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HTS Theological Studies

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

Herv. teol. stud. vol.73 n.3 Pretoria  2017






'Are we special?' In response to this question, Christian theology has traditionally sought comfort in the notion that humanity is created in the image of God. In light of modern scientific knowledge, is this self-understanding still feasible? Are there different ways in which imago Dei can be understood? Is it possible for imago Dei to be both grounded in its Christian heritage, while also being helpful in the science and religion conversation? This article critically examines the notion of imago Dei and proposes an interpretation that could be credible and acceptable to both science and Christian anthropology.




The aim of this article is to address the following research question: 'How are human beings special when considering the doctrine of imago Dei in light of contemporary scientific knowledge?' This article argues that human distinctiveness is not embedded in an understanding of imago Dei, which elevates humanity above the rest of creation, but gleaning from science, it proposes a theological approach which emphasises the uniqueness in our ability to consciously and deliberately strive towards a more naturally integrated existence.

A recent conference of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) asked the following question pertaining to humankind: 'Are we special?' (European Society for the Study of Science and Theology 2016). With this enquiry, perspectives from science and religion considered the notion of human uniqueness. The complexity of this question became apparent as participants offered arguments, ranging from how human beings are peculiar at a molecular level, to the distinctiveness of life (and more specifically human life) in the context of the universe.

Considering this question from a theological perspective, the traditional Christian anthropological doctrine of imago Dei played a prominent role in discussions. It could be argued that this pronouncement, rooted in scripture, is fundamental to Christian self-understanding. Thus, this possibility: in a reductionist reading of Christian doctrine, humanity 'being special' is at the heart of humankind's place in the realm of creation, the reason for God entering into covenants with humanity, and is one of the precursors for the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question of imago Dei's influence on the major Christian doctrines will not to be considered in this article. Nonetheless, given the above-mentioned possibility, it is permissible to conclude that humanity occupies a central cosmological position in a Christian doctrinal worldview.

Needless to say, to the natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology, the argument of human cosmological centrality is preposterous. Not only does Christian theology base its definition of human identity (and need for divine action) on the premise of a few verses in the Bible (predominantly Gn 1:26-28), but as Dawkins1 argues ' Adam [and Eve]2 never existed in the first place: an awkward fact ' (Dawkins 2006). He further taunts Christian doctrine by stating:

Oh, but of course, the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn't it? Symbolic? So, in order to impress himself, Jesus had himself tortured and executed, in vicarious punishment for a symbolic sin committed by a non-existent individual? (p. 253)

In addition, the following questions could be asked: who told humanity that they were created in God's image? Did God say that? If so, who was there to hear what God said before humanity was created? Wasn't the Bible written by human beings (obviously biased in their reflection), locked in particular contexts with the aim of conveying messages which were relevant to their worldview, situation and theology? Is imago Dei nothing more than an inflated, self-appropriated notion, addressing the question of human identity using theological and cosmological understandings of a particular time, culture and context? Is it responsible for shaping not only modern theology but worldview, ethics, economic sciences, politics, efforts in conservation, and the list goes on?

Imago Dei, vis-à-vis the natural sciences, is problematic on several fronts. The mere suggestion of being specifically and intentionally 'created' by an intelligent and causal God, with the purpose of appointing humanity as God's co-creators and stewards of the 'created' realm, seems from the view of evolutionary biology to be rather arrogant and ignorant. The challenge to imago Dei remains that despite this purist perspective of self, humanity is the greatest contributor to the current negative outlook on climate change, the destruction of natural resources and the threat to varied species of life. So much for being in God's image or could one argue that the gods of hedonism, self-focussed power and exploitative wealth would demand exactly such destructive behaviour?


What do we make of the Biblical teaching of imago Dei?

Traditionally, Genesis 1:28-29 has been a pivotal text in defining human uniqueness. As De Smedt and De Cruz correctly assert, 'Scripture does not provide clear specifications on how the imago Dei should be understood. As a result, theologians have developed a wide variety of interpretations of this concept ' (De Smedt & De Cruz 2014:136). By and large, imago Dei has been used to refer to the ' affirmation of human dignity and pre-eminence over the rest of creation' (Altmann 1968:235). This is, however, not always the case.

In his publication, Alone in the world: Human uniqueness in science and theology, Van Huyssteen points out that imago Dei should not be exclusively limited to a reading of Genesis 1 (Van Huyssteen 2006:118). The risk of doing so leads to an interpretation that human beings occupy an elevated and rather 'relationally dislocated' position in the world. In fact, to only refer to Genesis 1 when speaking about imago Dei is doing a philosophical disservice to this complex notion. Van Huyssteen draws on three Biblical images that together give a more comprehensive human self-understanding. In doing so, imago Dei could be reinterpreted to point to the unfolding of human self-understanding, and not a pronouncement which seemingly places the spotlight on humanity as the pinnacle of God's creation. Van Huyssteen describes the progression in the Biblical image as follows.

Beings amongst beings: Genesis 1:26-28

As the most commonly used text for expounding the idea of imago Dei, this passage describes humanity, both male and female, as created in God's image and likeness. A literal reading would of course suggest a human superiority over the rest of creation, but when read in its historical context, it suggests something different. Genesis 1, written as a response to Enuma Elish,3 draws from Egyptian and Mesopotamian understandings of a king or social leader as being God's representative (Fergusson 2013:455; Van Huyssteen 2006:118-120) and places humanity as beings amongst beings who represent God in the created order (Van Huyssteen 2006:118-123). In this proclamation of being created in God's likeness, humanity is given the position of being the point of contact between God and creation. Not only are the first people given this right, but it is a privilege extended to all humans in the Covenant which God made with Noah and his family (Gn 9:1-7) (Van Huyssteen 2006:120). The passage further alludes to humanity's role in exercising dominion over creation, hence fulfilling its role as God's representatives by maintaining order and balance in creation. On this point, Van Huyssteen concludes that this passage intends to say little about where humans come from but rather reflects something about our nature as responsible participants and co-habitants in God's created order (Van Huyssteen 2006:128).

Knowledge of good and evil: Genesis 3:22

Where Genesis 1 points to the positive and affirming description of humankind, this passage points to the other side of the coin. Humanity, created in God's image, is able to distinguish between good and evil (Van Huyssteen 2006:123). This ability may not seem like a bad thing at first, but we get to know in Genesis 3 that it becomes the precursor for human rebellion against God, replacing divine authority with what humanity itself decides to be good and right. Obviously, from a Biblical perspective, this image carries negative connotations. However, scholars such as Vainio point to this feature of imago Dei as marking the difference between humanity and all other creatures, for humanity exhibits the capacity for rationality - associated with Van Huyssteen's first point - and the capacity to be morally responsible (Vainio 2014:126).

Agents of restoration: 1 Corinthians 15:45

In this and subsequent images, such as that found in Colossians 1:15, imago Dei is described in Christological terms (Van Huyssteen 2006:124). Jesus is described as the Second Adam, the one in whom the completeness of the imago Dei is fulfilled. Salvation entails being restored into the image of Christ, who himself is the imago Dei, extending God's image to all who respond to God's grace in faith.

The Biblical progression of imago Dei, in accordance with Van Huyssteen's interpretation, can thus be summarised in the following points:

1. Human beings act as beings amongst beings, with the purpose of maintaining life and order in the world (employing rationality and functional awareness).

2. Human beings are able to distinguish between good and evil (moral awareness).

3. Human beings strive for ideal existential identity ([self-]actualisation).4

From these three points, one could argue that imago Dei makes sense from the perspective of human psychology, by defining self in the context of a broader world. But it is still problematic when read from biological and cosmological perspectives.


The anthropological dilemma of imago Dei

A prominent problem with using the Biblical model of imago Dei when addressing the contemporary question of human distinctiveness, is that we are working with a text that is locked in a 3-tier cosmology, undergirded by strong anthropocentrism (Bentley 2016:2). Such a foundation does not, for instance, address the questions of humanity as raised by evolutionary biology. At face value, the first creation narrative, as Lamoureux argues, should be read as a creatio de novo (Lamoureux 2011), already a view contrary to what is offered by modern cosmologies and biology. Any sensible engagement with scripture therefore has to first make allowance for the Biblical account of creation to be a source written by authors who did not have our knowledge and understanding of either cosmology or biology.

For instance, if we were to read Genesis 1 using our most recent knowledge of cosmology and evolutionary biology, we will find that it presents a rather flat and static image of humans and human history. To point to the 'first humans' and ascribe to them the identity of being in the image of God, raises complex questions: Biologically speaking, who were the first humans? Are we speaking about the first Homo sapiens, or can we include other hominids as well? Humans form part of the evolutionary history of the world, so exactly how far do we go back in human evolutionary history to pinpoint who the 'first humans' were? (De Smedt & De Cruz 2014:136). If evolutionary biology were to seek a meeting point with the Biblical 'first humans', it might find a compromise by narrowing the field and suggesting that the 'first humans' were those hominids who revealed a capacity for rationality, moral awareness, and (self-)actualisation - to draw on Van Huyssteen's model.

But even this argument is contested as human beings cannot claim to be the sole custodians of these attributes. On the question of rationality, Vainio argues that our ability for decision-making is not so different from that of other animals (Vainio 2014:127). In a study by Kate Osto, it was shown that even the domesticated dog has the ability to ' successfully adapt to the environment at times when environmental information is absent' (Osto 2010:137) and is able to be ' fixed upon a rational course of action by employing processes that have in the past reliably led to successful actions ' (Osto 2010:137). In fact, as Stanovich argues, humans show a high prevalence for violating the axioms of rational choice, making humans ' [sometimes] less rational than other animals' (Stanovich 2013). Is the imago Dei then really enclosed in humans, with the assumption that humans have a monopoly on rationality?

