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  • 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.
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Friday
Sep232016

Why the 'loss of faith' in heroes like Mandela may not be such a bad thing

Ooops! The article has not yet been released on 'The Conversation' It is due to be published Monday 26 September 2016.

In the meantime you may find these two videos (related to Nelson Mandela, and the end of Civil Religion) interesting.

'Losing my religion (in Basel)'

Nelson Mandela and the Methodists - faith, fact and fallacy

Tuesday
Sep132016

Steve Biko and Black Consciousness - a lecture by Prof Barney Pityana

Today Prof Barney Pityana gave a superb lecture on Black Consciousness and the legacy of Steve Biko at Stellenbosch University.

He celebrated the contribution of Steve Biko who was murdered by the apartheid Security Police on 12 September 1977.

He did, however, remind us that Black Consciousness is an important discourse that has continued in the years since Biko's death. We need to understand that the discourse has developed and grown and even matured in recent decades. While this important movement is irrevocably linked to the legacy of Steve Biko, it is an ongoing movement that finds varied expressions and has developed in different (and at times even conflicting) ways.

A few years ago I came across this beautiful quote from Biko's "I write what I like" that is a strong expression of the contribution of Africa, and Black Africanness (or as some have rightly shown, Black Southern African thinking), to contemporary social identity:

"[Western society] seems to be very concerned with perfecting their technological know-how while losing out on their spiritual dimension. We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in this field of human relationship. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa - giving the world a more human face" (Biko 1978:46).

Prof Patyana will also be doing a keynote lecture at the Global Network for Public Theology - see details for that even here: http://www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/theology/bnc/programmes/gnpt-2016

Monday
Sep122016

For the sake of our salvation - We need to learn again...

I am currently reading John W de Gruchy's latest book 'Without Apology: Faith, Hope and Love in a time of doubt, despair and violence' (Methodist Publishing House, Cape Town, 2016).

It is a beautiful collection of reflections that John wrote and delivered at the Volmoed Chapel, at Volmoed in Hermanus where he and Isobel are residents. The tone of these reflections is so beautiful. I am accustomed to hear John speak - which is always an inspiration. And of course I have read his academic books for years. His way of thinking has shaped my own. However, this book seems more personal, I not only catch glimpses of his magnificent mind, his wit and charm, but also of his deep spirituality. I can see his love for Christ and for all those people and things that Christ loves so much. It is a wonderfully inspiring book to read!

This evening I came across this quote which I thought I would like to share with you:

In a time when we know how to make war, but cannot make peace; when we can land people on the moon but struggle to find space for refugees; when we can build skyscrapers, but cannot build good houses for the poor; when we can transplant hearts and kidneys, but cannot eradicate hunger; when we have much information, but little wisdom, we need to acknowledge how, despite all our knowledge we are acting like fools, and putting the world at risk. We need to learn again to fear the Lord and affirm our humanity as we respect that of others.

John de Gruchy, Without Apology, (2016:12)

You can read more of John's work on his blog, and you can get a copy of 'Without Apology' from here.

Thursday
Aug182016

John Mbiti and the de-colonization of African / Western knowledge systems - Stellenbosch University

Dr Henry Mbaya opening the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University (@theologystudents_maties on Instagram and @theologystel on Twitter) conference on De-colonising African/Western Knowledge systems conference by reflecting upon, and celebrating, the person and work of Prof John Mbiti.

Prof Mbiti spoke later in the day. Here is a video of him speaking about Africa, Christianity and the Bible.

Other contributors are Prof Rothney Tshaka (UNISA), Dr Ntozake Cezula (Stellenbosch), Dr Humphrey Waweru (Kenyatta), Prof Fidelis Nkomazana (Botswana), Dr Paddy Musana (Makerere), and student panels from North West University, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State, and Stellenbosch University.

These are important discussions in the current South African and broader African context. If you are interesting in reading a helpful perspective in the importance and complexity of this discourse please see this paper from Achile Mbembe:

 

Mbembe, A. 2015. Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive. Transcription of talk series.

