do certain things such as 'being alive, being well-nourished and in good health, moving about freely', or 'having self-respect and respect for others, taking part in the life of the community' (Sen 2017:357).

Sen has deliberately left open the choice of what constitutes valuable or relevant capabilities for assessing progress, making his approach a rather operational challenge (Alkire, Qizilbash & Comim 2008).

The consensus in the capability literature is to base the normative process for selecting dimensions on a variety of methods, such as participatory approaches, moral or political entitlements, theoretical arguments, empirical evidence or capability lists proposed by scholars, most notably by Martha Nussbaum (2011).7 The choice will depend on the purpose of the analysis as well as practical constraints such as data availability (Alkire et al. 2015), and even what counts as valuable will be context dependent (Robeyns 2017). Authors such as Sabine Alkire (2002) have considered capabilities related to the faith dimension, such as 'being in inner peace' and 'being in relation to a higher source of value'. From the IHD perspective, the spiritual aspect of life can be best captured through relational capabilities (to self, others and the territory) such as the ability to know oneself, having strong and supportive relationships with others and respecting the natural environment.

The capability approach also provides a framework for operationalising the principle of 'each person as an end', which it shares with IHD. As each person is of equal moral worth but unique, each will need different amounts of resources to achieve the same 'being' or 'doing' depending on his or her individual, social and environmental characteristics, what is called 'conversion factors' in the approach's jargon (Robeyns 2017:45-47; Sen 2017:26). This concern for human diversity reinforces the need for adopting multidimensional interventions (e.g. enabling persons with addiction to recover their health, job, social relationships and so on), applying different strategies in different social, economic and environmental contexts, and considering the multiple and diverse pathways to impact.

The IHD perspective emphasises the importance of transformative action at both the personal and community or collective levels. Sen's capability approach operationalises this by situating public reasoning and dialogue as the locus for personal and social transformation. For Sen, interaction with others, especially with those who are most disadvantaged and trying to see the world from their perspective, is central to changing people's priorities and views about what should be done (Sen 2017). He underlines the importance of a dialogue which is centred on the lives of those who experience suffering and on listening to their views and experiences. This dialogue, he argues, is the starting point for personal and policy transformation (Sen 2009).

Before examining further the implications of the IHD perspective for impact evaluation, we review the existing literature that seeks to integrate a spiritual dimension into impact evaluation.


The spiritual dimension in impact evaluation

During the past 20 years there has been an increased focus on impact evaluation and evidence-based policy design (White 2014). Impact evaluation differs from other types of programme evaluation in that it seeks to measure causal effects, that is, the changes in the well-being of beneficiaries that can be attributed to a particular intervention. While randomised control trials are considered by some to be the gold standard for impact evaluation (Duflo, Glennerster & Kremer 2008), they have received criticism for being unethical and for providing little information on the distribution of treatment effects, on how or why the effects occur and on the probable impact if implemented in other contexts (Barret & Carter 2010; Deaton & Cartwright 2018).

An array of alternative methods has been developed to obtain valuable information on program effects through nonexperimental techniques.8 Quasi-experimental methods, such as propensity score matching or regression discontinuity design, use statistical methods to measure causal effects when randomisation is not possible (Gertler et al. 2016). Participatory evaluations engage beneficiaries and other stakeholders in the design and application of programme assessment (Lilja & Bellon 2008). The realist approach uses diverse methods of data collection and analysis to gain understanding of how and why programs work within a specific social system and relies heavily on theory for understanding causation (Pawson & Tilley 1997). The Qualitative Impact Protocol (QuIP) method measures impact by asking intended beneficiaries what they think are the most important drivers of change in selected domains of their lives and well-being. Qualitative Impact Protocol is designed to promote transparency in data analysis and avoid the problem of confirmation bias (Copestake, Morsink & Remnant 2019). Case studies gain insight into programme effects by employing quantitative and qualitative data to intensely study a specific case within a particular context (Balbach 1999).

In recent years, new approaches have been put forth to integrate a spiritual dimension into impact evaluation. For example, Christian charities such as World Vision, Tearfund, the Salvation Army and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have proposed frameworks for the design, implementation and evaluation of their organisations' activities. These approaches have several commonalities. Firstly, they take a holistic or integral view of development. Catholic Relief Services, for example, taking from Pope Paul VI's Populorum Progressio encyclical, promotes the 'good of every person and the whole person; an individual's cultural, economic, political, social and spiritual wholeness' (Heinrich et al. 2008:2). Tearfund (2016) uses a 'Light Wheel' as an analogy for its goal of pursuing 'holistic development'.9 The nine spokes of the wheel represent domains over which individuals and communities can live well and the wheel's rolling journey represents the interaction with the context. Secondly, all of these approaches are concerned not only with outcomes but also with development processes, understanding that people play a vital role in their own development. For example, World Vision's (2007) monitoring and evaluation framework for youth programming involves young people in defining indicators of success, collecting and reviewing data and learning and planning with local partners.

Faith or spirituality is often incorporated as an additional dimension within a multidimensional framework. For example, the 'living faith' spoke within Tearfund's Light Wheel symbolises the importance of faith within the community. One of the dimensions of quality of life that World Vision seeks to contribute to is 'transformed relationships', which encompasses a restored relationship with God: equitable, just, peaceful and productive relationships within households and communities and a responsible relationship with the environment. The International Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities10 - an international effort to build evidence on the effectiveness of faith groups - shares knowledge and experience on the construction of spiritual metrics, such as measures of trust, hope and love, and spiritual growth. One line of research has focussed on quantifying the causal effects of faith (O'Neill 2017), such as a randomised control trial to measure the effects of teaching Christian values in the Philippines (Bryan, Choi & Karlan 2018).

Addiction recovery is an area in which research on the relationship between faith and programme effectiveness is most abundant, likely because of the long history of faith-based approaches to addiction recovery (White & Whiters 2005). A significant topic of this research concerns the assessment of the importance of individual religiosity versus religious emphasis of treatment programmes on addiction recovery (Alan, Bell & Carlson 2000).

The above-mentioned approaches have brought attention to the need to broaden our conception of development and incorporate spirituality into impact evaluation design. The existing literature, however, tends to focus mainly on adding faith as an additional domain, and does not sufficiently analyse the full implications for programme evaluation that can be drawn from an IHD perspective and the concrete experiences of FBOs embedded within communities.

In the next section, we seek to gain further insights on how to integrate a faith dimension into impact evaluation by examining the experience of an organisation which aims to have an impact on the lives of people suffering from drug addiction and on their families and communities, and which situates its programmes within the wider context of a faith community.


Hogar de Cristo

The Hogar de Cristo's stated goal is to provide an integral response in situations of social vulnerability and problematic consumption of psychoactive substances.11 Although the neighbourhood centres emerged in response to drug addiction (primarily to the highly addictive paste base cocaine), it soon became clear that substance abuse was a symptom of a much broader problem of social exclusion in neighbourhoods afflicted by precarious housing, inadequate access to public services, violence, health risks, lack of jobs and the inadequacy of government response. The situation demanded a response that encompassed not only the treatment of addiction but also the satisfaction of diverse related needs from housing and food to health or childcare services.

Following the faith-based conviction that each person is unique and sacred, the organisation does not define a uniform formula for recovery, but rather seeks to respect the possibilities of each person, aligning the forms of assistance with the specific needs and pace of each individual. Through the process of helping each person to satisfy her or his basic needs and finding solutions for concrete problems, the team of psychologists, social workers, volunteers and participants form relationships and a sense of belonging to the community, which they call the familia grande [or big family]. As in a family, the aim is to make each person feel welcome, supported and loved.

The neighbourhood centres' activities include the provision of meals and showers, group meetings, workshops ranging from theatre and cinema to football, job training programs and childcare services. Once an individual makes a commitment to begin addiction recovery, if the case cannot be treated through the centre's daytime programmes, the organisation facilitates access to one of its two treatment farms located in the peri-urban area of Buenos Aires, or seeks public funding for treatment in one of the city's private residential addiction treatment centres. After completing therapeutic treatment, many participants live in one of the organisation's homes, where they initiate a process of reincorporation into school or job training programs and eventually work.

Consistent with a growing body of literature on the ecology of alcohol and drug addiction (White 2009), the neighbourhood centres are rooted in the community and the territorial links are evident at all stages of the recovery process. The team of professionals and volunteers do not wait for people to approach the centre, but rather conduct outreach activities, offering hot coffee under a tent on a busy street corner or hanging out with groups of drug consumers in the neighbourhood's alleyways. Many of the participants' family members attend the centres' support groups and form part of the community. One collaborator explained that it is by working immersed within the community and in collaboration with other organisations and networks that the neighbourhood centres are able to provide an integral response to persons with addictions.

Rapid growth over the past 10 years in the network of neighbourhood centres and in the number of people served by each centre (ranging from about 50 to 1000) has created a need to monitor the organisation's activities through data collection and analysis. There is also an increasing demand for evidence on the programme's effectiveness from the national drug prevention and assistance agency, which helps finance the organisation's activities.


Integral impact evaluation

In this section, we propose a framework for incorporating a spiritual dimension into impact evaluation. On the basis of the defining characteristics of IHD, their operationalisation through the capability approach and further insights which emerge from the Hogar de Cristo's experience within the community, we derive the following components of an integral impact evaluation: (1) consideration of the whole person in the multiple dimensions of her life; (2) integration of perspectives and methods from different disciplines; (3) recognition of human diversity and multiple pathways to life improvement; (4) significance of relations to self, others and the territory as part of our relation to God; and (5) importance of dialogue and communal change. For each component, we suggest how it can be applied to the design of an evaluation of the Hogar de Cristo.

The whole person in her multiple dimensions

Seen from an IHD perspective, the aim of development is to foster the development of each person and the whole person in her multiple dimensions of life. An integral evaluation, therefore, will measure the effects of a social intervention on multiple life dimensions,12 integrating material and spiritual, human and territorial and personal and collective realms of life. It requires not only an assessment of the effects on the intervention's direct objectives (say, the effects on nutrition of a community kitchen), but also on a broader set of outcomes (say, on opportunities for social interaction or for eating together as a family). The selection of the dimensions of analysis will require a close understanding of the local context, programme activities and the development of a 'theory of change', a process commonly used in impact evaluation to understand how activities produce intermediate results and final programme impacts. An initial mapping of these processes can serve to identify the multiple outcome dimensions and examine the expected interaction between them (e.g. how the capability 'to walk safely on the streets at night' affects the capability 'to attend school in the evening' or how lacking the capability 'to be in inner peace with oneself' affects levels of violence). As the IHD perspective recognises the uniqueness of each person, the diverse pathways to change cannot be fully understood in advance, but rather must be studied throughout the evaluation process, a topic which will be discussed further in point (3). An integral impact evaluation also places special emphasis on the analysis of the effects on the relational dimension, as explained in detail in point (4).

Interviews with organisation leaders, observation of neighbourhood centres' activities and a review of the broad literature on addiction recovery programmes (Kelly, Magill & Stout 2009; Machado 2005, among others) were the sources of information we used to identify the following five possible capability dimensions to be used in the evaluation of the Hogar de Cristo: (1) basic needs; (2) health; (3) relations to self, others and the territory; (4) education and (5) work. The basic needs dimension refers to the capability to satisfy material needs such as food, hygiene and shelter. The Hogar de Cristo's activities often begin by addressing concrete problems and needs that keep participants from beginning the addiction recovery process. Health, a vital human functioning, is the outcome dimension that tends to be the main focus of most evaluations of drug treatment programmes. Progress in this dimension may include reductions in physical and psychiatric illness and changes in drug and alcohol use and treatment continuity. The relational dimension will analyse progress in relationships with oneself, with others and with the territory (cf. point 4 for further elaboration). All of these could be seen as manifestations of one's relationship with God, expressed through love and friendship and openness to God's gift of creation, as described in the section 'Integral human development'.

According to neighbourhood centre leaders, the dimensions of education (reincorporation into formal education institutions or job training programs) and work are those that are impacted at the final stages of the addiction recovery process. Finally, it is important to emphasise that while these are the dimensions of analysis identified during the evaluation design phase, dimensions of analysis may evolve as the project advances.


The IHD perspective calls for all branches of knowledge to be brought to bear in addressing poverty and ecological degradation. The interconnected nature of these problems demands actions that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, integrate fields of study and foster the sharing of knowledge. So too, an integral impact evaluation may employ methods and gain insight from multiple disciplines. Rigorous quantitative techniques employed in the field of economics may be combined with case studies or qualitative analysis more commonly employed in sociology or anthropology. Depending on the type of intervention being evaluated, the researcher may benefit from drawing on theories and empirical methods of analysis from engineering (say, for the evaluation of a housing programme) or medicine (for a programme that provides access to drinking water).

The nature of the Hogar de Cristo programme precludes the possibility of constructing a control group. The community centres work with anyone within the community in situation of social vulnerability and experiencing problematic consumption of psychoactive substances and they could not be expected to refuse or delay treatment. Non-experimental methods for constructing a control group, such as propensity score matching, are also not an option because of the scarcity of comparable data on persons with addictions who do not receive treatment or participate in alternative addiction recovery programmes. Moreover, as each centre is rooted within the community, some aspects of the programme vary across different locations and contexts.

The evaluation method will consist of the combination of three strategies. Firstly, we will work with the organisation to develop a monitoring system that regularly collects data on the programme's activities and participants in each of the selected capability dimensions. This data will be used to study the socioeconomic characteristics of the participants, measure the change over time in selected outcome indicators and analyse the diversity of timing and stages of the recovery process. Secondly, qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews with programme participants will be the principal source of data for evaluating the causal effects of the programme. Following key elements of the QuIP evaluation method (Copestake et al. 2019a), the interviews will focus on the participants' life trajectories and on identifying the perceived causes of changes in the selected dimensions, both programme-related aspects and other factors. So as to reduce confirmation bias (i.e. that participants respond what they believe the interviewer wants to hear), no explicit reference to programme evaluation will be made when explaining to participants the objectives of the research project.13 We will also draw on techniques traditionally used in qualitative methods such as theoretical sampling and conducting a sufficient number of interviews so as to allow one to reach saturation points and explore a diversity of subjects and experiences. The main focus will be on understanding how and why changes occur and identifying both recurrent categories and a range of trajectories. Thirdly, geographically referenced data on drug use and addiction, the location of treatment services and neighbourhood characteristics will be used to conduct spatial analysis of the relationship between addiction, treatment, and positive and negative neighbourhood attributes. Experts from multiple disciplines (in particular, economics, sociology, development studies, medicine and psychology) will participate in project design and fieldwork.

Diverse pathways

The IHD principle of 'each person as an end' implies that an integral impact evaluation will have to be concerned not only with the measurement of average treatment effects, but, more importantly, with understanding the diversity of experiences. Each person's experience of a social programme is unique and therefore each will have different possibilities for attaining different outcomes. As highlighted in 'Integral human development' section, this is what the capability approach literature refers to as 'conversion factors'. In the absence of childcare, a young mother with an addiction will not be able to 'convert' a group therapy session into progress towards recovery in the same way as a woman without children. The focus of an integral impact evaluation is not only on quantifying treatment effects or identifying key programme elements and participant characteristics that help produce outcomes, but also on documenting and understanding the diversity of pathways.

The fact that the Hogar de Cristo tailors its activities to the specific needs and possibilities of each person and does not have strict rules for exiting the programme (e.g. the organisation does not demand abstinence as a pre-condition for participation) makes it particularly important for each person's unique characteristics and experiences to be taken into account when evaluating the ways in which the programme is more or less effective. Although the Hogar de Cristo's ultimate goal is full recovery from addiction and reintegration into the community, a single metric (such as length of abstinence) would not adequately capture the programme's impact. From an integral impact evaluation perspective, the provision of a safe and supportive home to a participant's young children or the offer of love and care to a person in her final days of life could be considered to be programme contributions, even in cases in which a person ultimately dies from her addiction. What is important is to gain greater understanding of the diverse processes of recovery and how the organisation aids or hinders these processes. Although in the interviews with participants special attention will be given to the testimonies concerning the capability dimensions selected during the evaluation design phase, openness to unexpected pieces of information, perspectives and interpretations of reality will be essential to understanding the diversity of experiences.

Relations to self, others and the territory

As discussed in the 'Integral human development' section, relationships are a fundamental component of the spiritual dimension of human life. It is manifested, in particular, through relations to self, others and the environment, and how people choose to live out these relations, whether they choose to relate in a way that allows themselves and others to flourish and the natural or built-in environment to be protected and cared for. An integral impact evaluation will have to give an account of the quality of these relations and how they have changed as a result of participation in a social programme and an account of how people have used their freedom and chosen to act within these relations.

In the interviews with participants in the Hogar de Cristo, open-ended questions will be used to elicit information on the changes participants have experienced in their relationship with themselves (e.g. self-forgiveness, feelings of acceptance, greater self-knowledge or self-confidence), with families and the community (e.g. integration into the neighbourhood centre community, contacts and time spent with family members, ability to care for children, ability to communicate and share feelings, development of habits of coexistence and positive relationships within the community) and with the physical environment (e.g. greater respect for the property of others and green spaces such as discarding of needles or other residual waste of addiction in safe bins and not consuming drugs on children's playgrounds), and on the reasons behind these changes. We will also seek information about the participants' perceptions of how these changes are connected to faith and their relationship with God.

Incorporating a spiritual dimension into impact evaluation also implies accounting for the mutual transformations that might emerge from the relationships between providers and participants. In interviews, leaders of the Hogar de Cristo spoke of how their own lives had been transformed by the shared life experiences within the community. One person explained 'our spirituality means seeing each person as a gift and allowing ourselves to be challenged and transformed by their lives'. In this sense, an integral impact evaluation blurs the traditional distinction between 'provider' and 'beneficiary' as all members of the community become mutual givers and receivers. We will aim to capture evidence on this through interviews with programme leaders during the initial phase of field research.

Dialogue and personal-communal change within context

From an IHD perspective, interaction with others and dialogue is a privileged place for transformation to take place, at both the personal and community levels. An integral impact evaluation will therefore need to assess the extent to which an intervention has fostered the creation of spaces for dialogue and interaction, and how it has impacted the community and the wider context in which people relate and make choices about their lives, such as the choice to consume drugs.

In the case of the evaluation of the Hogar de Cristo, the qualitative analysis will focus on understanding not only how the intervention impacts the lives of people with addictions, but also the effects on the conditions that lead to addiction. Relevant questions include: How does the Hogar de Cristo's presence in the neighbourhood and prevention activities contribute to reducing drug consumption in the community or change the local residents' sense of self-worth and confidence in themselves? How does the creation of spaces for dialogue (sessions with psychologists and social workers, group meetings, workshops) become the locus for personal change and generate changes in the five dimensions described in point (1)? The spatial analysis of the relationship between drug use and access to treatment will provide additional insight into the effects at the community level.



Over the last two decades, there has been an increased interest in development research and practice in the role of religion in shaping development outcomes. This article has sought to contribute to that literature by exploring how to incorporate a spiritual dimension into the evaluation of social programmes. We have done so by employing the concept of integral human development. We argued how Amartya Sen's capability approach could serve to clarify and operationalise the concept, and we used a faith-based drug addiction recovery programme in Argentina as an example of how a spiritual dimension could be incorporated into impact evaluation. The proposed framework for integral impact evaluation has five distinctive characteristics. Firstly, it measures the effects of an intervention on multiple dimensions of life and examines the interconnection between dimensions. Secondly, it integrates knowledge and methods of analysis from multiple disciplines. Thirdly, it seeks to understand the diverse pathways that lead to programme experiences and outcomes. Fourthly, it argues that the spiritual dimension of life can be evaluated by considering changes in relationships with oneself, others and the territory, and by examining how people choose to live out these relations. Fifthly, it is concerned with transformations that occur at both the personal and community levels, changes that emerge through the creation of opportunities and space for dialogue.

In the coming months, we will use the integral impact evaluation framework outlined here to conduct an evaluation of the Hogar de Cristo's programmes. We hope that the proposed framework could be used by other organisations too, whether faith-based or not, to evaluate the impact of their work in a way that better reflects the idea that no human is fully human without this openness to something beyond himself or herself, whether manifested in the wonder of a beautiful landscape or the mystery of a loved one's face.



The authors would like to thank James Copestake and Jimena Macció for comments on an earlier draft and the staff of Hogar de Cristo for their generosity and guidance.

Competing interest

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

S.D. focused on the conceptual components of the article and A.M. focused on the research on impact evaluation and on the faith-based organisation, Hogar de Cristo.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

The authors carried out interviews only with organisation leaders and therefore an ethical clearance was not required.



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White, W., 2009, 'The mobilization of community resources to support long-term addiction recovery', Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 36(2),146-158.        [ Links ]

White, W. & Whiters, D., 2005, 'Faith-based recovery', Counselor 6(5), 58-62.         [ Links ]

World Vision International, 2007, Learning through evaluation with accountability & planning, Washington, DC, viewed October 2018, from         [ Links ]



Severine Deneulin

Received: 01 Apr. 2019
Accepted: 06 June 2019
Published: 14 Aug. 2019



1. Jorge is a pseudonym.
2. Paco, short for pasta de cocaina, is obtained from the residuals of the chemical process of cocaine production. It is the cheapest drug on the market but has the most immediate, debilitating and long-term health effects.
3. The work is intended to start in June 2019.
4. For a review of the literature, see Deneulin and Zampini (2017), Olivier (2016), Swart and Nell (2016), Tomalin (2013).
5. See Deneulin (2018) and Keleher (2018) for further discussions on the concept.
6. Documents of the Catholic social tradition are referenced by the initials of their title followed by the paragraph.
7. See Robeyns (2017), Alkire (2002) and Alkire et al. (2015) on the process of selecting capability dimensions.
8. A list of alternative approaches is available at
9. For a combination of the 'Light Wheel' and the Qualitative Impact Protocol, see Copestake et al. (2019).
10. See
11. The information presented in this section is based on project development fieldwork as well as multiple organisation documents available at
12. For a discussion on how to evaluate impact multidimensionally, see Mitchell and Maccio (2018).
13. Although this point may raise concerns about whether it is ethical to not fully disclose to participants the purpose of the investigation, it is necessary to obtain more credible information. At a later stage in the project we plan to carry out participatory activities which will give participants the opportunity to share their opinions about the programme and the research findings.