Similarly, animals also display a sense of justice (De Smedt & De Cruz 2014:143) and compassion (De Smedt & De Cruz 2014:147) making the human ability of distinguishing between good and evil not quite as specie-unique as we thought. Of course the notions of 'good' and 'evil' are hard to define. When human beings observe animals, we need to concede that what we witness in animal behaviour is largely influenced by our own constructs of these terms.5 Nonetheless, the work of Frans de Waal is of great significance in determining whether human beings are the only species on the planet with some form of moral consciousness. De Waal's studies suggest that rather than humanity 'discovering' its ability for distinguishing between good and evil through the truths conveyed in the mythological explanation of Genesis 3, the basic tenets of morality can be seen as part of evolutionary processes (De Waal 2009a). Notions such as altruism (De Waal 2008), empathy (De Waal 2009b), and forgiveness and consolation (De Waal & Van Roosmalen 1979) are part and parcel of species considering the effect of behaviour and do not necessarily point to internal motivation for such behaviour (De Waal 2008:280). In other words, according to De Waal, from the perspective of evolutionary biology, 'moral' behaviour is 'learnt' behaviour which has proven beneficial to a group or species. Internal motivation is secondary to this. If internal motivation is viewed as primary (as suggested by psychology and theology), one has to set aside any suggestion of evolutionary theory. For theology to ask questions such as 'what is a good life?', 'who is a good person?' or 'what does an evil person look like?' shows that theology may not have sufficiently wrestled with the supposition of effect but is rather fixated on the internal motivation/ability of an individual person to do good or evil. It then further uses images of God to the same effect, suggesting that God sets aside 'morality' as evolutionary process and, by focusing exclusively on 'morality' as internal motivation/ability, pronounces eternal judgment on the individual, either welcoming them to heaven or sending them to hell. This approach blurs the lines for an exclusivist approach to moral consciousness, once again placing a question mark over the assertion that imago Dei is found in the unique ability of human beings to distinguish between good and evil.

Regarding (self-)actualisation, isn't this the point of evolutionary theory that all life forms part of a process where refinements are continually underway to ensure the success and survival of a species? At times, the progress of one species results in the destruction of another, which suggests that in evolutionary biology we cannot speak of a self-actualising world (where all species eventually reach their pinnacle, resulting in the establishment of a Utopian world), but that in the world there are competing processes of self-actualisation. These processes are not only between species but also between individual organisms, ensuring that life is and always will be in a state of flux. From a theological perspective, imago Dei complicates matters. In striving towards (self-)actualisation, is humanity moving away from imago Dei (if imago Dei is the starting point of human existential reality, then a refining process may mean that we are becoming increasingly different from where we began), or are we moving towards imago Dei (towards the eschatological point of what it means to be human)? Back to our first question: Are we special? Considering the dilemma of imago Dei, can we then conclude that we are becoming less and less special, or are we growing in distinctiveness?

Irrespective of how we deal with these questions, we discover that we have so far declared our theological blind spot: we treat imago Dei as a fixed notion, as if we know what it is as if we know what God looks like. Perhaps, when referring to imago Dei, we should be honest about our assumptions and rather truthfully refer to 'Homo imago Dei', as Altman suggests (Altmann 1968). There needs to be an admission that we cannot view humanity as a direct form of divine self-revelation or that human distinctiveness as espoused by the doctrine of imago Dei should imply that we ignore aspects of life that we share with other species; aspects that we have used as a licence to think that we are more special than any other living organism. Instead, when referring to imago Dei, humanity can at best be an image of an image - even our image of the divine. Is there then another way in which we can speak of human distinctiveness and imago Dei?


Imago Dei and deep incarnation

In the discussion on theology and evolutionary biology, the work of the Danish theologian, Niels H. Gregersen, plays an important role. Gregersen's theological starting point is Christology, proposing that when we speak about the Incarnation of Christ, we need to extend our theological framework to what he terms 'Deep Incarnation' (Gregersen 2001).

Deep Incarnation offers the following theological perspective: Divine Incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ is not only to be interpreted as God manifest in the body of a human being, but that the Incarnation points to God's presence in, and association with ' the whole malleable matrix of materiality' (Gregersen 2010:176, 181-183; Bentley 2016), including all evolutionary progress and processes. Deep Incarnation takes seriously the fact that humanity itself is a product of evolutionary history, and hence the term 'humanity' encapsulates an entire developmental history with all its pains and brokenness. While religions such as Christianity often err on the side of strong anthropocentrism, Gregersen also warns that one should be sceptical of a resacralising of nature, for such a Deep Ecology or ecocentrism ' does not allow for distinguishing between different levels of nature' (Gregersen 2010:177-178). To the question, 'Are we special?', Ecocentrism would argue that all life is special. If all life is special, then what is special about life?

No one would argue about the sanctity of life; indeed, all life is special, but perhaps the question we should ask is not 'Are we special?', but rather 'How or why are we special?' Gregersen argues that in the context of the specialness of all life, the Christian faith teaches that in Jesus Christ, ' God appears as a human person' (Gregersen 2013b:252). The full-stop is nevertheless not placed here (for it would suggest an elevation of humanity over all other forms of life). Instead, a comma: God appears as a human person, but more so, as ' an incarnation into the very tissue of biological existence, and systems of nature' (Gregersen 2001:205).

Isn't this where we are missing the point about imago Dei, that imago Dei is not about making humanity distinct (in a disconnected sense) from the rest of creation, but exactly the opposite? Gregersen phrases this point in the following way: 'The particular entails the universal (not the other way around)' (Gregersen 2013a:383). In other words, Christian theology cannot think that the whole universe came into being so that humanity could be put on a pedestal. This is where Christian doctrine loses the scientific audience.6 At the same time, human life cannot be trivialised as simply another form of life, for this is where the scientific community loses its Christian audience.

Human beings are part and parcel of creation; perhaps humanity's recognition of its role and place in a greater context points to the meaning of the ever-elusive imago Dei. Being in the image of God does not separate human beings from the physical world, but instead grounds human beings to an existential reality which does not trivialise life in favour of a glorious hereafter. Van Huyssteen, reflecting on the work by Jensen, suggests the following: 'Ultimately it is in love, then, that we find the true imago Dei, thus weaving together all the historical components of the history of ideas behind this powerful symbol' (Van Huyssteen 2006:147).

Love acts as pointer to the imago Dei. We cannot suggest that love is the imago Dei, for this would confine the essence of the Divine to the definitions and interpretations of finite beings, who observe their place in the universe from a very limited perspective in time and space. Other terms are needed to flesh out this notion. Relationship, mutuality, process and interdependence are words that come to mind. Moltmann refers to another, namely, Shekinah (Moltmann 1996:317-319). Symbolically, in the first creation narrative (Gn 1), humanity is not seen as the pinnacle of creation, but the Sabbath (Moltmann 1985:6), the Shekinah, being the dwelling of God with(in) the fullness of creation. It is this 'indwelling' that Moltmann describes as 'Divine eschatology' (Moltmann 1996:317).

Herewith the proposal: God is not divorced from creation; life, in all its complexity, is mysterious and distinct. The image of God is reflected throughout the progress and processes of creation, encapsulating all its relationships, mutuality and interdependence. Human beings form part of this creation. As embodied beings, the image of God is reflected in humanity (as God comes as a human), personifying the nature of God's being through the broad strokes of love. It would then be no wonder that the law is summarised as 'Love for God, and love for neighbour as one loves yourself'. Neighbour in this sense is not limited to fellow human beings but extends to all of nature, including the evolutionary family which has preceded us and that which is to come. Imago Dei (perhaps more of a verb than a noun) is the participation in the interconnectedness of life, past, present and future, celebrating in the here and now that I am a human being.



To answer the question 'Are we special?', one has to revert to an ambivalent answer: a 'No' and a 'Yes'. If 'special' means that we see ourselves as disconnected, elevated and superior to all other forms of life, including life at different evolutionary stages, then 'No'. Science tells us that in the evolutionary history of the world we are but one species on a small speck of cosmic dust, called the earth. We have evolved, and we will grow extinct. In the meantime, we will grow and adapt and perhaps be replaced by other hominid species. Furthermore, even our genetic make-up points to our inter-relatedness with the rest of creation. Theologically, the notions of superiority and elevation are equally preposterous (Van Huyssteen 2006:152). Such a 'specialness' will not participate in life but will be a cause for its destruction.

If 'special' means that we see ourselves as connected and integrated, sharing in this experience of life, then 'Yes'. The distinctiveness of life, specifically human life, is scientifically remarkable. For the complexity of life to have evolved to the point where we are (even being able to leave our natural habitat and explore the vastness of the universe) is unequalled (as far as we know). From a theological perspective, the role of humanity as a participant and a responsible caretaker in the world is at the crux of what it means to grow in the image of God (Van Huyssteen 2006:154-155).

The point of contact for science and religion, when it comes to the question of human distinctiveness, would be therefore the understanding that human beings are not elevated or separated in their distinctiveness from the rest of creation, but that there is something special about participating as human beings in the progress and processes of life.



Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.