 

 

Saturday
Aug062016

Fulfilling a commitment! Running a half marathon after 3 months of training

On the 24th of April 2016 I decided to start training to run a half marathon. This morning I did it; 21km in 2h29mins. It is not fast, but it was fun!

On the 15th of Ferbruary 2008 I had a very bad motorcycle accident in which I almost lost my left leg. After surgery and a few weeks in hospital, and almost 6 months on crutches, I thought I would never run again.

I had enjoyed running when I was in the military. But it was simply too painful after the accident. So, I took up ultra and multi-stage Mountain Bike races instead. That was fun, it kept me fit and it was low impact on my joints (particularly that left knee!) But, the challenge was that with the amount of traveling I do there are often extended periods where I cannot get on my bike. My friend Etienne has run 11 comrades ultra marathons (90km)! 8 of those were done after major back surgery! After talking to him I realised that my problem was less in my knee, and more in my head! With the right training, building strength and distance slowly, I could get back to running.

The result was my 'half a commitment' - a commitment to run a half marathon before the end of 2016. You can watch this video, see some pictures of my injury, and see my commitment to train.

https://youtu.be/zbj5ePaNJvw

I started with 5km runs three times a week, then two 5km runs and a 6km run. Then I did two 6km runs and a 7km run etc. Slowly my strength and confidence (and distances) grew. I did a 10km trail run with some friends, and then a 15km road race. In early July while on a research visit to Radboud University in Holland I ran my first 21km (on my own, and by accident! I got lost in a forest and ended up at 18km by the time I was home, so I did the extra 21km to round it up). It was awesome! I did a few more runs, and another 21km solo run towards the end of July before coming home to Cape Town.

You can watch this video to see what I ran and where I did it:

https://youtu.be/wz0u4e2F2fo

Today, was however the fulfillment of the commitment proper! I ran the PPC Riebeeck West Half Marathon with three friends. We did it on 2h29 minutes. It was a super run.

I am so grateful to be able to run, to have the fitness and strength to do it. I don't take that for granted!

Sunday
Jul172016

Losing our (civil) religion


South African pastor and bishop Peter Storey said, “American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth. You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnection between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people, and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good, but it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all.”

- from Common Prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (14 July)

This beautiful quote from my mentor, and former Bishop, ties in with what I tried to convey in this video 'Losing my religion in Basel'.

In this blog I travel by bike and train from Nijmegen in Holland to Basel in Switzerland. The purpose of the journey was to speak at the 12th international Bonhoeffer Conference.

My paper was on Bonhoeffer and Mandela: A conversation on Christian humanism and Christian witness.

The point of my paper is to make the argument that a political anthropology with very little faith conviction (like Mandela held) could not solve some of the complex challenges that the world (and South Africa in particular) faces. What is needed is a deeper, more significant change of persons to become truly human, and to relate to others as truly human - a condition that can only be brought about by ontological participation in the true humanity and divinity of Christ, as Bonhoeffer suggested. Bonhoeffer was deeply influenced by Patristic Eucharistic Christology - the concept of theosis suggests that God becomes human (in Christ) so that we can become more like God (or take on the character of God's nature) by participation in Christ. Thus, true humanity is to become like the true human - Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer, characterised this true human as 'a man for others'.

However, in relation to the quote above and this video, I also reflected on the role of civil religion in South Africa. Civil religion is a form of 'belief' in which our hopes, aspirations, and even faith, are placed in the nation state. North Korea has a very particular and overt form of civil religion. The United States also has a form of civil religion that can be witnessed in things such as the phrase 'God bless America', and the symbol of the nations flag which is displayed in religious buildings like Churches, or the phrase 'In God we trust' on the coinage. Robert Belah has suggested that Americans often are not sure of the distinctive elements of their faith (i.e., if they are Christian that their salvation comes through Christ, that their belief is in a tri-une God etc.) rather they have a vague notion of belief in something that transcends them, and often it is a civic belief - a belief in the 'saving power' of their collective national identity. Patriotism replaces religious conviction, even to the point of the ultimate human sacrifice, namely, the willingness to offer up their lives for the sake of the nation.