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The Great Emergence: An exposition



Erna Oliver

Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa





In this review article, the book entitled Emergence Christianity, What it is, Where it is Going, and Why it Matters, written by Phyllis Tickle in 2012, is discussed. The discussion is both informative (as most of the people in South Africa are not much aware of the Emergence movement/s in the West - especially in the United States and Europe) and critical. The publication, being a follow-up of a book she wrote in 2008, refers to the Great Emergence that is almost in full swing all over the Western and Latinised world. According to Tickle, an Emergence happens approximately every 500 years, and this concerns Christianity as well. As the world is in the 500-year slot after the previous Emergence, the so-called fifth Emergence, nicknamed the Great Emergence, is imminent.

Keywords: Emergence Christianity; Emergent Christianity; Great emergence; Phyllis Tickle; Christianity in the United States; Christianity in South Africa.




Probably the largest reformation of all times in Church history is in full swing. It is the combination of a threefold current initiative of God: moving from church to Kingdom as our legal base; moving from pastoral, teacher-based and evangelistic to apostolic and prophetic foundations; and departing from a market-based behaviour to a kingdom-shaped economy. (Simpson 2009)

Phyllis Natalie Tickle started her career as a high school teacher. She later became a college instructor, then college dean and in 1971 she changed careers to become a publisher. In 1990, she became a 'professional writer' (Tickle 2008:8), focusing on spirituality and religion issues. Months before her death in 2015,1 Gibson reported: 'Over the past generation, no one has written more deeply and spoken more widely about the contours of American faith and spirituality than Phyllis Tickle' (Gibson 2015).

In 2012, Tickle wrote a book entitled Emergence Christianity, What it is, Where it is Going, and Why it Matters.2 The book consists of four parts:

· An Interim Report: Telling the Story So Far.

· A Long Time Coming: How Did We Get Here?

· Pulling Together: Defining What It Is and What It Is Not.

· And Now What? Thoughts on the Decisions and Dilemmas to Come.

The book presents an over-simplistic and positivistic approach to Emergence Christianity, giving the impression of propaganda material. Nichols is correct, stating in his book review that 'Phyllis Tickle's investigation into the varieties of "emergence Christianity" is insufficiently sceptical about "this new thing that God is doing"' (Nichols 2012:240). Although she claimed in the afterword that she tried to stay neutral (Tickle 2012:208), Tickle avoids the negative side of Emergence Christianity as if it does not exist. The question could then be asked, why this book is reviewed. The answer is that the Christians in South Africa should take note of this 'phenomenon' and carefully decide how to apply something similar in our country.

According to Tickle (2008:15), an 'Emergence', or a 'semi-millennial tsunami' (Tickle 2012:17), refers to 'a new time in human history'. Applied to the Christian church, she echoes the words of Right Reverend Mark Dyer, proclaiming that 'about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale we are living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales' (Tickle 2008:16). This implies that:

about every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. (p. 16)

The effects are mostly threefold: firstly, the old form of Christianity gives birth to a new, more vital form; secondly, a reconstitution of the old ossified religion appears; and thirdly, the 'new' faith spreads 'dramatically into new geographic and demographic areas' (Tickle 2008:17). An Emergence is normally preceded by a period of about 150 years, called a peri-Decline, peri-Schism, peri-Reformation (Tickle 2012:28-29) or peri-Emergence (Tickle 2012:35). A (specific) date assigned to the beginning of an Emergence is, in fact, therefore the time when there is no longer any way to deny that the world is in re-formation (Tickle 2012:29).

Tickle calls the upheaval that is imminent the 'Great Emergence'3 (cf. Tickle 2008). With reference to the West and Western culture, there were already four enormous upheavals, which did not only affect the church, but the entire society, 'a time in which essentially every part of it [the Western culture] is reconfigured' (Tickle 2012:17). The Christian religion therefore only forms part of an Emergence, and specifically this time:

Christendom - that craggy old institution that had held firm since Constantine and the Milvian Bridge - would begin to show the first telltale signs of its approaching decrepitude and, before [the twentieth] century's end, of its demise. (p. 89)

With 'demise' Tickle means that the Great Emergence is 'fully here' - a 'new season' (Tickle 2008:12, 14), and that 'old' way of Christianity will 'reconfigure itself in order to survive and even to thrive' (Tickle 2012:182).


Enormous upheavals-revolutions

Many big changes in history are referred to as revolutions.4 The political meaning of the term refers to the 'overthrow of an established political system' (Online Etymology Dictionary 2018). One is, inter alia, reminded of the last decade of the 18th century in which the French Revolution took place under Napoleon Bonaparte (History 2018). However, there is another side to revolution, referring back to the Old French origin of the term 'revolucion', which can be translated with 'course' or 'revolution of celestial bodies'. The Late Latin 'revolution' can be translated with 'a revolving', while the verb revolvere can be translated with 'turn, roll back'. These possible translations refer to an 'instance of great change in affairs' (Online Etymology Dictionary 2018). This meaning of revolution bears a resemblance to the terms 'mighty upheaval' (Tickle 2008:16), 'enormous upheaval' (Tickle 2012:17) and 'Great Emergence' used by Tickle (2012:21). The 'Great Emergence' is the nickname for the fifth mighty and/or enormous upheaval since Jesus' coming to the earth. Tickle has the conviction that these upheavals, although they are linked to events in (Western) Christianity, effect the whole (Western) world, and only 'a very few of those changes have to do just with religion' (Tickle 2012:19).

According to Tickle, there were already four upheavals when referring to Christianity, while the fifth is imminent. The first upheaval happened some 2000 years ago, which Tickle calls the Great Transformation (Tickle 2012:20; cf. Armstrong 2006). This was the era that changed the notion of human time from BCE (before the common era) to CE (the common era) (Tickle 2012:21) when Christianity emerged from Judaism. From here on, there would always be 'a turning back to look, almost with nostalgia, at what was before it was so rudely interrupted by the coming of whatever it is that is being supplanted' (Tickle 2012:170), which would lead to the next upheaval.

Five hundred years later, approximately 1500 years ago, marks the great decline and fall of the Roman Empire:

as all communication and trade systems collapse; as formal learning ceases to be the norm for citizens; as medicine, math, and science fail; as the wisdom of the ancients is lost; and the West slides, silent into its Dark ages. (Tickle 2012:20)

It was during this time that Monastic Christianity emerged.

A thousand years ago, during the 11th century, the Great Schism took place, involving Europe, the Middle East and (North) Africa (Tickle 2012:171). It was preceded by 'a contentious and bloody century and a half getting ready for the severance of East and West politically, militarily, economically, culturally, linguistically, intellectually, and - of course - religiously' (Tickle 2012:20). The Latinised and monastic Christianity was replaced by the Roman Catholicism that Luther would later stand up against. The bone of contention was the term filioque [from the Son]: Orthodoxy (the East) had the conviction that the Spirit, together with the Son, descended from God the Father, while Latinised Christianity (the West) believed that the Holy Spirit descended from God the Father and from the Son (filioque) (Tickle 2012:171).5

Five hundred years ago, in 1517, the Great Reformation6 started under Martin Luther. This process was already initiated during the late 14th century (Tickle 2012:17) and influenced the entire Western world and not just religion, as 'all the other contemporaneous political, social, intellectual, and economic changes were intimately entwined with the changes in religion and religious thought' (Tickle 2012:20). It changed the world politically from 'fiefdoms, baronies, and hereditary domains to the nation-state configuration that for most of the last five centuries has informed the Western way of ordering life' (Tickle 2012:18). It also marked the rise of the merchant class, improvement in transportation and the dominance of the middle class in the social order of Western culture. The Western economic order changed to capitalism, and many discoveries about the physical universe were recorded.


Tickle's view on the Great Emergence

According to Tickle (2012:35), we are already living in the dawn of a new Emergence, called the 'Great Emergence'. Certain 'symptoms' are readily visible, one being the demographic shift of Catholics and Christians from Europe and North America to Africa and Asia (cf. Zenit 2010; Rah 2010; The Pontifical Yearbook 2017). This Emergence is more 'akin to the Great Transformation' and can be called the 'Age of the Spirit' (Tickle 2012:209).

Tickle also refers to four books that can be classified as 'symptoms' of the Great Emergence. In 2001, McLaren wrote A new Kind of Christian that opened the door for his 2004 publication of A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian, which 'was destined to become the Emergence analog of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses' (Tickle 2012:99). Tickle (subjectively) refers to him as the 'now recognized Martin Luther of Emergence internationally' (Tickle 2012:99). She even states that A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, written by McLaren in 2010, equals 'Luther's "Here I Stand" declaration of faith and principles in 1521' (Tickle 2012:143).7

Another document that attracted thousands of readers is a report written by a committee of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, chaired by Bishop Graham Cray - 'an Emergence Christian in a bishop's mitre' (Tickle 2012:105, 106). The title of the report is mission-shaped church: church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context, and it was aimed on the 'non-churched, the de-churched, and the un-churched'8 (Tickle 2012:107). Cray argued that the standard form of church has passed, and that geography is replaced by affinities and context (Cray 2004:12). Within 2-3 years, 'Emergence Church/Christianity' would also be called 'Fresh Expressions' in England (Tickle 2012:106). Fresh Expressions as a movement is funded by both the Methodist Church and Church of England, and from 2010 also in an occasional way by the Congregational Church and the United Reformed Church in England (Tickle 2012:107) (later more on Fresh Expressions).

The fourth book was written by Gibbs and Bolger, two academics from Fuller Theological Seminary, in 2005, entitled Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. It describes the phenomenon of the emerging church and details the leaders and sites of these churches in the United States. What makes this book unique is that it is 'the first book-length treatment by impartial, credentialed academics of what emerging church was and is' (Tickle 2012:108).

The 'beginnings' of the Great Emergence can be traced back to:

the middle and latter half of the nineteenth century, when Western or westernized Christianity first began to evidence the changes By the closing decade of the nineteenth century and the opening ones of the twentieth there was no question but that a whole new form of Christianity was also most assuredly being born. A new expression of the Christian faith was emerging. (Tickle 2012:35-36)9

Borg (2003:6) has already observed (almost a decade earlier) that the 'emerging paradigm has been visible for well over a hundred years [I]n the last twenty or thirty years, it has become a major grassroots movement among both laity and clergy'. Tickle adds that the beginnings of the Great Emergence were already observed by Walter Rauschenbusch in 1907, of which he wrote a book entitled Christianity and the Social Crisis,10 referring to a:

're-formation' in terms of its presence and of the need for it Social Crisis is generally regarded now as the first of several foundational documents upon which the theology of social justice within Emergence thought, the Social Gospel of twentieth-century Protestantism, and the rationale of the more secular and political Civil Rights movement were all built. (Tickle 2012:42)

In light of this, Tickle (2012:36) refers to contemporary Christianity, the time close to the following 're-formation', as 'Emergence Christianity' (Tickle 2012:12, 36).

Over against the institutionalised church concept, Tickle (2012:119) relates that 'Emergence automatically assumes that "church" is a people to be, not a place to go'. These people include the 'homeless, the damaged, the ne'er-do-well, and the naïve and they must be as comfortable as the nurse, the lawyer, the university student, and the cop' (Tickle 2012:119). A pastor need not be the head of the group, as there is little need for 'seminary education and/or externally validated ordination' (Tickle 2012:121-122). The leader of a group 'occupies a function, not a status' (Tickle 2012:122). In the words of Pagitt (2010:33), 'The ability to teach and preach and lead is taking a backseat to the pastor's capacity to create and facilitate open-source faith experiences for the people of the church'.


Offshoots or precursors of the Great Emergence

Tickle elaborately discusses the different ways in which the Emergence Christians already realise themselves in the form of different movements, events and gatherings.

House churches

According to Tickle (2012:145), 'the largest coterie or division within Emergence Christianity is the house church', although they do not formally call themselves by that name. They rather refer to themselves as Simple Church or Organic Church, being loosely connected in a confederacy called House2House Ministries on Facebook (

Although scholars like Snyder (1980:53-63) and Morrison (2011:3) state that modern house churches originated during the Reformation, Tickle (2012:47), with recognition of the 'so-called house church form of worship that had been the norm for the early church of the first and second centuries', argues that house churches became a norm between the two World Wars, before 1930, specifically in Europe, more specifically in Belgium and parts of France, when a 'movement away from attendance at, or involvement with, established church' was first documented. These house churches, that Tickle (2012:47) calls 'communities of change' and 'scattered-communities configuration', were 'to become a hallmark of much of Emergence practice' (Tickle 2012:59).

With this 'definition' in mind, Tickle also classifies religious movements that are mostly interdenominational as part of house churches. They started as small gatherings of Christians, and then it 'grew and morphed and grew again' (Tickle 2012:49), and today are worldwide organisations. Examples are the Catholic Worker Movement, started in the United States in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin (Tickle 2012:47-48), the Iona Community initiated by George MacLeod in Scotland (Tickle 2012:48-49), Taizé in France, founded by Roger Schutz in Burgundy (Tickle 2012:49-50) and the Church of the Saviour, established in 1943 by Mary and Gordon Cosby in Washington (Tickle 2012:56-57). Not all religious groups would gather in houses or specific sanctified places, as is evident from 1955 in the Soho District of London, when Tony Reid started with his Soho pub church (Tickle 2012:60), where his followers gathered in bars and pubs for Bible study and worship.11 During that time, also in Soho, Father Patrick McLaughlin 'helped to bring theatre back into sacred space It was McLaughlin who introduced sacred dance' (Tickle 2012:60).

The year 1959 saw the dawn of Emergence Monasticism, being referred to by Emergence Christians as Neo-monasticism (Tickle 2012:62; 143-145). They called themselves the Community of Jesus, and it was founded by two unnamed women in Orleans, Massachusetts. With these organisations, Tickle (2012:49) argues that 'Emergence Christianity may arguably be said to be officially off and running'.

New formats of church(es)

During the 1950s, the mega-church movement started in the United States, which is defined by Tickle (2012) as:

[T]he term mega-church refers to the size, not the content, of a Protestant Christian body. It specifically applies to those Protestant churches that have more than 2000 members in regular Sunday attendance the majority of mega-churches in this country (USA) are non-denominational in structure and/or evangelical and/or conservative in their theological bent. (pp. 63, 64)

Tickle (2012) refers to the concept of the mega-church as:

an early example of the accommodation and regrouping that always occur within the dominant body of the faith when, in the course of an upheaval, that body begins to lose hegemony or pride of place to new formation within the church. (p. 64)

The mega-church concept is neither unique to the Protestant churches, nor to the United States, although churches like the Roman Catholics rather refer to their mega-churches as 'big' churches (Tickle 2012:65).

After informing his parish in 1961 that he has been baptised in the Spirit, an Episcopal priest, Father Dennis Bennett and his wife Rita founded the Christian Renewal Association in 1968 (Tickle 2012:67-69). One of his followers, a Lutheran pastor, Harald Bredesen, already in 1962 referred to them as Charismatics. The Charismatics were (still) Pentecostals, but they no longer wanted to belong to or be associated formally with the Pentecostals (Tickle 2012:69-70).

Nowadays there is also a large group of people (according to Tickle it could be as many as a quarter or even a third of the congregants of all the Western churches) who are 'unchurched' (Tickle 2012:79). However, these people are not pagans as such, but can be classified as spiritual instead of/but not religious, meaning that they have 'no official membership or even casual attendance in an established place of worship' (Tickle 2012:79). For many of them:

there is a simple gathering with friends for talking about the spiritual life as one knows it in Jesus and God. There is singing and praise, using Christian words in small groups or even in larger gatherings or even more or less consistently. There is participation in green causes and social justice and generous events of service to one's fellows in need. There is a good deal of reading and communal pondering of Scripture and a lot of prayer. There is Emergence Christianity, but it is spiritual Christ-knowing, not religion. (p. 79)

John Wimber, as a good example, started in 1978 an 'association' called the Anaheim Vineyard Church (Tickle 2012:80) with a centre-set/bound-set thinking, implying that anybody is free to join, 'without regard to how he or she may behave or claim to believe' (Tickle 2012:81). For him it was better to have extended teaching lessons, linked to the power of music, instead of 'the twenty-minute homily' (Tickle 2012:82).

In 1974, the Greenbelt (Music) Festival was established in Cheltenham, England. Every year thousands of people from all over the (Western) world are gathering there:

to spend four days camping out in tents and RVs [recreational vehicles] in order to sing together and be sung to, worship together, praise together, learn together, listen together, and in general become as one together. (Tickle 2012:86)

According to Tickle (2012:87), this 'certainly was the one single thing that granted the greatest cohesion to Emergence in the 1970s and 1980s'.

During the late 1990s, a 'highly respected national organization within North American evangelicalism' (Tickle 2012:98) was established to develop and continue the formation and education of evangelical leaders. Its offshoot was the Young Leaders Network in 1997 headed by Doug Pagitt:

For some thirty-plus years, 'emerging church' had served as the popular name for what had been more a collection of attitudes and shared sensibilities than it was a construct, more a conversation itself than a plan, so to speak. (Tickle 2012:99)

But, Pagitt and his leadership have decided 'to establish publicly the existence of Emergent Church as a self-aware entity within the larger conversation' (Tickle 2012:99). They named their website Emergent Village, referring to the proverb 'it takes a village to raise a child' (Tickle 2012:100).

Fresh Expressions (already referred to) is an:

international network across denominational lines of presentations of Christianity that have been established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church and that have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context. Increasingly, that is, Fresh Expressions seems to be well on its way to becoming the first demonstrable gleanings of that colorful and various future predicted for the Hyphenateds. (Tickle 2012:149-150, with reference to their website

The Hyphenateds are defined by Tickle (2012) as people who:

choose to stay within their established denominations even as they give themselves over to infusing Emergence theology, praxis, and sensibilities into their inherited ways Claiming the New While Honoring the Old. (pp. 70, 85, [Original capital letters and emphasis])

Tickle (2012) reports further that:

perhaps even the fastest-growing segments of Emergence Christianity is the so-called Hyphenateds, meaning those Christians who want to keep their natal tradition and forms while also wishing to infuse those forms and traditions with Emergence sensibilities. (p. 64)

Tickle (2012) refers to them as 'conduits' - flowing in two directions:

While they may be carrying the ancient, the tried, and the exquisitely honed into Emergence thought, they are also infusing into their natal traditions the sensibilities, contextualized theology, and reinvigorated praxis of the Emergence Christian community that they likewise refuse to leave. (p. 149)

Snydar also refers to the Hyphenateds as conduits between the Emergence Christianity and the inherited/institutional Christianity (Snydar 2011). They are very cautious in their actions and try to offer a remedy to indifferences by their presence (Tickle 2012:148). They argue that one should take 'from the tradition what is spiritually meaningful and religiously formative and entwine it into what you are doing' (Tickle 2012:148-149). In short, they are cautious to not throwing out the baby with the bathwater (Tickle 2012:149).

In 1970, the first 'self-consciously "hyphenated" church' (Tickle 2012:85) was established by two Episcopal priests, Fathers Donald Schell and Rick Fabian, in the Spanish-speaking part of San Francisco. Still relating to the Episcopal Church, the church is using music of the 'first few centuries', borrowing much from the Orthodox and Coptic churches (Tickle 2012:85).

The term 'Hyphenateds' was used during the 1990s when specific groups referred to themselves as 'presby-mergents or bapto-mergents or luther-mergents or catho-mergents or angli-mergents' (Tickle 2012:76). With the turn of the century, these people loved this kind of religion so much that they took away the hyphens, describing themselves as presbymergents, baptomergents, luthermergents, cathomergents and anglimergents.

A year after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, Cone published a book, Black Theology and Black Power, 'arguably one of the twentieth century's most seminal books and certainly the one that, as its title suggests, juxtaposed theological argument and political action into one dramatic but effectual whole' (Tickle 2012:73). Six years after the death of King, Gutiérrez from Peru wrote a book entitled Theology of Liberation (Gutiérrez 1974). Tickle (2012:73) postulates that this was when liberation theology was christened. Johann Baptist Metz from Germany, a 'major influence in the shaping of liberation theology' (Tickle 2012:90), wrote a book, The Emergent Church: The Future of Christianity in a Postbourgeois World (Metz 1981), arguing that the new Christianity would start at grass roots, and not like the Reformation, in the middle class.

Technology has changed 'every single thing about our lives, including the fact that even locality itself has morphed into something very different from what it once was' (Tickle 2012:151). As human beings we are not only where our bodies are (physically), but we are also where our computers or smartphones are taking us (virtually, in cyberspace). Many people are worshipping nowadays in this way. Cyber church is not held together by theological or practical persuasions, but it is 'a whole in itself based on circumstances', focusing on 'where' it exists, and not 'how' (Tickle 2012:152). One such cyber church is Second Life House of Prayer Church (House of Prayer 2018). Especially the younger generation enjoys this 'anonymous intimacy' or 'intimate anonymity' where one can engage with abandon without the threat of face-to-face contact (Tickle 2012:154). Another example is Darkwood Brew, the 'pastoral child' of Eric Elnes (Tickle 2012:155). Both these cyber churches are much more than just a virtual church, with websites filled with articles, interviews and previous events, to name but a few (cf. Griessel 2011). In the case of Darkwood Brew, it is a Sunday night service held at Elnes' church in Countryside, complete with a coffee bar and baristas, as well as a jazz band, being Skyped to all who want to participate, with interaction between speaker and listeners after the teaching (Tickle 2012:155).