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Bentley, W., 2016, 'Re-visiting the notion of Deep Incarnation in light of 1 Corinthians 15:28 and emergence theory', HTS Theological Studies 72(4), 1-8.        [ Links ]

Dawkins, R., 2006, The God delusion, Bantam Press, London.         [ Links ]

De Smedt, J. & De Cruz, H., 2014, 'The imago Dei as a work in progress: A perspective from paleoanthropology', Zygon 49(1), 135-156.        [ Links ]

De Waal, F.B.M., 2008, 'Putting the altruism back into altruism: The evolution of empathy', Annual Review of Psychology 59(1), 279-300.        [ Links ]

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Wessel Bentley

Received: 13 Feb. 2017
Accepted: 08 May 2017
Published: 26 June 2017



1 The author acknowledges and emphasises that Dawkins and the 'New Atheists' do not represent the entire scientific community's views. The reason for including Dawkins in this discussion is to point out that Christian doctrine is sometimes criticised for being ill-informed and that it has lost touch with contemporary knowledge systems.
2 My own addition.
3 Enuma Elish is the Babylonian creation narrative, which suggests that the cosmos is a result of a primordial conflict between the Babylonian deities. Humanity, in the unfolding of the narrative, is created to act as 'slaves' to the gods. The Genesis 1 counter-narrative contests this oppressive creative purpose and instead posits a narrative of human dignity and creative functional cooperation with the God of the people of Judah.
4 Maslow uses the term self-actualisation (Maslow 1943:382). In the context of this article I place the 'self' in brackets, as Christian theology argues that in the order of salvation, it is not human beings who are able to reach an ideal state using their own ability, but that divine action and agency is required to achieve this sense of wholeness.
5 The imposition of norms and values across species may also be inconsistent. As human beings, we deplore xenophobia, yet, when we observe an ant colony (A) and witness how an ant from a different colony (B) is brutally killed when it strays into their territory, we do not denounce such behaviour as being xenophobic or evil. It would be nonsensical to inform colony A of the provisions made for the protection of asylum seekers as outlined in the Geneva Convention. In the same vein we also err on the other side; it is very tempting to attribute human associations with emotions such as affection and love when we witness a baboon grooming her baby. Is there then truly a universal 'good' and 'evil' which spans beyond species? This question can be explored in a separate article.
6 The juxta-positioning of Christian and scientific communities in this paragraph is an oversimplification and generalisation. It simply serves to point out the difference in worldviews expressed by these two groups.

^rND^sAltmann^nA.^rND^sBentley^nW.^rND^sDe Smedt^nJ.^rND^sDe Cruz^nH.^rND^sDe Waal^nF.B.M.^rND^sDe Waal^nF.B.M.^rND^sVan Roosmalen^nA.^rND^sFergusson^nD.^rND^sGregersen^nN.H.^rND^sGregersen^nN.H.^rND^sGregersen^nN.H.^rND^sGregersen^nN.H^rND^sLamoureux^nD.O.^rND^sMaslow^nA.H.^rND^sMoritz^nJ.M.^rND^sOsto^nK.^rND^sStanovich^nK.E.^rND^sVainio^nO.P.^rND^1A01^nJones U.^sOdili^rND^1A02^nElizabeth^sLawson-Jack^rND^1A01^nJones U.^sOdili^rND^1A02^nElizabeth^sLawson-Jack^rND^1A01^nJones U^sOdili^rND^1A02^nElizabeth^sLawson-Jack



St Luke's Anglican Church in Ikwerreland, Nigeria (1904-2014)



Jones U. OdiliI; Elizabeth Lawson-JackII

IDepartment of Religious and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
IIRivers State College of Arts and Science, Nigeria





Over the decades, there has been a paradigm shift in interests, approaches and methods in African Christian Historiography. There is a need for a circumscribed study and documentation of people's engagement and involvements in the Church in Africa. This study illuminates the roles lay agents play in the advent, growth and development of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu. Using the historical and sociological methods of inquiry into a religious phenomenon, this study reveals that about two-thirds of the indigenes of Rumuadaolu are Anglicans. This is because of the amiable activities of lay agents in that community. This study in addition to providing an in-depth documentation of the history of St Luke's Anglican Church points out gray areas that the church authority and members of the St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu community are to note and effect necessary changes if the St Luke's Anglican Church has to fulfil her divine mission in Rumuadaolu. Members of the church, St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu community and scholars who wish to have a complete view of the turn of events in African Christian historiography would find this study very important.




The study of religions covers a wide range of interests, approaches and methods that complement each other. Over the decades, there has been a shift in such interests, approaches and methods in the study of a religious phenomenon. There were many ways, for instance, of doing church history. These include the institutional, missionary and nationalist historiographies. The paradigm shift on African Christian historiography no longer focuses on what Western missionaries did and did not do. The contemporary history of the Church in Africa focuses on the roles Africans and African communities play in carrying out the Great Commission in their various communities. Consequently, this study is poised to address a number of issues that bother on the problems of the place of lay agents in the advent, growth and development of St Luke's Anglican Church in Rumuadaolu. What were the initial bottlenecks the lay agents faced in the planting of the Anglican churches in their community? What efforts have they put so far to promote Anglicanism in their community? What developmental impacts has the church made in the community? What efforts have the female folks contributed to the development of the Anglican Church in Rumuadaolu community? This study therefore intends to illuminate the roles lay agents have played in the development of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu.


Rumuadaolu: A socio-religious overview

Rumuadaolu community is part of the Ikwerre ethnic group. They inhabit the northeastern part of the Niger Delta in the present Rivers State of Nigeria. According to Amadi (1993:34-38), the Ikwerre occupy a unique position on 'a frontier society, a geographical, economic and cultural crossroads between the peoples of Igbo hinterland to the North and the Niger Delta communities in the South'. Put in terms of longitude and latitude, Rumuadaolu community lies between longitude 6:4 and 7 ° East and latitude 4 °45 and 5 °15 north. The language spoken is Ikwerre, a cluster of Igbo and Ogbah or 'Igboid' of the Benue-Congo linguistic group. Historically, Rumuadaolu like other Ikwerre people are predominantly farmers, and even today the economy continues to depend on its production of yam, cassava, maize, palm oil, cocoyam, garri, plantain, banana, vegetables and other agricultural products. There are also those who are engaged in fishing activities, especially those communities located along the coastlines of the Sombrero and the New Calabar Rivers. The principal town is 'Igwuocha' (or Port Harcourt), accessible from air, land and sea. Migrant workers from other parts of the country have made Port Harcourt a cosmopolitan city. This interaction of both the rural and urban life is part of what makes Ikwerre unique.

The dynamics of Rumuadaolu indigenous society show that it is decentralised and segmental. The absence of any centralised authority does not suppose the absence of leadership. The Rumuadaolu are held together by a pervading influence of kinship and religious ties (Wobasi 1993:51). A more apt description is that Rumuadaolu is an indigenous democratic society. Specifically, in Rumuadaolu, the principal structures of social living are built around the family (ezi-nuoro), compound (rununda), village (ngbu) and the clan (mbam). The heads of various households (ezi-nu-oro) discuss the affairs of the units at the sub-lineage, lineage and village levels. At this level, every male adult (rumunda) is directly involved in the affairs of the group. The head of sub-lineage or lineages (nye-vu- oro) presides over the affairs of the group. He is also the custodian of the sacred owho, nu-ogwu (the symbol of justice and fair play) and mediates between the group and the ancestors (rukani). Issues such as marital cases, farmlands, customs and rituals are discussed in this group.

The indigenous Rumuadaolu community is dominated by religion. There is no distinction between the sacred and profane in Rumuadaolu worldview, rather both complement each other. The ontological structure of the Rumuadaolu world has five categories and this is hierarchically controlled. At the apex is the Supreme Being, who is called Chiokike. He is neither a 'loan' God nor a being introduced by the missionaries as held by some Western notions (Aderibigbe 2001:148). Beside Chiokike are local deities called renwu. There is also the belief in spirits (rumu-renwu), which inhabit natural objects and which are personified and religiously manipulated by sacrifices, prayer, et cetera. Then there is the cult of the ancestors, known as rukani and the belief in medicine and magic. In fact, every activity of theirs is rooted in religion. It is this deep-rootedness in religion that Wotogbe-Weneka (1990:59-60) has in mind when he asserts: ' every Ikwerre man at the core of his being thinks traditional, behaves traditional, and lives traditional'. Rumuadaolu ontology can be represented graphically in five concentric circles. At the outer shelf is Chiokike, the creator God. Next to him are the divinities. Then there is the cult of ancestors, who attract food and drinks from man. And then we have the religious specialists, and man at the centre.


Scholarly writings on Anglicanism in Ikwerreland

It is pertinent to mention that although some of the Christian churches in Ikwerreland include the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Churches, the Methodist Churches and African Instituted Churches and Pentecostal Churches, our focus in this section is on Anglican Churches. Several scholars have written on the subject of Anglicanism. They have discussed the origin of Anglicanism (Neill 1977), its administrative structure (Paul 1980), its source of doctrine (Holloway 1986), the social status and challenges of the Anglican Minister (Towler 1969), its beliefs (Obilo n.d.) and the changes going on in the church (Ashton 1988). Several others have written on the church in Nigeria (Daudu & Gbule 2000; Gbule 2011), drawing attention to the diffusion of Anglicanism in Ikwerreland (Epelle 1955; Onu 2005).

Epelle (1955) attempted to adduce reasons for the uncertainty of the exact date that Christianity was introduced into Ikwerreland. He has adduced several reasons for this, which range from Ikwerre non-engagement in the slave trade like other coastal communities and the absence of a central authority in Ikwerre, which would have provided a rallying point to the disinterest shown by the missionary bodies to evangelise the area. It is pertinent to state that in spite of the relevance of these factors, missionary expansion in Nigeria, and indeed, Ikwerreland, was influenced by ecology. In fact, there is a strong relationship between the Church historiography of an area and its geography. Much of Ikwerreland lies outside the coastline and the early missionaries that came to Nigeria used the sea routes when they discovered that the Muslims had captured the trans-Saharan land routes. Kalu (2000) had asserted that 'the geographical location of a place was crucial for its church history'. Ikwerreland is not bounded by the Atlantic Ocean; it will require a number of expeditions before any access could be gained. Accessibility is a factor important in the church histories of communities; those communities located on the water front came into earlier and consistent contact with external change agents, while those in the hinterland made late contacts. The result of such contacts paid huge dividends; schools, medical facilities, charitable institutions, material goods and diplomatic and military presence. The Coastal towns became commercials hubs and indigenous people became middlemen in trade with the hinterlands. On the Niger Delta, the wealth of Brass produced beautiful church buildings; hence, many invitations for missionaries (Kalu 1978:316; as cited in Gbule 2011:115).

