Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Acta Theologica]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/rss.php?pid=1015-875820140004&lang=en vol. 34 num. lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/img/en/fbpelogp.gif http://www.scielo.org.za <![CDATA[<b>Editorial</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400001&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en <![CDATA[<b>Remembering the Heidelberg Catechism in South Africa today?</b> <b>Some remarks on the commemoration of a 16<sup>th</sup> century Reformed confession</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400002&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en With the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism of 2013 in mind, this article offers some remarks on the question what it means to remember and commemorate this 16th century Reformed confession in South Africa today. The first part of the article argues that commemorations invite us to be conscious of the close link between memory and identity, as well as to the fact that our memories of the past are often highly contested memories. The second part of the paper comments on the status of the Heidelberg Catechism as a historical document, while the third part of the paper extends the discussion with a focus on the reception of the Heidelberg Catechism in South Africa. By highlighting a few episodes from its reception history, the article affirms the view of the Heidelberg Catechism as an important identity marker amidst contestation. <![CDATA[<b>On the historical origins of the Heidelberg Catechism</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400003&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Reflection on the origins of the Heidelberg Catechism reveals it to be a document of understanding between Calvinistic-Reformed, Zwinglian and Lutheran-Philippistic tendencies within Protestantism. One important reason for the success of the Heidelberg Catechism was the fact that each one of these groups appreciated the Catechism. At the same time it clearly distances itself from Tridentine Catholicism and from the Gnesio-Lutheran variant of Lutheranism. This occurs mainly in the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. The repudiation of the mass as "condemnable idolatry" is a result of the orientation to the Reformation of John Calvin. Here papal religion was seen as superstition and a fundamental violation of the true worship of God as well as an infringement of God's honour. The experience of persecution by the Papal church in France and the Netherlands aggravated the criticism. <![CDATA[<b>Why is a multiplicity of confessions particular to the Reformed tradition?</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400004&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article commences with the observation - drawn from a number of standard collections - that a multiplicity of confessions is a particular trait of the Reformed tradition. An explanation for this is then sought with reference to the very conception of theology in the Reformed tradition (Willie Jonker); the spiritual power of the church to declare doctrine (John Calvin), and the relative authority of the confessions themselves (Karl Barth). It is concluded that new confessions will continue to emerge in this tradition as the gospel is proclaimed or put under threat in possible new circumstances in future. <![CDATA[<b>On the content and message of the Heidelberg Catechism</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400005&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The essay argues that it is meaningful to speak about the theme, content and message of the Heidelberg Catechism, although these three should be distinguished. A first section claims that the Catechism shows more of a single argument and purpose than many other catechisms of the time, because they often consisted of a mere compilation of diverse material, without clear purpose. A second section further develops this claim by showing how the comfort of the first question and answer forms the continuing motif, providing the theme and structure of the Catechism. A third section serves as reminder of Barth's claim that Jesus Christ is the content of this comfort and therefore of the Heidelberg Catechism. A fourth section suggests a final distinction, arguing that the message is still different from the purpose, theme and content, since it depends on specific readers in their own contexts, as the reception history has shown. <![CDATA[<b>Are humans by birth as wicked as the Heidelberg Catechism (3-11) holds?</b> <b>A dialogue between Theology and modern sciences</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400006&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en While the introduction compares the Heidelberg Catechism's theologically framed concept of sin with similar and opposing secular views of the past (e.g., Plautus, Quintilian, Hobbes), the main part uses contemporary scientific studies to challenge the Catechism's view that (after alienation from God in the Fall) all human individuals by birth are wicked: incapable of loving others. Studies discovered remarkable capacities of empathy and altruism already in young children of different cultures as well as in primates, suggesting that altruism is deep-rooted in common ancestors of humans and primates. However, humans encounter limits of their capacity for altruism especially when dealing with outsiders not belonging to their own group. Culture, especially religion, is needed to advance a systematic, and not just spontaneous, altruism reaching beyond one's group boundaries. Concluding remarks, using Paul, roughly sketch what a modern harmatiology would have to emphasize if it is not moral corruptness. <![CDATA[<b>The Heidelberg Catechism on human sin and misery</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The Heidelberg Catechism's section on Sin and Misery does not provide a moralistic or legalistic perspective on the human condition. Instead, it offers, in abbreviated format, a restatement of the doctrine of original sin, which points to sin as a condition and not just an act. As such, it invites us to think more deeply about the complexities of the human condition and of human agency. <![CDATA[<b>Salvation according to the Heidelberg Catechism</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The Heidelberg Catechism has been part of the Reformed Confessional tradition for over 400 years. It has helped to shape and form generations of Reformed believers. The question however can be raised if the model of salvation that features in the Catechism is still relevant today? In the light of different contexts this article looks at the questions in the Heidelberg Catechism concerning the explanation of our salvation and reads this judicial model against other Christian understandings in the Catholic, Baptist and Orthodox tradition. The dialogue continues with the work of Ellen Charry that reminds us of the formative role that theology had in the works of the Early Church fathers and asks what the content and role of catechism are today and if we can still use this document fruitfully in our formation of young people. <![CDATA[<b>... But also just: Reflections on the severe God of the catechism</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400009&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The seemingly harsh texts about God's justice and wrath in the Heidelberg Catechism turn out to be the core of the comfort that the catechisms proclaims, if we read the catechism contextually. The same is the case with regard to providence when the catechism claims that also poverty and illness come from God's fatherly hand. <![CDATA[<b>Freedom in the sense of the Heidelberg Catechism - an orientation in the problems of modern liberty</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400010&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The Heidelberg Catechism courageously mentions that Christians participate in the work of Christ as the eternal king. This means that, during their life