A 'State of Emergence'

By 2005, the terms 'Emergence Christians' and 'Emergence Christianity' were no longer a Fremdkörper in most parts of the Western or Latinised world. In 2009, a new realisation came to the fore, as many 'once-ardent Emergences' (Tickle 2012:111) started to withdraw from the scene 'on their way to the next coolest thing' (Tickle 2012:113), to such an extent that people wondered if this was the end of the 'Emergent Ethos' (Tickle 2012:111; cf. Relevant Magazine 2010). This led to World magazine stating, 'Farewell, Emerging Church R.I.P.' (Bradley 2010; cf. also Breznau 2011). This was an eye-opener to the Emergence Christians.

Brink (2010) from the Emergence missional-church TransFORM declared 'A State of Emergence', arguing that the concept had to die, but not the underlying questions that started the movement at first. Emergence Christianity thus 'had shed a deceptive and destructive public persona' (Tickle 2012:113). Interestingly enough, the Handbook of Denominations in the United States (Mead, Hill & Atwood 2010:n.p.) first recognised the Emergence church in 2010 by listing it as 'Emergent Village'.

A Marburg moment for Emergence Christianity

In 1517, Protestantism was born 'as a construct, a whole' (Tickle 2012:140). By 1529, there were already a variety of opinions, especially between Luther and Zwingli, compelling Luther to organise a meeting at Marburg Palace. The point of difference was on the nature of the Eucharist: Luther held that the bread and wine became the actual body and blood of the Christ, while Zwingli argued that these were representations of the body and blood of the Christ. 'Protestant denominationalism was off and running', as every 'whole' must discover its parts to reach maturity (Tickle 2012:141).

In the same vein, Emergence Christianity, being referred to as both Emerging Church/Christianity and Emergent Church/Christianity, would see an incompatibility on both theological and practical levels between the two groups.12 The 2010 publication by McLaren on A New Kind of Christianity discussed the 'place and proper use of Scripture', as well as the 'location of authority and the exclusivity of Christians in a multifaith universe' (Tickle 2012:143). This book acted as borderline between Emerging and Emergent Christianity, causing them to 'agree to disagree' (Tickle 2012:143). Suddenly the leaders of Emergence Christianity took a stance, referring to themselves as either 'Emergent' or 'Emerging' Christians.13 The view of Breznau, focusing on the Emergent Christians, differs from Tickle's. According to him, the assimilation of Emergence churches to postmodernism took central stage, causing the initial goal to become 'skewed and lost' (Breznau 2011:48-49). This necessitated many leaders, like McLaren, to start with a brand-new goal, called by McLaren himself 'a new kind of Christianity', that would be 'open-ended' and the 'opportunity to ask whatever they wanted to ask and believe whatever suited their context' (Breznau 2011:51).

The postmodern Zeitgeist

James Smith refers to postmodernism as a 'nebulous concept - a slippery beast eluding our understanding a chameleon taking on whatever characteristics we want it to' (Smith 2006:18-19). Don Carson (2005) takes one step back with a lengthy but significant comparison between postmodernism and modernism:

Modernism is often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty, the cerebral as opposed to the affective - which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast, recognizes how much of what we 'know' is shaped by the culture in which we live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor; postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is 'antifoundational') and insists that we come to 'know' things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth, versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion. (p. 27)

The 21st-century church finds herself in this postmodern world, with all its positive and negative characteristics. The church can regard it as a poison, as the 'bane of Christian faith' (Smith 2006:18), as the 'enemy' (Colson 2003:72) and then (try to) avoid it - which would be irresponsible. On the contrary, the church can utilise postmodernism as a 'cure' (Smith 2006:18), by taking its positive characteristics and developing them. This is what the Emergence church is allegedly doing, castigating 'the modernity of pragmatic evangelicalism and [seeking] to retool the church's witness for a postmodern world' (Smith 2006:18).

However, the question remains: To what extent do the Emergence churches utilise postmodernism? Breznau comments that although the Emergences state that 'Genesis 1 to Revelation 22' act as their religious boundary (cf. MacArthur 2010:229-230):

central interpretations of the Bible widely varied and sometimes headed off into heretical territory. So, although there may be relative boundaries in postmodern pragmatism, they are often very elastic or even transitory. (Breznau 2011:47)

In their pursuit to be relevant to a postmodern society, accommodating as many people as possible, they started to contextualise the gospel. This led to 'liberal postmodernism that theological relativism, pluralism, and ambiguity typified their teaching and praxis' (Breznau 2011:48; cf. Carson 2005:41-44). Tickle, being drawn into Emergence, most probably into the Emergent side (cf. Longhurst 2015), surely being aware of that, does not comment on it or criticise it in her book. She rather sees it as a positive action to get the gospel to as many people as possible (Tickle 2012:133-134).

From a philosophical angle

Because of the postmodern approach by the Emergence churches, Emergence Christians do not experience God in the same manner as Christians do (Tickle 2012:163). Christians believe that God is, while Emergence Christians argue that God Is-ing, or that God is Be-ing-ness or Is-ing-ness. They see God as a verb or an event, based on the reaction of God to Moses' question in Exodus 3:1414 as to who he is. Tickle (2012:163) argues that 'Be-ing-ness cannot be defined, for it lies outside the range of human conceptual powers', neither can it be confined. However, although it is impossible to capture the 'uncapturable' in words, the end result for most Emergence Christians is the same, in that 'the Scripture stands as a holy and living event' (Tickle 2012:164). This is the reason why Tickle postulates the following about Emergence Christians (Tickle 2012:164-166):

· They are radically obedient to the words and teachings of Jesus found in Scripture. This implies that if they believe a thing, they have to live it.

· They insist that there is only one story - not two Testaments, but only one.

· They are 'willingly susceptible to the power and truth of [the] story', over against dogma and dogmatic exegesis (Tickle 2012:165 cf. also Conder & Rhodes 2009).

· They believe that theology is something that can be used as a means, but not as an end, definitely not as 'an enshrined or fixed system for entering Scripture' (Tickle 2012:165).

· They always choose grace over morality, in many cases being called Micah 6:8 Christians.15

· They earnestly believe that orthopraxy (right action) trumps orthodoxy (right belief).

· They 'know, above and beyond all else, that the Story tells us that there is a kingdom, that it is now and not yet, here and also there, fully come and coming and then, in knowing this, to live every minute of every day accordingly' (Tickle 2012:166).

Tickle argues that, over against the Reformation theology which is more logically done, Emergence Christians add the soul, heart and spirit as Jesus has commanded (Mt 22:37-39), as equal parts to their worship. In their services, worship, or gatherings, there is very much diversity, although there is always music - be it electronic music, Southern Gospel, superb jazz, Celtic laments, Christian rock, medieval chants or a mix of some of the above (Tickle 2012:168). Added to that is everything that will stimulate the worship experience, like candles, burlap, netting, easels to paint on, multi-projections of varying images and potter's wheels - all to make sure that every worshipper is present by doing something (Tickle 2012:169).

Despite this way of worshipping, there is an affinity of Orthodox praxis and theology. The reason is that Orthodoxy is, according to Tickle (2012:169), 'the most sensual, the most keenly aesthetic, the most elegant and routinely mystical the most spiritual as well as religious'. The 'thing' of Orthodoxy that moves Emergence Christianity most is the 'signs and symbols and conveyers of nonverbal truth, these tools for being spiritual as well as religious' (Tickle 2012:170).

Emergence Christianity has widened the scope of the term 'incarnational', not only referring to Jesus as God-in-man or Man-in-God, but also to the inextricable bond between the body and soul (Tickle 2012:169), almost negating the soul or mind, stating that they are bodies and will for ever be bodies - 'wombs of the divine'16 (Brewin 2007:94). Linked to this is the Orthodox term 'perichoresis', presenting the Trinity as being communal - 'a community of Its Parts' (Tickle 2012:172). Being 'communal by culture and era' the Emergences also support this view (Tickle 2012:172).


What happened since 2012?

Emergence Christianity

During the previous four revolutions, the media did not play a pivotal role in disseminating news. The current picture is totally different, with cell phones, the Internet, twitter and so on. As soon as someone begins with something new in any part of the world, almost immediately everybody knows about it and chooses sides - for or against it.

This is the same with Emergence Christianity, with its two conduits - Emerging and Emergent Christianity. While it looks as if the Emergent Church still continues, the same cannot be said about the Emerging church. In 2010, Bob Hyatt has already written a 'eulogy for a departed movement' (Hyatt 2010), while 'everyone17 [was] writing obituaries for the Emerging Church movement'. Interestingly, no mention is made by Tickle about it. Although the Emergents are seemingly still active, Christianity Today (2019) states the following:18

Though a subject of great discussion in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the emergent movement has seemingly dropped off the map as of late. Part of this stems from the difficulty in defining just what the Emergent Movement is. Led by authors and pastors like Brian McLaren (A New Kind of Christian, 2001) and Tony Jones (The Church is Flat, 2011), emergent churches have sought to reshape how to 'do church' in the postmodern culture, often challenging traditional Christian understandings of faith and practice.

Nash, once a huge proponent of the Emerging Church, states:

So, whatever happened to the Emerging Church? From my limited vantage point, I have seen the movement bleed back into the larger institutional church, where it is affecting it in ways that are yet to be seen. (Nash 2018)

However, in an e-mail sent to the author by McLaren, he reports about the current state of Emergent Christianity:

The larger movement that both Phyllis and I talked about continues to take shape under various names or anonymously.

In movement theory, people often talk about stages of movement formation. Before movements are born, they 'gestate' through what are often called critical conversations. There is a period where people gather, often in secret, to discuss their misgivings with the current paradigm (or theology or hierarchy, etc.). When a few people begin to speak out publicly, others say, 'Yes! I've been having the same questions' I think that this stage - isolated people speaking out - has been going on for about 20 years now. And, of course, the theological roots go back a century and more. The second stage, these isolated people coming together, has also been progressing. What was known as 'emergent' or 'emergent village' was one such convergence of people, but there have been and will be many more

In the early 2000's, we came to see that 'postmodern is postcolonial', which required us to take much more seriously issues of race, white supremacy, and colonialism. That meant that we needed to engage in the slow but essential work of building relationships among African Americans, Native Americans, Latinex and Asian Americans, etc As a result, by 2005 or so, Evangelical gatekeepers launched a pretty effective expulsion campaign of anyone associated with 'emergent', using LGBTQ inclusion as a litmus test. Something similar happened in the UK, much of it focused on Steve Chalke and Dave Tomlinson, maybe around 2010

FWIW [For what it's worth], I see the Greenbelt Festival in the UK as one of the centers of emergence Christianity. I would say the same about Taize in France, even though their leaders are probably totally unaware of it. I would say the same about Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation here in the US. I think it's best to understand this phenomenon as a multi-centered, multi-faceted, many-dimensional thing. No single person or organization leads it, controls it, or owns it

At this point, the term itself is not used often here, but the work continues and the influence spreads. Interestingly, I have been in touch with counterparts who are Jewish, Muslim, etc., who see themselves going through the same process, who are reading our books (and vice versa), and see us as allies. (McLaren 2019)

What is obvious from this e-mail is that the term is gone, but the idea is continuing.

'Different' churches

These are examples of formal churches that are not classified as Emergence Christianity, yet they distinguish themselves from the traditional churches.

Something that already started in 2001, after 30 years of dialogue (referred to by Tickle 2012:182 as a merger, a reconfiguration and an accommodation), is the Called to Common Mission church in the United States. It entails a 'full and free exchange of pastoral and ecclesial offices between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church of the United States' (Tickle 2012:182), and they celebrated '15 years of Episcopal-Lutheran partnership' in 2016 (ENS 2016).

A church that Tickle did not mention in both her 2008 and 2012 books is the Reformed Charismatics. Although that sounds like a contradictio in terminis, it has its roots back in 1907 when the All Saints Church in Sunderland invited a Pentecostal preacher to hold a service there, resulting in the All Saints Church becoming the centre of early Pentecostalism in England (Coulter 2014). During the past 30 years many existing churches have identified themselves with this way of thinking (Mccracken 2017:2 of 9). Mccracken (2017:2 of 9) comments on this: 'Five hundred years after the Reformation, Luther's 21st-century inheritors are embracing the Holy Spirit in new and deeper ways', calling it a 'third way' (Mccracken 2017:2, 3 of 9).

Another church not mentioned by Tickle is the Sovereign Grace Churches, already founded in 1982 by the name, People of Destiny International. In 2003, they changed their name to Sovereign Grace Churches.

Much in line with the Reformed Charismatics, their 'beliefs can be described as evangelical, Reformed, and continuationist'19 (Sovereign Grace Churches 2019).

These churches are examples of formal churches that chose not to be Emergence Christians, but present Christianity in a new or different way.


Imminent or already present?

Are all the different associations and religious gatherings and fresh expressions of the church signs of what is to come, or images of what already is? When the four big revolutions/upheavals (mostly referring to the West) took place, they were not as such world revolutions or upheavals, but to a great extent 'local', having an influence on the 'rest of the world' over some time. Jesus was only known in Israel; it was his followers who proclaimed his word to the provinces of the Roman Empire, initially to Antioch, as well as the (northern) African part and the (southern) European and Asian parts of the Empire. Christianity eventually did influence the 'whole world'. The fall of the Roman Empire, together with the upcoming Monasticism, also affected a 'small' part of the world, although everybody would like to refer to that part as the 'known world' of the time. Locations like 'the rest of Africa', China, Japan and all the countries south of them up to New Zeeland, as well as both the Americas with their inhabitants during that time, were not affected. The question is to what extent Asia is directly affected up to this very day. Eleven hundred years after Christ, the Great Schism was in fact a Catholic 'thing', paving the way for the Reformation 500 years later, that would mostly affect the Western part of the Roman Catholic Church.

These major upheavals had a big effect on the affected churches of the time, but not on all the churches of the time, specifically with reference to the last two upheavals. That was already indicative of the way in which the next Reformation would happen. However, in the words of McLaren above, as well as Nichols (2012:240) who said, 'Sorry, "Emergence Christianity" still isn't the Reformation', it looks as if the next Reformation is still imminent, but not in full swing.


A South African initiative or alternative?

Joubert (2018:1) pinpoints the situation in South Africa, stating that this country has 'experienced seismic and systemic shifts from apartheid to post-apartheid, colonialism to post-colonialism, modernism to post-modernism, Christendom to post-Christendom and currently from non-liquid modernity to liquid modernity'.20 Despite these facts, South Africa does not boast with many alternatives to the formal church and, as far as the researcher knows, does not use the terms 'Emerging' or 'Emergent' very often, if ever, when referring to a 'new form of church'. The three examples given below are ways in which innovation is starting to take place. However, none of these will really transform the core of Christianity that is so desperately needed in our country.

House churches

Formal and informal house churches seem to abound in South Africa.21 Although the informal house churches are privately organised mostly around (extended) families and friends (like cell groups), the formal house churches have websites and invite people to partake - in fact they are churches on a small scale.22 As has already been said, these churches are also called organic churches or simple churches (cf. Compelling Truth 2019), defined as follows:

The organic church, sometimes also called 'simple church', looks to the church in Acts 2 for its model, focusing on small groups of Christians gathering for the purpose of spiritual growth and mutual help and comfort, while studying the Bible and being led by the Holy Spirit to do His work. (Got Questions 2019)

Leaders are not necessarily educated in theology, but the priesthood of all believers and the abundance of theological support material can effectively address this.

Cyber church

ekerk [echurch] was founded in 2002, focusing on the 'prominence of God's upside-down kingdom in his teachings' (Joubert 2018:1 of 7). Apart from local weekly gatherings on the Internet, they host learning communities in different formats, as well as '18-month entrepreneurial leadership programmes for younger church leaders (DieGang/TheGang)' (Joubert 2018:1 of 7), not having the intention to replace or duplicate any local congregation (ekerk 2016; Joubert 2018). These people supply reading material to their readers, train Christian leaders, organise pilgrimages to Israel and Turkey, and leader and training tours to Europe and the United States. They also help the needy people in their outreach programme (ekerk 2016). The advantage of ekerk lies in the fact that the leaders are trained theologians and that they are utilising the media in service of the gospel.

Fresh Expressions Southern Africa

This interdenominational23 group was founded in 2016 and aims to move away from maintenance orientation towards becoming intentionally missional through mobilisation of church members to be active in their communities. They provide training, coaching, envisioning and research to church leaders at all levels, but admit that the implementation is hampered by a lack of capacity 'to accompany church leaders on ground level to implement these processes of transformation' (Fresh Expressions Southern Africa 2017).


Grammatical mistakes or spelling errors

There are remarkably few mistakes. The following errors were noticed:

· Page 31: commonsense > common sense.

· Page 42: ' Rauschenbusch released a volume entitled Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century'. The title was Christianity and the Social Crisis; the last part 'in the 21st century', was added during its 100th anniversary, with new essays added.

· Page 68; 93; 175: Does 'Sabbath' refer to a Sunday here?

· Page 73; 234: Gutierrez > Gutiérrez.

· Page 91: hierarchal > hierarchical.

· Page 112: Maybe in 2012 this was the correct website, but today it belongs to a business of 'house and housing'. Current information on the emergent village can be found on their twitter site:, or a blog discussing emergent village:

· Page 142: confreres > confrères.

· Page 157: Still Speaking > StillSpeaking.

· Page 204: are > is (There is a myriad of ).



Approximately 7 years ago Tickle gave her views on the next Emergence or change in the Christian church. That change has still not been realised internationally, as many accepted changes are only local and seemingly not internationally accepted.

She presents Emergence Christianity in a positivistic manner, without admitting that there is or can also be something/some things that are not done correctly. Take, for instance, her comprehensive 'definition' of Emergence Christians that we find rather late in her book:

Emergence Christians approach their faith, logically enough, as Emergence citizens. Presumably, if that were not the case, they would have a different naming. But dwellers in Emergence they are, through and through; and like their fellow citizens, they by and large are dialogical in their pursuit of understanding; hospitable to a fault; decolonialized in their worldview, be it political or missional; antiauthoritarian in more than just their declericalization; enamored of paradox; demanding of authenticity as a prerequisite to any engagement of any sort; and, almost as a logical extension of authenticity, even more demanding that there be absolute transparency in whoever or whatever is. Unlike their fellow citizens of a more secular bent, however, Emergence Christians are both spiritual and religious. (Tickle 2012:167)

While the last Emergence - the Great Reformation - was quite easy to pinpoint (in hindsight though) because of a specific date and person, the three Emergences before that are either linked to an event (the fall of the Roman Empire, and Great Schism) or the birth of a Person (Jesus), without having a specific date thereof. Hindsight gives the answer, not the specific event or date. This also applies to the Great Emergence: We can already feel its vibe (not so strong in South Africa though), we see 'symptoms' of it, we realise that the world is in 'changing mode', but the 'real thing' is still not here or has not happened completely.

Hindsight will tell the story a century or two from now. The only obvious fact is that the Great Emergence is imminent. One very important thing to realise is that the Great Emergence will not come to the whole world in one single moment or even year, as it could already be in full swing in parts of Europe - but not the whole of Europe - and in parts of the United States - but not the whole United States - and that it will most probably spread to other parts of these continents and to other continents over time. It is highly unlikely that one person will stand up in a Martin Luther style and swing everything in a different direction.

The outstanding problem with this book is that Tickle does not stand as as 'neutral' to the facts as she wanted to (cf. Tickle 2012:208).24 Without criticising Emergence Christianity, she is actually promoting them by just recording the positives - of which there are many - and withholding the negatives. One very realistic piece of critique comes from a YouTube video by Zacharias who warned against the Emerging Christians, as they have less teaching and do not even know the difference between a Christian and a Muslim (Zacharias 2018). However, the question can be asked if the traditional churchgoers currently know the difference

Could it be that Emergence Christians think they are taking the church to the world, but in fact they are accommodating the world inside the church?

It is the author's conviction that this book of Tickle is a must read for every theologian and South African Christian. Despite her positivism, she opens one's mind to the fact that the institutionalised traditional church must make way for something else while also alerting readers to learn from others' experiences and mistakes.



Competing interests

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Authors' contributions

E.O. is the sole author of this article.

Funding Information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.