Gbule (2011) maintains that a survey of the pattern of accession of Anglicanism into Ikwerreland would reveal that while those communities close to the coastal towns of Bonny, Kalabari and Okirika received the Anglican faith from the conversion experiences of itinerant fishermen and traders, other parts of Ikwerre, especially those located in the hinterlands, received Anglicanism as a result of the internal metamorphosis from either the Baptist Church or the United Native African Church, which were formed as an aftermath of the disagreements between James Johnson and the CMS Anglican Mission in the late 1890s. All said, the spread of Anglican Churches in Ikwerreland is best treated by culture area or clan by clan (Onu 2005). This does not suggest that the Church started from a particular Ikwerre town and spread to other towns and villages. Such an evangelistic drive was rare in the formative years of Anglicanism in Ikwerreland. In most cases, the establishment of each Church in each town or village was independent of each other. Much of the studies on the diffusion of Anglicanism in Ikwerreland reveal that the establishment of Anglican Churches in that land was due to a number of factors: the invitation of noble patrons and chiefs, contact with iterant fishermen and traders, the quest for the establishment of schools, healing experiences, rivalry between Christian denominations, et cetera.


Origin and growth of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu

Much of the information on the origin of St Luke's Anglican Church Rumuadaolu is obtained from the Service Programme for the Episcopal Visit of his Grace, the Most Rev. I.C.O. Kattey, JP, for the Foundation laying of the new church Building and dedication of the new fence and gate. Records from the Service Programme show that through the concerted efforts of Late Abraham Wichelaru Ekani Nwagwu and some others from Rumuadaolu and Rurnuola who were worshipping at Elikahia in Rebisi, Christian mode of worship was introduced to Rumuadaolu community in 1904. These early believers from Rumuola and Rumuadaolu with the spirit of oneness sited their first place of worship in 1908 where the Rumunike family presently lives.

Because of the increase in the number of worshippers, they sought for a more spacious area in 1913 and relocated to where the Island Stores and Blazier Plaza are presently located. This new site accommodated the church burial ground, the church building, the teacher's/Catechist's house and other workers' houses. These structures constructed with mud/clay were provided through direct labour from the two communities as they were working in one spirit. In 1920, Late Elder Paul Worlu Nwagwu was one of those who embraced Christianity. The first church building as mentioned earlier was built, by Rumuola and Rumuadaolu communities with the name St Andrew's Church, Rumuola in 1922.

Up until 1945 the place of worship was still at a temporary place which was not accommodating the worshipers adequately and the catechist residing at another site gave the church members the concern for construction of a new church building. As the Rumuadaolu town council noticed this need, the community council formed and inaugurated the church building committee with Chief F. O. Amadi, the then chairman of the community council as the pioneer chairman of that committee in 1947. He had Mr Emerson A. Emenike and Uche E. Amadi as Vice Chairman and Secretary, respectively. The Chairman engaged the services of Okwosa Engineering Company Limited to supervise the construction work of the church building up to the levelling stage. The chairman, Chief I.O. Amadi, donated the materials needed for the foundation work. The Chairman together with Elder Isaiah O. Atuzie and Azirinuotu Women Associations also donated 1000 blocks each for commencement.

It was within the period of 1945 and 1987 that some of the leaders and founding fathers, Joshua P. Nwagwu and Chief Marcus N. Amadi died. In order to quicken work on the Church building, the community organised many internal launchings and one open launching on 04 September 1993, organised by the committee Chairman Mr Ferguson A. Amadi with Steve E. Amadi as the Committee Secretary. Nda Aguma was the chairman of the occasion while Hon. A.V. Atuzie was the Chief launcher. Its proceeds enhanced the building project greatly. The 1993/94 building committee Chairman and Secretary F.I. Wagwu and Steven F. Amadi, respectively, did a great job by completing the levelling of the Church building and the tower. With the (1994) harvest proceeds of which Hon. A.V. Atuzie was the chairman and with the roofing zinc donated by the Rumuomarunma family, the 1995 building committee chairman W.B. Emeto roofed the church. The Rumuomarunma family also donated additional land space for church expansion. This gesture was made possible through the endorsement and support of Late Elder D.W. Atuzie (Nyeweeli Rumuadaolu) as at that time, the eldest in Rumuadaolu.

The harvest committee chairman for 1995, Stanley I. Amadi, Mr Emerson A. Emenike, Azirinuotu Women Meeting and others resolved that that year's harvest must take place at the new site of the Church; the Azirinuotu meeting embarked on the flooring of the church building. That year's harvest actually took place at the permanent site on 26 November 1995 after a temporary commission performed by Ven. (Dr) E.C. Ogwo, the then Archdeacon of Port Harcourt Archdeaconry by the order of his Lordship Rt. Rev. S.O. Elenwo. On 23 November 1995, the Diocesan Board meeting while sitting considered an application dated 04 November, 1989 for granting the Church parish status. The Parish so granted was inaugurated on 26 November 1999 by his Lordship RT. Rev. S.O. Elenwo (JP).

Since April 1952 when the Niger Delta Diocese was inaugurated, planting and expansion of churches has always retained a prominent position as a cardinal objective of the Anglican communion. This no doubt is in direct response to the blessing of increase in the population of Christians of Anglican faith. St Luke's Anglican Church happens to be a beneficiary of this programme. It all began when Rev. Charles Okoro was posted to St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu Parish in 2012. He brought the idea of church expansion considering the increase in number of parishioners, the children section and the fact that all the churches within the vicinity are wearing a new look.

The need to sustain this effort led to his initiating of 'Project Offering' every third Sunday of the month to raise funds for building of the church. With these 'Project Offerings', they were able to mould over 10 000 blocks and some rods were purchased. During the era of Rev. C. Okoro, the commencement of the fencing of the church building was approved by his Grace, Most Rev. I.C., O. Kattey (JP). In January 2014, Rev. Charles Okoro was posted to St Stephen's Anglican Church, Atode Parish, Eleme. In the same month, Rev. Abuoma Samuel E. was posted to take over precisely on 08 January 2014. The architect after due consultation with the vicar and P.C.C. of the church reviewed and saw the need for a modification of the formal church building plan into a 21st century edifice befitting the congregation of God Almighty. The modification plan was also approved by his Grace, Most Rev. Ignatius Kattey. Immediately, under the supervision of Rev. Abuoma Samuel E. and the works committee, headed by Arch. Habinuchi Emeto, the plan swung into action and the foundation for the expansion of this magnificent ultra-modern church edifice was dug on 07 September 2014 and to date work has not stopped.


Impact of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu

Every institution leaves a mark in the society. It may be positive or negative. St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu is no exception to the rule. A preview of the origin of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu shows or proves to the community that the church started like a mustard seed in the beginning and as time went on during the period of this research work, there is an observation in the community that the church has grown like a mighty tree and touched the lives of people in Rumuadaolu today. In light of the above, in this section we shall be examining the impact of St Luke's Anglican Church on the Rumuadaolu community.

From the beginning of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu, the religio-cultural impact permeates the whole endeavour of the church in the community. The church's effort is for the people of Rumuadaolu to know God like the 'white men'. The church is remembered for the moral and spiritual influence it exerts in the society. The work of the St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu resulted in the decline of the local deities, which were believed to be custodians of morality in Rumuadaolu. In order to encourage members to cultivate higher ideals and higher standards of morality, it then became necessary for St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu to envelop or introduce a number of associations to enhance the spirituality of the men, women, youth and children in the community (G.H. Nweke, [Rumuadaolu] pers. comm., 12 January 2015).

St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu is not against culture but frowns at those aspects of culture that work against human development in Rumuadaolu. There are two aspects of socio-cultural impact: positive and negative impacts. First and foremost, St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu brought a new pattern of life and worship to the converts and people of Rumuadaolu. In the aspect of new cultures and civilisation in the community, they added a new dimension to the cultural heritage of the people in Rumuadaolu. Community activities such as the new yam festival have turned to annual church harvests. The use of charms, amulets, concoctions and rituals by 'Dibias' to fortify the masquerade-dancers and their families are now minimised in the community (E.S. Amadi, [St. Luke's Anglican Church Rumuadaolu] pers. comm., 15 May 2015). Again, the practice of libation and sacrifices to the divinities and ancestors in the open places has declined in the Rumuadaolu Community. Most social gatherings are usually commenced with prayers offered to the Christian God. There are, however, some, though very few, who still pour libations. Those in this category are mostly the elderly ones.

Some of the positive changes observed in Rumuadaolu today are the result of the advent of the Anglican Church that saw the anti-Christian practices as activities that do not give glory to God. It is worthy of note to state that the Anglican Church in Rumuadaolu introduced Western education in that community. The formal education given to children was coupled with Christian teachings and the doctrines of the Anglican Church. Therefore, at the end of their school career, children are turned out as trained Anglican faithful. M. Enyindah ([St. Luke's Anglican Church Rumuadaolu] pers. comm., 20 February 2015) laments that certain activities such as burials, marriages, chieftaincy installations, 'Iriji' festivals, have been Anglicised. Such activities which were initially conducted by traditional priests are now handled by the clergy. A good example is burial rites. Most Anglican converts in Rumuadaolu bury their deceased in Christian ways. These Christian injunctions reshaped their socio-cultural practices in line with the Christian beliefs and doctrines up till today. In addition, there are instances of inter-religious crises in the areas of marriage, burial and dedication. Conflict arose between the church and traditional institutions in the land. A good example is in the area of marriage. The negligence of the church to follow the traditional method of marriage contract has, in a number of cases, resulted in conflict of interest between the parents of the bride and the church. It is reported also that there was a case of incest because the couple did not care to find out the ancestry of their would-be partners (M. Opkara [St. Luke's Anglican Church Rumuadaolu] pers. comm., 14 February 2015).

