Search
  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
Pages
Social networking
Thursday
Nov082018

Should you do a PhD? Doing meaningful doctoral research - an introduction

This is a short introductory video to a series of videos that I am recording to answer basic questions that I frequently get asked in relation to Doctoral research. In these videos we focus on considering, and succeeding, at your Doctoral research. 
 

We will look at whether one should do doctoral studies. Should you do a PhD? How does one prepare a research proposal? What are some tips for successfully completing your doctoral dissertation / thesis? How do you prepare for your defense? And, what about publishing your PhD or parts of your research?

You can find all of these videos on http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post them there as they are ready. I have already recorded some and just need to edit and upload them.

Please note that these videos, and the views expressed in them, are my own and are not formally associated with the University of Stellenbosch, or the University of Gothenberg (where they were recorded).

Feel free to leave me a comment or a question at:
Twitter or instagram: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion or @digitaldion on Instagram
Find out more about my research and publications at: https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster

Thanks for watching! Please subscribe and share the videos.

 

Sunday
Oct282018

Pyrotheology - searching for certainty, and embracing our doubts

The Irish theologian, Peter Rollins, was part of a unique Church community in New York City called 'IconNYC'. If I understand it correctly, it was a year long experiment in Christian community that sought to consider the Christian journey, indeed the Christian community, in ways that held the tensions of doubts, uncertainties, and the realities of our struggles with belief.

Having some understanding of how the brain works, I realise how difficult it is for us, as human beings, to live with uncertainty. Our neuro-evolution has formed us to want patterns, to create certainty and predictability, for the sake of our survival. This can be seen in how we seek out communities of belonging that we understand (what in inter-group contact theory is called 'in-group' identity). We can understand how persons of a certain race, culture, economic class, religion, think and behave. So we seek sameness, and become afraid of difference. This leads to inter-group contact anxiety between the self and the other. It is not surprising to me that Americans want to build a wall, that European countries are trying to keep migrants out, and that racism and identity politics continue to thrive in South Africa. None of these things is just, right, or even desirable. Yet, we fall into the traps of self interest, and self protection. We are wired for it to a certain extent.

However, we soon find that even in the in-group there are differences. White protestant women in Chicago, IL see the world differently from white protestant men in Birmingham, AL. Not all South Africans see the world in the same way... You get the idea.

In my experience, the pursuit of certainty is painful, it is limiting, it binds us to our fears, instead of releasing us for freedom.

The 'IconNYC' community, and Peter Rollins' 'Pyrotheology' speak to me as I contemplate these issues. I am currently in Gothenburg in Sweden. Here I am the cultural, linguistic and geographical stranger (not to mention a stranger to the climate! I realised yesterday as it snowed, that my body was formed from the African soil, and baked in the African sun!) Yet, the difference, the strangeness, the doubts, can be OK. I can learn about others, and about myself. I can slow down and listen - paying a little more attention to unfamiliar people, places and experiences. And the difference becomes a gift. I don't have to collapse it into my world-view, or contain it in my understanding or experience. I can just participate, observe, experience, and know what I can.

It is a sacred experience. It reminds me that God is Swedish... And also African... And Asian... You get the idea? We are because of who God is. Our diversity is an expression of God's creativity.

Here is what Rollins had to say about uncertainties, doubts and pyrotheology:

 

The good news nestled in the heart of Christianity is not that which gives us certainty and satisfaction, but rather is that which helps us embrace our un-knowing, our doubts, and our dissatisfaction… Instead of seeking a burning bush, a place where God is, we will discover that every bush is burning, that everything is sacred and full of depth, if we only have eyes to see.
- Peter Rollins, Pyrotheology

If you have 3 minutes more, you may want to listen to him speaking about this in his wonderful Irish accent! See the video below, or at this link: https://youtu.be/gY-VITTf7k4

 

Thursday
Oct252018

#ThursdaysInBlack - towards a world without rape and violence for women

The sad reality is that women and girls continue to face the threats of physical and sexual violence as part of daily life. How is this possible in 2018?

The World Council of Churches started a campaign some years ago to bring awareness to this issue, it is called 'Thursdays in Black'. They encourage persons to wear black clothing on a Thursday, and if you have one, to wear a Thursdays in Black 'pin' (you will see an example in my little video). 

By doing so we show solidarity with women and girls, we commit ourselves to living in a different way, and we create some awareness and conversation around this crucial issue.

Please consider joining this movement at http://www.thursdaysinblack.co.za - this link will take you to the CABSA website. Here you can read about the history of this movement, get some resources and ideas, and even order your 'Thursdays in Black' pin.

There is one additional element that has emerged from persons commenting on the video - some people have asked me about the idea that men can also be feminists. Prof Nico Norman Koopman wrote a beautiful article addressing men on this issue. I am trying my best to be an ally to women. Some would say that when one embodies these values, even men can be feminists. See Nico Koopman's article here: http://scriptura.journals.ac.za/pub/a...