In this video I suggest that South Africa was not immune to this civil religion. At the start of the new South African democracy there was such hope and optimism in the new South Africa. Nelson Mandela was naively regarded as a ‘Messiah’ that would lead the people to salvation. Desmond Tutu, was regarded as the high priest of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ who gave religious credence to the new hopes and beliefs of the people. The South African constitution was held in awe by many as a type of sacred ‘text' for transformation that gave the guidelines and inspiration for our new humanity. Whereas the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) served as a ‘liturgical moment’ for this civil religion - many hoped that this moment would usher in, or inaugurate, true and lasting change.

Sadly, such misguided belief gives over our responsibility and the possibility for true and significant change to historical persons, events and processes that cannot realise it. I suggest that this idolatry is a form of civil religion that we would be wise to leave behind. The political dispensation of the Nation and civil society cannot truly transform and renew citizens and society. Indeed, neither can 'religion' as a social construction. What I contend is that we need active citizens who are renewed in heart and mind, and who work sacrificially, tirelessly and in the character of the true human - Jesus Christ - for the renewal of humanity and society.

It is not that the state and the political dispenstation are unimportant, they are. However, they are not be 'believed' in. These structures are there to protect our rights and freedoms. Our true humanity, our dignity, our life - these all stem from the source of all life and life, Jesus Christ. Our character is formed by being part of the new community that is made possible by the true person. Thus, the Church as the body of Christ (not the institution) is the people among whom we live out, and learn, what it means to be truly human for the sake of humanity and creation.

I'd love to hear your take on this!

Wednesday
Jul062016

Heading to the XII International Bonhoeffer congress in Basel, Switzerland

I am all packed!

In just a short while I am heading to Basel in Switzerland for the XII International Bonhoeffer congress where I am delivering a paper see:
http://www.mission-21.org/en/agenda/agenda/events-from-mission-21/archive/2015/August/article/bonhoeffer-kongress/

My Brompton bicycle is all packed and loaded! I love this bike!

All packed and ready to go to the #bonhoeffer Congress in #Basel with my #Bromptonbicycle @bromptonbicycle

A video posted by digitaldion (@digitaldion) on

I will ride to Nijmegen station, catch the train to Basel and ride to the conference venue - viola! Just awesome!

My paper is on Bonhoeffer and Mandela in conversation around (African) Christian humanism. I will post more details here and on Twitter @digitaldion during the week.

Wednesday
Jun152016

The classroom - a room of class? On Theological education and justice

What is the purpose of learning and knowledge? Does it hold value in the world today? In what ways do we learn, and should we learn, for appropriate discipleship as Christians? What is the relationship between education and justice?
In this VLOG we talk about the different ways in which persons are formed for Christian life and consider some different approaches to theological learning. We look at the traditional knowledge, values and skills approaches (head, heart and hands) and discuss how each holds value. Moreover, we consider the different ways in which the discourse and discussion around Higher Education is shaped by the metaphor of geography (the models of the University as Athens, Berlin and Calcutta).

The papers that I mentioned in the show are:
Olivier, B. 2011. Ethical Challenges Regarding Globalization of Higher Education. US-China Education Review, 6(B):816–823.

Kinsler, F.R. 1978. Theological Education by Extension: Service or Subversion? Missiology: An International Review, 6(2):181–196.

This book by Stanley Hauerwas is a helpful resource on education and the ethical considerations, ‘The state of the University: Academic knowledges and the knowledge of God
And, this book ('Doing Ethics from the margins') gives a wonderful insight into how the two-thirds world thinks about education and justice, as De La Torre points out, the classroom is indeed a room of class (one can very quickly, and sadly, see how class impacts and plays itself out in contemporary higher education. Who gets to study, when they study under what conditions do they do so, what is their previous educational background etc.).

