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HTS Theological Studies

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

Herv. teol. stud. vol.74 n.4 Pretoria  2018

http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i4.4928 

John Calvin as 'public theologian' in view of his 'Commentary on Seneca's de Clementia'

 

 

Wim A. Dreyer

Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

 

 


ABSTRACT

During the 16th century, Europe underwent fundamental sociopolitical changes, which challenged theologians and the church to respond theologically. In light of the celebration of the Reformation (1517-2017) and the theme of this conference, this contribution presents Calvin as a 'public theologian'. To this purpose it is necessary to define 'public theology', describe the sociopolitical changes which challenged theologians during the 16th century, and lastly to focus on Calvin's contribution to the discourse. Because of the vast amount of material that is available, this contribution is limited to Calvin's first publication, his 'Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia'. Calvin's fundamental understanding of law and justice, as well as his theological engagement with sociopolitical issues, made him a public theologian par excellence. Calvin's legal training surfaced whenever he addressed the authorities, for instance, when pleading the case of persecuted Protestants. He had a fundamental understanding of issues such as justice and freedom. The rights, responsibilities and obligations of government and people should always remain in balance. Sociopolitical transformation, as experienced in South Africa during the last three decades, requires of theologians to engage theologically with relevant issues. In this, Calvin set a remarkable example.


 

 

Introduction

Since 1994, many conferences1 were hosted by various South African institutions on topics such as human rights, racism, poverty, social justice, social cohesion and Ubuntu. These conferences, as well as robust discourse in parliament and frequent media reports on corruption, raised questions on how theologians and the church should respond to sociopolitical challenges. The complexity of the situation often leads to superficial, hesitant and subdued ecclesial and theological response. This is far removed from the way theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin responded to the sociopolitical transformation which swept across Europe during the 16th century. They not only responded theologically to issues such as justice (iustitia), fairness (aequitas), humanity (humanitas) and the common good (commune bonum), but also looked for ways and means to implement measures which were to the benefit of the poor and marginalised people (see Song 2012).

This does not mean that the transformation of society stood central in Calvin's theology, as is sometimes claimed. Calvin was cautious not to confuse the penultimate and ultimate realities with each other. However, it is not to be disputed that Calvin was existentially and theologically engaged with the sociopolitical changes which swept across Europe.

Looking at the history of the 16th century Reformation from the perspective of public theology, many theologians from that era (Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed) could be regarded as 'public theologians'. Bromell (2011) defines public theology as a critical reflection on faith and its implications for society. Furthermore, it employs relevant evidence and reasonable arguments to engage with competing claims and conflicting ideas in the public sphere. According to Bromell, a lecture in public theology is different from a sermon or public witness by a faith community. Public theology is not a direct expression of faith. It is a second-order reflection that thinks critically within a specific context about the sociopolitical implications of Christian faith. It focuses in particular on the ethical and political implications of religious self-understanding. Public theology is not an easy option for theologians who want to do something practical. It is a proper academic discipline which builds on a sound knowledge of philosophy as well as historical and systematic theology. Bromell (2011:5) concludes: 'What is public theology? Critical thinking, with others, about religious faith and public life'.

Mannion (2009:122) describes various definitions and approaches to public theology. He points out that there had always been public theology or 'theology in the public square'. Jesus Christ preached in public places and confronted the authorities (civil and religious) with their moral bankruptcy, explaining the values of the kingdom of God (Mannion 2009:128). This was continued during the early development of the Christian church (the best known example being the apostle Paul's discussion of a Christian's relation to the government and emperor in Rom 13). Augustine's City of God is a classic text, written in the context of a Roman Empire which was in decline, facing major political, social and moral collapse. During the Medieval and Reformation eras, there was a continual stream of theologians who struggled with questions of how faith should relate to evolving patterns of social and political change. These included theologians such as Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275), Marsillius of Padua (1275-1342), William of Ockham (1288-1348), Margery Kempe (1373-1438), Ignatius de Loyola (1491-1556) and Mary Ward (1585-1645), to name just a few.

Mannion (2009) writes:

The various waves of 'reformation' across Europe - from the figure of Johan Hus in Bohemia (c. 1372-1415) and the Hussites after him, to the later reformation movements - were charged with political tension and social implications from the outset and changed the political, social and of course the theological and ecclesiastical landscape forever Luther and Calvin sought to experiment with new forms of how religion should relate to wider society and to the 'public' and civic realm in particular. (p. 132)

The same point is made by Haight (2005:81) when he argues that during the Reformation, it became clear that the relationship between the church and society is forever dynamic and changing, resulting in a particular ecclesial identity. No church or religion ever functions or exists in isolation. Society influences the identity of the church and shape of faith, and vice versa religion also influences the identity of society.

Most would agree that public theology is social, political and practical in nature. Mannion (2009:122) is of the opinion that the 'best public theology involves theological hermeneutics in the service of moral, social and political praxis'. In public theology, questions of ethics, ecclesiology and being church with integrity is of constant importance. This was illustrated to the point during the 20th century in Nazi Germany, especially by theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth as well as the Barmen Declaration which became a classic text of public theology (Mannion 2009:137). The Belhar Confessioncould also be included in this line of classical texts.

During the last three decades, public theology has become so popular that it is impossible to give a complete overview (see Mannion 2009:126-132). It is enough to mention that it is an area of theology where one has to tread carefully to avoid the pitfalls of generalisation, lack of nuanced historical discourse, exclusivism, hypocrisy and a pessimistic world view. Public theology should celebrate life in its fullness.

Calvin discussed the relationship between the civil and spiritual realms in various publications, importantly Book IV of his Institutes. In light of the celebration of the Reformation (1517-2017), this contribution will focus primarily on Calvin's views on law and justice as articulated in his first publication, his Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia.

Calvin's fundamental understanding of law and justice, as well as his theological engagement with sociopolitical issues, made him a public theologian par excellence. If we agree that public theology is 'critical thinking about faith and public life' (Bromell) and 'theological hermeneutics in the service of moral, social and political praxis' (Mannion), Calvin could be regarded as a public theologian still relevant in the 21st century.

Contrary to some negative perceptions associated with Calvin's theology, Rodriguez (2008:119) is of the opinion that Calvin's theology could actually serve as a model for contemporary public theology because of his ability to relate issues of faith with the sociopolitical challenges of his time. Song (2012:4) is of the opinion that the Accra Confession (adopted by the 24th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Ghana 2004)2 could be regarded as a positive interpretation of Calvin's theology within a 21st century context of globalisation, a growing divide between rich and poor and the ecological crisis. In response to the Accra Confession, an international consultation was held in Geneva (2004) on the impact of Calvin's economic and social thought. The final statement, drafted by Elsie McKee and delivered by Edouard Dommen, is an indication that scholars are increasingly of the opinion that Calvin's theology is still relevant to contemporary sociopolitical issues.

The few textual examples from Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia presented in this contribution were chosen to illustrate how relevant Calvin's views still are and how it could assist theologians and churches to make a meaningful contribution to the discourse on rule of law, a constitutional state, the bill of rights and other legal issues which presents itself on a daily basis.

 

Context of the 16th century

Every new generation has to face a new world. This was true for Homo erectus and is still true for Homo digitalis of the 21st century (see Saxberg 2015). Looking at the history leading up to the 16th century Reformation, one is struck by the radical sociopolitical changes that took place and how common people, politicians, businessmen and theologians tried to deal with change.

Biéler ([1961] 2005:3-10) gives an overview of the transformation which swept across Europe since the beginning of the 13th century. The Turkish invasions, establishment of new trade routes, developments in ship building and waterways, growth of an artisan and merchant class in cities, the collapse of the feudal system, urbanisation, new farming methods, migrant labour and growing poverty were all part of the Medieval landscape. In 1315, Louis X freed all his serfs, because 'all men are equal'. The serfs received their freedom but were deprived of their livelihood because all of a sudden they lost their right to utilise land owned by the king.

The Hundred Years' War (1340-1453) had a major impact on Europe. The war destroyed the ancient structures of governance based on the inherited rights of the nobility. The war also created a stimulus for rising nationalisms, as exemplified by the story of Jeanne d'Arc (1412-1431). If war was not enough to decimate the population, the Black Death reduced whole cities to ghost towns and destroyed social structures. Rebellion and sedition brewed among the common people.

In these revolutionary circumstances, theologians responded in different ways. Some tried to enforce and strengthen existing ecclesial and social structures, and others believed that reform was necessary. Leading up to the Reformation, theologians like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus worked for the transformation of church and society (see Fudge 2010; Schaff 1915). Both of them were involved in political matters, based on the conviction that a Christian may not remain silent on issues such as justice, the welfare of fellow human beings and the common good. Wycliffe was highly critical of the powers of clergy in civil society as well as the church's enormous wealth and ownership of property (Wyclif [1384] 1904). The Council of Constance (1415) declared both heretics and ordered their writings to be destroyed. The Council further ordered Wycliffe's remains to be unearthed from consecrated ground and burnt. This order was executed in 1428. His ashes were strewn in the river Swift. Hus was burnt at the stake during the Council.

Jan Hus' publication De Ecclesia3 had a fundamental influence on Martin Luther, especially in his understanding of the church and civil authority. Next to the question of justification, the relation between spiritual and earthly matters became the second major theme in Luther's work (Bornkamm 1979:314). Even before 1517, in his lectures on Romans 13, he grappled with questions of ecclesial and civil government. He is of the opinion that civil authorities are responsible for maintenance of good order, without which the church will find it difficult to exist. With reference to Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, he argues that political authority comes from God and whoever resists authority is resisting the divine order of things (see Lohse 1995:167). In a letter to Melanchthon (dated 13 July 1521), he reflects on political matters and again expressed the opinion that all temporal power is granted by God and as such should be respected.4 Luther consistently distinguished between the two kingdoms and two regiments and between the kingdom of God governed by spiritual means and earthly kingdoms governed by laws of men.

On the contrary, Luther was confronted with the harsh realities of poverty and vast numbers of peasant farmers who were landless and had lost the opportunity to make a decent living. He himself was a descendent of a long line of peasant farmers, as was his son (Bornkamm 1979:322). In 1525, the 'Zwölf Artikel der schwäbischen Bauernschaft' appeared (Zahrnt 1983:134). The peasant farmers were ready to rise up against the authorities. They presented these articles to Luther to advise them, to which he responded with Ermahnung zum Frieden auf die zwölf Artikel der Baurnschaft in Schwaben.5

In this document, Luther maintains the fundamental respect for civil authority, and even more, he points out to the protesting farmers that they are mistaken in their understanding of both the kingdom of God and earthly kingdom, if they think they can use the gospel to justify political violence (Zahrnt 1983:135). He calls leaders who incite their followers to political violence and bloodshed 'false prophets who act violently under the pretence of Christian freedom', a clear reference to Thomas Müntzer, one of the leaders of the Radical Reformation (Bornkamm 1979:325). Thus, the title of the document: Ermahnung zum Frieden A call to peace.

Bornkamm (1979:323) points to three reasons why Luther rejected violent rebellion: (1) An armed rebellion would be destructive to the kingdom of God, the church of Christ and hamper the proclamation of the Word; (2) there will be unnecessary bloodshed and loss of life and (3) it would jeopardise the spiritual well-being of both the peasant farmers and those who would subject them by force. Luther opposed political violence not only from a theological perspective but also from a pastoral perspective. Luther was correct in his assessment of the looming danger and destruction of the Bauernkrieg. The Peasants' War of 1524-1525 involved 300 000 Central European peasant farmers, workers and artisans of whom almost 100 000 were slaughtered in battle or by execution. It was the largest general uprising of common people in the history of Europe. The peasants achieved none of their goals. Only the French Revolution (1789-1799) could compare in scope to the Bauernkrieg.

 

Calvin: A revolutionary and/or man of peace?

It was in such revolutionary and dangerous times that John Calvin entered the scene. The sociopolitical transformation of Europe since the 15th century loomed large and challenging before Calvin. Europe was embroiled in nothing less than a revolution that left nothing untouched. The 16th century Reformation was part of larger processes of transformation and the development of early modernity. It has often been debated whether the Reformation had been revolutionary in character (see Schulze 1985 for a discussion of R.M. Kingdon's views on the revolutionary character of the Reformation); whether the reformers merely responded to change or actually initiated transformation amidst the growing swell of discontent and civil strife.

In Calvin's case, it was not only general sociopolitical issues that demanded his attention but also the tension-filled relation between the church and council of Geneva. The interaction between church and government in Geneva contributed to a more nuanced articulation by Calvin, as well as a basic awareness of the difference between the temporal and eternal, between the spiritual and earthly realms and between God's righteousness and human law.

In the history of the 16th century, there were few better equipped and able to respond to the sociopolitical challenges of the time than Calvin (Allen 1961:49). Over the past century, a vast amount of literature had been published on topics relating to Calvin's social involvement, his understanding of church and government and the influence Calvin had on the development of modern democracy (see, for instance, Allen 1961; Bauer 1965; Biéler [1961] 2005; Bohatec 1937; De Visser 1926; Hancock 1989; Hopfl 1991; Witte 2007).

At the start of the 20th century, Max Weber (see discussion in Biéler [1961] 2005:423-430) proposed that Calvin and Protestants, in general, were fundamentally capitalist in their world view. The summum bonum was the acquisition of wealth through hard work and profit. Biéler (p. 437) rejects Weber's thesis by pointing out that Weber's analysis is focussed on samples centuries after Calvin, which might have had some Calvinistic origin but could not be equated to Calvin's own views. Even more, many of the early capitalist structures were already in place by the time Calvin appeared on the scene. As such, it is a mistake to identify Calvin as the father of capitalism. The same argument may be followed in the case of democracy and social welfare. By the time Calvin came to Geneva, democracy and the support of poor and sick people were already well established (see Innes 1983, Social concern in Calvin's Geneva). Through his life, Calvin participated actively and practically in various social issues but also reflected critically and articulated his views in terms of theological hermeneutics.

On the contrary, it is also important to note that Calvin not only reacted to sociopolitical issues but also in some instances initiated actions. According to Balserak (2013:160), one of the myths that surround Calvin is the view that Calvin was a man of order and peace who did not get involved in 'dirty politics'. This creates a strange dichotomous view of Calvin: His ideas were sometimes revolutionary, but the man himself was a man of order and peace. Although Calvin could by no means be described as a radical revolutionary, Balserak (2013:171) points out that Calvin trained and sent insurgents (pastors) into France even though it was against the law, supported secret cells of individuals who held views which were clearly seditious and supported an armed uprising against the French king. As the political situation changed, Calvin became more insistent that the lower magistrates not only had the right to resist tyranny, but actually had the duty to do that. This is articulated in the first edition of his Institutes(1536) where he makes the point that the magistrates had the duty to protect the people against tyranny (CO 1:248). It became much more prominent after Charles V crushed the Schmalkaldic League in the late 1540s and the Augsburg Interim of 1548 which he regarded as the work of Satan, especially in his sermons on the Old Testament prophets (Balserak 2013:169-170).

One could conclude that Calvin's context was one of change and sometimes terrifying dangers. He responded intellectually as well as in practical ways. The extent of his social engagement through publications is massive, covering thousands of pages published over three decades. As the sociopolitical events unfolded, Calvin adapted and in some instances became more radical in his views. After his death, this trend continued with the French Huguenots, especially after the Bartholomew Day Massacre in Paris in 1572.

 

Calvin's commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (1532)

Calvin's intellectual engagement with questions of justice, humanity and clemency is to be found from his very first publication, the Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (CO V/I)6,7 of 1532. At the time of its publication, Calvin was only 23 years old and living in Paris, pursuing his studies in Greek and Hebrew and reading Augustine's De Civitate Dei. He was a man of learning, who rapidly assimilated what he read with a strong desire to publish his own ideas (Ganoczy 1987:75). He returned to Paris after he completed his legal studies in Orlèans and Bourges. In 1528, he studied under Pierre de l'Estoile (Wendel 1978:23) who left an indelible impression on Calvin's mind and fundamentally influenced his understanding of justice and law.

During 1529, Calvin moved to Bourges where he studied under the famous Italian jurist, Andrea Alciati (1492-1550). The University of Bourges was founded by Louis XI in 1463 (Wendel 1978:24) to promote the rational grounds for the absolute monarchy (ius majestatis). Despite Alciati's elaborate and verbose theories on the absolute and divine power of kings, Calvin never accepted it. The classic riposte of Calvin to Absolutism is to be found in the phrase 'the people do not exist for the sake of the king, the king exists for the sake of the people' as formulated by Calvin's successor in Geneva, Beza ([1574] 1956).

Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia was published before he left the Roman Catholic Church to join the Reformation movement. It was only a year later, during 1533, that he converted to the reformation movement (see Dreyer 2014:3). In a technical sense, he wrote the Commentary not as a theologian but as a young aspiring scholar and typical French humanist lawyer (Allen 1961:49). Calvin clearly had an interest in sociopolitical issues, although there is no indication that he published his Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia in reaction to the persecutions by Francis I and Charles V (Wendel 1978:27), or in aid of some political agenda. At this time, Calvin was just a young humanist intellectual with the ability to reflect critically on fundamental issues concerning justice, humanity and the common good (Van Eck 1992:11-12).

But still the question remains: Why did he choose Seneca and why the De Clementia? There are several theories why Calvin chose to enter the academic discourse with such a publication (see overview in Hugo 1957:80-115). Some are of the opinion that Calvin was a typical humanist of the time who had to prove his superior intellect; some that Calvin had a predilection for Seneca's Stoic philosophy because of his own moralistic inclination; and some are of the opinion that Calvin responded to Erasmus's challenge to young academics with his negative attitude towards Seneca in his 1529 Basel edition of Seneca's works (see Hugo 1957:113). Was there more to Calvin's choice of material than a young academic's vanity to take on the great Erasmus and prove him wrong?

Hugo (1957:103) refers to the often quoted words of Calvin in a letter to his friend Daniel (22 April 1532) in which he expressed the hope that his publication could serve the common good (quod publico etiam bono forte cessurum sit). Hugo (as Wendel - see above) agrees with Kampschulte over Doumergue that this should not be interpreted as a veiled appeal to Francis I on behalf of Calvin's French compatriots in Paris who were persecuted because of their religious convictions. It should rather be understood as a hopeful dream that it might serve justice and the common good of the French public, which could also include the French Protestants whose trials and persecution Calvin had been quite aware of.8 Based on this, it seems that Calvin, even as a young academic, had been mindful of sociopolitical issues. Calvin's Commentary was more than 'self-promoting' and to 'demonstrate to the intellectual world his abilities as a classically trained scholar and jurist' (Blacketer 2009:181).

Hugo (1957:115) comes to the conclusion that Calvin chose Seneca for his entry into the academic world because he felt an affinity to Seneca's reasoning and views on justice, humanity and clemency. Seneca's description of the juridical relationship between the emperor (government) and his people gave Calvin a grip on the changes happening all around him and assisted the articulation of a Christian response.

 

Being human is to feel pity and compassion

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the author of De Clementia, had been appointed as tutor to the young Emperor Nero. During 55-56 AD, he wrote down some ideas as instruction to Nero, based on the Stoic principle of self-discipline and restraint. In chapters 4-6 of the second part of the De Clementia, Seneca makes the observation that in general people with a compassionate attitude are regarded as 'good' people. He is, however, not ad idem with such a view. He regarded it as 'weak' if someone, especially a king or a judge, would see somebody suffer and become troubled and agitated by the suffering, because it would blind such a person to wise and correct decisions. Practically, it means that a judge could be blinded by his compassion which might result in incorrect judgement and sentencing (CO V/I:156).9 Seneca paints an idealised picture of the wise and Stoic person: He should engage his fellowman in a kind manner, without being affected personally. He should distance himself from people and their suffering, without being unkind (Van Eck 1992:12-13).

In his Commentary, Calvin enters into debate with Seneca on various issues related to the concept of clemency. Calvin did not share Seneca's view that an unaffected and distant approach to suffering was the correct one. At times he contradicts Seneca (i.e. De Clementia I/XVII and II/VII), quoting from early Greek and Roman authors to substantiate his own views (see Backus 2003:17). Calvin writes in his Commentary CO V/I:154)10 that feeling compassion and pity are virtues even for a judge. Nobody could be regarded as a good person who is not compassionate. Calvin's argument (contra Seneca) is that the rational act of clemency (clementia) by a judge or king could not be dislocated from pity (misericordia), as if the rational process should not be influenced by emotions.

In his commentary on De Clementia I/III (CO V/I:41),11 Calvin agrees with Vopiscus that clemency is the greatest and most heroic virtue, a sign of true humanity (humanitas). Being human (humanus) implies a life of virtue; it has ethical implications, not the least being compassionate. For Calvin, reason and emotions are not mutually exclusive, in fact - it is what makes us human. We are human because we feel and reason. Being human and acting with humanity (humanitas) includes treating people with kindness, fairness and compassion (Van Eck 1992:7).

Calvin used arguments from various writers to strengthen his argument against the Stoic concept of the 'unmovable spirit' (Van Eck 1992:13). Calvin argues for a real involvement with people and their suffering, not only practically but also emotionally and intellectually. Seneca called emotions of pity a 'sickness of the soul' (CO V/I:155),12 while Calvin regarded it as fundamental to real clemency. He calls on Augustine13 to support his argument that compassion means nothing if we do not share the misery of others by helping them.

Another important aspect of Seneca's De Clementia is his understanding of humanitas, of a common humanity. Common humanity was not particular to Stoic philosophy, but an integral part of Greek philosophy since the time of Alexander the Great and the understanding of individuals as citizens of the world (kosmopolitès). Even slaves, the lowest stratum in ancient societies, should be regarded as part of one common humanity. In the De Clementia I/XVIII (CO V/I:118),14 Seneca points out that slaves should be treated in terms of what is equitable and right (aequi bonique), although by law masters had the right to punish slaves severely. In his commentary on this section, Calvin affirmed this notion with reference to Cicero, when he states 'est etiam erga infimum hominum genus servanda iustitia' [even the lowest of human race should be dealt with justly]. With reference to Budaeus, Calvin distinguished between the law, which could be applied harshly, and justice, where clemency and fairness could play a role. The important question is not so much about the laws, but about justice, equity and what is right. The Stoic understanding of humanitas found a permanent place in Calvin's theology. For Calvin, no human existence was possible without community, without being human for one another, without compassion and fellowship. In his later theological works, Calvin grounded the notion of a common humanity in terms of man created in the image of God (Van Eck 1992:14-15).

 

From Seneca commentator to theologian

One aspect of Calvin's theology which remained important was his understanding of natural law as well as the relationship between law and ethics (see Backus 2003:7-26; Bohatec 1934:3-93). Calvin's legal background stayed with him all his life, although it went through certain developments. Irena Backus' analysis of Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (Backus 2003:15-25) points to five recurring themes in Calvin's later theological works:

  • the importance of summum ius and aequitas

  • man as a social animal

  • the triple use of the law

  • relationships between head of household and its members

  • the respective functions of kings, tyrants and magistrates.

Backus (2003) agrees with Schreiner (1991) that:

the concept of one law of divine origin underlying all legislation was borrowed by the Romans from the Greeks and particularly from Stoic philosophy and eventually became commonplace in Roman legal theory and in Christian thought. (p. 8)

It was also part of Calvin's theology. He never developed a theology of natural law, but made it part of his doctrine on divine providence.

One example will suffice to illustrate why Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia should not be dislocated from his later theological works, even though the way Calvin applied certain concepts changed with time. According to Backus (2003:16), Calvin imported the concept of summum ius into his Commentary (I/II) where he comments on Seneca's explanation that clemency could save the innocent from unjust punishment. In his later theological works, he places the summum ius in opposition to aequitas, especially when he speaks about divine justice. Backus formulates it as follows:

He (Calvin) thus defines God's justice in sermon 19 on Deuteronomy 4 as God's relinquishing His summum ius or His absolute rigor of judgment. If God wanted to apply His law in its full rigor, he argues, then there would be nothing to stop Him, and human beings would have no option but to carry it out. However, God knows that humans are incapable of carrying out his law to the letter, and he therefore moderates it by remitting their sins freely. The idea of God's relinquishing his right to judge with utmost severity constitutes a leitmotif in Calvin's works. (p. 8)

In other words: God does not judge humanity in terms of the summum ius, but in terms of aequitas. In Roman law, the term normally refers to justice, where justice is applied in a fair, equitable and humane manner in which extenuating circumstances are also considered. God takes it into consideration that man is incapable of perfect obedience to the law. In the same way, Calvin argues that no earthly judge should apply justice without aequitas and clementia.

 

Concluding remarks

Calvin's attention to both theology and law became a trademark of early Calvinism (Witte 2010:1). Theologians and jurists, in many 16th century communities, formed the backbone of local leadership. As reformed catechisms and confessions developed, so new charters of rights influenced by reformed theology appeared. As a theologian, Calvin remained a 'human rights lawyer', pleading the case of persecuted Protestants (Witte 2010:2). As in his Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia, he pleads in the first edition of his Institutes of Christian Religion (Calvin [1863] 1536, CO Vol. I/II:77)15 for gentleness and mercy for those persecuted, even Muslim believers. He pleads not only for freedom and clemency, but also responsible behaviour by the people. The rights, responsibilities and obligations of government and people should always remain in balance.

Bolt (2000) is of the opinion that:

Calvinism is noted for being a decidedly political kind of Christianity. To the degree that is permissible to speak of a 'central motif' of Calvinism, it would have to be a distinctly political metaphor, the sovereignty of God, with its concrete Biblical expression, the kingdom of God. (p. 205)

Concepts of justice differ from time to time and culture to culture. As Plato's Republic justice had been articulated in terms of divine law, natural law, social contract, utilitarian purposes, distributive justice, retributive justice and restorative justice. The South African Constitution and justice system makes provision for inter alia distributive and restorative justice.

To what extent are theologians able to enter a very technical and sophisticated discourse on justice and equity? Could they contribute appropriately and theologically? Many are of the opinion that theologians and the church should stay away from 'political' issues simply because theologians are not adequately equipped to enter into an academic debate on law, justice and sociopolitical issues. Abraham Kuyper was of the opinion that the church lacks the competence to make any substantial contribution to public policy (see Bolt 2000:207) Churches and theologians tend to become involved in contemporary issues in practical ways. When they do enter the public debate, their contributions are based more often than not on intuition rather than theological reflection or technical knowledge.

We should be careful to imagine a direct link between Calvin and modern democracy. On the one hand, there is no doubt that Calvin and the way he engaged sociopolitical issues had a fundamental effect on the development of modern democracy and political liberties. On the other hand, there is such a vast difference in contexts between Calvin and contemporary society that it is quite difficult to transplant ideas and terminology in a simplistic manner.

What is important, to my opinion, is to understand that reformed theology is intrinsically, almost genetically, predisposed to sociopolitical engagement. The fact that Calvin reflected on justice, law, human dignity, clemency and many more in a critical and theologically responsible manner makes him a 'public theologian', still relevant in the 21st century.

 

Acknowledgements

The author thanks Johannes a Lasco Institute, Emden, Germany for their assistance for this study.

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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Beza, T., [1574] 1956, 'De iure magistratuum in subditos, et officio subditorum erga magistratus', in A.H. Murray (ed.), Theodor Beza - Concerning the rights of rulers over their subjects and the duty of subjects towards their rulers, transl. H.L. Gonin, HAUM, Cape Town, Pretoria.         [ Links ]

Biéler, A., [1961] 2005, Calvin's economic and social thought, E. Dommen (ed.), transl. J. Greig, WARC & WCC Publications, Geneva.         [ Links ]

Blacketer, R.A., 2009, 'Commentaries and prefaces', in H.J. Selderhuis (ed.), The Calvin handbook, pp. 181-192, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing C., Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Bohatec, J., 1934, Calvin und das Recht, Verlag Herman Böhlaus, Graz.         [ Links ]

Bohatec, J., 1937, Calvins Lehre von Staat und Kirche mit besondere Berücksichtigung des Organismusgedankens, M. & H. Marcus, Breslau.         [ Links ]

Bolt, J., 2000, 'Common grace, theonomy, and civic good: The temptations of Calvinist politics', Calvin Theological Journal 35(2000), 205-237, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids.         [ Links ]

Bornkamm, H., 1979, Martin Luther in der Mitte seines Lebens, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.         [ Links ]

Bromell, D., 2011, What is public theology?, Unpublished lecture delivered at Otago University, May 2011, viewed 21 March 2016, from http://www.otago.ac.nz/ctpi/otago032508.pdf        [ Links ]

Calvin, J. [1866] 1532, 'L. Annei Senecae Romani Senatoris ac Philosophi Clarissimi, Libro duo De Clementia, ad Neronem Caesarem: Io. Calvini Noviodunaei Commentariis Illustrati', in G. Baum, E. Cunitz & E. Reuss (eds.), Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia Volumen V, C.A. Schwetsschke et Filium, Brunsvigae.         [ Links ]

Calvin, J. [1863] 1536, 'Christianae Religionis Institutio', in Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia Volumen I, G. Baum, E. Cunitz & E. Reuss (eds.), C.A. Schwetsschke et Filium, Brunsvigae.         [ Links ]

De Visser, J.Th., 1926, Kerk en Staat, AW Sijthoff's Uitgeversmaatschappij, Leiden.         [ Links ]

Dreyer, W.A., 2014, 'Conversio Ad Docelitam: Calvyn oor bekering en Christenwees', HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 70(3), Art. #2094, 5 pages. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i3.2094        [ Links ]

Fudge, T.A., 2010, Jan Hus: Religious Reform and Social Revolution in Bohemia, I.B. Taurus, London, New York.         [ Links ]

Ganoczy, A., 1987, The Young Calvin, T & T Clark Ltd., Edinburgh.         [ Links ]

Haight, R., 2005, Christian community in history Volume 2: Comparative ecclesiology, Continuum, London, New York.         [ Links ]

Hancock, R.C., 1989, Calvin and the foundations of modern politics, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, London.         [ Links ]

Hopfl, H. (ed.), 1991, Luther and Calvin on secular authority, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.         [ Links ]

Hugo, A.M., 1957, Calvijn en Seneca. Een Inleidende studie van Calvijns Commentaar op Seneca, De Clementia, anno 1532, J.B. Wolters, Groningen-Djakarta.         [ Links ]

Innes, W.C., 1983, Social concern in Calvin's Geneva, Pickwick Publications, Allison Park Pennsylvania.         [ Links ]

Lohse, B., 1995, Luthers Theologie in ihrer historischen Entwicklung und in ihrem systematischen Zusammenhang, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.         [ Links ]

Luther, M. [1516/1517] 1991, 'Vorlesung über den Römerbrief', in von Kurt Aland (ed.), Luther Deutsch. Die Werke Luthers in Auswahl Band 1, pp. 107-262, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.         [ Links ]

Mannion, G., 2009, 'A brief genealogy of public theology, or doing theology when it seems nobody is listening', Annali di Studi Religiosi 10, 121-154.         [ Links ]

Rodriguez, R.R., 2008, God-talk and racism. A latino perspective, New York University Press, New York.         [ Links ]

Saxberg, N.F., 2015, Homo Digitalis. How human needs support digital behavior for people, organizations and society, Dansk Psykologisk Forlag, Copenhagen.         [ Links ]

Schaff, D.S., 1915, 'Introduction', in The Church by John Huss, transl. D.S. Schaff (ed.), Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.         [ Links ]

Schreiner, S., 1991, The theater of his glory: Nature and natural oder in the thought of John Calvin, The Labyrinth Press, Durham, NC.         [ Links ]

Schulze, L 1985. Calvin and 'social ethics'. His views on property, interest and usury, Kital, Pretoria.         [ Links ]

Song, Y.W., 2012, The common good in the theology of John Calvin, PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh.         [ Links ]

Van Eck, J., 1992, God, mens, medemens. Humanitas in de theologie van Calvijn, Uitgeverij Van Wijnen, Franeker.         [ Links ]

WA, 1930-1983, D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesammtausgabe Briefwechsel, Band 1-17, Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, Weimar.         [ Links ]

WA 1883-1983, D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesammtausgabe, Band 1-60, Hermann Böhlaus, Weimar.         [ Links ]

Wendel, F., 1978, Calvin - The origins and development of his religious thought, transl. P. Mairet, William Collins & Sons, London.         [ Links ]

Witte, J., 2007, The reformation of rights. Law, religion and human rights in early Calvinism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.         [ Links ]

Witte, J., 2010, 'Calvin the lawyer', in D. Hall & M. Padgett (eds.), Tributes to John Calvin on his 500thbirthday, pp. 1-23, viewed 29 March 2016, from http://ssrn.com/abstract=1863624        [ Links ]

Wyclif, J., [1384] 1904, De Civili Dominio Liber Tertius, J. Loserth (ed.), Wyclif Society, Trübner & Co, London.         [ Links ]

Zahrnt, H., 1983, Martin Luther in seiner zeit - für unsere Zeit, Süddeutscher Verlag GmbH, München.         [ Links ]

 

 

Received: 07 Feb. 2018
Accepted: 03 May 2018
Published: 25 June 2018

 

 

Project Leader: Wim Dreyer
Project Number: 77370920
Project Description: This research is part of the project, 'Justice and Human Dignity. A Reformed perspective', directed by Dr Wim Dreyer, Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. Corresponding author: Wim Dreyer, wim.dreyer@up.ac.za
1. See, for instance, the World Social Science Forum 2015 held in Durban under the patronage of UNESCO (http://www.wssf2015.org/)
2. The text of the Accra Confession is to be found at http://wcrc.ch/accra/the-accra-confession
3. A translation of the De Ecclesia with introduction by D.S. Schaff (1915) can be found at http://lollardsociety.org/pdfs/Hus_De_Ecclesia.pdf
4. WA Br. 2 Nr. 418, pp. 356-361: 'Potestas a Deo est, et ordinationi Dei resistit, qui potestati resistit, et: 'minister Dei est'.
5. WA 18, pp. 291-334.
6. CO V/I: Calvin ([1866] 1532).
7. Translations of Latin texts follow Battles and Hugo (1969).
8. Just for interest sake, we should keep in mind that Calvin started his studies in Paris at the Collège de la Marche in August 1523, aged 14. In the same month (in Paris), an Augustinian monk with the name Jean Vallière was burnt at the stake because he supported the heretic Luthériennes (Balke 1977:15). Calvin had been exposed to persecution of Protestants from an early age.
9. Salustius in oratione Caesaris: Omnes homines qui de rebus dubiis consultant, ab odio, amicitia, ira atque misericordia vacuos esse decet. Haud facile animus verum providet, ubi ilia officiunt
Sallust, in Caesar's speech: It becomes all men, who deliberate on dubious matters, to be influenced neither by hatred, affection, anger, nor pity. The mind, when such feelings obstruct its view, cannot see what is right.
10. Illud sane nobis persuasum esse debet, et virtutem esse misericordiam, nec bonum hominem esse posse, qui non sit misericors, quidquid in suis umbris disputent otiosi isti sapientes: qui an sapientes sint nescio, ut verbis Plinii utar: homines certe non sunt. Hominis est enim affici dolore, sentire, resistere tamen, et solatia admittere, non solatiis non egere
Obviously we ought to be persuaded of the fact that pity is a virtue, and that he who feels no pity cannot be a good man - whatever these idle sages may discuss in their shady nooks. To use Pliny's words: I know not whether they are sages, but they certainly are not men. For it is man's nature to be affected by sorrow, to feel, yet to resist, and to accept comforting, not to go without it
11. Bene cohaeret orationis filum. In praecedentibus sic clementiam hominum naturae convenire disserebat, ut hominem non esse contenderet, qui non simul clementi esset ingenio, atque ad mansuetudinem propenso. Est enim clementia vere humanitas: cuius participem esse, nihil aliud est, quam esse hominem. Nunc quod propius est scopo, addit esse virtutem heroicam, sine qua imperare principes non possint: sicut Vopiscus ait, primam esse rerum dotem
The thread of the discourse holds together well. In what went before he so asserted that clemency agrees with the nature of men, that he would contend that man is not man who is not at the same time of a clement disposition and inclined to gentleness. For clemency is truly humaneness: to partake of which is nothing else than to be a man. Now because it is more proper to his purpose, he adds that it is a heroic virtue, without which princes cannot rule: just as Vopiscus says: The greatest of all gifts
12. Misericordia est aegritudo animi ob alienarum miseriarum specie: aut tristitia ex alienis malis concepta, quae accidere immerentibus credit
Pity is a sickness of the mind brought about by the sight of the distress of others, or sadness caused by the ills of others which it believes come undeservedly
13. Augustinus libro IX. de Civiate
Quid utem est, inquit, misericordia, nisi alienae miseriae in nostro corde compassio, qua utique si possumus, subvenire cogimur? Augustine Book IX of the De Civitate What then is pity, but a compassion in our hearts for another's misery, by which we are compelled to give whatever help we can
14. Servis imperare moderate, laus est: et in macipio cogitandum est, non quantum illud impune pati possit, sed quantum tibi permittat aequi bonique natura, quae parcere etiam captivis et pretio paratis iubet. Quanta iustius his iubet, tanto iustius hominibus liberis, ingenuis honestis, non ut mancipiis abuti, sed his quos gradu antecedas, quorumque tibi non tradita servitus, sed tutela
It is praiseworthy to use authority over slaves with moderation. Even in the case of a human chattel you should consider not how much he can be made to suffer without retaliating, but how much you are permitted to inflict by the principles of equity and right, which require that even captives and purchased slaves should be spared. With how much more justice do they require that free, freeborn, and reputable men should not be treated as mere chattels, but as those who, outstripped by you in rank, have been committed to your charge to be, not your slaves, but your wards
15.
debemus tamen contendere quibus possumus modis, sive exhortatione ac doctrina, sive clementia ac mansuetudine, sive nostris ad Deum precibus, ut ad meliorem frugem conversi, in societatem ac unitatem ecclesiae se recipiant. Neque ii modo sic tractandi sunt, sed Turcae quoque ac Saraceni, caeterique verae religionis hostes; tantum abest ut probandae sint rationes, quibus eos ad fidem nostram adigere multi hactenus moliti sunt, dum aqua et igni, communibusque elementis illis interdicunt, cum omnia illis humanitatis officia denegant, cum ferro et armis persequuntur We ought to strive by whatever means we can, whether by exhortation and teaching or by mercy and gentleness, or by our own prayers to God that they may turn to a more virtuous life and may return to the society and unity of the church. And not only are excommunicants to be so treated, but also Turks and Saracens, and other enemies of religion. Far be it from us to approve those methods by which many until now have tried to force them to our faith, when they forbid them the use of fire and water and the common elements, when they deny them to all offices of humanity, when they pursue them with sword and arms' (see translation in Witte 2010:3).

^rND^sBackus^nI.^rND^sBalserak^nJ.^rND^sBeza^nT.^rND^sBlacketer^nR.A.^rND^sBolt^nJ.^rND^sCalvin^nJ.^rND^sCalvin^nJ.^rND^sDreyer^nW.A.^rND^sLuther^nM.^rND^sMannion^nG.^rND^sSchaff^nD.S.^rND^sWitte^nJ.^rND^1A01^nNicolaas J.^sGronum^rND^1A01^nNicolaas J.^sGronum^rND^1A01^nNicolaas J^sGronum

ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

Four different views of scientific knowledge and the birth of modern relativism: The very important challenge facing reformed churches in a Western world

 

 

Nicolaas J. Gronum

Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

Theologians are used to pointing the finger at European continental postmodernism when dealing with modern relativism. This article addresses a problem that is seldom highlighted within theology: modern relativism is the result of a series of epistemological discussions that took place during the early Enlightenment between scholars such as Rene Descartes, John Locke and Immanuel Kant. They were reacting, in part, to Aristotle's metaphysics and logic. When the whole picture unravels, one immediately sees that modern relativism is deeply ingrained in Western thought. In other words, modern relativism will not gather dust after the demise of postmodernism. To the contrary, this article would argue that modern relativism will continue to pose serious challenges to reformed churches in future. Pastors who want to engage with Western audiences will benefit from being made aware of this. Hopefully this will encourage theologians to re-evaluate the relevancy of reformed theological constructs in societies that are deeply steeped in relativist thought.


 

 

Introduction

Modern relativism1

Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them. (Baghramian & Carter 2017)

At the dawn of a new millennium, post-conservative evangelical Stanley Grenz (2000) gave the evangelical world Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era. Shortly thereafter conservative evangelicals fired back with Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Post-modern Times by Millard Erickson, Helseth and Taylor (2004).

Grenz (2000) argued that evangelical theology was a modernist theology. With the advent of postmodern thought it was high time for evangelicals to adapt to a new way of thinking and doing. Erickson et al. (2004), for their part, argued that evangelical theology was definitely not a modernist theology, that it was utterly foolish to adapt to postmodern thought in the way that Grenz suggested and that postmodernism was on its way out anyway.

One of the contributors to the book by Erickson et al. (2004), Reclaiming the Center, James Parker (2004), wrote a chapter entitled 'A Requiem for Postmodernism'. When discussing postmodernism, Parker states:

When one has given up the idea of normative, universal and absolute truth, there is no reason whatsoever to take what they say as true (particularly since they have conceded up front that 'truth' does not even exist). (p. 309)

This gives Parker reason to state that: 'postmodernism is overrated and predict that it will come to a certain and perhaps soon demise, or at least will be relegated to the realm of "curious but passé"'.

Readers of Reclaiming the Center, especially Parker's essay, may be forgiven for believing that modern relativism would be dealt a death blow with the demise of postmodernism.

The central argument

If one looks at the circumstances leading up to the birth of modern relativism it quickly becomes clear that modern relativism itself is not a child of European continental postmodernism. To the contrary, this article will argue that modern relativism is the product of the long and winding road science took from Aristotle to Immanuel Kant. As such, it is ingrained in Western thought. Not only that, it is currently dominant in most Western countries. Davaney (2000) attests to this when she states that:

It has become axiomatic in the late twentieth century to acknowledge that human beings are neither residents of everywhere nor nowhere but are situated within particular locales demarcated by distinctive languages, worldviews, political and economic structures, and social, religious, and ethical configurations. Moreover, this acknowledgement of the localized character of experience and knowledge has contained the recognition that our current context is the product of the vagaries of complex and varied historical processes that have proceeded our era and of our own contemporary responses to and transformations of these processes. Human historicity, thus, entails both being constituted by our past and context and being agential contributors to new historical realities. (p. 1)

Reformed churches need to take notice of this, for modern relativism poses difficult challenges to reformed theology, especially in communities that take seriously the idea of human historicity:

  • For example, the exegete now has to grapple with the idea of the biblical writer as someone not only recounting what the Holy Spirit told him but also as a person deeply influenced and shaped by his own context and humanity.

  • For example, the preacher who makes use of the prophetic formula, 'thus says the Lord of Hosts', now has to take into account that at least some of the members in the congregation will most likely see the preacher as a person influenced and shaped by a particular environment. In other words, many of the congregants will not view the preacher as a 'uncontaminated conduit' relaying the Word of God.

This impacts the authority of reformed churches in a direct manner.

The structure of the article

In order to illustrate that modern relativism became viable with the development of modern science, this article will focus on four different views of the nature of scientific knowledge as espoused by Aristotle (384-322BC), Rene Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632-1704) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).

The article will start with Aristotle's view of scientific knowledge. Aristotle is important if one wants to fully grasp the debates that took place during the Enlightenment, because at first they mostly reacted against his metaphysics while utilising his scientific method. Next the article will discuss the philosophical debates during the early Enlightenment, especially as it pertains to Descartes, Locke and Kant. The discussion will hopefully show that Descartes and Locke's view of science showed a belief in transcending the subjective side of the scientific enterprise while Kant took an altogether different approach. Kant's thought, it will be argued, made us think differently about thinking, thereby opening the door to modern relativism.

This article takes, as its focus, historical material arguably better known to philosophers than theologians. It does so because the Copernican revolution in philosophy ought to become better known to a wider array of theologians and because it is necessary, from time to time, to discuss our shared intellectual heritage in order to carve out new avenues of approach in theology. Hopefully this article will aid in fresh expressions of the Christian faith.

 

The four sciences and modern relativism

Introduction

Aristotle (384-322 BC), who had a huge influence on both the classical and medieval periods, defined knowledge one could hold with certainty as 'episteme'. One would ordinarily translate Aristotle's 'episteme' as 'science' or 'scientific knowledge', but then immediately would have to add that it is science of the ancient kind. Aristotle's scientific method (his logic) differed from what came to be known as science and the scientific method in the modern era (Cohen 2016; Groarke 2014).

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) would build upon Aristotle's logic while at the same time undermining his metaphysics. In this way Descartes, the rationalist, would lay the groundwork for the modern era (Hatfield 2016).

John Locke (1632-1704), the empiricist, differed from Descartes on important points. He would build upon Aristotle's logic but also propose a new kind of scientific method that began with uncertainty. Locke, among others, would become one of the best-known and most influential proponents of what can be described as modern science (Uzgalis 2017).

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), for his part, would take elements of both rationalist and empiricist thought in order to fashion his own brand known as 'transcendental idealism', thereby encouraging the Western world to think differently about thinking. This is also known as Kant's Copernican revolution in philosophy. Kant described the mind, previously thought to be mostly inactive, as something that shaped sense impressions. In other words, human beings did not perceive the world as it is, but the world as the mind shapes it for them (Rohlf 2016).

Aristotle's science

Aristotle's scientific method is best understood in conjunction with his views of objects in reality.

Hylomorphism is the belief that objects in reality consist of matter (the clay) and form (the cookie cutter). Think of it as a pin cushion with metal pins stuck in the cushion. The pin cushion is a combination of matter and form (necessary properties) while the pins represent the accidental properties. A dog might lose its accidental properties, its hair, its teeth and its bite, but still remain a dog. If you destroy the pin cushion itself, if you take away its necessary properties, the form of 'four legged canine mammal', then the dog would cease to exist. In short, the pins or accidental properties of an object can and will change. This, however, does not change the object itself. Only once the object loses its form, that is its essential or necessary properties, would the object cease to exist.

Aristotle was interested in knowing the necessary properties of objects in reality. He wanted to know an object's:

  • formal cause, that is, the form of the object

  • material cause, that is, the matter the object consists of

  • the efficient cause, that is, the blueprint or the maker of the object

  • the final cause, that is, the final goal of the object or the reason it exists for.