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Monday
Oct012018

Inviting applications for a PhD Bursary and Post Doctoral Fellowship in Scriptures, Religions, and Hermeneutics

Stellenbosch University is inviting applicants for a PhD Bursary and a Post Doctoral Fellowship in Scriptures, Religions, and Hermeneutics for 2019.

Area of PhD research project: 

Any topic related to the hermeneutical dynamics operative in the interpretation of the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The study must be situated in either Old Testament, New Testament, or Missiology/Religion Studies in the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University.

Background and Context:

A project is presently based at Stellenbosch University to investigate the viability and theoretical basis for establishing a Centre for the Interpretation of Authoritative Scriptures (in ancient and contemporary contexts) [shortly, CIAS] at the said university. The project is jointly funded for the period 2018-2020 by the National Research Foundation (NRF) as well as the office of the Vice-Rector (Research & Innovation) of Stellenbosch University. During 2018 some consultations were held to develop the theoretical basis for the proposed centre, and to establish contact with local South African and international scholars having an interest in the hermeneutics of the three scriptural traditions. During 2019 some pilot research projects (through a Master’s study, this PhD project, and a postdoctoral project) will be started, while the project team will continue developing the research and physical infrastructure for the proposed centre. The focus in the centre will eventually be on the academic analysis of the hermeneutical processes that brought about the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that facilitated their transmission processes and (in some cases) canonization, that regulated the history of interpretation in each tradition, and that determine contemporary interpretations of these scriptures in the South African society. This research wants to contribute to developing a hermeneutical basis for dialogue between the three traditions on the intepretation of their scriptures. As a further spin-off, the project could also contribute to social cohesion in South Africa, in contrast to social conflict. 

Please don’t contact me for details. I am just sharing the information. Please download and follow the instructions in the two documents linked below.

PhD Bursary: https://www.dropbox.com/s/j7jc18a7vv8tq1z/PhD%20Advert%202019%20Final.pdf?dl=0

 

Post Doctoral Fellowship: https://www.dropbox.com/s/i17d64l15b7j2b9/Postdoc%20Advert%202019%20Final.pdf?dl=0


Tuesday
Sep252018

Rediscovering Thomas Merton through the Paul Schrader film, 'First Reformed'

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope." - Thomas Merton

I am dwelling in the work of Thomas Merton at the moment. Listen to this:

"Do not think that you can show your love for Christ by hating those who seem to be His enemies on earth. Suppose they really do hate Him: nevertheless He loves them, and you cannot be united with Him unless you love them too…. Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage. Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels that you are afraid of him. And perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him he would no longer be your enemy. Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men." - Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

And this was my post on facebook on Heritage Day in South Africa (24 Septemeber 2018):

"Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts." - Thomas Merton

A blessed heritage day to all of my South African sisters and brothers. May we engage the very worst of our past with honesty, and the very best of our future with love.

I first started reading Merton when I was a graduate student in Theology at Rhodes University in the early 1990's. I was introduced to Merton's work by my friend and professor, Larry Kaufmann and by friends Kevin Snyman, George Marchinkowski.

This weekend I watched the excellent Paul Schrader film, 'First Reformed'. I highly recommend this film. My friend Robert Vosloo was the first persons to speak to me about this remarkable film. It is well worth watching. Merton's work runs through sections of the narrative.
So, I went back to my books and notes and have found a few very meaningful and powerful quotations that I have been sharing on facebook and twitter this weekend.

 

Sunday
Aug192018

Discussing theology, class, economics, and the labour movement with Prof Joerg Rieger in Oxford

In this video I have the joy of speaking with Prof Joerg Rieger, the Cal Turner Professor of Wesleyan Studies and Theology at Vanderbilt University.

Joerg is a great example of an engaged scholar who is deeply committed to justice and deep scholarship that serves communities for transformation, renewal and flourishing.

In this interview Joerg and I talk about a theology of justice, class, economics, gender, race and the task of organizing communities for change and transformation.

You can find out more about Joerg at: http://www.joergrieger.com

The books that we discuss in this interview are:

 

 

Thanks for watching!

As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video and feel free to re-post and share it.

You can follow me on: Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster

Sunday
Aug192018

Our strength is our diversity - Heartlines #WhatsYourStory - Beyond the River

This evening I arrived home from the UK and we watched the #Heartlines movie 'Beyond the river' as a family

It is such a powerful and moving reminder of the possibility and hope that exists in South Africa.

We face some very significant challenges. Yet, we can work for a better future for all South Africans. Our diversity is our strength. Thank you Garth Japhet and team for the amazing work you are doing. I am so grateful to be home, and grateful for this powerful initiative #WhatsYourStory

Watch the trailer for 'Beyond the river' here.