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Zacharias, R., 2018, 'On the 21st Century Emerging Church Movement', YouTube, viewed 11 January 2019, from         [ Links ]

Zenit, 2010, Number of Catholics on the Rise: Vatican Releases Statistical Yearbook, viewed 08 October 2018, from         [ Links ]



Erna Oliver

Received: 25 Jan. 2019
Accepted: 15 May 2019
Published: 18 July 2019



1. Phyllis Tickle died at the age of 81.
2. This book links to a book she wrote in 2008, called The Great Emergence - How Christianity is Changing and Why. This (her 2012 book) was her second last book, the last one being How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church, co-written with Jon Sweeney in 2013.
3. Her elaborated definition is as follows: '[T]he Great Emergence is an across-the-board and still-accelerating shift in every single part and parcel of our lives as members in good standing of twenty-first-century Western or westernized civilization. Intellectually, politically, economically, culturally, sociologically, religiously, psychologically - every part of us and of how we are and how we live has, to some greater or lesser degree, been reconfiguring over the last century and a half, and those changes are now becoming a genuine maelstrom around us' (Tickle 2012:25). In 1962 Carl Bridenbaugh already referred to this era or time as the Great Mutation (Bridenbaugh 1962).
4. Scholars like Strauss and Howe (1997) refer to it as 'turnings', stating that we are now in the fourth turning, while Kelly (2016) refers to it as 'beginnings', stating that the fifth beginning is nigh, with the implication that we are at the end of the fourth beginning.
5. Despite a footnote where Tickle takes a neutral position towards the filioque matter (Tickle 2012:176), a flaw in the argumentation of both Tickle and the Emergences is to hang on to the Orthodox conviction that the Holy Spirit descended ONLY from the Father, in that way giving Jesus a lesser position to the Father, assuming that if the Spirit would descend from both the Father and Jesus, he would be the least of the three, as if Jesus was lesser than the Father (cf. Tickle 2012:172), which is not true.
6. The Great Reformation is called the 'Great Western Transformation' by Armstrong (2010:166).
7. Not everybody is as positive towards this book as Tickle. McKnight, a professor of religion at North Park University in Chicago, also the renowned author of many books, lashed out at McLaren (two years before Tickle's book was published), ending his review of the book on a moderate note: 'Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it's a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian's new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it's not old enough' (McKnight 2010).
8. For clarity's sake, the definitions of these three terms are given (cf. Tickle 2012:107): The un-churched people are those who are 'more or less totally neutral on the subject of Christianity'; the non-churched are mostly urban Christians 'who claim the faith nominally; and the de-churched are those who have once been Christians - to a greater or lesser extent - but 'have been so offended by the Christianity they have known as to eschew it completely'.
9. Added to this, the 19th century is also marked as the birthing of Mormonism, of Seventh Day Adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, New Thought and Unity, Unitarian Universalism, Theosophy, the Disciples of Christ, the Church of Christ, the Christian Church in the United States and the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Tickle 2012:44).
10. This book, together with later works by Rauschenbusch, would have a major influence on Martin Luther King Jr and (the then) Bishop Desmond Tutu (Tickle 2012:42-43).
11. In an interview with John Longhurst of On Faith Canada in 2013 (Longhurst 2015), she refers to the young people who do not attend church services anymore: 'They're down in the pub every Tuesday night, having a beer and doing pub theology. It's just church in a new way. God is doing a new thing again and we're living in it'.
12. The difference between 'Emerging' and 'Emergent' can be described as follows: 'Emerging' encapsulates a global informal (church-based) movement, while 'Emergent' refers to a more formal organisation of church (cf. Driscoll 2006).
13. This does not mean that everybody automatically switched to these two terms. Many authors, like Diener (2011:7), are still mixing the terms. In his dissertation, Diener (2011) mainly discusses three proponents of Emerging Christianity, while all of them - McLaren, Pagitt and Kimball - are from the Emergent group. According to McKnight (2008), the emergent movement is a segment of the emerging movement. Furthermore, according to McLaren (in an interview with Merritt of RNS [Religion News Service]) the Emergent church was founded in 1989 (!), but that the 'evangelical gatekeepers have vilified "Emergent" so that people within evangelicalism no longer use the term. I was never all that infatuated with the term myself' (Merritt 2014). In a review on this book of Tickle, Ganiel states: 'I am less sure that people have coalesced around the labels Emerging and Emergent in as definitive a way as she claims - at least outside of the United States, where the term Emergent is less-used and less-associated with the originally US-based Emergent Village' (Ganiel 2012).
14. Exodus 3:14 (NIV): God said to Moses, 'I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I am has sent me to you"'.
15. Micah 6:8 (NIV): He has shown you, o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
16. Maybe Brewin describes this term best by stating it in his 2010 book: 'We too are forgiven, accepted. We too are wombs of the divine [referring here to Mary, the mother of Jesus]. We too have been blessed with some gift, some service which we can give away to the heirs we allow to mature after us. We too have some gospel being written, some text under construction about us. Like all good stories, it will be a narrative that is punctuated by ruptures, but how we deal with those times, whether they lead us to maturity or fantasy, will be governed by the strength and focus we find in the desert we carry with us' (Brewin 2010:n.p.).
17. Cf. Bradley (2010) and Breznau (2011), stated above.
18. Although the date given is 2019, this statement must have been made during 2014, as the latest document referred to on that web page is 2014.
19. Continuationism refers to a theological belief in the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, specifically speaking in tongues and prophecy.
20. Bauman (2011) defines 'liquid' as follows: 'What makes modernity "liquid"
is its self-propelling, self-intensifying, compulsive and obsessive "modernization," as a result of which, like liquid, none of the consecutive forms of social life is able to maintain its shape for long'. This is currently a worldwide trend.
21. There is even a Chinese house church movement in South Africa (Grant & Niemandt 2015).
22. Examples are the Hope House Church (Hope House 2016) and the Loyalty House International South Africa (Loyalty House International South Africa 2017).
23. Including the Dutch Reformed Church, the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, the Uniting Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Union, the United Reformed Church, the United Congregational Church, the Hervormde Church and the Vineyard Church and the following ministries: Ekklesia, Fresh Bread, Communitas, OC Africa and Growing the Church (Fresh Expressions Southern Africa 2017).
24. On this page she states: 'I trust that what has been recorded in the first twenty-two chapters of this volume is as near to neutrally rendered fact and impersonal history as possible'.

^rND^sDriscoll^nM.^rND^sGrant^nS.^rND^sNiemandt^nC.J.P.^rND^sGriessel^nS.^rND^sJoubert^nS.J.^rND^1A01^nRamathate T.H.^sDolamo^rND^1A01^nRamathate T.H.^sDolamo^rND^1A01^nRamathate T. H^sDolamo



Stephen Bantu Biko: An agent of change in South Africa's socio-politico-religious landscape



Ramathate T.H. Dolamo

Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa





This article examines and analyses Biko's contribution to the liberation struggle in South Africa from the perspective of politics and religion. Through his leading participation in Black Consciousness Movement and Black Theology Project, Biko has not only influenced the direction of the liberation agenda, but he has also left a legacy that if the liberated and democratic South Africa were to follow, this country would be a much better place for all to live in. In fact, the continent as a whole through its endeavours in the African Union underpinned by the African Renaissance philosophy would go a long way in forging unity among the continent's nation states. Biko's legacy covers among other things identity, human dignity, education, research, health and job creation. This article will have far reaching implications for the relations between the democratic state and the church in South Africa, more so that there has been such a lack of the church's prophecy for the past 25 years.

Keywords: Liberation; Black consciousness; Black theology; Self-reliance; Identity; Culture; Religion; Human dignity.




Biko was born in Ginsberg near King William's Town on 18 December 1946. He died in police custody because of wounds and bruises inflicted upon him on 12 September 1977. He was the 21st person to die in the hands of the police as the political detainee since the founding of Black Conscious Movement (BCM) (Stubbs 1978a:1-2; Wilson 1991:15). His father, Mzingaye, passed away when he was still 4 years old and his mother, Duna Mamcete who was a domestic worker, had to raise Bantu and his siblings all by herself. The family was God-fearing and denomination-wise they were Anglicans (Wilson 1991:16-18).

When Bantu was about 16 years of age, he got arrested for activities related to the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). Although he was later released from detention, he was nonetheless expelled from his school. This experience seems to have sown seeds of rebellion against authorities and people in power in general. He was admitted at a Roman Catholic School called St Francis College in Mariannhill in KwaZulu-Natal as a student in 1964. Biko was an inquisitive young man with a sharp intellect. Priests and nuns who ran the institution were asked very difficult questions, most of which were difficult for them to address and some very embarrassing for them because they had to do with their sexuality. He asked questions around the nature of the Church, its doctrines, traditions, and so on. For example, why should the church services be conducted in Latin when majority of congregants spoke isiZulu and did not know Latin? As Biko did not get satisfactory answers from those conservative monks and nuns, or as Biko himself says, their answers were either 'unintelligible' or 'unacceptable' (1978a:155), he befriended two clergymen who were more liberal in terms of theology and politics, namely Aelred Stubbs and David Russel. Other incidents that politically impacted on Biko were the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, the formation of the African National Congress (ANC) and PAC military wings, respectively, the apprehension of Nelson Mandela by the police and the Rivonia Treason Trial. Because of political persecutions and brutalities, many political leaders were either in prison or in exile. Fear was palpable across the country.

After matriculating at St Francis College, Biko went to the University of Natal in Wentworth in 1966 to study medicine. But while he was there, medicine was not his only preoccupation; politics became also central to his activities. He became a member of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). A defining moment politically dawned upon him when he attended NUSAS conference held at Rhodes University in 1967. According to Wilson (1991) quoting Donald Woods, Biko said:

I realized that for a long time I had been holding onto the whole dogma of non-racialism almost like a religion, feeling that it was sacrilegious to question it, and therefore not accommodating the attacks I was getting from other students. I began to feel that there was a lot in the proponents of the non-racial idea, that much as they were adhering to this impressive idea they were in fact subject to their own experience back home. They had this problem, you know, of superiority, and they tended to take us for granted and wanted us to accept things that were second-class. (p. 23)

The use of the English language disadvantaged black students in that they were unable to follow discussions and make meaningful contributions and the white students exploited this deficiency. Black students accepted almost everything without question. Black students felt inadequate and not smart enough to engage their fellow white students. At that conference, Biko felt that a different kind of mental attitude must be created to counteract the white superiority or black inferiority mentality prevalent at the time. This led to an articulation of a philosophy known as black consciousness (BC) which led, in turn, to an all-black student organization called 'South African Students Organisation' (SASO). Black people would encompass so-called Bantus, so-called mixed race and Indians or Asians:

This new definition had a liberating effect on many, freeing them from the categories defined by apartheid, while others were extremely dubious of something that sounded as though it smacked of racism. (Wilson 1991:24-25)

Although it was initially agreed that SASO would not disaffiliate from NUSAS, the relationship became so polarised that SASO had to withdraw its membership of NUSAS.

The term:

'Non-White' was only used briefly and 'black' was adopted by the Black Consciousness Movement because, 'Non-White' was a negation of being. It still indicated a desire to become white eventually in the sense that 'whiteness' was the norm to which one attached other people who could not be defined in their own terms. (Wilson 1991:26)

SASO leadership divided portfolios among themselves. Some were given roles in education, development, performing arts and 'in political and theological matters Biko and Pityana led the field' (Wilson 1991:28-29). By the way, Biko was not only an Anglican by infant baptism and upbringing, but he also became a member of the University Christian Movement (UCM). He was also ecumenical in a way because he attended a Roman Catholic Church high school and at the university, he associated with students from other denominations (Duncan 2008:131). Although Biko was not a Christian in the traditional way of attending church services regularly and paying church dues, he nonetheless believed firmly in the existence of God when he said:

I have never had problems with this question. I am sufficiently convinced of the inadequacy of man and the rest of creation to believe that a greater force than mortals is responsible for creation, maintenance and continuation of life. I am also sufficiently religious to believe that man's internal insecurity can only be alleviated by an almost enigmatic and supernatural force to which we ascribe all power, all wisdom and love. (Wilson 1991:43)

Biko and his friends such as Nyameko Pityana, Mamphela Ramphele and Sabelo Ntwasa decided to visit theological seminaries in order to conscientise theology students. They were regarded as a strategic source because they were going to serve grassroots people in their pews and communities and that black people are very religious, it was an added advantage. A theology that would address black people in their context had to be manufactured at theological seminaries. This theology became known as 'black theology' (BT) (Duncan 2008:115-140; Motlhabi 2008:3-7; Stubbs 1978a:158). BC and BT were therefore propagated almost at the same time. They should be regarded as sides of the same coin. Biko truly believed that theology students graduating from such seminaries would confront apartheid and become honest interlocutors from a BC and BT perspective. For example, in 1968, he challenged UCM delegates at Fort Hare, 'to adopt the entire university as their responsibility, that is, he challenged all staff to see the connection between student responsibility and social concerns' (Duncan 2008:132-133). Because of the fact that Pityana held positions of leadership in both UCM and Anglican Student Fellowship, BT flourished more at Fort Hare than in other universities. Many seminaries such as Federal Theological Seminary (Alice), St Bedes (Umtata), St Peters (Hammanskraal) and Lutheran Theological College (Mapumulo) did revise their respective curricula with emphasis put on practical theology, community outreach as well as church administration and congregational work. As Pityana puts it, 'Biko built his political system on spiritual foundation spiritual is concrete, holistic, bringing the fullness of humanity to bear on the material and objective world' (cf. Duncan 2008:119).

Biko died a martyr according to Stubbs because he fought apartheid with single-minded integrity (1978b:214). Du Toit (2008:209) likens Biko to Diedrick Bonhoffer, Biko's associate and friend in the BCM and BT project. They immersed themselves in the struggle and soldiered on amidst trials and tribulations until 1994 with the inauguration of democracy in South Africa. Now that Biko's life and some activities have been discussed, it is time to focus more on his ideas, thoughts and insights.


Black consciousness and black theology

What is BC according to Biko?

Black Consciousness is an attitude of mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. Its essence is the realization by the black man of the need to rally with his brothers around the course of their oppression - the blackness of their skin - and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude. It is based on a self-examination which has ultimately led them to believe that by seeking to run away from themselves and emulate the white man, they are insulting the intelligence of whoever created them black. (Stubbs 1978a:92)

The backdrop against Biko's definition of BC is the arrival of white people in South Africa in 1652. It was the beginning of the woes of the black people in that slavery, colonialism and apartheid were introduced in the continent (Marsh 2013:207-208). 'Colonialism and conquest brought about immense changes in the African societies of Southern Africa, impacting radically on their economies, cultures, thoughts and ways of life' (Odendaal 2012:9). Odendaal (2012:3) says that, 'indigenous people had been subjugated, enslaved, deprived of their land and freedom, even in places exterminated, all in the name of Western civilization and progress'. The Land Acts of 1913 and 1936 ensured that black people were stripped of 87% of their land (Changuion & Steenkamp 2012:130-139, 163-175) and racism was formally legislated for in 1948 in the form of apartheid when the National Party ascended to power (2012:86-200). Homelands were created with Transkei, Venda, Ciskei and Bophuthatswana being given 'independence' by the apartheid government (2012:214-232, 232-250). Indians and so-called mixed race were incorporated into the central parliament in an arrangement called Tricameral Parliament (2012:252-253).

The tense situation in South Africa became worse as the National Party became vicious in implementing its apartheid policy. The ANC and PAC were banned in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre and they went underground and formed Umkhonto we Sizwe and Poqo, respectively. Thousands of students went into exile following the 1976 students uprising against apartheid, while others were imprisoned either on Robben Island or in the mainland. There was fear in the hearts of many people and the population became paralysed (cf. Brotz 1977; Davenport 1987; Lodge 1983; Motsoko 1984). This 'pathological fear' as Pityana (2008:5) called it had to be dealt with first on the psychological level before the physical shackles of oppression can be removed.

There were influences beyond South Africa that also helped Biko and others to formulate the BC philosophy, for BC is not really a new phenomenon on the global map. These advocates of BC were avid readers and they followed very attentively political developments in Africa and beyond. For example, Sono (1993:95) tells us that Biko read in 1 weekend the 460 pages of 'Autobiography of Malcom X'. They read extensively on the American Black Power ideology, Kwame Ture (aka Stockley Carmichael, Charles Hamilton, Franz Fanon, Martin Luther King Jnr and Paul Freire including Elijah Muhammad. This period was also marked by many colonised countries in Africa getting their independence. South Africa would follow much later in 1994.

They received inspiration from those political leaders of liberated Africa such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Leopold Senghor by reading their works (Sono 1993:37). Other influences include the Ethiopian Movement, ANC and PAC (Pityana in Du Toit 2008:7). For Khoapa (Du Toit 2008):

the oppressed the meaning of the struggle against dehumanization is located in the great humanistic and historical task of liberating both themselves and their oppressors. The object of the struggle is to create an order that dehumanizes no one. (p. 75)

Biko (1978:73-79) discusses in depth the genesis of the fear that gripped the nation referred above.

Indigenous people were dealt with harshly when they held on to their land, livestock, and so on, and in some instances, they were killed. Colonialists used any means to hang on to power. People were charged under vicious laws enabled by the Terrorism Act. Biko (1978:75) went so far as to equate apartheid to Nazism.

Arrests and torture were effected on a daily basis and as he says:

No average black man can ever at any moment be absolutely sure that he is not breaking a law. There are so many laws governing the lives and behaviour of black people that sometimes one feels that police only need to page at random through their statute book to be able to get a law under which to charge a victim. (Biko 1978:75)

White people also lived in fear that black people would revolt against them and all the signs were there that black people would not submit to state-sponsored violence against them. They called it 'swart gevaar' or black danger. Having exorcised the demon of fear and having a programme of action in place, BC proponents decided to spread BC philosophy especially among students from high school to tertiary institutions and the SASO was born.

SASO was launched at the University of the North, now University of Limpopo, in July 1969 and Biko was elected as its first president. SASO would offer black students a forum from where to discuss problems unique to them. It was felt that NUSAS and UCM did not discuss material issues affecting them but only those pertinent to white survival (Biko 1978a:67; Seleoane 2008:33-34; Sono 1993:31). For Sono (63), SASO is the soul of liberation!

Briefly, the aims and objectives of SASO were as follows:

1. The needs and aspirations of black students need to be crystallised. For example, why did apartheid state decided to establish ethnic universities in 1959?

2. Programmes were designed through which those aspirations would be embarked upon. For example, students were encouraged to spend their vacations in communities to do community work.

3. Contacts and interactions had to be increased among black universities because it was the intention of the government of the day not only to separate black and white students but also to separate black students along ethnic groupings.

4. Solid identity among all black universities had to be fostered around their blackness. They are a majority as black students and were therefore a formidable force to reckon with.

5. Black students were encouraged to act as pressure groups on their respective campuses. This call was made at the time when black campuses did not have credible Student Representative Councils.

6. Awareness on socio-political issues in South Africa had to be raised among all and sundry. Where do we come from as black students, where are we and where do we want to go? (Biko 1978d:3-7)

Corroborating this presentation Biko (1978d) said:

We have a responsibility not only to ourselves but also to the society from which we spring. No one else will ever take the challenge up until we, of our own accord, accept the inevitable fact that ultimately the leadership of the non-white peoples in this country rests with us. (p. 7)

Although SASO to many seemed to have been racially inclined:

Yet what SASO has done is simply to take stock of the present scene in the country and to realise that not unless the non-white students decide to lift themselves from the doldrums will they ever hope to get out of them. (p. 5)

Biko denied vehemently when he was accused of being anti-white. SASO was not to be understood as conforming to the policy of separate development either. Actually, Biko demonstrated that SASO or any other exclusively black organization would not last (1978c:11-12).

Yet, we have to admit, according to Biko (1978c:12), that our society is not normal. White people will continue to dominate everything especially positions of leadership and will continue to perpetuate the status quo and preoccupy themselves with problems affecting white society. Black people are tired of being in the periphery of power and being left out of decision-making processes in South Africa. According to Biko (1978c):

... [T]he black student community has at last lost faith with their white counterparts and is now withdrawing from the open society They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves. (p. 15)

After the formation of SASO, the BC leadership discussed the fate of graduates who left institutions of higher learning to go and work and interact with society. These former students were mature and would be good ambassadors of the philosophy. To this end, a decision was taken to establish a political organisation and the Black People's Convention (BPC) was launched in December 1971 with Biko as its honorary president. By that time, the apartheid regime had realised that SASO was not conforming to the policy of separate development as they had initially thought, but was a revolutionary organisation that wanted to topple it. The government was already hitting hard on the leadership of BCM. Pro-Frelimo rallies of 1974 and followed in 1976 by the student uprisings demonstrated to the regime that BC was a potent and strong force to reckon with. People such as Biko were either in detention or under house arrest. SASO and BPC were banned in October 1977 with thousands of students and BC leaders incarcerated or going into exile. Some newspapers which were aligned to BC were also banned.

Another wave of fear engulfed the country but the struggle was not abandoned. Organisations such as the Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) continued with the struggle until apartheid was vanquished in 1994. Lauding the role that BCM played, Buthelezi (in Pityana 1991) had this to say:

The BCM can be said to have prepared the way for the bolder moves of the 1970s and 1980s, which culminated in the events of the 1990s. The impact of BCM goes beyond particular organisations. The psychological liberation brought about by the BC Philosophy enabled blacks particularly the young to overcome their fear of the repressive system they were up against. (p. 129)

Regarding matters religious, Biko was of the firm belief that religion is fundamental to human beings and therefore should be made readily available to everyone. Religion will definitely be with us forever because where there is no religion, one will be developed (Stubbs 1978a:55, cf. Duncan in Du Toit 2008:127). Religion forms people's moral conscience and it offers solutions where science is unable to do so. For that reason, professional theologians should stop monopolising religion and regarding themselves as the only category of Christians who know all the truths about God and have all the answers. Turning to BT in particular, it has already been indicated that it was regarded as a spiritual counterpart of BC because the same people who formulated and articulated BC are the same as those who proposed and articulated BT. Theology is God's word to a particular situation and its motif is liberation. BC laid bare the oppressive and exploitative situation in which black people found themselves in South Africa and the question was, of course, where was God in the situation, if indeed we are all, black and white created in God's image and likeness. It was high time that God addressed them relevantly and BT was born. Biko (in Stubbs 1978a) defined BT as follows:

Black Theology is a situational interpretation of Christianity. It seeks to relate the present day black man to God within the given context of the black man's moral obligation from avoiding wronging false authorities by not losing his Reference Book, not to stealing food when hungry and not cheating police when he is caught, to being committed to eradicating all course for suffering as represented in the death of children from starvation, outbreaks of epidemics in poor areas, or the existence of thuggery and vandalism in townships. In other words, it shifts the emphasis from petty sins to major sins in a society, thereby ceasing to teach the people to 'suffer peacefully'. (p. 59)

The Bible indicates that God's message is addressed to people's histories and situations and should be adapted in line with the aspirations and hopes of the people if it is to be relevant. In other words, the gospel must be contextual if it has to be salvific and liberating. Black theology is therefore not a new theology but rather a re-evaluation of the same gospel message contained in the Bible. Biko takes issue with the so-called 'pie-in-the-sky' theology because it is ideological and it is open to abuse by those in power against the powerless and the poor. God's message of salvation is not only meant to prepare candidates for heaven, but it is also meant to liberate people from the physical shackles here and now. According to Biko (in Stubbs 1978a), BT:

seeks to relate God and Christ once more to the black man and his daily problems. It wants to describe Christ as a fighting God, not as a passive God who allows a lie to rest unchallenged. It grapples with existential problems and does not claim to be a theology of absolutes. It seeks to bring back God to the black man and to the truth and reality of his situation. (p. 94)

BT is black, not only in terms of skin pigmentation but also in terms of those who suffer in South Africa and everywhere else in the world, the majority of which happens to be black. Black theory also makes a clarion call to all the black people to become agents of their own liberation, if they ever hope to come out of the physical and mental ghettoes and doldrums in which they have been thrown by those in power. BT in South Africa was also influenced by theological developments in the US. A leading African American theologian, Cone (1978) almost at the same time as black people in South Africa were speaking of BT, was also canvassing black theologians and lobbying black churches to embrace a new methodology of doing theology from the black perspective. In as much as BT in South Africa relied on BC philosophy for doing theology, BT in the US depended on the analysis performed by the Black Power and the Black Panther Movements (Pityana in Motlhabi 1972:41, Motlhabi in Motlhabi 1972a:55, Duncan in Du Toit 2008:116, Cone in Motlhabi 1972a:28). Many South Africans went to study BT in Europe and the US from the 1960s to the 1990s. Collaborative conferences were also convened both nationally and internationally as black people globally were trying to understand their common plight and their position in the world.

