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
Entries in Theology (78)
- Linda Woodhead, 'Religions in the modern world: Traditions and Transformations' http://amzn.to/1Nm09tu
- Diana Butler Bass 'Christianity after religion' http://amzn.to/1VlP7qH
- Charles Taylor 'A secular age' http://amzn.to/2436WfS (This is a very important book! I get all my PhD students to read it). You can also read the following great 'introduction' and engagement with 'A secular age', entitled 'How not to be secular' by James K Smith http://amzn.to/1Wf43FZ
- Peter Berger 'The Sacred Canopy' http://amzn.to/1VlPh1i and 'The desecularization of the world' http://amzn.to/1T0OxbU
Prof Jean Pierre Wils delivered a paper at a biomedical ethics conference at Stellenbosch University in August last year (if I recall correctly). He made a deeply challenging and thought provoking point that contemporary ethics seems obsessed with just health care, but the more important ethical issue is just health. Simply stated, unjust societies contribute to illness among their populations. This is not just a matter of providing adequate health care, it is a larger issue, it has to do with gender, economics, access to a healthy diet, sexual and reproductive rights etc.
I was asked to write a paper in response to his paper - which I have done and it is currently under review for a special edition of the journal 'In luce verbi' in which his paper and mine will appear. I will let you know when they are published.
In the meantime I discuss the issue of just health care and the South African biomedical theological ethical context in this video entitle 'Detrimental to your health'. I'd love to hear your insights, thoughts and comments!
Is Stellenbosch really the most unequal city in the world?
Today I rode my Brompton through Stellenbosch - I had 25 minutes between meetings and wanted to get something for lunch. It was the first time I had been on the bike in more than a week. I came back form Johannesburg with a rather nasty flu and still wasn't feeling great. But it was awesome to be out in the sun and enjoying the fresh air and beautiful western Cape scenery!
As I was riding my bike I reflected on Stellenbosch, which is the most unequal city in South Africa (a country which is among the most economically unequal countries in the world).
Watch the VLOG for some beautiful scenery, and think with me about a better economic system in which no one has too much while anyone has too little.
I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts! Don’t you love my old folding bike? It goes with me when I travel.
Professor Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany, and a close friend of the late Prof Steve de Gruchy, will give the Steve de Gruchy Memorial Lecture, on Tuesday 1st March 2016 at 19:00 at the Rondebosch United Church, Belmont Road, Cape Town. He will speak on the refugee crisis in Europe and the situation in the Middle East.
This is an open invitation to anyone who may be interested in attending. Prof John de Gruchy will also say a few words.
I hope to see you there!
I received a copy of my friend Joerg Rieger's book 'Faith on the road: A short theology of justice and travel' (2015, IVP Academic) in the mail today.
I had the joy of reading it last year just a few weeks before the recent crises of migration in Africa, Asia and Europe hit the headlines. Rieger's understanding of what it means to be a just society - even a just planet, deeply shaped how I feel about migration, travel and pilgrimage.
I was so honoured to be asked to write one of the commendations for the back of the book. Here is what I wrote:
'Faith on the road' explores the complexity of faith, identity, economics and social justice through the lens of travel. This is a superbly written volume that approaches these complex issues in a thorough and helpful manner. It has changed how I think about travel, migration and faith. I highly recommend this book!
Brian D. McLaren said the following:
From his reflections on travel in the Scriptures to his experiences as a motorcyclist, Joerg Rieger invites us to see how travel changes more than our location: it can change our hearts and transform us from tourists to advocates for justice and peace.
Indeed, I do think this is one of the most helpful books on issues of migration and travel at present. If you are trying to work out what a just, ethical, stance to migration (and migrants) should be I am sure that reading this book will help you. If like me, you have the privilege (and the responsibility) to travel in your nation, continent, or across the world, then this book is important to read! There are important ethical issues around travel, the environment, borders and globalization to consider. Or, if you are interested in notions of pilgrimage as part of your faith or culture, then this book will also help you.
Hey, if you ride a motorcycle and have faith - then this book is for you! Joerg and I have had many great conversations about our shared joy of motorcycling (we both ride BMW GS bikes).