It is only after knowing the four causes that one could claim to know the object (Cohen 2016; Spade 1999).

Aristotle believed that after repeated exposure to nature people would start to intuitively know what the necessary properties of objects in nature were. You knew the particular object so well that its necessary properties became self-evident (at least that is what Aristotle believed). You then took self-evident beliefs regarding the essences of object in nature and used that in your deductions: cows are viviparous (Proposition 1) and mammals are viviparous (Proposition 2); therefore cows are mammals (deduction) (Groarke 2014; Shields 2007).

The deductive process described above forms part of Aristotle's scientific method, better known as 'Aristotle's logic'.

Aristotle's logic held that scientists must begin with some statement of belief or a proposition. Groarke (2014) describes it as follows:

A proposition is ideally composed of at least three words: a subject (a word naming a substance), a predicate (a word naming a property), and a connecting verb, what logicians call a copula (Latin, for 'bond' or 'connection').

These propositions either had to be irrefutable ('I have a headache') or grounded in themselves (being self-evidently true), for example:

I am an existing thing. My existence is therefore something I hold to be self-evidently true. In other words, I just know I exist. I do not base the fact of my existence on any other reason than that it is self-evident; I cannot rationally doubt it.

Next we use deduction (syllogism) to build upon our propositions. Deduction is when we deduce a proposition from two related propositions placed side by side. For example, if a = b (first proposition) and if b = c (second proposition related to the first through b), then it holds that a = c (the deduced proposition). The whole approach starts with certainty (self-evident propositions) and ends with certainty (deduced proposition), following the maxim that the house is only as strong as its foundations. It is more commonly known as a 'foundationalist epistemological framework' (or 'Euclid's geometrical method'). This article refers to it as the 'ancient way of doing science' (Aristotle's logic) (Groarke 2014; Shields 2007).

How did Aristotle employ the method? As already noted, Aristotle was interested in the necessary properties of objects in reality. Added to this, he was not so much interested in individual objects as groups of objects (species and genera). After repeated exposure to objects in reality one could say, if dogs give birth to live puppies and if mammals give birth to live young, then dogs are mammals. The proposition may not be new knowledge, but if the starting propositions were necessary then the proposition deduced from it will be guaranteed to also be necessary (Groarke 2014; Shields 2007).

The Renaissance and the birth of the Enlightenment

Aristotle's scientific method and metaphysics would continue to be influential right up until the Middle Ages. This would change with the Renaissance (1300-1650). The Renaissance can be characterised as a movement that attempted to reform medieval society. This movement was energised by ancient manuscripts from a golden Roman age.2

Experiments during the Renaissance (e.g. gravity, motion and the invention of telescopes) cast a shadow on Aristotle's metaphysics, especially his ideas on hylomorphism. The experiments and inventions during the Renaissance spurred on a new scientific revolution with illustrious names such as Tyco Brahe (1546-1601), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727) (Principe 2011).

Galileo Galilei (1957) describes the new science in The Assayer:

Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth.

Those scholars at the front of the scientific revolution, such as Galileo Galilei, looked upon nature as if it were a machine, functioning according to set laws that could be described with mathematical equations. It could be said that it was an engineer's way of looking at the world. Underlying this new mechanistic philosophy that broke with Aristotelian metaphysics was the corpuscular theory. The 'corpuscular theory' was more or less another name for Democritus' metaphysics, called 'atomism'. Democritus was a Greek philosopher who predated Aristotle. The corpuscular hypothesis stated that:

  • Matter is composed of very small material particles (corpuscles or atoms).

  • Impact is the sole means of communicating motion.

  • Qualities such as colour, taste and smell can be reduced to the primary, inherent properties of the corpuscles of which the body is composed of (Kochiras 2017; Newman 2016).

Three points are of importance:

1. Objects consisted of small particles that obeyed certain laws. These particles, in turn, would have an effect on the behaviour of objects in the world.

2. Objects in the world, as well as the particles they were made up of, consisted of primary qualities (size, shape and motion). These primary qualities could be described with mathematical equations.

3. Objects in the world also had secondary qualities (taste, smell, sound, colour, etc.). The secondary qualities were not part of the object. They were somehow caused in us through the interaction between an object in nature and our senses. Take a mountainside as an example. The colour of the mountainside changes throughout the day. It all depends on the way the sun shines on the mountainside as well as our perspective towards it. The same goes for taste; it differs from person to person, depending on a variety of factors when people interact with (taste) something in reality. Secondary qualities were therefore not viewed as something permanent that existed on their own. (Kochiras 2017; Principe 2011)

Unfortunately the end of the Renaissance would be marked by the utter destruction that was the 30 Years' War (1618-1648). It was Catholic against Protestant. The fighting endured for 30 bloody years. We might, in an effort to exonerate Christianity, point to the fact that this was not only a war between Protestants and Catholics but also a war driven by political and economic factors. That may be true but it still was a war fought between Christians. And it was Christians who did the killing.3

Rene Descartes' science

Rene Descartes, generally regarded as the father of the modern era, fought in the 30 Years' War. If we read Toulmin's (1990) Cosmopolis, we are entertained with the vision of a tired Descartes who realised that a divided church would not be able to bring Europe back together again. Something else had to do. By that time a new breed of scholars along with a new type of science had made their presence felt.

Descartes, a philosopher and a mathematician, would commit himself fully to this new type of science, believing it to be a new guiding light (replacing the Roman Catholic Church) that would bring Europe together and lead the continent out of the endless cycle of conflict. His chief task would be to furnish the new way of looking at reality (corpuscular theory) with an indubitable foundation, ironically, utilising Aristotle's logic.

Descartes' use of Aristotelian logic was done in a typical rationalist manner. Rationalists mostly believed that all human knowledge begins with innate concepts that were already in the mind independent of sensory experience (e.g. people were born with them or God gave them directly to people). Whereas Aristotle looked to repeated exposure to nature when trying to ascertain the essence or necessary properties of objects in reality, Descartes looked to the mind. He would use rational thought to determine the necessary properties of all of reality (Newman 2016).4

Descartes started with doubting literally everything, even his senses. He then had a clear and distinct idea, 'I think, I am' [cogito ergo sum]. The cogito was not the result of deduction, even if it looks that way (consider 'I doubt therefore I think therefore I exist'). Cogito ergo sum was a clear and distinct idea (a self-evident belief) provided by the mind. He then proceeds to build upon these clear and distinct ideas through the use of deduction (Hatfield 2016).

At this stage, the only thing Descartes was certain of was that he was thinking and existing. He could not even be certain that he had a body. Descartes then proceeded to prove both the existence of God and reality from other clear and distinct innate ideas he arrived at through reflection.

Eventually he demonstrated by way of deductive logic that God existed, that reality existed and that human beings consisted of immaterial mind or soul whose necessary property was to think and body or matter whose necessary property was extension (tiny corpuscles filling everything).5 Only God and a human mind could think.6 The rest, including animals, was extension (three-dimensional matter) guided by the laws of nature. This provided scholars who wished to study nature as a machine, depicting it in the way of universal mathematical laws, with a solid metaphysical foundation that validated their view of the world (Newman 2016).

Science now had the task to proceed from innate concepts regarding the essence of reality to empirical observations of it. In this sense Descartes did believe sense perception was important. Hatfield (2016) describes it best:

In considering Descartes' answer to how we know, we can distinguish classes of knowledge. Metaphysical first principles are known by the intellect acting alone. Such knowledge should attain absolute certainty Objects of natural science are known by a combination of pure intellect and sensory observation: the pure intellect tells us what properties bodies can have, and we use the senses to determine which particular instances of those properties bodies do have.

Descartes is rightly called the father of the modern era because he provided the new science (corpuscular theory) with a supposedly rock solid metaphysical foundation that complied with the rules of Aristotelian logic that was still authoritative during Descartes' lifetime. In doing so, he broke decisively with Aristotle's metaphysics, which so dominated the latter stages of the Middle Ages.

John Locke's science

While Descartes can be considered the father of the Enlightenment, John Locke can be considered as one of its most stellar proponents. As a proponent of Enlightenment thought, Locke believed in the supremacy of rational thought. He admired the new science of Galilei and Newton. The only difference was, he did not support rationalism (Sheridan 2016; Uzgalis 2017).

Locke was an empiricist. He did not believe in the existence of innate ideas. All our knowledge stems from the five senses. Locke famously stated that the mind was tabula rasa at birth, an empty slate. It therefore had no recourse to special or divine innate ideas that gave us insight into reality and its true essence.7

Unlike Descartes who wanted to fashion a metaphysical bedrock for the new science, Locke wanted to understand the inner workings of the human mind.

Locke argued that knowledge began with experience. Experience imprints the primary and secondary qualities of objects in the world on our minds in the form of simple ideas. So after looking, touching, smelling and tasting an apple we are left with simple ideas of the weight, height, motion, smell, taste and look of an object (e.g. red, fruity, sweet, round, not in motion, juicy). The mind then takes simple ideas and puts them together in complex ideas (red, fruity, sweet = apple). While the mind is busy doing this it cannot help but become aware of its own operations. When the mind reflects upon its own operations, it gains additional simple ideas of mental operations such as existence, thinking, knowing, understanding (Sheridan 2016; Uzgalis 2017).8

When it came to complex ideas, Locke differentiated between complex ideas of substances, modes and relations.

Complex ideas of relations originate when we take two ideas or concepts side by side and view them as one. An example of a complex idea of relations is the concept of cause and effect. Cause and effect is, of course, of central importance to empirical science. In other words, when we know that a produces bor that if a happens, b happens, we can get to know things and start to predict the future. For example, we can say that near the equator, when warm water evaporates, hurricanes will form (Sheridan 2016; Uzgalis 2017).

Substances were complex ideas about things that existed (e.g. lion, mountain, sun, etc.). When the mind creates a complex idea of substance (e.g. the concept or idea of 'lion') the archetype for this substance exists in the world (e.g. real lions on a game farm). When it comes to complex ideas of modes Uzgalis (2017) explains:

When we make ideas of modes, the mind is again active, but the archetype is in our mind. The question becomes whether things in the world fit our ideas, and not whether our ideas correspond to the nature of things in the world. Our ideas are adequate. Thus we define 'bachelor' as an unmarried, adult, male human being. If we find that someone does not fit this definition, this does not reflect badly on our definition, it simply means that that individual does not belong to the class of bachelors. Modes give us the ideas of mathematics, of morality, of religion and politics and indeed of human conventions in general. Since these modal ideas are not only made by us but serve as standards that things in the world either fit or do not fit and thus belong or do not belong to that sort, ideas of modes are clear and distinct, adequate and complete.

There exist no bachelors in nature. We have created the idea or concept of 'bachelor' in our minds for ourselves in order to help us navigate reality. Locke thought that Aristotle's science was possible in instances of modes. Because we have constructed the modes ourselves according to an archetype in our minds, we know exactly what a bachelor is and what it entails. We can therefore be sure about the concept of 'bachelor'; as such it can serve as part of a proposition in a deductive argument (Uzgalis 2017).

With complex ideas of substances we do not have direct access to the object in nature. To make matters more difficult, most of our knowledge (our concepts or ideas) of the objects in nature is often compiled of simple ideas of the secondary qualities of the objects. We can therefore never be sure that our concept of 'lion' exactly matches the lion as it is in nature. In the case of complex ideas of substance, we start with uncertainty and through gradual experimentation learn more about an object in nature. This approach is a precursor towards modern empirical science (Sheridan 2016; Uzgalis 2017).

Interestingly enough, Locke believed we could be more certain of fields dealing with modes (politics) than fields dealing with substances (physics). In the end Locke tried to show that (1) innate ideas are devoid of truth, (2) that Aristotle and Descartes' scientific methods work only in instances regarding complex ideas of modes and (3) that we will have to work hard to gradually improve our knowledge of nature through experimentation and not rational deductive thought (Sheridan 2016; Uzgalis 2017).

After Locke, several other British empiricists took his ideas further, though not always as expected. The empiricist philosopher Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), for example, pointed out that if we had direct access only to the ideas in our mind and only indirect access to reality itself, how could we hold the distinction between an object's primary and secondary qualities? How could we know that the ideas we had were in fact real and true representations? If the secondary qualities of an object were not real, what grounds would we have to say that its primary qualities were real? In fact, what evidence would we have to suggest that a material world outside us existed (Downing 2013)?

Another rather radical empiricist philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), asked what evidence we had of the concept of cause and effect. Hume did not believe that we could use either reason (Descartes) or experience (Locke) to arrive at a concept such as causation. The only thing we could say, based on experience, was that one thing had happened and after that another thing had happened. What Hume was pointing out was that we had no empirical reason to confidently state that the future would resemble the past. Without such an assurance the predictions of science would be arbitrary (Morris & Brown 2017).

Immanuel Kant's science

Immanuel Kant was famously awoken from his slumber by the questions David Hume posed. Kant was not a sceptic and believed that these questions could be answered. As a child of the Enlightenment Kant believed strongly in the supremacy of the mind. In fact, he believed that the mind gave us reality in a certain way. What followed is known as Kant's Copernican revolution in philosophy because Kant encouraged philosophers to think differently about thinking, thereby solving the problem with causation (Rohlf 2016).9

Kant's 'think differently about thinking' is better known as 'transcendental idealism'. Stang (2016) defines it as follows:

In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant argues that space and time are merely formal features of how we perceive objects, not things in themselves that exist independently of us, or properties or relations among them. Objects in space and time are said to be 'appearances', and he argues that we know nothing of substance about the things in themselves of which they are appearances. Kant calls this doctrine (or set of doctrines) 'transcendental idealism'.

Simply put, Kant believed that we had the innate ability to structure sense experience. This means that we do not know the world as it is; we only know it as the mind presents it to us. Put in a different way, Kant believed that the mind had two different powers: sensibility and understanding. Sensibility, Kant said, has two innate forms: space and time. Everything we experience the mind takes and puts into the form of time and space. That means that time and space do not exist out there. The same is true for the understanding. It also has innate forms. One of them is causality. This means that when we experience something, our minds put it in the form of cause and effect (Rohlf 2016).10

Let us take space as an example. Kant (2012) starts off with saying: (1) 'Space is not a conception which has been derived from outward experiences'. Space is not something out there gained from experience but in here, innate and independent of experience. Kant (2012) further says that (2) 'Space then is a necessary representation a priori, which serves for the foundation of all external intuitions. We never can imagine or make a representation to ourselves of the non-existence of space, though we may easily enough think that no objects are found in it'.

Kant tries to show that space is an innate form or category imposed on sense experience. He does this partly by explaining that we can never envision a scenario without space. I can perfectly imagine an empty room but I cannot imagine a room without space because space is innate; my mind automatically 'stamps' it on my thoughts and experiences.

Before we discuss the problems with above interpretation of Kant, we first need to look at the method Kant used to prove the existence of innate forms. This method is called the 'transcendental argument'.11 Transcendental arguments were often used to convince sceptics of the existence of a statement. For example: take something everyone believes to be true, including the sceptic: so we all take x to be true. The next step is to show that for x to be true, y also needs to be true. So you have to deny the truth of x if you do not believe in the truth of y because without y, x could not be true (Rohlf 2016).

I can now demonstrate that a world outside us must exist (y) for us to have the perceptions or facts that we all believe to be true (x). I can use the same argument to prove that one of the innate concepts of the understanding must be cause and effect. Hume may have been right; we do not have any empirical evidence to suggest causality, but in order for me to have certain experiences and in order for me to talk about experience in a causal way, I must already have the concept of causality that is innately present in the understanding (Stern 2017).

Above is one way of interpreting Kant, a view that dominated during his own lifetime. It is, however, not without its problems. Rohlf (2016) describes it as:

Another name for this view is the two-worlds interpretation, since it can also be expressed by saying that transcendental idealism essentially distinguishes between a world of appearances and another world of things in themselves The main problems with the two-objects interpretation are philosophical First, at best Kant is walking a fine line in claiming on the one hand that we can have no knowledge about things in themselves, but on the other hand that we know that things in themselves exist, that they affect our senses, and that they are non-spatial and non-temporal. Second, even if that problem is surmounted, it has seemed to many that Kant's theory, interpreted in this way, implies a radical form of skepticism that traps each of us within the contents of our own mind and cuts us off from reality.

Differences in interpretation of Kant aside, important to note is that Kant believed that the mind had the innate ability to structure sense perception. With previous philosophers the mind was mostly inactive, recognising innate ideas that were supposedly there all along or perceiving simple ideas given by sense experience. Take Locke, for example. Locke thought that the mind merely perceives and then constructs knowledge of that which has been perceived. With Kant the mind structures knowledge in the act of perceiving. The mind is therefore given an active role. This is thinking differently about thinking, a Copernican revolution in philosophy.

Conclusion

Descartes believed that the mind is able to transcend its human bonds and grasp at the eternal, seeing deeply into the essences of human beings and all of reality. Locke, on the one hand, also believed that the mind is able to transcend its earthly bonds. Human beings can be absolutely certain about the existence of God, their own existence and the products they create. On the other hand, Locke held that, where experience is concerned, human beings need to work from the ground on up, gradually increasing their knowledge, knowing full well that they do not yet have access to the inner workings of objects in reality. Kant takes another route. Reason no longer transcends its own humanity. Instead it has to make do with the 'doctored' picture provided by the mind.

After Kant the consensus starts to grow that reason does not transcend its human bonds but rather is a product of it. Rorty (1982) would later state:

Since Kant, we find it almost impossible not to think of the mind as divided into active and passive faculties, the former using concepts to 'interpret' what 'the world' imposes on the latter. (p. 3)

Baghramian (2004) remarks that:

Husserl blames Kant, more than any other philosopher, for psychologism and relativism. He argues that there is nothing in Kant's work to prevent us from thinking that the Kantian table of categories (the mind's way of shaping sense experience - NJG) could vary in different species or even individuals. (p. 50)

In short, modern relativism is not a new fad but thoroughly ingrained in modern Western thought. It is the product of a long and winding road, from scholars who at first believed that human beings could transcend the local, the specific and the subjective (Descartes and Locke) to scholars who opened the door to new ways of thinking (Kant). Seen in this way it becomes clear that reformed churches will most likely have to deal with modern relativism and the considerable challenges it poses for some time to come. It is as Alasdair MacIntyre (1987) writes:

Relativism, like skepticism, is one of those doctrines that have by now been refuted a number of times too often. Nothing is perhaps a surer sign that a doctrine embodies some not-to-be neglected truth than that in the course of the history of philosophy it should have been refuted again and again. Genuinely refutable doctrines only need to be refuted once. (p. 385)

 

Discussion

Reformed theological constructs such as biblical inspiration and prophetic preaching predate Kant. They now have to make sense in a post-Kantian world. In a post-Kantian world scholars are increasingly recognising that human beings shape and are shaped by their surroundings. The field of cognitive science, by no means a nihilist enterprise, is increasingly paying more and more attention to humans as beings shaped by a particular environment (e.g. embodied cognition).12 A good example is found in Augoustinos, Walker and Donaghue's (2014) discussion of the metaphorical 'understandascope' that psychologists supposedly use when studying people:

The solitary figure is separated from the mass below, set apart as though unafflicted by being human and unaffiliated with anything human. In peering through the Understandascope, the figure fails to recognize that he (and the figure does seem to be drawn as 'he', and that only highlights the point we are making here) is inseparable from those below, and indeed that any understanding that comes through the Understandascope is not given to him as if divinely, but rather depends on his interpretation of the information provided.

Reformed congregants are living in a world where many, if not most, psychologists and neurologists accept the fact that we are shaping and shaped by our environment. That idea, so it seems, has become axiomatic in popular culture as well. This may lead to reformed churches struggling with a plausibility crises in the public sphere. Under these circumstances the reverend who wishes to proclaim the 'unvarnished' Word of God may just be ridiculed as naive.

The situation is difficult; fortunately there are theologians who can be of help in this particular situation. A good starting point would be Paul J. Achtemeier (1927-2013), who wrote Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture (1999). When dealing with the biblical inspiration, Achtemeier (1999:104) distinguishes between three components:

  • the tradition of the community

  • the situation facing the community

  • the author(s).

With 'tradition', Achtemeier means to say a living tradition that could be brought to bear on a new situation that faces the community. In other words, tradition functions as God's Word that communities then reinterpret in order to speak a new word to new times; for example, the Old Testament is used as a living tradition, interpreted by the writers of the New Testament in order to speak anew to differing circumstances. The work of reinterpreting is done by the author(s). The Holy Spirit, Achtemeier (1999:144) argues, is present in all three components.

Achtemeier is an excellent example of a theologian trying to wrestle with the idea of human historicity while trying to stay true to his faith in Jesus Christ. As such, his thought holds much promise to theologians who wish to engage an audience that find themselves in a culture that takes human historicity serious.

 

Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence:
Nicolaas Gronum
gronumnh@hotmail.com

Received: 21 Sept. 2017
Accepted: 07 Apr. 2018
Published: 25 June 2018

 

 

Project Leader: N. Niemandt
Project Number: 04317734
Project Description: Dr Gronum is participating in the research project, 'Ecodomy', directed by Prof. Dr Nelus Niemandt, Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria.
1. Not to be confused with nihilism. Pratt (2017) describes 'nihilism' as: 'The belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.' A relativist, on the other hand, will accept certain rules as authoritative. For example, the rules of different cultures will be seen as authoritative within the cultures that gave rise to them. It is when rule makers depict themselves as beings with an objective vantage point, able to transcend the bonds of our shared humanity, that relativists will start to protest.
2. Legaspi (2010) writes: 'Renaissance humanism is better described as a broad, religiously flexible, and civic-minded educational program encompassing the humanities (studia humanitatis) and a movement, furthermore, rooted in medieval appropriation of classical sources. One of its distinctive features was the study of classical texts in their original languages
preeminently Latin but also Greek and, later, Hebrew. This gave rise to the Renaissance ideal of the vir trilinguus and the close association of political and religious renewal with fresh appropriations of ancient learning. Humanism was a reformatory enterprise energized at all points by philology' (p. 11).
3. Gillespie's (2008) summation remains a favourite: 'The Wars of Religion were conducted with a fervor and brutality that were not seen again until our own times
The slaughter at Magdeburg, for all its horror, was not the first nor the last such event. During the Peasants' Rebellion in the 1520s, over one hundred thousand German peasants and impoverished townspeople were slaughtered, many of them when they rushed headlong into battle against heavily armed troops, convinced by their leader Thomas Mintzer that true believers were immune to musket balls. In 1572, seventy thousand French Huguenots were slaughtered in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. The Franciscan monks who had preached that killing heretics was the surest way to salvation were pleased, but apparently not as pleased as Pope Gregory XIII, who was so delighted to receive the head of the slain Huguenot leader Coligny in a box that he had a special medal struck commemorating the event. And finally, lest anyone imagine that the barbarity was one-sided, Cromwell's model army sacked the Irish town of Drogheda in 1649, killing virtually everyone. They burned alive all those who had taken refuge in the St. Mary's Cathedral, butchered the women hiding in the vaults beneath it, used Irish children as human shields, hunted down and killed every priest, and sold the thirty surviving defenders into slavery. Cromwell, without the least sense of irony, thanked God for giving him the opportunity to destroy such barbarous heretics. While these accounts are shocking, they only give us an inkling of the horror of these wars that raged over Europe for more than five generations. By conservative estimates, the wars claimed the lives of 10 percent of the population in England, 15 percent in France, 30 percent in Germany, and more than 50 percent in Bohemia. By comparison, European dead in World War II exceeded 10 percent of the population only in Germany and the USSR. Within our experience only the Holocaust and the killing fields of Cambodia can begin to rival the levels of destruction that characterized the Wars of Religion'.
4. Descartes the rationalist, while elevating reason, is sceptical about the value of sense perception. Descartes (2012) writes: 'But, afterward, a wide experience by degrees sapped the faith I had reposed in my senses; for I frequently observed that towers, which at a distance seemed round, appeared square, when more closely viewed, and that colossal figures, raised on the summits of these towers, looked like small statues, when viewed from the bottom of them; and, in other instances without number, I also discovered error in judgments founded on the external senses; and not only in those founded on the external, but even in those that rested on the internal senses; for is there aught more internal than pain? And yet I have sometimes been informed by parties whose arm or leg had been amputated, that they still occasionally seemed to feel pain in that part of the body which they had lost, - a circumstance that led me to think that I could not be quite certain even that any one of my members was affected when I felt pain in it'.
5. Some of the mechanical philosophers believed in the existence of vacuum and indivisible atoms (corpuscles). Descartes did not. He believed that everything consisted of corpuscles, tiny particles. There was no empty space, no vacuums. Matter was extended; it had three-dimensional properties that covered every little space (Slowik 2014).
6. Descartes (2012) would say that he had a concept of a perfect being. Because he was not perfect the concept could not originate with him. It must have been an innate concept placed in him by a perfect being, in whom the concept of perfection originated in the first place. God therefore exists. Descartes (2012) puts it this way: 'There only remains, therefore, the idea of God, in which I must consider whether there is anything that cannot be supposed to originate with myself. By the name God, I understand a substance infinite, (eternal, immutable), independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself, and every other thing that exists, if any such there be, were created. But these properties are so great and excellent, that the more attentively I consider them the less I feel persuaded that the idea I have of them owes its origin to myself alone. And thus it is absolutely necessary to conclude, from all that I have before said, that God exists. For though the idea of substance be in my mind owing to this, that I myself am a substance, I should not, however, have the idea of an infinite substance, seeing I am a finite being, unless it were given me by some substance in reality infinite'.
7. Locke (2012) states: 'The same inability will every one find in himself, who shall go about to fashion in his understanding one simple idea, not received in by his senses from external objects, or by reflection from the operations of his own mind about them. I would have any one try to fancy any taste which had never affected his palate; or frame the idea of a scent he had never smelt: and when he can do this, I will also conclude that a blind man hath ideas of colours, and a deaf man true distinct notions of sounds'.
8. Locke (2012) writes: 'These simple ideas, the materials of all our knowledge, are suggested and furnished to the mind only by those two ways above mentioned, viz. sensation and reflection. When the understanding is once stored with these simple ideas, it has the power to repeat, compare, and unite them, even to an almost infinite variety, and so can make at pleasure new complex ideas. But it is not in the power of the most exalted wit, or enlarged understanding, by any quickness or variety of thought, to INVENT or FRAME one new simple idea in the mind, not taken in by the ways before mentioned: nor can any force of the understanding DESTROY those that are there'.
9. Kant (2012) was an empiricist. His own words leave no doubt: 'That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt. For how is it possible that the faculty of cognition should be awakened into exercise otherwise than by means of objects which affect our senses, and partly of themselves produce representations, partly rouse our powers of understanding into activity, to compare to connect, or to separate these, and so to convert the raw material of our sensuous impressions into a knowledge of objects, which is called experience? In respect of time, therefore, no knowledge of ours is antecedent to experience, but begins with it'.
10. Kant is a titan in the field of philosophy. That being said, he wrote during the 1700s and his thoughts were his own. As such, scholars are still debating the precise meaning of Kant's ideas. Certain interpretations give rise to certain problems. For a detailed discussion refer to the 'two worlds vs. one world' interpretation of Kant (Rohlf 2016).
11. Stern (2017) explains it in the following way: 'As standardly conceived, transcendental arguments are taken to be distinctive in involving a certain sort of claim, namely that X is a necessary condition for the possibility of Y - where then, given that Y is the case, it logically follows that X must be the case too. Moreover, because these arguments are generally used to respond to skeptics who take our knowledge claims to be problematic, the Y in question is then normally taken to be some fact about us or our mental life which the skeptic can be expected to accept without question (e.g. that we have experiences, or make certain judgements, or perform certain actions, or have certain capacities, and so on), where X is then something the skeptic doubts or denies (e.g. the existence of the external world, or of the necessary causal relation between events, or of other minds, or the force of moral reasons). In this way, it is hoped, skepticism can be overturned using transcendental arguments that embody such transcendental claims'.
12. Thagard (2014) describes cognitive science as follows: 'Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. Its intellectual origins are in the mid-1950s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures. Its organizational origins are in the mid-1970s when the Cognitive Science Society was formed and the journal Cognitive Science began. Since then, more than ninety universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia have established cognitive science programs, and many others have instituted courses in cognitive science'.

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

Statues, symbols and signages: Monuments towards socio-political divisions, dominance and patriotism?

 

 

Kelebogile T. Resane

Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

The focus of this article is on monuments variously referred to as statues, symbols, signages, busts, icons etc. The words are used interchangeably. Three words are highlighted to represent a common concept. These are statues, symbols and signages. The South African history with its painful experience of the indigenous inhabitants is highlighted and how symbols had to change in 1994 to represent the aspirations of the new democratic dispensation. Biblical reflections on monuments demonstrate the importance of these symbols during the Old and the New Testament times. The two symbols singled out to reinforce this notion are the Holy Communion and the cross. The significance and potency of the monuments is explained and conclusion drawn is that symbols are valuable for didactive purpose because they serve as teaching aids. They also serve the memory for generations to come so that they know how God's faithfulness has been demonstrated in the national history of Israel, therefore serving missiological function of the church today.


 

 

Introduction

From time immemorial, apart from oracles, people asserted their origin, meaning, ethnicity, piety, religion and power through images. 'The city squares of the Greek era were crammed with statuary of gods and elites' (Nasrallah 2011:171). From the coin in the pocket to the sculptures that gazed down on walking people around the city and the cultic centres, or the agora, emperors and elites made statements about their piety, cultural knowledge and prowess. The literature on iconography points to statues, symbols or monuments focusing on feminine sexuality and male artificial deity (Hersey 2009; Nasrallah 2011). Nakedness, pleasure, virility, dexterity, divinity and ethnicity seem to have taken centre stage crafted in statues, symbols, icons, monuments and sculptures. Iconography leans more towards religious symbols than secular symbols such as statues, busts, monuments etc. Religion is extensively coloured with monumentalisation:

Monuments more than often have a spiritual character and iconic value, in the sense that they offer a space for the formation or discovery of meaning. (Cilliers 2015:2)

Monuments such as statues play an important symbolic role in people's lives, with each monument being built for specific reasons and intended to serve particular purposes or interests. Monuments are erected as part of a visual culture that continually reminds us of something or someone important; yet, the symbolic value of monuments may change. Such values may acquire or lose importance, depending on fluctuating socio-political dispensations and dispositions.

In this article, various words are used interchangeably as they convey the same meaning and outcome. Words used include statues, symbols, signs, icons, monuments, busts, memorials or memorabilia, emblems and in some places, sepulchres.

 

The monuments

The statues

A statue is a sculpture representing a person or persons, an animal or an event, normally full length, as opposed to a bust. A statue comes at a huge price as is made of materials like clay, marble, resin, bronze, porcelain, fibre glass etc. The latest contentions for statues, especially of the former President of South Africa, are always attached more to the cost than any significance. For instance, in the North-West Province, the opposition parties argued that President Zuma's statue is costly and funds could be directed elsewhere for poverty alleviation in the province. Not only is a price attached to statues but also the aesthetics and admiration, as Bobou (2015) asserts:

But statues were more than objects of admiration. Their cost, quantity, and placement, as well as the types used for the representation of gods and mortals show that their role was far more important than that of a decorative object that could be admired for its technique, style, or subject. (p. 4)

This theme on statues had become prevalent in South Africa since 09 March 2015 when the students of University of Cape Town cried and appealed for the fall of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes which occupied the intersectional space of institutional public entrance. The statue of Rhodes was targeted as the man was a megalomaniac British colonialist. His legacy will always be attached to the Glen Grey Act - a policy that became a blueprint for the consequent apartheid legislations restricting black people to the access and ownership of the land. This culminated into the formalised migrant labour system that broke the family and communal ethos of the indigenous people. In the words of Headley and Kobe (2017), the man built:

a history characterised by land conquest, the quest for cheap labour, political oppression, white supremacy, discrimination and domination which were often legitimised in the name of Christianity. (p. 2)

The statues and the busts of Rhodes suffered sporadic setbacks, nationwide, after the dawn of democracy. A memorable example was in Mahikeng:

When a part of the old town station was demolished in the mid-1990s to make way for a shopping mall, the statue was moved to an inauspicious location at the Mahikeng Transnet train yard. It was this relative obscurity that signaled its last days in Mahikeng, the northern town that was a key stop in Rhodes's ambitious Cape-to-Cairo rail project.1

Cecil John Rhodes' statues were vandalised and defaced as they represented the ensuing colonial dominance and power, while those of Hedrick Francois Verwoerd suffered the same as they represented apartheid history and its anomalies.

It looks like Verwoerd's statues and busts were the most targeted throughout South Africa, for obvious reasons, as the man who within 8 years as a Minister of Native Affairs:

rapidly made South Africa, and the world, recognise him as 'the Architect of Apartheid', thoroughly earning the title which, in justifying it, brought him to political eclipse. (Allighan 1961:xi)

Following the emergence of democracy in South Africa, the Free State Province slumped into media turmoil by removing the statue of H.F. Verwoerd. One newspaper reported:

Just as the Berlin wall and statues of Lenin came down in recent years, the statue of Hendrik Verwoerd, the Prime Minister who drew the map of segregation and imposed inferior education on blacks, was wrested from his place in front of the provincial offices of the Orange Free State during a Friday afternoon rush hour.2

In 2011, just before the local government elections, the Democratic Alliance - the main opposition party in South African politics 'removed a statue of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, in Midvaal, south of Gauteng'.3 In 2015, the students of Stellenbosch University joined in echoing the removal of the plaque commemorating the apartheid leader, an act that was endorsed by Verwoerd's grandson who said his grandfather:

and other apartheid leaders should no longer be honoured in public spaces since, honouring his grandfather rubbed salt in the wounds of black South Africans.4

The majority of South Africans continue to refuse 'Hendrik Verwoerd as a "figure of memory" that can be emulated, more importantly, as an image that can inspire collective identity' (Dube 2015:2). Apart from Rhodes and Verwoerd, another development was in the North-West Province. The statue of Chief Lucas Mangope of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana was removed from the Lehurutshe Civic Centre, near Zeerust, contrary to the district's residents. A North-West communication service press statement on 21 September 1995, on the removal of former Bophuthatswana president Lucas Mangope's statue from the Lehurutshe Civic Centre, quotes then North-West chief whip Joe Selau as saying that: 'the mandate of the people has been carried out'. This was despite Lehurutshe residents complaining that they weren't consulted by the government about the removal.5

The North-West Provincial took this decisive step as a pragmatic action of deleting Bophuthatswana from the memory of the citizenry in that geographical part of the country. The action is expected to spread all over the country as a means of pioneering the new patriotic spirit of the new democratic dispensation. One reads, hears and sees of the sporadic actions against or for statues through South Africa.

The University of Cape Town students' action morphed into a spiral wave of protests, culminating into unprecedented debates regarding statues and busts around the country. Consequently, statue removals at the Union Building in Pretoria and in front of the parliament in Cape Town and some other cities and towns around the country instigated some robust discussions. This sends a clear message for transparent national discourse:

The wave to dismantle all statues attached to the history of colonialism, apartheid and white supremacy; it is not just a battle for public space but one of identity and belonging. (Mashau & Mangoedi 2015:1)

Statues had become a bone of contention. This is because of the historical marginalisation of the indigenous leaders and heroes who played some inexpressible roles in liberation struggles and the development of the particular geographic inhabitants. In the heritage archives and memorabilia, the efforts of these heroes were ignored, unrecorded or unrecognised. For instance, when the Batswana chiefs tried to abort the Boers invasion of their land:

Montshiwa responded by appealing for British intercession while simultaneously trying to enlist the support of Batswana allies sympathetic to his cause. He approached the Bahurutshe under Ikalafeng in the Marico district, who sent a regiment under his uncle to assist the Tshidi Barolong. As the Hurutshe were resident in the Transvaal, this did not sit well with the Boer authorities. Anticipating an attack, Ikalafeng placed stone fortifications around his capital at Dinokana. In February 1882 a commando was sent against the Bahurutshe, and Dinokana was captured without a shot being fired. The stone fortifications were pulled down and piled up as a so-called 'monument to peace'. A monument honouring Chief Montshiwa exists in Mafikeng and should be included in the national liberation heritage route.6

Very few people, if any, would know anything about Chief Montshioa's monument, or the sefikantswe that is found in Dinokana today. There are hundreds of these landmarks throughout the country, but were never given a rightful position of recognition. Instead the colonial and apartheid figures are prominently situated in cities, platteland dorpies, institutions and heritage sites across the land. The reaction can be justified, rightly or wrongly, because the nation is still divided and attached to imbalances of the past. As Headley and Kobe (2017) point out:

Current challenges around social cohesion amidst harsh inequalities in South Africa are shaped by the legacy of imperialism, colonialism and apartheid. (p. 2)

Colonial disruption and imposition of foreign cultures upon the social fabric of African life wrecked the conceptual frameworks of the indigenous inhabitants of Africa. This was brutality legalised under the apartheid. Wilkinson (in Coetzee & Roux 2000) captures this anomaly:

Apartheid was a shameful and deliberate attempt to alienate Africans from all forms of cultural stimulation which, as a result and as planned, undermined self-confidence and will. (p. 389)

The deliberate intentions of ignoring, side-lining or marginalising the artistic expression of cultural heritages (monuments, statues, symbols etc.) robbed people of tracing their historical heritage. The perpetrator's intention is that the subjects or victims' humanness (ubuntu) be painted off their memories in order to coerce or to oppress them. If people do not know their history, they become the victims of greed and selfishness that is initiated by others. This act comes as a military imagery to defend or destroy the minds of the victims just as 'the army's constructive impact and of its potentially destructive role on local communities and their economies' (Punt 2016:215). It is the act ad summum [to the highest point] of social destruction and exclusion, racism that 'seeks to eliminate another on the basis of differences that it believes to be hereditary and unalterable' (Fredrickson 2002:170). Subsequent to indirect colonial rule that left Africans disempowered, apartheid proponents enhanced ideological odium humani generis [hating the human race] that promoted misunderstanding and intertribal hatred. This ideology heightened the negative image of Christianity, by encouraging the abandonment of indigenous knowledge systems, therefore stamping out the indigenous Christian people as outsiders to a broader society. The defaulters were regarded as potentially dangerous, in some cases facing possible punishment by missionaries or indigenous authorities. Villa-Vicencio and Grassow (2009:108-111) cite a typical example of how Chief Montshioa of Barolong-bo-Ratshidi clashed sharply with his brother Molema, who was a strong Wesleyan preacher. The bone of contention was that Molema's gospel message convinced the tribe to abandon cultural practices, especially bogwera [initiation practices].

The symbols

National symbols are defined as the symbols or icons of a national community, used to represent that community in a way that unites its people. Ginty (2001) elaborates:

Symbols and symbolism can act as a vehicle for the development of an identity bond between the individual and the group and for group solidarity. They can also help promote a certain world-view and mobilise emotions and people. While symbols and symbolism are evident in mass phenomena such as ethnic mobilisation and nationalism they often play more subtle and calming roles in society. (p. 2)

The common national symbols include the coat of arms, flag, anthem, an item such as a bird, animal, tree, flower, etc. The nation rallies under these symbols to express their cohesion, patriotism or allegiance. They are the symbols of identity and nationality. In the biblical context, they serve as object lessons (VanGemeren 1990:33). Examples here include Passover lamb, 12 stones placed in the middle of the River Jordan when children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land. These were to serve as object lessons for God's deliverance to the coming generations. In the words of Louw (2016):

Symbolisation and aesthetic signification are integral ingredients of Christian reflection on meaningful perspectives for life and significant religious experiences of divine presence. (p. 4)

National symbols have the potential to unite or to divide. This is as a result of their ambiguity as they 'suggest meaning rather than stating it' (Mickelsen 1977:265). Prior to 1994, the then South African national symbols were objects of national division, as the nation was segmented into racial, tribal or ethnic cloves and cohorts. These symbols were identity signs for one particular racial group. South Africans, especially black people, were always hurt at the international events when the then South African national flag had to be hoisted. Nationally, it was never a symbol of patriotism or pride, including some religious spaces where it was never hoisted, since:

the regime's injustices had put it beyond the pale of civilised nations and its orange, white and blue flag had become a pariah symbol of racism and oppression. (Storey in Bentley & Forster 2012:1)

The old South African anthem was also regarded by the majority population as something not melodic or diatonic. It was a foreign song to the majority of the citizens, regarded as a symbol of empowering the oppressor or promoting the ideology that victimised others. This is captured by De Gruchy (2008) stating that:

National emblems, such as flags for example, have iconic significance for many, binding people together in common purpose. But they can become idolatrous when a nation embarks on policies that are oppressive and destructive - especially when pursued, as often as they are, in the name of God. (p. 20)

South African history is painful and hurtful to the majority of the citizens, especially the indigenous inhabitants. These people see the monuments that bear no aesthetics or romance for them. These people cannot connect their history or culture to these symbols. The symbols evoke the memory of the painful past. Dube (2015) rightly asserts:

The busts represent a particular historical period and persons, and therefore emit 'mnemonic energy'. As figures of memory, they demand us to ask why these particular individuals. (p. 2)

In 1994, the new symbols had to be adopted or adapted to expedite national unity and generate a new form of patriotism and democratic national unity. Ginty (2001) reminds us:

A programme of national unity (Masakhane or building the nation together), was created and made heavy use of symbols and symbolism in the promotion of a new brand of civic nationalism. (p. 12)

The then ethnocentric politics had to be de-centred through the implementation of the new symbols. These symbols had to be authentic and deeply symbolic to foster togetherness that can reconcile relationships and heal the brokenness (De Gruchy 2008:20ff). These new symbols had to promote justice, peace, wholeness and national authenticity. They were not designed to promote greed, corruption, violence, war, sexual exploitation, denigration of the body or history that is shameful and dehumanising. The primary function of the symbols is 'to make explicit the images by which a society recognises its own values' (Onyewuenyi in Coetzee & Roux 2000:396). Symbols have the potency of transporting the memory to the lofty realm of enlivening the metaphysical to corporeal senses. Symbols express an 'abstract or transcendent concept, connecting two different realms' (Ito 2015:77). Even in African Christianity, spectacularly with African Indigenous Churches, symbols and symbolism play a significant spiritual identification. 'Symbols are meant to enrich spiritual experience and to point beyond the visible to the invisible' (Pretorius & Jafta in Elphick & Davenport 1997:223).

The signages

These are the signs or a system of signs used to show information about something in history such as a building or a road. In South Africa many buildings, institutions, roads or streets acquired the new names consonant with liberation struggle and heroes. Signs had to be mounted to these landmarks to demonstrate the new era of democracy. Signages are not just for identification but also for warning and giving direction. Signs are critical in religious expression. Cilliers (2015:2) cites Peter Berger (1994:144ff.) who has argued extensively that religion represents, among other things, the longing for meaning and that one of the ways in which this longing is fulfilled is through the creation of structures that act as signs of, and for, transcendence. These signs or signals of transcendence should, however, never be seen as evidence of the transcendence - an interpretation of this nature always remains a discernment through faith.

In a collective form, statues, symbols and signages all serve as the monuments that convey the message of either national history or collectivism. A monument is a statue, building or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event. It may be a structure placed over a grave in memory of the dead, or a historical site of importance or interest: A monument is an enduring and memorable example of something. It is for this reason that these icons command some indelible power to resuscitate memories. Beholding them revives the history. Berenson (1902:121, 124) claims that it is within the human nature that when a great artwork is seen, there is a feeling of poignant thrill of transfiguring sensation. In another place, Berenson (1930) reinforces this fact that 'When the viewer looks at a tactile work, his or her life gets and extra surge of force'. The South African society is still significantly divided along the racial lines, the rich and the poor, the economically marginalised and the benefactors, the beneficiaries and the victims of apartheid etc. The statues, symbols and signs bring history closer to the present. For the elite members of the society, however, these symbols are deniably important:

from its gods and goddesses to its heroes and benefactors, from commemorations of the dead in battle to commemoration of miracles affecting single families. Marks of wealth and social power, they were also signifiers of piety and honour, placed in sanctuaries and public settings like the agora, the theatre, or the gymnasium where one's honour was most displayed, acknowledged, and admired. (Bobou 2015:4)

However, as De Gruchy (2008:20) alludes: 'Not all images are worthy of adoration or emulation, and some represent values that are dehumanising, degrading and destructive'. The current generation looks at them as aigre doux [sourness or bitterness] that opens the wounds of the painful historical events. So, when the historically disadvantaged masses behold these monuments, the memory kicks out of the shell because these symbols in various forms express the painful past, and in recent cases, the imbalanced present. These icons are indeed the instruments of torture to the memory. They open up the wounds instead of healing them, though historically, the icons, especially in the Orthodox traditions, 'are a living memorial to the Divine energy and a means of receiving healing and grace' (Nicolaides 2014:78). If the symbols or monuments were properly interpreted from the religious perspective, they would make God real and fathomable. Joubert (2017) is correct that:

These visual manifestations of deities served as the basic system of reference in terms of how people came to know and interpret the divine. The memory of such encounters was expressed in poems, epic stories, votive reliefs, and so on, but also by means of various symbolic expressions and actualisations of the divine in sanctuaries and rituals. (p. 1)

It'll be ideal to understand definition of icons. It has been stated that icons are monuments or symbols that assist the memory to contemplate on one's historical or cultural origins. Vlachos (2017) helps in understanding the icon from a religious perspective:

In common language, the word 'icon' means 'image'. However, from the time of the early Christian Church, the word 'icon' is generally used to denote images with a strong religious content, significance and use All icons represent a religious topic and for them to be acceptable should not simply be a representation of a religious subject, but rather, an expression and representation with a religious significance. (p. 1)

If all the icons were of exclusively religious significance, the religious populace would agree that they are a theology in colour, representing the gospel artistically and reflecting images of holy and heroic Christians. Secular history took over iconography to falsify the true expression of divine contemplation. Hence, the statues had become a stench in the nostrils of the socially excluded masses. This is exacerbated by ambiguity that opens the possibility whereby 'the interpreter is forced to be subjective' (Mickelsen 1977:265). Monuments in any format command some iconic power in the mind and the conscience of those who see them.