Biko challenged theology students and pastors to embrace spiritually the aims and objectives of BC. Biko (in Stubbs 1978a:8-16) noted that black students in multiracial organisations were always voiceless (1978a:8-16). He was particularly worried that even in organisations where black students were in the majority of 70% and above, leadership positions were occupied by white students (Sono 1993:29). For example, the Church in South Africa is 90% black but its leadership is predominately in white hands (1978a:57). He laments the spiritual poverty in which black people find themselves and indicates that 'material want is bad enough but coupled with spiritual poverty it kills' (Biko in Stubbs 1978a:14). Black people have been prepared for a subordinate role in South Africa. They have been convinced that they are inferior and have inherent inabilities and were mentally retarded. This is the extent to which black people have been dehumanised (Biko in Stubbs 1978a:28).

Biko was concerned that Christianity continued to be preached in a way that does not address the context in which black people found themselves in the country but instead, the 'ministers are still too busy with moral trivialities While they [blacks] sing in a chorus of "mea culpa" they are joined by white groups who sing a different version-"tua culpa"' (1978:30). For Biko, the Bible message has to be redefined if the Bible is to become a travelling companion and sustenance for the black people on their journey to democracy (1978:31).

Taking a swipe at the missionaries, Biko argues that they are no better than other white people in their paternalistic attitude. They have also made themselves perpetual guardians and tutors of their black converts and they never bothered to relate sin to structural injustices. Biko did acknowledge though the good work performed by the missionaries such as building schools, colleges and hospitals (1978f:56). Missionary education was so good that the Nationalist Party stopped it in 1953 when the Bantu Education Act was passed. The Church in general is guilty of condemning people for immoral acts without relating those moral lapses to socio-political conditions in which they find themselves. For example, how does one simply condemn adultery or fornication in the mines without relating that to the migratory labour system where men were allowed to visit their families only once a year for just 2 weeks? asked Biko (1978f.:57).

Biko, concluding his presentation he gave in May 1972 in Natal at a conference of black ministers of religion, put it bluntly to the religious leaders when he said, ' God is not in a habit of coming down from heaven to solve people's problems on earth' (1978f.:60). In other words, as humans we have been made cocreators with God and in that manner, we have to become agents of change in transforming this world. In the light of what BC and BT stood for and in particular the teachings and actions of Biko, are there some lessons that the democratic South Africa can learn? The next section looks at some of Biko's ideas and thoughts that could assist us in South Africa today. There are those who believe that BC and BT as well as Biko are no longer relevant but there are others who believe that there is a great deal that we could be offered by Biko as we nurture our nascent democracy.


Biko's legacy and contribution

While it should be admitted that Biko's challenges are not very similar to those we are facing today, we should at the same time admit that there are principles and values including his insights that could be leveraged today to assist us in nation building. The following are the few that we believe can only be ignored at our peril.

(1) Black and African identity: White people, that is, colonialists, traders and missionaries when invading the African continent and lands elsewhere, made sure that the conquered peoples were emptied of their identities. They called them all sorts of names such as savages, uncivilised and pagans. As Odendaal (2012:3) puts it, during the five centuries of global colonisation:

Indigenous people had been subjugated, enslaved, deprived of their land and freedom, even in places exterminated, all in the name of Western civilization and progress. This process of coercion, justified by ideologies of racism and often explained in religious terms, continued in institutional forms in colonial territories and became part of the fabric of life under colonization. (cf. Mzimela 1983:192)

The theory of evolution, eugenics and racism with the benefits of better communication, weaponry and advanced medical capabilities made colonialism easier according to Marsh (2013:239). The 19th century reinforced the ideas of the inferiority of the conquered and superiority of the conquerors. Science was used to justify racism and the Anglo-Saxons were put at the top of the ladder of civilisation and darker races were put closer to animals (Motlhabi 1972a:2; Murove 2009:20). Odendaal (2012) quotes 1863 Edinburgh Review:

There is no vast difference between the intelligence of a Bosjeman (Bushman) and that of an orang-utan, and the difference is far greater between Descartes or Homer and the Hottentot than between the stupid Hottentot and the ape. (p. 6)

Winston Churchill is quoted as having said that the Sudanese Mahdist 'trash' and referred to Indians as 'beastly people with a beastly religion' (Odendaal 2012:7). The strategy was therefore to wipe the slate clean and create a tabula rasa in the minds and hearts of the colonised on which to write a new culture and new religion. That is why for Biko, it was crucial for black people to be liberated first mentally and spiritually. The disparities in material conditions between black and white people led to different aspirations because black people want to attain what they have been denied all along and white people want to hang on to their life of privilege that they have enjoyed since 1652. While black people have attained political emancipation and are ruling the country, about 80% of the economy of the country is still in white hands. The land issue is still a burning one: how should it be distributed? The 'rainbow-ism' mentality should not be used to sweep South Africa's problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality that affect mostly black people under the carpet. Legislation for and methodologies of nation building should be performed with a bias towards the black majority who have been pushed to the margins of the South African economy by apartheid.

(2) Biko's leadership style: He believed that decisions should be taken by leadership as a collective and:

His leadership qualities were such that he never reviled his foes and opponents, only their principles. He refused to descend to the level of vilifying his opponents or foes on a personal level. (Sono 1993:93)

He cultivated a culture of discursive thinking for he honestly believed in arriving at decisions that have been thoroughly debated. Pityana (in Du Toit 2008:4) indicates that many of the essays in I Write What I Like were so much a product of extensive and intensive discussions among them that a correct title should have been We Write What We Like. Effort was taken to avoid a leadership cult even when Biko was accepted as the visionary and luminary leader of BC and BT (Stubbs 1978b:158). Consensus politics defined management of the BC organisations:

There grew into being a particular style of leadership which recognized and enormous advantage of widespread consultation to win over a proposal but the creation of an atmosphere where individual opinions were considered and taken seriously. They were valued equally. (Sono 1993:27)

Although Biko was not willing to found a political party other than SASO, he yielded to the formation of BPC, the reason being that postgraduate students in the work place would find a home in which they would deal with black people's plight in society in general. This is a stark example of what collective leadership entails, that is, even if you are a leader, you accept a decision of the majority. When it was discussed as to which organisations to approach and to interact with, Biko (in Stubbs 1978a:80-86) argued strenuously against entering into dialogue with homeland leaders. Politically, Bantustans are a fraud. Bantustan leaders are confusing the masses as if something earth shattering was about to happen. 'These tribal cocoons called "homelands" are nothing else but sophisticated concentration camps where black people are allowed to 'suffer peacefully' (1978a:86). In this instance, Biko won the argument and when Temba Sono as a president of SASO insisted on collaborating with homeland leaders, he was expelled from the organisation with immediate effect (Sono 1993:97).

Although Biko was against the use of violence to overthrow the apartheid state, he was keen to discuss the future of South Africa with other organisations such as the ANC, PAC and New Unity Movement (NEUM) even though he knew that pacifism might take years to achieve liberation (Sono 1993:106). BPC did not want to become a political party as already alluded, but simply an internal organisation that would keep the home fires burning until the exiled and imprisoned leadership had returned. The BPC when being launched in June 1972 put this statement across that it was not replacing other liberation movements. It was not even in competition with them. It was geared at becoming a unifying force to create a national consciousness. In fact, the leadership in exile and on Robben Island was recognised as true and authentic leadership. To raise this national consciousness, BPC under Black Communalism organised meetings between 1974 and 1975 (Ramphele in Pityana 1991:222; Wilson in Pityana 1991:55, 64). According to Sono (1993:101), Biko would have taken part at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiation table had he lived, and this was the decision taken by Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO) on CODESA. Biko 'strongly believed that South Africa's future could only be bargained for, negotiated for, by blacks who would have assumed a pivotal role in shaping the agenda on the table'. BCM (Azania) was strongly opposed to negotiations with the minority white regime and explicitly excluded white people from participation in creating Azania (new South Africa), while Biko believed that white people had a constructive role to play. BCM (A) called for the dictatorship of the black proletariat and insisted that power had to be transferred to the black majority without negotiations. For AZAPO, this position was nothing but a pipe dream. Negotiations were necessary as long as majority rule was the end game. AZAPO wanted the economy to be socialised as opposed to free market economy (Sono 1993:117).

Biko was a leader who wanted unity of the black people not only within the BCM family but also across all liberation movements. I believe that Biko should be turning in his grave when he sees splinter groups such as AZAPO, BCM(A) and Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) claiming to embody his ideals being at each other throats. Unifying all political parties for the purpose of freedom for all, black and white was necessary for according to Biko, 'In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible - a more humane face' Sono 1993:89).

In as much as Biko widely read politics, he also had time to read theology and he was not happy about matters pertaining to the practice of religion. He raised, for example, issues around the 'enculturation of the gospel' and the 'indigenisation of the Church'. The former refers to the gospel being stripped of the wrappings and trappings of the Western culture and taking on African culture and all its aspects and the latter refers to the leadership of the Church in Africa being reflective of the demographics of the continent. He believed that the institutionalisation and bureaucratisation of the Church was not only unnecessary but it was also complicating things for the ordinary congregants.

Church leadership spent too much time on administrative functions and financials that there was hardly any time left for the core business of the Church which is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ whose central message is liberation (Stubbs 1978b:210). According to Biko, ministers do not address black aspirations, because they, 'are still too busy with moral trivialities' (Stubbs 1978a:31). Biko is here backed by the Scripture text that says:

It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God's word in order to handle finances. So then, brothers, choose seven men among you and we will put them in charge of this matter. We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching. (Ac 6:2-4)

He complained about the monopoly of theology by professional theologians and pastors. Through this practice, they became the repositories of God`s truth and interpreters of heavenly mysteries. It baffled him that Latin until fairly recently was used in the Roman Catholic Church services, particularly black priests ' could not understand how the dignity of the liturgy could be so heavily prostituted by the substitution of Latin with Zulu Somehow Latin seemed a holier medium' (Stubbs 1978:176). What for Biko was unforgivable was denominationalism (Duncan 2008:122; Stubbs 1978b:209). Which of these denominations interpret Christianity correctly? They compete with one other and even fight among themselves about doctrines and trivialities that have nothing to do with liberation. Biko says that in his:

view the truth is in my ability to incorporate my vertical relationship with God into the horizontal relationships with my fellow men; in my ability to pursue my ultimate purpose on earth which is to do good. (Stubbs 1978b:210)

His criticism of the state as not being ordained by God, so was the Church. For him, the Church was no different from other earthly institutions and social clubs. He therefore had a democratic right to withdraw from the Church if it did not meet his expectations any longer without fear of eternal condemnation. Biko was quoted to have said, 'I can reject all churches and still be Godly' (Stubbs 1978:210). All what he was interested in was the revolutionary message of the historical Jesus (Sono 1993:90). Roman Catholic Church's teachings on the infallibility of the Pope, ex cathedra statements, extra ecclesiam nulla salus pronouncements, put the Church above criticism and that could not be accepted. Even St Paul was not spared because he accused him of having contaminated the whole theology with his conservative teachings on church and state relations (Stubbs 1978b:211). For Duncan (in Du Toit 2008:122), Biko's attitude towards the Church helped him to obey God rather than humans. Biko did not believe in the divinity of Christ but in the historical Jesus of Nazareth. He therefore rejected the doctrine of the Virgin Birth including Christ Resurrection from the dead. Biko said if we were to follow this line of argument, 'It is either we are worshipping an illegitimate child as our God or we are elevating a normal human being into the status of God's son' (Stubbs 1978b:211). The revolutionary Jesus is the one that appeals to Biko.

(3) Education and research: For Biko, education and research were important instruments by which black people would rediscover their identity and restore their pride and dignity. Under his leadership, much was performed in terms of rewriting and reinterpreting African history, redefining African culture and appreciating African religion more (cf. Biko 1978:40-47, 54-60, 87-89; Buthelezi 1991:111-129; Seleoane 2008:15-56). Black consciousness was conceptualised and developed by students and a perception was created that BCM was for academics and intellectuals. Biko was so passionate about education that one does not believe that the slogan, 'liberation first and education later' originated with Biko. What one can submit without hesitation is that Biko's stance could have been that of education for liberation rather than liberation without education. Many advocates of BC and BT were well educated with qualifications from world-class universities abroad. Many of the 1976 students who sought political refuge abroad took the option of pursuing studies rather than joining Umkhonto we Sizwe or Poqo. Here at home, some students subjected themselves to Bantu Education system, inferior though it was. Biko's expulsion from the University of Natal (Wentworth) did not discourage him from pursuing his studies; he registered with the University of South Africa for a law degree.

Biko initiated a culture of research. He complained that black people had become objects of research and the abiding mentality was that they were victims of racism deserving therefore of pity. Paternalism was the order of the day so much so that BC and BT advocates ' were determined to transform research and publication by and about black South Africans' (Ramphele in Pityana 1991:161). It was in 1972 when Biko launched Black Review and the aim was to counteract the negativity displayed out there by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) as well as newspapers such as Post and World that black people were to be pitied. These publications projected black people as ' a people without any achievements, a community of failures who were noted for murder, rape, theft, and family disorganization' (Ramphele in Pityana 1991:162). BC and BT activists needed to embark on reflective and reflexive research ' which would take seriously the problems of the black community, their survival strategies, as well as their efforts to transform their life circumstances' (Pityana 1991:162). Welile Nhlapo and Tomeka Mafole worked closely with Biko as his research assistants when he worked on Black Review. Two more publications were launched by Biko, called Black Viewpoint in 1972 and Black Perspectives in 1973 respectively. BT and BC collaborated on other research projects such as Special Project for Christian Action in Society (SPROCAS) and Pro Veritate. Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa headed a BT research project called the Black Renaissance Convention (BRC) which held its conference in Maseru, Lesotho, in 1975 (Motlhabi 2008:168-170). A journal called, Black Theology in South Africa, was launched and BT as such was integrated into a theological organisation called, Institute for Contextual Theology. This move broadened considerably the scope of BT because issues then included gender justice, class, landlessness and environmental justice. Two important publications followed, namely The Unquestionable Right to be Free published in 1986 and Hammering Swords into Ploughshares also published in 1986, both edited by Itumeleng Mosala and Buti Tlhagale. More conferences were held under the auspices of an organisation called, Community of Black and African Theologians (COMBAT).

(4) Development projects: It became clear to Biko that liberation would not be achieved overnight and therefore self-help projects would be necessary. But not only that. Biko wanted to inculcate culture of self-reliance because begging makes people to lose their dignity and humanity. (Biko 1978a:38). As Ramphele (1991) says:

The dual onslaught of political impotence, induced by state repression, and economic dependency, resulting from poverty and welfarism, wrought havoc on the self-image of black South Africans, who lost self-confidence as a people. (p. 156)

As a result of this realisation, Biko and SASO decided to embark on community projects that would restore black pride. Literacy advocacy, adult education, employment opportunities, skills training, health promotion, and so on, were sponsored by Black Community Projects (Ramphele 1991:154-178; Sono 1993:70). Ramphele regards these community projects as 'tools of empowerment and symbols of hope' (1991:154). As Buthelezi (in Motlhabi 1972a) puts it:

Our ultimate ethical responsibility is not only to serve man by removing the symptoms of alienation from the wholeness of life, but to equip them with the tools which will enable them to stand on their own feet. (p. 129)

Quite a number of projects were started across the country. The New Farm Settlement Project was founded in 1969-1971 in Durban. The Dududu Project was established at the Natal South Coast; The Winterveld Project in Pretoria; The Zanempilo Community Health Centre, Solempilo, founded near Adam's Mission; and The Zimele Trust Fund and Ithuseng Clinic in Lenyenye near Tzaneen.

It is a pity that only very few of those projects survived the political storms. It was difficult to source funds under apartheid for politically motivated projects. In fact, with the adoption of the Affected Organisations Bill of 1974, all BC organisations and affiliated ones could not receive funding from abroad. Even under democracy, it is difficult to raise funds because many sponsors directed their donations to the government and as a result, many non-governmental organisations were closed. The philosophy of Biko on self-reliance came in handy. Jesus has warned us that the poor will be with us always (Jn 12:8), thus preparing us for a lifelong battle against poverty, unemployment and inequality.


Concluding remarks

If we adhere to some of Biko's core values and basic principles, we can take South Africa to a higher level. Firstly, we need as South Africans to move from the apartheid mentality of regarding ourselves as white versus black and become one nation comprising black and white people. Secondly, we need to reposition ourselves through the renaissance philosophy as Africans in Africa. Thirdly, education and research need to be prioritised together with health and economic growth through supporting small business. Moreover, for all of these deliverables to happen, corruption must be ruthlessly dealt with. Even during apartheid Biko discouraged violence and he would be appalled by state violence and mob violence in a democratic South Africa. Of course, there are issues that are bedevilling us today that Biko and his contemporaries did not address then but which we should firmly put at the top of our agenda as well such as gender justice, land and environmental justice. Such issues could still be addressed through using Biko's core values and principles as well as those found in the Bible. Women need to be liberated from patriarchy, restoration of land to its owners would restore African dignity and mismanagement of God's creation would hit the poor the hardest.



Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.



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Ramathate Dolamo

Received: 12 Feb. 2019
Accepted: 22 May 2019
Published: 29 July 2019

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What is so theological about a faculty of theology at a public university? Athens — Berlin — Pretoria



Johan Buitendag

Department of Historical and Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





In this article, the author engages with the question 'what is so theological about theological education?', which he calls a genealogy of theology. This matter is approached from a very specific vantage point as the author was the former dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria (South Africa) and has engaged in this research project over the past 5 years, as the Faculty was under severe review as to its composition, and ultimately its very future. This article endeavours to bring to the surface the underlying theology of the author and the paradigm he is operating from. It concludes with a definition of theology as he sees it, but with the explicit qualification of it being situated at a research-intensive university competing for a notable position on the ranking indexes of world universities. A new niche is thus opening up for theology (vis-à-vis a seminary or even a Christian university), namely, a 'scholarly endeavour of believers in the public sphere in order to inquire into a multi-dimensional reality in a manner that matters'.

Keywords: Theological education; Metareality; Critical realism; Society; Faith communities; Ecodomy; Transformation; decolonisation; Luhmann; Bhaskar; QS World Ranking of Universities; University of Pretoria; Moltmann




This article is the conclusion of a series of publications about the question raised in the title. In a recent article, I dealt with what I regard as genetically part of a theological inquiry as a scientific discipline at a research-intensive public university. Obviously, it would be very subjective, but as the former dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion (2010-2018) at the University of Pretoria, I have felt obliged to delineate the theological paradigm I am working from and the understanding and intention I had of the vision and mission of the Faculty.

Theology, to me, is about the creation and the Creator, or more correctly, an attempt to be a responsible discourse partner in the public domain in the human being's search for meaning and comprehensiveness. I am of the conviction that theology can contribute to this enterprise. Theology has a distinctive yet responsible epistemology. The inquiry is indeed not without presuppositions, but at least it has a rational and an accountable claim.

In this article, the emphasis is not on (my understanding of) theology as such, but how I understand the role of theology at a public university in Africa competing for a favourable position on the world ranking indices. It is my conviction that this new understanding of what a university is all about presents theology with a major challenge and that a new node of scientific theology, without any form of heteronomy, should be pursued. As a case study, I use the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. Certain aspects of the Faculty's current composition need clarification, which is precisely the aim of this article.

The Faculty underwent a sincere restructuring process (2013-2016) and not only was the name of the Faculty changed to the Faculty of Theology and Religion, but two departments have merged1 and one department changed ontologically to the Department of Religion Studies. At least two aspects are remarkable: firstly, the Department of Old Testament Studies and the Department of New Testament Studies have not merged, as is the case in many restructuring processes at other similar faculties. Secondly, the Department of Religion Studies (not Religious Studies)2 continues to accommodate the discipline of Missiology as part of it, giving Christianity a very distinct position.

Despite the fact that all these changes were discussed at length at several lekgotlas3 of the Faculty, and subsequently proposed to and approved by the Senate, the rationale of these 'inconsistencies' has not been assessed so far.

Knowledge is not mere information and technique, but rather an understanding entailing experience and contemplation. Metareality (note the omission of definite article)4 is beyond what our senses can grasp. It goes beyond modernity, modernism and even post-modernism, that is, a sublime discourse on the nature of the self. Spirituality is ubiquitous and transcends binaries of fact and value, materialism and idealism, seen and unseen.