on earth, Christians fight against sin "with a free conscience". These words anticipate the call for human rights in the French Revolution. Although the Catechism uses the word "free" only at this point, the text shows the context in which we have to understand "freedom". It instructs us that we have to understand the word not as a freedom "from" and, therefore, not as freedom only for myself, but as freedom "for" a life with others. The reason for this is that real freedom is founded in the gift of the divine liberator, who loves us only along with our neighbours. We are free in relation to God and our fellow human beings. <![CDATA[<b>Learning theological ethics through the Heidelberg Catechism</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article looks to the logic of grace and gratitude in the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) in order to examine a disposing pattern of sensibility and affection as well as four lessons for a contemporary Protestant theological ethic. It also suggests a revision of the catechism's basic theology in light of the current ecological crisis and in conjunction with a theocentric strand in Reformed theologies of creation. <![CDATA[<b>The Heidelberg Catechism: Elements for a theology of care</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400012&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article proposes a fresh reading of the Heidelberg Catechism from the perspective of an ethics of care, a new paradigm of doing ethics, strongly influenced by feminist philosophy. In its anthropology, this approach in ethics emphasizes human relationality, mutual dependency and vulnerability. Though there are strong affinities with theological anthropology, the ethics of care still lacks a theological framework. The thesis argued here, is that the Heidelberg Catechism offers essential elements for a "theology of care". It describes 1. God as a caring, 'mothering" God; 2. human beings as having care as their essence and divine vocation; and 3. the relationship between God and human beings as a relationship of mutual care. The care perspective in the Heidelberg Catechism is limited, however, because it does not give a full account of the open endedness of the relationship between God and humanity. <![CDATA[<b>The Heidelberg Catechism on prayer: Relevance of a 16<sup>th</sup> century confession for 21<sup>st</sup> century households?</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400013&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en In a world characterized by power abuse and violence, where and how would people with the life-affirming ethos of God's alternative kingdom be formed? In view of this challenge, the essay explores the potential of the third part of the Heidelberg Catechism (on prayer) for moral formation in Christian households. It is believed that, through facilitating transformative encounters with the living God, the Catechism holds the potential also to shape (young) people's imagination and behaviour in present-day (African) contexts, provided that a critical-constructive awareness of the hierarchical origins of New Testament household codes be nurtured alongside it. <![CDATA[<b>Memory culture in the making: The Heidelberg Catechism in the memory of the Dutch Reformed Church (1862-1937)</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400014&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article explores the Heidelberg Catechism in the memory of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) between 1862 and 1937, with specific focus on the events of 1862. By making the Heidelberg Catechism the point of focus the article's contribution is not by way of answering the "what happened"-questions related to the period, but rather in terms of an analysis of how "what happened" had been remembered over a period of seventy five years by the DRC. In order to do so, the first two sections of the article deals with the theory of memory, the development of memory culture in communities, and the significance of such an analysis for historical thinking. The third part provides four sets of examples of Heidelberg Catechism recollections as a contribution to analyses of the memory culture of the DRC in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. <![CDATA[<b>The Heidelberg Catechism and the catechesis material of the Dutch Reformed Church: A church history overview</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400015&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en In the year which we commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism, this article follows the historical tracks of the catechism through the history of the Dutch Reformed Church with special focus on the role it played in the catechesis of the church. It starts with a short introduction about the origin of the Heidelberg Catechism. Secondly it gives an overview of the material used by the church through its early history before it compares the different books which were used later on. This is done in order to establish what role the Heidelberg Catechism played in the learning material of the church. The article concludes with the finding that the Heidelberg Catechism indeed played and still plays a huge role in the catechesis of the Dutch Reformed Church. <![CDATA[<b>The Heidelberg Catechism: A hidden creedal text and catechetical manual in the Malawian Reformed Church 1889-2012</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400016&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article focuses on the reception and the status of the Heidelberg Catechism in the Church of the Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Nkhoma Synod in Malawi between 1889 and 2012. The constitution, the church order and the liturgical formularies of the CCAP Nkhoma Synod equally mention that the Heidelberg Catechism is one of the church's doctrinal standards. The Catechism had never been translated into the official language of this Church, implying that the content of the catechism has been withheld from its members. This leads to the following questions: Was the Heidelberg Catechism really received in the Nkhoma Synod? Why did the Nkhoma fail to make the content of the catechism available to its members? Did this Church realize the implication of a failure to translate the catechism into its official language? Therefore, this article argues that the Catechism had very little or no influence on the Church's theological discourse and practice. <![CDATA[<b>The Heidelberg Catechism and the Church</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400017&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en What is the ecumenical potential and what are the limitations of the teaching on the church in the Heidelberg Catechism 450 years after its publication? This contribution provides an analysis of the only two Questions/Answers in the HC that specifically deal with ecclesiology. It also searches for references to ministry. After comparing with other, much more elaborate expositions of the theological meaning on the church in catechisms written by members of the drafting team of the HC, the article puts the HC ecclesiology in historical perspectives and explains its conciseness on the issue. After describing more recent interpretations of the teaching of the church in the HC, the text offers a list of ecumenical potentials and limitations. <![CDATA[<b>What profit is the reign of Christ to us?</b> <b>The Heidelberg Catechism and its potential for the future</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1015-87582014000400018&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The article helps to understand the disturbing statement of the Heidelberg Catechism: "I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor." It unfolds the wide breadth of meaning of "hate" and argues that the catechism offers a deep and realistic understanding of sin. Above all, however, the Heidelberger presents an even richer meaning of "comfort", which can free from the bondage of hate and sin. The article illuminates this comfort given by Christ and His Spirit.