Here is the publisher's description for more information:
Millions of people travel every day, for what seem like millions of reasons. Some travel for pleasure, others travel for work and education, and many more travel to find a new job and a better life. In the United States, even those who don’t travel far still frequently find themselves on the move. What can we learn from these different forms of travel? And what can people of faith learn from the Christian and Jewish traditions that took shape on the road? From the exile from Eden to the wanderings of Jesus and his disciples, the story of Scripture is a dynamic narrative of ceaseless movement. Those who let themselves be inspired by this movement, and are willing to learn from others and from mistakes made in the process, are well positioned to make a difference in the world, not only at home but also around the globe. In this revised edition of the author's book Traveling, Joerg Rieger reflects on how Christian faith reorients the way we think about and make journeys in our lives.
You can get your copy of 'Faith on the road' from IVP here, and from Amazon (either in print or kindle edition) from the link below.
Once you have read it I would love to hear your thoughts or questions! Drop me a comment below or contact me via Twitter or Facebook.
On Thursday at lunch time our theology and philosophy reading at Stellenbosch University group has the honour of hosting Prof Ola Sigurdson from Gothenburg University. He is a well known Systematic Theology who is known for addressing important theological issues in a creative and rigorous manner.
We will be reading his article: SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK, THE DEATH DRIVE, AND ZOMBIES: A THEOLOGICAL ACCOUNT
This evening we launched the book of my colleague and friend Prof L Juliana Claassens, "Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity" which she co-edited with Prof Bruce Birch.
Among the contributors are a foreword by Walter Brueggemann, and chapters by Charlene Van Der Walt, Esias Meyer, Gerald West, Ntozake Cezula, Douglas Lawrie, Jacqueline Lapsley, and Cheryl Anderson.
I was privileged to write a little piece on the Bible and Ethics as hospitable conversation at the end.
Julie very kindly included me in this project and has opened many doors for me since then.
I am so grateful to her and can highly recommend this important text for anyone who wishes to read about the Old Testament and engage issues of human dignity and ethics.
Read more about the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Restorative-Readings-Testament-Ethics-Dignity/dp/1625647212
These are important times in our nation as students across the country express their voice on issues of economic justice - here the #StelliesFeesMustFall students are visiting the Faculty of Theology.
Our colleague and comrade Thando Joka made a challenging and strong statement as a student of the faculty concerning the steep increase in university fees for 2016 and access to education for all.
Our Dean, Hendrik Bosman, responded by expressing a word welcome to the students and colleagues.
I am convinced that transformation and equality are essential to secure a better future for us all. If we cannot change the current inequality in South Africa, it is unlikely that there will be any place for me or my children in the country's future - white power and white privilege cannot continue. It will not be tolerated. We have to find ways of to make this nation a better place for us all.
I am not sure exactly what the answer is to these complex issues - but I can identify some of the problems. That is not a bad place to start. There are probably many answers, and many solutions. But there are some things that I can do, and must do.
How is it possible that some of us can live with 'too much' when others do not even have enough to survive? If you are interested in reading something that I wrote on the Christian faith and economics you can download and read this chapter that I wrote in a book some years ago. Here is the reference:
Megan, Courtney, Liam and I have been a steady journey of 'downward mobility' in the last year or so. We have sold things like cars, computers, gadgets. We have cut off unnecessary things like DSTV (cable TV) and subscription services. We have limited our household budget and tried to support more worthy and important causes.
We are attempting the 'live more simply, so that others may simply live'.
Interestingly I was teaching a class on human dignity and economics which was disrupted and ended today as the protesting students arrived.
What is certain is that we have work to do in South Africa. I am grateful for the energy and hope that I see among students and colleagues.
This week the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa took a very important decision - they have become decidedly more Christian by being a Church that seeks to welcome all those whom God invites and loves. Earlier in the week I wrote to some friends saying that I was praying for the denomination - their witness was on the line once again. This denomination is known as for having excluded persons based on something they could not choose. Of course in this instance I am talking about the fact that the Dutch Reformed Church excluded persons during the apartheid era based on their race. However, I am so thankful to say that the Synod of the Church is deconstruction that legacy, one brave and loving step at a time. Many Christians wanted them to once again opt for exclusion based on an attribute that persons do not choose. This time it would have been sexual orientation. Thankfully, they were wise enough not to choose that error again.