 

Biblical reflections on monuments

The Old Testament text starts to refer to monuments from the era of Noah, who 'built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it' (Gn 8:20). From there on, altars became a practice for the patriarchs when in some instances, 'serving merely as a memorial to a theophany or a miracle, and in other instances libations were poured on pillars' (Heger 1999:264-265). Throughout the Bible, an altar indicates approach to God, or communion with him. It was often the place of sacrifice, teaching that humanity can and is expected to always be in communion with him.

The patriarchs in their nomadic lifestyles settled in one particular geographical setting by pitching up a tent, building an altar and digging the wells. The important image was the altar; as it demonstrates that from the ancient times, people were always the worshippers of a deity through some form of sacrifice. Hersey (2009:52) affirms that 'Making the image was part of the individual worshiper's act of sacrifice'. Apart from the altar, the Old Testament presents some narratives on the ark, which was closely associated with the sanctuary, a cultic centre where YAHWEH was to be invoked. The sanctuary, from the early days of wilderness wanderings, 'accompanies the history of the people as a special sign of the divine revelation' (Hertzberg 1974:47). The story of the symbolic incarnation of YAHWEH in the form of an ark is epitomised in the days of Eli as both the priest and the judge in Israel. This was the turbulent times of erratic but constant wars of the Philistines against the Israelites. The two nations possessed differing perceptions about the ark. For Israel, the ark was a symbol of God's accompaniment and presence, while for the Philistines it was an idol on the same position as their god, Dagon. In their view, the ark 'belongs as a cult emblem' (Hertzberg 1974:53). For Israel, the ark was never perceived as 'a supernatural means of guaranteeing victory. Yahweh is not bound to the ark; he shapes history independently of the symbol of his constant presence' (Hertzberg 1974:51). The religio-historical outlook of these two nations was blended and intertwined with symbols or emblems. This does not differ much from the modern ideology regarding monuments. They retell national history and heritage, and they express the ingrained selfhood or national identity. It is for this reason that these monuments are an emotive issues and bones of contention in a national discourse. The Old Testament monuments' locus is captured by Cilliers (2015:9) that the God they worshipped was dynamic in some way:

Indeed, God is a God that moves. God is not a monument, but movement. God, (not) needing time and space, moves through time and space. God moves within the realms of culture, cosmos and the dynamics of human relationships. God is the God of the tabernacle, the tent of transit, not the gravity of granite. (p. 9)

The two symbols of Christianity are used as reference to express the value and the place of symbols in the Christian faith. These are central to the Christian. The first was derived from the Old Testament with symbolic metaphorical reference to the New Testament.

Holy Communion: The symbolic representation of Christ's unity with his people

One of the memorable symbols central to Christian faith is the Passover Lamb, articulated to the New Testament Holy Communion; designated with different names. The biblical juncture clarifies its purpose: 'In days to come, when your son asks you, "What does this mean?" say to him, "With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery"' (Ex 13:14). Its climatic efficacy is the Lord's Supper in the New Testament. It is a sacramentum - a mystērion referring to the unveiling of the end of history (Van der Kooi & Van den Brink 2017:599). In this case, the history of the redemptive work of Christ. The Lord's Supper is wrapped up in mysterious symbolism. The central fact is that 'sacraments are liturgical enactments that symbolize a sacred reality' (Husbands & Treier 2005:212). In summarising Berkhof (1941:650), this sacrament is a symbolical representation of the Lord's death. It symbolises the believer's participation in the crucified Christ. It represents not only the death of Christ as the object of faith and the act of faith which unites the believer to Christ as well as the effect of this act as giving life, strength and joy to the soul. It also symbolises the union of believers with one another - the act of the Holy Spirit, 'who makes Christ present through the faith of the believer in the act of communing' (Peters 2000:302). By virtue of participation, believers enter 'into communion with the living Lord' (Ridderbos 1975:419). It does the same task as national monuments: constituting patriotism, linking common historical heritage and forging cohesive identity. In a religious sphere, it is 'an attempt to present the divine communication in an understandable way' (Du Rand 1994:250). Through participation, one acknowledges connectedness to the wider community, the church. It is declaration that one is part of the body and his or her life is interwoven to this body and is connected to the head, Jesus Christ.

The cross: The symbol of Christian identity

However, the most common symbol of Christianity is the cross. It is the universal symbol that is like a graffiti on the wall noticed by passers-by, though not taken cognisance of. One evangelical scholar, John Stott (2009) elaborates on the cross as a central symbol of Christianity. He laboriously expands the different traditions' emblems that ended up as of sacrosanct identities of these nations (2009:26-32). The cross was viewed as a symbol of a shameful execution of a common criminal. Ward (1999) rightly affirms:

The symbol of the cross suggests that the creation of finite persons involves a definite risk for God, the risk of rejection and suffering. (p. 99)

Through ages, it became a symbol of life accompanied with contradictory binaries. 'The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy' (2009:187). Moltmann (1993:33) alludes to the fact that the Israelite understanding was that someone executed on the cross was rejected by his people, cursed by God's people and of course, excluded from God's covenant. However, for Christians:

The cross of Christ is the symbol of the divine love, participating in the destruction into which it throws him who acts against love: This is the meaning of atonement. (Tillich 1970:115)

The cross is a revolving point whereby Christianity interprets itself. It is the seedbed of Christianity and it serves as a premise for theological discourse. 'No theology is genuinely Christian which does not arise from and focus on the cross' (2009:251). The cross is an emblem with symbolic meaning in African Christianity. In African Indigenous Churches, 'Christian identity is most often symbolized by cloth crosses, worn by members, or wooden crosses carried in processions' (Pretorius & Jafta in Elphick & Davenport 1997:223). Amazingly, even the African Traditional Religion practitioners, when making any mark, as a sign of protection, power or promotion, they will use the mark or the sign of the cross. The cross preaches in silence, but potently to the beholder. It occupies the central place in places of worship, therefore singling out that sanctuary or shrine as a Christian holy space of worship. The cross distinguishes Christian faith from the world religions, secular ideologies and utopias. It is for this reason that theologia crucis[theology of the cross] is 'the key signature for all Christian theology' (Moltmann 1993:72). Theological statements that seek to be genuinely Christian are viewed from the perspective of the cross.

 

The significance of the symbols

People in history, past and present, always built monuments to memorialise the achievements of either themselves or others such as their heroes. In this context, a symbol was to serve as a reminder of a significant historical event that is not just a narrative but a lesson on the goodness of God. The symbols here were to perpetually make a national history alive. Ginty (2001) impresses this fact:

Symbols also perform a bridging function, linking the past with the present. While not always historically accurate, these symbolic linkages often make some reference to a real past or 'symbolic capital'. (p. 3)

They serve as a reminder to successive generations of historical events and great human accomplishments. For instance, Moses commanded the Israelites to take the two quarts of manna to be kept as a museum specimen forever, so that later generations could see the bread that the Lord provided for the nation in the wilderness. This was to be kept in a sacred place from generation to generation (Ex 16:32-334). When the Israelites crossed the River Jordan, some designated tribal leaders were commanded to 'return to the riverbed to secure stones for the memorial which would be a vivid reminder of God's work of deliverance, and an effective medium to teach the young' (Campbell 1981:34). The stones stood 'as a tribute to God's great power' (Getz 1979:74). This was to entrench the national history and identity. It is for this reason that 'the busts across South Africa were not erected, merely, to fill-in empty city spaces, but to spell out identities' (Dube 2015:3).

The monuments in the Bible served as a reminder for the generations to come, the significant and historical event, and a pact of covenant between the two parties. They served as a testimony to the mighty acts of God in the life and movement of the nation. This is impressed by passages such as Joshua 4 and Exodus 13 where they served as object lessons that opened opportunities for parents to teach children of the historical mighty acts of God. Of great interest is that the historical knowledge was not limited to the nation of Israel, but so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful (4:24). God is missional. He is not a national deity, limited to one particular nation. In the words of De Gruchy (2016:39), 'God is not the tribal deity of the warring Israelites, but the creator and redeemer of all peoples and nations'. His character is that of grace and mercy, calling on his people to appropriate rituals and rites as a means of pursuing peace, justice and compassion:

Whether one uses the terms 'emblems', 'sacraments', or 'ordinances' is not the important thing. What is important is how one responds to the meaning that God has given to these sacred rites. These are not mechanical rituals. They are God-given expressions of grace, of what God has done, is doing, and will do in Christ. (Mickelsen 1977:278)

The statues, symbols and signages were the monuments for reviving both national and international historical events. National and international missions as purposed by these symbols, showcases God's heart for universal human redemption. They reveal God's justice 'in an ultimate and therefore symbolic sense' (Tillich 1970:111). It is clear that arts and culture play a significant role in forming religious conviction and formation. Monuments are connected to religious motifs. They seldom escape the lure of power. This is expressed vividly by Cilliers (2015) that:

The monumentalisation of religion in fact often represents an act of power in itself. Monuments cannot be understood in isolation from their cultural settings; monumental thinking always correlates with culture and the endeavour to create bases for power in which political aspirations and religious symbols often overlap and even become identical. (pp. 3-4)

The bottom line is that all symbols in any format are the expression of culture, including religion and history. In disintegrated or separated society, they can become a stench to be abhorred at all cost, hence subjected to defacing, removal or destruction whenever there is a political wave that calls for the change in or of status quo.

 

Conclusion

In South Africa, symbols had become bones of contention as a result of historico-cultural scaffolding of the past four centuries. They promoted separateness, enhanced colonialism and entrenched apartheid ideology. The new symbols and signages aimed at unification of the nation to promote love, tolerance, harmony and distributive justice for reconciliation and equality. They are open to interpretations because of changing contexts. This calls for round-table discussions of those in political seats of power to foster agreement, if they agree that monuments are to enhance or expedite the process of national reconciliation. Cilliers (2015) highlights the fact:

The current government in fact seems to have adopted a fairly low-key approach to certain former symbols of Apartheid, with new agreements recently being made between the custodians of the Voortrekker Monument and those of Freedom Park, in an effort to foster reconciliation in South Africa. (p. 5)

These monuments should contribute towards didactical values, that is, serving as teaching aids. This should be their primary function, which may be either a formal function whereby its purpose and use is formally prescribed or an auxiliary function when it is used for illustrative purposes (Sinding-Larsen 1984:29). They serve as a memory for the national history and the anticipated future of the nation. It all revolves around the legacy to be passed on to the next generation. Cilliers (2015) is spot on that:

Remembrance as such is part and parcel of being human. Monuments that call upon us to remember are, and will be, with us as long as there is history to remember. Remembrance forms a characteristic part of all religions; religion has always had a memorial aspect. Christianity could also be called a religion of remembrance. (p. 6)

The moment the symbols promote social exclusion, the division becomes inevitable and national unity and cohesion far-fetched. There is either a denial or some utopian ideal that after 1994, all things are smooth and harmonious. The fact is that the new symbols are still suffering in the hands of some supremacists and traditionalists who claim life was better in Egypt (apartheid South Africa) than in the wilderness (democracy without water, electricity, jobs etc.). Some see beds of roses without thorns or bees with capacity to sting. It is ironic, as Senokoane (2015:7) says, that 'The cementing of white symbols has also been hidden in the concepts of equality for all and humanity'. At the end of the day, monuments are supposed to unify the nation rather than dividing it. In a religious sense, to align with De Gruchy (2008), icons are supposed to be the means of grace. Like in the patriarchal era, monuments are the points of divine encounters, holy spaces that revive connection with the divine where theophany is realised. This is confirmed by Rhodes (1998:61) that 'Crosscultural encounters can liberate Christians from their own ethnocentrism'. The dictum remains: 'Do this in remembrance of me'. These memorials conscientise humanity of its origins, histories and culture. The American church specialist, Mancini (2008) correctly captures this that:

By connecting dots with the past, we bring new meaning to the present and walk into the future with a stronger sense of identity. (p. 76)

This article advocates the value of monuments as a reminder and as teaching aid. History has always been a good teacher. It explains our present and helps us to chart the way forward. History may be full of negatives to make our present sour, memorially, but:

The past remains an obstinate aspect of the present. We do not live within a vacuum, but within a context, the intellectual, cultural, and social contours of which have been shaped by the past. (McGrath 1997:82)

Symbols are a living history, which is the arena within which the Christologically centred dialogue between God and humanity takes place. They are theatrum gloriae Dei - a theatre of the glory of God, an arena within which the glory of God may be discerned and recognised. 'A flight from history is improper and impossible' (McGrath 1997:92). The call for the removal or destruction of the monuments that do not heal but open up the wounds can to a certain degree be justified. It is a bold appeal to correct the imbalance of the past, to call to correction what was deliberately an injustice. What I am trying to drive here is better explained by Parsely (2007) that:

The culture isn't demanding that we sacrifice a pig on a holy altar. The culture demands something even more profane - that we sacrifice the truth of the gospel on the altar of political and cultural correctness. (p. 213)

The problem is not the monuments, but people who construct them. Their reasons are always the promotion of egoistic ideals that undermine others. Jeremy Gordin (2008:303), in his biography of the current President of South Africa says: 'Don't throw your spear at the flag. Throw it at the man holding the flag, but not at the flag'. The symbols must promote nationhood and patriotism, not division or proliferations into ethnic enclaves.

 

Acknowledgements

Competing interests

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

 

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Correspondence:
Kelebogile Resane
resanekt@ufs.ac.za

Received: 06 Dec. 2017
Accepted: 05 Apr. 2018
Published: 19 July 2018

 

 

1. https://mg.co.za/article/2014-06-26-the-peculiar-search-for-the-statue-of-cecil-gone-rhodes
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3. http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2011/05/05/verwoerd-statue-is-gone (viewed 22 August 2017).
4. http://ewn.co.za/2015/05/28/Hendrik-Verwoerds-grandson-welcomes-Verwoerd-plaque-removal (viewed 22 August 2017).
5. https://mg.co.za/article/2014-06-26-the-peculiar-search-for-the-statue-of-cecil-gone-rhodes (viewed 22 August 2017).
6. http://www.academia.edu/12294470/The_South_African_liberation_struggle _and_national_ liberation_heritage_sites(viewed 02 September 2017).

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiography of Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908)

 

 

Iuliu-Marius MorariuI, II

IFaculty of Orthodox Theology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania
IIDepartment of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

It has been often said nowadays that since the fall of Constantinople, the Eastern-Orthodox Church has not been concerned with political theology. In this research, we will try to show that aspects of the aforementioned topic can be found even in works like the spiritual autobiographies from that space. Therefore, our analysis will focus on the diaries of an important Russian Orthodox priest, Saint John of Kronstadt, who lived in the second half of the 19th century and in the first decade of the 20th century. An important personality of his time, he was a great priest who developed the Eucharistic life, highlighting the relevance of the Holy Liturgy in the Christian life, the social life, offering accommodation, food, money and a place to work for the poor people from his parish and abroad. At the same time, he had a political and intellectual life, being in a good relationship with the tsar and his family, and wrote in his diaries, published during his lifetime and translated into English, his spiritual experiences, his daily life ones and his teaching and opinions on different topics and so on. By highlighting and investigating here episodes like his attitude towards the failed attempt for revolution that took place in Kronstadt in 1905, his relationship with the poor ones and his critique directed to the unfairly attitude of the rich people of his time towards the less fortunate ones or even his preaches against the famous contemporary writer Lev Tolstoy, we will try to show how political theology was understood by such a great father as John of Kronstadt and to emphasise the actuality of some of his ideas related to this topic.


 

 

Introduction

An important personality of the Russian Orthodoxy in the second half of the 19th century and in the first decade of the 20th century, praised both before and after his death (Kizenko 2000; Semenov 1903), Saint John of Kronstadt was a man who left for the future generations not only his advices or solutions to the social problems of communities (according to the example of the community that he spiritually ruled for many years) of his time but he was also a great father who wrote an interesting spiritual autobiography. Spread in some different volumes, his diary contains not only interesting advices, descriptions of daily life episodes, information about his temptations, the situation of his contemporary world but also a panorama of his spiritual life and experiences in searching God and his grace.

Describing the history of publication of his spiritual autobiography, a contemporary researcher shows that:

The diary is issued between 1889 and 1908. Its first part (consisting of 830 pages), is entitled My life in Christ (Kronstadt 2005). Later, he published: The experience of knowing God and self-knowledge, (1900), Christian philosophy (1902), The road through God(1905), Considerations and feelings of a Christian (1905), Contemplative fervour (1906-1907) and Alive ears (1909). (Selawry 2001:186-187)

Soon after their publication, his notes were translated into English (Sergieff 1897) and were very well received in the Anglican space (Selawry 2001:1994) and later translated into different languages, especially in the Orthodox space. While some spiritual autobiographies like the ones from the Methodist space speak about the conversion of the author (Wesley 1998:123) and his or her experiences as a faithful, or about his or her mystical experiences (Avila 1995; Myers 1993), the one of Saint John contains sometimes both references to the moral situation of his time, his moral life, his Eucharistic experiences and also to the road to God, emphasising sometimes his deep mystical experiences. In some of these notes, we can also find aspects of political theology. If in a previous article we have spoken generally about these aspects that can be found in the spiritual autobiographies from the Orthodox space in the 19th and 20th centuries (Morariu 2017:129-133), here we will try to go deeper into the problem and to focus on those aspects from Saint John's writings. We will analyse his notes; the social, cultural, political and confessional context (when we speak here about the 'confessional context' we understand the context of his time in Russia, when almost everybody was Orthodox, but they were also some factions like 'nikonists', and protestants: 'Baptists' started to settle there); when they were written; and try to underline, where possible, the similitudes between him and other authors like Dag Hammarskjöld (Erling 2010; Hammarskjöld 1972), to see where he was a visionary and the actuality of his teaching on this topic. In our research, we will not only use his diaries, biographies, studies and articles dedicated to him but also other important publications that speak, no matter how little, about him, his work and his ideas.

 

Saint John of Kronstadt: His life and activity

Before speaking about the aspects of political theology that can be found in his spiritual autobiography, we consider important, for the readers who are not familiar with his personality, to present briefly his life and activity. Born on 19 October, 1829, in Pinega land in the Archangelsk region in the family of a church singer Ilie Serghiev and Theodora, he initially studied nearby his home in a village close to his birthplace (Andronic 2013:5; Botsi 2003:111-112; Hopko 2005:4532: Selawry 2001:57) and then he went to the Seminary of Archangelsk, where he graduated as valedictorian (Necula 2005:83). For this reason, he was sent with a scholarship to study at the Theological Academy in Sankt Petersburg, where he graduated in 1855 (Necula 2005:83). Because of the death of his father soon after his Seminary graduation, father John was about to abandon his university studies and go home to help his family. At his mother's insistence, he gave up this plan and worked as a copyist all this period, for sustaining his family. Soon after his graduation, he married Elisabeta, daughter of archpriest Constantin from Kronstadt (Fedcenkov 2007:15) and shortly after, on 12 December, 1855, was ordained as a priest for the Cathedral from that city, by his ex-rector, Bishop Hristofor (***, Life and praise of Saint John of Kronstadt 2004:7). All his life, he lived in chastity, as brother and sister with his wife, choosing to dedicate himself entirely to the pastoral and Eucharistic work.

In Kronstadt, he found a mosaic community: poor people, thieves and other social categories. All his life he tried to help them to find God. Initially, his innovative ideas like offering the Eucharist to women during their menstruation (Kizenko 1998:331), daily celebration of Eucharist with more than 5000 people receiving communion every day and the common confessions blessed exceptionally by the Holy Council of the Russian Orthodox Church presented him with problems. While some priests criticised him for this and wrote numerous complaints to his superiors accusing him of changing the rules of the Orthodox Church, his family members, starting with his wife, complained to the Metropolite that, because of his total care for the poor ones, his family was deprived of the elementary resources for daily life (Selawry 2001:99). He solved this problem by accepting to offer to his wife his entire salary as a teacher at the high school from the city where he lived in. Meanwhile, he solved, little by little, all these problems and had the determined ones who, initially, criticised him, not only to agree with his activity, but to admire him.

Without feeling discouraged by criticism and accusations, Saint John started to celebrate Liturgy daily and, in the first part of his life, to dedicate more than 20 h daily to the ones who needed him (Selawry 2001:59). He also started to think of the poor people from his town and of their integration and this was very useful for decreasing the rate of delinquency and criminality. Therefore, in 1872, he tried to work at some houses for accommodation and professional apprenticeship schools. In 1882, he finished the so-called House of love for work, which hosted 7281 people. The complex had a school, library, a house for orphans and many other facilities (Necula 2005:84). In 1891, he inaugurated a house for the pilgrims who started to come in huge numbers to Kronstadt and in 1902 he built the Monastery consecrated to 'Saint John of Rila', his protector (Necula 2005:84). Starting from 1888, he began to travel in Russia in order to help people and there he was also the guest of the tsar (Necula 2005:84). During his travels, he spoke with people about their problems and their spiritual life (Necula 2005:84); he prayed for their needs and also wrote in his diaries. From this period on, there were numerous testimonies about his open mind and his ecumenical way of seeing things (manifested both in his attitude towards people of other Christian denominations, and also towards people of other faiths, like Muslim Tartars, with whom he prayed together in different situations). His miracles were not directed only to Orthodox people but also to Muslim tartarise and towards people of other faiths (Andronic 2013:52, 80). And this made him all the more famous and loved by people with each passing day.

Some of his pastoral or traveling experiences are described in his spiritual autobiography, segmented in his diaries, while others featured in his dialogues with different people (like Taisia 1998). Rooted in the Holy Scripture and Holy Fathers belonging to the first 8 centuries but also to other important Fathers like Nicolas Cabasila (Cabasila 1989; 2009), his teaching is linked with his Eucharistic life and his relationship with God. For this reason, before and after his death, they were very popular, used and frequently quoted.

In 1908, tired and sick but still happy - as it can be seen from his diaries - he left this world. The Russian Orthodox Church from Emigration canonised him on 01 November, 1964, while the Moscow Patriarchate was able to do this only on 08 May, 1990 (Necula 2005:85), because of the political situation.

For the Russian Orthodox Church as for the whole Orthodox Church and for the ecumenical space, where he is sometimes quoted (Clements 2003:22), he is an important personality. While his practical works that he left behind are a living example of loving the neighbour (in a way that maybe only Saint Mary Skobtova have understood it in the sacrament of the neighbour) (Skobtova 1995), his publications are very precious works about the Eucharist and its importance for Christian life, the relationship with God and the way how, through humiliation and perseverance, people can achieve the kingdom of God and the perfection.

 

Aspects of political theology in the spiritual autobiography of Saint John of Kronstadt

After presenting the landmarks of his biography, we now consider it important to speak about the aspects of political theology that can be found in the spiritual autobiography of Saint John of Kronstadt. Like the other authors of the genre, he never intended to write a treatise on this topic. He was not a supporter of the revolutionary movement and his favourable attitude regarding monarchal movement was a moderate one. Moreover, he manifested a lack of interest towards politics and that is why rarely did he speak about it in his works. Therefore, the mentions referred to it are not many and are linked either with the spiritual life or with the political and social context of his times.

From the very beginning, it must be said that, as a man of his time, Saint John was interested in the political situation, about the events that could influence it and about the rulers and their role. If Saint Silouane from Mount Athos, although he was a monk in Greece, came back to Russia in 1904-1905, during the Russian-Japanese war to answer the Tsar's call and serve in the Imperial Guard (Larchet 2001:361), we can easily imagine that Saint John also proved his obedience to the Tsar. He visited him whenever required, praying at his head near his death and praying for the Russian monarchy. But, because of the fact that he had disciples like the archimandrite Mikhail Semenov (who even dedicated him a biography; Semenov 1903), who joined the socialist movement and for some of his philanthropic actions dedicated to the pours, Saint John was considered by some authors as an exponent of Russian socialism (Dixon 2008:700). The fact is far away of being truth.

His attitude from 1905 can be considered a proof in that sense. At that time, a failed attempt of revolution took place in Kronstandt, the purpose of which was the instauration of Communism.1 Saint John didn't leave the city as did most of the rich people and their rulers, in that moment. He went home and nobody disturbed him. After that moment, he wrote the following words about the failed attempt of revolution in one of his diaries:

But I am wondering, do you know, all of you who have the duty to know it, that our revolution from now is first of all a consequence of apostasy from the faith, from our bellowed to God Orthodoxy, holy, and life giving, which has inside it all the power to bring peace for the ones who believe in it? It can fix our inside and outside world and our family, community and economic life? (Krontsadt 2009:31-32)

Thinking in a simple and clear way, Saint John sees the solution of all the problems in the sincere faith to God and the cause of all the troubles and turbulences as a consequence of lack of it. The roots of his way of thinking can be found for sure in the Holy Scripture, which, according to him, must be the source of life of each priest.2 In fact, like Jesus, he doesn't militate for a regime but for a way of life and for its principles. Therefore, although he disagrees with the idea of revolution, he is not for the huge discrepancy between the poor and the rich. In his life, he tries to improve the way of life of the former, by offering them accommodation, money and work. In his spiritual autobiography, he often speaks against the bad attitude of the rich towards the poor. In one of his notes, where he describes one of his travels, he says:

I have been in the villages and I saw how the peasants are living. What poverty everywhere, how many rags with countless patches! How pale faces because of the hunger! How many sad faces! But why, are they the step children of God? The reach ones refuse to look at them, to dress them, fit or say them a few good words! What a soul has the reach man! How much is this soul against God and people! Do not praise the reach one, do not be invidious on him, but cry for him as for the lowest man! (Kronstadt 2009:120)

Without being a socialist or a militant for their cause, he criticised the bad behaviour of the rich towards the poor. Despite his reach with people, he wasn't friends with another famous contemporary, Lev Tolstoy, who also militated for the poor in some of his novels and pleaded their cause in some of his books (Tolstoy 1922; 1953; 2005; 2008; 2014) and also had an interesting and practical attitude regarding this topic.3 On the contrary, father John criticised and classified Tolstoy as a traitor whenever he had an opportunity (Fedcenkov 2007:178). In public, he spoke against him, criticising not his attitude or talent, but his atheist convictions. The way the writer often spoke against God also made father John sad. In his diaries, Saint John sometimes wrote about Tolstoy. One of these notes is a real imprecation, and it shows how much father John suffered because of the writer's conception about God, Virgin Mary and Church. He says there:

O, Lord, how much have you increased the human race through Thy incarnation, Thy Divine-Humanity, and through the Virgin Mary, Theotokos, who gave you birth And how much (a lot!), are scoffing Thy and Thy Church, people like Tolstoy and so-called intellectuality who is lost! Lord, until when will You accept this scoff? Until when will You accept this fake teaching? Lord, come down and broke this mountain of unbelief! Let it be!

Son of God has come on the earth for that through His teaching, miracles, passions and death to recap and save humanity, to enlighten it, to clean it, to make it new, to decorate it with all the beauty and to unite it with himself; and Lev Tolstoy, together with writers like him, an uncountable number of them, they live on the earth to darken and broke through their lake of God, through their unbelief and anarchy, many people that follow them and read their bloody writings. O, Lord, lose them or bring them back to the faith, humiliate their diabolic proudness! (Kronstadt 2009:30)

At a first glance, it seems that father John doesn't have a problem with Tolstoy's political conception, but with his attitude towards the Church. But, as soon as his attitude was linked with his political conception and it comes as an outcome of it, we can surely see also a political accent to it and therefore we can classify the paragraphs dedicated to this topic among the ones linked with political theology. On the other side, his fight with Tolstoy and his ideas show his clear and decided anti-communist attitude, based on his religious convictions. Like in his words against the revolution from 1905, he sees faith as the only solution for all social problems and tries to move the accent from the outside of the human being onto the inside, militating for the interior link with God that brings to the one who has it the gifts of Holy Spirit, peace and capacity to persuade others about what he believes in. Therefore, his ideas on political theology are both linked with contradiction of Tolstoy, the rich and the poor and the social life of his times, and with political context and Communism and its meaning. The author is not speaking only about one of them and is not developing a system of thinking linked with one idea but his writings are, as we have already shown, determined by a situation, an interaction or an event.

Also linked with this interior dimension is the fight of the Russian father against formalism. In a world where nikonists4 and other sects were fighting for the strict obeisance to some formal rules that kill the soul, he will say to his faithful:

It is important to light candles in front of the icons, but it is much more useful to give to the Lord as a sacrifice the fire of our love to Him and of our love for the neighbour. It is good to do both one and other. If you light a candle in front of the icon and you do not have in your heart love for God and for your neighbour, if you are selfish, you don't live in peace, your sacrifice is useless. (Kronstadt 2005:483)

Although he focuses on spiritual life and social problems in his life and writings, Saint John of Kronstadt offers, as we could see, interesting information about the investigated topic. For him, like for other Orthodox mystic writers of the time, there will be peace in the world when man is capable of totally opening his soul to the presence of God and when the unnatural dominance of body against the soul5disappears from human life.

 

Conclusion

An important personality of his time, of the Eastern-Orthodox space, but also of the Ecumenical one, Saint John has left us an important spiritual autobiography that has many uses in daily life. Between them, very important are, as we could see, the aspects of political theology. Although he does not speak too much about this topic, preferring to focus on questions like interior life, relationship with God, social problems, Eucharist, Liturgy and confession, he offers some interesting personal reflections on them when he speaks about Tolstoy's ideas, monarchy, social structure of his times or Communism. His attitude against Communism linked with the idea of the importance of interior life that can fix all the problems of a Christian or his criticism against the bad behaviour of the rich of his time against the poor are good examples for that. His attitude against Tolstoy and his atheism linked with his political convictions constitute a good example that should be taken into account. By reading his writings even today, a Christian can surely find interesting information for his or her daily life, historical data and also solutions for his or her problems, even if it concerns with political theology.

His concern for socio-political problems shows not only that he was concerned with these topics but also that he was a realistic man who wanted to know the political situation of his time and to use it for helping the faithful when it was necessary or for the good of the Church.

 

Acknowledgements

Competing interests

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

 

References

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Avrich, P., 2014, Kronstadt, 1921, Princeton Legacy Library, Princeton, NJ.         [ Links ]

Botsi, P., 2003, Sfântul Ioan de Kronstadt. Portret duhovnicesc [Saint John of Kronstadt - spiritual portrait], Bunavestire Publishing House, Galaţi.         [ Links ]

Cabasila, Saint Nicholas, 1989, Tâlcuirea dumnezeieştii şi Liturghii şi Despre viaţa în Hristos [The explanation of Holy Liturgy and About the life in Christ], Press of Archdiocese of Bucharest, Bucharest.         [ Links ]

Cabasila, Saint Nicholas, 2009, Despre viaţa în Hristos [About the life in Christ1, Press of the Biblical and Missionary Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bucharest.         [ Links ]

Clements, K., 2003, The churches in Europe as witnesses to healing, World Council of Churches Publications, Geneva.         [ Links ]

Deery, P., 2012, 'Finding his Kronstadt: Howard Fast, 1956 and American Aommunism', The Australian Journal of Politics and History 58(2), 181-201. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8497.2012.01631.x        [ Links ]

Dixon, S., 2008, 'Archimandrite Mikhail (Semenov) and Russian Christian Socialism', The Historical Journal 51(3), 689-718. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X08006973        [ Links ]

Erling, B., 2010, A reader's guide to Dag Hammarskjöld's Waymarks, Dag Hammarsjkold Foundation, St. Peter, MN.         [ Links ]

Fedcenkov, V.., 2007, 'Părintele Ioan [Father John]', in Mărturii despre Sfântul Ioan de Kronstadt [Testimonies about Saint John of Kronstadt], pp. 173-189, Sophia Publishing House, Bucharest.         [ Links ]

Hammarskjöld, Dag, 1972, Markings, Faber and Faber, London.         [ Links ]

Hernandez, R.L., 2001, 'The confessions of Semen Kanatchikov: A Bolshevik Memoir as spiritual autobiography', The Russian Review 60(1), 13-35. https://doi.org/10.1111/0036-0341.00155        [ Links ]

Hopko, T., 2005, 'Ioann of Kronstadt', in L. Jones (ed.), Encyclopedia of Religion, pp. 4532-4533, 2nd edn., vol. 7, Macmillan Reference, New York.         [ Links ]

Kizenko, N., 1998, 'Ioann of Kronstadt and the Reception of Sanctity, 1850-1988', Russian Review 57, 325-344. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9434.00027        [ Links ]

Kizenko, N., 2000, A Prodigal Saint. Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People, Penssylvania State University Press, Pensylvania, PA.         [ Links ]

Kronstadt, Saint John of, 2005, Viaţa mea în Hristos [My life in Christ1], Sophia Publishing House, Bucharest.         [ Links ]

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Tolstoy, L., 2005, War and peace, Encyclopaedia Britannica Press, Chicago, IL.         [ Links ]

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Correspondence:
Iuliu-Marius Morariu
maxim@radiorenasterea.ro

Received: 27 Mar. 2018
Accepted: 31 May 2018
Published: 24 July 2018

 

 

Project Leader: T. van Wyk
Project Number: 22153145
Description: Rev. Morariu is participating in the research project, 'Political Theology', directed by Dr Tanya van Wyk, Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria.
1. For more information about this event and the future ones that will take place there, see Avrich (2014); Hernandez (2001:13-35); Schapiro (1984:298-300); Deery (2012:181).
2. Therefore, he militates for the use of Scripture in pastoral work, showing that: 'Priest, as a doctor of souls, must be himself free of all soul's diseases for being able to advice the others. As a shepherd of souls, he must have been himself on the pastures of the Gospel and of the Patristic heritage, for knowing where to direct his speaking flock' (Kronstadt 2005:251).
3. Because it is beyond the scope of this article, we will not present here in detail Tolstoy's attitude and we will not compare the two thinkers and their attitudes, because of the huge difference in their thinking and actions which would make our work almost impossible. The reader who is interested to find more information about Tolstoy and his attitude towards social problems is invited to see the bibliography recommended in the text.
4. For more information about them and their history, see Meyendorff (1991).
5. The unnatural domination of meat against the spirit can be explained, among other reasons, also by the fact that the spirit looks to be 'buried' in meat, strongly linked with it. This can be observed specially in questions related with the ministry of God. Man seems to be close to God more with his mouth, with his body, in a fake way. He doesn't worship him in Spirit and Truth (Kronstadt 2005:38).

^rND^sDeery^nP.^rND^sDixon^nS.^rND^sFedcenkov^nV.^rND^sHernandez^nR.L.^rND^sHopko^nT.^rND^sKizenko^nN.^rND^sMorariu^nI.-M.^rND^sSchapiro^nL.^rND^1A01^nGraham A.^sDuncan^rND^1A01^nGraham A.^sDuncan^rND^1A01^nGraham A^sDuncan

ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

The benefits and dangers for churches and ministry institutions to work in a regulated environment, with reference to professionalising religious practice via South African Qualifications Authority and the National Qualifications Framework Act

 

 

Graham A. Duncan

Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

Since 1994 and the coming of democracy to South Africa there has been a concerted attempt to develop a coherent, unified educational system that will redress the inequities of the apartheid systems. Significant to this ongoing process is the field of higher education, where relevant legislation has been enacted in order to bring coherence and consistency to the education system in the public and private sectors. Significant issues have arisen with regard to the provision made by private religious educational institutions, especially those who have experienced difficulties in being accredited by statutory bodies. This paper seeks to explore these issues and suggest ways forward that are appropriate within an emerging unitary system of education that is fit for purpose in Africa and particularly South Africa, taking as a case study the formation of the Association of Christian Religious Practitioners.


 

 

Introduction

Recently, the Association of Christian Religious Practitioners (ACRP) was established after a lengthy struggle by a number of institutions and interested parties to conform to South African legislation relating to the registration of church-related bodies on behalf of practitioners who, for various historical, social, economic and political reasons, had been unable to acquire relevant accredited training for their members in order to carry out the tasks and roles that were assigned to them in churches and church-related bodies. Two bodies merged to form the ACRP: the Association for Ministry Training Practitioners and the South African Association for Pastoral Work. The Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework(2013) strictly defines the qualifications from National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 5 (Higher Certificate) but does not specify in any detail the requirements of NQF levels 1-4 (General, Elementary, Intermediate and National certificates), which do not refer to higher education levels. However, these are the optimum levels at which many Christian religious practitioners are able to operate comfortably. The main higher education providers affected by these issues are private institutions, which constitute a significant part of the theological education 'market' at the lower NQF levels, and they struggle with many issues that the public institutions avoid through their access to greater resources. This paper seeks to understand the issues that affect those who wish to operate within the regulatory framework.

 

Professionalisation

The term 'profession' is problematic when related to any religious activity. When the professions of law, medicine and theology were established as the prime activities of medieval universities they were in fact viewed as means of professing specific skills within interdependent vocations. Hence, I prefer the term 'vocation', although I do believe strongly that we need to adhere to professional standards and values in whatever activities we engage. Yet I do not find these to be significantly different within a faith context. Professionalism does not offer us any more than vocation in terms of criteria values and character. Professionalisation skills in word and action are transforming. My prime markers, all of which have many subheadings, are justice, peace and the integrity of creation - these are human (read Christian à la Hans Küng 1978:602) values. These values lie behind the legislation that has been enacted since 1994 with the aim of developing and promoting a fair, just and unitary system of education within a nation wherein education and all other key aspects of life had been strictly regulated on a racial basis. This has been developed within a national context that is both uncertain and complex. Here, the expression used will be professional[isation], as this is the term found in documentation.

All our efforts in this regard need to be guided by sound professional educational and academic principles. These include the following:

  • adopting a student-centred approach by relating teaching to learning in order to determine appropriate course design and design of learning opportunities; respecting diversity and accommodating a variety of learning styles and strategies

  • ensuring coherence of the components of instruction: learning outcomes, assessment criteria, feedback and instructional design

  • extending and deepening knowledge by articulating and clarifying expectations relating to learning objectives in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, and encouraging critical and reflective thinking

  • prioritising what we teach, when and how on the understanding that we cannot teach everything, yet we can inculcate applicable methods

  • inviting engagement and providing appropriate learning support by providing appropriate learning support by integrating a variety of teaching methods to support facilitation of student learning

  • transforming views and inspiring change by progressively developing and refining our courses based on reflection and feedback (adapted from Eberly Center 2015; Grové 2006).

I am also guided by the integrity of the gospel. This is not to suggest that others are not, but this is where I come from. I am employed in a public higher education institution and I also work for the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the National Research Foundation, whose work I both admire and support, though not uncritically, in their attempt to operate with the values of fairness, validity and reliability (Government Gazette R 1127, 5.18.b) in setting the standards for qualifications. Added to this are matters relating to access and mobility (Government Gazette R 1127, 2.3.2.h) and accountability and transparency (Government Gazette R 1127 3.10.2). Yet what follows is informed by my experience gained in the South African educational domain.

Everything that follows has to be seen in the light of the significant work of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, which is an independent chapter nine institution in South Africa. It draws its mandate from the South African Constitution by way of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities Act of 2002 (CRL 2017). The key phrase here relates to both the promotion and protection of persons, particularly vulnerable persons in religious and other communities, who are at risk at the hands of unscrupulous care providers who are not worthy of the great trust placed in them. The prime focus on religious organisations is self-regulation rather than state regulation, while at the same time acting against those who bring religion into disrepute.

The two key documents that are of concern to us here are the National Qualifications Framework, Act67 (2009), and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act (1995). These form part of the cohort of legislation that constitute the framework of education in South Africa in a democratic society. They both relate to the higher education sector and are both based in the need to promote access, mobility and success for learners. In addition, we take into account two documents from the ACRP (NPC Reg No 2015/319357/08): its Memorandum of Incorporation and its Rules Document.

 

Taking account of the relevant statutes

What follows is a commentary on the relevant legislation affecting the processes involved in formation of the ACRP. The SAQA Act provides for the development and implementation of an NQF by creating one national framework of learning achievements, providing access to mobile, progressive career opportunities, improving the quality of education and training, driving the process of redress of former unfair discrimination and enhancing the individual's and the nation's ability to fulfil its potential.

The purpose of SAQA is 'monitoring and auditing achievements in terms of national standards or qualifications' (2.1) through comprehensive quality assurance mechanisms that are both transparent and accountable. This seeks to provide qualifications that meet nationally agreed skills standards and are transferable and mobile within a system that takes account of its segregated history of educational provision. The NQF Act (2008) is a natural outcome of the SAQA Act.

Regulations under the South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995 (ACT NO. 58 OF 1995)

Accreditation:

is 'for the purpose of monitoring and auditing achievements in terms of national standards or qualifications' (2.1).

Criteria for accreditation of Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies

it has a primary focus for its quality assurance activities based upon its association with the identified sector and the identified mission of that sector;

1. quality management policies which define the quality which the Education and Training Quality Assurance Body wishes to achieve;

2. quality management procedures which enable the Education and Training Quality Assurance Body to practice its defined quality management policies; and

3. review mechanisms which ensure that the quality management policies and procedures defined are applied and remain effective;

in respect of the quality assurance function, it has national stakeholder representation at decision-making level, which representation shall ensure public accountability and transparency (3.1.b, d, e, f, h, i).

Functions of Education and Training Quality Assurance Bodies

1. An Education and Training Quality Assurance Body shall -

a. accredit constituent providers for specific standards or qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework;

b. promote quality amongst constituent providers;

c. monitor provision by constituent providers;

d. evaluate assessment and facilitation of moderation among constituent providers;

e. register constituent assessors for specified registered standards or qualifications in terms of the criteria established for this purpose;

f. take responsibility for the certification of constituent learners;

Criteria for accreditation of providers

(i). quality management policies which define that which the provider wishes to achieve;

(Ii). quality management procedures which enable the provider to practise its defined quality management policies; or

(iii). review mechanisms which ensure that the quality management policies and procedures defined are applied and remain effective; (13.a,b)

is able to develop, deliver and evaluate learning programmes which culminate in specified registered standards or qualifications. (13.c)

The NQF is a nationally recognised system for the classification, registration, publication and articulation of quality-assured national qualifications. Its provisions are similar to those of the SAQA Act.

No. 67 of 2008: National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008

PREAMBLE

WHEREAS the advancement and recognition of learning is an essential attribute of a free and democratic nation and a prerequisite for the development and well-being of its citizens;

WHEREAS the National Qualifications Framework has been developed and implemented in terms of the South African Qualifications Act, 1995;

WHEREAS the National Qualifications Framework has won wide acceptance as the principal instrument through which national education and training qualifications are recognised and quality-assured; and

WHEREAS a review of the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework has necessitated changes to the governance and organisation of the framework so that its objectives may be more effectively and efficiently realised.

Object of Act:

2. The object of this Act is to provide for the further development, organisation and governance of the NQF.

This indicates that the process is dynamic, being both developmental and participatory. The self-regulatory nature of higher education, as propagated by the CHE's Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), should be taken as an opportunity to be involved in the processes provided by the regulatory bodies.

CHAPTER 2

NATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS FRAMEWORK

Framework

4. The NQF is a comprehensive system approved by the Minister for the classification, registration, publication and articulation of quality-assured national qualifications.

The framework seeks to provide a comprehensive cohort of programmes having national, and also international, recognition.

Objectives of NQF:

5. 1. The objectives of the NQF are to:

a. create a single integrated national framework for learning achievements;

b. facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within, education, training and career paths;

c. enhance the quality of education and training;

d. accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.

5.2. The objectives of the NQF are designed to contribute to the full personal development of each learner and the social and economic development of the nation at large.

5.3. SAQA and the QCs must seek to achieve the objectives of the NQF by:

a. developing, fostering and maintaining an integrated and transparent national framework for the recognition of learning achievements;

b. ensuring that South African qualifications meet appropriate criteria, determined by the Minister as contemplated in section 8, and are internationally comparable; and

c. ensuring that South African qualifications are of an acceptable quality.

The emphasis is on a 'single integrated' system characterised by access and mobility, in contradistinction to the static and stunted 'hewers of wood and drawers of water' (Joshua 9:21) apartheid model. It aims both to promote the needs of individuals as well as to meet the needs of the community, both national and international.

Objects of SAQA

11. The objects of the SAQA are to:

a. advance the objectives of the NQF contemplated in Chapter 2;

b. oversee the further development and implementation of the NQF; and

c. co-ordinate the sub-frameworks.

Functions of SAQA

13. (1) The SAQA must, in order to advance the objectives of the NQF -

(i) with respect to professional bodies -

(i) develop and implement policy and criteria for recognising a professional body and registering a professional designation for the purposes of this Act, after consultation with statutory and nonstatutory bodies of expert practitioners in occupational fields and with the QCs [quality councils]; and

(ii) recognise a professional body and register its professional designation if the criteria contemplated in subparagraph (i) have been met;

(j) with respect to international relations -

(i) collaborate with its international counterparts on all matters of mutual interest concerning qualifications frameworks; and

(ii) inform the QCs and other interested parties about international practice in the development and management of qualifications frameworks;

(k) with respect to research -

(i) conduct or commission investigations on issues of importance to the development and implementation of the NQF, including periodic studies of the impact of the NQF on South African education, training and employment; and

(ii) publish the findings of the investigations referred to in subparagraph (n) with respect to other matters -

(i) inform the public about the NQF

This provides the link between statutory and professional bodies. This consultative provision is vital to promote state policy and professional integrity. Again, we note the desire to meet and promote international standards of achievements. The transparency of the exercise is derived from publication of research findings.

CHAPTER 6 PROFESSIONAL BODIES

Co-operation with QCs

28. Despite the provisions of any other Act, a professional body must co-operate with the relevant QCs in respect of qualifications and quality assurance in its occupational field.

Recognition by SAQA

29. A statutory or non-statutory body of expert practitioners in an occupational field must apply in the manner prescribed by the SAQA in terms of section 13(1)(i)(i) to be recognised as a professional body in terms of this Act.

Registration of professional designation

30. A professional body that is recognised in terms of section 29 must apply to the SAQA, in the manner determined by the SAQA in terms of section 13(1)(i)(ii), to register a professional designation on the NQF.

