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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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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.

Wednesday
Mar072018

Jesus was the first person to decriminalise sex work (John 8:7) - A conversation in public theology and Biblical ethics

The Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town has a tradition of hanging banners on the outside of their church building on Greenmarket Square in Cape Town. They use this as both a witness to their convictions on social issues (such as sexual identity, economic inequality, freedom of information, issues of injustice etc.) The banners are often quite controversial. I think that is part of their intention - to draw some attention to these important social issues, and invite conversation around them. Either because they are not discussed, or because they are not discussed in honest ways, or considered from a variety of perspectives, or the issues are not discussed and considered in public spaces.
This most recent banner is a case in point. Their prophetic statement is “Jesus was the first to decriminalise sex work (John 8:7)”.
This bold statement has generated a great deal of conversation among Christians and other interested parties! I posted a picture of the banner on my facebook page and asked for some comment. The comments flowed in thick and fast, and what was clear was that this is a controversial statement! Some were strong in their condemnation of the banner, stating largely that it either misrepresented a ‘proper’ interpretation of the narrative of John 8 (many citing John 8.11 as a qualifier). Others took exception to the moral association of Jesus decriminalising sex workers (labelling such persons as sinners, and saying that Jesus would never condone sin). However, this latter group were not always aware of the structuring of aspects of the Johannine narrative that contest those who hold social and religious power (such as the Scribes, and Pharisees) - indeed one possible interpretation of the John 8 narrative was that Jesus was unmasking unjust power. A powerless woman is to be stoned, while an equally adulterous man is not engaged.
So, this is a complicated issue that highlights just how important it is for us to engage such statements, as this one by the Central Methodist Mission, with a measure of informed objectivity on our own convictions and the convictions that others may hold. You can read the comments on on my facebook feed here: http://bit.ly/John8v7
Well, I think this is an interesting discussion! So, please do watch my video in which I try to highlight some of the issues at the intersection of different publics and different perspectives on public theological statements, as well as touching on Biblical hermeneutics, the social (and moral) imagination of Christian communities and societies, and also the prophetic intention of this Church. Please share the video, and please also share your feedback, ideas and comments! 
As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!
Please subscribe and like the video, and you will be notified of new posts as they come: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster
Thanks!

 

Sunday
Jan142018

On Human Dignity: Trump's 'Sh*t hole' countries and the dignity of human persons

This week the President of the United States, Donald Trump, named African countries (among others) as ‘shit holes’.
It was another expression of his prejudiced and racist views.
You can read about it on various news sources. Here is a link to the VOX report: https://www.vox.com/2018/1/11/16880750/trump-immigrants-shithole-countries-norway
I am grateful to be born in one of the countries that he calls a ‘shit hole’. In fact, I am thoroughly, thankfully, and proudly African! While I could not choose to be born in Africa, I guess that I just got lucky!
But that doesn’t mean I am better (or worse) than any other person. How can geography possibly constitute a valid measurement of the value of the human life? That is simply nonsense.
Mr Trump would do well to reflect on the words of Steve Biko:

‘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.’

- Steve Biko

 
So, in today’s VLOG I muse about the different ways in which people value one another.
I share some ideas on how we might approach the dignity of the human person that is not linked to inadequate sources like geography, nationality, race, wealth, ability etc.
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 my work on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Thanks!
Friday
Dec222017

A year to remember! So grateful for 2017! Grateful for all of you!

This has been a year to remember! Forgive me, but this is a bit of a rambling post! Please feel free to skip it if you get bored. I have used this post as an opportunity to re-collect many of the important people, events, places and happenings in 2017.

At the outset I want to say how mindful I am that the blessing of this year comes from the many wonderful people and communities that I am priviliged to be associated with. I have received much more than I deserve, and in many instances, been recognised for work that belongs to a group of persons, not just to me. In addition to this, I am also mindful that any achievement is only worthwhile if it can lead to service. My hope is that the work of this year bears fruit for my students, for the Church I serve, for the people of the world that God so loves, and in some small way may help us to honour and protect the dignity and sanctity of humans and creation. This is about Christ, and community, and undeserved grace.

As I was reflecting on this year I was struck by this beautiful quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, 'God is in the manger':

'While we endeavor to grow out of our humanity, to leave our human nature behind us, God becomes human, and we must recognize that God wants us also to become human—really human. God raised his love for human beings above every reproach of falsehood and doubt and uncertainty by himself entering into the life of human beings as a human being, by bodily taking upon himself and bearing the nature, essence, guilt, and suffering of human beings. Out of love for human beings, God becomes a human being. This is about the birth of a child, not of the astonishing work of a strong man, not of the bold discovery of a wise man, not of the pious work of a saint. It really is beyond all our understanding: the birth of a child shall bring about the great change, shall bring to all mankind salvation and deliverance.' – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

I am truly grateful for this year! 