You can find out more about the 'What's your story?' campaign from 'Heartlines' here: https://heartlines.org.za/media-campaigns/whats-your-story/

Friday
Aug102018

Starting my first academic sabbatical at Oxford University

Today I depart for Oxford. This is the first in a series of academic and research visits that I will undertake during my sabbatical. I am so very grateful for this opportunity!
 
I will be researching and working on a new book (on the politics of forgiveness and the complexity of social identity). I will also be finalising various chapters for other books, editing two books for which I am a co-editor, and finalising some long overdue research articles for publication in scholarly journals.
 
In-between I will be teaching and speaking at various Universities in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. I am also presenting papers and lectures at a few conferences.
 
I don't take this opportunity for granted - it is a very rare privilege. What I do with this time, belongs to others. 
It belongs to my students and others who graciously and kindly read my work and engage my research. It belongs to colleagues who pick up my responsibilities so that I can have this time to read, reflect, write and grow - thank you! It belongs to the various communities of which I am a part (the church, our neighbourhood, and various organisations that I serve in society) who are giving me the freedom and support to be away. And of course it belongs to my precious family, Megie, Courtney and Liam, who I will miss immensely each time that I pack my bags!
The work that I do is not very important - it certainly is not more important than my family, the Church, my colleagues and students. However, it is the work that I am called to do, and so I will do my best! I will remain disciplined (while still having some fun!), be critical, creative and joyful as I go! And hopefully, I will get to see a few of you, my friends, along the way! So keep an eye on facebook, my twitter and instagram feeds (both are @digitaldion), any my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post various forms of content to each of these platforms as I go.
First up is the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies at Pembroke College Oxford. For the first time, this year, I will be participating as a New Testament Scholar in the Biblical Studies group. In previous years I have always participated in the Systematic Theology and Ethics group.
I will be presenting a paper based on research from my last book on the 'politics of forgiveness' among South African readers of Matthew 18.15-35 at Pembroke College, Oxford. 
Then, I will also be presenting the Fernley Hartley Trust lecture in Oxford for the Methodist Church of Britain on Friday 17 August 2018 at Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford at 17.00. See details for that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/216413309019437/
Wednesday
Aug082018

When the Bible is dangerous and when it brings life - An interview with Gerald West

The Bible is a source of great inspiration, encouragement and blessing for millions of people. However, for many persons, communities and contexts, it is also the source of great suffering and struggle. While the text and narratives of the books of the Bible can inspire, encourage, and bless, they can also be used to destroy, to deny, to harm and to support human rights abuses, the destruction of creation, and the perpetration of injustice.

Today’s VLOG is one of the most important I have done to date - it is a conversation with Prof Gerald West of the University of KwaZulu Natal, and the Ujamaa Centre for Biblical and Theological Community Development and Research. Gerald is widely regarded as the world leader in this field, and Ujamaa is considered the foremost centre of its kind. They not only pioneered the work of Contextual Bible Reading in South Africa, but Gerald, and the Ujamaa teams and the communities they have worked with, have served to help Christians, theologians, community workers, pastors and other interested parties, to engage the Biblical text with care and responsibility. Their work is a testimony to the importance of the Bible, and the necessity of doing careful, community based, and scholarly credible, readings of the Bible.

You can find out more about the work of the Ujamaa centre here, and as Gerald mentioned, there are a lot of free and helpful resources.

 

 

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/digitaldion
Web: http://www.dionforster.com
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster

Saturday
Jun022018

War and Peace: rediscovering the meaning of Mother’s Day

Did you know that on this day, June 2, 1872, Julia Ward Howe began the celebration of Mother’s Day as a holiday to honor mothers by working for an end to all war.

On that first Mother’s Day in 1872 she said:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.’ From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’ Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
These are deeply challenging words! I find them all the more challenging because of the context in which they were spoken - Mother’s Day. First, because women most often face the greatest suffering through the violence of war. Second, since we have forgotten, in our contemporary celebration of Mother’s Day, how this celebration began. I am grateful for the witness of Julia Ward, for Mother’s and Mother’s Day.

 

Sunday
May272018

When our borders betray our values

I find borders somewhat perplexing constructions. 

By this I mean not only the metal and concrete that separates people, but more so the mental constructions of separation. 

Before a wall is built someone envisions it in their mind. Their ability to build separation in thought stems from a set of values that assumes that they, and what they have or are, is worth protecting from ‘others’. 

This is not a Christian way to think - in my opinion. When I make points such as these, people often argue back that we need such constructions to protect ourselves from others who have ill intent. 

When such an argument is presented it displays that their horizon of values is the self and what they own, rather than the other and what they may need. Such arguments (which are pragmatically based on economic or political logic) betray where a person’s primary values lie. They also show a lack of historical consciousness - borders are fickle human constructions. We should never make the mistake of thinking that they have ontological significance. God does not care more for Europeans than Africans, or Mexicans than Americans, or the Israeli than the Palestinian.

