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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.49 no.4 Pretoria  2009


"Fides quaerens societatem": Praktiese teologie op soek na sosiale vergestalting


"Fides quaerens societatem": Practical Theology in search of social embodiment



Johan Cilliers

Fakulteit Teologie, Universiteit Stellenbosch




Hierdie artikel bied 'n kort opsomming van sommige van die eiendomlike spanninge in die teologiese vakdissipline van Praktiese Teologie, as uitvloeisel van die grondliggende spanning wat reeds deur die naam gesuggereer word, naamlik praktyk en teologie, of praktyk en teorie. Agt paradigmas waarbinne Praktiese Teologie verstaan kan word, word kortliks opgesom, te wete geloof op soek na begrip, verwoording, handeling, hoop, verbeelding, visualisering, beliggaming en sosiale vergestalting (laasgenoemde die integrerende paradigma). Die uitgangspunt is dat Praktiese Teologie op 'n hermeneutiek van sinduiding rus, wat nie as 'n nuwe vorm van klerikale of ekklesiologiese mag of beheer beskou moet word nie, maar eerder as 'n meewerkende en interaktiewe wyse om die lewe, soos wat dit in die samelewing tot uiting kom en beleef word, te dien en te verryk.

Trefwoorde: Praktiese Teologie, teorie, praxis, praktyk, paradigmas, hermeneutiek, sinduiding, samelewing, spanningsvelde, ekklesiologie, eskatologie


This article gives a brief overview of some of the characteristic tensions of the theological discipline of Practical Theology, flowing from the basic tension already suggested in the name: practice and theology, or practice and theory. It proposes that Practical Theology will by nature always be in a process of reconstruction; will remain provisional and experimental; and exists within the creative tensions of empirical research and theological conceptualisation, confession and society, core identity and interdisciplinary approaches, induction and deduction, contextualisation and tradition, the Scriptures and communication, calling (vocatio) and denomination, spirituality and academic accountability, university and denominational partners, and so forth. The article summarises eight paradigms within which Practical Theology could be understood:
Fides quaerens intellectum (faith in search of understanding): Here the intention is to understand, interpret and proclaim the revelation of God in a logical and cognitive manner, especially within an ecclesiological context. The emphasis is on teaching.
 Fides quaerens verbum (faith in search of words): This entails a narrative and non-directive approach, complemented by fitting modes of communication and discourse. The emphasis is on the act of expression.
 Fides quaerens actum (faith in search of acts): The emphasis is on stronger integration of theory and practice, liberation, transformation, and ways of effecting Practical Theology. The focus is on the development of skills.
 Fides quaerens spem (faith in search of hope): Here the emphasis is on the understanding and experience of meaning, as well as the means to foster and facilitate such understanding through the liturgy, pastoral care and preaching. The significance of eschatology plays an important role in this regard.
 Fides quaerens imaginem (faith in search of images; symbolic expression): Although not meant to oppose the abovementioned emphases, it brings a new dimension into play, namely what has been called aesthetic reason or aesthetic hermeneutics. The emphasis falls on the art of imagination and creative expression.
 Fides quaerens visum (faith in search of concrete visualisation): This is linked to the notion of aesthetics. The intention is to aid people to discern traces of God's presence by means of visual and virtual realities. In this regard, the role of modern technology (internet, mass media, and so forth) is considered.
 Fides quaerens corporalitatem (faith in search of embodiment): This is a holistic approach, with emphasis on the embodiment of humans, among others also as the "address" of revelation. Our bodies are central to what we perceive and experience, also in terms of our relationship with God. It is the prime locus of God's presence with us. This understanding of embodiment is of specific importance in Practical Theology, as it entails the notions of contextualisation, immediacy, encountering, embracement, communality, radicalisation and concreteness.
 Fides quaerens societatem (faith in search of social embodiment): This is a bridge-crossing approach, taking Practical Theology beyond its exclusively ecclesiological boundaries, striving to interact with a variety of communities (including faith communities) in order to serve and enrich these communities, but also to be served and enriched by them in a collaborative and reciprocal way.
The article suggests that Practical Theology hinges on a hermeneutics of significance, which should not be seen as a new form of clerical or ecclesiological power or control, but rather as a collaborative and reciprocal way of serving and enriching life as it is expressed and experienced in society. Whilst Practical Theology has traditionally operated within a clerical and ecclesiological paradigm, this article proposes that the space within which Practical Theology comes to fruition, should be society in the broadest sense of the word. It is within this space that the contributions of the abovementioned eight paradigms are made operational through Practical Theology of significance, in other words Practical Theology that signifies but also generates meaning. Significance forms the centre of the wheel of Practical Theology, which turns within the realms of society.