It included, my daughter finishing high school and getting accepted to study at Stellenbosch University! Courtney also got her drivers license this year. My wife, Megan, completed a brilliant Masters degree, and my son Liam, is going to Grade 5!

I continued so serve as the Chair of the Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology and the Director of the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do the work that I do. I truly feel like I am fulfilling my calling and spending my time and energy among magnificent people, doing interesting and worthwhile things - I am in my 'sweet spot'!

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • My book was published: Forster, D.A. 2017. The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading of Matthew 18:15-35. 1st ed. Vol. XI. (Beyers Naudé Centre Series on Public Theology). Stellenbosch, South Africa: SUN Press.
  • I was awarded a 2nd PhD from Radboud University in the Netherlands.
  • The South African National Research Foundation awarded me an NRF Rating as an internationally recognised academic researcher.
  • I was blown away to be awarded a 'Distinguished Teacher' award by the University of Stellenbosch in November.
  • In January I was priviliged to attended the 'African Doctoral Academy' to do some advanced training on ATLAS.ti (a powerful software package for qualitative empirical research analysis).
  • The Wesley Works project nominated me to serve on their Board as a 'Director at Large'.
  • I was also nominated to the executive committee of the newly formed, Methodist Theological Society of South Africa.
  • I continued to serve on the executive of the Global Network for Public Theology, and was appointed to the editorial board of the International Journal for Public Theology.
  • Being appointed as an Associate of the Allan Gray Centre for Values Based Leadership at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business - thanks to my friend Prof Kurt April, he remains an inspiration, a source of encouragement, and blessing.
  • I had the rare and magnificent privilege of participant in the G20 meetings in Berlin this year (thank you Prof Peter Petkof). As with the World Economic Forum that I attended in 2015, this was a remarkable event. It was particularly interesting to see how prominent religion and ethics feature in global policy.
  • I was also appointed as a fellow of the Berlin Institute for Public Theology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I am so grateful for Prof Torsten Meireis, a senior academic and senior colleauge who is a great help and inspiration in my academic development. I count it a great honour to work with Torsten.
  • In September I was asked to deliver the Stellenbosch University 'Form Lecture' on the topic 'Is forgiveness really possible in South Africa?'
  • The Graduation of my first PHD student at Stellenbosch University, Dr Anna Cho! I am so pleased for Anna - she wrote a magnificent disseration in Biblical ethics. We have also published an academic article together on this theme.
  • Another highlight was meeting Prof Jürgen Moltmann and having lunch with him while on his visit to Stellenbosch! Thank you to my friends Prof Julie Claassens and Prof Robert Vosloo, for making this event happen.
  • And, as a final highlight to the year I was awarded a place at the 2018 Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies a Pembroke college Oxford. A particular honour is that I was asked to deliver the deliver the “Fernley Hartley Trust” lecture (Methodist Church of Britain) at the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies on Friday the 17th of August 2018 in Oxford. I’ll post more details in due course. I am already nervous! I am sure that Bishop Ivan Abrahams (President of the World Methodist Council) had something to do with this! Thank you Ivan.

Among my highlights in teaching and learning were:

  • Teaching a group of international Doctoral Students at Wesley House, Cambridge University (as part of a joint doctoral program between Wesley House and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC).
  • Teaching two courses (Masters in New Testament and another in Leadership and Ethics) at Radboud University, Holland.
  • The University of Cape Town, Graduate School of Business MBA program (Ethical Leadership).
  • A seminar (with my friend Sean Temlett) to the University of North Carolina MBA cohort who visited South Africa - this is an amazing group of people! This year was the 2nd time that I was priviliged to join Sean and this group.
  • And then of course, my own wonderful students! This year I taught courses in Human Dignity; Public Theology; Modern Theology and Contemporary Theological Trends; Faith and Public Life; Youth and Moral Formation; Apologetics (which includes issues such a faith and science, theodicy, secularism etc.).

 

Travel and conferences. I travelled a fair amount in 2017 (16 trips, of which 8 were overseas):