Information

31. A professional body must, in consultation with the SAQA:

a. maintain a database for the purposes of this Act;

b. submit such data in a format determined in consultation with the SAQA for recording on the national learners' records database contemplated in section 13(1)(l).

The key to this section is consultation and co-operation between the different professional groups and quality councils. Government does not establish professional councils; these emerge from within specific groups.

Previously, in theological education, this monitoring function was provided for through the expertise of the Joint Board for the award of the Diploma in Theology.

 

Joint Board for the Diploma in Theology

Prior to the introduction of a new dispensation in education in a democratic South Africa, the only accrediting body in South Africa was the Joint Board for the award of the Diploma in Theology:

In 1965, participating churches (Anglican, Methodist, Congregational Church) together established the Joint Board for the Diploma in Theology set up by the South African Council for Theological Education (SACTE) which included representation from across mainline denominations in Southern Africa. Established in order to provide an ecumenically recognised and peer reviewed qualification, it became the chief accrediting body until the new South African educational legislation. A common diploma was awarded to students of colleges that operated under the Joint Board, with quality assurance being provided by the Board in addition to a sharing of expertise and resources. (Naidoo 2015b:69, n. 15)

Each of the 19 seminaries accredited with the Joint Board had to apply anew for accreditation, an expensive and technical exercise that many found difficult (Naidoo 2015b:169). They met biannually to verify and standardise marks for their modules taught and assessed, and to discuss relevant common issues related to their work. This was a quality assurance body. The ACRP has the potential to perform similar functions to the Joint Board.

 

The Association of Christian Religious Practitioners

The context of the formation of the ACRP is the existence of a deep need for pastoral care within Christian contexts and therefore for professional training to provide for this particular form of vocation. Many caregivers do not have intellectual qualifications, yet they possess skills that need to be refined and directed in this critical field of care. This need has highlighted an important element in theological education, which is its universal nature: 'Theological education is for the whole people of God' (Amanze 2010:111), not only highly trained 'experts', which also implies 'ordained'. Njoroge (2008:64) affirms the role of the church as the people of God to perform healing and caring functions in a broken world. This has good historical foundations in the Bible and in the Protestant Reformation's 'priesthood of all believers' principle, now supported by the Roman Catholic Church's concept of 'the people of God':

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. (1 Pt 2:5-9)

This was confirmed by Luther (1520):

As St. Paul says (1 Cor. xii.), we are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve the others. This is because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, Gospel, and faith, these alone make spiritual and Christian people. (p. 2)

It was further confirmed by Vatican II (Lumen gentium §10, Flannery 1975):

The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men [sic] they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the perfection of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvellous light (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-10). Therefore, all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God (cf. Acts 2:42-47), should present themselves as a sacrifice. (pp. 360-361)

Naidoo (2015a; cf. Van der Walt 2015:158) makes the point succinctly:

theological education no longer refers to university or seminary education alone, but to efforts on the part of the whole Church to learn from its rich traditions. There has been a reappraisal of the status and role of the laity in many Christian traditions. Ministry is no longer solely equated with the activities of ordained ministry, but rather something exercised by the entire people of God, in church and around the world. (pp. 3-4)

This is the role of diversification (Van der Walt 2016:157). The task of caring and healing is not limited by NQF levels. As a result, a proposed new qualification (NQF level 5) provides the stimulus for the design of an appropriate programme at Higher Certificate level, which transcends mainline and what Van der Walt calls 'informal churches' (I would prefer to avoid these typological labels and refer simply to 'churches', though some clearly have far more resources than others, which is a relevant factor here). Diversification needs to be seen in terms of needs. It is extremely important that practitioners receive appropriate training, because they are engaged in the age-old vocation of the care and cure of souls, a sensitive and delicate process in which things can go terribly wrong if exercised by untrained practitioners. It is open to abuse by well-meaning people with a heart for the work but no expertise and by those who believe counselling people is about giving advice, which can do more harm than good, rather than helping the broken to discern their issues and resources and to find their own way forward.

Van der Walt (2016:158) suggests that there are few opportunities available within the formal educational sector for this kind of training at an appropriate level for those who cannot access programmes at appropriate entry levels, often because of their historically disadvantaged education (Van der Walt 2016:161). Many are in full-time employment and have limited opportunity for full-time training. Drawing on Kinsler's (2009) experience and insights, two relevant issues arise. Firstly, 'to follow Jesus in our time we need to consider whether our programmes of theological education are equipping local church leaders to defend and support the weak' (Kinsler 2009:19). Secondly, 'priority should be given to the meaningful theological formation of local leaders, especially those who have been traditionally marginalised' (Kinsler 2009:15). The focus is on local leadership and is consonant with a missional approach to the mission, vision and identity of the church.

One issue is that any of these leaders have to be trained at a pre-tertiary level, specifically NQF levels 2, 4 and above. However most, in particular smaller and less well-resourced, ministry training institutions have experienced difficulty in registering as Further Education Training centres to offer such programmes. Such courses are not recognised as credit bearing, which means that they cannot contribute towards recognised qualifications. Further, the process of registration is complex. Theology and religion are not accorded a place in the Sectoral Education and Training Agencies and are, therefore, not eligible for assistance from the Skills Development Fund. It is also expensive and often beyond the means of smaller, poorer churches. Van der Walt (2016:163) also points out the lack of an agreed common mission and vision strategy among potential providers. This in turn negatively impacts upon curriculum design, development of resource materials and the provision of expert facilitators.

Thus, there is a need for greater diversification within the regulatory framework, particularly at the lower levels of attainment. The NQF Act (2008) provides for non-statutory professional organisations as part of the Department of Higher Education and Training's Organising Framework for Occupations (SAQA 2012:5) in terms of a 'community of expert practitioners'. This allows for the recognition of non-statutory professional bodies competent to develop curricula and assessment standards. This will enable each professional body to determine its own peculiar characteristics and standards. Van der Walt (2016) summarised the outcome:

the opportunity to develop a fully diversified and flexible training dispensation for leaders in the informal church environment who need access to formal, recognised training [] can finally be opened up. (p. 167)

This will 'fit the need structures of pastors, in particular those of the informal churches and the growing number of "lay" workers in informal as well as formal (historic) churches' (Van der Walt 2016:168).

Towards this end the ACRP was formed in 2014 through the merger of the Association of Ministry Training Practitioners and the South African Association for Pastoral Work. This was the result of the suggestion of SAQA, because both Christian bodies had applied to be registered as professional bodies. The ACRP's focus centres on the principle: 'To pursue the formal professionalisation of religious (church, ministry) practice within the Christian tradition, with a particular focus on the needs of the independent/informal church environment' (ACRP Memorandum 2017:1). It developed Christian Ministry qualification at NQF level 2 during 2015 and 2016, Christian Ministry qualification and an NQF level 5 in 2016.

 

Association of Christian Religious Practitioners Memorandum of Incorporation

Objectives:

1. professional support to and the registration of Christian religious practitioners

2. promoting the training of Christian religious practitioners, with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on the training of educationally disadvantaged persons who want to access education and training on higher levels.

We note the emphasis on support for previously disadvantaged persons' formation. This is a long-term rather than a short-term strategy, especially for those who may encounter problems of access. This is the source of the ACRP, which is an initiative of pastors, churches, training institutions to create a body that could apply to SAQA for recognition within the government's regulatory framework. Consequently, the ACRP defined the components of professionalisation as defining professional designations, linking training standards, registering ministry persons on a professional database and identifying SAQA-accredited ministry qualifications. All of this leads to cooperation with churches and other ministry institutions. The professional council is responsible for producing a generic ethical code, code of good practice and disciplinary code; maintenance of good practice; supervision and protection of the public (Erasmus 2017). Hence, we note the setting of criteria and promotion of professional development, monitoring compliance and cooperation with SAQA.

Association of Christian Religious Practitioners Rules Document:

1. Mission of ACRP

The mission of ACRP is to support Christian religious practitioners in fulfilling their calling and promote the provision of training to Christian religious practitioners.

2. Objectives of ACRP

ACRP seeks to assist ministry leaders (including pastors, counsellors, missionaries, youth workers, etc.), as well as churches and other ministry institutions as employers, by fulfilling the functions of a professional body in respect of Christian religious practitioners. This is done by means of the following:

  • Providing professional support to and registration of Christian religious practitioners

  • Promoting the training of Christian religious practitioners, with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on the training of educationally disadvantaged persons who want to access education and training on higher levels.

With regard to the SAQA Act, its remit is based in the 'monitoring and auditing [of] achievements' (2.1). Its accreditation focus is on the end product of the education we offer in terms of quality assurance processes related to 'the identified mission' of a particular sector; 'its activities will advance the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework' (3.1.i).

The emphasis here, in continuity with the SAQA Act, is on the benefit of the individual and society. A significant aim is the protection of clients from unscrupulous service providers. This aim appears to be limited to the South, southern and sub-Saharan region of the African continent.

1. Affiliation

There are two types of affiliation to ACRP, namely individual registration and institutionalaffiliation.

 

Individual affiliation (registration) to the Association of Christian Religious Practitioners

  • General: Individual affiliation (registration) is defined by Ministry Councils in terms of designations. Practitioners have the option to be affiliated to (registered with) more than one Ministry Council if the requirements for registration as set by those Boards have been met. Fees will be determined in accordance with the level of affiliation (registration).

  • Designations

'Religious Specialist'

'Religious Professional'

'Advanced Religious Practitioner'

'Religious Practitioner'

 

Categories of institutional affiliation to the Association of Christian Religious Practitioners

  • Training provider affiliation: There are three levels of training provider affiliation:

Accredited Independent Training Provider

Accredited Supported Training Provider

  • Non-accredited Training Provider

  • Church, church network, ministry or faith based organisation affiliation

  • Associate institutional affiliation .

  • This category provides for non-ministry related organisations that support the cause of the ACRP ('friends of ARCP').

A Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process is also applicable in awarding designations. Among the criteria taken into account are 'fundamental knowledge and skills; competence; scope of learning; responsibilities; learning pathway, experience and professional status; and research track record'.

 

Benefits and/or dangers

It may be difficult to designate a concern as either a benefit or a danger because different role players may see issues from different perspectives, as is the case with the NQF and training providers (see Dunsmuir & McCoy 2015:27-41). Further, some concerns may be seen as threats in specific circumstances. Hence, there may be a discrepancy with regard to an issue being regarded as a benefit or a danger. This may be obviated if all role players can adopt the position of participants in a national venture to provide and facilitate the best education for our learners throughout South Africa. This is what the legislation seeks to achieve in a serious attempt to add value to the system in a fluid context. Sadly, some appear to resist and resent the attempts to develop a just educational system at this significant and critical time in our nation's history. This is not consistent with a position that wishes Christian Theology to remain part of the academy while also wishing it to be treated as a special case.

We live in a dynamic culture at a dynamic period of time. The only thing that is constant is change, and it takes courage to embrace change. The tendency within church or religious circles is to maintain that we provide a static refuge from the effects and impact of change in our society. Yet the semper reformanda principle, derived from the Reformations and possibly even earlier, which indicates that the church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the word of God, reflects a Spirit-guided approach to change. Whoever saw the Spirit of God taking a break, even a well-deserved one? Dynamism is its nature and we are called to be human dynamos - inspired within the contexts in which God has placed us. And that context is Africa.

A nationally recognised 'professional qualification accredited by a regulated body' (regardless of the NQF level) raises the quality of what is being offered in the pastoral domain as well as the quality of the provider. It removes the oft-expressed image of the overzealous, fanatical religious caregiver who may do more harm than good. While not in the original Hippocratic Oath, the principle of 'first, do no harm' resonates throughout the oath (Tyson 2001:1). This is as much a premise of pastoral care (cure of souls) as of medical care. Then there is the benefit of standard setting and maintenance, evaluation, monitoring and supervision linked to lifelong learning offered by an oversight body within the professional body itself and nationally with international possibilities. Such a benefit will always be enhanced by close links between such bodies and the sharing of new developments and expertise. Recognition is a valuable commodity within the caring professions. It can be linked to collegiality, a derivative of cooperation, consultation and a sharing of ideas, opportunities and challenges. This is extended to include the ability to make representations to the regulating body. It offers practitioners a sense of self-worth and professional identity along with a deeper sense of purpose. It may lead to developing a greater sense of pride in work, with the concomitant danger of such pride slipping into arrogance (a problem in any profession, but perhaps less of a threat in a vocation). While there is always the danger of gathering qualifications as an end in themselves, this is less likely at the lower NQF levels. In this context, they are more likely to be a means towards providing a more meaningful integrated faithful service.

Distance education programmes present special problems, including confusion, as they are often contact programmes sent by post or email. There needs to be a recognition that distance learning is a special approach to education that requires expert designers to ensure that the programme is fit for purpose. There are clear regulations about the provision of contact and distance learning programmes (CHE Criterion 6: Student Assessment Policies and Procedures). Yet distance education opens up new vistas for many who have been excluded from formal educational opportunities in the past.

Staffing poses its own problems when the size and capacity of an institution do not allow for a substantial full-time staff contingent. Some institutions' staff have inadequate or unverified qualifications. Then there is a lack of one or more of the following policies: workload models, assessment practice, staff development and staff equity. Then it is possible that no performance assessment of staff is done (CHE Criterion 3: Staffing [qualifications, experience and competence]; CHE Criterion 4: Staffing [size, seniority and employment conditions]).

One of the dangers is self-indulgence. Because we are 'religious', we often allow ourselves to think and believe we are not as accountable for what we do and how we behave as other vocations and so things can go so badly wrong, as we have seen with high-profile American tele-evangelists, for example. We may note the examples of sexual misconduct by internationally recognised high-profile evangelists like Jim Bakker (Bauer 2008:115-142), Jimmy Swaggart (Bauer 2008:143-151) and Cardinal Bernard Law (Bauer 2008:183-206), who often justify immoral acts as acceptable, which is a vital ethical issue in this study. Surely, if standards apply at all, ours must be beyond reproach. I think this is one of the reasons for the antipathy of churches and church-related institutions towards the CHE. There have been some very poor examples of Christian praxis here. We need to remember that one of its main functions is to protect learners from unscrupulous theological entrepreneurs who have their own theological (read: ideological) agenda.

Relationships provide another unwitting danger point for private institutions. The CHE strongly discourages partnerships between private higher education institutions (PHEIs) and public institutions. Public institutions benefit by receiving subsidies for students they do not teach while the partnered private institutions provide the staff to meet the public institution's teaching responsibilities. One concern is that such relationships discourage PHEIs from developing their own capacity. Of course, there are benefits to be derived from appropriate relationships such as cooperation, sharing resources and use of staff for external examination.

Another danger is insecurity, which comes from our commonly held assumption that good pastors and academics are also good teachers. This is not a logical or reasonable conclusion to reach in many cases. Here we strike a very sensitive nerve. In many contexts there is a limited understanding and implementation of appropriate and current teaching, learning and assessment and moderation approaches. Institutions lack an underling philosophy of education, which is the direct result of having few or no trained educators. How many of us have taken time and trouble to familiarise ourselves with current trends in education and teaching methodology, and how open are we to take the risk of embarking on life-changing practice arising out of a commitment to lifelong learning? For instance, there are modes of facilitating learning other than lecturing.

In the majority of instances infrastructure is inadequate and library resources insufficient to the extent that the delivery of quality educational programmes is severely affected (CHE Criterion 7: Infrastructure and Library Resources). Very often the lack of adequate resourcing impinges directly on the academic programme. As a result of the lack of a variety of appropriate reading materials, learners may just read enough prescribed material to 'get by'. This is not an adequate approach to higher education. Yet the regulatory environment does not appear, at this stage, to have given appropriate consideration to the vast array of resources available online. A number of higher education providers are further ahead in this field.

Assessment in particular is a vexed area. Facilitators seem unable to determine the link between learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Consequently, this may lead to poor assessment practices. This is exacerbated by the absence of external moderation and guidance in assessment practice in many institutions. Often learning outcomes are not specified and learning materials are often too basic. All in all, curriculum choice is limited (e.g. Hebron Theological College 2017; South African Theological Seminary 2017). We realise that developing and evaluating learning materials is problematic in some institutions where there is no clarity regarding who designs and develops teaching materials. Often it is left to the subject expert, who may have little knowledge, interest or expertise in communicating his or her knowledge. Then, in no case is there what can be defined as work integrated learning or service learning as an integrated part of the modules as a part of the credit-bearing purpose. This leads to the danger of operating without regard to the integrity of our institutions and purpose.

A problem here is that we are using the training we have received to follow one vocation (ministry) in a manner that denies the validity of further training to enter another 'profession' (education, pastoral care). How many institutions sponsor staff to undertake qualifications in teaching at Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs)? They rather focus on purely academic development to the detriment of professional advancement. The situation is worsened when theological convictions and denominational and/or confessional affiliation impinge on the academic quality of programmes. In contradistinction to this approach is the widely acknowledged 'need to construct an African hermeneutic for theological education' (Higgs 2015:53) through a context-focussed curriculum. The cardinal aim is to foster academic excellence in theological education through ensuring the academic function is not undermined.

Another danger is pride and insularity. I think that as academics we are not aware of how much we learn from our students and how much we owe to them. Some are even so arrogant that we think that students can teach us nothing. This is evidenced in student complaints made to me personally regarding the maintenance of the traditional lecture system as a sole means of teaching, an unwillingness to embrace contemporary innovative methodologies and a refusal by lecturers to entertain questions, discussion and even critical comments. A dialogical pedagogy is grounded in the praxis of 'the teachers need to learn, and the learners need to teach' (De Gruchy & Ellis, in Nell 2016:1232). At the launch of one of his books in Rome, the theologian Bernhard Häring stated, 'I have learned all my theology from the poor of the world' (Dowling 2016:4). I cannot claim the same because I have learned all my relevant theology from my students here in Africa, after receiving a European theological education.

What we need is an authentic commitment of support for our students, who hold the future of our nation in their hands, if we are prepared to entrust that future to them as previous generations did to us. We are responsible for handing on the traditions of our churches. The work of Thomas Oden verifies this even in the context of contemporary pastoral care:

I have tried to set forth what is most commonly said in the central Christian tradition about ministry. I have tried to distil the best ideas of the two millennia of ecumenical Christian thinking concerning what pastors are and do. My purpose is to develop an internally conscious grasp of classical Christian thinking about the pastor and to provide a minimal foundation for that knowledge of the pastoral office requisite to the practice of ministry. (Oden 1985:vii)

What is also relevant is Oden's conviction that historically the African continent has played a role here (Oden 2010).

We are not clear about what lies ahead but our Lord and God even appeared through closed doors and gates to offer fresh opportunities for service. Closed city gates never held the apostles back, whether they were inside or outside the gates. Paul, in Acts 9:23, even bypassed the gates when they became a barrier to the progress of the gospel. However, now to our context, where one of my students proclaimed:

It took studying at the University of Pretoria (UP) for me to appreciate my Blackness and the history it comes from. It was through being challenged by Prof. X and Prof. Y that I began to ask myself 'what does it mean to be black in a world that is defined through biases and subjective thoughts?' And so I submit that this journey is one of self-discovery, painful, full of struggle but mostly about the restoration of human dignity and the realisation that the Gospel is not exclusive but is for the masses, bringing all to the core of God's love No sermon in Africa can ever be given if it does not reflect its context. #proudtukkie #theologian #black african. (Kabelo Motlhakane, 15 February 2016)

This is a most encouraging comment from a student - we must be doing something right, but is this how our programmes impact on all students? However, we must beware. Our partners from the churches often complain that they 'find leaders who have excellent academic qualifications, but lack spiritual wisdom, maturity and ministry competence' (Nell 2016:1230) and they have been doing it as part of their diagnosis of the long-term crisis in theological education. We find comments such as:

We cannot train men to 'rock the boat, but we must not stifle their ability to do this'. (MTCFTS, 18-19 July 1972, S3050/21/7/72, William Cullen Library, Wits University, AB2414, B8, M6, in Duncan 2016a:42)

Yet, an aspect of Fedsem's problems emanated from its amazing and consistent success rate in producing a crop of young radical priests who went out to shake things up in both church and society. In time, even the churches began to 'fear'. The churches had created the monster they came to resent and fear, but they had invested too much in promoting Fedsem and a successful ecumenical and non-racial experiment to give it up. (Maluleke 2006:305-306 in Duncan 2016:43)

A subcommittee on theological education of the Church Unity Commission, representing the Anglicans, Congregationalists, Methodists and Presbyterians and recently joined by the Lutherans, and Notes from the Committee on Theological Education has also recently raised the issue, 'What is the interface between authority and power and how do we educate appropriately, theologically?' (e-mail Paul Verryn to author, 02 November 2017). All of this relates to boundaries and expectations in the educational sphere.

At the present time, theology is under severe threat in South Africa from secular forces within and beyond universities, which are 'shaking the foundations' (Tillich 1948). Our somnambulance may soon lead to the discovery that theology has been displaced by religious studies, which has a durability theology lacks in the eyes of the South African government and many in the academy. Theology is viewed as a privileged broad discipline in the academy, favouring only one faith expression, with a history of alignment to apartheid policies rather than reconciliation as 'an imperative for conscious policies, while religious studies is a humanities subject which is far more inclusive. Yet, theology has the capacity to be a source of social intervention in order to promote processes of restoring justice and renewed relationships' (Nordstekke 2013). It:

offers the promise of a 'reconciled diversity' (Atzvi 2013:34) as an enhancing dimension of life achieved through 'processes of dialogue, mutual learning and understanding which cultivate a spirit of respect and inclusiveness, with the ultimate wish to ensure a peaceful and reconciled co-existence'. (p. 117)

We need practical wisdom (phronesis) to navigate the tempestuous waves of the social, political, cultural and economic implications of what we have embarked on as educators.

Another danger is static adherence to Western traditionalism, even in the field of pastoral care, pastoral counselling and pastoral ministry, where the focus of care is the individual rather than the group or community, which is the unit of identity in African societies. Do we as teachers and academics have the wisdom to move forward from our well-defined and protected positions? Do we have the courage to progress through the gateway as academics? It is one thing to open the gates for our students to walk through but do we have the courage to go there (where no one has gone before) ourselves? This leads us to the need to interrogate the hegemony of our Western-based curriculum. Naidoo (2016) asserts that this Western 'dominant curriculum [of theological educational institutions] continues to be a source of alienation' within Africa. This appears as a global crisis of confidence in the normativity of Western Christianity (Duncan 2016:8). For example, at the University of Pretoria, a public institution:

The major issue facing theology at the UP as it works towards the future is the transformation of the faculty from a Eurocentric entity into an African faculty. This is controversial because FT prestige depends to a great degree on how we fare in the various world ranking systems rather than seeking to realise our full potential in Africa, our natural habitat. (Duncan 2016:7)

The new curricula for the BDiv and BTh degrees were introduced in 2010 and 2011. Phase one introduced the veneer of Africanisation, but the European-based philosophical underpinning remains intact. (Duncan 2016:8)

This is true of both private and public institutions. Any change built on this base simply maintains the status quo (cf. Duncan 2016:6-12). In how many cases is the allocation of funds responsible for the nature of our curriculum? A number of institutions' curricula are determined by the same content of programmes on offer at sponsoring institutions in other parts of the world. Global University is a fully accredited (in the USA) for-profit Christian university, in the Pentecostal tradition, based out of Springfield, Missouri. As a worldwide distance learning pioneer, the university integrates education and service through a network in 150 countries, (e.g. Global University at Global School of Theology, South Africa 2017).

 

Resistance to promotion of all things African

Pobee (2010:338) is not correct in his assertion that theology in Africa began with a North Atlantic paradigm and artefacts, which also short-changed African identity, ethos, use and creativity. Theology began from the earliest stage in the life of the church and is well attested to in the work of theologians like Origen, Cyprian, Tertullian and Augustine. However, his statement is true in that in its modern manifestation from the 18th century, Western theology dominated developments in Africa.

Jean-Marc Ela (1988) articulated a contemporary concern:

In Africa, the confrontation between the message of the gospel and the African universe must bring forth a meaning with the poor to transform the lives of African Christians. Today, the faith of the church in Africa is in danger of death, because the church tends to forget its cultural dimensions as marked by its Greco heritage. If the faith of the Africans is not to die, it must become a vision of the world that they can feel in theirs; European cultural dimensions must be stripped away. There is an urgent need to reject present foreign models of expressions, if we are to breathe new life into the spoken Word. Our church must express a Passover of Language, or the meaning of the Christian message will not be understood. One of the primary tasks of Christian reflection in black Africa is to tally, reformulate our basic faith through the mediation of African culture. In place of the cultural presuppositions of Western Christianity, namely logos and ratio, we must substitute African symbolism. (p. 44)

Within the South African context, Naidoo (2015a:6) confirms that 'most of the theological reflection remains captive to a Western model of theologising, reflecting the tension between African communal culture individualism, and the competitive characteristic of Western culture'. Naidoo laments the dissonance between formation and the traditional intellectual approach. Virtually all institutional mission and vision statements emphasise the desire to serve the African context, but this is more honoured in the breach than the observance. When the curricula of, for example, South African private providers of theological education are analysed, nowhere is the African context mentioned either in their mission statements or curricula (e.g. Hebron Theological College 2017; South African Theological Seminary 2017). By comparison Mukhanyo Theological College (2017) mentions 'training for ministry in the African context', but it is not clear how this is achieved in its syllabi. It is as if we are not proud of our African heritage or we are not even aware of it. We should remember that the first Christian university was founded in Alexandria in Egypt centuries before the rise of the medieval university in Europe. Along with the Islamic university at Timbuktu, these were the first (African) higher education institutions. Africanisation is possibly the most critical issue that needs to be addressed in South African education today. We continue to impose curricula that are designed outside South Africa for other contexts. This is because our theological education has jettisoned its African heritage in favour of the European and from then it only returned in the 19th century. Envisioning a post-colonial approach to theological education, Namsoon Kang (2010), writing in the context of long-term widespread dissatisfaction within the Protestant mainline denominations' theological education programmes (cf. Cochrane 1992:2, De Gruchy 1996:23, Denis & Duncan 2011:245, 247), comments:

One cannot simply write a kind of 'universal' perspective on the theological education in world Christianity. If one does, it would be an act of homogenisation through the lens of the discursively powerful. There is a deep seated 'suspicion' among scholars primarily due to the 'foreign' or 'western' origin. (p. 31)

These require totally different approaches, at least initially, in order for a contextual model to be developed without the encumbrance of past colonial models, as they operate from differing epistemological assumptions. Otherwise, there can be no basis for dialogical encounter. However, Guder (2010) affirms that:

these processes obviously need to interact with and inform each other, because their common basis is the Christendom project both in its continuing influence in the west and its impact upon the non-western world mediated by the modern missionary movement. (p. 53)

Steve De Gruchy (2010), referring to the colonial missionary legacy, states:

Without the chance to deconstruct this legacy during one's training, there is little possibility of pursuing a creative reconstruction in a post-colonial era to seek ways to reconstruct it in creative and energetic ways. Studying the colonial missionary legacy is vital for this, because it also serves as a reminder to the arrogance and self-righteousness that can come so easily to characterise the churches of the South/East too. (p. 49)

It is important to take account of the 'burgeoning growth and emergence of global Christianity in the 20th [and 21st] century' (Guder 2010:51) in the context of 'the disintegration of western Christendom', which, in its day, 'worked'.

 

Resistance to promotion of all things African

Virtually all institutional mission and vision statements emphasise the desire to serve the African context but this is more honoured in the breach than the observance. It is as if we are not proud of our African heritage or we are not even aware of it. We should remember that the first Christian university was founded in Alexandria in Egypt centuries before the rise of the medieval university in Europe. Along with the Islamic university at Timbuktu, these were the first (African) higher education institutions. Africanisation is possibly the most critical issue that needs to be addressed in South African education today. We continue to impose curricula which are designed outside South Africa for other contexts. This is because our theological education has jettisoned its African heritage, in favour of the European and waited for it to return in the 19th century. However, as the result of this long wait there has been little if any inculturation. Here we come across basic differences that cannot be ignored. Baloyi (2017:1) explains the basic difference between pastoral care in African and European contexts - the European characterised by life lived as individuals and the African context as 'life experienced as a whole'. These require totally different approaches. This touches on the topic of relevance (CHE Criterion 1: Programme Design; CHE 2004, 2013). No concession is made in the programme design to the fact that our institutions offer courses in Africa. All theological programmes conform to Western models and values.

The South African (SA) context needs to be respected and catered for, and all programmes must be aligned with the Higher Education Quality Sub-Framework (HEQSF). Theology is a critically contextual endeavour, and international programmes cannot simply be carried over into SA without properly translating such programmes and integrating them into the African context. In addition, assessment procedures should reflect the SA environment (e.g. use of credits and marks allocation) in order to allow for articulation and to ensure proper, conversant structures. At times external or international, sponsoring institutions' administrative operations have been simply transferred to SA institutions - for example, some institutions use US assessment standards (grade point average system). This does not indicate that the qualification is obtained in South Africa, nor does it indicate the HEQSF credits and levels (Criterion 8: Programme Administrative Services; CHE 2004, 2013).

In terms of theological education Africa needs to 'get in step with Christianity as an African religion at an epistemological level' (Balcomb 2014:72, 74-75). This was attempted by De Gruchy and Chirongoma (2007:291-305) in their analysis of the distinguished history of Christianity in Africa using the primal elements of earth, water, wind and fire as reference points of influence in the past that are still relevant in contemporary Africa. This is true with regard to the critical issues of 'religious pluralism, climate change, globalization and poverty, war and violence, refugees and xenophobia, HIV and AIDS, TB, malaria and cholera, rape and domestic violence and the like' (De Gruchy 2010:47). According to Kombo (2016:1224-1225), it is imperative that theological education provide 'spaces for formation' where there may be engagement with the contextual challenges presented by the four images. PHEIs can provide such spaces. I tend to agree with Kombo (2015), who views the development of Christian doctrine as a:

deep, reflective, consistent and relevant interaction with both the African as presently presented on the one hand and in a manner that is consistent with the roots of Christianity in the early church on the other hand. (p. 3)

And a major root of Christianity historically is to be found in Africa. However, one of the problems we face is that no one has prepared the main actors in this drama - African leaders, as can be seen in the hitherto unresolved equity issues in both public and private education providers. Of course, this is related to power issues including race, gender, nationality, language and professional status (De Gruchy & Ellis 2008:19). One way to resolve such a dilemma is by participation and collaboration, which is what the NQF and CHE advocate.

Higgs (2015:43) advocates 'a reconstruction of theology specifically for Africa by Africans in which African indigenous knowledge systems' are privileged. Africanisation and/or transformation processes must be marked by authenticity and integrity. Guiding principles in such a paradigm change are suggested by Carpenter (2014:125-129): the reintegration of theological disciplines, reconstruction of systematic theology, re-grounding theological discourse, re-engaging other ideologies and traditions and renewing the theological mind. To these might be added recognising 'primal spirituality' (Fotland 2014:116) as a universal spirituality and the prioritising of eco-justice. Our reflections must revolve around the question: do we have the capacity and commitment for such a long-term reorientation?

Some are able to reach the stage of liminality (so far but no more), a very uncomfortable place to be because going backwards in such a situation is never a clever option. The only options are standing still, remaining with a commitment to what we know and are comfortable with, though no one can poise themselves for too long on a tightrope, or taking Kierkegaard's 'leap of faith', where the 'leap is the decision' (Kierkegaard 1847, in Hong 1993:102), into an uncertain and risky future and grasping all the opportunities that present themselves. That is no choice at all in facing the 'courage to be[come]' (Tillich 1952).

 

Evaluation

The recently formed ACRP:

holds the potential for ministry training institutions to overcome the challenges that prevented a large proportion of leaders from entering into a recognised progressive path of theological education and ministry training. (Van der Walt 2016:168)

and:

where the diverse needs of the large number of leaders in the informal church environment - many of whom can be described as little, marginalised ones for whom there is a special place in the heart of Jesus we met in the gospel - will be met with appropriately diverse and adaptable training solutions. (Van der Walt 2016:168)

Anything that contributes to a widening of access is a positive step in SA education and can enhance the confidence and competence of many who believe they are not capable of reaching such heights of achievement. The role of RPL is vital here as a mode of transition into the formal sector of higher education.

This development of accreditation raises the issue that government bodies cannot be the only source for the assessment and accreditation of theological institutions. The church will need to assist the theological institution in redefining the meaning of ministerial profession, the role of leadership and the educational formats that will serve the goals that emerge from these conversations (Dunsmuir & McCoy 2015:38-53; Naidoo 2015b:169-170, N.18):

[F]or this a habitus is necessary, 'an integrated curriculum' (Naidoo 2015a:176). Naidoo (2015a:177) further suggests that 'The inner coherence and church-related responsibility of theological education cannot be exercised if the structural framework does not allow a formational emphasis'. This requires an integrated approach where: Integration refers to attempts to synthesise and coordinate the major learning experiences in a programme. It includes the integration of theological disciplines with each other; the integration between theory and praxis; and the dynamic interplay of knowledge, practice, and context - knowing, doing and being. (Naidoo 2015a:178)

The current educational system in South Africa is characterised by formal accreditation based on the achievement of 'minimum standards'. However the aim of the church in theological education is far more than achieving minimum standards (Dunsmuir & McCoy 2015:27).

The new system allows for the growth of confidence among churches in the system and for articulation nationally and internationally. There is a desire for accreditation, as can be seen from the time of the demise of the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa (FedSem) in 1993. In this matter, Duncan (2004:18) referred to the existence of 'open access to subsidised alternatives', specifically, state universities that now accepted black students.

Dunsmuir and McCoy (2015:30) raise the question regarding the ability of programmes that lead to qualifications in theology being able to meet the requirements of preparing people for ministry. However, the same question might appropriately be asked of accredited programmes that prepare people for the vocations of inter alia medicine, social work and the law.

Practical wisdom (phronesis) is needed to navigate the tempestuous waves of the social, political, cultural and economic implications of what we have embarked on as educators in line with what Farley (1983:35) termed habitus - the 'cognitive disposition and orientation of the soul, a knowledge of God and which God reveals', which results in the integration of faith and reason as partners on formation. It is 'holistic personal formation and transformation'. Dunsmuir and McCoy (2015:32, 38) question how this may happen within the regulated environment. Two suggestions may be made here. One points to the value of the Reformed churches' curatoria, many of which are situated within the faculties of theology in which they train their ministers. This allows for the necessary engagement of faith and reason. Secondly, is the aspect of work integrated learning, which allows for creative development of means of expression, which can be integrated into the credit module and given the credits it deserves through supervised practice, as in Clinical Pastoral Education.

Contrary to Dunsmuir and McCoy's suggestion (2015:33), accreditation has been generally accepted and some institutions and bodies, such as the ARCP, have developed creative means of working within a regulated system.

 

Conclusion

Significant progress has been made both in the achievement of an equitable education system in South Africa since 1994 and, despite problems within the theological education sector, great vigilance is being exercised in order that faith concerns be addressed appropriately. Private higher education providers, despite the many problems they face, are making a serious attempt to comply with national regulatory requirements and meet the needs of their clients (churches, organisations, groups and individuals). Those who are committed to responsible engagement with a view to the constant improvement of all things that further the vision and mission of both the nation and the church are to be commended.

What looks like progress is often regress, but much more needs to be done. A glorious future awaits us if we have the 'courage to be'. Religion has an amazing history in Africa; its compass is comprehensive and holistic - it has much to teach the rest of the world.

 

Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence:
Graham Duncan
graham.duncan@up.ac.za

Received: 03 Sept. 2017
Accepted: 18 Mar. 2018
Published: 26 July 2018

 

 

Project Leader: G.A. Duncan
Project Number: 02618958
Project Description: This research is part of the research project, 'History of Theological Education in Africa' directed by Prof. Dr Graham Duncan of the Department of Church History and Church Polity at the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria.

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

Spiritual leaders' experiences of a comprehensive HIV stigma reduction intervention

 

 

Germari KrugerI; Minrie GreeffI; Rantoa LetšosaII

IAfrica Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR), North-West University, South Africa
IIFaculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

HIV is a deadly reality in South African communities, where people living with HIV (PLWH) do not only face physical sickness but also severe stigmatisation. Literature shows that spiritual leaders (religious leaders/traditional healers) can have a very meaningful role in the reduction of HIV stigma. This article reports on part of a comprehensive community-based HIV stigma reduction intervention with PLWH and people living close to them, which included partners, children, family members, friends, community members and spiritual leaders. The focus of this article is on the experiences of spiritual leaders during and after the HIV stigma reduction intervention. The research took place in both an urban and rural setting in the North-West Province of South Africa and data collection was done by means of in-depth interviews with the spiritual leaders. The interaction with PLWH during the intervention activated new experiences for spiritual leaders: acceptance and empathy for PLWH, an awareness of their own ignorance, a stronger realisation of God's presence and a realisation that they could inspire hope in PLWH. A greater awareness was created of HIV and of the associated realities regarding disclosure and stigma. The inclusion of spiritual leaders as well as PLWH brought about a positive shift in the attitudes of communities through the increase of knowledge and understanding of HIV stigma. They saw themselves playing a much greater part in facilitating such a shift and in reducing HIV stigma in their own congregations and their communities at large.


 

 

Introduction and background

HIV remains a global issue, especially in Africa, which accounts for 25.7 million of the global estimate of 36.7 million people living with HIV (PLWH) (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2018:16). In South Africa, specifically, the number of PLWH has significantly risen from an estimated 4.72 million in 2002 to 7.06 million by 2017 (Statistics South Africa 2017:7). People living with HIV thus represent 12.6% of the total South African population (Statistics South Africa 2017:7), showing that HIV increasingly affects the lives of all South Africans (Gilbert 2016:10). The increased availability of antiretroviral treatment (ART) has, however, transformed HIV and/or AIDS from a 'death sentence' (Park 2016) to a chronic illness (Ammon, Mason & Corkery 2018:21; Treves-Kagan et al. 2016:87). Unfortunately, PLWH are not only faced with the burden of the physical side of the illness (WHO 2016) but also have to face severe stigmatisation (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2015:9). HIV stigma influences every aspect of the PLWH's lives, including 'disapproval, rejection and sub-optimal services in health care settings' (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2014:12; see also Gilbert 2016:11). It also impacts on how the community interact with PLWH (Treves-Kagan et al. 2016:87). HIV stigma further poses a barrier to the fulfilment of the holistic needs (physical, social and spiritual) of PLWH (Masquillier et al. 2015:214), with the result that PLWH experience 'mental health issues, social exclusion, rejection, high stress due to stigma and economic pressures' (Holzemer et al. 2007:547). HIV stigma thus leads to the marginalisation of PLWH within society (van der Walt & Vorster 2016:3), which in turn hampers all efforts to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 2014:2, 2018:68). HIV stigma, however, also impacts on the people living close (PLC) to PLWH, the community and health care services (French et al. 2015:95; Holzemer et al. 2007:548-549). Research over the past few years has shown that HIV stigma remains high in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in South Africa (Abdullah in Human Sciences Research Council [HSRC] 2015:3).

HIV stigma conceptualisation

A review of the literature on stigma revealed that it is a complex phenomenon and that many authors have tried to define it. Alonzo and Reynolds (1995) rephrased Goffman's original definition and described stigma as being 'a powerful discrediting and tainting social label that radically changes the way individuals view themselves and are viewed as persons'. They then concluded that:

the stigmatized are a category of people who are pejoratively regarded by the broader society and who are devalued, shunned or otherwise lessened in their life chances and in access to the humanizing benefit of free and unfettered social intercourse. (p. 304)

Various conceptual frameworks and models attempted to clarify this complex phenomenon. Parker and Aggleton (2003:18, 19), for example, view stigma as social processes characterised by culture and power that reproduce inequality and exclusion. The conceptual model of Holzemer (used by this study) contextualises stigma occurrences as a process involving the environment, the healthcare system and the agent as part of the context. Holzemer et al. (2007:548) furthermore suggest that there are three types of stigma: received, internal and associated stigma. Received stigma is an overarching stigma that includes demeaning behaviour towards PLWH. Internal stigma is intrapersonal thoughts and behaviours that develop because of negative self-perceptions based on the person's HIV status. Associated stigma is directed at persons who interact with, live with, work with or are in any way connected with PLWH. HIV stigma can thus affect an individual PLWH and the PLC to PLWH.

HIV stigma interventions

To address this complex problem, researchers have aimed to find solutions through interventions to reduce HIV stigma. Brown, Macintyre and Trujillo (2003:53) conducted a systematic review as early as 2003 and found that interventions at that stage mainly focused on information-based approaches, skills-building approaches, counselling approaches and contact with affected groups. They found that the providing of information and the building of skills had the biggest impact but was nevertheless insufficient to permanently change attitudes or behaviour towards PLWH (Brown et al. 2003:65). A systematic review by Sengupta et al. (2011:1086) on studies targeting HIV stigma reduction could only recommend the replication of 3 (Apinundecha et al. 2007; Krauss et al. 2006; Wu et al. 2008) of the 19 designs, owing to insignificant results and ineffectiveness. The review found that too few interventions target HIV stigma; ineffective measures are used to evaluate HIV stigma reduction; and the studies lack public significance and internal validity (Sengupta et al. 2011:1084). They recommended that HIV stigma interventions should target issues of HIV stigma, use a validated instrument and should also measure health outcomes of interest (Sengupta et al. 2011:1085). Stangl et al. (2013:2, 7) investigated discrimination-reduction, stigma reduction, structural and biomedical interventions of 48 studies. They found that despite the progress made on HIV stigma reduction, too many studies focused on the 'individual-level drivers of stigma, such as knowledge, fear and attitudes' and an effort should be made to 'target multiple stigma domains at multiple levels' (Stangl et al. 2013:10, 11). Gausset et al. (2012:1042) call for a shift in the conceptualisation of interventions from HIV prevention to the health promotion of PLWH. They argue that stigmatisation is multifaceted and complex because it does not only stem from 'fear, ignorance or inaccurate beliefs' but is 'also reinforced by official campaigns addressing HIV/AIDS'.

The HIV stigma reduction intervention work of Uys et al. (2009:1060) combined the three strategies of information sharing, increasing contact between nurses and PLWH and using empowerment to improve coping. Following work focusing on nurses and PLWH in healthcare settings in the five African countries, Uys et al. (2009:1065) found that PLWH involved in the intervention described a decrease in stigma and a significant increase in self-esteem. The nurses only reported an increase in voluntary testing, but there is a paucity in research focusing on HIV stigma reduction in communities. Little could be found on interventions that included spiritual leaders. Greeff (as part of the research published by French, Greeff & Watson 2014:84) continued the HIV stigma reduction intervention by focusing on a comprehensive community-based HIV stigma reduction intervention with PLWH and PLC, and included PLWH and their partners (Louwrens, Greeff & Manyedi 2016:11), family (Pretorius et al. 2016:189), friends, children, community members and spiritual leaders (French et al. 2014:84). The focus of this article is on the experiences of specifically the spiritual leaders during the latter HIV stigma reduction intervention. The term 'spiritual leader' is used to avoid discord, as both religious leaders and traditional healers fulfil the spiritual needs of PLWH. Mayers and Johnston (2008) highlight the diverseness of spirituality in the openness of their working definition of spirituality:

[P]ersonal belief or faith also shapes an individual's perspective on the world and is expressed in the way he/she lives life. Therefore, spirituality is experienced through connectedness to God/a higher being; and/or by one's relationships with self, others or nature. (p. 273)

Therefore, spiritual needs (according to Baumgardner & Crothers 2010:224) relate to the 'subjective, individual aspects of a person's religious experiences' (see also Kremer & Ironson 2014:144 regarding the difference between spiritual and religious). Some studies (e.g. Ammon et al. 2018:26; Kremer & Ironson 2014:144; Kwansa 2010:456) found that most PLWH seek some form of spiritual therapy to help them cope with HIV stigma.

HIV stigma and spirituality

The majority of South Africans (more than 80%) indicated during the 2001 census that they had a religious affiliation (Statistics South Africa 2004:24). It is thus not surprising that many multicultural, religious or faith-based organisations are involved with fighting HIV on a family and community level that is less accessible to the government (Hanmer, Greenberg & Keshavarzian 2009:54; World Council of Churches 2016). De la Porte (2016:5) explains that faith-based organisations provide 'care, compassion and hope'. Most success stories are from initiatives by faith-based organisations that provide care, compassion and hope to PLWH, such as Shiselweni Home-Based Care (Van Wyngaard 2013:229-231), Let us Embrace (Thomas et al. 2006:45) and Churches, Channels of Hope (Landman 2014:6).

There are also less successful stories, for example, Olaore and Olaore (2014:24) who describe how the Christian community also contributed to the marginalisation and stigmatisation. HIV is sometimes seen as punishment from God for sins. Congregation members often condemn PLWH as immoral persons (Van der Walt & Vorster 2016:1). In the early 2000s, Phillips (2005:328) noted that the church either became silent on the issue of stigma, or they denounced it, but either way the voice of the church was too quiet to make an impact or to change attitudes or behaviours. More recent studies have shown a change in how churches attempt to address HIV stigma. A qualitative study in Limpopo, South Africa, by Norder et al. (2015:1407) found that barriers preventing the involvement of churches in HIV healthcare are stigma resulting in non-disclosure, increased stigma because of the association between HIV and sexuality, and certain religious practices that interfere with adherence to medication. However, they also identified opportunities for health-religious collaborations, such as holistic HIV care to include spiritual aspects, utilising the church's social access to the community and the potential of churches for HIV dialogue because they are identified as safe and accepting places (Norder et al. 2015:1408). Similarly, Miller (2009:273-274) investigated the links between religion and HIV stigma by comparing religious entities as promotors or mitigators of stigma. In summary, she found that moral teachings of religious leaders that encourage separation between members that adhere to the teachings and those that do not can promote HIV stigma. On the contrary, some religious entities combat stigma through tolerance and compassion, providing support, utilising international networks, mobilising volunteers, providing value-based influence, representing a central authoritative voice and caring for vulnerable populations. She concluded that 'religious persons stigmatise no more, and in some case less, than society in general' (Miller 2009:281).