My thesis is that theology (in particular at a public university) has to shift beyond the current thinking and move from actualities to potentialities, from inter-disciplinarily to trans-disciplinary, from critical realism to meta-critical realism, from post-theism to meta-theism, and from autonomy and heteronomy to theonomy,5 where Theos is understood as 'deeply embedded in human brains and bodies, on the basis of which culture is built and treasured' (Bowker 2003:31).

Theonomy is not about Theos as a dogmatic concept, but about the experienced demand for self-transcendence, or the 'consciousness of being absolutely dependent' (Schleiermacher 1999:12), or the 'ultimate concern' (Tillich 1946:82). In a previous publication, I applied the threefold hermeneutical key of mimesis of Paul Ricoeur (Buitendag 2014), while in this article I imagine a wider horizon opening up: pre-critical naiveté that becomes critical inquiry and which in turn opens up a vision for meta-critical reflection. This will be revealed as the theses of the articles unfold. I use the term 'archaeology' to reflect on some historical building blocks and the word 'genealogy' (as has been pointed out) to acknowledge 'knowledge in the blood' (Jansen 2009) or the DNA of theological inquiry.

Milbank (2013:19) argues that theology is concerned with 'being in its entirety in relation to God', which has the implication that philosophy should be part of the discourse of what theology is (cf. Farley 1988:118). Philosophy is the science of being as such (ontology) and how that can be known (epistemology). This does not make theology subservient to philosophy, but it influences our understanding of what theology is all about. It is, however, interesting that Milbank (2013:13) asserts that 'theology is to the entire understanding of reality', exactly what I argued in previous articles.6

The notion of 'decolonisation' obviously forms an integral part of this debate about what a university is because a Eurocentric canon produces a Western way of seeing truth and disregards other knowledge traditions.7 The Western paradigms should be deconstructed and new models of knowledge are developed. Heleta (2016) argues that:

South Africa must tackle and dismantle the epistemic violence and hegemony of Eurocentrism, completely rethink, reframe and reconstruct the curriculum and place South Africa, Southern Africa and Africa at the centre of teaching, learning and research. (p. 1)

I have clearly expressed my conviction that theology has a place in a public university today, and not only should theology be redefined, but also the nature of a university as such should be rethought, especially in the 21st century.


University and theology

David Kelsey is one of the current champions of research about the roots of the Western academy and theology and set the agenda by means of a typology in using Athens and Berlin as the two main models to categorise academy and theology (Kelsey 1992, 1993). He does this comparison both diachronically and synchronically and comes up with a third option, of bringing unity and pluralism dialectically together. He is therefore of the opinion that the theological schools in North America are ineluctably located between Athens and Berlin (Kelsey 1993:6). Ford follows him in this and uses the same archaeology of theological education, but adds his home university, Cambridge, as a case study (Ford 2007:304-316). I will do the same, but (as indicated) engage Pretoria as being the locus of my thinking.

The clue to the Athens model is the Greek concept of paideia, meaning the process of cultivating the soul and developing character formation (Kelsey 1993:6). In ancient Athens, this had the aim of forming young men by those virtues appropriate to society in order to function as responsible adults. Kelsey (1993:7) points out that the whole person was involved, the body to physical discipline and the soul to ancient Greek tradition and literature. Contemplation, as mentioned, was a way of understanding. There are two ways of understanding (Kelsey 1992:35-36): guiding human action (practical understanding) and making things (productive understanding). Contemplation is unchangeable and practical understanding is contingent.

Christians, says Kelsey, brought a third definite mark to contemplation: paideia purports to promote wisdom and personal knowledge of God. Understanding God will bring happiness. This makes studying the Bible and meditation inevitable. Augustine was interpreted to see 'action' as done for the neighbour's well-being. Scientia and sapientia were intertwined. Understanding God is, therefore, a path or journey through different stages in order to grasp God. This, of course, could be seen as a form of reification of God. This has set the scene for theological education, as Kelsey (1992) states:

The understanding of God that is the aim of theological schooling is basically understanding by way of discursive reasoning. It is done in faith and done as a way of loving God. It is a way of Christian life to which acts of neighbor love are integral but subordinate. (p. 41)

It should be emphasised that this journey of understanding God leads to a comprehensive interpretation of reality. This indeed is reminiscent of Newman's understanding of knowledge. Kelsey sees Newman's thought as the mid-19th century's version of the Athens model because he draws a clear line between teaching theology as part of 'professional' education and cultivating human intellectual capacities as a goal in itself (Kelsey 1993:37). This is already some sort of a hybrid, as the Berlin model will manifest. Ford (2007) gives a very apt summary of the classic university:

first understanding and truth for their own sake; second, formation in a way of life, its habits and virtues; and third, utility in society - study oriented towards practical use an employment in various spheres of life. (p. 308)

A faculty of theology was part of the University of Berlin since its inception in 1810. The Berlin model connects both Wissenschaft as critical research and professional training for ministry. As a research university, the question of the position of theology was a burning one. Kelsey (1993:13-15) sums it up by stating that the overarching goal was to do research and teach students to do research; it had to inquire about the truth whatever subject was studied. Inquiry is clearly critical at a research university and very much disciplined. The third important trait of Wissenschaft is that it should protect academic freedom.

It could be argued that theology betrays the ideals of a proper critical research university. Schleiermacher drafted the provisional statutes for the new university in Berlin and subsequently introduced a second pole to the Berlin model: professional education. Faculties like Medicine, Law and Theology contribute to the well-being of society as a whole with regard to health, order and morals. Schleiermacher agreed that theology is not a pure science as it rests on a kind of experience that can be the subject of philosophical inquiry (Kelsey 1993:17). Theology has thus a place in this model as long as it maintains the interdependence between Wissenschaft and professional education.

Richard Niebuhr is a later exponent of the Berlin model. The question that he grappled with in his book, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (1956), was what makes a professional school 'professional'. In Chapter 3, 'The Idea of a Theological School', they (Niebuhr, Williams & Gustafson 1956)8 write:

We have, indeed, found in the schools evidence of that pluralism and harassment; for they reflect in the multiplicity of their numbers, the variety of their statements of purpose and the conglomerate character of their courses of study the lack of unity symptomatic of their social context.

Niebuhr differs from Schleiermacher in that training is indispensable to the church, but not to society as a whole (Kelsey 1993:72). The purpose of the church is therefore the primary focus of professional training. In the end, it is about understanding God (i.e. experience and contemplation) and God's relation to the church:

But theology is differentiated from other kinds of intellectual activity by being the reflection that goes on in the Church; it is therefore the kind of thinking that is directed toward God and man-before-God as its objects and which is guided by the love of God and neighbor. (Niebuhr et al. 1956)

Kelsey (1993:74) criticises this because 'theological schooling is thrown into self-contradiction' if it serves itself and wants to increase its numbers. 'Professional' has changed from what the Berlin model had in mind, as it is functionalist and individualistic (Kelsey 1992:94).

Niebuhr substitutes Christology for Theology but, as Kelsey (1993:77) says, only in the 'intellectual mode'. Niebuhr et al. (1956)9 state subsequently:

As center of the Church's intellectual activity, animated by the Church's motivation and directed by its purpose, the theological school is charged with a double function. On the one hand it is that place or occasion where the Church exercises its intellectual love of God and neighbor; on the other hand it is the community that serves the Church's other activities by bringing reflection and criticism to bear on worship, preaching, teaching and the care of souls.

To sum up, the Athens model is a personal journey from revelation to appropriation, with the focus on the believing subject as the vehicle to serve the community. It is about discernment, meditation and practical wisdom. Yet it is intensely inward and private (Kelsey 1993:21). Over and against this, the Berlin model is a movement from data to theory to application. Perhaps the concepts of deductive and inductive reasoning describe the differences adequately. The Berlin model of theological education has the church in mind, while the Athens model has a theocentric focus.10 In their respective extreme forms, they could lead to the difference between ecclesiastical heteronomy and personal autonomy.

It is clear that the Pretoria model is a hybrid. I wrote extensively about the history and nature of the Faculty in the articles mentioned earlier. The reason for this hybrid model is twofold. Firstly, it had a history of two different denominational traditions where the primary difference, in my view, manifested in the option between the ordo duplex and the ordo simplex with all their corollaries11 (Buitendag 2016:9). These options determine the understanding of spiritual formation, specifically critical science and the role of the church. I argued that although the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) explicitly opted for an ordo simplex and the Netherdutch Reformed Church (NDRC) opted for an ordo duplex, the distinctions blurred in both cases, especially because of interventions by the churches' leadership at the time. I do contend, however, that the tradition of the DRC is closer to the Athens model and that of the NDRC is closer to the Berlin model, each with its own variations.12

The Pretoria model is a hybrid in another sense too. The tertiary landscape has changed dramatically over the past two decades, both internationally and nationally. To categorise these changes is out of the scope of this article. I therefore do not underestimate the influence of the Fourth Revolution on education, but would like to focus on just two aspects: the international academic arena of the 21st century and the sociopolitical changes in South Africa, especially after the so-called 'fallistic' Zeitgeist started with the #Rhodesmustfall campaign in 2015.13 I will allude to these two aspects in the last section of this article, which deals with current issues under the sections 'Institutional competitiveness' and 'Transformation and decolonisation'.

In the second half of the 18th century, theological education started to develop its own nomenclature and was systematised as the so-called 'theological encyclopedia', in which Germany took the lead, in particular Schleiermacher's 'Brief Outline of Theological Studies' (Farley 2001:73). The aim was the academic challenge to assign different disciplines to a specific field of knowledge. Schleiermacher argued that religions do not rest on principles, revealed or otherwise. 'They rest on a kind of intuition or insightful experience, which can be the subject of philosophical inquiry' (Kelsey 1993:17). Schleiermacher reckoned that theology has three building blocks: historical theology, philosophical theology and practical theology (Schleiermacher 1850). By seeing practical theology as the 'normative field which critically apprehends the rules for carrying out the tasks of ministry' (Farley 2001:91), Schleiermacher guarantees theology a place at a research university, only for its 'professional' education.14

Farley (2001:85-94) acknowledges two aspects of Schleiermacher's contribution to theological education: the 'clerical paradigm' with its ideal (teleological solution) to unity and the 'essence of Christianity motif'. These aspects assure the discipline of theology with a single subject matter, though not pure science, but a positive science: 'the parts of which are connected into a whole, only by their common relation to a determinate mode of faith, that is, a determinate form of God-consciousness' (Schleiermacher 1850:91). The importance here is that there is a shift from knowledge itself to the reference of knowledge. This raises, according to Schleiermacher, the question of whether studying the Bible or Scripture as such could be a science.15


Society and faith communities

Tanner clearly sees the problem that critical theology (theological inquiry as I epitomise it) is under severe attack from critical scholars from other disciplines, mainly because of theology's methodology, its lack of objectivity and its disdainful disinterest in other disciplines' search for truth. The real issue is, of course, whether theology can contribute to the knowledge of our world and our place in it (Tanner 2002:200). Theology has therefore to reconceptualise both university and theology in order to establish its place. Tanner (2002:203-204) wants to see a 'constructive theology' that does justice to the interreligious and interdisciplinary character of a university. She makes the following important observation as well as an implicit challenge to address, 'Universal generalizations are made by each intellectual discipline while the whole of them remains a mere confederation, absent the need for consultation and correction by others' (Tanner 2002:204).

Disciplines that isolate themselves by decontextualising the world of human experience cannot survive and accountability has to be taken for who makes claims, in what context and for what purpose. A university will therefore always be a place of contestation, old and new, familiar and foreign, claims of understanding the world and our place in it. Tanner (2002) contends that constructive theology forms part of the cultural contest of the university:

In a search for truth humbled by the recognition of constant change and limitations of perspective, this cultural contest would require the widest possible purview, including in its reach the sort of ever-expanding range of positions that only the best critical scholarship makes readily available and that only a university dedicated to comprehensive knowledge can set easily in conversation with one another. (p. 206)

The university is the best location for contestable discourse, as Kaufman (1996:loc 2946) and Kelsey (2009:317) concur. Three reasons are provided: research resources, academic freedom and ongoing debates about knowledge, value, morality and meaning.

Critical theology is not generic. It should be evident that the distinctiveness of the Christian, for example, contribution to the mix of cultural contests requires personal convictions and presuppositions that are unique in the debate (Kaufmann 1996:loc 2954). The cultural-linguistic approach of Lindbeck (1984), as opposed to cognitive and experiential-expressive approaches deserves serious consideration. This is a sort of pragmatic and pluralistic methodology to get along with diverse opinions and develops a theological language in its own right (see Tanner 2005:13), and over and above this, it 'involves a vis-à-vis with other intellectual and cultural fields' (Tanner 2002:210). Kaufmann (1996:loc 2969) warns that we 'need secularist and Marxist theologians as much as Christian and Muslim ones'.

Theological inquiry should not be exclusive 'Christian theology' in any traditional sense. The otherness of the other may never be suppressed. When too much emphasis is laid on referential adequacy and the decontextualisng of language, the whole discourse is being jeopardised (Tanner 2005:167). Theologians must pay attention to ways of thinking that are significantly different from those endorsed by their faith communities.16

Keith Ward, in Re-Thinking Christianity, devotes a chapter to critical faith and concludes with a rather provocative subsection: 'The value of disagreements in religion' (Ward 2007:123-124). Those who think differently from us cannot be regarded as malicious people who 'imperil the soul and corrupt the mind'. The best way to seek truth is to allow as many as possible different views. This is not a matter of being 'indifferent', but is a serious concern to hear opposing voices and to learn from them. Tolerance and intellectual humility are important scholarly virtues, firmly founded on one's own conviction and faith. Luhmann (1985) sees it correctly, when he states:

The old difference between sacred and profane, applied to places, occasions, persons etc., had to be replaced with a difference which could be handled as a purely internal difference within the religious system itself, representing, as it were, the difference between those included in and those excluded from the religious system. (p. 12)

According to Luhmann (2013:29), sociology, and not psychology or anthropology, is the most appropriate science of religion. Religion is, for him, embedded in and part of society and cannot be opposed to 'the social'. 'Societies are a special case of self-referential systems. They presuppose a network of communications, previous communications and further communications and also communications which happen elsewhere' (Luhmann 1985:6). Luhmann, being a genuine postmodernist, provides a constructivist sociology of contemporary world society.

Religion is a field that Luhmann describes as an autonomous autopoietic subsystem of modern society.17 'Autonomy is not independence. It is the self-referential circularity itself - not a desired state of being relatively independent from the environment but an existential necessity' (Luhmann 1985:7). This means that religion influences other social systems such as law, education or politics. Necessarily these also influence religion, although it remains the religious system's decision on how to acknowledge or describe them (or not). Rather than ignoring or explaining these away, I argue for a religious discourse that illuminates and accommodates these external social stimuli.

Luhmann (2013:1) subsequently introduces the theorem of double contingency at a basic level to analyse the emergence of social systems. Religion is a highly specific specimen of systems theory. Neither ontological nor analytical solutions are of any help nowadays. Religion cannot be understood adequately in terms of subject/object or observer/object binaries because it is located on both sides of the distinction between self - and other - reference (Luhmann 2013:5). Religion has always to include what it excludes.

I take the consequence of this to mean that religion has a unique role to play in social communication and should embrace this role by being self-conscious and self-reflexive in its awareness of the unique contribution it can make to scientific discourse while being receptive to the communications from other scholarly disciplines and systems.


Institutional competitiveness

Over the last two decades, the understanding of universities has totally changed. Major reconfigurations are happening all over the world and at all levels. Ford (2007:305) articulates the new challenge aptly, 'globalisation and commodification of higher education and advanced research'. Research-intensive universities have become businesses and are very much focused on their reputation. My argument has the presupposition that under 'university', I understand a specific niche university18 where international and national competitions form the driving force.

Today, research universities aim to improve their position on the ranking of world universities. This is a fairly new development because it dates back to the Chinese government's initiatives at the beginning of 21st century. Its aim was clearly to compete internationally and they took the lead to set the rules of ranking. The first ranking index was developed in 2003 and is known as the Shanghai Jiaotong Index. Three other globally acknowledged instruments have been designed since then: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the Times Higher Education World University Ranking (THE) and the Quacqaurelli Symonds World University Ranking (QS-WUR). In most of these cases, most weight is placed on impact research in the natural sciences, and journals like Nature and Science are explicitly acknowledged as the benchmark for journals of the world.19 (Buitendag 2014:3).

This last aspect (QS-WUR), of course, makes it extremely difficult for theology to contribute to institutional goals, especially research impact and even fundraising. Elsewhere, we (Buitendag & Simuț 2017a) have argued extensively that the current indices are inadequate for measuring the performance of theology as the models are primarily designed for natural sciences and the impact factors of the research conducted in the natural sciences exceed that of theology substantially. Yet, I am of the opinion that a faculty of theology and religion not only can but also should contribute to a university's ranking. Of utmost importance is the producing of doctoral degrees20 and the generating of citations (not only publishing) in journals indexed by Scopus, Web of Science's (WoS) Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), the Norwegian List and even SciELO SA.

It is only the QS-WUR21 index that makes provision for the subject of 'theology, divinity and religious studies', while the THE index regards this category as part of Philosophy and therefore Humanities. An analysis of these statistics of the QS ranking list of theological inquiry indicates the comparison between the different positions at the respective institutions. Only the first 50 are prioritised and the others between 51 and 100 are arranged alphabetically. No ranking of subject fields is done beyond 100th22 and for institutions beyond the 500th position.


Transformation and decolonisation

Theology in South Africa, as most other things, has been driven by apartheid ideologies that caused a deep divide and a subsequent heterogeneous landscape.23 Naidoo (2016:3) pleads for 'an approach that takes on a diversity of perspectives of cultural, public and Christian life, with Africanisation representing one of these "other" perspectives'.24

The technical term to address this is 'decolonisation'. Many scholars from developing countries are opposing Western models vehemently. The following citation of Alvares and Faruqi (2012) suffices to get the gist of it, and even an underlying wrath:

A more recent form of Western hegemony is the yearly university ranking lists. Western education, Western science and Western achievements are subjected to evaluation on criteria that are rigged in their favour The book's ultimate aim is to discover what needs to be done to liberate our minds and our souls; to end this academic colonialism; to restore our dignity and independence. We must shed the slavish mentality of blindly aping Western paradigms. (p. 14)

Govinder, Zondo and Makgoba (2013:86) published an article stating the pace is 'painfully slow' to eradicate racism and sexism in the demographic transformation of universities in South Africa. They refer to the disjunction between policy and real-life experiences, and the need for a new institutional landscape that is 'responsive and contributes to the human resource and knowledge needs of South Africa'.

Heleta (2016:5) is clear about the fact that decolonisation will not lead to localisation, isolation or only Africanisation of the curriculum. 'Decolonised curriculum will not neglect other knowledge systems and global context. Universities still have to develop globally competent graduates capable of functioning in the complex and connected world' (Heleta 2016:5). This can only be done by challenging existing truths and to deconstruct existing epistemologies. The public space as a whole has to be rehabilitated.

During a public lecture given at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) in conversations with the Rhodes Must Fall Movement, Achille Mbembe delineates the true character of decolonisation:

An event that could radically redefine native being and open it up to the possibility of becoming a human form rather than a thing;

An historical event in the sense that it could radically redefine native time as the permanent possibility of the emergence of the not yet.

To the colonial framework of pre-determination, decolonization opposes the framework of possibility - possibility of a different type of being, a different type of time, a different type of creation, different forms of life, a different humanity - the possibility to reconstitute the human after humanism's complicity with colonial racism.25 (Mbembe, n.d.)

Sensible appropriation of decolonisation is imperative. The Faculty has decided on an overarching project, called Ecodomy, to promote Africanisation of the curricula. This is a process of continuous adaptation of the Faculty to current challenges in society without ignoring the basics. Perhaps a sort of aggiornamento.


Conclusion: A definition and a vista

The context of a university and the contexts from which it draws its students need to co-determine the nature of its curricular content (cf. Buitendag & Simuț 2017b). De Beer and Van Niekerk (2017) articulate it correctly when they assert:

The challenge therefore is to shape theological curricula that could significantly contribute to the freedom and well-being of societies by presenting spaces for rigorous and critical engagement, hosting not only similarity but particularly diversity, hosting different traditions and even religious expressions and hosting contesting voices in order to become not only places of freedom and life but also what Parker Palmer speaks of as 'a community of truth' which is 'a web of communal relationships' committed to learn together. (p. 216)

I owe much to the Durban Declaration of the second Higher Education Summit on transformation during October 2015 in Durban (DHET 2015), in my definition of what a public university should be in the 21st century, especially in Africa. I augmented it by adding Kofi Anan's view, who wants to see that universities become agents of change and 'the critical source of equalisation of chances and democratisation of society by making possible equal opportunities for people' (quoted in Cloete, Maasen & Bailey 2015:12). The distinguished reader will notice that my move towards a meta-space adds a further component, and therefore acknowledgement to paideia. Here is therefore my understanding of the type of university under discussion:

Public universities are places of contestation and agents of change in order to provide spaces for creating knowledge, freedom of thought, vistas for the future and to provide well-rounded citizens to society.

Cheryl de la Rey, former vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Pretoria (2009-2018), is on record when she said 'that the university's main business is human capital development' (Makholwa 2014:21).

Ford (1997:723) asks how hospitable academic institutions would be to a faculty of theology in the future. In the end, this is the crucial question and the word 'hospitable' is thus rather laden. This depends, in my view (Buitendag 2014:5), upon:

· the scholarly contribution theology can make as an important perspective on understanding reality

· the extent to which it can be methodologically accountable

· the openness and resilience it shows to immanent criticism

· the fidelity asserted to its subject matter as the science of God

· the values it reflects and the social cohesion it inaugurates in society

· the idea of a university.