A. Eleanya ([Rumuadaolu] pers. comm., 15 March 2015) observed that most of the adherents of the church are in positions of authority in the government of the day. These are either those who attended Anglican schools in the mid-19th century or who thought the knighthood obtained links to enviable positions in the government at the local, state and federal levels. The church, in respect to contemporary electoral campaigns, condemns political thuggery, election rigging and other electoral malpractices. Also, the church has always prayed for the people in position of authority in Rumuadaolu. In Nigeria generally, since bad governance affects its members negatively, the church always prayed against bad and dictatorial leadership in Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole. Many other converts to the church served in various capacities, contributing to the political development of Rumuadaolu. The presence of the Church has made the people to be law abiding citizens.



Several works have been written on the history of Anglican Churches in Ikwerreland; however, the fact remains that St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu is mentioned often, though briefly. No in-depth study has been carried out on the roles of lay agents in the growth and development of St Luke's Anglican Church Rumuadaolu. This study has discussed the origin of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu. The factors and antecedents that led to its establishment have been highlighted. The historical origin and growth of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu first brought about positive impact in Rumuadaolu with respect to the religio-cultural, social, political and economic lives of the people. This study reveals that most of the construction achievements recorded by the St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu were because of efforts made by the members of the church. These lay agents made material and financial donations for the development of St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu. Specifically, some of them gave out parcels of land on which some of the church's structures are built. It is pertinent to state that some of the lay agents who are well placed in the society or who are politicians used their prestigious positions in the society for the overall development of the church. From the establishment of the church to date, the church has continued to influence the members of the Rumuadaolu community. The church has contributed greatly to the social, spiritual and moral development of the Rumuadaolu community. We have seen that churches in any community affect the development of that community in all ramifications. Our evidence has also shown that the Anglican Church is one of the first Christian denominations to come to Rumuadaolu. It has come to stay and there are prospects pointing to its growth. A number of Rumuadaolu people are Anglicans. The planting of St Luke's Anglican Church in Rumuadaolu also encountered problems, such as financial difficulty. The Church built primary and nursery schools to stamp out ignorance and illiteracy, which changed the well-being of the people economically, socially and religiously.

This study in addition to providing an in-depth documentation of the history of St Luke's Anglican Church points out gray areas which the church authority and members of the St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu community are to note and effect necessary changes if the Church has to fulfil her divine mission in Rumuadaolu. We, therefore, recommend the following:

1. St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu should set up mathematical classes and more vocational and industrial schools which should be used to increase the number of young converts into the Anglican faith.

2. The Church should also use the knights and Christian leaders to spread the gospel to all the people in the Rumuadaolu Community.

3. The researcher recommends the Church to build a microfinance bank which will help their fellow Christians and the Rumuadaolu people to save money that will enable them to solve their personal and family problems, as well as their community development projects when the need arises.

4. St Luke's Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu should establish evening services every Sunday. This strategy will enable all the people whose nature of work does not allow them to attend the Sunday morning services. The evening services on Sundays will also help with taking care of the elderly who find it difficult to wake up very early for the morning services.

5. The members of the church should avoid discriminations with other denominations in their doctrines and socio-cultural activities that deal with the welfare and well-being of the people in the Rumuadaolu Community.



Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors' contributions

J.U.O. and E.L.-J. equally contributed to the research and writing of this article.



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Jones Odili

Received: 29 June 2016
Accepted: 10 Dec. 2016
Published: 06 July 2017

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Contemplative investigation into Christ consciousness with Heart Prayer and HeartMath practices



Stephen D. Edwards; David J. Edwards

Department of Psychology, University of Zululand, South Africa





An exploratory pilot study with a small homogenous sample of Christian English speaking participants (four men and four women, with a mean age of 48 and age range from 27 to 70 years) provided support for an alternative research hypothesis that a Christ consciousness contemplation with Heart Prayer of HeartMath techniques was significantly associated with increasing psychophysiological coherence, sense of coherence, spirituality and health perceptions. Participants described feelings of a peaceful place in oneness and connection with Christ. Integrative findings point towards Christ consciousness as an ultimately non-dual process of sensing vibrational resonance radiating from the human heart. Implications for further research are discussed.




The English Biblical term 'Christ' derives from the Greek, 'Khritos', the anointed one, or 'Messiah' in Hebrew. When 'Christ' is coupled with 'consciousness', perspectives extend with infinite variety, height and depth. These range from orthodox Christianity to integral Christianity and are inclusive of various other interfaith spiritual and religious movements. All recognise Jesus Christ's presence, as well as gospel teaching, healing and revelations of the kingdom of heaven as a state and stage of consciousness, which is always already present, in the flowing and eternal moment (Smith 2011; Wilber 2007; Yogananda 1979). Some postulate a spiritual, teleological, omega point of creative evolution towards which the loving consciousness of the cosmic Christ continually draws all (de Chardin 1959). From this spiritual perspective, the value of contemplation and action on Christ consciousness seems as relevant today as ever.

In addition to the abovementioned links with other spiritual and religious movements, Christianity itself has developed into the largest organised religion on planet Earth today with more believers than any other religion (McLoughlin 2007). Mark's Gospel (12:28-31) is particularly action orientated with regards to the explicit communication to: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength' and to: 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. These commandments provide perennial, practical theological and pastoral psychological guidelines for contemplation and action (McGinn 2006). The focus of the present study is on Heart Prayer or prayer of the heart, which refers to a particular form of heart based contemplative prayer, originally advocated in Christian Heychastic traditions, where the essential contemplative technique involves heart focussed, continuous repetition of Jesus Christ's name or related phrase (Consiglio 2010; Louchakova 2007a). Studies have reported considerable health, resilience and spiritual benefits of this practice (Edwards 2014; Louchakova 2007a; 2007b).

Spiritual and religious traditions typically converge on the heart as focal point of loving spiritual consciousness. In Hindu, Yogic traditions the heart chakra (anahata) expresses unconditional love for spirit, consciousness and all creation (Judith 2004). Taoist chi-gung emphasises subtle consciousness, breath and energy exercises in relation to the central (heart) tan tien. The Buddhist heart sutra regards ultimate enlightenment as the union of emptiness and form, realised through loving kindness, meditation and action (Reid 1998). Judaic and Kabbalah energy spheres (sefirot) pivot on heart (tiffer et) beauty, balance and harmony (Childre & Martin 2000). The Prayer of the Heart, which is also found in Islamic Sufi traditions, (Louchakova 2007a; 2007b; Louchakova-Schwartz 2013), forms the essential foundation for centring prayer, which has been popularised by Keating (1997) and Bourgeault (2016), facilitating devotees' gestures of surrender to release love through the reciprocal Godly gift of grace.

The HeartMath system refers to a system of scientific, evidence based, heart focussed, health promoting, self-regulation, tools and techniques, developed by the Institute of HeartMath. Founded in California in 1991 and now being global in application, the institute has pioneered integral, heart focussed research in neuroscience, cardiology, physiology, biochemistry, bioelectricity, physics and psychology. Scientific research is typically integrative, dynamic and systemic in approach. A central vision and mission is to facilitate personal, social and global coherence (Childre, Martin, Rozman & McCraty 2016). Major findings relate to heart communication of electromagnetic, neurochemical, biophysical and hormonal information (McCraty, Atkinson, Tomasino & Bradley 2009). In addition to biofeedback technology to facilitate heartrate variability (HRV) coherence feedback training, this study will use the psychophysiological coherence promoting technique of Heart focussed breathing. Rigorous evidence-based research has indicated that HeartMath practice is associated with significant improvements in sense of coherence (SOC), health, spirituality and various other life spheres.

Within the context of the present study, following Delaney (2005), spirituality was initially conceptualised as:

a multidimensional, universally experienced phenomenon, encompassing a personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal context consisting of four interrelated domains: (a) higher power or universal intelligence - a belief in a higher power or universal intelligence that may or may not include formal religious practices; (b) self-discovery-the spiritual journey begins with inner reflection and a search for meaning and purpose; (c) relationships-an integral connection to others based on a deep respect and reverence for life and is known and experienced within relationships ; and (d) eco-awareness - an integral connection to nature based on a deep respect and reverence for the environment and a belief that the earth is sacred. (p. 152)

Both Heart Prayer and HeartMath may be viewed as meditation and contemplation practice. Contemplation may be viewed as inclusive of meditation and prayer in the Christian context. Although meditation is also used in Christian contexts, contemplation has time honoured historical roots derived from the Latin word contemplatio, a Catholic, particularly Eastern, Orthodox Church, translation of the Greek theoria, the gospel word for divine vision. Keating (1997:21) has noted the tendency to distinguish between 'discursive meditation if thoughts predominated; affective prayer if the emphasis was on acts of the will; and contemplation if graces infused by God were predominant'. It is viewed as a God-given gift, which may or may not be associated with various apprehensions, thoughts, feelings, insights and actions (McGinn 2006:519-520). Christian contemplation generally resembles other contemplative and meditative traditions in terms of altered states of consciousness and unfolding developmental stages of image, metanoia (conversion), apatheia (purification), illumination and theosis, or union with God (Wilber 2007:83). As distinct from such typical stage-like approaches, centring prayer practices objectless awareness (Bourgeault 2016).