Traditional healers (or health practitioners) fulfil both a medical and spiritual role in African communities and are highly regarded, as they are often first consulted before a Western medical practitioner (Hodes 2014:121; Nemutandani, Hendricks & Mulaudzi 2015:122). A traditional African view of health involves the relationship a person has with his or her ancestors, meaning that both physical and spiritual well-being are important to experience good health (White 2015:2). The study by Nemutandani et al. (2015:127, 130) found that although traditional healers are aware of the dangers associated with HIV, they are not adequately knowledgeable on HIV to serve as a first contact point, raising concerns about suggestions that PLWH are bewitched and that their traditional herbs and 'muthi' can cure HIV. Given the high number of patients that consult traditional healers, Nemutandani et al. (2015:131) recommend that health education and training workshops on HIV and/or AIDS and TB should be initiated. After reviewing and describing how traditional healers and the biomedical sector can successfully collaborate, Leclerc-Madlala, Green and Hallin (2016:188-191) argue that traditional healers are a valuable healthcare resource established in a community, but that building a trusting working relationship is of paramount importance.

The inclusion of religion and spirituality in healthcare has thus become prominent in recent years because it addresses the holistic nature of a person's affiliation (De la Porte 2016:7). At the 21st international AIDS conference, the World Council of Churches (2016) encouraged faith communities to become more involved because they can often work 'faster and cheaper' in bringing change in their communities. An intervention by Thomas et al. (2006:6) showed the advantages of addressing spiritual need. Slomka et al. (2013:455) also showed how addressing the spiritual needs of PLWH helped them cope with their daily challenges. Furthermore, some South African studies - such as Keikelame et al. (2010:68) and Clarke, Charnley and Lumbers (2011:16) - showed how spiritual leaders (and their organisations) are ideally situated to address and fight stigmatisation.

 

Ethical consideration

The research was approved by the North-West University Health Research Ethics Committee (NWU-00011-09-A1).

 

Problem statement

In the reviewed literature, it is evident that spiritual leaders are excluded from playing a noticeable role in the reduction of HIV stigma. Literature indicates that spiritual leaders are either supportive or negative towards PLWH. Limited research is available on the inclusion of spiritual leaders in HIV stigma reduction interventions or their experiences of being involved in such interventions. Involving spiritual leaders in HIV stigma reduction could be an advantage in the fight against HIV stigma in South Africa. However, an understanding of their experiences when included in such an intervention could be meaningful.

Research question

The question that arose from the reviewed literature and the problem statement was, what are spiritual leaders' experiences during and after a comprehensive HIV stigma reduction intervention that involved the spiritual leaders as well as PLWH in an urban and rural setting?

Research aim

The aim for this research was to explore and describe the spiritual leader's experiences during and after a comprehensive HIV stigma reduction and wellness enhancement intervention in both an urban and a rural setting.

 

Research method and design

Research design

This study was part of a bigger qualitative holistic multiple case study (Yin 2009:59) research project, including partners, children, family members, friends, community members and spiritual leaders (French et al. 2015:84). For this part of the study, a qualitative description approach was followed (Sandelowski 2000:337-339). The research took place in both an urban and rural setting in the North-West Province of South Africa, among mostly African Setswana-speaking people. Both communities are poverty-stricken with high unemployment rates and living in a province with the fourth largest numbers of HIV-infected people in the country (Statistics South Africa 2016:16).

Sample

The sample only included spiritual leaders from both the greater Potchefstroom district (as the urban group) and from the Ganyesa district (as the rural group) that were involved in the HIV stigma reduction intervention. Snowball sampling (Botma et al. 2010:201; French et al. 2014:108) was used to select the spiritual leaders. People living with HIV that were part of the larger intervention were asked to identify and choose a spiritual leader whom they trusted, who would be prepared to come to the intervention with them and who fitted the inclusion criteria. Spiritual leaders had to be at least 18 years of age; able to communicate freely in English, Afrikaans or Setswana; give consent to be interviewed and recorded; and could be either a traditional healer or a religious leader. The urban group of PLWH invited 6 spiritual leaders to attend, and the rural group invited 10 spiritual leaders. All these spiritual leaders agreed to be interviewed post-intervention about their experiences during and after the intervention. The findings section consequently only describes the experiences of the spiritual leaders. Data saturation was achieved within 12 interviews, but all 16 spiritual leaders were interviewed.

Data collection

Data collection was done by means of in-depth interviews with the above-mentioned spiritual leaders after the HIV stigma reduction intervention. An independent research assistant obtained written informed consent from the participants. The spiritual leaders were assured that their participation was voluntary and they could withdraw at any time. The spiritual leaders were informed that they could possibly experience some emotional discomfort during the interviews but that psychological support would be available if needed. Appointments for the interviews were made with each participant at a venue they identified as safe, private and disturbance-free.

The intervention

Before the interviews, all the spiritual leaders were part of an HIV stigma reduction intervention that involved them as spiritual leaders and PLWH in the same intervention. The underlying tenets of the HIV stigma reduction intervention were to increase knowledge about HIV stigma and coping, to equalise the relationship between PLWH and PLC, and to empower both groups to become leaders in HIV stigma reduction in their communities. During the workshop, there were several presentations followed by activity-based group discussions. See Figure 1 for a representation of the HIV stigma reduction intervention. The facilitators of the workshops were a trained religious leader and a PLWH.

The intervention started with an initial 2-day workshop conducted with only the PLWH and focusing on their understanding of HIV stigma, identifying their personal strengths and how to handle disclosure in a responsible manner. Then the PLWH and their spiritual leaders were invited to attend a further 3 days. The first day focused on understanding and coping with HIV stigma, followed by an opportunity for PLWH and the spiritual leaders to share their experiences on stigma. The aim on the second day was to connect the knowledge and understanding gained on the first day, to train participants in basic project planning, so that they could then use this knowledge to constructively plan their own HIV stigma reduction project with other spiritual leaders in the community. Participants then had 1 month to implement their own project, with the researchers providing support and encouragement as well as monitoring the process. The Potchefstroom group's project was named Areageng [Let's build] and it was focused on teaching about HIV stigma and its impact in their community. The project was presented during a scheduled church service (with specific invitation to other local spiritual leaders) through singing and prayer in the service, putting up HIV stigma posters and performing a special song encouraging a united fight against HIV stigma. This was then followed by a psychodrama depicting the painful effects of stigma. The project of the Ganyesa group, named Modimo O rata bothle [God loves everyone], was split into three events: (1) a session at the tribal hall teaching others about HIV stigma, the different types of stigma and coping with stigma; (2) a psychodrama at a local primary school demonstrating HIV stigma; and (3) a candlelight ceremony at a local hall to advocate against HIV stigma and discrimination. During the events, participants also performed dances, and professional nurses assisted by providing voluntary counselling and testing services. The third (and last) workshop day took place a month later, after their projects where completed, giving them the opportunity to showcase their community projects and report back on it to relevant community stakeholders and the researchers, as well as to be evaluated by the research team on the success of their project.

The in-depth interviews with the spiritual leaders took place after the completion of the community project. One open-ended question for use in the in-depth interviews was formulated beforehand, discussed with experts and evaluated for suitability: 'How did you experience the workshop and project with the PLWH and other spiritual leaders in the group?' The spiritual leaders were informed that an experienced researcher would make use of digital tape recordings which would be securely stored and password-protected. Communication techniques like paraphrasing, summarising, reflection, minimal verbal response and probing were used during the interview (Okun 1992:70-71). Interviews took an hour to an hour and a half to complete. Field notes were taken after each interview, focusing on methodological, theoretical and personal notes (Botma et al. 2010:218).

Data analysis

The digital voice-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim for data analysis (Botma et al. 2010:214). The open coding process of Tesh (as cited in Creswell 2014:198) was followed to identify in vivo and descriptive codes. The researcher read the full text to get a sense of the whole, developed codes and coded the text. Subcategories, categories and themes emerged during the analysis. An independent co-coder also analysed the data to ensure trustworthiness. Consensus conversations confirmed the findings.

 

Trustworthiness

To ensure trustworthiness in this study, the researcher applied Lincoln and Guba's model (as cited in Botma et al. 2010:234-235). Prolonged engagement with the participants during the intervention, the project and the in-depth-interviews ensured truth value. The researcher reflected by writing field notes during and after the intervention and the interviews. Regular discussions among researchers enriched the process and improved credibility. Applicability was ensured through a well thought-through sample and a dense description of the research methodology. The possibility of an audit trail and the use of an independent co-coder during data analysis ensured consistency. Replication is possible because of a dense description of the study and data. An audit trail and reflexivity ensured neutrality. Authenticity is evident in the quotes that enrich the findings.

 

Ethical consideration

The researchers' previous studies in the community provided the trust relationship to continue with this study and to make use of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Great care was taken with the inclusion of the PLWH in the larger study and they were always first approached through mediators to ensure that they had a choice as to whether they wanted to participate. The risk-benefit ratio analysis led to a workshop for the PLWH prior to their contact with others, to give them the necessary skills to responsibly disclose their statuses should they feel the need. Travel expenses were covered if they preferred a venue other than their own homes. The spiritual leaders were informed that their recorded interviews would be kept anonymous and confidential by marking them with a code instead of their names. Data were stored in a safe place with hard copies being locked away and electronic data on computers being password-protected. The data will be kept for 5 years.

 

Findings and discussion

The results reflect the findings of the 16 interviews that were conducted with the spiritual leaders. These findings are specifically focused on the experiences of the spiritual leaders. Three themes were identified during the analysis of the interviews with the spiritual leaders: Interaction with PLWH activated new experiences for spiritual leaders; an increased awareness of difficulties with HIV, disclosure and stigma; and the value of the HIV stigma reduction project. These three themes and their associated categories are visually represented in Figure 2, which provides a summative relational outlay between the themes and their associated categories. The discussion uses the structure of Figure 2, as well as enriching verbatim quotes from the spiritual leader's interviews.

Interaction with people living with HIV activated new experiences for spiritual leaders

The intervention encouraged participants to initiate contact with PLWH, making them realise that they can live and socialise with PLWH without fear of infection. Through engaging with PLWH during the workshop and project, participants began to learn from PLWH and realised that each PLWH has a different story to tell. Participants witnessed how PLWH accepted themselves and made peace within themselves.

There were four subcategories that showed the participants' experiences while interacting with PLWH during the workshops and projects of the HIV stigma reduction intervention.

Acceptance and empathy with people living with HIV were activated

The interactions between PLWH and the spiritual leaders during the workshops and projects lead to spiritual leaders accepting PLWH. This was especially true for the religious leaders and in the religious settings where exclusion is sometimes the order of the day:

'At church I'm the one who handles issues on health but they always told me that if it's a community thing like a convention, please don't recruit people who are positive, they mustn't come and cook or whatever because we are never going to eat their food '

This turned to acceptance after the project: ' but now the very same people are the ones who elect them for the cooking and even to be members of the committee'.

The interactions activated empathy with PLWH when they realised what painful experiences PLWH have to face when they disclose their HIV-positive status. These experiences varied from physical rejection ('from the moment you disclose they will never hug you. That is it, no more hugs'.) to at times being more social and emotional in nature ('Why should I go to friends who are criticising me? My family has left me'.) The spiritual leaders also became sad because of all the deaths caused by HIV and particularly when they felt they could have supported their own loved ones that had already passed away. The participants recognised how PLWH are victimised within their own religious organisations and would then 'stop going to church because they were judged'. They realised their own shortcoming in providing support to PLWH ('In the church there is no one who stands up and speaks for those people who are discriminated against because they have HIV and AIDS'). Empathy became more visible through the spiritual leaders' honesty:

'Those who were crying, they started to see that I am open and that I am really with them. I cry with them because in the church, we cry with those who are crying. We rejoice with those who are rejoicing.'

Awareness of their own ignorance

Interacting with PLWH alerted participants to their own ignorance of HIV and the HIV stigma in their communities and the fear they felt towards PLWH. One spiritual leader remarked that before the intervention he felt that 'these things does not concern the church. I am a pastor, these things are not my problem'. Participants realised that their own negative emotions arose because they did not know about HIV or stigma and particularly because they do not think 'of the problem of HIV in relation to what the victims are suffering'.

A stronger realisation of God's presence

Participants experienced a stronger presence of God and of his love and care for everybody. They experienced God's presence during the workshops and project as if 'God was a part of it'. He helped, supported and strengthened the participants:

'I experience that sometimes God can make miracles. Sometimes you say I'm afraid to do this when I'm in front of the people, can I make it? Maybe I can't do this, but in the power of God, you find yourself being able to go and reach that.'

Ability to inspire hope in people living with HIV

Spiritual leaders recognised that they can inspire hope in PLWH because they became aware that 'HIV is not a death sentence'. This hope was often of a spiritual nature: 'I told them you have potential; God has given you potential. Being HIV-positive doesn't mean you won't be able to fulfil your potential' and 'God has given you a dream, you can live that dream, so don't start waiting for it to come'; and:

'So if God knows today you are going to be HIV positive and tomorrow you will be stigmatised, God has known that and He has made a plan. He will never give you more problems you can handle. So whatever challenge you are having now, God knows you are having it and has made a plan to overcome it. If you want to be a teacher, HIV will not prevent you from being a teacher. If you want to be a musician your status will not prevent you from being it.'

Greater awareness of HIV stigma and the realities of stigma and disclosure

Participants developed a greater awareness and understanding of what HIV stigma is and the realities of stigma and disclosure that PLWH experience when they disclose their status. Two categories developed from the data.

Awareness of HIV stigma

The participants realised for the first time during the intervention what HIV stigma is. They indicated that no one ever told them about the extent of stigma with which PLWH have to cope. One participant noted before the intervention: 'I knew nothing, I just knew if you have HIV you are going to die'. The intervention helped participants become aware of the consequence of stigma within the lives of PLWH and their community. The above-mentioned consequences included gossip, abuse, rejection by their families, job loss, illness, depression and suicide.

Awareness of disclosure realities

During the workshop, PLWH openly disclosed their HIV-positive status to the participants because they felt safe to do it and felt empowered to handle it through the initial workshop on 'responsible disclosure management', which was only presented to PLWH. The spiritual leaders saw how disclosing unburdens PLWH. People living with HIV expressed their happiness to let go of their secret and share their status with the participants. The participants appreciated how disclosing freed PLWH, ' free, like they didn't have HIV'. It made participants happy to hear PLWH disclose and be ' free to be with them'. However, participants realised that PLWH might have negative expectations of disclosure because of traumatic past disclosures. When their own families stigmatise them, they do not expect other people to accept their status:

'But now if your immediate family don't want you in her room, don't want to share a cup of tea, don't want to eat with you or drink with you. So if you have this problem of treatment in the house, how are people from outside going to treat you?'

Consequently, disclosure can change relationships sometimes for the worse. Participants described disclosure as an emotional experience filled with shock, hurt and a sadness that 'broke [their] heart[s]'. Yet, they realised that for PLWH not disclosing is painful to the point where ' if you keep it to yourself you die inside'. The example of PLWH self-confidently disclosing their status inspired some of the spiritual leaders to go for an HIV test to ' know [their own] status and live free'.

Experiences of the HIV stigma reduction workshops and project outcomes

Three categories emerged from the data in the last theme: The spiritual leaders had a positive experience of the outcomes of the HIV stigma reduction workshops and the community projects which they had to plan and execute; they were excited about the newly acquired knowledge, attitudes and skills they gained; and they could see the change as successful outcomes of the impact of the workshops and the projects.

Positive outcomes of HIV stigma reduction workshop and project

Spiritual leaders had a positive experience of the workshops and project, expressing their joy of having had the opportunity to be involved. In particular, they were happy that 'traditional healers as well as pastors [were] being group[ed] together'. They got a better understanding of one another. After the project, they could see more people becoming involved with HIV stigma reduction actions offered by traditional healers, religious leaders and people of the community: 'They can come and be taught more if they want and you can find that there's a traditional healer, a pastor and peers all working together'. As part of a dedicated group that had to implement their project, they experienced solidarity, support and teamwork. This was a new experience for specifically the religious leaders (' working together especially people who are different in religions is totally something very difficult to other people because our faith is not the same'). Nonetheless, they were very motivated to do the project, to overcome obstacles and to succeed in their communities. Participants felt attendance was importantand they encouraged others to get involved with the project. These projects touched the hearts of not only the participants but their communities as well: 'I think that it is good to touch people's hearts. So, people can take this thing very, very serious It is good to touch people's lives'. The project taught the participants things that made them feel empowered, but it also posed challenges such as acting as leaders, and lacking finances to attend planning meetings (which resulted in poor attendance). In one of the projects, the participants were disappointed because the community attendance was poorer than they anticipated.

Newly acquired knowledge, attitudes and behaviours

The participants indicated that the intervention had been a life-changing experience for them. They felt that they had acquired new knowledge and experienced a change in attitudes and behaviours towards PLWH that developed throughout the workshops and the project. The intervention gave them new perspectives on the way they work with PLWH. They realised that a person's:

'spiritual affiliation is not important. What is important is your fight against stigmatising, how we have to fight it and how people have to cope with it. So that was an eye opener to me.'

They felt strongly that they and others in the community should love, support and encourage PLWH. The families of PLWH should be the first line of support when they disclose. They should be the one's saying: ' don't worry, God is in control and they are there for you'. They should tell PLWH ' that you are my child and you will always be my child no matter what. I love you regardless of your illness'. They indicated that through building good relationships between family and friends of PLWH, they could lead the community to a more respectful manner of treating PLWH which advocates for their acceptance. The projects helped them gain new knowledge of HIV and stigma, which led to learning new ways in how to interact with PLWH: 'It gives me knowledge, because to be a different pastor and to change people, it means a lot to the people who have no power'. They felt that they no longer want to stigmatise PLWH, but that they should rather help PLWH. They should not change their behaviour towards PLWH after disclosure: 'Wouldn't treat them any different to how I used to treat them before'. They learnt new skills, such as how to deal with PLWH; how to relate, support and encourage them; how to cope with stress; how to do fundraising; how to write a play; how to plan a project; and how to overcome unforeseen challenges.

Successful change outcomes

The intervention (workshops and project) brought about definite change. Afterwards, they wanted to fight stigma and advocate against it. They had managed to put their differences aside and focused on reducing HIV stigma: 'There we had spiritual leaders, we have sangomas, we had Christians, even if you are Muslim, there was one. Your spiritual affiliation is not important'. They believed that change with regard to stigma is possible in their own communities, because some had seen circumstances in their communities changing:

'We can change people's minds. Then, if a community that have pastor or someone like me and others, so that they can do this thing, the community can become a better community.'

Participants were happy to have had a role in the observed change and planned to continue to teach other people. They have taken the lessons of the intervention into their daily lives: 'So far, I've been talking to people. Sometimes, in the church I take the pamphlet and I preach about the pamphlet. I see that many people start to understand and they start to become open' and 'I use religion by quoting that God doesn't want you to shun a person and in so I bring the shunning of people in stigma, I bring that together in that presentation and I tell people about'. Participants felt that it is knowledge that will bring change towards PLWH and how they are treated, because they will lead by example: 'It gave me knowledge to be a different pastor and to change people. It means a lot to the people who have got no powers'. The participants felt happy that PLWH stand up for themselves and take control of their lives and 'participated in that workshop working with us. Doing things the way they are supposed to do'. This resulted in the spiritual leaders' changed attitudes towards HIV that should be treated as any other disease:

'PLWH didn't do it on purpose and people who aren't ill like to make it seem as if this person brought in on to themselves. There is no one who wants to be sick.'

Practical implications and lessons learnt

The value of the study can be drawn from understanding the practical implications of the findings and drawing on lessons learnt for future guidance.

The study has reported that following participation in a community-based HIV stigma reduction intervention, spiritual leaders recognised their lack of appreciation and understanding of the plight of PLWH. Practically, it emerged that spiritual leaders need to understand the role of spirituality in the lives of PLWH. Stigmatising behaviour (sometimes unintentional) can create barriers between spiritual leaders, the community and PLWH. There seem to be a perceived unaccountability of spiritual leaders to unite regarding HIV stigma reduction. The following lessons learnt regarding the community-based HIV stigma interventions provide guidance in this regard:

  • Spiritual leaders can become more aware of the painful realities and exclusion PLWH in their communities face.

  • A change of attitude in the spiritual leaders was facilitated by including them in the intervention.

  • Spiritual leaders can individually or as part a team play a significant and visible role in the fight against HIV stigma.

  • Inclusion in a community-based HIV stigma reduction intervention can unite spiritual leaders and PLWH to bring about a positive shift in the attitudes of communities.

  • Faith communities can make a meaningful contribution to facilitate such a shift in attitudes and they can advocate against HIV stigmatisation within their communities.

Limitations of the study

The small sample size may be a limitation to this study, but a large sample size could have compromised the therapeutic nature of the intervention. If more time could have been spent with participants, the impact could have been even more intense. A follow-up short intervention could also have strengthened the impact.

 

Conclusion

As described in literature (e.g. Miller 2009:277-278), few interventions directly involve spiritual leaders in attempts to reduce HIV stigma in communities. This article reports on the value of involving PLWH and spiritual leaders in the same community-based HIV stigma reduction intervention. Spiritual leaders saw themselves playing a much greater part in reducing stigma in their own congregations and their communities at large. Through increasing the community's knowledge about HIV stigma and exposure to PLWH, boundaries can be broken down and fear of HIV reduced. After the intervention, spiritual leaders accepted PLWH more, became more empathic towards them and also became aware of their own ignorance of the realities that PLWH have to face and how they have failed PLWH in their congregations. Spiritual leaders should encourage PLWH and support them so that they do not have to face such hardships alone. Spiritual leaders should take on a much stronger role in making PLWH's lives bearable, giving them hope and providing spiritual support, as also mentioned by De la Porte (2016:5). Spiritual leaders should help PLWH face disclosure challenges by providing a safe environment and offering unconditional support. If spiritual leaders are equipped with project skills, they will be afforded the opportunity to become leaders in the fight against HIV stigma and will start to initiate change in their own congregations and communities. Spiritual leaders should build relationships (regardless of spiritual affiliation) to fight against stigma and to change the lives of people in their communities. Phillips (2005:336) emphasise the need to practice 'compassion, love and understanding' in this regard.

Spiritual leaders are deeply involved in South African communities and have the respect of community members. They can thus play an important role in becoming agents of change that can influence what happens with regard to HIV stigma in their community. We recommend that participatory interventions for HIV stigma reduction specifically targeting spiritual leaders be developed and implemented.

 

Recommendations

It is recommended that the HIV stigma reduction intervention as developed here can in future be implemented to meaningfully target spiritual leaders (involving both traditional healers and religious leaders) in realising their responsibility and involvement with HIV stigma. We stress that PLWH should be included at the same time in the intervention to strengthen their relationships. We recommend that by building knowledge and understanding of HIV stigma, the expected effect should be retained. The practical application of the intervention should also in future activate the internal leadership of participants. We recommend that the intervention can be implemented without change in both urban and rural settings. We also recommend that after 3 months a small booster follow-up session should be conducted to strengthen the impact.

 

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Mrs Poncho Mulaudzi, a research assistant, for her dedication. They also thank all fieldworkers for their hard work. A special word of appreciation goes to all the participants in this study. The authors received financial support from South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD) for the research in the form of research funds.

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

G.K. preformed the data analysis and assisted in conceptualising, drafting and finalising the article. M.G. as the project leader conceptualised the study, conducted the intervention, supported the data analysis, drafted the article and finalised the article. R.L. was a facilitator during the intervention with spiritual leaders and peer-reviewed the article.

 

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Correspondence:
Minrie Greeff
minrie.greeff@nwu.ac.za

Received: 22 Nov. 2017
Accepted: 12 Apr. 2018
Published: 26 July 2018

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

The apparatus theory: 'Religion in the city'

 

 

Leon Geel; Jaco Beyers

Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

The apparatus theory is used to challenge the interpretation of religion and also to determine whether religion is a factor to contend with in modern society. Religion could be the element that keeps the city intact or could be the one element that is busy ruining our understanding of reality and the way this interacts with society in the urban environment. Paradigms determine our relationships. In this case, the apparatus theory would be a more precise way of describing not only our relationship towards the city but also the way in which we try to perceive our relationship with religion and the urban conditions we live in. This article gives theoretical background to the interpretation and understanding of the relationship between various entities within the city. The apparatus of the city creates space for religion to function as a binding form. Religion could bind different cultures, diverse backgrounds and create space for growth.


 

 

Introduction

The existence of cities and expressions of religion are here to stay. Religion and the urban context have interacted either positively and/or negatively since the inception of both realities. Religion was in some cases the reason for the origin of cities. The development of cities over time stifled the existence and growth of religion in an urban environment. It is however undeniable that the fates of cities and religion are intertwined. People with a spiritual need will always inhabit urban areas and will need space to express their religious existence. This research aims to indicate how the relationship between religion and the city contributes to the formation of both realities.

The nature and definitions of what constitutes urban existence and what is considered to be religion have varied over time. Defining these two concepts cannot but be contextual. The urban context is one that is thriving and different questions have been asked on how it influences the civil society and other systems within this structure. Religion has always been part of this discussion, but when it comes to the relationship between the urban environment and religion, we cannot but look at the history of these concepts. This relationship, between city and religion, takes on new forms depending on the circumstances, conditions and surroundings in which it is practised. It is without doubt that religion has changed drastically since the development of cities. Religion has become a parameter for society. It has become a parameter of boundaries, civil rights, rite of passage and even a system that tries to correlate a society. This article will attempt to shed more light on the relationship between city and religion from a particular perspective. The aim is to showcase the need for religion in a society that is being torn apart by the process of urbanisation. The apparatus theory of Foucault is used as an instrument to guide our discussion.

In the argumentation to follow, a phenomenological approach as to what is a city and what is religion will be used. Phenomenology intends the issues under scrutiny to speak for themselves instead of having presuppositions determine the outcome. This is what Husserl referred to as epoche (compare Krüger 1982:17-18). Phenomenology is a process of inquiring after what lies beneath that which the senses permit the researcher to engage with. This is referred to as 'intentionality' (compare Krüger 1982:17). This investigation will further consist of a discourse analysis investigating the relations, especially the power relations operating within an urban environment.

The discussion starts off by defining key concepts. This is followed by a discussion of interrelatedness between the main concepts of religion and city as guided by the apparatus theory. Lastly, a discussion will follow as to the implications and conclusion.

 

Religion

The first concept to analyse is religion. After centuries of attempts it still remains difficult to define religion (Smith 1991:17). For Smith the inadequate existing multitude of definitions for 'religion' is an indication that the term should be discarded, as it has become obsolete. It is not the purpose of this discussion to address the problem of defining religion. Cox's (2010:3-7) meaningful suggestion is to study the groups of definitions instead of studying the definitions themselves.

W.C. Smith (1991) explains how religion ought to be viewed. Understanding religion is never an unbiased endeavour. The culture of the researcher always plays a role. Culture contributes to the spectacles through which religion is viewed (Smith 1991:18). For too long, Smith argues (1991:52), has Western understanding determined the way in which religion is perceived and what can be deemed religious, as well as the relations between religion and other disciplines. Western thought has produced names for the world religions. The way of studying religions is the result of Western scholarly processes. It can be argued that the occurrence of cities might also be a Western invention, but there are numerous examples of cities in non-Western societies. Compare ancient cities in Africa as well as in South America.

Smith (1991:53, footnote 2) suggests rather referring to 'cumulative traditions' instead of using the biased term 'religion'. Traditions have contexts and history. The concept of religion tends to call to mind a structured system of beliefs. There are more words to refer to the phenomena Western minds over time have provided with names (Smith 1991:52). Smith suggests alternative terminologies such as 'piety', 'reverence', 'faith', 'devotion' and 'God-fearing'. These terms do not necessarily call to mind a structured system as would the term 'religion'.

After carefully indicating that the concept of religion is in fact a concept originating from a Western (modern) stance of naming and analysing the human environment and behaviour, Smith comes up with a solution as to the problem of transposing the (Western) concept of religion onto world religions. Smith's (1991:50) suggestion is to discard the term 'religion' altogether. His argument remains that the term 'religion' is misleading, confusing and unnecessary. The term 'religion' hampers the understanding of people's faith and traditions. This hampering is caused by our attempt to conceptualise faith and traditions into what we refer to as religion.

Religion is concerned with beliefs and practices that might find expression in material elements. Studying religion will thus include seeking physical evidence of the presence of religion in an environment such as a city. This might include symbols with religious connotation (i.e. crosses at a cemetery), the architecture of religious buildings (i.e. minarets), images and statues of religious leaders of the community (i.e. priests or saints), the clothing people in a community wear (i.e. hijab or a nun's habit) and even rituals performed publicly (i.e. reciting prayers). Religion is therefore fluid, contextual and might even be considered superfluous. The forms religion takes on can vary from one context to another. There might be an abundance of elements filled with religious meaning within the confines of an urban environment.

 

Apparatus

In order to assist in understanding the relation between the city and religion we turn to the apparatus theory. Foucault (1970:196) describes apparatus as 'strategies of relations of forces supporting, and supported by, types of knowledge'. These forces consist of a 'heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions - in short, the said as much as the unsaid' (Foucault 1970:194). The apparatus itself could then be seen as the arrangement, structure and link that exist or are established between all these elements. Secondly, Foucault (1970:195) says that the function of the entire system is that of subjection and power, the need to repress (and perhaps also conceptualise) madness.

Important to consider is that the individual and society are part of the same process.

Foucault, as cited in Kishik and Pedatella (2009:1), uses the word dispositif or 'apparatus' quite often when he starts to take interest in the governmentality or the government of men. The apparatus theory could help us to govern this balance. The definition of 'apparatus' focuses our attention on the ensemble of different heterogeneous aspects. The city will be the focus of this research and religion will form the basis for the city to continue to exist or to keep developing into a space of plurality and understanding.

Understanding the subjectification of the city is important. We are formed by and form the environment around us (compare Berger 1990:4). The once-institutionalised form religion once took on is no longer functional. The city, as would be argued later, became a space that needs to be re-designed and envisioned as an integral part of the apparatus of the city. Religion, in its broadest sense, needs to become part of the whole. The city is the apparatus that religion forms part of.

In order to set the parameters of our understanding of this theory, it is necessary to take note of the following passage by Agamben, as translated by Kishik and Pedatella (2009):

If we now try to examine the definition of 'apparatus' that can be found in common French dictionaries, we see that they distinguish between three meanings of the term:

1. A strictly juridical sense: Apparatus is the part of a judgement that contains the decision separate from the opinion.

2. A technological meaning: The way in which the parts of the machine or of a mechanism and, by extension, the mechanism itself are arranged.

3. A military use: The set of means arranged in conformity with a plan. (pp. 7-8)

It is evident that these definitions have supposed a strict structure that should be descriptive of the construct. It can be argued that balance is only possible where structure is not seen as the main goal. Religion in its essence is part of social conditions and cannot be understood as a barrier or structure that forces moulding. Therefore the apparatus theory provides reasons for an urban environment that combines these heterogeneous forces and relations in a balance and ensemble that construct harmoniously.

 

Apparatus and religion

Foucault never uses the term 'apparatus' in order to state the object of his research. Foucault rather uses the term positivité [positivity], which is argued to be a neighbour of the word dispositif. This study will not aim to give an etymological overview of the terms 'apparatus' and dispositif and 'positivity'. It is important to take a brief look at what is implied by Foucault. Agamben (in Kishik & Padetella 2009:3) states that there was no definition provided by Foucault, for using this term ('apparatus'), until he re-read a book by Jean Hyppolite. According to Hyppolite (1996:21), destiny and positivity are two key concepts in Hegel's thought. Positivity finds its proper place, according to Hegel as cited in Kishik and Padetella (2009:4), in opposition between 'natural religion' and 'positive religion'. There is a difference between the concepts of natural religion and positive religion.

In what follows only a brief description will be given of both. Agamben (in Kishik & Padetella 2009) argues that:

natural religion is concerned with the immediate and general relation of human reason with the divine; positive or historical religion encompasses the set of beliefs, rules and rites that in certain society and at a certain historical moment are externally imposed on individuals. (p. 4)

'A positive religion', as Hegel writes in a passage cited by Hyppolite (1996):

implies feelings that are more or less impressed through constraint on souls; these actions that are the effect of command and the result of obedience and are accomplished without direct interest. (p. 21)

Hyppolite, according to Agamben (in Kishik & Padetella 2009:21), shows how this opposition between these two terms ('nature' and 'positivity') corresponds. The following passage, written by Hyppolite, must have interested Foucault, Agamben argues, because it forecasts the notion of the apparatus. What follows is a brief extract from the passage:

We see here the knot of questions implicit in the concept of positivity, as well as Hegel's successive attempts to bring together dialectically - a dialectics that is not yet conscious of itself - pure reason (theoretical and above all practical) and positivity, that is, the historical element. In a certain sense, Hegel considers positivity as an obstacle to the freedom of man, and as such it is condemned. To investigate the positive elements of a religion, and we might add, of a social state, means to discover in them that which is imposed through a constraint on man, that which obfuscates the purity of reason. But, in another sense - and this is the aspect that ends up having the upper hand in the course of Hegel's development - positivity must be reconciled with reason, which then loses its abstract character and adapts to the concrete richness of life. We see then why the concept of positivity is at the center of Hegelian perspectives. (Hyppolite 1996:23)

If 'positivity', as Agamben argues, is the term that the young Hegel gives the 'historical element', this historical element is loaded with rules, rites and institutions that are forced on an individual by an external power. These elements are internalised by the individual and become a system of beliefs and feelings.

Foucault then, according to the preceding paragraph, takes a position on the respective problem. The relationship between individuals and their position towards the historical element can be described as follows (Agamben, as cited by Kishik & Padetella 2009):

Foucault's ultimate aim is not, then, as in Hegel, the reconciliation of the two elements; it is not even to emphasize their conflict. For Foucault, what is at stake is rather the investigation of concrete modes in which the positivities (or the apparatuses) act within the relations, mechanisms and 'plays' of power. (p. 6)

Agamben carries on this line of thought by investigating the term oikonomia. Agamben (in Kishik & Padetella 2009:6) argues that oikonomia refers to the 'administration of the oikos [home] and, more generally, management'. Oikonomia, Agamben argues, begins to indicate the governance of the world and human history. The translation of the fundamental Greek term used by Latin Fathers is dispositio. 'The Latin term dispositio, from which the French term dispositif, or apparatus, derives, comes therefore to take on the complex semantic sphere of the theological laden term oikonomia' (Agamben, as cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009:11):

The term 'apparatus' designates that in which, and through which, one realizes a pure activity of governance devoid of any foundation in being. This is the reason why apparatuses must always imply a process of subjectification, that is to say, they must produce their subject. (Agamben, cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009:11)

Agamben (cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009) argues that it all refers back to the term oikonomia:

that is, to a set of practices, bodies of knowledge, measures and institutions that aim to manage, govern, control, orient - in a way that purports to be useful - the behaviors, gestures, and thoughts of human beings. (p. 12)

Or to make it more clear: 'an apparatus is literally anything that can capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviours, opinions, or discourses of living beings' (Agamben, cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009:14).

As argued so far, the city or the environment of the city is the apparatus that determines the ways in which the city dwellers are being formed. The city is not far from what Foucault refers to being like the interior of a prison - the constricting environment determining one's complete existence. It is necessary then to understand the effects this apparatus, the city, has on its inhabitants and the environment.

Is it possible for religion to still function in a way that allows this apparatus, the city, to form a heterogeneous ensemble? What are the implications necessary to look at? There are two great classes, as argued by Agamben (as cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009:14): living beings and apparatuses. A subject is added to these two classes and refers to the results from this relation, or ongoing fight, between the mentioned two classes. The same human can therefore be part of multiple processes of subjectification: 'the user of cellular phones, the web surfer, the writer of stories, and so on and so forth' (Agamben, as cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009:14-15).

This growth of apparatuses in modern society today also forms part of the extreme reproduction in the processes of subjectification.

It has become necessary to take a look at all apparatuses and debate whether each is good or bad for society. This study argues that the apparatus of the city could be diffused by the strong presence of religion. The apparatus of religion needs to form part of the bigger picture.

Apparatuses cannot be destroyed. Apparatuses are not merely an accident but form part of the process of 'humanisation'. At the root of every apparatus lies an all-too-human desire for happiness (Agamben, as cited in Kishik & Padetella 2009:17). This means that the strategy to combat apparatuses is not an easy task. Agamben (in Kishik & Padetella 2009:17) argues that we are dealing with the liberation of that which remains captured and separated by these apparatuses.

What then could be done, seeing that there needs to be some kind of strategy?

 

Proposed strategy

The strategy that Agamben (in Kishik & Padetella 2009) proposes is called 'profanation':

According to Roman Law, objects that belonged in some way to the gods were considered sacred or religious. As such, these things were removed from free use and trade among humans: they could neither be sold nor given as security, neither relinquished for the enjoyment of others nor subjected to servitude. Sacrilegious were the acts that violated or transgressed the special unavailability of these objects, which were reserved either for celestial beings (and so they were properly called 'sacred') or for the beings of the netherworld (in this case, they were simply called 'religious'). While 'to consecrate' (sacrare) was the term that designated the exit of things from the sphere of human law, 'to profane' signified, on the contrary, to restore the thing to the free use of men. 'Profane', the great jurist Trebatius was therefore able to write, is, in the truest sense of the word, that which was sacred or religious, but was then restored to the use and property of human beings. (p. 18)

Therefore, it is to be emphasised:

that one can define religion as that which removes things, places, animals, or people from common use and transports them to a separate sphere. Not only is there no religion without separation, but every separation contains or conserves in itself a genuinely religious nucleus. The apparatus that activates and regulates separation is sacrifice. Through a series of minute rituals that vary from culture to culture sacrifice always sanctions the passage of something from the profane to the sacred, from the human sphere to the divine. But what has been ritually separated can also be restored to the profane sphere. Profanation is the counter-apparatus that restores to common use what sacrifice had separated and divided. (Agamben in Kishik & Padetella 2009:18-19)

The public space of the city has been transformed into the interior of a prison:

Analogous considerations can be made concerning the apparatus of the prison: here is an apparatus that produces, as a more or less unforeseen consequence, the constitution of a subject and of a milieu of delinquents, who then become the subject of new - and, this time, perfectly calculated - techniques of governance. (Agamben, in Kishik & Padetella 2009:20)

The city has undergone major transformations over the past few years. Even the condition of the environment is no longer favourable. These issues have caused the subjects (urban dwellers) to become part of the process of de-subjectification. This means that the subjects need to start breaking down that which is already starting to build up. We now turn our attention to the process known as 'de-subjectification':

To Agamben, being human is conditioned by an indefinite potentiality for being inhuman, and the distinction between being human and inhuman is itself an unstable constitution. 'Man' is neither a biologically defined species nor a given substance, but rather a field of dialectical tensions. (Minnesota University 2007: n.p.)

Subjectivity and the discussions of this term have been a central concern in certain organisational studies and critical management studies over the past few years. Although differences occur, existing approaches to subjectivity have one thing in common: a theoretical interest in the construction and reproduction of subjectivity, that is, subjectification (Minnesota University 2007). However, no study has actually only focused on the concept of de-subjectification - processes of breaking free from subject positions:

Subjectivity here is seen as the result of both subjectification and desubjectification. The former refers to the subject positions that organizational actors move towards while the latter is understood as the subject positions they break free from. (Minnesota University 2007: n.p.)

Foucault focuses on subjectivity when he refers to subjectification. But Foucault also implicitly focuses on the term de-subjectification. Although Foucault never truly gave a definition of this latter concept, the works of Agamben have elaborated on this part of Foucault's thoughts. Here we will focus on the framework of subjectivity, understood as a dialogue between processes of subjectification and de-subjectification.

Religion will continue to exist as long as society exists. Religion and society have an interrelationship. The subject constantly forms and gets formed by the environment it lives and functions in. Religion, as part of urban society, gives guidance to this formation, not only of the profane world, but also how the subject perceives the sacred world:

Through the introduction of desubjectification and the relationship between subjectification and desubjectification we can get a better understanding of how the city subjectivity is formed. When people appropriate a new subject position this is not only driven by processes of subjectification and the 'adding' of new settings of power/knowledge etc. but also through getting rid of a number of values, behaviours, imaginations, etc. The processes of subjectification and desubjectification should always be seen in a dialectical tension. The processes of subjectification and desubjectification need to be explored to fully understand the formations of subjectivity. (Minnesota University 2007: n.p.)

Contemporary societies, like the city, find themselves always as part of a process of subjectification and de-subjectification. The city, as apparatus, cannot determine one's health, gestures, occupations or diet:

The problem of the profanation of apparatuses - that is to say, the restitution to common use of what has been captured and separated in them - is, for this reason, all the more urgent. (Agamben, in Kishik & Padetella 2009:24)

Compare in this regard Peter Berger's (1990:4) analysis of the formation of society by way of the three processes.

 

Creating reality

In what follows, Berger's discussion on society and the transformation thereof will be discussed. It is important to mention that Berger's interpretation of religion is done on the grounds of sociology. This part will focus the reader's attention on the effects transformation has on the urban dwellers.

We are constantly forced to choose how to interact with the world and how we are shaped by the environment. In Berger's (1990:4) terminology, we must choose how to 'externalise' ourselves, which means how to relate to and shape the environment around us:

It is through externalization that society is a human product. It is through objectivation that society becomes a reality sui generis. It is through internalization that man is a product of society. (p. 4)

It is necessary to understand that the environment surrounding us also has an impact on its in-dwellers. Humans shape the environment (Berger 1990:4), create rules and conventions through the process of externalisation, whereupon this created reality gets a life of its own (objectivation) and starts acting autonomously, impacting human existence (internalisation). What we create eventually determines our existence. As cities are human creations it is to be expected that these urban realities can, according to Berger's theory, start functioning autonomously and eventually start prescribing ways of existence. This would imply that the city as created reality starts setting conditions for what religious existence within the confines of the city must look like.

Berger begins his interpretation of religion by observing that very little in human life is determined by instinct. Because we humans have a relatively short gestation period in the womb (compared to other species) (1990:5), we don't have time to develop very elaborate instinctual equipment. We have very few instincts, and the ones we have are quite weak. So we have few specific responses to specific stimuli 'patterned' into us. This means that in every situation, we have a very large range of options for responding. Every time we externalise ourselves we change the environment, which creates a new set of choices to be faced. Humans have to create a world to exist in (Berger 1990:5). For Berger (1990:25), religion is the result of human construction of a 'sacred' cosmos.

Because the relationship between self and world is always changing, we are always 'off balance' (Berger 1990:5). What we want more than anything else, according to this sociological view, is to be in balance - to have a permanent stable order in our lives, so that we can predict both the environment and the responses to it that we and others around us will choose.

Referring back to Mumford's (1940) definition and incorporating that of Foucault regarding the apparatus theory, this may seem true:

The future is bound up with the creation of a new pattern of cultural activity, which shall be neither national nor parochial; but more intimate than the first and more open to worldwide forces and impulses and ideas than the second. We must construct an intimate regional framework for a balanced social and personal life, in harmony with the underlying possibilities of landscapes and regional resources and people; and we must achieve this local balance within the larger framework of the world as a whole. The world of barbarous men is bent on predatory exploit and military conquest. We are already involved in it and threatened by it. (p. 540)

Society's main project is to create this sense of stable predictable order and to make all of us believe in it, although in fact it is always a false illusion. Society does this by 'objectivating', which means teaching us to make the same choices over and over again as we externalise ourselves and thereby assigning meaning to reality (Berger 1990:27).

More importantly, society wants us to believe that those choices aren't really choices. Society wants us to act as if they are necessary and inevitable; as if they are an objective reality beyond our ability to change. For example, in our society we teach little children that people don't eat with their hands, they use silverware, even though in many societies people do eat with their hands. However, we want our children to believe that they must use silverware, as if that were an objective fact. This is part of the imparting of culture through the process of externalisation (Berger 1990:10).

Society also wants us to believe that the particular roles we play in life (e.g. child, student, worker, spouse, etc.) are not arbitrary, that they could not be done any differently than we do them now. The process of learning these roles is called 'socialisation' (Berger 1990:30). In order for socialisation to work effectively, we must also feel that our inner identity depends on playing those roles.

In Berger's terms, we must 'internalise' the supposedly objective realities that society imposes upon us. We must feel that our inner worth, our inner sense of 'rightness', depends on conforming to society's way of doing things. For example, we must feel not only mistaken but guilty, sinful or 'bad' if we eat with our hands. To conform to the religious demands of society, however, becomes problematic. Learning social and ethical skills from society can be helpful, but how to react to society's expectation to adapt to some form or other of religion can be problematic.

To denote the sum total of all the patterns that a particular society objectivates and wants individuals to internalise, Berger (1990:19-20) uses the term nomos. The nomos is made up of the society's worldview (all its knowledge about how things are) and its ethos (all its values and ways of living), contributing to the formation of human behaviour in the world.

The nomos is the product of a long series of human choices, all of which could have been made differently. However, the society, through its process of socialisation, hopes to persuade individuals that its nomos is objectively true and therefore unchangeable (Berger 1990:19). The society wants the nomos to be taken for granted as much as possible. Society is usually pretty successful at this. Because we come out of the womb with such weak instinctual patterns (Berger 1990:5), we simply don't know what to do. So for a long time we depend on our parents and other elders to teach us how to respond to the stimuli of the world. We usually have to trust them and do things the way they do things. However, every individual remains aware (however unconsciously) of some degree of freedom to act independently and go against the nomos. Because individuals as well as their environments are always changing, the nomos is inherently unstable (Berger 1990:20).

Moreover, individuals eventually encounter other people who have a somewhat different nomos - even more so in a multicultural urban environment - so the truth of any given nomos appears to be somewhat subjective. The objective reality and permanence of the nomos are especially called into question by unusual experiences - for example, dreams, moments of insanity or encounters with death. Anything that threatens to undermine the nomos raises the possibility that we might end up without a nomos or changing allegiance to a nomos. Berger (1990:6, 21) calls this condition of being without a nomos 'anomy'; because anomy is always a lurking possibility, the society wants to strengthen its nomos as much as possible.

This is where religion plays a role.