I made a little video in which I discussed some of these points from the perspective of a ‘theory of justice’ as proposed by the philosopher John Rawls.

You can watch it here. https://youtu.be/KRzwK4hD31I

Monday
Apr022018

A politics of forgiveness in South Africa? Is forgiveness even possible?

In my new book 'The (im)possibility of forgiveness?' I present the complexity of notions of forgiveness in South Africa. South Africa's apartheid history (and current reality) is extremely traumatic. It continues to dehumanize the majority of the citizens of South Africa. 

I tend not to speak of a 'post-apartheid' South Africa since I feel that even though we live in a democratic dispensation where apartheid laws have been dealt with, the daily reality of most of our citizens is that apartheid is more entrenched than ever before. Except, now instead of it being primarily a political system in which an unjust state is the supposed enemy, it is a subtle economic system that is deeply entrenched in the social imagination. Some find it extremely difficult to imagine a South Africa in which no person has too much while another person does not even have enough to survive. The 'enemy' we now face is so seductive. It runs across racial and class barriers, seducing us into greater and greater sin. We want to own more possessions, gather more wealth, live in greater opulence, and experience so much more freedom and pleasure. And so, the rich grow richer, while the poor grow poorer.

It is primarily Black South Africans continue to be systematically oppressed through this unjust (economic) system, with unequal ownership of land, and the dominance of whiteness in social spaces and the media. If you want to hear more about my reasons for advocating against the use of 'post-apartheid' as a reasonable statement, or category of thought, then please watch this short video. Simply stated, if I were to claim that we live in a post-apartheid society it would not be true in relation to the daily experience of most of South Africa's citizens. Not only would it be a lie, but it would be a callous lie since it would deny the reality of hardship, suffering and pain that people experience every day.

Hence, while South Africa is closer to democracy (where citizens have the right have to rights), the reality is that politically and economically those rights remain out of reach for most. We are in 'most apartheid' South Africa. In this context, forgiveness becomes a deeply political concept.

Hence I ask, for what reason would White South Africans wish to be forgiven? Is it so that we can be set free from the guilt of our past, and the ongoing guilt of our present way of living? Nathan Trantaal speaks of the 'gif [poison] in vergifnis [forgiveness]'. Forgiveness can be a weapon that creates wounds. A White South African can seek it from a place of power and dominance - asking to be set free without having to face the consequences of our sin (economic sin, racial sin, social sin).

So, if we were to think about a polis in which forgiveness was not only a belief, but a reality, what would it look like? What would it take to get there? I am inspired by Miroslav Volf's idea in 'The end of memory'.

I am often asked when I speak about forgiveness, whether when we forgive, are we expected to forget? I think that forgetting altogether can be dangerous. However, what if we were to live for a world in which a memory of justice, reconciliation, mutual respect, the celebration of diversity, and true wholeness was what we remembered instead of our brokenness, enmity, greed, and fear? How would we need to start living today as a society, a polis, to make such a memory real in the future? This is what Stanley Hauerwas would call a political eschatology.

In this reality forgiveness cannot only be only as a spiritual or a theological reality. It must be concrete, it must be real. The content of true forgiveness should be experienced in a society of justice and grace.

However, it is also inadequate to think that once a political or economic 'transaction' has been enacted that forgiveness would have been achieved - the transactional view of forgiveness is as inadequate as the purely spiritual view.

Please don't missunderstand me - I firmly believe that we need a redistribution of land in South Africa, we need a transformation of our economy, and we must work for a reality in which the majority of our citizens benefit from the bounty and beauty of our land. However, when these necessary things are achieved, we will not yet be reconciled - forgiveness will not yet be achieved. These social, political and economic realities are not the 'end' of forgiveness (its fulfillment or achievement), no, they are the beginnings of forgiveness. Beyond the transaction we need something more, something gracious, something spiritual, something that is shaped by justice but achieved in grace.

I hope that you can see why this notion of forgiveness is such a complex concern? I long for us to be honest about the complexity of the politics of forgiveness in South Africa. It is only when we are willing to count the cost, and even more, to live with grace, that we can move beyond poisonous forgiveness to life giving, life affirming, and real forgiveness. A forgiveness that heals instead of harms.

Here is a copy of the Stellenbosch University Forum lecture that I gave on this topic in September 2017. I was honoured, and very grateful, to be invited by the University to deliver this lecture. The lecture was entitled 'The (im)possibility of forgiveness? Considering the complexities of religion, race and politics in South Africa'. The lecture has been reworked and will soon be published in a book on Religion, Violence and Reconciliation in Africa (published by SUN Media).

Here is a direct link to the youtube link below.