Find out more about Stellenbosch University (where I teach) at:

I'd love to hear your take on these thoughts! Leave a comment here, or on youtube.
Tuesday
Jun072016

Travel, time and achievement

This VLOG was filmed in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We talk about our efforts and God's time and gaining some perspective as we bring these two into conversation with one another.

 

What happens if I don’t achieve the things I want to in life? Must I give up if it seems like I  may not reach a certain goal? Or, must we live within God’s time, doing our best, but realising that God holds time within God’s economy?
For me the struggle is frequently between wanting to see the 'fruit' of my efforts, yet having to understand that achievement is not the intended goal of Christian effort - faithfulness to God is the end of our good, faithful, creative, and courageous work. Since our work is directed towards God, and not ourselves, it means that God has the right to decide how and when to achieve what God wishes to achieve. My peace, and even joy, should come from knowing that I can serve a purpose (even a history) that is larger than myself.
I also talk about Theological Education by Extension College, see http://www.tee.co.za and read this great article on theological education and justice!
Kinsler, F.R. 1978. Theological Education by Extension: Service or Subversion? Missiology: An International Review, 6(2):181–196.
I also mention the following book:
Jürgen Moltmann ‘Theology of Hope’ 
Remember, it's not a lecture, just a thought…
I’d love you hear your feedback, comments, questions and ideas!

 

Tuesday
May242016

An ethics of care? Gender, politics, justice and care


Is care tied to gender? What is an ethics of care? What are the political implications of care?

Today's VLOG is Part 1 of an interview with Prof Frits de Lange from the Protestant Theological University, Groningen on the Ethics of Care.

He introduces the topic for us, suggests some wonderful reading and we also get to see a bit of Groningen in the video.

My thanks to Prof de Lange for hosting us for a wonderful conference on Compassion, and for his willingness to be interviewed on his research specialisation.

In Part 2 of the video that will be released later this week Prof de Lange speaks to us about 'Loving later life: An ethics of ageing' which is his recent book. So keep an eye out for that. 

Enjoy the video - Frits is wonderful to listen to! I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and feedback on this important topic!

Monday
May092016

The cry of freedom - happy 101st birthday Beyers Naudé

 

Tomorrow we will celebrate the 101st anniversary of the birth of Beyers Naudé.

He was a courageous prophet against injustice - living for a better future for all of South Africa's citizens.

The reality is that not much has changed for the majority of South Africans since 1994 - we still hear the cry for freedom in our land.

We are facing rising economic inequality, increasing enmity between the races, and the continued subjugation of the rights of the most needy and disenfranchised members of society by both the state and those who hold economic and social power.

Please can I invite you to watch this powerful documentary on the life of Beyers Naudé in celebration of his life and witness, but also to remind us of the important and critical task that we face at present?

Tomorrow we shall celebrate his legacy in the residence at Stellenbosch University where he was a student - Wilgenhof. My colleague and friend, Rev Jaco Botha will speak about the legacy and witness of Oom Bey and remind us that his work is not yet done.

We have so much work to do, and it is the work of citizens. We cannot wait for the state and political parties - we are the people we have been waiting for.

 

Thursday
May052016

A spirituality for daily living

In today's VLOG we talk about spirituality for daily living. I visit a beautiful wine farm in Franschhoek and interview a friend, Jacques Bornman @jacquesbornman http://www.jacquesbornman.com

The books we mentioned were:

Eugene Peterson ‘Under the unpredictable plant’ http://amzn.to/1rteUkh and ‘Working the angles’ http://amzn.to/1UvKrh1
Trevor Hudson ‘Beyond loneliness: The gift of God’s friendship’ http://amzn.to/1rtf2Ap
Dallas Willard ‘Renovation of the heart’ http://amzn.to/1UvKEAM

Remember, it's not a lecture, just a thought…

I’d love you hear your feedback, comments, questions and ideas!

Please subscribe and like the video!