 

The role of religion

Religion is based on the claim that the particular nomos of a given society is not merely one among many possible choices. Rather, religion claims that the nomos is rooted in the cosmos (the universe) itself, because the nomos is a mirror image of the nature or pattern of the cosmos (Berger 1990:55). Because the cosmos is eternal, the nomos is also eternal, according to this claim. Religion supports its claim by supplying symbols that give a detailed image of how the nomos is rooted in the cosmos. These symbols seem charged with a special 'sacred' power (Berger 1990:25). This power is supposed to be the power that undergirds cosmic reality. It threatens those who violate the nature of reality with doom, while rewarding those who go along with reality. 'Reality' in this sense means the patterns of the nomos, which are mirror images of the cosmos. The ultimate threat, however, is to lose the nomos altogether and be plunged into the chaos of anomy (Berger 1990:53, 87). Religious symbols seem so powerful because they express the most important value in life: the feeling that reality is a meaningful order (compare Berger 1990:27: human activity of assigning meaning to reality) not a random chaos. So religion hopes to persuade its followers that the universe, and the individual's as well as the group's life in the universe, are all based on the same unified and orderly pattern.

Religion, and the choice for or against religion, is what simplifies this debate. Although religion is not automatically part of a society, it could still be debated that religion could guide the society it forms part of. Not being part of any religious group is still a choice that could be made. However, here it is argued that religion and the choice for religion could guide a system. In a society that has objectified religion, it needs to be understood that religion could be seen and portrayed otherwise.

The importance between objectification and subjectification also needs to be touched on. Subjectification means becoming yourself, the social process of becoming ourselves, the offers that we draw on, taking up one of the discourses. This is self-management, self-realisation, comparing the self to other. There is variety, but limitation. Limitations arise through objectification.

Objectification - It expresses the ways that knowledge about people is produced. It also limits what kind of subject we can be, and invest in, in order to become ourselves (Berger 1990:4).

It could be stated then, that the apparatus of the city has objectified its inhabitants to become subjectified to its environment. This has caused religion to become quiet in a society that needs its religious voice to be heard. Religion has been objectified to become religion, understood as a city's type of religion (becoming an individual entity), but it needs to be re-envisioned as an integral part of the apparatus of the city, contributing to the created reality filled with meaning wherein humans can exist.

When this study focuses on the difference between these two concepts, it must be reiterated that this will only be done broadly. It is argued here that the apparatus of the city forces the subjects (urban dwellers) to perceive life in a certain way. Religion can therefore pave the way for a new understanding (compare Mumford 1940).

Berger argued that religion provides the nomos for the urban dwellers to respond and react to, whereas Agamben argued that the apparatus, that of the city, could never be eliminated or used correctly.

In order for a system, religion and the city, to maintain a certain balance, it is necessary to look at the imbalances. According to Ford (1992) three processes of change can take place in an unbalanced system. As argued earlier in this study, religion could give guidance in an urban environment that is in desperate need of coercion and togetherness.

As to the struggle against subjectification in the urban environment, religion needs to provide the corrective. Foucault (1982) reminds us of the struggle that does exist:

Generally, it can be said that there are three types of struggles: either against forms of domination (ethnic, social, and religious); against forms of exploitation which separate individuals from what they produce; or against that which ties the individual to himself and submits him to others in this way (struggles against subjection, against forms of subjectivity and submission). (p. 781)

The urban environment needs change, and religion can work in this apparatus of the city - in other words, to subjectify (or de-subjectify) that which has become objectified by the apparatus of the city.

 

Religion and the city

It is very important to raise the question: what form and function will religion take on in an urban environment?

The urban area (city) became a shared space for different ethnic groups. This space is divided between different cultures, religions and social institutions. Determining how this space can be best utilised, keeping diversity in mind, must be the core focus. In a briefing paper, 'Sharing Space in Divided Cities' (2012), a report compiled by researchers and investigators from several institutions, the authors found that:

In contested cities people from different communities have motivations for sharing spaces that often are not related to a desire for integration. Instead, sharing may be dependent upon practical concerns such as transport or shopping, reflecting a range of attitudes that form a 'spectrum of shared spaces'. In times of strife, shared space may host clashes. But it is important to keep in mind that tensions can rise and fall, sometimes unexpectedly, and that areas of shared use are often affected more than others. Sharing space may simply mean that people from either side of ethno-national or religious divides get to see others, observe their customs, and hear their languages as they go about their lives. (Urban Conflicts 2012: n.p.)

This study understands that there are different factors that influence the extent of sharing when it comes to people living in this shared space. Could religion and the mutual understanding of one another's customs be the way forward?

Cities are definitely not new inventions. Throughout history the development in urban design can be seen. Shifts in paradigms have also had an effect on the way in which religions functioned in society. Political effects have significantly changed the face of religion, ever since the fall of the close ties between state and church in the South African context, just to name one example. Even ecological debates have forced city planners to take into consideration the changes needed when creating space for nature. All of these aspects play an integrative part in our understanding of religion within the city.

In a postmodern context religion tends to be a private and internalised matter, requiring no specific physical space, but this seems to no longer be the case. Religion in a postmodern context still seeks physical space and ways of material expression. This becomes evident when observing the growing number of buildings with religious connections in and around the city. These buildings seem to withstand the challenges of time. Institutional religion still tries to compete with secular buildings springing up all around and with the developing of new buildings or transforming of existing buildings, filling them with new function. Even existing buildings are co-utilised in some cases for religious and non-religious purposes. The physical presentation of religion is an act of claiming presence and establishing cultural and religious identity (Beyers 2013:1).

Rapid and extreme urbanisation determines the face of the city. The question addressed here is how does urbanisation influence the way the sacred is perceived and accommodated? The city becomes the shared space for many different religions. What form and function will religion take on in an urban environment? How will different religions perceive their relationship with others with whom they share the city space?

The research conducted on urban development over the past century resulted in a magnitude of manuscripts. The abundance of material testifies to the prominence of the discussion but also to the complexity of the issue under investigation.

Theories on the city have always been in abundance. Experts from many disciplines have given their unique perspective: sociologists, geographers, architects, philosophers, economists, missionaries and social workers. It seems to be a field that is completely exhausted. This is however not the case.

This study indicates how the apparatus theory of Foucault could be a way to see different religions working together and also indicates how religion can still be an integral part of the urban space today. Religion contributes to the meaning-giving process continued in the changing environment of the city. Religion requests space for diversity and a habitus in a world unhindered by pluralism and diversity.

For as long as society remains, religion will be able to function as an integral part of it. 'Religion is a social phenomenon. Society and, therefore, religion will continue to exist as long as human beings exist' (Durkheim 2008:36).

Throughout history, the city was the main concept of all human science. It gave expression to humanity's ideas and creativity. It was a way to showcase their prowess. There seems to have been a link between different systems (religion, politics, ecology, sociology, geography, architecture and philosophy) within this structure of what we describe as 'the city'.

Urbanisation may be seen as a negative factor only, but the positive characteristics need to be kept in mind too. The primary benefits of urbanisation are centralised population and a sustained economy. Communities are brought together and demand urban planners to think creatively and in a way that benefits a diverse group of people. Increased populations also motivate governments to improve public transport and interconnectedness.

The pro-urbanisation side points to the benefits that a concentration of human capital can bring, as different people live together, share ideas and come up with innovative solutions for problems that they may not have discovered if they lived in rural isolation. There are also environmental benefits to urbanisation; it takes less energy to run the smaller homes in cities, thus saving resources and decreasing carbon emissions.

However, the challenges for religion, politics, economics, culture and morality in human society have become a source of great concern, not only for religious leaders but also for political and social leaders around the world. There seems to be a major transformation in the way human beings interact with one another in contemporary society.

It has become necessary to look at these challenges:

The debate on the role of religion and civil society takes place within the discourse of sociology. the roots of the debate on civil society do lie partly in social philosophy. Religion is socially determined, that is, religion influences and is influenced by society. (Seligman 1992:2)

Important to notice here is the theory that religion is determined socially and vice versa. This could then mean that the urban society and context are beginning to change the face of religion. It must be noted that religion forms part of society and could be seen as the method through which all other structures could be brought together. In order to reach this goal, the apparatus theory as set out by Foucault gives direction.

Looking at the following account of ancient cities, it is clear that there was a definite structure in place for the sacred spaces to develop. It could be stated that cities were constructed, among other reasons, because of religion (Kotkin 2005:5). The relationship between nature and religion, as opposed to religion in an urban environment, is just as important an element to look at. Compare studies in this regard by Gomez and Van Herck (2012). It should be noted that the city was not the only place where religion could be practised. Nature played an important role, regarding the practice of religion and the space it allowed:

During the late nineteenth century, rapidshaped and provided deep meaning to cities and urban communities as well as to the health, well-being, and quality of life for the inhabitants. For the first time in history, a majority of the world's population is now living in urban areas. Government bonds, tax-increment financing and large-scale corporate returns now shape most growth. Despite the ascendance of economics as the touchstone for value and meaning in cities, sacred spaces are and will remain a vital part of healthy cities. (Foster 2012: n.p.)

Sacred spaces and gathering areas for worship have historically had a synergistic correlation with residential patterns of development. This historical trend has changed drastically. Urban areas are experiencing tremendous growth and change, especially with the diverse cultural values and faith traditions that shaped great cities of the past. It could be stated that a new dawn has been reached for religious institutions and sacred spaces. The importance of these sacred spaces has played an important role in the past and must be utilised to do so again. Religion as an apparatus could be the one feature in the urban environment that could guide the city in the appropriate direction.

Understanding religion as an organism will be key to understanding the features and functions of religions in the city. The very organic nature of the city enables theories on the city to constantly change as the form and function of cities change over time. It is necessary to state what is implied by 'organic nature' in this context:

During the late nineteenth century, rapid social and economic changes negated the prevailing conception of the city as a uniform whole. Confronted with this disparity between the old urban definition and the new city of the late nineteenth century, social thinkers searched for a new concept that would correspond more closely to the divided urban community around them. Borrowing an analogy from natural history, these thinkers conceived of the city as an organism composed of interdependent neighborhoods/forms and sought to translate this concept into ways of dealing with the dislocations and problems in urban life. (Melvin 1987: n.p.)

Understanding and utilising urban space is very important. Multiple cultures, diverse groups of people and moral values being a dilemma are all factors that need to be kept in mind when trying to rethink the city. This is where a new understanding and function of religion is necessary. The aim of urbanisation is to create a global village. A truly urban world requires contribution, cooperation and commitment from all people and institutions. Religion needs to be part of this process.

In order to conceptualise the present world urban situation and the current notion of urban, two key issues need to be understood. Firstly, the past, present and future trends of the city and urbanisation need to be reviewed. Secondly, a discussion needs to be undertaken to understand the notion of the city and also whether religion could give guidance in any way.

 

Conclusion

Religion is an undeniable part of the urban environment. This interaction between religion and city is most likely to be perpetuated because of the global rate of urbanisation. Urbanisation implies a growing multicultural environment. The city will become the only reality many children in the future will grow up to know. Humans from a social perspective are constantly in a process of creating reality, cosmosising reality in order to create an environment filled with meaning. The question addressed here is how religion will contribute to this world creation process in an urban context. Religion becomes part of the apparatus utilised to form (the process of externalising) reality. Once this reality has been constructed, through objectivation this created reality is filled with meaning, impacting on human existence and prescribing ways of existence. Upon this humans through the process of internalisation compromise to comply with the prescribed way of existence.

The apparatus theory of Foucault indicates how the city as system can infringe on the growth of religion in an urban environment. A re-calibration of the understanding of 'city' is needed to remove the power relation between the city and religion. These two concepts need not exist in a power-struggle relationship. In a postmodern environment there ought to exist an openness towards accommodating religion in the city. Religion does not usurp the power of the city over the lives of people. Instead, religion contributes to the empowerment of people living in the city to contribute to the well-being of all. Religion in the city therefore contributes to the process of building and constructing the face of the city.

 

Acknowledgements

Competing interests

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

Authors' contribution

L.G. did the research. J.B. and L.G. drafted the manuscript and they equally contributed to this study.

 

References

Agamben, G., 2009, What is an Apparatus?, transl. D. Kishik & S. Pedatella, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.         [ Links ]

Berger, P.L., 1990, The sacred canopy, New York, Anchor Books.         [ Links ]

Beyers, J., 2013, 'Obituaries and predictions: A sociological perspective on the future of religion', Acta Theologica 33(1), 1-28. https://doi.org/10.4314/actat.v33i1.1        [ Links ]

Cox, J.L., 2010, An introduction to the phenomenology of religion, Continuum Publishing Group, New York        [ Links ]

Durkheim, E., 2008 [1912], The elementary forms of religious life, transl. C. Cosman, Oxford University Press, Oxford.         [ Links ]

Ford, L., 1992, Developmental system science, Montclair State University, Montclair.         [ Links ]

Foster, M.T., 2012, 'Sacred space in the city: Adapting to the urban context', Faith and Form 47(3), viewed 13 February 2015, from http://faithandform.com/feature/sacred-space-city-adapting-urban-context        [ Links ]

Foucault, M., 1970, In the history of philosophy, Routledge, New York.         [ Links ]

Foucault, M., 1982, 'The subject and power', Critical Inquiry 8(4), 777-795. Unisa, s.a., Foucault subject and power, viewed 02 July 2016, from www.unisa.edu.au: http://www.unisa.edu.au/Global/EASS/HRI/foucault_-_the_subject_and_power.pdf        [ Links ]

Gomez, L. & Van Herck, W., 2012, 'Framing the sacred in the city: An introduction', in L. Gomez & W. Van Herck (ed.), The sacred in the city, pp. 1-14, Continuum International Publishing Company, London.         [ Links ]

Hyppolite, J., 1996, Introduction to Hegel's philosophy of history, transl. B. Harris & J.B. Spurlock, University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.         [ Links ]

Kotkin, J., 2005, The city: A global history, Modern Library, New York.         [ Links ]

Krüger, J.S., 1982, Studying religion: A methodological introduction to science of religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria.         [ Links ]

Melvin, P.M., 1987, The organic city: Urban definition and neighborhood organization 1880-1920, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.         [ Links ]

Minnesota University, 2007, Proceedings: The open stream, viewed 30 June 2016, from www.mngt.waikato.ac.nz; http://www.mngt.waikato.ac.nz/ejrot/cmsconference/2007/proceedings/ theopenstream/fougere.pdf        [ Links ]

Mumford, L., 1940, 'Looking forward', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 83(4), 540.         [ Links ]

Seligman, A.B., 1992, The idea of civil society, Princeton University Press, Princeton.         [ Links ]

Smith, W.C., 1991, The meaning and end of religion, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.         [ Links ]

Urban Conflicts, 2012, Urban conflicts briefing paper, viewed 29 April 2016, from www.urbanconflicts.arct.cam.ac.uk; http://www.urbanconflicts.arct.cam.ac.uk/downloads/briefing-paper-4        [ Links ]

 

 

Correspondence:
Jaco Beyers
jaco.beyers@up.ac.za

Received: 05 Feb. 2018
Accepted: 03 May 2018
Published: 26 July 2018

 

 

Project Leader: J. Beyers
Project Number: 02440237
Description: Leon Geel is participating in the research project, 'Religion, Theology and Education', directed by Prof. Dr Jaco Beyers, Programme Manager: Biblical and Religious Studies and member of the Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria.

^rND^sBeyers^nJ.^rND^sFoster^nM.T.^rND^sFoucault^nM.^rND^sGomez^nL.^rND^sVan Herck^nW.^rND^sMumford^nL.^rND^1A01^nIgnatius W.C. (Natie)^svan Wyk^rND^1A01^nIgnatius W.C. (Natie)^svan Wyk^rND^1A01^nIgnatius W. C. (Natie)^svan Wyk

ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

Martin Luther se veelkantige verhouding tot die filosofie

 

 

Ignatius W.C. (Natie) van Wyk

Department of Church History and Polity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

Martin Luther lectured moral philosophy in Wittenberg. He was therefore a well-trained philosopher in the tradition of Willem Ockham. Throughout his academic career, he respected the important contribution of philosophy to life. Without philosophy, the world cannot function properly! He, however, rejected the idea that Aristotelian philosophy should be the guiding principle of theology. A philosophy that concentrates on what man could and should do, cannot be the cradle of the New Testament notion of justification without works. The God of the New Testament could therefore not be discovered by philosophical reflexion, but should rather be discovered by the preaching of the gospel. Theology, for Luther, is 'science of conflict' - it is in conflict with human logic and science. Theology offers a truth that is not scientifically intelligible. This truth is a matter for faith and not reason. By saying this, the importance of human reasoning is not denied.


 

 

Inleiding

Die verhouding tussen geloof en rede, teologie en filosofie is 'n moeilike kwessie. Dit word beskou as een van die fundamentele vraagstukke in die sistematiese teologie (Härle 1986). Regdeur die teologiegeskiedenis is daar 'n verskil van mening oor hierdie vraagstuk. Aan die een kant is gesê dat Jerusalem niks met Athene te make het nie, en aan die ander kant is daar gemeen dat die Christelike Godsbegrip met behulp van die Griekse filosofie verduidelik kan word. Almal stem saam dat die Christelike godsdiens 'n denkende godsdiens is wat ook 'n bydrae lewer tot die soeke na kennis, en daarom 'n plek aan die universiteit verdien; maar in hoeverre die teologie van ander vakwetenskappe afhanklik moet wees, gaan die menings uiteen (vgl. Schwarz 2005 vir 'n goeie oorsig oor die debat). So onlangs soos 2006 het pous Benedictus XVI die emosies gaande gehad na aanleiding van sy omstrede 'Regensburger voorlesing'. Dit was veral Lutherse teoloë wat heftig teen die pous se vermenging van teologie en filosofie te velde getrek het (vgl. Hailer 2009). Daar is dus meer as genoeg rede om helderheid te kry oor wat Luther oor die filosofie gesê en nie gesê het nie. Na my beste wete bestaan daar nog nie in Afrikaans 'n wetenskaplike studie oor Luther en die filosofie nie.

 

Sy filosofiese opleiding

Op 12 Maart 1491 is Martin as sewe-jarige kind in die Trivialschule in Mansfeld opgeneem. Hier word hy geleer om te lees, te skryf en te bereken. Hierdie onderrig was van 'n baie hoë standaard aangesien dit 'n inleidende kursus was tot die trivium - die drie basiese vakke van die universiteitswese, naamlik grammatika, logika en retoriek. Aangesien universiteitsonderrig in Latyn geskied het, het hy van 'laerskooldae' af intensiewe Latyn-onderrig ontvang. Sy goeie kennis van Latyn sou dit vir hom moontlik maak om met gemak teologiese en filosofiese werke te bestudeer wat in Latyn beskikbaar was. Martin het hierdie skool egter as 'n 'Eselstall und Teufelschule' ['eselstal en duiwelskool'] (Schwilk 2017:23) beskryf. Hy moes dinge soos 'n papegaai uit sy hoof leer en hy is brutaal met 'n rottang gestraf deur dronk, inkompetente onderwysers. Sy pa, Hans Luder, het gelukkig die insig gehad om sy begaafde kind na 'n behoorlike 'Latynskool' te stuur. Hy, en een van die buurkinders, is in Februarie 1497 tot die Domschule [katedraalskool] van Magdeburg toegelaat. In hierdie kerklike skool word hy blootgestel aan 'n godsdienstige rigting bekend as die via moderna. Die monnike leef in afsondering van die wêreld en in totale toewyding aan Christus. Om geld te verdien, dupliseer hulle teologiese boeke. Die monastieke lewenswyse en die ywer vir teologiese literatuur beïndruk Martin geweldig. Sy latere besluit om priester te word, kan ook na hierdie positiewe ervarings in Magdeburg teruggevoer word (Schwilk 2017:24). Vroeg in 1498 verwissel Martin weer van skool. Hy gaan na sy moeder se geboortedorp, Eisenach, waar hy eers by familie met die van Cottas en later by vriende met die van Schalbe, tuisgaan. Sy verblyf by die Schalbes asook die onderrig aan die 'Predikanteskool van St. Georges' was ook 'n belangrike fase in sy ontwikkeling. Sy musiektalent is daar ontdek en ontwikkel. Verder is hy blootgestel aan die Humanisme en die disputasie-kultuur. Sy blootstelling aan die bronne van die Westerse kultuur, gepaardgaande met intensiewe studie van Latyn, het hom voorberei vir sy latere hantering van die filosofie. Martin het as 15-jarige Cicero, Vergilius, Seneca en Hores (as ontspanning) gelees (Schwilk 2017:25-26).

Ná 'n verblyf van drie jaar in Eisenach, begin die 18-jarige Martin in 1501 in Erfurt te studeer. Aan Erfurt het die filosofie van Willem van Ockham aandag geniet. Luther se leermeesters in die filosofie was Jodocus Trutfetter1 en Bartholomeus Arnoldi von Usingen. Luther se uiteindelike posisie ten opsigte van die filosofie kan teruggevoer word na dít wat hy by Von Usingen geleer het. Volgens hom moes die teologiestudente Aristoteles ken, maar ook weet waar Aristoteles en die evangelie verskil. Hy het die evangelie as die 'hoogste waarheid' beskou, en daarom kon Aristoteles nie op absolute waarheid aanspraak maak nie (Dieter 2015:546). Hy het hulle geleer dat die rede nie in alle opsigte vertrou kan word nie en dat die Aristoteliese moraalleer wat begrond is in die natuurlike rede, vervang moet word met moraal wat vanuit die Woord geopenbaar word. By Ockham het hy geleer dat die God van die filosowe nie die God van die Bybel is nie (Schwilk 2017:31. 59). Luther ([1520] 1888:600; WA 6, 600, 11) het later tydens 'n disputasie gesê dat hy homself as deel van die 'Ockhamistiese faksie' ('Occanicae factionis')2 beskou.

 

Die jong dosent en die filosofie

Aan die Middeleeuse universiteite was dit gebruik dat studente in die teologie3 in die 'laere' filosofiese fakulteit klas gegee het. So het Luther, wat reeds sedert 07 Januarie 1505 oor 'n magister beskik het, vanaf 20 April in Erfurt filosofieklasse begin aanbied binne die raamwerk van die artes liberales. In hierdie tyd het hy ook Boethius se Consolatio philosophiae intensief bestudeer (Schwilk 2017:37).

In 1508 word Luther in die vakante pos van Wolfgang Ostermairs in Wittenberg aangestel om lesings4aan te bied oor Aristoteles se Nikomachiese etiek (vgl. Leppin [2006] 2010:52-56). Hy was dus as 'n 24-jarige dosent verplig om hom deeglik in die filosofie van Aristoteles in te werk. In hierdie tyd studeer hy ook teologie by Johannes von Staupitz en begin hy 'n innerlike konflik ervaar tussen teologie en filosofie. Een van die sentrale konflikte was die vraag of 'n mens op grond van redelike argumente en uit eie drif werke kan doen wat erkenning by God kan geniet? Op 09 Maart 1509 behaal hy die graad Baccalaureus Biblicus en ses maande later lê hy die eksamen af vir die Baccalaureus Sententiarius. Op grond hiervan word hy teruggeroep na Erfurt om dáár aan die ou, beroemde universiteit klas te gee oor die kerkvaders. Hiervoor moes hy hom in al die filosofiese dissiplines van daardie tyd instudeer (Leppin [2006] 2010:54-56).

 

'n Veelkantige benadering tot denke: Die tafelgesprekke

'n Mens doen Luther onreg aan deur sy houding jeens die filosofie af te lei uit enkele van sy groter geskrifte soos De servo arbitrio (1525). Dit is nodig om Luther se veelkantige uitsprake oor die filosofie binne die konteks van sy totale teologie te verstaan. Daar moet onthou word dat Luther 'n Bybelse teoloog was wat hom krities afgegrens het teen die Roomse Skolastiek. Talle van sy uitsprake oor die filosofie (veral Aristoteles) moet binne hierdie groot projek verstaan word. Wanneer 'filosofie' verstaan word as nadenke oor menslike denke, en daar vanuit hierdie breër perspektief na Luther gekyk word, kry 'n mens ook 'n méér billike en gebalanseerde indruk van Luther se houding jeens die filosofie. Luther se tafelgesprekke is geskikte materiaal om sy veelkantige verstaan van menslike denke te illustreer.

Prioriteit van die Bybel en die teologie

Laat ons die Bybel nie net in vergetelheid laat verval nie, maar dit lees en daaruit preek; omdat, wanneer die teologie bloei, alles goed sal gaan en geluk sal gedy. Die rede is dat [die teologie] die leidinggewende instansie5 is van alle fakulteite en kunste. (1991:11; WA TR 3, 3589)

Die hoogste kuns wat 'n toekomstige teoloog moet nastreef, is dat hy [moet leer] om sorgvuldig tussen die slimhede van die rede en die Woord - dit is die wysheid van God - te onderskei. Diegene wat dít vermeng, verwar die hemel met die aarde. (1991:20; WA TR 2, 2146)

Doktor Luther is een keer oor die Woord van die geloof uitgevra, naamlik dat dit teenstrydig is met die rede en die algemene ervaring. Hierop het hy geantwoord:

Weet julle nie dat alles in die heilige Skrif, aan die rede gemeet, leuens is nie? God wil sy mag en krag in swakheid bewys en sy wysheid in die hoogste onnoselheid ten toon stel. Salig is hulle wat dít glo! (1991:23; WA TR 3, 2843)

Filosofie en teologie

Die rede wat van die duiwel besete is, doen groot skade aan God se saak Wanneer die rede egter deur die Heilige Gees verlig word, help dit mee tot die beoordeling van die Heilige Skrif. Die Goddelose se tong belaster God; my tong, egter, loof en prys Hom Die tong as sodanig help nie om te glo nie, maar nogtans dien dit die geloof wanneer die hart verlig is. Só dien die rede die geloof ook deurdat dit oor enkele sake nadink wanneer dit verlig is; maar sonder geloof help dit niks nie en is dit tot niks in staat nie Wanneer die rede verlig is, dan neem dit alle gedagtes uit God se Woord op en beoordeel dit [vanuit die geloof] en gee die nodige perspektief daarop. (1991:39-40; WA TR 1, 439)

Doktor Luther het gesê: 'God se werke is nie navorsbaar en beskryfbaar nie, en geen menslike verstand kan dit uitredeneer nie. Dit kan geglo, maar nie denkend begryp word nie Niemand kan God in sy majesteit begryp of ken nie, daarom het Hy homself in die allerkleinste gestalte laat neerkom en het Hy mens geword Maar wie wil dít nou glo? Ons meen [mos] dat die keiser magtiger, Erasmus geleerder en die monnik méér regverdig is as God.' (1991:40; WA TR 2, 2210)

Die filosofie verstaan niks van die heilige dinge nie, en ek het bekommernis daaroor dat dit té veel met die teologie vermeng word. Die gebruike van die filosofie verwerp ek nie, maar mens behoort dit [hoogstens] soos 'n skadubeeld, soos 'n komedie, te gebruik - net soos 'n [Christen]mens [ook insigte van] wêreldlike geregtigheid [in die teologiese etiek] kan gebruik. Maar om dít die kern van die teologie te maak, is nie gepas nie. (1991:42; WA TR5, 5245)

Dit is onseker of juriste die saligheid kan beërwe, aangesien dit [selfs] vir teoloë moeilik is; alhoewel die teoloë alreeds geregverdig en in die hemel is. Maar alle teoloë wat met behulp van spekulasie oor God se sake wil oordeel, is van die duiwel. (1991:154; WA TR2, 1340)

Die rede is die grootste hoer wat die duiwel tot sy beskikking het. (1991; WA TR 6, 6619)

Die mens as rasionele wese

Alle mense is van nature méér na-denkers as voor-denkers, omdat almal [ewe skielik] slim is nadat iets gebeur het. Ons almal moet studiegeld betaal, aangesien ons uit skade slim word. (1991:237; WA TR 3, 3536)

Alhoewel alle mense sonder God lewe, het hulle tóg 'n besef van die bose en die beloning van die goeie; daarom neem hulle mekaar in ag. (1991:35; WA TR 2, 2469)

Dit is beter dat daar volgens die natuurlike verstandsvermoëns regeer word. Die rede en die natuurlike verstand is die hart en die koningin van die wette; die bron waaruit alle regte kom en vloei. Daarom sou 'n mens beter met die rede en wyse raad van verstandige mense kon regeer as met geskrewe wette. Maar waar vind 'n mens sulke persone met sulke verstandelike insigte? (1991:186; WA TR 6, 6955)

 

Luther se ongemak met Aristoteles se invloed op die teologie

In een van die oudste briewe (1509) van Luther wat behoue gebly het, kla hy teenoor Johann Braun dat die Aristoteliese filosofie tot die 'kern van die neut' in die teologie ontwikkel het (1825:5-7; WA Br 1, 5-7),6 en dat hy (wat op daardie stadium dosent in moraalfilosofie in Wittenberg was) hom eerder met die teologie sou wou besig hou. Dit het vir Luther nie gegaan oor voorkeur en afkeur nie, maar om die besef dat die Skolastiek onder invloed van Aristoteles nie ware teologie was nie. Enkele jare daarna (1515/16), kondig hy tydens sy voorlesings oor Romeine aan dat hy die taak het:

om heftig teen die filosofie te stry en om mense aan te raai om hulle tot die Heilige Skrif te wend Dit is naamlik tyd dat ons ons tot 'n andersoortige studie wend en Jesus Christus leer ken, en wel Hom as gekruisigde. (Luther 1938:371; WA 56, 371, 17-27)

Luther wou dus nie wegvlug van die denke nie, maar hy wou hom eerder wend tot saaklike teologie - 'n teologie wat 'sending' moontlik maak; dit is 'n gesprek oor Christus met Grieke en Jode. Vir hierdie gesprek benodig ons nie 'n Christelike vorm van filosofie nie, aangesien die Christelike geloof in die spanning tussen kennis en geloof, rede en openbaring bestaan. Luther se kritiek op die filosofies-gedomineerde teologie gaan daaroor dat hierdie 'teologie' die ware verstaan van die Skrif versluier. Die vraagstellings en die taalgebruik van Aristoteles is 'n hindernis vir kritiese Bybelse eksegese aangesien dit die unieke Bybelse denk- en spreekwyses versluier. Om hierdie rede Luther se kritiek teen Aristoteles (Ebeling [1964] 2017:82-92).

Luther het ook aan een van die tradisionele strydvrae van die Skolastiek deelgeneem, naamlik die vraag oor wat die verband tussen die sterflikheid van die menslike siel en die beginloosheid van die wêreld is? In sy poging om hierdie vraag te beantwoord, interpreteer hy sekere tekste van Aristoteles (vgl. Luther 1982:410-426; WA 59, 410, 13 - 426, 19). Hy kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat Aristoteles die teoloog nie kan help nie, aangesien hy nie aan die 'onsterflikheid van die siel' en die 'laaste verantwoording van die mens voor God' glo nie. Sy kritiek fokus dus nie op Aristoteles se filosofie nie, maar die hulp wat dit bied al dan nie om teologiese vraagstukke te beantwoord.

 

Luther se stryd om teologiese teologie

Luther se kritiese houding jeens Aristoteles het met sy verstaan van filosofie en teologie te make. Die onderwerp van die filosofie het vir Luther te make met dít wat deur die menslike verstand geken kan word, terwyl die onderwerp van die teologie deur die geloof bedink moet word ([1539] 1932:6. 15; WA39, II, 6, 26-28, 39. II, 15, 8-10). Die filosofie het betrekking op dít wat nou voorhande is,7 terwyl die teologie met die toekomstige dinge te make het ([1515/16] 1938:371; WA 56, 371, 1-16).

In sy 'Disputatio de homine' ([1536] 2006c:664; WA 39, I, 175, 1-2), presiseer hy sy standpunt deur te stel: 'PHILosphia, sapientia humana, definit, Hominem esse animal rationale, sensitivum, corporeum' ['Die filosofie {as} menslike wysheid definieer die mens as 'n rede-begaafde, sintuiglike, liggaamlike {met die diere saamhorende} lewende wese']. En dan maak Luther ([1536] 2006c; WA 39, I, 175, 5-8) twee belangrike stellings:

Maar 'n mens moet dít weet: Ook hierdie definisie definieer slegs die sterflike [mens] en [dit impliseer,] die mens van hierdie [aardse] lewe. En [nogtans] is dit waar dat die rede die hoofsaak van alles en van alle ander dinge van hierdie lewe is; dit is die beste [gawe] en is [selfs] iets Goddelik.8 (bl. 664)

Luther ([1536] 2006c:664; WA 39, I, 175, 10-24) gaan dan voort en sê dat die rede die basis is van alle kunste en wetenskappe, en dat die rede die mens van die dier onderskei. Dat die mens 'beeld van God' is, berus onder andere op hierdie argument. Maar, dan argumenteer hy nogeens dat wanneer die filosofie met die teologie vergelyk word, blyk dit dat ons menslike kennis baie gebrekkig is. Vir hierdie vergelyking gryp hy dan na Aristoteles se vier oorsake of kousaliteite.9 Die menslike rede ken nie die rede vir die aanvang, óf die uiteindelike sin of doel van dinge nie. Sy rede ([1536] 2006c:664; WA 39, I, 175, 27-28):

Want as doelgerigte [oorsaak] word geen ander [argument] aangebied as die vrede in hierdie lewe nie, en weet nie dat die werkende [oorsaak - of die rede vir die aanvang van dinge] God die skepper is nie.10

Luther se weersprekende waardering vir die filosofie moet verstaan word teen die agtergrond van sy kritiek op die Skolastiek. Die Skolastiek beweer dat die mens ná die val in die paradys sy natuurlike verstandelike vermoë behou het - en dan nou belangrik - met die oortuiging dat wanneer die mens doen wat binne sy vermoë is, hy die genade van God kan verdien11 ([1536] 2006c:666; WA 39, I, 176, 24-25). Hierteenoor stel Luther ([1536] 2006c; WA 39, I, 176, 35-37) dan sy bekende woorde in stellings 32 en 33:12

Paulus vat in Rom 3:28: 'Ons hou daaraan vas dat die mens geregverdig word deur die geloof sonder die werke', in kort die definisie van menswees saam deurdat hy sê: Die mens word deur die geloof geregverdig. Wie [van die mens] sê dat hy geregverdig moet word; hy bevestig met sekerheid die waarheid, dat [die mens] 'n sondaar en 'n geregtigheidslose [wese] is, en daarom voor God skuldig staan, maar deur genade gered word.13 (bl. 668)

Die menslike rede, hoe voortreflik en hoe belangrik ook al vir menswees in hierdie aardse bedeling, bly daarom vir Luther ([1536] 2006c:668; WA 39, I, 177, 8-19) bloot 'n 'skema van die wêreld' ('schema mundi') wat weinig te make het met die 'toekomstige mens' waaroor die Nuwe Testament begaan is.

Om Luther se argument nogmaals te verduidelik, word daar teruggegryp op sy 'Disputasie teen die skolastieke teologie' van 1517. In hierdie disputasie stel Luther ([1517] 2006b; WA I, 226, 19-20) die rede hoekom die mens nie op grond van morele handelinge, wat deur die menslike rede gelei word, geregverdig kan word nie:

Daar is geen morele deug, wat nie óf deur trots óf swaarmoedigheid, dít is sonde, gekenmerk word nie. Ons is van begin tot einde nie heer van ons handelinge nie, maar knegte. Teen die filosowe. Nie deurdat ons regverdig handel, word ons regverdig nie, maar [deurdat ons] regverdig gemaak [is], handel ons [met] geregtigheid. Teen die filosowe.14(bl. 24)

Teen die agtergrond van hierdie argument maak Luther ([1517] 2006b:; WA I, 226, 21-27) dan negatiewe opmerkings oor Aristoteles (maar ten diepste oor die Skolastiek). Hy beweer dat:

feitlik die ganse filosofie van Aristoteles vir die teologie sleg is, aangesien dit (en so ook die Skolastiek) vyandig staan teenoor die genade. Teen die skolastici. Dit is daarom 'n fout om te beweer dat sonder Aristoteles 'n mens nie 'n teoloog kan wees nie. Dit is eerder [korrek om te beweer] dat 'n mens 'n teoloog word, sonder Aristoteles.15 (bl. 24)

Die argument wat hierop volg, val buite die skopus van hierdie artikel. Dit handel oor die doen van God se wil danksy die genade van die regverdigverklaring. Dus: geensins 'n pleidooi dat die geloof sonder werke moet wees nie, maar dat sonder die genade, die wil van God nie gedoen kan word nie. Die belangrike punt wat egter weereens beklemtoon moet word, is dat Luther se ongemak met Aristoteles nie soseer met sy filosofie as sodanig te make het nie, maar dat hy (deur die Skolastiek) hom in die genadeleer ingemeng het, en Paulus verduister het. Luther se pleitrede is dat die teologie sy eie taalgebruik moet ontwikkel. Om hierdie rede moet daar getrouheid wees aan die Bybelse taalgebruik. Dít beteken egter nie dat die teologie in isolasie moet verval nie. Ter wille van die kommunikeerbaarheid van die teologie móét die teologie aan die filosofiese diskoers deelneem - en om hierdie rede kan daar nie sprake wees van 'n algehele filosofie-vyandigheid nie (Ebeling [1964] 2017:97-99).

 

Reformatoriese teologie en filosofie

Intellektuele kennis van God

Luther, toe nog in die publiek bekend as Martin Luder, en op daardie tydstip dekaan van die teologiese fakulteit in Wittenberg, het alreeds in 1517 in sy Disputasie teen die skolastieke teologiegeargumenteer dat die natuurlike rede God (die God van die Bybel) nie kan ken nie. Die mens, volgens Luther ([1517] 2006b:20; WA 1, 224, 12-14), bevind hom konstant in dwaling (homo errans) aangesien die menslike wil hom nie van nature op die korrekte rigtingwysers (van die rede) kan rig nie ['Falsitas est. quod voluntas possit se conformare dictanini recto naturaliter']. Hierdie dwalende mens kan wel die natuurlike dinge liefhê, maar dit is onmoontlik dat hy God van nature kan liefhê. Hy ([1517] 2006b:22; WA I, 225, 1-2) sê: 'Non potest homo naturaliter velle: deum esse deum. Immo vellet se esse deum, et deum non esse deum' ['Die mens wil van nature {nie toelaat} dat God God is nie. Veel eerder wil hy self God wees, en toesien dat God nie God kan wees nie'].

Wanneer Luther beweer dat die natuurlike rede God nie kan ken nie, bedoel hy die God wat Hom in Christus geopenbaar het. In sy Genesiskommentaar (1915:591-592; WA 44, 591, 32-592,15) argumenteer hy dat God nie 'n dooie objek is nie, maar 'n wese is wat in sy Woord belowe dat Hy vir ons sorg. Die teoloog se taak is om aan te toon dat God se voorsienigheid nie op toeval berus nie, maar op sy toewending tot ons in ons nood.

Luther het die motief van die toewending goed beskryf in sy Uitleg van die magnificat16 ([1521] 2012a; WA 7, 544-604). Luther het ontdek dat God se toewending tot Maria (Luk 1:48) nie net in taal bestaan het nie, maar ook uit die manier hoe Hy na haar gekyk het. Die toegesproke woord en die blik op haar menswees is kenmerkend van die Vader van Jesus Christus. Dít ontbreek by die God van die filosowe. Luther ([1521] 2012a:412; WA 7, 567, 26-28) sê onder andere:

Den wo es dahynn kumpt / das got seynn angesicht zu yemandt wendet / yhn antzusehen / da ist eytel gnad vnd selickeit / da mussen alle gaben vnnd werck folgen. ['Wanneer dit daartoe kom dat God sy aangesig tot iemand wend om die persoon te aanskou, dan is dit louter genade en saligheid. Uit hierdie {blik} moet gawes en werke dan volg'].

Toegespits op Maria, impliseer God se blik dat sy, as iemand wat nie raakgesien is nie en gedurig oorgesien is, 'n nuwe bestaan ontvang het. Deurdat God haar in genade raakgesien het, het sy 'n nuwe lewe ontvang. Sy het 'n wese met aansien geword. Hierdie nuwe aansien is nie verwerf deur self-refleksie nie; nog minder dat iemand ''n verskil in haar lewe kom maak het', maar omdat God haar bestaan deur woord en blik verander het. Om hierdie rede het sy Hom geloof.17

Luther (2006d) het sy Christelike verstaan van God in die Heidelbergse Disputasie van 26 April 1518 verder verduidelik. Die kern van hierdie disputasie is te vinde in stellings 19-24 wat handel oor die verskil tussen die theologia crucis en die theologia gloria. Die diepste punt is dat die teologie net dán by sy eie saak bly wanneer kennis van God uit sy selfontsluiting in die verborgenheid van die lyding en die kruisdood van Christus herwin word. In die lig van hierdie teologiese grondoortuiging, maak hy kritiese opmerkings oor die invloed van Aristoteles op die teologie (vgl. Dieter 1987 vir 'n in-diepte bespreking van hierdie saak).

Luther begin sy argument oor Reformatoriese teologie by die verwerping van die idee dat kennis oor die eienskappe van God tot teologiese wysheid lei. Hy ([1518] 2006d:52; WA I, 361, 35-36) sê: 'Porro invisibilia, Dei sunt, virtus, divinitas sapientia, iusticia, bonitas etc. haec omnia cognita non faciunt dignum, nec sapientem'. ['Die onsigbare {wese} van God is sy krag, Godheid, wysheid, geregtigheid, goedheid, ens. Om dit alles te ken, maak nie {van iemand} 'n waardige óf 'n wyse {wese} nie']. Volgens hom ([1518] 2006d:52; WA I, 362, 18-19) 'is die ware teologie en kennis van God [slegs] in die gekruisigde Christus te vinde' ['in Christo crucifixo est vera Theologia et cognitio Dei']. Die implikasie van hierdie stelling is dat God nie in menslike werke, en die verheerliking daarvan, gevind kan word nie, maar slegs in die lyding van die kruis ([1518] 2006d:54; WA I, 362, 10-14). Soos te wagte het sy volgende argument dan met die illusie te make dat werke jou tot 'n regverdige wese verhef wat by God goedkeuring geniet. Om guns by God te geniet (om geregverdig te word), moet daar slegs in Christus geglo word. Die werke van die wet kan daartoe niks bydra nie. Op hierdie punt wend Luther ([1518] 2006d:62)18 hom dan tot negatiewe uitsprake oor Aristoteles. Filosofie sonder die genade in Christus is 'n 'verdorwe liefde tot kennis' ('perversus amor sciendi'), en filosofie buite Christus is soos 'egbreuk buite die huwelik' ('est quod extra matrimonium fornicari'). Nogtans gebruik die 'teologie van heerlikheid' Aristoteles om die evangelie te verduidelik. Die 'teologie van die kruis' kan dit egter nie doen nie. Sy rede verduidelik hy aan hand van die verskil tussen God se liefde en die mens se liefde. Hy ([1518] 2006d:60; WA I, 354, 34-35) stel: 'amor dei non invenit, sed creat suum diligibile. amor hominis fit a suo diligibili' ['wat liefde-waardig is, is vir die liefde van God nie voorhande nie. Dit word geskep. Die liefde van die mens {daarenteen} ontstaan uit dít wat liefde-waardig is']. Met hierdie stelling wil Luther alle menslike liefdesdiens, of toewyding aan 'n verdienstelike saak, op 'n afstand plaas teenoor die kruisboodskap. Anders gestel: Luther is van mening dat Aristoteles se daad-filosofie nie die sentrale boodskap van die Nuwe Testament ondersteun nie, en om hierdie rede is hy krities jeens die Aristoteliese filosofie. Hy ([1518] 2006d:66-68; WA I, 355) erken dat hierdie standpunt die Reformatoriese teoloog soos 'n nar (stultus) laat lyk; maar wie aan die regverdigingsboodskap getrou wil bly, het geen ander keuse nie.

In sy Jona-kommentaar van 1526,19 het Luther, seker ná baie debatte, op 'n gekompliseerde wyse weer na die tema oor die natuurlike kennis van God teruggekeer. Hy gee hierin toe dat mense op grond van die natuurlike rede tot die oortuiging kan kom dat daar 'n God moet wees. Alhoewel die meerderheid van volke op een of ander wyse in God glo, sal daar altyd diegene wees wat nie in God glo nie ([1526] 1897:205-206; WA 19, 205, 27-30. 206, 1-5). Maar, waar lê die verskil tussen die Christelike geloof en die natuurlike kennis oor God? Volgens Luther ([1526] 1897:208; WA 19, 208, 21-24) het die mense op die boot 'almal van God geweet', maar hulle het nie 'sekerheid oor God gehad nie'. Net Christus bied aan ons sekerheid oor God; die rede kan dit nie bied nie. Volgens Luther is die rede eintlik besig met 'oëverblindery'. Dit gee voor om God te ken, maar ken Hom nie werklik nie. Hy ([1526] 1897:207; WA 19, 207, 11-13) sê:

Daarom is daar 'n groot onderskeid tussen weet dat daar 'n God is, en weet wat of wie God is. Die eerste weet die natuur[like mens] en dit is in almal se harte geskryf. Die ander leer alleen die Heilige Gees.

Die verskil tussen natuurlike kennis van God en kennis gewek deur die Heilige Gees het te make met die verskil tussen 'kennis' en 'sekerheid', 'heiligheid' en 'saligheid',20 algemene menslikheid en Christelike uniekheid. In die lig hiervan is Bayer (1990:230-236; 1994:116-117) en Barth (2009:105-136) korrek om Luther se teologie as 'konflikwetenskap' te omskryf. Daar is konflik tussen geloof en rede, menslike eerbaarheid en geloof gewek deur die Heilige Gees. Konflik beteken egter nie dat teologie niks met filosofie te make mag hê nie. Dit beteken egter wel dat die teologie aan die waarheidsaansprake van die filosofie perke stel.

Teologiese en filosofiese kennis

Luther se standpunt oor die verskil tussen Reformatoriese teologie en filosofie het die noodwendige konsekwensie dat teologiese waarheid nie dieselfde as filosofiese waarheid is nie. Dít beteken egter nie dat hy die tese van 'n 'dubbele waarheid' verdedig nie, maar dat daar tussen filosofiese en teologiese waarheid onderskei moet word (Bayer 1994:119-123).