In view of studies indicating distinct, individual and separate benefits of contemplation, Christ consciousness, Heart Prayer and HeartMath, the research question arose as to whether their integrative collective practice would be associated with any individual and collective, qualitative and quantitative benefits with special reference to coherence, health and spirituality experiences and perceptions. To the best knowledge of the researchers, this is the first study of its kind. The objective of the ensuing exploratory investigation was to assess and evaluate any qualitative and quantitative, individual and collective coherence, health and spirituality benefits in a pilot study with a small convenience sample of Christian participants. In view of small sample size, the null hypothesis of no significant change was set for any quantitative comparison.




An exploratory, mixed qualitative and quantitative, pre-test and post-test design was considered suitable for this pilot study type investigation. Although found in various religious contexts, the concepts of Christ consciousness and heart prayer practices are essentially Christ inspired and were originally practised by Christians. The study was limited to a small homogenous convenience sample of practising Christians, with some consciousness, understanding knowledge and experience of the phenomenon of Jesus Christ, as historical personage and de facto founder of the Christian religion. All had some knowledge of HeartMath techniques. Christ consciousness, Heart Prayer and HeartMath practice were viewed as independent variables. Psychophysiological coherence measures of low, medium and high coherence percentages, coherence levels, coherence score, achievement score and psychometric measures of SOC, spirituality and health perceptions were regarded as dependent variables. Of these measures, only the spirituality scale was previously standardised for South African participants. This is not necessarily a limitation in the context of the present small scale study with a within group, test re-test design.

Participants and context

Participants consisted of a convenience sample of eight persons, four women and four men, with a mean age of 48.3, standard deviation (SD) of 17.8 and age range from 27 to 70 years. All participants were of Protestant, Anglican Christian faith background, of the same English speaking community church, who attended services regularly, thus satisfying small homogenous sample requirements with regard to experience of the research phenomena (Terre Blanche, Durrheim & Painter 2006).

Procedure and data generation

After appropriate establishment of rapport and discussion with regard to procedure, all contemplation sessions took place in a relaxed, comfortable and quiet setting. Pre-testing consisted of completion of psychometric measures and 5 min HeartMath recording in a rest condition. This was followed by instructions to:

please contemplate Christ consciousness through prayer of the heart and repeating the name of Jesus Christ, for at least 15 minutes. Afterwards you will be asked to describe in writing your experience of Christ consciousness.

This was followed by post-testing on the psychometric measures and recording of participants' experiential descriptions. Research notes were kept throughout the process.


Psychophysiological coherence variables were measured on HeartMath tools, Inner Balance and emWave2. When attached to a laptop computer, these give readings of heart rate variability, time elapsed, as well as low, medium and high levels of physiological coherence. Feedback consisted of red, blue and green coloured bars with percentage indications and accompanying tones for low, medium and high coherence levels respectively. Further feedback was provided by a cumulative coherence graph with a demarcated area for coherence indicating the zone of optimal autonomic nervous system functioning.

The adapted SOC measure consisted of a shortened nine-item version of Antonovsky's (1987) scale, with a Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient of 0.79. Antonovsky's (1987) original scale has three subscales, which measure the degree to which participants perceive their world as manageable, meaningful and predictable. The shortened version used in the present study has been shown to demonstrate high internal reliability and concurrent validity when assessed against Antonovsky's original 29 item measure (Klepp, Mastekaasa, Sorensen, Sandanger & Kleiner 2007). Participants reported their feelings in relation to items such as, 'Do you have the feeling that you don't really care about what goes on around you?' on nine, seven-point Likert-type scale items anchored by the descriptors, 'very often' to 'very seldom'.

The Spirituality Scale consisted of a 12-item adaptation of Delaney's (2005) Spirituality Scale. This was standardised with a South Africa sample of 302 participants and a short 12-item version (SS-12) of the scale was developed (Edwards 2012). Reliability analysis for the SS-12 as a whole indicated a very satisfactory total scale alpha coefficient of 0.82. Responses to items were scored on a one to four point Likert rating system graded from strongly disagree to strongly agree.

The Health Scale consisted of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), which is intended to screen for general psychiatric morbidity. Although it has not yet been standardised in South Africa, it has been widely used internationally, and, as a result, translated into many languages and extensively validated in general and clinical populations worldwide (Hankins 2008). A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom indicated that reliability was over-estimated by the reported Cronbach alpha of 0.90 for the Likert scoring method and that a more realistic estimate of reliability was 0.73 (Hankins 2008). The adapted version used in the present study consisted of 12 items, 6 positively phrased and 6 negatively phrased with a four-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 to 4, requiring responses of strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree, respectively.

Data analysis, synthesis and integration

Quantitative data were analysed using the computer based Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), with specific reference to comparisons of means and non-parametric Wilcoxon Z statistics. Qualitative information was thematically content analysed (Terre Blanche et al. 2006).


Results and discussion

Quantitative physiological coherence and psychological findings

Table 1 refers to pre-test and post-test means and SD for percentage measures of low (LO), medium (ME) and high (HI) psychophysiological coherence, coherence level score, achievement score, SOC (C), spirituality and health scores. Table 1 indicates that there were significant decreases in low physiological coherence: Z = 2.52, p = 0.012; significant increases in high physiological coherence: Z = 2.52, p = 0.012; significant increases in coherence level: Z = 2.37, p = 0.018; significant increases in achievement level: Z = 2.37, p = 0.018; significant increases in SOC perceptions: Z = 2.11, p = 0.035; significant increases in spirituality perceptions: Z = 1.96, p = 0.050 and significant increases in health perceptions: Z = 2.37, p = 0.018. Thus, findings from all measures provided support for an alternative research hypothesis that the Christ consciousness contemplation with Heart Prayer of HeartMath techniques was associated with increasing psychophysiological coherence, SOC, spirituality and health as perceived by participants. Obviously, this is an extremely small sample and no great value can be attached to these findings, the fact that all participants individually increased in all dependent variables and increased significantly as a group on all dependent variables, except for medium coherence level, which in itself is simply a ratio between low and high coherence and as such has no real value, provides consistent evidence in support of this alternative hypothesis. This research hypothesis received unqualified support in all eight participants' descriptions of their experiences as indicated below.

Qualitative findings

Experiential descriptions and group summary of the eight participants follow, coded A to H, respectively:

'I shifted my consciousness into my heart area, breathed in and out to the count of five and then began to recite 'Jesus Christ'. My reciting alternated between 'Jesus Christ', 'Christ' and 'Jesus'. I felt a deep sense of relaxation and peace. I experienced people, places and events that make me happy including my family and Africa. Even though I had been relaxing beforehand, this was another level of enjoyment. I felt a glow afterwards. It helped me to connect with Christ. As a technique it could be used in any context, setting or situation to connect with God, increase coherence, reduce cortisol, and enhance DHEA and in essence happiness.' (Participant A)

'Focussing on Christ consciousness for the 15 min instilled a sense of gratitude and peace over me. I felt my sense of self fall deeper within myself. Saying the name Jesus Christ over and over, gave me an overwhelming feeling of calm, and I could feel my breathing slow down and become more in sync with every beat of my heart. I could feel my breathing through my heart. After the 15 min, I have a greater sense of peacefulness and clarity. I would use this technique of Christ consciousness when it comes to my studies as it would help me focus and bring me into the moment, especially by calming ones nerves and anxiety before an exam.' (Participant B)

'During this session, I prayed and focused my mind on meditating and praying. My breath was controlled by the pattern of the words in a prayer. I was able to reach and maintain a state of high coherence in a short period of time. I again felt a state of oneness, fullness and contentment. I sensed a link between being able to focus breathing according to a pattern and the ability to clear the mind of all thoughts other than those related to the words in the prayer. The body feels at ease and in a state of relaxation and a general sense of well-being is perceived. This is a valuable tool for regulating emotions and promoting calming of the mind.' (Participant C)

'Experiencing Christ consciousness is being and feeling one with all created and uncreated reality and things of the world. It is seeing the world through the clear eyes of the pure child. The world of people, nature, plants and animals are sacred and divine. When and where there is suffering, this means healing all that is suffering. Christ consciousness is Christ's and Christianity's gift to the troubled world. It implies the meeting and working together of all religious and spiritual caring organisations. It is a continual call to create and make the world a better place, to improve consciousness, reality, human relationships and things of the world. The implications are infinite, eternal and relentless.' (Participant D)

'As I consciously slowed my breathing, it became more rhythmical and I turned my focus to the beating of my heart. I visualised the waves rolling onto the shore in synchronisation to my breathing. I experienced a sense of calmness and a wonderful feeling of God's grace filled my being. I was able to let go of my worldly thoughts and draw close to Christ. I lost all sense of time and space as I entered a place of deep meditation. I felt a connectedness and oneness with Christ through His spirit. After the session, I felt very peaceful, contented and experienced a sense of joy and gratitude.' (Participant E)

'I felt very peaceful and relaxed. I almost felt like I was completely at peace and could hear and feel God. I wish I did this more often. It also gave me time for reflection and to think how blessed and satisfied I am with life.' (Participant F)

'After my prayer experience, I felt more in touch with myself, and with the power of Jesus in my life. It was also a peaceful place after the very busy morning activities. It was excellent to concentrate on breathing too.' (Participant G)

'The experience was calming and restful. It was difficult to broaden my thoughts at first, to move away from immediate surrounds but the sound of birds helped to move my thoughts to a peaceful calm place where I could feel close to creation and abundance. The presence of Jesus was more a sense of a powerful and peaceful presence.' (Participant H)

Group summary

The collective experience (A,D,E,G,H) essentially involved feelings (B,C,D,E,F,H) of a peaceful (A,B,E,F,G,H), place (A,D,E,G,H), of oneness (B,C,D,E) and connection (AE), with Christ (A,B,D,E), God (A,E,F), spirit (D,E), grace (E) and presence (H). Feelings included calmness (B,C,E,H), content (C,E), joy (A,E), happiness (A), blessedness (F), satisfaction in oneself (B,F,G), the natural and human world (G), body, mind (C), breath (A,B,C,E,G) and heart (A,B,E), coherence (AC) and prayer (CG).