Key concepts: Practical Theology, theory, praxis, practice, paradigms, hermeneutics, significance, society, fields of tension, ecclesiology, eschatology


Full text available only in PDF format.



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1 Hierdie klem op die samelewing (societas) word onder punt 2.8 in meer besonderhede aan die orde gestel.
2 Dit is onmoontlik om hier aan die omvang van elkeen van hierdie paradigmas reg te laat geskied. Ek volstaan met 'n paar opmerkings oor elkeen, in besonder soos wat dit van toepassing is op die spesifieke fokus van hierdie artikel (vergelyk die bespreking onder punt 3). Ek gebruik die konsep "paradigma" as 'n denkraamwerk wat veranderbaar is, en in hierdie geval telkens verruim moet word deur ander paradigmas. Die paradigma van samelewing (societas) sou kon dien as 'n integrasie van die ander genoemde prakties teologiese paradigmas. Die vraagstelling van hierdie artikel hang juis saam met die tendens van praktiese teologie om (ekklesiologies) na binne gerig te wees, en die doelstelling is dan juis om 'n prakties teologiese paradigma voor te stel wat na buite, dit wil sê op die samelewing, gerig is - sonder om die ander paradigmas prys te gee. In hierdie sin is daar na my mening ook nie so 'n groot onderskeid tussen praktiese teologie en teologie nie: beide behoort transformerend en sinduidend op die samelewing gerig te wees.
3 Meer hieroor onder punt 2.8.
4 Fides quaerens actum; vergelyk ook die titel Manieren van doen, Dingemans (1996).
5 Ons keer onder punt 2.8 terug na 'n bespreking van hierdie paradigma.
6 Vergelyk verder punt 3.
7 Vergelyk die titel Dass Gott schön werde. Praktische Theologie als Theologische Ästhetik (Bohren 1975).
8 Handbuch Praktische Theologie. Hrsg. W. Grab und B. Weyel. München: Gütersloher Verlagshaus (2007).



Johan Cilliers het sy teologiese opleiding aan die Fakulteit Teologie, Universiteit Stellenbosch, asook die Karl Rupprecht-universiteit in Heidelberg, Duitsland, ontvang. Hy is tans mede-professor in Homiletiek en Liturgiek in die Departement Praktiese Teologie en Missiologie, Fakulteit Teologie, Universiteit Stellenbosch. Hy dien as voorsitter van die Prakties-Teologiese Werksgemeenskap van Suid-Afrika, asook die vise-president van die Societas Homiletica (die internasionale vereniging vir Homiletiek). Sy werk sluit lesings aan die Universiteit van Umeå in Swede, asook die Humboldt-universiteit in Duitsland, sowel as agt akademiese boeke, onder andere oor prediking, liturgie en estetika, in.

Johan Cilliers received his theological training at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, as well as the Karl Rupprecht University in Heidelberg, Germany. Currently he is Associate Professor in Homiletics and Liturgy in the Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University. He also serves as Chairperson of the Society for Practical Theology in South Africa, as well as Vice-President of the Societas Homiletica (the international society for Homiletics). His work includes lectures at the University of Umeå in Sweden, and the Humboldt University in Germany, as well as eight academic books on preaching, liturgy and aesthetics among others.

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