Hospitality is determined and executed by people, and Smart (Fasching 2002:156) is thus correct in saying that the specific institutional context plays a decisive role in defining intellectual activity and recognition. Only four out of the original 11 faculties of theology in South Africa still exist as actual faculties, acknowledging theology's unique nature and epistemology. However, it remains the prerogative of the executive of the institution to 'tick the boxes' of the first five points above and the determination of their idea of a university, at least for its own institution's purposes.26

Therefore, I would like to list the alternatives that could exist for the Faculty of Theology and Religion pertaining to its future at the University of Pretoria. Obviously, the Faculty has to internalise the above-mentioned criteria and to execute its current mission vehemently. The alternatives for future deliberations in my view are subsequently the following:

1. The Faculty maintains its acknowledgement as a proper faculty with a distinctive epistemology (theological inquiry, faith-based, and not Christian per se27), co-operating and contributing to the endeavour of all sciences to comprehend reality somehow. This requires constructive engagement with 'the other' (i.e. society, faith communions, sciences, religions and different forms of nihilism) and should engage as an alienated theology, free from ecclesiastical heteronomy.

2. The Faculty is absorbed by another faculty, and as has already been pointed out, Humanities is not necessarily the obvious locus because of its (secular) epistemologies and scholarly autonomy. The Faculty of Education would be a sound alternative in terms of the Berlin model with its other pole of professional education. As a niche department (I would prefer school), it would be possible to maintain theology's distinctiveness and obviously its professional formation and community engagement. The cooperation of ecclesial and societal partners is a sine qua non for this option.

3. Most of the present ecclesial stakeholders of the Faculty have their own complementary training, which focuses on the induction of their ministers-to-be and the reinforcement of a specific denominational ethos. This is an ideal situation as long as it plays an ancillary role, but the moment when the ecclesial partnership develops into an alternative or a substituting body and a seminary emerges, theological inquiry and alienated theology would be relinquished. This choice of course depends upon the different churches and therefore does not lie within the scope of this reflection. This would nevertheless mean the end of the Faculty of Theology and Religion in its present form at the University of Pretoria.

4. Should the Faculty reach a stage that it is no longer financially and administratively sustainable primarily because of a lack of student numbers (especially postgraduate students), institutional funding and ecclesial support, there should be at least a department (not school this time) of religion (not religious studies28) in the Humanities, with an emphasis on the Wissenschaftlichkeit of the Berlin model, without Schleiermacher's other pole of professional education, and on 'metaphysical mysticism' of a metareality, characterised by a faith-based approach.29

During the centenary year of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria, the university conferred on 06 April 2017 an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor Divinitatis h.c.) on Prof. Jürgen Moltmann. On Monday (03 April 2017) prior to the graduation occasion, I had the privilege to introduce Prof. Moltmann to the then Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University, Prof. C.M. de la Rey, in her office. One of the very first questions after we had sat down she posed to him was the following: Prof. Moltmann, what do you think is the future of (a faculty of) theology at a public university? He pondered a while and then he responded forcefully: 'As long as truth30 is important to a university, there is a place for theology'.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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Jansen, J., 2009, Knowledge in the blood. Confronting race and the apartheid past, UCT Press, Cape Town.         [ Links ]

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Kelsey, D.H., 2009, 'Theology in the university: Once more, with feeling', Modern Theology 25(2), 315-327.        [ Links ]

Krüger, J.S., 2016, 'The study of religion and theology at the University of Pretoria - A century of endeavour in conditionalistic perspective', HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 72(4).        [ Links ]

Krüger, J.S., 2017, 'The study of theology and religion at the University of Pretoria: Two epochs of endeavour', HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 73(1), a4615.        [ Links ]

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Johan Buitendag

Received: 02 Apr. 2019
Accepted: 17 Apr. 2019
Published: 18 June 2019



1. The Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics and the Department of Church History and Church Polity.
2. Ninian Smart states emphatically that 'religious studies' is empirical, descriptive, explanatory and methodologically agnostic (Fasching 2002:155). Religion is rooted in a faith community. See also Farley (1988:57) and Tanner (2002:209) on this topic.
3. Workshops.
4. The reader will note that in many cases, I avoid using both the definite and the indefinite articles. I do this in order not to choose between singular and plural and to keep it open. The same would apply to nouns like theology, science and epistemology. I prefer to spell theology in the lower case for the very same reason.
5. I owe much to Paul Tillich in this regard. The following citation of Tillich is a good summary of his understanding of theonomy: 'The words "autonomy", "heteronomy" and "theonomy" answer the question as to where the "nomos" or law of life is rooted
A theonomous culture expresses in its creations an ultimate concern and a transcending meaning not as something strange but as its own spiritual ground. "Religion is the substance of culture and culture the form of religion." This was the most precise statement of theonomy' (Tillich 1946:80).
6. Alston (1991:2) acknowledges that the existence of God is axiomatic in this epistemology and prefers to speak rather of 'epistemic justification'.
7. See the excellent book about transforming theological knowledge edited by Venter and Tolmie, published in 2012.
8. Seeing that this is an electronic book, no page numbers are provided. (Retrieved on 07 March 2019).
10. It is rather interesting that never has the question been raised that if a faculty of theology should dissolve, a Faculty of Education could rather be the more appropriate locus for theology, keeping in mind the other pole of the Berlin model: professional education. In all the cases where faculties of theology were dissolved (at least in South Africa), the obvious faculty for theology to merge into was Humanities. The Berlin model would definitely be more comfortable to see a department of theology in Education rather than in Humanities.
11. For a very thorough discussion of the place of a Theology of Religion(s) and the ordo duplex and ordo simplex, see Platvoet (1998).
12. It is noteworthy that a scholar of the NDRC has recently published an article where he argues that 'Scriptural reasoning attests to the way in which the faculty [i.e. of Pretoria] perceives its own identity' (Beyers 2018:1). The Faculty declared as its motto for the future, 'Gateway to
' (inclusivity) and changed its name to the Faculty of Theology and Religion. By making the reading and interpretation of some ancient religious texts, the overlapping magisteria of inter-religious dialogue, Beyers clearly opts for a wissenschaftliche approach. Borg (2014: loc 954) says that he has learnt that there is conflict between the Bible and Jesus, between the Bible as the Word of God and Jesus as the word of God, which of course makes one wonder if Christianity should see texts as its basis.
13. For a rather good synopsis and analysis, see and
14. Beyers (2018:3) shows a rather appreciative interpretation of Schleiermacher's threefold distinction and elaborates on the basis of the vision and mission of the Faculty at Pretoria on how it could collaborate with other sciences and religions.
15. The Pretoria model currently has five departments, which are listed in another article (Buitendag 2016:8). During the final stage of the institutionalisation by the Senate of the five departments, the following question was raised by the executive: why Old Testament Studies and New Testament Studies could not merge ?. Both the respective heads of department opposed it and so did I. However, my argument was different: thinking in proleptic terms, I did not want to abolish the distinction between Abrahamic faiths based on the Old Testament and Christianity primarily based on the New Testament. In too many cases, the Old Testament is interpreted Christologically and compromises non-Christian scholars to study the text biasedly.
16. It would be clear by now why I prefer the word 'faith-communities' to 'church'. The latter is simply too narrow and prejudiced with regard to one faith tradition or even a single denomination (ecclesiastical heteronomy). A socially constructed reality emerges from ongoing conversations among many different voices. Religious truth is contingent and transformed in unpredictable ways. 'Evolution is not a goal-seeking process. Its causes are accidental; they are not appropriate means to produce a result. In other words, the evolution of religious forms and religious systems does not depend on religious causes, events, experiences (although the religious system will describe its own history in these terms)' (Luhmann 1985:10).
17. Nichizaka (1993:69) provides relevant background to understanding Luhmann's definition of religion: 'First, it succeeds in differentiating religion from other types of cultural ideas by relating the former to the dichotomy of transcendence and immanence, each of which is the negation of the other. Second, it in theory permits the existence of apparently destructive, but religious events, by leaving open what kind of form the ciphering process gives to the indeterminability of the world; i.e., by leaving open in what way the indeterminable is transformed into the determinable. Finally, it explicitly avoids defining religion with or as reference to the unexplicated concept of the sacred, by starting with inquiring into the constitution of meaning, or the presupposition of ordinary experiences.'
18. I previously distinguished at least three categories of universities (Buitendag 2016:5): Theological training is carried out by a church and is financially supported by the relevant denomination(s). Obviously, there is much emphasis on the praxis of the denomination and no critical thinking happens. Theological education is of a much higher standard, and such institutions are often accredited university status by government. Theological inquiry is what this article is about and concentrates on research impact and education of professional clergy.
19. For the different criteria that respective indexes apply, see my article (Buitendag 2016:6).
20. Cloete, Maasen and Bailey (2015:282) mention the importance of lecturing staff to obtain PhDs themselves for bettering rating positions.
21. See
22. The 2019 list has only two South African universities on the top 100 list with regard to theology, as being between 50 and 100, which are Stellenbosch University and the University of Pretoria. In terms of citations per paper and h-index citations, the Faculty at Pretoria takes the lead. The previous year there were four universities from the African continent listed, but the American University in Cairo and the University of KwaZulu-Natal lost their positions on the latest ranking.
23. For a thorough overview of theological education in Africa, see Phiri and Werner (2013).
24. In the seminal work of Cloete et al. (2015:12) though, they see the challenge for African universities to decouple from the nation's socio-economic development and to pursue ways to engage in development and innovation networks. 'Research-rooted information' is what the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) project was initiated by the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) in 2007. The project seeks to connect universities with economic and democratic development. The HERANA project, funded mainly by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation, comprises a network of about 50 academics and practitioners from around the world.
25. See
26. Farley (1988:40-42) warns against the tendency of quantitative sciences setting the paradigm for study and research and when it becomes ontological (a paradigm of reality itself), it is impoverishing knowledge and manifests as a belief.
27. Krüger (2017:1) in his analysis of the restructuring of the Faculty and its centenary strapline wants to put the emphasis on opening of 'the gates' for other religions at the Faculty: 'An open forum out there where Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-theists and so on will meet and mingle as free, empowered, thinking equals and discuss issues concerning the meaning of human existence on planet Earth. Yet I submit that such a new leg of the faculty will have an impact on the manner of moving of the first leg and the way of walking of the faculty as a whole'.
28. See footnote 2.
29. Krüger (2016:12) is of the opinion that seeds of such a vista are established in the archaeology and genealogy of the Faculty: 'In this connection the existential style of doing theology in the NRCA remains a promising resource, as the mystical tradition in the DRC tradition'. The African religious mind fits this model extremely well.
30. Elsewhere, Moltmann (1980:12) describes his view of truth: 'Dahinter steht die Überzeugung, dasz Wahrheit sich menschlich gesehen im unbehinderten Dialog ereignet. Gemeinschaft und Freihet sind die menschliche Komponente für die Erkenntnis der Wahrheit'.

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To feel with and for Friedrich Schleiermacher: On religious experience



Daniël P. Veldsman

Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





The German systematic theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher has shaped Western Christian theological thinking in many ways. One such influential way has been his formulation and exposition of religious experience, and specifically the concept of the 'feeling of absolute dependence' (Gefühl der schlechthinnigen Abhängigkeit). From a brief account of his understanding of the 'feeling of absolute independence', a few critical remarks are made from the broader context of contemporary hermeneutical discourses, focusing on the constitutive role of affectivity and narrative identity in religious experiences of embodied personhood. It is argued that these two themes in revisiting Schleiermacher's understanding of the 'feeling of absolute dependence' can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of religious experience.

Keywords: Schleiermacher; Religious experience; Feeling of absolute dependence; Affectivity; Narrative identity; Embodied personhood.




There are very good reasons why the German philosopher, theologian and biblical scholar Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is one of the scholars who is included in the well-known series Makers of the modern theological mind.1 Of this series, the editor Bob Patterson writes on the back cover:

Who are the thinkers that have shaped Christian theology in our time? This series tries to answer that question by providing a reliable guide to the ideas of the men who have significantly charted the theological seas of our century.

Leaving the unquestioned sexist note on 'the thinkers that have shaped Western Christian theology (as - DV) the ideas of men' by Patterson aside for the moment, I turn to Schleiermacher who has shaped Western Christian theological reflection in our time in many ways. He has indeed significantly chartered the Western theological seas of our century as Patterson puts it. In my engagement with Schleiermacher, I will focus only on one concept - in my mind a very important concept - that he has influentially utilised in the 19th century for our wide-ranging interpretations of religious experience. This concept is, namely, the 'feeling of absolute dependence' (Gefühl der schlechthinnigen Abhängigkeit). Before I turn to a brief account of his understanding and exposition of the concept that I have chosen as the focus for the article, a few introductory remarks should suffice to sketch in broad outlines the hermeneutical-theological context of his contribution:

· Schleiermacher is perhaps best known for his philosophical-theological efforts in bringing together the radical criticism flowing relentlessly from the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity. His bringing together of the two finds integrated expression in especially his hermeneutics and understanding of religion.2 His philosophical-theological efforts, however, have brought about a wide range of Schleiermacherian labelling from the 'Father of Modern Liberal Theology'3 to 'heretic'.4

· His best-known works are Über die Religion. Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern (On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, 1799) and Der christliche Glaube (The Christian Faith, 1821-22). In the former, he directs his theological concern to those people who had turned their backs on religion for many good reasons and were seeking alternatives; in the latter, he seeks to explicate Christian faith to believers who wanted to understand their faith in the period following the Enlightenment.

· A very wide range of intellectual influences (from Von Schlegel, Leibnitz, Lessing, Jacobi, Spinoza, Kant, Fichte, Schelling) can be noted on his work of which the German philosopher, theologian, poet and literary critic Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) was surely the most important.

In what follows, I would like to focus firstly on a brief account of his understanding of the 'feeling of absolute independence', and secondly to make a few critical remarks within the broader context of contemporary hermeneutical discourses that relate to the concept.



How is religion (or religious experience) to be understood? If then described in terms of feeling, how is 'feeling' to be understood?

Schleiermacher (cf. 1830) firstly qualifies in his exposition of religion that 'what is to follow' implies diversity of expression (community) and sameness (individual) in the following way:

However diverse they might be, what all the expressions of piety have in common, whereby they are at the same time distinguished from all other feelings - thus the selfsame nature of piety - is this: that we are conscious of ourselves as absolutely dependent or, which intends the same meaning, as being in relation with God. (p. 18)

For Schleiermacher, religious experience (as 'feelings of piety') is not founded either on intellectual doctrinal beliefs or on the acceptance of moral principles. In addition, its core is also not in the first place to be understood as thinking or acting. It is to be taken as intuition (i.e. an immediate non-conceptual engagement with the universe as its object)5 and feeling (i.e. the subjective affective tone which follows in the wake of such apprehension). The two are inseparable, although they can be separated in reflecting on their significance. From here, Schleiermacher moves to an introduction of the concept of 'absolute dependence' which is present and innate in every person. He acknowledges his indebtedness to Professor Delbrück for the adjective 'absolute' (schlechthinnigen). For Schleiermacher, the relationship to God can be described as a 'Gefühl der schlechthinnigen Abhängigkeit', that is, a feeling of absolute dependence that is situated in the immediate, pre-reflective consciousness. Perhaps more aptly formulated and explained: it is an immediate self-awareness that becomes an awareness of God. An immediate awareness of dependence of a particular nature that is called the feeling of absolute dependence. What does the 'particular nature' refer to? For Schleiermacher, it represents a 'one-ness' with the infinite in the midst of the finite. The 'particular nature' is characterised as 'Sinn und Geschmack für das Unendliche', that is, a sense (or sensibility) and taste for the Infinite.6 The 'whence' of this feeling of absolute dependence is identified as God (cf. Schleiermacher 1830:24). It is a consciousness that is characterised by both receptivity and self-initiated activity, that is the feeling of dependence and of freedom that co-exist in temporal self-consciousness (cf. Schleiermacher 1830:20-21).

He elaborates on religion as feeling, stating:

Religion is to seek this and find it in all that lives and moves, in all growth and change, in all doing and suffering. It is to have life and to know life in immediate feeling, only as such an existence in the Infinite and Eternal. (Schleiermacher 1799:36)

And more descriptive:

true religion is sense and taste for the Infinite. (Schleiermacher 1799:39)

Religion, or perhaps better understood in this context as 'religious experience', is - on the one hand - not to be seen as mere 'knowing'. That would be precisely that which he would like to protest against, namely the rational approach of doctrinal orthodoxy. On the other hand, religion is also not simply 'doing'. That would reduce religion to morality. In this sense, consciousness precedes knowledge and action. Schleiermacher (1830) states:

The piety that constitutes the basis of all ecclesial communities regarded purely in and of itself, is neither a knowing nor a doing but a distinct formation of feeling, or of immediate self-consciousness. (p. 8)

Over against the No on both accounts, that is, to 'mere knowing' and 'morality', religious experience is explicated as an interior, personal experience with an element of the unknowable and the mysterious. In The Christian Faith, Schleiermacher (1830) goes on to say:

The feeling of absolute dependence, accordingly, is not to be explained as an awareness of the world's existence, but only as an awareness of the existence of God, as the absolute undivided unity. (p. 32)

As experience (that can in this very sense be called a God-consciousness), it will find expression within a specific religious context in a definite form. As human beings that are social creatures, our expressed feelings are subsequently concrete.

And he continues:

Every religious and Christian self-consciousness presupposes and thus also actually contains the immediate feeling of absolute dependence, as the only way in which, in general, one's own being and the infinite being of God can be one in self-consciousness. (Schleiermacher 1830:33)

This feeling of absolute dependence, in which our self-consciousness in general represents the finitude of our being, is therefore not an accidental element, nor a thing which varies from person to person, but is a universal element of life7; and the recognition of this fact entirely takes the place, for the system of doctrine, of all so-called proofs of the existence of God.


Critical remarks

Limiting myself to Schleiermacher's concept of 'absolute dependence' but broadening its significance to a number of related contemporary discourses, I tentatively would like to pose the following critical comments.

For me, Schleiermacher has opened up in his understanding and explication of religion and religious experience (as 'Sinn und Geschmack für das Unendliche') a broader understanding of rationality that I find convincing and very intriguing that I would pursue today within theology-science discourses, especially in relation to evolutionary biological discourses. Feeling - as immediate awareness, as consciousness - finds very apt evolutionary biological expressions. To name but one example from the field of the neuro-scientific example. In the classic work The Feeling of What Happens (1999) of the Portuguese-American neurobiologist Antonio Damasio, he describes consciousness in the shortest phrase possible as the 'feeling that something happens'. Feeling is here not be understood or confused with 'emotions'. Emotions follow from the basic description of 'feeling' as consciousness which then subsequently finds concrete physiological expression in emotions.8 But back to Schleiermacher. The 'feeling' as an a priori ontological statement regarding God-consciousness and 'absolute dependence', however, are in its interpretative unfolding by Schleiermacher in many ways promising but at the very same time problematic. The broadening of our understandings of rationality and also his effort to overcome the strong boundaries of individualism are promising. However, from contemporary hermeneutical insights such as the theory-ladenness of all experience, that is, that all experiences are interpreted experiences, it follows that no religious experience can be pre-linguistic. The experience as such is concretely and existentially 'at home' within a specific language tradition. God-consciousness finds expression as a conceptualised experience. And to the constitutive importance of all experiences as theory-laden, I will add affectivity because no experience is possible without being permeated by affectivity.9 Affectivity is not some kind of irrational 'add-on' that should be avoided at all rational cost. It is a biological given: our biological roots determine human rationality.10 We are woven together by neurons and blood vessels, and these constitutive elements of our bodily communicative systems determine our rational-existential engagements with realities. Religious experience in this sense, that is, as rational-existential engagements with realities, is a cognitive-affective experience. Perhaps better formulated in an oversimplified way: in the spelling out of the meaning of life by embodied persons, the vowels are represented by affectivity (i.e. the biological-existential glue that keeps everything together) and the consonants by cognitivity - and the two cannot be separated in our engagement with reality and its subsequent sense-making activities. The French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) had it right - in my opinion now re-interpreted and understood from contemporary evolutionary biological insights - when he said in his own lively formulation of religious experience almost 150 years before Schleiermacher that the heart has indeed reasons of which reason itself is not even aware! In an evolutionary biological (rational) sense-making framework, his remark makes sense today. Metaphorically translated into religious experiential terms: we love God with our hearts, not our heads, and therefore all knowledge of God is affective knowledge.11

But Schleiermacher's depiction and unfolding of God-consciousness - as universal phenomenon - also becomes problematic in another sense when taken up in our post-modern contexts of pluralism (and therefore, of pluralistic understandings of religions). It is no longer hermeneutically possible and acceptable, as was perhaps not problematised in his religious-historical context, to work with, or take for granted a Christian religious 'Selbstverständlichkeit' so that the 'whence' of the 'Gefühl' could simply be understood as being that of the God of Christianity. Such a position can no longer be defended uncritically.

The 'whence' has to be taken up interpretatively within the context of embodied personhood, that is, can only be formulated from the very different sense-making frameworks of the narrative identities of those who are witnessing the 'whence' of their specific religious experience. For me, the concept narrative identities12 captures the concrete historical-existential framework from which embodied persons within a specific linguistic-social tradition undertake their respective sense-making activities. Formulated in religious terms: our various witnesses to transcendence tell the stories from where we are configuratively and re-figuratively giving content (i.e. conceptualising within a given linguistic tradition) and making sense of the 'whence' of our religious experiences.

Another problematic development however which, in my opinion, does not do justice to Schleiermacher's concept of feeling is the numerous engagements (especially psychological discourses) with feeling as if we have to primarily understand it from theories on religious emotions. My understanding of his conceptualisation of feeling as pre-reflective consciousness is that it represents an a priori ontological statement with its emotive expressions to follow on that which to him is neither knowing nor doing, but intuition. This represents to me a confusing conflation of an ontological statement with a physiological trait of embodied personhood. Schleiermacher's 'feeling' is better understood and developed when explicated from evolutionary perspectives as consciousness in terms of a human capacity for imagination, symbolic thought and creativity. And from here flows a strong impetus for the subsequent broadening of our understandings of human rationality with the inevitable inclusion of affectivity.