Die verskil in waarheidsbegrip het Luther op 11 Januarie 1539 beskryf in 42 disputasiestellings, wat beskikbaar is onder die titel Verbum caro factum est21 [Die Woord het vlees geword]. Die hele bedoeling van hierdie disputasie is om aan te toon dat die belydenis van die menswording van God 'n saak van die geloof is en dat dit buite die besprekingsterrein van die filosofie behoort te val. Luther neem sy vertrekpunt by die algemene gedagte dat alle waarhede met die ware in ooreenstemming is. Die probleem is egter dat dit nie waar is ten opsigte van die verskillende wetenskaplike dissiplines nie. Stelling 2 (WA 39, II, 3, 3-4)22 lui: 'In theologia verum est, verbum esse carnem factum, In philosophia simpliciter impossibile et absurdum' ['In die teologie is dit waar: Die Woord het vlees geword. In die filosofie is dit eenvoudig onmoontlik en absurd']. Om hierdie rede, val Luther die Rooms-Katolieke Skolastiek aan wat geleer het dat teologie uitmond in algemene filosofiese waarhede. Stelling 4 (WA 39, II, 3, 7-8) lui: 'Sorbona, mater errorum, pessime definivit, idem esse verum in Philosophia et Theologia' ['Die Sorbonne {in Parys}, die moeder van alle dwalings, was algeheel verkeerd deur te beweer dat dieselfde dinge wat in die filosofie waar is, ook in die teologie waar is']. Dan verder in die 6de stelling (WA 39, II, 4, 2-3): 'Nam hac sententia abominabili docuit captivare articulos fidei, sub iudicium rationis humanae' ['Met hierdie afskuwelike stelling het hulle geleer dat die artikels van die geloof onder die oordeel van die menslike rede gevange gehou moet word']. Luther wil dit duidelik maak dat wat filosofies waar is, nie noodwendig teologies waar is nie, en omgekeerd. Stelling 15 (WA39, II, 4, 23-24) lui: 'Impingit quidem theologia in philosophiae regulas, sed ipsa vicissim magis in theologiae regulas' ['Weliswaar versteur die teologie die reëls van die filosofie, maar die filosofie deurbreek ook die reëls van die teologie']. In die 27ste stelling (WA 39, II, 5, 9-10) word die hoofargument dan verder gevoer en hy stel: 'Eundum ergo est ad aliam Dialecticam et Philosophiam, in articulis fidei, quae vocatur verbum Dei et fides' [''n Mens moet by die artikels van die geloof tot 'n ander dialektiek en 'n ander filosofie oorskakel; dít word die Woord van God en geloof genoem']. Volgens Luther is hierdie oorskakeling nie 'n intellektuele probleem nie, aangesien begryp moet word dat die waarheid nie oral dieselfde is en lyk nie (stelling 29). Die feit dat ons belydenis beweer dat die Woord vlees geword het, en dat dít nie 'n algemene filosofiese waarheid is nie, beteken nog nie dat dit nie vir ons as gelowiges waar kan wees nie. Selfs in sekere filosofiese dissiplines word met waarhede gewerk wat nie deur die ander dissiplines aanvaar word nie. Volgens stellings 36 tot 42, het ons die volste reg om belydenisuitsprake te maak, wetende dat die filosofie dit nie as ware uitsprake sal erken nie, maar ook wel wetende dat dit vir die geloof en die teologie waar is, en dat hierdie waarheid ook met reg op waarheid aanspraak kan maak.23 Ek haal die laaste stelling (WA 39, II, 5, 41-42) aan: 'Affectus fidei exercendus est in articulis fidei, non intellectus philosophiae. Tum vere scietur quid sit, Verbum caro factum est' ['Die artikels van die geloof moet vanuit die aanvoeling van die geloof verstaan word, en nie vanuit die insig van die filosofie nie. Dán sal 'n mens verstaan wat die woorde beteken: Die Woord het vlees geword'].

 

Bevinding

Luther het 'n veelkantige standpunt oor die filosofie. Aan die een kant loof en prys hy die filosofie as die besondere aan menswees, en aan die ander kant kan hy ([1546] 1914; WA 51, 123-134) dit in preke (soos ook in tafelgesprekke) selfs as 'n 'hoer' beskryf. Hierdie weersprekende uitsprake moet verstaan word binne die raamwerk van die onderskeid tussen die iustitia Dei en die iustitia civilis. Luther se skerp kritiek teen die rede, is kritiek teen die misplaaste rede; dié rede wat meen om 'n bydrae te lewer tot die tema van die homo peccator en die Deus iustificans - met ander woorde oor die tema van sonde, genade en heil. Volgens Luther kan die geregtigheidsverstaan van Aristoteles nie 'n verantwoordelike bydrae lewer tot die geregtigheidsverstaan van die Nuwe Testament nie. Aristoteles het die oortuiging gevoed dat ''n mens is wat hy presteer'. Hierteenoor stel Luther in sy Kommentaar op Galasiërs([1531/5] 1911:359-372; WA 40, I, 359, 7 - 373, 2): 'fides occidit rationem' ['die geloof maak die rede dood']. Alleen in hierdie opsig - die soteriologiese opsig - verwerp Luther die kompetensie van die filosofie.

In ander opsigte is die filosofie vir Luther uiters belangrik. Dit is die basis van alle wetenskappe, en binne die grense van die iustitia civilis, is dit die mens se bondgenoot en rigtinggewer. Sonder die filosofie, kan die gelowige nie verantwoordelik bestaan nie (Bayer [2003] 2007:146-147). Luther se verhouding met die filosofie word verkeerd verstaan indien daar bevind sou word dat hy 'n gebrekkige aanvoeling vir 'Aufklärung' gehad het. Sy bedoeling was 'Erleuchtung'; die strewe om die tekste van die Nuwe Testament weer tot lewe te bring. Vanselfsprekend kan daar vandag, terugskouend, kritiek uitgeoefen word op hierdie posisie. Sy 'openbaringspositivisme' en 'desisionisme' is deels agterhaal. Ons tyd vra na 'n eietydse Christelike apologetiek wat met die filosofie in gesprek is (Barth 2009:130-136).

 

Erkenning

Mededingende belange

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

 

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Schwartz, H., 2005, 'Jerusalem und Athen gehören zusammen', Kerygma und Dogma 51(4), 253-262.         [ Links ]

Schwilk, H., 2017, Luther der Zorn Gottes, Blessing Verlag, München.         [ Links ]

Thaidigsmann, E., 1987, 'Gottes schöpferisches Sehen: Elemente einer theologischen Sehschule im Anschluβ an Luthers Auslegung des Magnificat', Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 29(1), 19-38. https://doi.org/10.1515/nzst.1987.29.1-3.19        [ Links ]

Van Wyk, G.M.J., 2017, 'Regverdiging van die sondaar: Martin Luther se teologiese definisie van die mens soos uiteengesit in die Disputatio de homine van 1536, stelling 32', HTS Teologiese Studies/ Theological Studies 73(1), a4716. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i1.4716        [ Links ]

 

 

Correspondence:
Ignatius van Wyk
hto@mweb.co.za

Received: 22 Mar. 2018
Accepted: 11 May 2018
Published: 31 July 2018

 

 

Project Leader: Wim Dreyer
Project Number: 77370920
Description: Prof. Natie van Wyk is participating in the research project, 'Justice and Human Dignity. A Reformed perspective', directed by Dr Wim Dreyer, Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria.
1. Trutfetter, 'n jeugvriend uit Eisenach, het 'n beroemde handboek oor die logika geskryf, getitel Sumula totius logicae. Met sy hulp het Luther 'n goeie kenner van die logika geword (Schwilk 2017:29).
2. Vir inligting oor wat die Ockhamistiese filosofie (ook nominalisme of die via moderna genoem) behels, kyk na Danz (2013:19-24) en Lohse (1995:30-33).
3. Luther behaal op 21 September 1502 'n Baccalaureus in Teologie. Kort daarna begin hy met Latynonderrig aan die kloosteropleiding sowel as die Universiteit van Erfurt (Schwilk 2017:29).
4. Luther het vier keer per week tussen 14:00 en 15:00 in die Collegium Friedericianum oor Aristoteles gelees (Schwilk 2017:64).
5. My Afrikaanse vertalings van die Duitse en Latynse tekste poog om Luther in verstaanbare, idiomatiese taal weer te gee. Die oorspronklike tekste word nie oral letterlik vertaal nie. 'Leidinggewende instansie', byvoorbeeld, sê na my mening akkurater wat Luther met die woord 'hoof / Haupt' bedoel.
6. Dieter (2015:546) en Ebeling ([1964] 2017:80 verwys hierna as WA B 1,17 nr. 5. Die uitgawe van die WA Br tot my beskikking dui dit anders aan. My vermoede is dat Ebeling soms (as redakteur van die WA) uit werksdokumente aangehaal het waarvan die nummering nie finaal was nie.
7. Luther het nooit die filosofie en of die gebruik van die rede onderspeel nie. Selfs ná die sondeval bly dit kenmerkend van die mens as beeld van God (vgl. Lohse 1995:214-217). Hierdie woorde uit
ʼn preek oor Joh 6:42-44 ([1531] 1907:127; WA 33, 127, 6-23) verduidelik sy standpunt: 'In uiterlike en wêreldlike dinge geld die oordeel van die rede, aangesien ʼn mens daarmee kan uitwerk en tot die besef kan kom dat koeie groter is as die kalf; net só dat drie myl langer is as één, en dat een Gulde meer is as ʼn hand vol sente en dat honderd Gulde méér is as tien Gulde; en dat dit beter is om ʼn dak bo-oor ʼn huis te bou as onder die huis. Dit is vanselfsprekend dat ʼn mens self kan uitwerk hoe om ʼn perd in te breek aangesien ons oor verstandsvermoëns beskik. God het ons die rede gegee sodat ons kan weet hoe om ʼn koei te melk, en perde te tem ' Vgl. Pawlas (2014) vir Luther se gebruik van die rede in ekonomiese aangeleenthede.
8. Luther stel: Sed hoc sciendum est, quod haec definition tantum mortalem et huius vitae hominem definit. Et sane verum est, quod Ratio omnium rerum res et caput, et prae cateris rebus huius vitae optimum et divinum quiddam sit.
9. Die vier causae van Aristoteles wat Luther in stellings 11-15 bespreek, is die volgende: (1) Causa efficiens - die werkoorsaak; waar kom iets vandaan? (2) Causa materialis - die materiële oorsaak; waaruit bestaan iets? (3) Causa formalis - oorsaak van gestalte; as wat bestaan iets? (4) Causa finalis- die doeloorsaak; waarop loop iets uit? Vir meer inligting, vgl. Bayer ([2003] 2007:144-145).
10. Luther se rede: 'Quia finale nullam ponit aliam, quam pacem huius vitae, et efficientem nescit esse creatorem Deum'.
11. In sy eie woorde: 'Similiter qui dicunt, hominem faciendo quod in se est posse mereri gratiam Dei et vitam'.
12. Vir volledigheid, kyk na GMJ van Wyk (2017).
13. Luther ([1536] 2006c; WA 39, I, 176, 35-37) stel: 32. Paulus Rom.3. Arbitramur hominem iustificari fide absque operibus, breviter hominis definitionem colligit, dicens, Hominem iustificari fide. 33. Certe, qui iustificandum dicit, peccatorem et iniustum, ac ita reum coram Deo asserit, sed per gratiam salvandum.
14. Luther se oorspronklike woorde: 'Nulla est virtus moralis sine vel superbia vel tristitia, in die est peccato. Non sumus domini actuum nostrorum a principio usque ad finem. Sed servi. Contra philosophos'.
15. Luther stel: 'Tota fere Aristotelis Ethica: pessima est gratiae inimica. Contra scholasticos.
Error est. dicere. sine Aristotele non fit theologus. Immo theologus non fit. Nisi id fiat sine Aristotele'.
16. Luther het met die vertaling en uitleg van Maria se lofsang in November 1520 begin en dit voltooi in Junie 1521 tydens sy verblyf in die Wartburg. Hierdie arbeid was 'n belangrike oefenlopie om die hele Nuwe Testament te vertaal.
17. Vgl. Thadigsmann (1987) vir 'n volledige besinning hieroor.
18. Hierdie woorde kom nie voor in WA I, 365 nie. Dit is dus bygevoeg in die nuwe studie-uitgawe.
19. Vgl. Bayer ([2003] 2007:116-119) en Hailer (2009:110-112) vir reekse relevante argumente en verwysings uit hierdie kommentaar.
20. Die verskil tussen 'heiligheid' en 'saligheid' verduidelik Luther in sy Belydenis van 1528. Hy (Luther [1528] 2012b:560; WA 26, 505, 21-26) argumenteer dat 'heiligheid' 'n algemene deug is, terwyl 'saligheid' met die geloof in Christus te make het.
21. Die volledige teks disputasie is te vinde by Luther [1539] 1932:1-33; WA 39, II, 1-33. Ek verlaat my egter op die verkorte weergawe van [1539] 2006e:461-467; WA 39, II, 3-5 wat op die waarheidsvraag toegespits is.
22. Daar sal in hierdie paragraaf nie van die Harvard-verwysingsisteem gebruik gemaak word nie. Al die aanhalings kom uit Luther [1539] 2006e:462, 464, 466. Om telkens dieselfde inligting te herhaal, mors plek. Ek verwys slegs na die WA aangesien die verskillende reëls hiermee aangedui kan word.
23. Luther het soortgelyke argumente aangevoer in debatte oor die Nagmaalswoorde 'dit is my liggaam' - vgl. Baur (1984), Koch (1992) en Moustakas (2000) vir uitvoerige besinnings oor Luther se beskouings oor die rede binne hierdie debat.

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

'By his word'? Creation, preservation and consummation in the book of Hebrews

 

 

Albert J. Coetsee

School for Christian Ministry and Leadership, North-West University, South Africa

Correspondence

 

 


ABSTRACT

God's speech is a prominent theme in the book of Hebrews. A fascinating phenomenon regarding God's speech, and one that has in my opinion not been adequately explored, is that the writer possibly implies that God created by his word (Heb 11:3), preserves creation by his word (Heb 1:3) and will consummate creation by his word (Heb 12:26). This article examines whether the writer indeed had the conviction that God did, does and will do this by his word. This is done by doing grammatico-historical exegesis of Hebrews 11:3, 1:3 and 12:26 and integrating the findings. In so doing, this article contributes to the study of Hebrews' theology of God's word.


 

 

Introduction

God's speech is a prominent theme in the book of Hebrews. The anonymous writer starts his sermon with the striking statement that the same God who spoke in the past, has spoken by his Son (Heb 1:1-2a). This is followed up by numerous references to God's speech (amongst others by way of Old Testament introductory formulae), and the hearers' responsibility to listen obediently to what God says.

Consequently, various studies have been done on the theme of God's speech in the book of Hebrews.1 An interesting phenomenon regarding God's speech, and one that has in my opinion not been adequately explored, is that the writer possibly implies that God created by his word, preserves creation by his word and will consummate creation by his word.2 Three passages in Hebrews allude to this:3

  • Hebrews 11:3 'By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible' (creation).

  • Hebrews 1:3 'He [the Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power' (preservation).

  • Hebrews 12:26 'At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens"' (consummation).

Although Hebrews 12:26 does not contain a reference to God's word (ῥῆµα), it does refer to God's voice (φωνή) and the consummation of creation. The synonymous nature of ῥῆµα and φωνή, together with the overall theme of God's speech in Hebrews, justifies a thematic link between 11:3, 1:3 and 12:26.

Consequently, the question arises: Does the writer indeed refer to God's creation, preservation and consummation by his word? And if he does, what is the exact nuance of this theme?

This article will contribute to the answer by doing grammatico-historical exegesis of Hebrews 11:3, 1:3 and 12:26. The various subsections of grammatico-historical exegesis will be limited to that which is relevant for the current investigation, and the subsections of exegesis will be presented in an order which allows the reader to follow the argument the best. The findings of this exegetical study will be integrated to formulate the writer's view of the theme. In so doing, this article will contribute to the study of Hebrews' theology of God's word.

 

Did God create by his word? Hebrews 11:3

Introduction

The first hypothesis to be investigated is whether the writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God created by his word. This is implied in Hebrews 11:3. Exegesis will start broad, namely by determining the place of 11:3 within the sermon and by demarcating surrounding verses for further study.

The place of Hebrews 11:3 within the sermon

The writer of Hebrews follows up his great, central exposition on Jesus' high priestly ministry (7:1-10:18) with a number of chapters in which he primarily exhorts his hearers in different ways to persevere in faith (10:19-13:25). Because they were subjected to persecution and ostracism (10:32-34), some members of the faith community dwindled in their faith and threatened to become apostate. One of the manners in which the writer encourages them to persevere is by means of the example list of Hebrews 11:1-40. In this famous chapter, the writer lists various Old Testament heroes who persevered in faith in order to move his hearers to similar perseverance in their current situation.4

The example list of Hebrews 11 revolves around the characteristic term πίστις, which is found 24 times in the chapter (of which 18 are in the form of the anaphoric dative of instrument πίστει). The chapter, which is demarcated by the inclusion formed by πίστις and µαρτυρέω (11:1-2, 39-40), can be subdivided into four sections (cf. Attridge 1989:307; Cockerill 2012:518-519):

  • 11:1-7 forms the introduction of the example list by giving a working definition of faith and describing the period from creation to Noah (cf. Gen 1-11).

  • 11:8-22 focuses mainly on Abraham and, to a lesser extent, on Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Sarah (cf. Gen 12-50).

  • 11:23-31 focuses primarily on Moses and briefly on the conquest of the Promised Land (Ex-Josh), and

  • 11:32-40 gives a brief overview of history from the judges to Christ and contains the conclusion of the example list.

Consequently, Hebrews 11:3 should be interpreted in the light of 11:1-7.

A syntactical analysis of Hebrews 11:3

Moving from the bigger picture of 11:1-7 to the detail of 11:3, it is important to understand the relationship between and nuance of the various words that make up Hebrews 11:3. For this, a syntactical analysis must be done. The syntactical analysis of Hebrews 11:3 can visually be presented as in Figure 1.5

Just like verses 4, 5 and 7, verse 3 starts with the anaphoric dative of instrument πίστει, which makes the continuity between verse 3 and the rest clear. From the context, the present indicative νοοῦµεν has the nuance of a general truth.

The position of the negative µή within the prepositional clause is a subject of much debate. Some argue that µή negates ἐκ φαινοµένων (Attridge 1989:315; Blass & Debrunner 1961:§433[3]; Ellingworth 1993:568; Moffatt 1924:161), while others argue that it negates γεγονέναι (Cockerill 2012:524; Hughes 1977:443; Lane 1991b:326-327). This syntactical analysis follows the latter interpretation by viewing εἰς τὸ µὴ γεγονέναι as an example of postponement for emphasis. The present participle τὸ βλεπόµενον is used substantively as the subject of γεγονέναι.

When taking the above into account, the sentence can be translated as 'By faith we understand that the world/times was created by the word of God, so that what is seen did not come to be from visible things'.

A semantic analysis of Hebrews 11:3

A correct understanding of the phrase πίστει νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ is crucial to answering the question of whether the writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God created by his word. In order to correctly understand this phrase, it is necessary to do word study of νοέω, καταρτίζω, αἰών and ῥῆµα. Because the context of the one word is influenced by the presence of the other, these words are studied together.

Since its origin, the verb νοέω refers to mental perception (cf. TDNT 1976:4:948-951). The three ways in which νοέω is used in the New Testament give evidence to this fact (BDAG 2000:674-675; L&N 32.2, 30.3, 31.6; LSJ 1996:1177-1178): it refers to understanding something on the basis of careful consideration (i.e. 'to understand' or 'to perceive'), to carefully think about something (i.e. 'to consider' or 'to think about') or to form an idea about something ('to imagine'). In the light of this, the verb νοέω in 11:3 most naturally has the nuance of mental perception. This is how Louw and Nida (32.2) interpret νοέω in the context of 11:3: it refers to mental observation on the basis of careful consideration. This mental perception is qualified by the dative of instrument πίστει, by which the writer, writing from the perspective of a first-century Christian, makes it clear that this mental perception comes only through faith.

In the New Testament, the verb καταρτίζω mainly has two nuances: it either refers to the act of enabling something of someone to function properly, namely 'to make sufficient' or refers to the act of preparing something or someone for a specific task, namely 'to prepare', 'to create' or 'to equip' (BDAG 2000:526; L&N 75.5, 13.130, 42.36; LSJ 1996:910). The three occurrences of καταρτίζω in Hebrews each follow the latter use:

  • In 10:5, καταρτίζω (within the quotation of Psalm 40:7 [LXX 39:7]) refers to the body that God 'prepared' or 'created' for Christ.

  • In 11:3, καταρτίζω refers to God who 'prepared' or 'created' τοὺς αἰῶνας by his ῥῆµα with the nuance on 'order' or 'put into proper condition' (L&N 42.36).

  • In 13:21, καταρτίζω, found within the writer's concluding benediction, refers to the prayer that God 'equip' the hearers with everything that is good.

The noun ῥῆµα usually refers to that which has been said, namely a word, saying, expression or statement (BDAG 2000:905; LSJ 1996:1569). It often refers to a single word (L&N 33.9). The basic meaning of the root in the Greek world is something that is said with certainty (TDNT 1976:4:75-76). In the LXX, ῥῆµα and λόγος are used as synonyms (primarily as the translation of דָּבָר), which makes it difficult to distinguish between the two nouns in the New Testament. Further investigation makes it clear that ῥῆµα occurs 4 times in Hebrews (1:3; 6:5; 11:3; 12:19) and λόγος 12 times (2:2; 4:2, 12, 13; 5:11, 13; 6:1; 7:28; 12:19; 13:7, 17, 22). Even closer examination reveals that the writer of Hebrews uses ῥῆµα exclusively to refer to God's speech, while λόγος, though primarily referring to this theme, is used in various manners (Ellingworth 1993:101; cf. Coetsee 2014:271). In the current context, ῥῆµα is followed by the genitive of origin θεοῦ, which confirms that ῥῆµα θεοῦ in 11: 3 refers to 'the word of God' or 'the word spoken by God'.

In general, αἰών has two semantic applications in the New Testament:

  • The most common semantic use of αἰών is temporal in nature: it refers to a period of existence, namely a specific unit of time (LSJ 1996:45). As such, it may refer to a long period of time, without reference to beginning or end, like 'the earliest times' or 'eternity' (BDAG 2000:32). On the other hand, it may also refer to a specific stage or period in history, such as a lifetime, a period, an era or a generation (L&N 67.143). The idea of a period implies that there is a series of αἰῶνες. The New Testament writers shared the idea of human history being divided into two eras, with the commencement of the new era with the life, death, resurrection and glorification of Christ (TDNT 1976:1:204).

  • Aἰών also developed another semantic application, namely as a description for the spatial world. As such, αἰών is a close synonym for κόσµος (BDAG 2000:33; TDNT 1976:1:203).

The question remains whether αἰών in 11:3 is used in a temporal or spatial manner. There is a close connection between the use of αἰών in 1:2 and in 11:3. In 1:2 the writer states that God created τοὺς αἰῶνας through his Son. In my opinion, Allen (2010b:151) argues convincingly that the writer uses αἰών in 1:2 in both a spatial and temporal sense: through his Son as agent God created both periods of time and the spatial world.6 The fact that 11:3 states that 'the word of God' created the αἰῶνες, reinforces the probability that αἰών in 11:3 refers to periods and the spatial world (cf. Bruce 1990:279; Cockerill 2012:523-524). However, it is especially the visible character of the spatial world that is emphasised in 11:3, as is made clear by the phrase εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόµενον γεγονέναι. Consequently, αἰών in 11:3 refers first and foremost to the spatial world.

Considering all of above, it is possible to form a more complete picture of the phrase πίστει νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ: the writer says that 'we', namely he and his hearers, by faith alone understand that the spatial world was created by the word of God. Undoubtedly, this phrase refers to God's performative words of creation in Genesis 1.7 The emphasis in 11:3 is on faith: the reality of creation cannot be reached by human senses, but only by the type of mental perception that is possible by faith (TDNT 1976:4:951; cf. Wider 1997:188). Faith enables one to understand that the visible universe was created by something invisible, namely by the word of God (Ellingworth 1993:568; cf. Hughes 1972:64-77). The overall context of Hebrews supports Lane's (1991b:331) statement that the medium for this mental perception is the written word of God, 'which activates the capacity for religious knowledge intrinsic to faith'.

A thought structure analysis of Hebrews 11:1-7

In order to confirm the above interpretation of the phrase πίστει νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ, 11:3 should be checked against the context of 11:1-7 by means of a thought structure analysis. Such an analysis has the added advantage of supplementing our understanding of the phrase.

A thought structure analysis of Hebrews 11:1-7 can visually be presented as in Figure 2.

The writer of Hebrews starts chapter 11 by giving a definition of faith. As Ellingworth (1993:566) indicates, the writer's purpose is not to give a comprehensive definition of faith. Rather, the purpose of his definition is to state what faith does: it enables one to know and to see things that otherwise cannot be known and seen. Using the conjunction γάρ, 11:1 is coupled with 11:2, which confirms the definition just given and introduces another motive, namely that of 'giving evidence' (μαρτυρέω; cf. 11:4, 5, 39). Consequently, 11:1-2 can be seen as the introduction of Hebrews 11:1-40.

The first appearance of the anaphoric dative of instrument πίστει is found in 11:3 (cf. 11:4-31). The verse refers to God who created by speaking. As the beginning of the Old Testament Scriptures, the reference to Genesis 1 is highly appropriate. Yet this verse is unique within the structure of 11:1-40. Unlike 11:4-38 which follows, 11:3 does not have an Old Testament hero of faith as subject, but the first person plural 'we' (νοοῦμεν). Consequently, 11:3 serves as a transitional verse between the introduction with its definition of faith (11:1-2) and the description of the various heroes of faith (11:4-38; cf. Lane 1991b:321; Wider 1997:188-190). This verse links directly with 11:1's description of faith as πραγµάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεποµένων by mentioning that creation did not originate from visible things (εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονένβι). The beginning of creation par excellence serves as one of the things that cannot be seen and which can only be understood by faith. With this verse, the writer links his hearers' faith directly to those of the Old Testament heroes of faith in 11:4-38.

The long list of heroes of faith from the Old Testament starts at 11:4, which links directly to ἐμβρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι in 11:2. Abel serves as the first hero of faith. Enoch follows in 11:5. Before continuing to the next hero, the description of Enoch pleasing God is stated as general principle of faith in 11:6. Lastly, Noah is given as hero of faith in 11:7, and once more the idea of μή βλέπειν is emphasised.

Consequently, the repetition of µή βλέπειν makes it clear that Hebrews 11:1-7 focuses primarily on the second part of the definition of faith given in 11:1 (πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων). The theme of these verses can be summarised with the descriptive heading 'Faith is the objective proof of the things that cannot be seen'.

Other references to creation in Hebrews

Finally, before reaching a conclusion about the writer's conviction regarding creation by God's word, the reference to creation in 11:3 should be viewed against all other references to creation in Hebrews. Hebrews contains four other references to God's creative work, namely 1:2, 1:10-12, 4:3 and 9:26.

Hebrews 1:2

In another article, I argue that Hebrews 1:1-4 can be divided into two parts: 1:1-2a and 1:2b-4 (Coetsee 2016:5-6). Hebrews 1:1-2a speaks about God's superior revelation in his Son, while Hebrews 1:2b-4 gives seven descriptions of who the Son is and why God could reveal himself superiorly in him. One of these descriptions is the phrase διʼ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας, which can be translated as 'through him [the Son] he [God] made the spatial world/periods'. As argued above, αἰών in this context refers to the spatial world and periods.

The writer's statement in Hebrews 1:2 that God made the spatial world and periods agrees with his statement in Hebrews 11:3 of God creating the universe. What makes 1:2 unique is the writer's description that God created 'through' his Son; the Son was God's agent of creation. In conjunction with other New Testament passages (Jn 1:3, 10; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16), the writer of Hebrews emphasises that the Son is not made, but he is the Maker of all things (Webster 2009:84).

Hebrews 1:10-12

In Hebrews 1:5-14, the writer compares the Son's excellence to that of the angels by way of seven quotations from the Old Testament. In the sixth quotation (Heb 1:10-12) the writer quotes from Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX 101:26-28). Of special interest here is the reference to God's creative acts in Psalm 102:25 as quoted in Hebrews 1:10:

You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

What is especially worth noting is the fact that the writer of Hebrews introduces this quotation by stating that God says these specific words 'of the Son' (taking into account the connection between the introductory formulae in 1:8 and 1:10). Moreover, the use of the second person singular and the vocative in the quoted verse makes it clear that in the mind of the writer of Hebrews, God is speaking these words to his Son. And what makes this important for the purpose of this article is the fact that in the words of Psalm 102:25 God calls his Son 'Lord' (κύριος) and states that he is the Creator. In the light of Hebrews 1:2, the writer is referring to the Son's agency at creation.

Hebrews 4:3

In 4:1-11 the writer of Hebrews argues that the promise of eschatological 'rest' remains for those who believe and exhorts his hearers not to miss this opportunity as a result of negligence. This is done in part in 4:1-5 by verbal analogy:8 the writer explains the meaning of 'rest' in Psalm 95 by means of referring to and quoting from Genesis 2:2, which refers to God's rest on the seventh day. In the midst of this argument, the writer refers to God's finished works 'since the foundation of the world' (ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου). In this context, κόσμος refers 'to universe as an ordered structure' (L&N 1.1; cf. BDAG 2000:561) and functions as a close synonym for αἰών in 1:2 and 11:3.

For the sake of this article, it is sufficient to note that 4:3 confirms the writer's conviction that God created the world. Moreover, by way of deduction, the writer shared the conviction that God, as recorded in Genesis 1-2, created the world in 6 days.

Hebrews 9:26

Hebrews 9:23-10:18 describes how Christ, in contrast to the perpetual Old Testament sacrifices that could never completely remove sin, willingly sacrificed himself once and for all to completely provide forgiveness for sin. Hebrews 9:25-26 focuses on the single occurrence (ἅπαξ) of Christ's sacrifice in contrast to the annual entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies. The emphasis falls on the fact that Christ is not exactly like the earthly high priests. If he were, he would have had to offer himself repeatedly 'since the foundation of the world' (ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου; cf. 4:3). Attridge (1989:264) rightly says that his note 'simply emphasizes the absurdity of the proposition'.

Consequently, the reference to creation in 9:26 is not of special interest for this article. It does, however, confirm by way of analogy the writer's conviction that creation had a definite beginning.

Conclusion

The results of this exegetical study confirm that the writer of Hebrews indeed had the conviction that God created by his word. In 11:3 he states that he and his hearers have the mental perception given by and grounded on faith that God, as recorded in Genesis 1, created the spatial world by his performative words of creation. In 1:2 and 1:10-12 the writer's conviction is expounded: he views the Son as God's agent of creation; God created through his Son. Consequently, the writer's conviction of creation can be summarised as follows:

The writer of Hebrews was convinced that the Son was the agent of the creation of the spatial world and periods of time (1:2) that came to be by God's performative word (11:3).

 

Does God preserve creation by his word? Hebrews 1:3

The second hypothesis that has to be investigated for the purposes of this article is whether the writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God preserves creation by his word. This is implied in Hebrews 1:3:

He [the Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

As with the exegesis of 11:3, the exegesis of 1:3 will start broad by determining the place of the verse within the sermon, followed up by a brief thought structure analysis of the pericope it forms part of. From this broad investigation, the focus will shift to a detailed analysis of 1:3.

The place of Hebrews 1:3 within the sermon

There is consensus amongst modern scholars that Hebrews 1:1-4 forms the introduction or exordium of the sermon. This pericope is distinguished from 1:5-14, which, by means of a comparison between the Son and the angels, emphasises the Son's supremacy. Consequently, the place that 1:1-4 occupies within the sermon is easily determinable: it is the first words of Hebrews, and as such, it immediately and emphatically attracts the attention of the hearers.

A thought structure analysis of Hebrews 1:1-4

As stated earlier, Hebrews 1:1-4 can be divided into two parts: 1:1-2a and 1:2b-4. The latter gives seven descriptions of who the Son is, and why God could reveal himself superiorly in him. The phrase φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ is the fourth description in the series.

For the purpose of this study, it is sufficient to note that the phrase under investigation is one of the phrases that describe the supremacy of the Son.

The text critical note at Hebrews 1:3

Unlike the text of Hebrews 11:3, the text of Hebrews 1:3 contains a text critical note in the UBS5 edition of the Greek New Testament. The phrase τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν has a {B} level of certainty, which means that the editors are almost certain of the reading. However, because the phrase τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ is part of the main clause under investigation, the text critical note needs to be investigated (Table 1).

 

 

Variant reading #2 can be attributed to conflation between the UBS5 reading and variant reading #1. As such, more attention should be given to the first variant reading.

It is noteworthy that variant reading #1 enjoys the support of the early P46. However, Metzger (1994:592) argues convincingly that διʼ αὐτοῦ or διʼ ἑαυτοῦ was probably added later to emphasise the middle voice of the ambiguous ποιησάμενος. The addition of these words confirms Christ's self-sacrifice (cf. Attridge 1989:35; Allen 2010a:124; Ellingworth 1993:101; Lane 1991a:5). It is less likely that διʼ αὐτοῦ or διʼ ἑαυτοῦ was originally part of 1:3 and was accidentally deleted by good representatives of the Alexandrian text (א A B 33 81) and Western sources (it81 vg).

In my view, it is therefore best to follow the UBS5 reading.

A syntactical analysis of Hebrews 1:3

A detailed analysis of Hebrews 1:3 will greatly be helped by a syntactical analysis of the verse. The syntactical analysis of Hebrews 1:3 can visually be presented as in Figure 3.

The main sentence of 1:3-4 is ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, with the aorist indicative ἐκάθισεν indicating an act in the past. This main clause is preceded by three clauses: the first (ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ) and second clause (φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ) are joined by the conjunction τε, indicating the close relationship between them.9 In near hymnal fashion,10 these two phrases describe the eternity of the Son, specifically his eternal status and his eternal activity. Consequently, both present participles (ὢν and φέρων) indicate timeless actions (cf. Ellingworth 1993:98; Mackie 2008:446).11 The aorist participium (ποιησάμενος) of the third clause (καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος) indicates a once-off, prior action.

Within the phrase τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, the genitive τῆς δυνάμεως is a genitive of quality, namely, a Hebraism where the genitive functions as an adjective (cf. Black 1987:190; Blass & Debrunner 1961:§165; Cockerill 2012:95). Consequently, instead of translating the phrase as 'by the word of his power', it is better to translate it as 'by his powerful word'.

A semantic analysis of Hebrews 1:3

In order to confirm whether the writer had the conviction that God preserves creation by his word, semantic analysis must be done of the phrase φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ. The verb φέρω should receive special attention because it gives rise to the interpretation that God preserves creation.

Φέρω has entries covering a number of pages in Greek dictionaries: LSJ (1996:1922-1924), Louw and Nida (1996:256) and BDAG (2000:1051-1052) each list 10 or more possibilities for the meaning of the verb. The most common use of φέρω is to refer to the act of carrying or bringing something from one place to another. Other general semantic applications of φέρω are to guide or lead something or someone, or to endure or tolerate something or someone. According to major dictionaries, however, the use of φέρω in 1:3 is less common: it refers to the act of 'sustaining' or 'maintaining' (BDAG 2000:1052; L&N 13.35; TDNT 1976:9:59). Not only does the context support this interpretation but it also elaborates on how the reader should understand the reference to 'everything': τὰ πάντα in 1:3 is joined with τοὺς αἰῶνας in 1:2; it refers to 'all things' of the spatial world and periods (Moffatt 1924:5; Thompson 2008:34). The phrase φέρων τὰ πάντα therefore states that the Son maintains everything in the universe.

However, scholars are quick to warn that one should not think that the Son carries the dead weight of the world on his shoulders like Atlas carries the heavens in Greek mythology. The nuance of φέρω is not static at all, but dynamic: the Son sustains the universe in his providence and leads it forward on its determined course to the consummation (Bruce 1990:49; Cockerill 2012:95; Allen 2010a:122; Hughes 1977:45; MacLeod 2005:222-223).

The remaining τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ explains how the Son sustains everything in the universe: he sustains it by his powerful (sovereign), preserving word (Wider 1997:49). Strictly speaking, the writer could merely have stated that the Son preserves everything in the universe (φέρων τε τὰ πάντα); the addition of how he does it (τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ) was not necessary. It seems that the writer deliberately added this description to unite the pericope (Allen 2010a:123): God spoke in his Son (1:1-2a); the Son was the agent of creation that came about through God's speech (1:2b; cf. Gen 1); now the Son maintains the universe by his powerful word (1:3b).12

But what does the Son's powerful word refer to? Most commentators are silent on the matter. While most interpret 1:3b as a reference to Christ's sustaining activity, only a handful give a closer description of what the Son's 'word' refers to. The most convincing interpretation is that it refers to 'the expression of his will' (Hughes 1977:46) or 'the enactment of his will' (Webster 2009:89). The Son sustains everything in the universe by his will.

The emphasis, however, does not fall on ῥῆμα, but on the genitive of quality τῆς δυνάμεως. The Son sustains everything by his powerful word or will. His word or will is 'divinely potent and effective' (Webster 2009:89). What he says or wants, is done. Or as Kistemaker (1984:30) aptly puts it, he carries all things 'by a mere utterance'.13

When everything is taken into account, the phrase φέρων τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ refers to the Son's preservation of everything in the universe through his powerful word. This means that the exordium of Hebrews not only highlights that the Son was God's agent of creation (1:2b) but also emphasises that the Son sustains everything in creation (1:3b).14 Or to state it differently: the Son is not only Creator but also Sustainer (cf. Hughes 1977:46; Kistemaker 1984:30; MacLeod 2005:223). Moreover, the fact that φέρων is a present participle indicates that the Son's maintenance of creation is an ongoing activity (Meier 1985:182-183). Hebrews 1:3 describes 'the ongoing sustaining activity of the agent of creation' (Attridge 1989:45).

Other references to God's preservation of creation in Hebrews

Unlike references to God's creation and God's consummation of creation, there are no explicit or implicit references to God's preservation of creation in Hebrews apart from 1:3.

Conclusion

Exegesis of Hebrews 1:3 confirms that the writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God sustains creation by his word. More specifically:

The writer was convinced that the Son continually sustains everything in the universe by his powerful word.

 

Will God consummate creation by his word? Hebrews 12:26

Introduction

Up to this point exegesis has shown that the writer of Hebrews was convinced that the Son was the agent of the creation of the spatial world and periods (1:2) that came to be by God's performative word (11:3; cf. Gen 1) and that the Son continually sustains everything in the universe by his powerful word (1:3). It remains to be seen whether the writer had the conviction that God will consummate creation by his word. This is possibly implied in Hebrews 12:26:

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens'.

As stated in the introduction, although Hebrews 12:26 does not contain a reference to God's word (ῥῆμα), but to his voice (φωνή), the synonymous nature of ῥῆμα and φωνή justifies an investigation of Hebrews 12:26 for the possible conviction of God consummating creation by his word.

A thought structure analysis of Hebrews 12:14-29

As with exegesis of 11:3 and 1:3, exegesis of 12:26 should start broad. Hebrews 12:26 forms part of the longer and complex pericope 12:14-29. Because the current investigation focuses on the question whether 12:26 refers to God consummating creation by his word, it is sufficient to give a thought structure analysis of 12:14-29 before focusing on specific questions regarding 12:26.

A thought structure analysis of Hebrews 12:14-29 can visually be presented as in Figure 4.

The writer of Hebrews follows up his encouragement to faithfulness by means of the example list of 11:1-40 by exhorting his hearers in 12:1-13 to persevere in trials as Jesus did. In the very next pericope, namely 12:14-29, he brings his call for perseverance to a climax. Closer examination reveals that 12:14-29 can be divided into three subsections, namely 12:14-17, 12:18-24 and 12:25-29 (cf. Coetsee 2015:2):

  • 12:14-17 forms the introduction of the whole. From the general exhortation to pursue peace and sanctification follows a threefold exhortation for each member of the community to continually be vigilant and protect one another in the face of possible apostasy. The unity of 12:14-17 is seen in the threefold repetition of μή τις.

  • 12:18-24 consists of two, semi-symmetrical, contrasting periods, namely 12:18-21 and 12:22-24, each containing seven and eight datives of destination, respectively. In essence, the two periods compare God's revelation at Sinai with his revelation under the new covenant. God's revelation at Sinai is described in such a way that it evokes fear and judgement, resulting in the idea that God cannot be approached. On the other hand, God's revelation under the new covenant is described in terms of joy and mercy, resulting in the encouragement to approach God through Jesus (cf. Cockerill 2012:646-651). This contrast is beautifully indicated by the contrast made by οὐ γὰρ προσεληλύθατε (12:18) and ἀλλὰ προσεληλύθατε (12:22).

  • 12:25-29 is seen by many as the fifth and final warning passage in Hebrews (cf. Guthrie 1994:133). Arguing from the hearers' superior situation as sketched in 12:18-24, the writer exhorts them to greater obedience to God's voice. He warns them in the most serious terms not to reject God who speaks from heaven, amongst others because he will (in words quoted from Hag 2:6) once more shake the heaven and the earth.

As a whole, 12:14-29 is a warning against apostasy in the light of the hearers' beneficial situation under the new covenant. In the light of this, the descriptive title 'Make sure you do not reject him who speaks more superiorly to you under the new covenant' can be given to 12:14-29.

Because 12:26 forms part of 12:25-29, more detailed analysis of the thought structure of these verses is necessary. The main clause is found right at the beginning in 12:25a: Βλέπετε μὴ παραιτήσησθε τὸν λαλοῦντα, which can be translated as 'Continually see to it that you do not refuse to listen to him [God] who is speaking at this present moment'. The writer exhorts his hearers to listen to God's superior revelation in his Son. The reason for this exhortation is given in 12:25b, which is introduced by the conjunction γάρ. This reason is made up of a factual condition (εἰ + indicative) that consists of a qal wahomêr argument,15 in which the writer explains the hearers' greater responsibility to respond appropriately to God's superior revelation through his Son. This is followed up by an implicit call to obedient endurance in the light of the future. The writer quotes Haggai 2:6 in 12:26, and explains his application of this quotation in 12:27. This is followed up by the strong inferential conjunction διό in 12:28, with which the writer introduces his explicit call to a grateful reaction, which he motivates with a climactic warning in 12:29.

Consequently, the best way forward to determine whether 12:26 indeed reveals the writer's conviction of God consummating by his word, is to analyse the quotation and explanation of Haggai 2:6 in Hebrews 12:26-27.

An analysis of the quotation and explanation of Haggai 2:6 in Hebrews 12:26-27

In its original Old Testament context, Haggai 2:6 forms part of Haggai 2:1-9, which contains the prophet's second prophetic utterance. Haggai had the commission to motivate the exiles that returned from Babylonia to rebuild the temple. His spurring on resulted in the commencement of the rebuilding, but soon afterward their work faltered. According to Haggai 2, the people became distraught at the inferior sight of the new temple in comparison to the splendour of Solomon's temple (Hag 2:1-3). The Lord therefore encouraged them via his prophet to be strong and to continue with the work. He assured them that he is with them (Hag 2:4-5). Moreover, he assured them that he will provide the needed resources for the rebuilding by doing great things:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. (Hag 2:6-8)

This 'eschatological earthquake language' (Meyers & Meyers 1987:53) suggests that the Lord will shake the whole universe16 in the imminent future,17 just like he shook Mount Sinai when he gave the law (Taylor & Clendenen 2004:158; cf. Keil & Delitzsch 1954:191) (2:6), which will result in financial assistance from the nations (2:7-8). The shaking of nature will be the catalyst to get the nations to supply the necessary resources for the rebuilding of the temple. All this will result in the splendour of the temple being greater than the former (2:9).18

Turning to Hebrews 12:26 with Haggai 2:6's original context in mind, the writer's argument becomes clear. The introductory formula is οὗ φωνὴ τὴν γῆν ἐσάλευσεν τότε, νῦν δὲ ἐπήγγελται λέγων. The formula contains a contrast in time: 'then' (τότε) is played off against 'now' (νῦν). In fact, Attridge (1989:380) correctly states that the whole introductory formula forms a chiasm. This can be illustrated as in Figure 5.

 

 

The verb of the 'then' part of the introductory formula is σαλεύω. It usually refers to the action of causing something to move back and forth rapidly, namely 'to shake' (L&N 16.7). The fact that σαλεύω is used together with τὴν γῆν in Hebrews 12:26 suggests the literal use of the word, specifically in the form of an earthquake. This earthquake happened in the past and was brought about by 'his voice'. The immediate context of 12:18-21 recalls the natural phenomena of the theophany at Mount Sinai, which included 'the sound of [God's] words' (Heb 12:19; cf. Dt 4:12) and an earthquake (Ex 19:18).19 Consequently, the 'then' part of the formula can be explained as a reference to God's theophany at Sinai.

The 'now' part of the introduction formula revolves around the verb ἐπαγγέλλομαι,20 which refers to the act of making a promise (L&N 33.286). God is still the subject. The perfect tense of ἐπήγγελται indicates that what God has promised in the past still has consequences for the present. His promise in the words of Haggai 2:6 has not yet been fully fulfilled. The promise is still in force. The use of 'now' (νῦν) in the introductory formula indicates that the hearers are presently being addressed with these words by God. Moreover, the use of 'now' links the promise with the immediate context of 12:22-24, which describes the hearers' advantageous situation under the new covenant. Consequently, the 'now' part of the formula can be explained as a reference to God's revelation through his Son.