  • Holland in January for the ordination and commissioning of our wonderful colleague Rev Rineke van Ginkel with whom I work in the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology - I recorded two videos while on that trip here and here. And here is a great interview that Rineke recorded to highlight her work in the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
  • I was back in Holland in May to teach at Radboud University. While there I also spoke at a conference in Leuven (Belgium) at the invitation of my friend Prof Kobus Kok. Those were two magnificent trips! It was also wonderful to have the time in the evenings (after classes) to just work on the completion of my PHD dissertation. I sent the final full draft for examination on the 14th of May when I departed!
  • I visited Germany from 5-23 June to do four things (see these videos here and here). I participated in the Summer School of Stellenbosch University, the Humboldt University and the Universities of the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal. I also participated in the G20 meetings in Berlin. Then I delivered a Public Lecture at the University of Bamberg (such an amazing medieval city)! Finally, I returned to Berlin for the launch of the Berlin Institute for Public Theology (of which I am a fellow).
  • In July I was in Cambridge to teach on the International Doctoral Program at Wesley House, Cambridge University.
  • My second last international trip for the year was back to Holland do some doctoral seminars and defend my PHD! That was an absolute blessing and joy, and all the more so since Megan travelled with me! This little fun video shows some of the preperation for the defence and a bit of riding around Radboud University's campus. And here is a video about the PHD defence and the award of the degree.
  • My final trip for 2017 was a wonderful visit to New York, and Princeton University, and then on to the American Academy of Religion in Boston where I delivered a paper and had various meetings with publishers, editorial boards and research projects.
  • Within South Africa I participated in the Methodist Theology of Southern Africa founding conference at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, I spoke at a conference in Potchefstroom in honour of my Doctoral Supervisor, Prof Jan van der Watt, I spoke at numerous Churches and institutions around South Africa. And of course participated in many conferences at Stellenbosch University (many of which will lead to publications, such as the Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Violence conference, the Religious Freedom conference, the Historical Trauma and Healing of Memory conference etc.)

 

As I write this I am on leave. There is a great deal to look forward to in 2018! I am due for research leave in 2018 and have been invited to undertake some part of that research leave in Sweden at the University of Gothenburg's department of Religious Studies and Theology. I will also be spending some time in Oxford for the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies. And if my Humboldt Stiftung (Fellowship) is successful (please say a prayer!) I shall be spending some months in Berlin! It is my hope that Megie, Courtney and Liam will be able to join me for parts of those trips.

So, as the year ends, I want to give glory to God, express my love for my family, and give thanks to my colleagues and friends. I am truly grateful to share in this journey with each of you. May we continue to offer our selves, our resources, our passion, our training, our intellect, our creativity, and indeed our very lives, for the development of the common good, for justice, for peace, and for fullness of life.

I share my last little video for the year (recorded on the Campus of Princeton University) on the politics of forgiveness with you. May you be blessed at Christmas, revived, renewed, and replenished for what lies ahead.

 

Thursday
Oct122017

So grateful! A celebration! Defending my PHD - sharing the experience with Megie!

Yesterday was a truly amazing day! At exactly 16.30 (11 October 2017) I defended my PHD (which you can read about here) at Radboud University, Nijmegen. It was a wonderful joy to share it with my wife Megan. At Dutch Universities the defence and graduation takes place at the same time. Your dissertation (once completed) gets examined, and then you have to publish it as a book (which I did - see the previous link for details). Then you defend it in public, and the degree gets awarded at the same event! It was exciting, but also rather scary at the same time! I am so grateful that it is done and the degree of ‘Doctor’ has been awarded (which means that I now hold two PHD’s, one in Systematic Theology and one in New Testament studies).

You can watch a little video about the build up to the defence below. And here are a few pictures from the event (with the ‘pedel’ / ‘beadle’) who was a great sport! My thanks to Radboud University, my supervisors, Prof Jan van der Watt and Prof Chris Hermans, to the communities that participated in the research (they matter most in this project!) and to my wonderful family for their love and support.

 

Friday
Oct062017

Graduating with a 2nd PHD in Holland - the possibility of the (im)possibility of forgiveness!

I am so grateful to be traveling to the Netherlands tomorrow (with my wife Megan!) to graduate with my 2nd PHD at Radboud University, Nijmegen in Holland.

The graduation ceremony (and defence) will take place at 16.30 on Wednesday 11 October 2017 - if you read this beforehand you can watch the ceremony online via this link.

I started my research at Radboud University in December 2013. I worked on the project, and spent some wonderful months, at Radboud University between then and May 2017 when I completed the manuscript / dissertation. You can read all of my posts from Radboud and about this research (in reverse order!) via this link.

The research project is entitled:

The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading Matthew 18:15-39.(Click the title to read an excerpt from the book and see the table of contents).

In Holland it is required that the dissertation is published as a book. It has been published by African SUN Media in the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology series on public theology.

Here is the full reference:

Forster, D.A. 2017. The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading of Matthew 18:15-35. 1st ed. Vol. XI. (Beyers Naudé Centre Series on Public Theology). Stellenbosch, South Africa: SUN Press.

 

You can read the abstract below, and see copies of the cover of the book and the commendations in the attached images. If you would like to purchase a copy you can do so via African SUN Media.

I have some sections of the book under review for publication, and have already published the following article which is a shortened section of the Biblical exegetical component of the study:

 

Forster, D.A. 2017. A public theological approach to the (im) possibility of forgiveness in Matthew 18.15-35: Reading the text through the lens of integral theory. In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi. 51(3):1–10.
In this article I also discuss (in summary) the other theoretical component of my study - namely integral All Quadrants All Levels (AQAL) theory.