In the Introduction, it was stated that Schleiermacher is perhaps best known for his philosophical-theological efforts in bringing together the radical criticism flowing relentlessly from the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity. It is precisely his historical-contextual dated efforts that - in my opinion - in terms of mapping and not so much territory (to use the helpful term by the well-known philosopher of religion Jonathan Z. Smith) that is of great importance for our ongoing theological efforts. Now, however, the historical dated face of the 18th century's Enlightenment criticism finds many new expressions in the 21st-century discourses on post-modernism, the science-theology dialogue, the Fourth Industrial Revolution: all deep probing and radical challenges in our pluralistic - and specifically African - contexts if that has to be brought together with our contemporary understandings of God-consciousness, of Christian faith to our own respective generations of despisers and believers. Schleiermacher's contribution after 250 years is still to be taken seriously as insightful 'mapping' because it shows possible ways of configurations and re-figurations for addressing these very challenges in our cognitive-affective longing to bring them together as responsible account for the hope that lives within us. In this qualified sense, I feel with and for Schleiermacher.



Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.



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Veldsman, D., 2014, 'With reasons of the heart before God. On religious experience from an evolutionary-theological perspective', NGTT 55(1), 425-441, viewed 20 October 2018, from         [ Links ]

Ward, K., 2019, Religion in the modern world. Celebrating pluralism and diversity, Cambridge University Press, New York.         [ Links ]

Wolfe, J., 2019, 'The eschatological turn in German philosophy', Modern Theology 35(1), 55-70.        [ Links ]



Daniël Veldsman

Received: 02 May 2019
Accepted: 21 May 2019
Published: 30 July 2019



1. The latest addition in September 2017 to the series is on Hans Küng, written by the late Dutch-American historian John J. Kiwiet (1925-2006).
2. His integrating efforts are viewed by some - especially the German philosopher Hegel - in a rather negative light, seeing 'his cure as far worse than the disease'. See Stewart (2018) for a good exposition of Hegel's criticism of Schleiermacher's efforts.
3. In his Contemporary theology: An introduction, MacGregor (2019) sketches in broad outlines his understanding of Schleiermacher as founder of liberal theology, especially with regard to Schleiermacher's viewpoint on Christology.
4. For but one very recent and interesting example of such Schleiermacherian labelling, see the article by Joel Daniels (2018) Friedrich Schleiermacher: Pentecostal Friend or Foe?
5. In their interesting book on Cosmic Consciousness and Human Excellence: Implications for Global Ethics, the editors in their Introduction to cosmic consciousness and the soul talk about Schleiermacher - in following Spinoza - as one of the 'advocates of cosmic-conscious articulations
' (Masaeli & Sneller 2019:5). I find this a very apt and helpful description so that his understanding of faith is not mistakenly confused with a mere emotional approach to religious experience. Regarding the latter confusion, see especially Reed (2005), Stoker (2006), Roberts (2016) and Scarantino (2018).
6. In his discussion of Schleiermacher and his understanding of religious experience, Keith Ward (2019:96) in his Religion in the modern world has assisted me with his specific explanation of Schleiermacher's 'Sinn und Geschmack für das Unendliche' in writing: '
[I]t seems that the infinite and eternal is seen in and through things that are infinite and temporal. Instead of thinking of an apprehension of a separate reality, the infinite, we can think of finite things, which we apprehend as mediating a sense of the infinite, the whole, the independent, the eternal. The "sensibility and taste for the infinite" is a capacity to sense the finite as a 'representation of the infinite"'. An insightful South African exposition of Schleiermacher's 'feeling of absolute dependence' can be found in Mouton (1990).
7. In this sense, Schleiermacher breaks open, on the one hand, an understanding of religion as a universal or global human phenomenon, but at the same time he argues, on the other hand, that Christianity represents religion par excellence.
8. See as example the exposition on Schleiermacher by the Hungarian philosopher Mezei (2019:55ff.) in which he - in his discussion of models for the character of faith - talks about an emotional model, that is, a model in which the 'traditional understanding of faith "reality" and "evidence" gives way to the model of emotional experience, in which "feeling" appears as a separate faculty of human beings to perceive God' (Mezei 2019:62). Schleiermacher's understanding of 'feeling' is here, in my opinion, confused with emotion.
9. My argument, and the very reasons for the emphasis on affectivity, is neatly and concretely illustrated in a very recent article From religious emotions to affects: historical and theoretical reflections on injury to feeling, self and religion by Ural and Berg (2019) in which they reflect on the significance of affect as conceptual alternative - in reference to the writing of Schleiermacher among others - to 'how religion and feeling have become inextricably intertwined, located within the individual self and institutionalised as a dominant interpretation of religion'. In an insightful manner, Ural and Berg (2019) addresses the 'images of angry Muslims' in which they challenge the trope of hurt religious feelings in the explanation of unrest. For a detailed exposition of my own emphasis and understanding of the role of affectivity, see Veldsman (2014).
10. Although our biological roots determine human rationality, it does not imply in an unqualified sense that we do not transcend our roots in our sense-making activities of reality. The constitutive relatedness with our biological roots has been an illuminating contribution of contemporary evolutionary epistemological discourses for our models on rationality.
11. The metaphoric description is, however, open for misinterpretation - as if our 'heads' (minds) are now put 'out of interpretative play'. Perhaps the metaphoric description can be alternatively formulated as 'loving God with our heads that are wrapped by our hearts'!
12. My critical emphasis on narrative identities has indirectly been inspired by Wolfe's (2019:56ff.) discussion of the German philosopher of Religion, Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) in her The Eschatological Turn in German Philosophy. She mentions that 'Troeltsch is here revising Schleiermacher in an eschatological direction. His is a feeling of absolute dependence experienced through time, an absolute dependence on religious intuition for the direction of an individual's life, not for his or her immediate position'. The key for me here is the word 'revising' which I subsequently do not take as a revision, but as necessary interpretative addition and broadening of the constitutive contextuality of an understanding of the concept of 'absolute dependence'.




Jesus — The immigrant Egyptian Jews in Matthew's Sondergut: A migration perspective



Zorodzai Dube

Department of New Testament and Related Literature, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa





Using pull and push factors inspired by the migration theory, this study explains Matthew's Sondergut concerning Jesus' flight to Egypt from the perspective of possible pull-push factors associated with Egypt and Palestine during the first century. Within early Christianity, two perception strands concerning Egypt existed: on the one hand, Jews such as Celsus depicted Egypt negatively as a place of magic and oppression. Yet another perspective portrays Egypt as a place of refuge, recuperation and recovery - a view reflected in Luke-Acts, Matthew and some parts of Mark. Not disregarding views that read the story as Midrash or allegory, this study focuses on Matthew's Sondergut concerning Jesus' flight to Egypt as narrative explainable from a positive migration perspective, and argues that the prosperity of Egypt and possible political turmoil in Palestine during the first century give plausible reconstruct for Matthew's Sondergut regarding Jesus' flight to Egypt as a place of refuge and sustenance.

Keywords: Egypt; Reception; Refuge; Jesus; Holy Family; Memory.




Theoretical perspectives are our subjective explanations through which we make meaning of events around us. Concerning this, the shift from modernity to postmodernity allows for the acceptance of a multifaceted perspective. In the past and concerning the Bible, only Western sanctioned perspectives were regarded as normative. However, the irony was that Western interlocutors acted seemingly oblivious to the fact that they too were engaged in a contextual reading of the Bible, shaped by their own context(s). Now that hermeneutics or epistemology is not an innocent exercise devoid of idiocy, equally so biblical interpretation is always a search for plausible meaning informed by our context.

My alternative reading of Matthew's Sondergut is informed by recent events of migration across Africa characterised by war and economic hardship. As biblical interpretation is done inter alia with context, migration studies have become one of the new and yet growing interdisciplinary fields across disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and theology. Given that migration is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, what new insights or questions does it give in understanding narratives such as Jesus' flight to Egypt? In taking this direction of inquiry, I am less interested in the historicity of the story (that is whether it is Midrash of legendary story); instead, focus is on whether push and pull factors inspired by migration theory may make the story more plausible from the readers whose reading lens is informed by immigration issues.


Previous approaches to Matthew's Sondergut

Before digging into the plausibility of the story from a migration perspective, previous approaches need to be revisited. Two major dominant perspectives exist: firstly that the story is a legendary story and secondly that it is Midrash. The term 'legendary' should not be mistaken for being untrue; instead, similar to many heroic stories, it refers to commonly mysterious stories about great people seen as superhuman. Those who advocate for the story as legendary compare the story with similar stories found in extracanonical writings such as the gospel of Thomas where an Angel talked to Joseph and also rocks and trees talking to baby Jesus (Bourke 1960; France 1981:233). It is in the Infant Gospel of Thomas that we find most reference to legendary material associated with Jesus. For example, in the Infant Gospel of Thomas, Jesus was an extraordinary child who performs miracles. At one point, he healed his brother after he had been bitten by a snake. In addition, after being angered at school, he cursed the teacher who later fell sick and died (Aasgaard 2009:86). Besides the Infant Gospel of Thomas, W.D. Davies and D.C. Allison confirm the existence of similar mythological stories such as 'Gilgamish, sargon, Zoroaster (who like Jesus was allegedly visited by adoring magi), Cyrus, Appolo, Perseus, Hercules, Romulus and Remus ' (Davies & Allison 2004:258). Far from being defined as untrue, legendary stories function to reinforce to followers of such persons that their leader is a supernatural being. They have identity formation purpose to followers that their community has supernatural affirmation.

The second dominant view is that the story is Midrash, meaning that it is the reinterpretation of past shared events now being seen as repeating themselves. In the Old Testament, Israel traces its origin to Egypt - a place associated with shared community trauma but also hope as Moses led them and founded the nation of Israel. Similarly, as Matthew's community finds itself at the crossroads of being accused of being a Syrian Jewish Hellenistic sect within Judaism, the community needed to redefine itself as a true continuation of Israel and authentic keepers of the Torah. To cement their history as legitimate, like Moses, their leader Jesus is the new Moses.

During his famous Sermon on the Mount, like Moses Jesus goes to Egypt and reinterprets the Torah (Mt 5) (Bourke 1960; France 1981:233). Concerning this, Davies and Allison make two crucial comments - first that, to Matthew's community, the story may have functioned as a trauma relief narrative whose purpose was reminding the followers that their suffering was comparable to that of their leader - Jesus. Secondly, by emphasising the return of Jesus to Nazareth, the story counteracts Jewish accusations that linked Jesus' teaching to Egyptian soothsayers and that he was leading people away (Davies & Allison 2004:260). However, for R.T. France Matthew's reference to Egypt emphasises the fact that Jesus is the new Moses and, more so, as 'son', he is the new Israel (Hos 11.1) (France 2007:78). In addition, it has the geographical implication that the new Israel is universal king of the magi from the East and also far south of the Roman Empire.

As niche focus, I am interested in new questions that may arise from the story if we use the migration theory. In my view, migration theory shifts attention from questions about history to sociological questions about movement; reasons for migration and challenges related to the story.


Immigration theory

The immigration theory is a fairly new interdisciplinary perspective in studying the biblical narratives. Theorising migration has been necessitated by particular broader global issues, among others the challenges associated with political violence and/or economic instability within nation states. With specific reference to Africa, after the demise of colonialism, many African states took time to stabilise their economic and political institutions. Many such disturbances were caused by infighting among competing political groups and/or external influences by former colonial powers or their backers who seek continued extraction of raw materials (McGrew 2000:239). This is true concerning several poor African countries such as Sudan without technological capacity to make guns yet they have several guns that are presumably supplied by external mercenaries who are interested resources.

As theory, migration focuses on two fronts: firstly, the push factors which make individuals or family members forced to relocate to what they think is a safer location. For example, families or individuals living in war-torn areas are likely, if opportunity allows, to relocate to safer areas. In the recent past, we have witnessed a large migration of people from violence-prone countries, such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, seeking asylum in either neighbouring countries or, depending on finances, relocate to far-away destinations such as Australia, America or Canada (Dube 2013).

Secondly, pull factor(s) focuses on exploring attractive aspects associated with destination that forces the individual or family to leave the place of birth. Not much difference exists between the two categories because push factors make individual to consider pull factors. However, pull factors are associated with people known as economic migrants who can compare their present status and possible opportunities in the place of destination. For example, because of low salaries in most African countries, experts in various fields such as engineering and technology choose to migrate to destinations such as Australia and Canada for 'greener pastures' (Dube 2013:1).


Political push factors in Palestine

Using the migration theory, instead of starting with Matthew and questions about history, I am interested in possible push and pull factors associated with Egypt and Palestine that make the story plausible from the perspective of migration theory. I start with the question concerning whether possible forced migration could have happened during the time of Emperor Tiberius and Herod the Great. Such a question necessarily demands investigation into the Empire and particularly how the region was governed. Palestine was governed by complex legal channels. Local and domestic issues had the oversight of religious leaders and Herod who was the puppet of Rome. Pilate directly represented Roman interest in the region. Within this political context, the dominant view is that between 4 CE and 66 CE during the time of Nero, the region was generally peaceful and scholars talk of booms in population and prosperity in the region (Reed 2002:90).

However, such prosperity came at the expense of ruthless power by Herod Antipas, who presided over the squashing of revolt led by Judas the Galilean in 6 CE and ruthless execution of criminals by Pilate. Given this and taking Matthew's Sondergut, I argue that the story regarding killing of innocent children may refer specifically to persecution towards Matthew's community but also reference to the general treatment of non-class citizens by the political elite. Morten Hørning Jensen writes about both the political development but also how local leaders such Herod Antipas would go to ruthless extent just to keep political peace for Rome (Jensen 2006:9). Such evidence gives indirect evidence to Matthew's story that because of political violence, some families such as that of Joseph and Mary may have chosen to leave the region for safety among growing settlement of Jews in Alexandria. The conclusion is that no clear event during the time of Tiberius or Herod makes a plausible push factor to Matthew's story.


Pull factors - Egypt as a political safe destination

While push factor may have existed, I am of the view that pull factors associated with Egypt plausibly read the story better. Firstly, during the last half of the last BCE, Egypt had established itself as the political hub of the rest of the Empire. The long rule of the Ptolemy dynasty came to an end with the rule of Cleopatra. Since then, events changed from 31 BCE when Caesar Octavian, who assumed the throne as Augustus, become politically strong in the West and later defeated Antony and his 'wife' Cleopatra to take control of the rest of the East, including the fertile and strategic province of Egypt (Lewis 1983:53). Having dominated the East, Octavius devised a strategy to secure his grip over Egypt. In doing so, he replaced all the top political leaders with his own - the praefectus Aegypti, who directly reported to him, thus neutralising all potential insurrection (Lewis 1983:53). To the peasants, the coming of the Romans and the departure of menacing Antiochus (in the North) and the detested Persians, was a welcome move (Bowman 1996:27). The Romans were viewed as saviours by the locals. Egypt became a peaceful place.

On the other hand, although viewed negatively even by the former Egyptian administration of Cleopatra and Antony, events did not change in Palestine where the Herodian dynasty remained intact. Politically, to those in the North, especially Palestine, Egypt was politically an attractive destination. Commenting on political events happening at that time, Bowman (1996) says the political development of peace and prosperity:

[E]ncouraged a shift of gravity towards the delta where many of the immigrants from the Hellenised Mediterranean countries must have settled. They poured into the Faynum in great numbers too and this area went through dramatic development the actual number of towns and villages in the valley will also have increased, as did the size of many of those already in existence. (p. 27)

In reading Matthew, there is no clear textual link of Egypt's peaceful political climate to Matthew's Sondergut. However immigration theory helps us to connect unwritten reality concerning that period. Given this and using the migration theory, one can plausibly assume that Matthew's time of writing coincided with a general fascination and appreciation of the political events in Alexandria, making Egypt a pull geographical region.

Using the theory, we can plausibly reconstruct that:

Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. (Mt 2:13)

which may be a pointer towards the safety of Egypt during that time.

Similar admission to the peace and security of Egypt comes from Josephus. Citing Josephus (Anti 13.62-73), R.T. France (2007) gives interesting insight, saying:

Egypt, the south western neighbour of Judea and now a Roman province with large Jewish population especially in Alexandria, was a natural place for Jews to seek asylum when in political danger at home, a substitute for the Jerusalem temple had even been set up by Jewish exiles in Egypt. (p. 79)

The immigration theory also allows us to assume peoples' direction of movement. Given that during that time information regarding changes in political fortune took time to reach from one region to the other, one can assume that Matthew's location in telling this story is important. Scholars think that Matthew was a Hellenistic Antiochean Jew who writes during social tension between Judaisers and Hellenistic Jews concerning the inclusion of gentile Christians. Arguably his reference to Jesus who resides or migrates to gentile territory speaks about his social reality in diaspora. If located in multicultural Antioch, news within the region transmitted by travelled merchants, senators and dignitaries from the equestrian class would have spread regarding Egypt being annexed by Octavius. Similarly, given the large Jewish population in Alexandria, relatives in Antioch and Alexandria must have compared social events in their areas. It is claimed that Ptolemy I (305-282 BCE) forcefully transported over 100 000 Jews to Egypt, many of whom were conscripted into the army and some into agriculture (Barclay 1996:17).1 Given that migrants travel to regions which their fellow countrymen talk positively about, it is possible to link Hellenistic Jews in Antioch and those in Egypt as carriers of political news.


Economic pull factors - Egypt as the economic hub of the empire

Secondly, besides the political peace associated with Egypt, it was economically a pull hub. The primary reason Octavius deposed Antony and Cleopatra was to control Egypt's resources, especially the much needed grain (Bowman 1996:25). To show how economically endowed and also politically contested the region was, no member of the senate of equestrian was allowed to journey to Egypt without imperial permission. That Egypt was economically a rich region is complemented by Strabo, the geographer who reported to Rome saying that Egypt had fertile soils from the rich alluvial deposits that come down when the Nile floods the delta. In Egypt agriculture was easy because of the good soils; anything that one planted, gave a harvest of plenty. Strabo comments, saying:

The land was rich in flora and mineral resources. Many plant varieties offered nutrition or other profitable products without systematic cultivation. Wild bean, material for clothing, fibre, mats, balsam, date-palms were found in abundance. In addition the region was known of its variety of wild animals - 'birds, aquatic fowl, fish, antelope, roebuck and wild boar. The eastern desert underneath it was copper, iron, including semi-precious stones such as 'agate, onyx, sadonyx, amethyst, beryl, chalcite, chalcedony, cornlian, green feldspar, garnet, quarts and turquois'. (Bowman 1996:25)

Given its riches, Octavius secured the region under his direct supervision and through prefects. Octavius' barring of senators from visiting the region was 'to exclude potential leaders of disaffection, to obviate the possibility that Egypt might again serve as base for political opposition with military backing, as it had done for Antony' (Lewis 1983:10). Concerning Egypt, Bowman (1996) further writes:

[F]or over 350 years, until the foundation of Constantinople, one of the most important aspect[s] of Egypt's role in the Roman empire was as the supplier of a considerable proportion of the grain needed to feed the population of the city of Rome the contribution of 20 million modii of wheat under Augustus. (p. 25)

Bowman (1986) went on to further say:

[T]he arrival of the huge ships of the Alexandrian grain fleet in Italy was a political event of some significance - though not nearly as significant as the threat of their absence. (p. 38)

Egypt was a granary for Rome, which also made it a region where political conflict could happen anytime.

Using migration theory, it is possible to argue that going to Egypt via Maris would have been an economically wise decision for the holy family. In comparison to the riches of Egypt, Nazareth was not climatically endowed. Rainfall was precarious. The Markan parables being closer to the earliest tradition refer to seeds falling among thorn and rocky ground, thus giving us clues regarding the climate of the region (Kloppenborg 2006:1; Van Eck 2009). Cited by Drew Christiansen (1996), in view of the challenges associated with the refugee crisis across Europe after the Second World War, Pope Pius XII in the Exsul Familia of 1952 says:

Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models of protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution by want, is forced to leave [his] native land, [his] beloved parents and relatives, close friends, and to seek a foreign soil. (p. 7)



Using migration theory and in view of the archaeological information regarding the Palestinian region during the first century, the story of Joseph and family's supposed flight would not be an isolated incident. Instead, given the growing Jewish population in the Alexandrian delta, the story may act as a window to several similar stories of Jews and others who endured the desert trip to Egypt. Using the migration perspective, political and economic factors could be the push factors for families in Palestine leaving for Egypt. In addition, political and economic safety associated with Egypt could have made Egypt a place of destination. Politically, being under the direct control of Augustus the Emperor, Egypt was a more stable location. The entire land was protected by local and Roman soldiers. Even public figures such as senators and equestrians could not freely travel in Egypt without permission. As the saying goes: power attracts. As such, like many other families in a similar predicament, Joseph may not have resisted being under the ambit of the Empire. Furthermore, the rich soils deposited annually upon the delta made Egypt an agriculturally rich area. Various crops and minerals were in abundance. To Rome, Egypt was the Empire's granary of grain, and a strategic place for the Emperor to appease the hungry masses and yet also increase his political favourability. Epistemologically, immigration theory may have more to contribute in exploring movement of people and the theme about survival embedded within stories such as Jesus' flight to Egypt.



I dedicate this article to Halvor Moxnes - Prof. Emeritus at the University of Oslo, Norway and Gitte Buch-Hansen at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark who afforded me the opportunity to attend the Nordic New Testament conference in Iceland and helped in structuring the argument of this article.

Competing interest

The author declares that no competing interest exists.

Author contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for carrying out research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.



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Zorodzai Dube

Received: 04 Sept. 2018
Accepted: 05 June 2019
Published: 15 Aug. 2019



1. Philo of Alexander places the Jewish population in Alexandria at a million, which is very improbable given that the entire population in the region was close to 3 000 000.

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