Integrative findings

Qualitative experiential descriptions of participants' contemplation experiences meaningfully endorsed the quantitative psychophysiological and psychometric test findings with regard to the perceived value and effectiveness of Christ consciousness, Heart Prayer and HeartMath practices. The null hypothesis of no change in dependent variables was rejected in favour of the alternative research hypotheses. Qualitative findings endorsed qualitative findings. Participants described feelings of a peaceful place in oneness and connection with Christ and related healing implications. Since this was a very small-scale study, findings should obviously be treated with caution. Further research is needed to generalise and transfer findings in different contexts with other participant samples. From a quantitative perspective, randomised controlled studies are recommended to control for experimenter effect of enhanced expectancies of informed participants and for causal inferences to be postulated. From a qualitative perspective, further in-depth, individual and group investigations are needed to explicate subtle and causal, individual and collective, features of the independent variables. For example, Smith's (2011) integral Christian perspective includes three forms of God as: (1) infinity as revealed in the rhythms of the universe that links with human hearts and minds or brains in objective forms of reality as consciousness, (2) intimacy and Grace unfolding in human intersubjective consciousness and (3) in our inner being unfolding as a spark of embodied awareness and subjective, heartfelt consciousness. Finally, although further research is clearly needed, qualitative, quantitative and integrative findings provide general indicators towards some degree of reliability, validity, dependability and transferability of the integral, holistic embodied form of Christ consciousness, Heart Prayer and HeartMath practice used in this study.



As noted above, various religious traditions have long recognised the heart as the focal centre of physical, psychic and spiritual life, as traditionally exemplified in an array of practices ranging from San dances, Nguni umbilini and Hindu kundalini to Christian and Sufi prayer of the heart (Edwards 2013; Louchakova 2007a; 2007b). Contemporary integral, holistic intuitions will readily extrapolate this dynamic, energetic activity to various realms of personal ancestral, transpersonal and non-dual consciousness including the collective and personal unconscious (Assagioli 2007; Sardello 2007; Wilber 2000; 2007). HeartMath research provides a robust, scientific foundation to the intuitive, intellectual role of aligned, coherent, heart-brain transmission and reception of patterns of electromagnetic, neurochemical, biophysical and hormonal information (Childre et al. 2016). For Bourgeault (2016:5), the tripartite physical, emotional and spiritual organ of the human heart ultimately functions as 'homing magnetic center' for a vital neurological shift in the mechanics of perception from the ordinary binary modes of dualistic consciousness to that nondual, holographic resonant heart capacity whereby one senses a single unified field, and is enabled to 'see from wholeness'. Thus, as implicit or intimated in participants' experiential descriptions, Christ consciousness ultimately implies a non-dual, kenotic awareness and indwelling process whereby vibrational resonance is embodied, sensed and felt as pure peace and love radiating from the human heart. As exemplified in and through Jesus Christ, contemplation and all ensuing, related actions arising from such consciousness point to unitive healing implications of infinite and eternal value.



This work is based on research supported by the University of Zululand, South Africa and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF). Any opinion, finding and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the author(s) and the NRF does not accept any liability in regards thereto.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships which may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors' contributions

S.D.E. conceived, researched and wrote this article. D.J.E. collected the data, edited and processed the article.



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Stephen Edwards

Received: 20 Feb. 2017
Accepted: 15 May 2017
Published: 25 July 2017

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The pedagogy of Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan: A diacognitive analysis



Peter N. Rule

Centre for Higher and Adult Education, Stellenbosch University, South Africa





Jesus of Nazareth, like Socrates, left nothing behind written by himself. Yet, the records of his teaching indicate a rich interest in dialogic pedagogy, reflected in his use of the parable, primarily an oral genre, as a dialogic provocation. Working at the interface of pedagogy, theology and philosophy, this article explores the parable of the Good Samaritan from the perspective of dialogic pedagogy. It employs an analytical approach termed diacognition, developed from the notions of dialogue, position and cognition, to analyse the moves within the parable and the teaching situation in which it is located. The article explores how Jesus engages the dialogue of and around the parable to position and reposition his interlocutor, provoking a re-cognition of what it means to love one's neighbour. It concludes by reflecting on the implications of this analysis for the relation of meaning to knowing and doing.




The question of the nature, form and purpose of Jesus' pedagogy of parables has been widely debated. Kvernbekk (2012) has characterised Jesus' teaching through parables as monologic, citing the parable of the Sower as an example of 'one-to-many' communication. Herzog (1994) used a Freirean lens to understand Jesus' parables as subversive 'codifications' that challenge the political and economic status quo, and Jesus as a 'pedagogue of the oppressed' (see Scheffler 1991). Others have characterised his pedagogy as paradoxical (Freeman 2010), critical (Newell 2009), constructivist (Robertson 2008), unorthodox (Richardson 2002) and concerned with the transformation of enculturated consciousness (Spear 2005) and conventional morality (Burbules 2004). Although there are many interpretations of the specific qualities and contribution of Jesus' pedagogy, and even of its effectiveness (Dillon 1995), there is general agreement that teaching was a central aspect of his ministry and had a striking impact, not only on his disciples but on Western culture and beyond for the 2000 years since he lived and taught.

Jesus wrote nothing that we know of, except a cryptic signing on the ground when the Pharisees brought before him a woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11). It is likely that he spoke Aramaic as his primary language as a Jewish native of Galilee but also knew and used Hebrew and Greek (Fassberg 2012; Ong 2016; Tresham 2009). The records of what he said and did were created by others mainly in Greek, drawing on an existing oral lore (Funk, Scott & Butts 1988). The written tradition of Jesus' words and acts preserved only a few of the Aramaic words that were attributed to Jesus. This means that any discussion of Jesus' life and teaching is filtered through a number of recontextualisations: from an oral Aramaic tradition (possibly with other vernacular elements) to a written Greek tradition which only began 40-70 years after his death; from the Jewish cultural setting of Jesus' times to an early Christian culture of the church that codified his life in writing; and through the subsequent accretion of layers of interpretation and redaction through the centuries (Fredriksen 1999; MacCulloch 2010). Acknowledging these limitations of distance and perspective, one of the Aramaic words that survives in the gospels is rabbi, teacher, indicating that this was a primary role attributed to Jesus. With this in mind, it is interesting to explore Jesus' pedagogy and the relatively neglected aspect of dialogue within that pedagogy.


Jesus as teacher

'Teacher' or 'rabbi' is a recurring identity ascribed to Jesus in the gospels. It was the term of address used most often by others to address him, but also as a self-designation - a total of 59 times in the gospels (Stein 1994). The expert in the law calls him 'Teacher' at the beginning of the parable of the Good Samaritan that I examine below. Borg (2011) sees Jesus as a particular kind of teacher, not a conveyor of information or knowledge, nor even a moral teacher giving information on right or wrong. Rather, he sees Jesus as a teacher of wisdom, which he understands as a 'genre of teaching' with typical forms (short sayings, stories) and typical content (What is the character of God? What is real/valuable? How shall we live?) (Borg 2011:166). Borg sees these questions as related: 'wisdom teachers teach a way of life (how shall we live?) grounded in a perception of reality (what is real? What is the character of God?)'.

Borg (2011:166) distinguishes between two kinds of wisdom teachers: those who teach conventional wisdom, the wisdom of a culture (a body of directives and guidance grounded in the experience of generations) which finds its typical expression in the proverb; and those who challenge the cultural consensus of conventional wisdom. The teaching of conventional wisdom through the use of proverbs and folk tales has a strong resonance in African oral traditions, as reflected in the work of writers such as Chinua Achebe (1958) and Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1965). For Borg, Jesus falls into the second category: 'Jesus taught a counterwisdom because of his experience of God'. Spear views Jesus' teaching of a counterwisdom as directed towards the transformation of the encultured consciousness of his listeners (Spear 2005), and this found expression particularly in his use of parables.


Jesus and parables

Jesus' use of parables is central to his pedagogy, as reflected in Mark's gospel: 'He did not say anything to them without using a parable' (Mk 4:34). Jeremias (1972) argues that Jesus was the first to use this form within the Rabbinic tradition. This is not to say that parables did not already exist in the literature of the ancient world. Indeed, the Old Testament includes a number, and passages from the Old Testament might have influenced parables in the New Testament, for example 2 Chronicles 28:15 and the Good Samaritan (Scheffler 2013). Rather, it is the particular way that Jesus used parables as a pedagogical strategy that stands out. One might say that it was his original contribution to ancient Jewish pedagogy. As Snodgrass (2008:1) puts it, 'At no point are the vitality, relevance, and usefulness of the teaching of Jesus so clear as in his parables' - bearing in mind that the parables in the gospels are already interpretations and recontextualisations of an oral tradition. A testimony to their compelling and enduring influence is how many of the parables have become idiomatic in the English language: sowing the seed, a good Samaritan, a prodigal son and so on.

The Hebrew word 'mashal' meant not only 'parable' in the modern sense but also a range of wisdom genres, from maxims to riddles and fables (Vermes 2003). The English word 'parable' comes from the Greek word parabole: 'from the preposition para, "alongside of," and ballein, "cast, place or throw"' (Donahue 1988:5). This suggests that central to speaking in parables is making comparisons. In the Bible, the parable literary form includes comparisons not only in narratives but also in proverbs, wisdom sayings and allegories. Dodd (1961), a renowned British scholar of Jesus' parables, defines the parable as follows:

At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearers by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought. (p. 16)

Dodd's definition points to the pedagogical purpose of parables: to tease the minds of listeners into active thought. The purpose thus differs from more straightforward instructional genres such as commandments, rules and procedures. It involves provoking a playful but serious labour of interpretation, an opening to possibilities of meaning, rather than indicating a single denotation.