 

 

I made one or two short videos of some of the central concepts (see the bottom of this post for a discussion of the empirical qualitative aspects of the study, and a discussion of one of the primary theoretical components).

I am truly grateful to my promoters, Prof dr dr Jan van der Watt and Prof dr Chris Hermans. They were encouraging, supportive, and wonderful guides along the journey. I learned so much and I am so grateful for the findings of the research and the fruit that it will bear for the participating communities.

Here is a video I recorded at my home University (Stellenbosch University) where I discuss how I worked with the participants to gather and analyse the theological (qualitative empirical) data on forgiveness.

In this video (recorded in Nijmegen at Radboud University) I discuss one of the primary theories that I used in the study, namely inter-group contact theory.

Here is the abstract from the dissertation:

This project engages the complexity of understandings of forgiveness in Matthew 18.15-35 within the context of an intercultural Bible reading process. The study shows that concepts of forgiveness among South African Bible readers are diverse, containing nuanced, and even conflicting, expressions and expectations - a politics of forgiveness. Some have suggested since such entrenched differences in understandings of forgiveness exist in South Africa, that forgiveness may be impossible. However, in spite of this complexity it is suggested that South Africans, and South Africa, could benefit from a rigorous academic engagement with the theologically and culturally diverse understandings of forgiveness that emerge from reading Matthew 18.15-35 in an intercultural Bible reading setting. The knowledge gained from this study may help persons from diverse histories, cultural identities, racial identities, and economic classes, to gain more integral, shared, understandings of forgiveness. In this sense, at least, the possibility of forgiveness may emerge. 

Considering the above, the aim of this study is to produce rigorous, textured, and credible theological insight into the complexity of differing understandings of forgiveness in Matthew 18.15-35 from 'ordinary' Bible readers of different cultures who are members of the same Christian denomination - the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Helderberg Circuit. This is achieved through structuring the study as a practice oriented research project in empirical intercultural Biblical hermeneutics.

Three theories informed the research design. First, Ken Wilber’s All Quadrants All Levels (AQAL) integral theory is used as a philosophical framework that provides language and structure to ‘plot’ the theological understandings of forgiveness in the text, and in the reading of the text. Second, intergroup contact theory is used to identify the mechanisms and processes for positive intergroup contact that inform the intercultural Bible reading sessions. Third, the Biblical text is engaged in a scholarly exegetical process so as to avoid collapsing the thought world of the text into the contemporary context. This is a critical aspect of a credible engagement with the Biblical text. This process allows for the construction of a hermeneutic bridge to link aspects of the text to aspects of the interpretive insights of the contemporary readers engaged in this study.

As anticipated, the findings of the research process agreed with some aspects of the research hypotheses and varied from others. The findings of the post intervention research data and analysis shows that to a large extent (except for minor variations which are discussed in the study) the participants of the intercultural Bible reading intervention developed more integral understandings of forgiveness. This means that participants were far more open to accepting understandings of forgiveness that were not held within their in-group, but were more common among members of the out-group.

The primary conclusion of this study is that more integral theological understandings of forgiveness are evidenced among the majority participants in this intercultural Bible reading process which was conducted under the conditions of positive intergroup contact. Moreover, this study shows that one can give credible empirical content to, and explicate, the theological perspectives, and the hermeneutic informants, of readers of the Biblical text. This helps the ‘problem owner’, (i.e., the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Helderberg Circuit), to understand what some of the barriers to shared understandings of forgiveness may be. Moreover, it allows for the design of intercultural Bible reading interventions under the conditions of positive intergroup contact. The data shows that in this case, the participants of this study mostly became more open to a more integral theological understanding of forgiveness with the ‘other’.

This project makes the following novel contributions to scholarly knowledge and the construction of theory: In New Testament studies the research contributes towards a number of new hermeneutic opportunities that arise from reading the Biblical text from a social identity complexity perspective (informed by Ken Wilber’s integral AQAL theory). Moreover, in relation to intercultural Bible reading, the project provides new insights into how persons who hold different socially informed views of forgiveness may encounter one another constructively under the conditions of positive intergroup contact. In terms of empirical cultural Biblical hermeneutics this study is the first of its kind to provide insights into how Black and White South African Christians understand the concepts and processes of forgiveness in relation to Matthew 18.15-35. The findings show that there is a logic behind the socially informed theological understandings of forgiveness that are expressed by the participants. This holds value not only for Biblical Studies, but also for Systematic Theology in general, and South African Public Theology in particular. Then, from a methodological point of view, the interdisciplinarity of the theoretical approach that is employed in this research stimulates new avenues for scholarly theological study in relation to problems in practice.

Thanks for checking in and sharing in my joy! I appreciate it.