I am convinced of a few important points. First, the Church belongs to Christ. It is His body. As such He is the one who invites us. Our responsibility (in this regard) is to welcome those whom he loves and to facilitate a community of inclusion in which we grow together towards experiencing and expressing the tone of God’s Kingdom in our daily lives, and structuring it in society. You can read a little more about this idea in the following wonderful sermon that was preached by Samuel Wells - the Eucharistic table of the Lord is a wonderful metaphor to express unity in diversity, inclusion in grace, and the calling to extend the table of grace into the world.
Second, I am convinced that this is a faithful response to the message of the Bible. This week, as thousands of times before, well intentioned sisters and brothers have quoted passages from the Biblical text ‘at me’ to try and show me that I am error. I do my best to understand that their intention is loving correction, even though their method is betrays that they think either that I do not read the Bible, or don’t understand it. The former is not true. I read the Biblical text every day. The latter is true - I don’t always understand the content of Scripture, but I take it seriously and try to treat it as a critical and primary source for my spiritual, theological and ethical life. The texts that were quoted this week were more or less the same as those that others have presented to me for years and years. I find it so hurtful that persons who love God in Christ cannot love those who God loves and for whom Christ gave his life. How is it possible that we can use the Bible as a weapon of exclusion? I take the Biblical text way to seriously to abuse it in this manner. If you would like to understand how and why I hold my views on the inclusive nature of our Christian witness then please read this post I wrote in 2007 entitled ‘Lets Talk! Homosexuality and the Bible’, in particular please read the excellent article by Walter Wink on the Bible and homosexuality that is linked in that text. You can also read this chapter that I wrote for a text-book on Christian ethics called, ‘The Bible and Ethics’. Can I ask that if you are going to engage me on my views that you please respect the Bible enough to consider that there may be a variety of interpretations and understandings and that none of us is likely to ‘hold’ the whole truth? Can I also ask that you respect me enough to first read what I have written so that we can have an informed and open conversation.
Third, while I rejoice for the Dutch Reformed Church and give thanks for its faithful and courageous witness this week, my heart breaks for my own Church. The Methodist Church of Southern Africa was once a faithful and courageous witness to God’s love for all persons. Now, however, it is failing. The denomination remains in a protracted legal battle with my colleague and friend Rev Ecclesia de Lange who was dismissed from ministry because of her sexual orientation. I have been disciplined by the Church for blessing people who love God and long to be included in God’s blessing in their relationship. So, my own Church has a long way to go in its journey towards faithful Christian witness and ministry on this issue. Please pray for us, please help us, please don’t let us remain in error.
Please find an English Translation of the Policy decision that was taken by the Dutch Reformed Church Synod of October 2015 on same sex persons below:
SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS
Resolution of the General Synod, Dutch Reformed Church, 9 October 2015
1 The General Synod reconfirms the equality of all people irrespective of their sexual orientation and commits herself to maintain the human dignity of all people.
2 The General Synod declares that hetero- and homosexual persons who live in a personal faith-obedient relationship with the Lord, can fully participate in all the privileges of the church as a covenant community.
3 The General Synod reconfirms the decisions of 2004, 2007 and 2013 concerning marriage, namely that only the union of one man and one woman is considered as a marriage.
4 The General Synod decides, in the light of point 1 above, to give recognition to the status of civil unions between persons of the same sex that are characterised by love and fidelity. The General Synod makes provision for pastors who see their way open to solemnise such unions.
5 The same Christian ethical standards (doctrine and life) apply to all persons with regards to licensing and ordination. Point 7 of the 2007 resolution is terminated.
6 The General Synod acknowledges the diversity of opinions within the DRC concerning same sex unions and confirms the right of church councils to formulate and exercise their own viewpoints and practices.
7 The General Synod confirms the discretion of church councils to deal with different opinions concerning same sex relationships in a congregation and requests them to do it in a spirit of Christian love.
8 The General Synod offers these decisions concerning same sex relations with humility after searching earnestly, and as the best application of the biblical message as we understand it at this stage. The General Synod requests members, congregations and church councils to again engage in their own independent process of searching for the application of the Biblical message in this regard. In this search the study material of the General Synod done in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2015 should be read earnestly. In conjunction with the Belgic Confession Article 2 the specific and general revelation should be used, which means the best findings of recent human sciences research.