In short, the introduction formula can be paraphrased as follows:

In the past, God's voice shook the earth at Sinai but now, through his Son, the following promise remains in force (author's own paraphrase)

The quotation of Haggai 2:6 that follows is taken from the LXX,21 which reads as follows:

διότι τάδε λέγει κύριος παντοκράτωρ Ἔτι ἅπαξ ἐγὼ σείσω τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ τὴν ξηράν. [Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty says: Yet once more I will shake the heaven and the earth and the sea and the dry land.]

The writer quotes this verse as follows in 12:26b:

Ἔτι ἅπαξ ἐγὼ σείσω οὐ μόνον τὴν γῆν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸν οὐρανόν.

[Yet once more22 I will shake23 not only the earth but also the heavens.]

The differences between the LXX-text and the quoted words found in Hebrews are striking. The writer deletes the reference to 'the sea and dry land', changes the word order of 'heaven' and 'earth' and places them in contrast to one another (οὐ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ). With these changes, the writer loosens Haggai 2:6 from its Old Testament context of the restoration of the temple and makes the eschatological interpretation more explicit and final. His argument is that God will someday ('once more') not only shake the earth as he shook it at Sinai, but he will shake both the earth and the heavens at the future and final eschatological day of judgement (cf. Cockerill 2012:666; Laansma 2008:9-18; TDNT 1976:7:70).

This interpretation is supported by 12:27, where the writer links the events that will happen 'once more' with the removal of 'things that have been made', resulting in the remaining of 'the things that cannot be shaken', namely God's kingdom (12:28).

At the end of the day, the writer's argument is quite simple: The eschatological shake of heaven and earth at the return of Christ and the consummation of all things will be far worse than the mere earthquake at Sinai (cf. 12:18-21). His hearers should therefore be grateful, devoted to God and vigilant, persevering in faith (12:28-29).

With all the above as background, we can return to the main question of this section: Does 12:26 say that God will consummate by his word? It does not seem so. The introductory formula in 12:26a does not lead one to understand God's voice as the instrument through which the visible heavens and earth will be shaken.24 The argument of 12:25-29 is not so much that God will consummate by his voice, but because of his voice. Because he promised that he will once more shake the earth and the heavens, the hearers can be sure that it will be so.

A comparison with other references to consummation in Hebrews

The only other explicit reference to the consummation in Hebrews is found in 1:10-12. As argued above, Hebrews 1:5-14 contains seven quotations from the Old Testament with which the writer argues for the Son's supremacy over the angels. In Hebrews 1:10-12, the writer quotes Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX 101:26-28). The words contrast the Lord's eternality (Creator) with the creation's temporality:

You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.

What is once more of special interest here is the fact that the writer quotes these specific words in such a manner that God says the specific words of Psalm 102 to his Son. Accordingly, Hebrews 1:10-12 proclaims the Son not only as Creator but also as Consummator: he will 'roll up' (ἑλίσσω) the earth and the heavens (which is a merism for the universe) and by implication he will cause them to be 'changed' (ἀλλάσσω). Once more the emphasis falls on the sovereignty of the Son, as Cockerill (2012:114) aptly puts it: 'It will be no harder for the Son to remove this creation than for a human to fold up a coat or a blanket'.

Although these words do not mention the Son's word or voice at consummation, it is striking to note that Hebrews ascribes certain roles to the Son that is usually ascribed to God in Scripture. The Son is not only God's agent of creation (1:2,10) and the one sustaining the universe by his powerful word (1:3), but he is also the one who will consummate everything (1:12).

Conclusion

The writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God will consummate creation at Christ's return, which will be accompanied by the final eschatological day of judgement (12:25-29). More specifically, Hebrews 1 reveals that the writer was convinced that the Son will consummate everything (1:10-12). However, this exegetical study could not prove that the writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God or Christ will consummate by his word.

 

Creation, preservation and consummation in Hebrews

This article set out to determine whether the writer of Hebrews had the conviction that God created by his word, preserves creation by his word and will consummate creation by his word. While exegesis of Hebrews 11:3 and 1:3 could confirm that the writer indeed had the conviction that God created and sustains creation by his word, exegesis of Hebrews 12:26 suggests the writer believed that God will consummate creation because of his word. His overall conviction regarding creation, preservation and consummation revolves around the Son and can be summarised as follows:

The Son was the agent of the creation of the spatial world and periods of time (1:2) that came to be by God's performative word (11:3); he continually sustains everything in the universe by his powerful word (1:3); and he will consummate everything (1:10-12) at his return as promised by God in Scripture (12:26). (author's own summary)

 

Acknowledgements

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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Hughes, P.E., 1977, A commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Janse van Rensburg, J.J., 1980, 'Die ontleding van sintaktiese struktuur in die Griekste Nuwe Testament: Die ontwerp van 'n metode, geïllustreer met Romeine 8: 'n hermeneutiese studie', PhD dissertation, PU for CHE, Potchefstroom.         [ Links ]

Keil, C.F. & Delitzsch, F., 1954, The Twelve Minor prophets, vol. II, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Kistemaker, S.J., 1984, Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. New Testament Commentary, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Kittel, G. & Friedrich, G. (eds.), 1976, Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vols. 1-10, Translator and editor G.W. Bromiley, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Koester, C.R., 2001, Hebrews: A new translation with introduction and commentary. The Anchor Bible, vol. 36, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.         [ Links ]

Laansma, J., 2008, 'Hidden stories in Hebrews: Cosmology and theology', in R. Bauckman, T. Hart, N. MacDonanld & D. Driver (eds.), A cloud of witnesses: The theology of Hebrews in its ancient contexts, pp. 9-18, T&T Clark, London.         [ Links ]

Lane, W.L., 1991a, Hebrews 1-8: Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 47A, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.         [ Links ]

Lane, W.L., 1991b, Hebrews 9-13: Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 47B, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.         [ Links ]

Lewicki, T., 2004, "Weist nicht ab den Sprechenden!": Wort Gottes und Paraklese im Hebräerbrief, Paderbornes theologische Studien 41, Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn.         [ Links ]

Liddell, H.G., Scott, R. & Jones, H.S., 1996, A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th edn., with revised supplement, Clarendon Press, Oxford.         [ Links ]

Louw, J.P. & Nida, E.A. (eds.), 1996, Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament based on semantic domains, 2nd edn., vols. 1 & 2, United Bible Societies, New York.         [ Links ]

MacArthur, J.F., 2007, Hebrews: Christ - Perfect Sacrifice, Perfect Priest, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.         [ Links ]

Mackie, S.D., 2008, 'Confession of the Son of God in the exordium of Hebrews', Journal for the Study of the New Testament 30(4), 437-453.         [ Links ]

MacLeod, D.J., 2005, 'The finality of Christ: An Exposition of Hebrews 1:1-4', Bibliotheca Sacra 162, 210-230.         [ Links ]

Meier, J.P., 1985, 'Structure and Theology in Heb 1:1-14', Biblica 66(2), 168-189.         [ Links ]

Metzger, B.M., 1994, A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edn., United Bible Societies, London.         [ Links ]

Meyers, C.L. & Meyers, E.M., 1987, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, The Anchor Bible: A new translation with introduction and commentary, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York.         [ Links ]

Moffatt, J., 1924, A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews: The International Critical Commentary, T&T Clark, Edinburgh.         [ Links ]

Rascher, A., 2007, Schriftauslegung und Christologie im Hebräerbrief, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 153, De Gruyter, Berlin.         [ Links ]

Taylor, R.A. & Clendenen, E.R., 2004, Haggai, Malachi, The New American Commentary: An exegetical and theological exposition of Holy Scripture, vol. 21A, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN.         [ Links ]

Thompson, J.W., 2008, Hebrews: Paideia, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Verhoef, P.A., 1987, The books of Haggai and Malachi, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Webster, J., 2009, 'One who is Son: Theological reflections on the exordium to the Epistle to the Hebrews', in R. Bauckham, D.R. Driver, T.A. Hart & N. MacDonald (eds.), The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, pp. 69-94, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI.         [ Links ]

Wider, D., 1997, Theozentrik und Bekenntnis: Untersuchungen zur Theologie des Redens Gottes im Hebräerbrief, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 87, De Gruyter, Berlin.         [ Links ]

 

 

Correspondence:
Albert Coetsee
albert.coetsee@nwu.ac.za

Received: 06 Dec. 2017
Accepted: 10 May 2018
Published: 06 June 2018

 

 

1 . The most comprehensive studies are those of Wider (1997) and Lewicki (2004). Also see my (Afrikaans) doctoral dissertation: Coetsee (2014).
2 . Some scholars note this phenomenon in the passing (e.g. MacArthur 2007:7), while others allude to it (cf. Cockerill 2012:660-673).
3 . All English references to Scripture come from the English Standard Version.
4 . See the excellent studies of Cosby (1988) and Eisenbaum (1997).
5 . This visual exposition of the syntactical analysis of a pericope is based on the method developed by Janse van Rensburg (1980).
6 . Allen (2010b) says the following: If both 'world' and 'age' are legitimate renderings of
αἰών, and if a good case could be made for either possibility, perhaps the real problem with translating [Hebrews] 1.2c lies with the modern, or receiving language, rather than with the specific Greek word A more effective rendering, however, albeit one verging towards paraphrase, would be something akin to 'through whom he also created all times and space' (p. 151).
7 . Genesis 1:3,6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26. Cf. Psalm 33:6, 9 (LXX 32:6,9), Sirach 42:15, Wisdom 9:1 and John 1:3. It is highly unlikely that
ῥῆμα in 11:3 should be understood as a reference to Christ as λόγος in John 1:1 (cf. Bruce 1990:279; Koester 2001:473). That the first chapter of Genesis in the writer's mind is confirmed by the fact that the first three heroes of faith (Abel, Enoch and Noah) in Hebrews 11:4-7 come from consecutive chapters of Genesis (Gen 4-9).
8 . This exegetical technique is called gezerah shavah and is one of the seven hermeneutical principles traditionally attributed to Rabbi Hillel (Guthrie 2003:282).
9 . Moffatt (1924:lvi-lvii) rightly indicates that
χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ and τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ is a parallelism in sound. But there is a difference between the phrases: the first αὐτοῦ refers to God, and the second to the Son.
10 . Ebert (1992:175-176) gives a good explanation of why some scholars view Hebrews 1:3 as part of an ancient hymn. While the hymnal nature of 1:3 is clear, he argues that it is unlikely that the writer simply integrated an existing hymn.
11 . Allen (2010a:116) argues that
ὢν and φέρων should not be taken as timeless adverbial participia with ἐκάθισεν, but as adverbial participia of concession ('though') with ποιησάμενος. Although this is a possibility, one would expect clearer indications if concession was in the writer's mind.
12 . This links closely with Colossians 1:17, which says: 'And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together'. The whole universe holds together in the Son.
13 . Calvin's (1853:22) explanation of the implications of this phrase is striking: he argues that 'word' in 1:3 'means simply a nod
that Christ preserves the whole world by a nod only '.
14 . In my view, Cockerill (2012:95) goes too far by saying that 'The Son sustains the world by the same word through which it was created (compare 11:3)' (emphasis mine); so does Webster (2009:89): 'This powerful word is a reiteration and extension of the creative word which bestowed structure upon creation (11:3)' (emphasis mine). While the link between 1:3 and 11:3 is clear,
ῥῆμα in 1:3 cannot simply be equated with ῥῆμα in 11:3. The context of ῥῆμα should be taken into account when interpreting the meaning of the word in both 1:3 and 11:3.
15 . Qal wahômer, meaning 'light and heavy', is a rabbinic principle where that which applies in a lesser situation naturally also applies in a greater situation (cf. Guthrie 2003:283). It is also referred to as an a fortiori argument.
16 . Taylor and Clendenen (2004:158) explain that the double merism created by 'heaven and earth' and 'sea and dry land' indicates that nothing will be unaffected.
17 . The hiphil participle
מַרְעִישׁ is most probably a futurum instans (Verhoef 1987:102).
18 . This interpretation of Haggai 2:6-9 is strengthened by Haggai 2:21-22, in which the Lord comforts Zerubbabel that he will shake the heavens and the earth and overthrow kingdoms.
19 . As Cockerill (2012:664) indicates, the LXX text of Exodus 19:18 interestingly enough does not contain a reference to the shaking of the Mount Sinai. Nonetheless, the idea of the earthquake accompanying the theophany at Sinai was common, as expressed i.a. in Psalm 68:8 (67:9 LXX).
20 . The present participle
λέγω, used adverbially with ἐπήγγελται, can be viewed as a redundant or pleonastic participle which introduces direct speech (Blass & Debrunner 1961:§420). Like most introductory formulae in Hebrews, the words of Haggai 2:6 are introduced with a verb of saying with God as subject. For a thorough study of the theme of God's speech in Hebrews' introductory formulae, see Coetsee and Jordaan (2015).
21 . Although the writer's quotations do not conform to one version of the LXX (e.g. LXX or LXX), it is universally accepted that he used a version of the LXX (cf. Docherty 2009:140; Gheorghita 2003:25; Rascher 2007:14-22). Rahlfs' edition of the LXX is quoted above.
22 . The reference to the imminent 'in a little while' is not found in the LXX and is therefore not included by the writer of Hebrews.
23 . The verb used in both Haggai 2:6 and the quotation in Hebrews 12:26 is
σείω, not σαλεύω like in the introduction formula. Nonetheless, the two verbs are close synonyms, as indicated by the fact that they share the same entry in Louw and Nida (16.7; cf. BDAG 2000:918).
24 . 2 Peter 3:7 possibly implies that the heavens and earth will be consummated by the word of God. According to the verse, the heavens and earth are stored up for fire 'by the same word', namely God's words of creation in Genesis 1 (2 Pt 3:5). God's word is the power behind both creation and the final judgement (cf. Davids 2006:271).

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH

 

John Calvin as 'public theologian' in view of his 'Commentary on Seneca's de Clementia'

 

 

Wim A. Dreyer

Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa

 

 


ABSTRACT

During the 16th century, Europe underwent fundamental sociopolitical changes, which challenged theologians and the church to respond theologically. In light of the celebration of the Reformation (1517-2017) and the theme of this conference, this contribution presents Calvin as a 'public theologian'. To this purpose it is necessary to define 'public theology', describe the sociopolitical changes which challenged theologians during the 16th century, and lastly to focus on Calvin's contribution to the discourse. Because of the vast amount of material that is available, this contribution is limited to Calvin's first publication, his 'Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia'. Calvin's fundamental understanding of law and justice, as well as his theological engagement with sociopolitical issues, made him a public theologian par excellence. Calvin's legal training surfaced whenever he addressed the authorities, for instance, when pleading the case of persecuted Protestants. He had a fundamental understanding of issues such as justice and freedom. The rights, responsibilities and obligations of government and people should always remain in balance. Sociopolitical transformation, as experienced in South Africa during the last three decades, requires of theologians to engage theologically with relevant issues. In this, Calvin set a remarkable example.


 

 

Introduction

Since 1994, many conferences1 were hosted by various South African institutions on topics such as human rights, racism, poverty, social justice, social cohesion and Ubuntu. These conferences, as well as robust discourse in parliament and frequent media reports on corruption, raised questions on how theologians and the church should respond to sociopolitical challenges. The complexity of the situation often leads to superficial, hesitant and subdued ecclesial and theological response. This is far removed from the way theologians like Martin Luther and John Calvin responded to the sociopolitical transformation which swept across Europe during the 16th century. They not only responded theologically to issues such as justice (iustitia), fairness (aequitas), humanity (humanitas) and the common good (commune bonum), but also looked for ways and means to implement measures which were to the benefit of the poor and marginalised people (see Song 2012).

This does not mean that the transformation of society stood central in Calvin's theology, as is sometimes claimed. Calvin was cautious not to confuse the penultimate and ultimate realities with each other. However, it is not to be disputed that Calvin was existentially and theologically engaged with the sociopolitical changes which swept across Europe.

Looking at the history of the 16th century Reformation from the perspective of public theology, many theologians from that era (Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed) could be regarded as 'public theologians'. Bromell (2011) defines public theology as a critical reflection on faith and its implications for society. Furthermore, it employs relevant evidence and reasonable arguments to engage with competing claims and conflicting ideas in the public sphere. According to Bromell, a lecture in public theology is different from a sermon or public witness by a faith community. Public theology is not a direct expression of faith. It is a second-order reflection that thinks critically within a specific context about the sociopolitical implications of Christian faith. It focuses in particular on the ethical and political implications of religious self-understanding. Public theology is not an easy option for theologians who want to do something practical. It is a proper academic discipline which builds on a sound knowledge of philosophy as well as historical and systematic theology. Bromell (2011:5) concludes: 'What is public theology? Critical thinking, with others, about religious faith and public life'.

Mannion (2009:122) describes various definitions and approaches to public theology. He points out that there had always been public theology or 'theology in the public square'. Jesus Christ preached in public places and confronted the authorities (civil and religious) with their moral bankruptcy, explaining the values of the kingdom of God (Mannion 2009:128). This was continued during the early development of the Christian church (the best known example being the apostle Paul's discussion of a Christian's relation to the government and emperor in Rom 13). Augustine's City of God is a classic text, written in the context of a Roman Empire which was in decline, facing major political, social and moral collapse. During the Medieval and Reformation eras, there was a continual stream of theologians who struggled with questions of how faith should relate to evolving patterns of social and political change. These included theologians such as Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275), Marsillius of Padua (1275-1342), William of Ockham (1288-1348), Margery Kempe (1373-1438), Ignatius de Loyola (1491-1556) and Mary Ward (1585-1645), to name just a few.

Mannion (2009) writes:

The various waves of 'reformation' across Europe - from the figure of Johan Hus in Bohemia (c. 1372-1415) and the Hussites after him, to the later reformation movements - were charged with political tension and social implications from the outset and changed the political, social and of course the theological and ecclesiastical landscape forever Luther and Calvin sought to experiment with new forms of how religion should relate to wider society and to the 'public' and civic realm in particular. (p. 132)

The same point is made by Haight (2005:81) when he argues that during the Reformation, it became clear that the relationship between the church and society is forever dynamic and changing, resulting in a particular ecclesial identity. No church or religion ever functions or exists in isolation. Society influences the identity of the church and shape of faith, and vice versa religion also influences the identity of society.

Most would agree that public theology is social, political and practical in nature. Mannion (2009:122) is of the opinion that the 'best public theology involves theological hermeneutics in the service of moral, social and political praxis'. In public theology, questions of ethics, ecclesiology and being church with integrity is of constant importance. This was illustrated to the point during the 20th century in Nazi Germany, especially by theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth as well as the Barmen Declaration which became a classic text of public theology (Mannion 2009:137). The Belhar Confessioncould also be included in this line of classical texts.

During the last three decades, public theology has become so popular that it is impossible to give a complete overview (see Mannion 2009:126-132). It is enough to mention that it is an area of theology where one has to tread carefully to avoid the pitfalls of generalisation, lack of nuanced historical discourse, exclusivism, hypocrisy and a pessimistic world view. Public theology should celebrate life in its fullness.

Calvin discussed the relationship between the civil and spiritual realms in various publications, importantly Book IV of his Institutes. In light of the celebration of the Reformation (1517-2017), this contribution will focus primarily on Calvin's views on law and justice as articulated in his first publication, his Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia.

Calvin's fundamental understanding of law and justice, as well as his theological engagement with sociopolitical issues, made him a public theologian par excellence. If we agree that public theology is 'critical thinking about faith and public life' (Bromell) and 'theological hermeneutics in the service of moral, social and political praxis' (Mannion), Calvin could be regarded as a public theologian still relevant in the 21st century.

Contrary to some negative perceptions associated with Calvin's theology, Rodriguez (2008:119) is of the opinion that Calvin's theology could actually serve as a model for contemporary public theology because of his ability to relate issues of faith with the sociopolitical challenges of his time. Song (2012:4) is of the opinion that the Accra Confession (adopted by the 24th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Ghana 2004)2 could be regarded as a positive interpretation of Calvin's theology within a 21st century context of globalisation, a growing divide between rich and poor and the ecological crisis. In response to the Accra Confession, an international consultation was held in Geneva (2004) on the impact of Calvin's economic and social thought. The final statement, drafted by Elsie McKee and delivered by Edouard Dommen, is an indication that scholars are increasingly of the opinion that Calvin's theology is still relevant to contemporary sociopolitical issues.

The few textual examples from Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia presented in this contribution were chosen to illustrate how relevant Calvin's views still are and how it could assist theologians and churches to make a meaningful contribution to the discourse on rule of law, a constitutional state, the bill of rights and other legal issues which presents itself on a daily basis.

 

Context of the 16th century

Every new generation has to face a new world. This was true for Homo erectus and is still true for Homo digitalis of the 21st century (see Saxberg 2015). Looking at the history leading up to the 16th century Reformation, one is struck by the radical sociopolitical changes that took place and how common people, politicians, businessmen and theologians tried to deal with change.

Biéler ([1961] 2005:3-10) gives an overview of the transformation which swept across Europe since the beginning of the 13th century. The Turkish invasions, establishment of new trade routes, developments in ship building and waterways, growth of an artisan and merchant class in cities, the collapse of the feudal system, urbanisation, new farming methods, migrant labour and growing poverty were all part of the Medieval landscape. In 1315, Louis X freed all his serfs, because 'all men are equal'. The serfs received their freedom but were deprived of their livelihood because all of a sudden they lost their right to utilise land owned by the king.

The Hundred Years' War (1340-1453) had a major impact on Europe. The war destroyed the ancient structures of governance based on the inherited rights of the nobility. The war also created a stimulus for rising nationalisms, as exemplified by the story of Jeanne d'Arc (1412-1431). If war was not enough to decimate the population, the Black Death reduced whole cities to ghost towns and destroyed social structures. Rebellion and sedition brewed among the common people.

In these revolutionary circumstances, theologians responded in different ways. Some tried to enforce and strengthen existing ecclesial and social structures, and others believed that reform was necessary. Leading up to the Reformation, theologians like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus worked for the transformation of church and society (see Fudge 2010; Schaff 1915). Both of them were involved in political matters, based on the conviction that a Christian may not remain silent on issues such as justice, the welfare of fellow human beings and the common good. Wycliffe was highly critical of the powers of clergy in civil society as well as the church's enormous wealth and ownership of property (Wyclif [1384] 1904). The Council of Constance (1415) declared both heretics and ordered their writings to be destroyed. The Council further ordered Wycliffe's remains to be unearthed from consecrated ground and burnt. This order was executed in 1428. His ashes were strewn in the river Swift. Hus was burnt at the stake during the Council.

Jan Hus' publication De Ecclesia3 had a fundamental influence on Martin Luther, especially in his understanding of the church and civil authority. Next to the question of justification, the relation between spiritual and earthly matters became the second major theme in Luther's work (Bornkamm 1979:314). Even before 1517, in his lectures on Romans 13, he grappled with questions of ecclesial and civil government. He is of the opinion that civil authorities are responsible for maintenance of good order, without which the church will find it difficult to exist. With reference to Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, he argues that political authority comes from God and whoever resists authority is resisting the divine order of things (see Lohse 1995:167). In a letter to Melanchthon (dated 13 July 1521), he reflects on political matters and again expressed the opinion that all temporal power is granted by God and as such should be respected.4 Luther consistently distinguished between the two kingdoms and two regiments and between the kingdom of God governed by spiritual means and earthly kingdoms governed by laws of men.

On the contrary, Luther was confronted with the harsh realities of poverty and vast numbers of peasant farmers who were landless and had lost the opportunity to make a decent living. He himself was a descendent of a long line of peasant farmers, as was his son (Bornkamm 1979:322). In 1525, the 'Zwölf Artikel der schwäbischen Bauernschaft' appeared (Zahrnt 1983:134). The peasant farmers were ready to rise up against the authorities. They presented these articles to Luther to advise them, to which he responded with Ermahnung zum Frieden auf die zwölf Artikel der Baurnschaft in Schwaben.5

In this document, Luther maintains the fundamental respect for civil authority, and even more, he points out to the protesting farmers that they are mistaken in their understanding of both the kingdom of God and earthly kingdom, if they think they can use the gospel to justify political violence (Zahrnt 1983:135). He calls leaders who incite their followers to political violence and bloodshed 'false prophets who act violently under the pretence of Christian freedom', a clear reference to Thomas Müntzer, one of the leaders of the Radical Reformation (Bornkamm 1979:325). Thus, the title of the document: Ermahnung zum Frieden A call to peace.

Bornkamm (1979:323) points to three reasons why Luther rejected violent rebellion: (1) An armed rebellion would be destructive to the kingdom of God, the church of Christ and hamper the proclamation of the Word; (2) there will be unnecessary bloodshed and loss of life and (3) it would jeopardise the spiritual well-being of both the peasant farmers and those who would subject them by force. Luther opposed political violence not only from a theological perspective but also from a pastoral perspective. Luther was correct in his assessment of the looming danger and destruction of the Bauernkrieg. The Peasants' War of 1524-1525 involved 300 000 Central European peasant farmers, workers and artisans of whom almost 100 000 were slaughtered in battle or by execution. It was the largest general uprising of common people in the history of Europe. The peasants achieved none of their goals. Only the French Revolution (1789-1799) could compare in scope to the Bauernkrieg.

 

Calvin: A revolutionary and/or man of peace?

It was in such revolutionary and dangerous times that John Calvin entered the scene. The sociopolitical transformation of Europe since the 15th century loomed large and challenging before Calvin. Europe was embroiled in nothing less than a revolution that left nothing untouched. The 16th century Reformation was part of larger processes of transformation and the development of early modernity. It has often been debated whether the Reformation had been revolutionary in character (see Schulze 1985 for a discussion of R.M. Kingdon's views on the revolutionary character of the Reformation); whether the reformers merely responded to change or actually initiated transformation amidst the growing swell of discontent and civil strife.

In Calvin's case, it was not only general sociopolitical issues that demanded his attention but also the tension-filled relation between the church and council of Geneva. The interaction between church and government in Geneva contributed to a more nuanced articulation by Calvin, as well as a basic awareness of the difference between the temporal and eternal, between the spiritual and earthly realms and between God's righteousness and human law.

In the history of the 16th century, there were few better equipped and able to respond to the sociopolitical challenges of the time than Calvin (Allen 1961:49). Over the past century, a vast amount of literature had been published on topics relating to Calvin's social involvement, his understanding of church and government and the influence Calvin had on the development of modern democracy (see, for instance, Allen 1961; Bauer 1965; Biéler [1961] 2005; Bohatec 1937; De Visser 1926; Hancock 1989; Hopfl 1991; Witte 2007).

At the start of the 20th century, Max Weber (see discussion in Biéler [1961] 2005:423-430) proposed that Calvin and Protestants, in general, were fundamentally capitalist in their world view. The summum bonum was the acquisition of wealth through hard work and profit. Biéler (p. 437) rejects Weber's thesis by pointing out that Weber's analysis is focussed on samples centuries after Calvin, which might have had some Calvinistic origin but could not be equated to Calvin's own views. Even more, many of the early capitalist structures were already in place by the time Calvin appeared on the scene. As such, it is a mistake to identify Calvin as the father of capitalism. The same argument may be followed in the case of democracy and social welfare. By the time Calvin came to Geneva, democracy and the support of poor and sick people were already well established (see Innes 1983, Social concern in Calvin's Geneva). Through his life, Calvin participated actively and practically in various social issues but also reflected critically and articulated his views in terms of theological hermeneutics.

On the contrary, it is also important to note that Calvin not only reacted to sociopolitical issues but also in some instances initiated actions. According to Balserak (2013:160), one of the myths that surround Calvin is the view that Calvin was a man of order and peace who did not get involved in 'dirty politics'. This creates a strange dichotomous view of Calvin: His ideas were sometimes revolutionary, but the man himself was a man of order and peace. Although Calvin could by no means be described as a radical revolutionary, Balserak (2013:171) points out that Calvin trained and sent insurgents (pastors) into France even though it was against the law, supported secret cells of individuals who held views which were clearly seditious and supported an armed uprising against the French king. As the political situation changed, Calvin became more insistent that the lower magistrates not only had the right to resist tyranny, but actually had the duty to do that. This is articulated in the first edition of his Institutes(1536) where he makes the point that the magistrates had the duty to protect the people against tyranny (CO 1:248). It became much more prominent after Charles V crushed the Schmalkaldic League in the late 1540s and the Augsburg Interim of 1548 which he regarded as the work of Satan, especially in his sermons on the Old Testament prophets (Balserak 2013:169-170).

One could conclude that Calvin's context was one of change and sometimes terrifying dangers. He responded intellectually as well as in practical ways. The extent of his social engagement through publications is massive, covering thousands of pages published over three decades. As the sociopolitical events unfolded, Calvin adapted and in some instances became more radical in his views. After his death, this trend continued with the French Huguenots, especially after the Bartholomew Day Massacre in Paris in 1572.

 

Calvin's commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (1532)

Calvin's intellectual engagement with questions of justice, humanity and clemency is to be found from his very first publication, the Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (CO V/I)6,7 of 1532. At the time of its publication, Calvin was only 23 years old and living in Paris, pursuing his studies in Greek and Hebrew and reading Augustine's De Civitate Dei. He was a man of learning, who rapidly assimilated what he read with a strong desire to publish his own ideas (Ganoczy 1987:75). He returned to Paris after he completed his legal studies in Orlèans and Bourges. In 1528, he studied under Pierre de l'Estoile (Wendel 1978:23) who left an indelible impression on Calvin's mind and fundamentally influenced his understanding of justice and law.

During 1529, Calvin moved to Bourges where he studied under the famous Italian jurist, Andrea Alciati (1492-1550). The University of Bourges was founded by Louis XI in 1463 (Wendel 1978:24) to promote the rational grounds for the absolute monarchy (ius majestatis). Despite Alciati's elaborate and verbose theories on the absolute and divine power of kings, Calvin never accepted it. The classic riposte of Calvin to Absolutism is to be found in the phrase 'the people do not exist for the sake of the king, the king exists for the sake of the people' as formulated by Calvin's successor in Geneva, Beza ([1574] 1956).

Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia was published before he left the Roman Catholic Church to join the Reformation movement. It was only a year later, during 1533, that he converted to the reformation movement (see Dreyer 2014:3). In a technical sense, he wrote the Commentary not as a theologian but as a young aspiring scholar and typical French humanist lawyer (Allen 1961:49). Calvin clearly had an interest in sociopolitical issues, although there is no indication that he published his Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia in reaction to the persecutions by Francis I and Charles V (Wendel 1978:27), or in aid of some political agenda. At this time, Calvin was just a young humanist intellectual with the ability to reflect critically on fundamental issues concerning justice, humanity and the common good (Van Eck 1992:11-12).

But still the question remains: Why did he choose Seneca and why the De Clementia? There are several theories why Calvin chose to enter the academic discourse with such a publication (see overview in Hugo 1957:80-115). Some are of the opinion that Calvin was a typical humanist of the time who had to prove his superior intellect; some that Calvin had a predilection for Seneca's Stoic philosophy because of his own moralistic inclination; and some are of the opinion that Calvin responded to Erasmus's challenge to young academics with his negative attitude towards Seneca in his 1529 Basel edition of Seneca's works (see Hugo 1957:113). Was there more to Calvin's choice of material than a young academic's vanity to take on the great Erasmus and prove him wrong?

Hugo (1957:103) refers to the often quoted words of Calvin in a letter to his friend Daniel (22 April 1532) in which he expressed the hope that his publication could serve the common good (quod publico etiam bono forte cessurum sit). Hugo (as Wendel - see above) agrees with Kampschulte over Doumergue that this should not be interpreted as a veiled appeal to Francis I on behalf of Calvin's French compatriots in Paris who were persecuted because of their religious convictions. It should rather be understood as a hopeful dream that it might serve justice and the common good of the French public, which could also include the French Protestants whose trials and persecution Calvin had been quite aware of.8 Based on this, it seems that Calvin, even as a young academic, had been mindful of sociopolitical issues. Calvin's Commentary was more than 'self-promoting' and to 'demonstrate to the intellectual world his abilities as a classically trained scholar and jurist' (Blacketer 2009:181).

Hugo (1957:115) comes to the conclusion that Calvin chose Seneca for his entry into the academic world because he felt an affinity to Seneca's reasoning and views on justice, humanity and clemency. Seneca's description of the juridical relationship between the emperor (government) and his people gave Calvin a grip on the changes happening all around him and assisted the articulation of a Christian response.

 

Being human is to feel pity and compassion

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the author of De Clementia, had been appointed as tutor to the young Emperor Nero. During 55-56 AD, he wrote down some ideas as instruction to Nero, based on the Stoic principle of self-discipline and restraint. In chapters 4-6 of the second part of the De Clementia, Seneca makes the observation that in general people with a compassionate attitude are regarded as 'good' people. He is, however, not ad idem with such a view. He regarded it as 'weak' if someone, especially a king or a judge, would see somebody suffer and become troubled and agitated by the suffering, because it would blind such a person to wise and correct decisions. Practically, it means that a judge could be blinded by his compassion which might result in incorrect judgement and sentencing (CO V/I:156).9 Seneca paints an idealised picture of the wise and Stoic person: He should engage his fellowman in a kind manner, without being affected personally. He should distance himself from people and their suffering, without being unkind (Van Eck 1992:12-13).

In his Commentary, Calvin enters into debate with Seneca on various issues related to the concept of clemency. Calvin did not share Seneca's view that an unaffected and distant approach to suffering was the correct one. At times he contradicts Seneca (i.e. De Clementia I/XVII and II/VII), quoting from early Greek and Roman authors to substantiate his own views (see Backus 2003:17). Calvin writes in his Commentary CO V/I:154)10 that feeling compassion and pity are virtues even for a judge. Nobody could be regarded as a good person who is not compassionate. Calvin's argument (contra Seneca) is that the rational act of clemency (clementia) by a judge or king could not be dislocated from pity (misericordia), as if the rational process should not be influenced by emotions.

In his commentary on De Clementia I/III (CO V/I:41),11 Calvin agrees with Vopiscus that clemency is the greatest and most heroic virtue, a sign of true humanity (humanitas). Being human (humanus) implies a life of virtue; it has ethical implications, not the least being compassionate. For Calvin, reason and emotions are not mutually exclusive, in fact - it is what makes us human. We are human because we feel and reason. Being human and acting with humanity (humanitas) includes treating people with kindness, fairness and compassion (Van Eck 1992:7).

Calvin used arguments from various writers to strengthen his argument against the Stoic concept of the 'unmovable spirit' (Van Eck 1992:13). Calvin argues for a real involvement with people and their suffering, not only practically but also emotionally and intellectually. Seneca called emotions of pity a 'sickness of the soul' (CO V/I:155),12 while Calvin regarded it as fundamental to real clemency. He calls on Augustine13 to support his argument that compassion means nothing if we do not share the misery of others by helping them.

Another important aspect of Seneca's De Clementia is his understanding of humanitas, of a common humanity. Common humanity was not particular to Stoic philosophy, but an integral part of Greek philosophy since the time of Alexander the Great and the understanding of individuals as citizens of the world (kosmopolitès). Even slaves, the lowest stratum in ancient societies, should be regarded as part of one common humanity. In the De Clementia I/XVIII (CO V/I:118),14 Seneca points out that slaves should be treated in terms of what is equitable and right (aequi bonique), although by law masters had the right to punish slaves severely. In his commentary on this section, Calvin affirmed this notion with reference to Cicero, when he states 'est etiam erga infimum hominum genus servanda iustitia' [even the lowest of human race should be dealt with justly]. With reference to Budaeus, Calvin distinguished between the law, which could be applied harshly, and justice, where clemency and fairness could play a role. The important question is not so much about the laws, but about justice, equity and what is right. The Stoic understanding of humanitas found a permanent place in Calvin's theology. For Calvin, no human existence was possible without community, without being human for one another, without compassion and fellowship. In his later theological works, Calvin grounded the notion of a common humanity in terms of man created in the image of God (Van Eck 1992:14-15).

 

From Seneca commentator to theologian

One aspect of Calvin's theology which remained important was his understanding of natural law as well as the relationship between law and ethics (see Backus 2003:7-26; Bohatec 1934:3-93). Calvin's legal background stayed with him all his life, although it went through certain developments. Irena Backus' analysis of Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (Backus 2003:15-25) points to five recurring themes in Calvin's later theological works:

  • the importance of summum ius and aequitas

  • man as a social animal

  • the triple use of the law

  • relationships between head of household and its members

  • the respective functions of kings, tyrants and magistrates.

Backus (2003) agrees with Schreiner (1991) that:

the concept of one law of divine origin underlying all legislation was borrowed by the Romans from the Greeks and particularly from Stoic philosophy and eventually became commonplace in Roman legal theory and in Christian thought. (p. 8)

It was also part of Calvin's theology. He never developed a theology of natural law, but made it part of his doctrine on divine providence.

One example will suffice to illustrate why Calvin's Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia should not be dislocated from his later theological works, even though the way Calvin applied certain concepts changed with time. According to Backus (2003:16), Calvin imported the concept of summum ius into his Commentary (I/II) where he comments on Seneca's explanation that clemency could save the innocent from unjust punishment. In his later theological works, he places the summum ius in opposition to aequitas, especially when he speaks about divine justice. Backus formulates it as follows:

He (Calvin) thus defines God's justice in sermon 19 on Deuteronomy 4 as God's relinquishing His summum ius or His absolute rigor of judgment. If God wanted to apply His law in its full rigor, he argues, then there would be nothing to stop Him, and human beings would have no option but to carry it out. However, God knows that humans are incapable of carrying out his law to the letter, and he therefore moderates it by remitting their sins freely. The idea of God's relinquishing his right to judge with utmost severity constitutes a leitmotif in Calvin's works. (p. 8)

In other words: God does not judge humanity in terms of the summum ius, but in terms of aequitas. In Roman law, the term normally refers to justice, where justice is applied in a fair, equitable and humane manner in which extenuating circumstances are also considered. God takes it into consideration that man is incapable of perfect obedience to the law. In the same way, Calvin argues that no earthly judge should apply justice without aequitas and clementia.

 

Concluding remarks

Calvin's attention to both theology and law became a trademark of early Calvinism (Witte 2010:1). Theologians and jurists, in many 16th century communities, formed the backbone of local leadership. As reformed catechisms and confessions developed, so new charters of rights influenced by reformed theology appeared. As a theologian, Calvin remained a 'human rights lawyer', pleading the case of persecuted Protestants (Witte 2010:2). As in his Commentary on Seneca's De Clementia, he pleads in the first edition of his Institutes of Christian Religion (Calvin [1863] 1536, CO Vol. I/II:77)15 for gentleness and mercy for those persecuted, even Muslim believers. He pleads not only for freedom and clemency, but also responsible behaviour by the people. The rights, responsibilities and obligations of government and people should always remain in balance.

Bolt (2000) is of the opinion that:

Calvinism is noted for being a decidedly political kind of Christianity. To the degree that is permissible to speak of a 'central motif' of Calvinism, it would have to be a distinctly political metaphor, the sovereignty of God, with its concrete Biblical expression, the kingdom of God. (p. 205)

Concepts of justice differ from time to time and culture to culture. As Plato's Republic justice had been articulated in terms of divine law, natural law, social contract, utilitarian purposes, distributive justice, retributive justice and restorative justice. The South African Constitution and justice system makes provision for inter alia distributive and restorative justice.

To what extent are theologians able to enter a very technical and sophisticated discourse on justice and equity? Could they contribute appropriately and theologically? Many are of the opinion that theologians and the church should stay away from 'political' issues simply because theologians are not adequately equipped to enter into an academic debate on law, justice and sociopolitical issues. Abraham Kuyper was of the opinion that the church lacks the competence to make any substantial contribution to public policy (see Bolt 2000:207) Churches and theologians tend to become involved in contemporary issues in practical ways. When they do enter the public debate, their contributions are based more often than not on intuition rather than theological reflection or technical knowledge.

We should be careful to imagine a direct link between Calvin and modern democracy. On the one hand, there is no doubt that Calvin and the way he engaged sociopolitical issues had a fundamental effect on the development of modern democracy and political liberties. On the other hand, there is such a vast difference in contexts between Calvin and contemporary society that it is quite difficult to transplant ideas and terminology in a simplistic manner.

What is important, to my opinion, is to understand that reformed theology is intrinsically, almost genetically, predisposed to sociopolitical engagement. The fact that Calvin reflected on justice, law, human dignity, clemency and many more in a critical and theologically responsible manner makes him a 'public theologian', still relevant in the 21st century.

 

Acknowledgements

The author thanks Johannes a Lasco Institute, Emden, Germany for their assistance for this study.

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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Received: 07 Feb. 2018
Accepted: 03 May 2018
Published: 25 June 2018

 

 

Project Leader: Wim Dreyer
Project Number: 77370920
Project Description: This research is part of the project, 'Justice and Human Dignity. A Reformed perspective', directed by Dr Wim Dreyer, Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. Corresponding author: Wim Dreyer, wim.dreyer@up.ac.za
1. See, for instance, the World Social Science Forum 2015 held in Durban under the patronage of UNESCO (http://www.wssf2015.org/)
2. The text of the Accra Confession is to be found at http://wcrc.ch/accra/the-accra-confession
3. A translation of the De Ecclesia with introduction by D.S. Schaff (1915) can be found at http://lollardsociety.org/pdfs/Hus_De_Ecclesia.pdf
4. WA Br. 2 Nr. 418, pp. 356-361: 'Potestas a Deo est, et ordinationi Dei resistit, qui potestati resistit, et: 'minister Dei est'.
5. WA 18, pp. 291-334.
6. CO V/I: Calvin ([1866] 1532).
7. Translations of Latin texts follow Battles and Hugo (1969).
8. Just for interest sake, we should keep in mind that Calvin started his studies in Paris at the Collège de la Marche in August 1523, aged 14. In the same month (in Paris), an Augustinian monk with the name Jean Vallière was burnt at the stake because he supported the heretic Luthériennes (Balke 1977:15). Calvin had been exposed to persecution of Protestants from an early age.
9. Salustius in oratione Caesaris: Omnes homines qui de rebus dubiis consultant, ab odio, amicitia, ira atque misericordia vacuos esse decet. Haud facile animus verum providet, ubi ilia officiunt
Sallust, in Caesar's speech: It becomes all men, who deliberate on dubious matters, to be influenced neither by hatred, affection, anger, nor pity. The mind, when such feelings obstruct its view, cannot see what is right.
10. Illud sane nobis persuasum esse debet, et virtutem esse misericordiam, nec bonum hominem esse posse, qui non sit misericors, quidquid in suis umbris disputent otiosi isti sapientes: qui an sapientes sint nescio, ut verbis Plinii utar: homines certe non sunt. Hominis est enim affici dolore, sentire, resistere tamen, et solatia admittere, non solatiis non egere
Obviously we ought to be persuaded of the fact that pity is a virtue, and that he who feels no pity cannot be a good man - whatever these idle sages may discuss in their shady nooks. To use Pliny's words: I know not whether they are sages, but they certainly are not men. For it is man's nature to be affected by sorrow, to feel, yet to resist, and to accept comforting, not to go without it
11. Bene cohaeret orationis filum. In praecedentibus sic clementiam hominum naturae convenire disserebat, ut hominem non esse contenderet, qui non simul clementi esset ingenio, atque ad mansuetudinem propenso. Est enim clementia vere humanitas: cuius participem esse, nihil aliud est, quam esse hominem. Nunc quod propius est scopo, addit esse virtutem heroicam, sine qua imperare principes non possint: sicut Vopiscus ait, primam esse rerum dotem
The thread of the discourse holds together well. In what went before he so asserted that clemency agrees with the nature of men, that he would contend that man is not man who is not at the same time of a clement disposition and inclined to gentleness. For clemency is truly humaneness: to partake of which is nothing else than to be a man. Now because it is more proper to his purpose, he adds that it is a heroic virtue, without which princes cannot rule: just as Vopiscus says: The greatest of all gifts
12. Misericordia est aegritudo animi ob alienarum miseriarum specie: aut tristitia ex alienis malis concepta, quae accidere immerentibus credit
Pity is a sickness of the mind brought about by the sight of the distress of others, or sadness caused by the ills of others which it believes come undeservedly
13. Augustinus libro IX. de Civiate
Quid utem est, inquit, misericordia, nisi alienae miseriae in nostro corde compassio, qua utique si possumus, subvenire cogimur? Augustine Book IX of the De Civitate What then is pity, but a compassion in our hearts for another's misery, by which we are compelled to give whatever help we can
14. Servis imperare moderate, laus est: et in macipio cogitandum est, non quantum illud impune pati possit, sed quantum tibi permittat aequi bonique natura, quae parcere etiam captivis et pretio paratis iubet. Quanta iustius his iubet, tanto iustius hominibus liberis, ingenuis honestis, non ut mancipiis abuti, sed his quos gradu antecedas, quorumque tibi non tradita servitus, sed tutela
It is praiseworthy to use authority over slaves with moderation. Even in the case of a human chattel you should consider not how much he can be made to suffer without retaliating, but how much you are permitted to inflict by the principles of equity and right, which require that even captives and purchased slaves should be spared. With how much more justice do they require that free, freeborn, and reputable men should not be treated as mere chattels, but as those who, outstripped by you in rank, have been committed to your charge to be, not your slaves, but your wards
15.
debemus tamen contendere quibus possumus modis, sive exhortatione ac doctrina, sive clementia ac mansuetudine, sive nostris ad Deum precibus, ut ad meliorem frugem conversi, in societatem ac unitatem ecclesiae se recipiant. Neque ii modo sic tractandi sunt, sed Turcae quoque ac Saraceni, caeterique verae religionis hostes; tantum abest ut probandae sint rationes, quibus eos ad fidem nostram adigere multi hactenus moliti sunt, dum aqua et igni, communibusque elementis illis interdicunt, cum omnia illis humanitatis officia denegant, cum ferro et armis persequuntur We ought to strive by whatever means we can, whether by exhortation and teaching or by mercy and gentleness, or by our own prayers to God that they may turn to a more virtuous life and may return to the society and unity of the church. And not only are excommunicants to be so treated, but also Turks and Saracens, and other enemies of religion. Far be it from us to approve those methods by which many until now have tried to force them to our faith, when they forbid them the use of fire and water and the common elements, when they deny them to all offices of humanity, when they pursue them with sword and arms' (see translation in Witte 2010:3).

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