Features of a number of Jesus' parables thus include the following:

  • An originally oral form (arresting the hearers): the parable is told by a speaker to listeners in a particular context of verbal interaction; it has features of oral narrative such as 'a tight, lean compressed style' (Funk et al. 1988:17), pairs of characters (good guy-bad guy, e.g. rich man and Lazarus) and sets of three events; and concrete vivid images. Such features make Jesus' parables memorable and so repeatable and are part of the reason why they have come down to us today.

  • A word picture or short story drawing on imagery and characters familiar to listeners: 'drawn from nature or common life' (sowing, harvesting, coins, family and household relationships); as such, the parable draws on 'a picture or situation that is typical of what everyone knows and takes for granted' (Funk et al. 1988:16) - what Donahue refers to as the 'realism' of the parables (Donahue 1988:12).

  • Having two levels of meaning: Literal and figurative - 'a metaphor or simile' which operates 'by way of implicit or explicit transfer signals' (Zimmermann 2015:137).

  • Challenging listeners and reade rs to interpret the parable or work out its figurative meaning (tease into active thought): Thus, the parable has no conclusion; it is essentially open-ended and inviting of the hearer's engagement. Paul Ricoeur (1975) sees a pattern in the parables of orientation, disorientation, reorientation as readers lose and find their way in the meaning-making process. This 'disorientation' might comprise a challenge to conventional wisdom (Borg 2011) and a shock, what Reinstorf terms 'the juxtaposition of dissimilarities, the diaphor' (Reinstorf 2013:2), which induces a new vision of world and new possibilities (Perrin 1976).

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), like the parables of the Lost Coin (Lk 15:8-10) and the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:21-35), is embedded in a communicative event. It is framed within Jesus' conversation with an expert in the Jewish law. The gospel thus provides a pedagogical context of question-answer in which to understand the parable as a teaching-learning episode. Presumably, many of Jesus' parables arose in similar situations of engagement with particular interlocutors, but their distillation from oral to written, from Aramaic into Greek, many decades later, excises the context of situation and leaves us with the parable as a written text rather than an interactive event. The Good Samaritan, with its context of situation, thus offers the opportunity for exploration using the framework of diacognition set out below.


Diacognition: An analytical framework

Diacognition is a conceptual framework for understanding and analysing teaching and learning events (Rule 2015). It draws on Paulo Freire's insight that teaching and learning are moments in a wider process of knowing (Freire 2004). This framework consists of three overlaying lenses which provide distinctive but complementary perspectives on the way that a particular teaching and learning episode relates to processes of coming to know. These are dialogue, cognition and position. They are best presented as components of a triangle that can be 'folded in' to overlay a teaching-learning event, providing a mutually informing and enriching cumulative perspective.

I briefly describe each of these components in turn (see Figure 1).




My understanding of dialogue as both an ontological feature of human existence and an encompassing facet of human communication draws on the work of Buber (1937), Freire (1972; 2000), Bakhtin (1981; 1984) (see Rule 2006; 2011), Hermans (2013) and Hermans and Hermans-Kanopka (2010). An ontological perspective views dialogue as central to human being: to be human means to be in dialogue - with others, with oneself and with the world. As Bakhtin (1984:287) puts it, 'The very meaning of man (both internal and external) is the deepest communion. To be means to communicate'.

As an analytical lens, dialogue focuses on the nature of the engagement among and within persons in the teaching-learning situation, as well as among non-personal elements. It includes dimensions of the interpersonal (between persons), the intrapersonal (within persons) and the transpersonal (between elements that include but lie beyond immediate personal experiences). Interpersonal dialogue includes interactions between teacher and learners, and among learners. Intrapersonal dialogue takes place within participants as 'talking to self' and might be reflected in writing, speaking, body language or other symbolic codes. This internal dialogue might derive from an interpersonal dialogue as the self continues to dialogue with the other-in-the-self: 'What did my teacher mean by X? Perhaps it means Y. No, maybe '. The transpersonal includes interactions between texts, genres, situations, ideologies, times and places, and would both inform and be informed by the interpersonal and intrapersonal. For example, a dialogue between teacher and learners might simultaneously be a transpersonal curricular dialogue between the current lesson and summative assessment: 'Is this for exams?' 'No'. 'Then why do we have to learn it?' Specific interpersonal and intrapersonal dialogues thus often instantiate and inform dialogues among wider issues at a transpersonal level.


Cognition focuses on the processes involved in coming-to-know, rather than on knowledge as a corpus or object. Following Freire (2004), it assumes that a teacher, who already knows something (an object of cognition), seeks to lead learners to a cognition of this object through a teaching-learning process. In doing so, the teacher recognises the object (knows it again) as a teacher and for the learners and their learning: an algebra teacher has to think about how best to help learners to come to know an equation. She recognises it from the learners' point of view, 'experiencing the other side', to use Buber's term, and so cognising the learners, before crossing back to her own side as the one who instigates learning and 'inclusive education' (Buber 1964). Similarly, the learners 'learn' the teacher (She's got a funny way of doing things!) as well as the particular topic, and the relation between the two.

Teaching-learning includes moments of intercognition, in which teacher and learners share a cognition of the object or aspects of it (the 'Aha!' moments that teachers treasure), and of metacognition, in which they reflect on their own processes of teaching, learning and knowing (Last time I did it this way and it worked for me. So let me try it again.). Decognition is the realisation that you do not know what you thought you knew, as is often characteristic of Socrates' interlocutors in Plato's dialogues (I thought I knew but now I'm really lost!). The 'object of cognition' might be anything to be known - a skill, a concept, a procedure, a set of relations, a perspective, a story or parable and so on. Cognition always involves a subject or subjects (knowers) focusing on an object to be known and is therefore intentional. Cognition might be instantaneous, akin to a flash of light, or take some time, even a life time, to reach its full realisation. In addition, cognition is always situated in a particular context which frames and informs the meaning-making process.


'Position' is a powerful analytical tool partly because of its range of denotations and its metaphorical import. It includes a spatial sense of someone being in or seeing from a particular location (the desk in the corner), the social sense of being placed in society (race, gender, profession, age) and the attitudinal (disenchanted, optimistic) and ideological (Marxist, Liberal, Anarchist) senses. In addition, it can refer to particular 'place holders' available to participants in discourse: a teacher in classroom discourse may adopt positions towards learners such as I-as-questioner, explainer, facilitator or devil's advocate, but not legitimately as lover, corporal punisher or propagandist - which might be legitimate in other discourses.

Teaching and learning as knowing involve participants who adopt particular 'self-positions' (Harre 2002; 2004; Hermans & Hermans-Kanopka 2010) which are more temporary and flexible than 'roles' (teacher, learner, assessor, examination candidate, activist). They involve doing expressed in external and/or internal actions in particular situations (e.g. I-as-listener, questioner or explainer) and also emotions and attitudes (e.g. I-as-curious, sceptical or enthusiastic). These self-positions might change continuously as participants reposition in a teaching-learning event or might remain relatively stable. The descriptive lexicon regarding positioning includes position (adopt stance for oneself and/or impose stance on other[s]); reposition (take up or impose new position); proposition (propose particular content to others); disposition (respond to a proposition by rejecting, modifying or presenting an alternative); composition (develop a collective position with others). Positioning might therefore be understood as the repertoire of moves within a teaching-learning event pertaining both to the self and others. It is also informed by participants' positionality, understood as the wider social location of participants, including class, race, language, age, sexual orientation, professional status and so on.

The framework of diacognition assumes that the components of dialogue, position and cognition are mutually informing. For example, what and how one thinks is shaped by the kinds of dialogue that one engages in and the positions that one adopts within these dialogues. In the words of a Cat Stevens song, 'From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen'. The recurrent positioning of a child in any dialogue as the one who must listen would strongly circumscribe cognition. On the contrary, cognition dynamically informs decisions regarding how to participate and position oneself in dialogue: 'I don't understand what you are saying. Please give an example'. The interactions among dialogue, cognition and position are always situated within contexts of discourse and power: in an authoritarian educational setting, a learner may not feel she can request the teacher to explain or give an example, because the positions of 'I-as-questioner' or 'I-as-not understanding' are not available.

I now move on to a diacognitive analysis of the parable event, presented in Box 1 for ease of reference.



The Good Samaritan: A diacognitive analysis


The parable is dialogic at a number of levels. At an interpersonal level, it emerges from, and is embedded in, a dialogue between Jesus and the expert in the law (EL). It takes the form of a set of alternating rejoinders of question-answer. EL asks his first question, 'What must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus answers with a question, 'What is written in the Law?' EL answers the question: Love God and love your neighbour. Jesus endorses the answer. The dialogue appears to have come to an abrupt halt, ending in apparent consensus - Nikulin (2010:78) calls consensus 'the termination of dialogue' - as Jesus' moves show that EL's question was not an authentic quest to know in the first place. EL then asks a second question, 'And who is my neighbour?' Jesus tells a parable as a response. He then asks EL a question about the parable, relating it to EL's second question: 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbour ?' EL answers, 'The one who had mercy on him'. Jesus concludes with an instruction, 'Go and do likewise'.

Jesus does not give the answers but rather calls on EL to answer his own questions: first, by drawing on his own knowledge of the Law; second, by interpreting the parable and using it to answer his second question. Jesus, seen as 'Teacher' by EL, uses a dialogic form to provoke EL into thought and to challenge him to come to his own conclusions. Matusov (2011) sees as one strategy of dialogical pedagogy a teacher-developed 'dialogic provocation'. Such a provocation would engage learners ontologically with something that excites and/or interests them - Jesus' use of the parable resonates here (see also Zimmermann 2008).

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