9 The General Synod decides to develop a Christian-Biblical-Ethical model concerning sexuality for all people to guide congregations in the light of the preceding resolutions. This matter is referred to the Committee for Doctrinal and Contemporary Issues which already has a similar task (see A.8.2 page 172 point 7.4).
10 The General Synod decides to compile and distribute a comprehensible overview of the DRC’s journey in connection with homosexuality in order to empower leaders in congregations to guide members concerning this matter.
The General Synod further resolved:
1 In the light of our commitment to the values of the Season of Human Dignity we once more sincerely apologise to people who have been hurt and whose dignity has been affected due to any homophobic language, conduct or attitude from the side of the church, also during this meeting.
2 The General Synod henceforth refrains from any homophobic language, conduct and attitude precisely because of our commitment to the values of the Season of Human Dignity, and also from a deep conviction of the discriminatory nature of such language, conduct and attitude because of it.
The General Synod further resolved:
1 The General Synod tasks the Committee for Legal and Church Polity Matters to investigate the church polity implications and legal implications of any resolution(s) regarding same sex relationships with report and recommendations to the Moderamen of the General Synod.
2 The General Synod notes that according to the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006, it is required of denominations to apply in writing to the Minister for permission to solemnise same sex unions (see clause 5 which reads as follows: Designation of ministers of religion and other persons attached to religious denominations and organisations as marriage officers: (1) Any religious denomination or organisation may apply in writing to the Minister to be designated as a religious organisation that may solemnise marriages in terms of this Act).
The General Synod further resolved:
1 The Synod of Namibia requests the General Synod to take note that point 4 of the resolution which reads “… to give recognition to the status of civil unions between persons of the same sex” is in contradiction to the laws of Namibia.
2 The General Synod approves that this resolution on same sex relationships is not enforceable on the Synod of Namibia.
A new book for which I wrote a section has been published! The book is called ‘Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity’. It was edited by two wonderful friends, Professors Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch. This is a magnificent collection of chapters on issues related to reading the Old Testament text within the context of issues related to Christian Ethics and the Human Dignity discourse.
Congratulations Juile and Bruce! This is such an important book! I have read the chapters a number of times and am so excited about the voices that will be added to the discourse.
The foreword was written by Walter Brueggemann.
Here is some additional information about the book:
The Bible has the unfortunate legacy of being associated with gross human rights violations as evident in the scriptural justification of apartheid in South Africa as well as slavery in the American South. What is more, the Hebrew Bible also contains numerous instances in which the worth or dignity of the female characters are threatened, violated or potentially violated, creating a situation of dehumanization in which women are viewed as less than fully human.
And yet the Bible continues to serve as a source of inspiration for readers committed to justice and liberation for all. But in order for the Bible to speak a liberative word, what is necessary is to cultivate liberating Bible reading practices rooted in justice and compassion. Restorative Readings seeks to do exactly this when the authors in their respective readings seek to cultivate Bible reading practices that are committed to restoring the dignity of those whose dignity has been violated by means of racial, gender, and sexual discrimination, by the atrocities of apartheid, by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and by the dehumanizing reality of unemployment and poverty.
What hope is there for South Africa? A public theological reflection on the role of the church as a bearer of hope for the future
I discovered today that an article I had written some time ago had been published and made available to the public from the Theological Journal, HTS.
The details for the article are:
Title: What hope is there for South Africa? A public theological reflection on the role of the church as a bearer of hope for the future
Please follow this link to download a copy from the Journal website: http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/2814
What hope is there for South Africa? What role can the church play as a bearer of hope in South Africa? This article seeks to address these important questions. Firstly, it problematises the contemporary notion of hope in South Africa by showing that it is a complex theological and social concept. Next, a nuanced understanding of hope is presented by adopting a public theological methodology that brings dominant theological perspectives on eschatological hope into dialogue with the most recent statistics about the quality of life in South Africa from 1994, 2004 and 2014. The article proposes that the complexity of Christian hope necessitates an understanding of the present reality that is held in dynamic tension with the desired future – namely a present-futurist eschatology. Finally the article shows that from this vantage point the church, in its various forms and understandings, is able to be a bearer of Christian hope that can contribute towards shaping a better future for South Africa.
If you have a chance (and the stamina!) to read it I would appreciate feedback and comments. There is an itneresting set of statistical data on living conditions in South Africa.