In recent years the Catholic Church has been encouraging its members to engage with the Bible and a variety of resources have been produced to facilitate this. However, national surveys in Britain show that Catholics are some of the Christians least likely to engage with the Bible outside of a church setting. A small focus group of ordinary Catholics spent a year using five different resources to ascertain what ways of engaging with the Scriptures they found most helpful. Six ways were identified: reading the Bible in community; drawing on secondary expertise; valuing the literal and spiritual sense of Scripture; focusing on the Old Testament and the Bible’s unity; using accessible formats; and using a variety of resources. These are presented and discussed in the context of the Church’s recent teaching and instruction on the role of the Bible in the life of the believer.
Henk de Roest and Simon Hill
Andrew P. Rogers
This article opens up what place contributes to our understanding of lived theology through drawing on a two-year case study of diaspora churches in central London. Diaspora churches, especially African majority, have grown in urban centres across Europe and particularly intensely in London meaning that space for places of worship has become highly contested. Lived theologies of place took form through narratives about places of worship, particularly the struggle to find and make a congregational home. In conversation with Michel de Certeau, the contestation of these narratives is understood through the interplay of strategy and tactics, indicating the significance of power(lessness) for lived theologies and how that interplay generates public theologies. Conclusions are drawn about the nature and scope of lived theologies and what they can contribute to the study of urban religion.
Drawing from place-theory, this essay argues for congregations to employ fieldwork as a means to perform the place-making work claimed in a term like ‘contextualization.’ While ‘contextualization’ articulates the importance of locale for Christian identity, ethnographic fieldwork performs the collaborative elements of place-making. Bringing the two fields together, the essay argues for congregations to employ fieldwork as a means for connecting congregational identity with the life of the neighbourhood.
Andrew A. Groza
The Church in Australia finds itself pushed to the margins of society and lacking the status it once enjoyed in previous generations. The importance and role of the church in society’s life is now questioned and it would seem that the church’s long term survival is being challenged. How should the church respond? One response is found in the exploration of new forms of church birthed out of missional theology – a theology that sees the church partnering with the God who is actively on mission in his world. This response however, does not come without its own inherent challenges. Leaders of missional communities within the Australian context were interviewed in an attempt to decipher what those challenges might be. The results can largely be covered under the rubrics of: Ambiguity, Anxiety, Audience and Abandonment.
Contemporary worship songs have been the subject of criticism over their lyrical quality. Objective assessment of the veracity of the criticisms has been difficult to achieve. This research seeks to address this issue by performing a textual analysis of the most popular hymns of the 19th and 20th centuries and contemporary popular worship songs and comparing the results. The research concludes that although there are differences in the lyrical content they are not crucial and that both contemporary worship songs and traditional hymns should find a home in congregational song.
Systems thinking, organizational psychodynamics along with group relations and complexity / chaos theories have rarely been placed in dialogue with the dilemmas facing contemporary UK local churches and the systems that support them in the face of decline. In this article the author attempts such a project from his experience both as a consultant to, mainly Anglican Church systems through the Partnership for Missional Church process (pmc) with the Church Mission Society, and his 2017–18 training with the Tavistock Institute. Relevant parts of this ‘Tavistock’ tradition are explicated and thickened with narrative anecdote and research evidence from the pmc process. The article recommends moving from closed to open systems under conditions of porosity. Thus, treating churches less as mechanical objects to be manipulated, rather as non-linear living systems that need to be contained, discerned and disrupted. All of which allows for a fresh (but unfinished and incomplete) approach to the ecclesiology of local churches in relation to the activity of God, the missio Dei.
John J. Peters
Research on Luke-Acts and the Gospels has largely overlooked the major distinction within ancient historiography between accounts written about events contemporary with the author (e.g., by Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius) and accounts written about non-contemporary events (e.g., by Diodorus, Dionysius, Plutarch, Arrian). As ancient authors writing about contemporary events represented their sources primarily in terms of autopsy and eyewitness testimony, so Luke’s preface corresponds with this practice. I argue that a proper understanding of ancient historical method, epistemology, and the use of ἐπιχειρέω (Luke 1.1; Acts 9.29; 19.13) confirm that Luke represented as the sources for his account not the ‘many’ prior accounts but rather the ‘eyewitnesses’ and ‘servants of the word’.
From Freed Slave in Southern Malawi to an Anglican ‘Missionary’ at the Cape Colony, 1863-1931
This article outlines the progressive journey of Anne Rebecca Daoma in the Anglican Mission at the Cape in the years 1863 to 1936. Daoma was the first African woman from Central Africa, to be trained by the Anglican missionaries in South Africa. The article traces the life of Daoma, a Yao, from the moment when the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) missionaries set her free from the slave trade in Southern Malawi in 1861, and through some phases of her life at the Cape as a missionary and argues that colonial missionary life and culture fashioned her in becoming ‘Anne Rebecca Daoma’.
Martha Frederiks and Lucien van Liere
Notto R. Thelle
The Discursive Functionality of Migrant Christianity in World Christianity Discourses
This article investigates the discursive triangulation of migrant Christianity in Europe, European Christianity and Christianity in the ‘global South’ in certain world Christianity discourses, with particular attention for the representation and discursive functionality of migrant Christianity within this triangulation. It argues that this triangulation is brought into play to underscore the binary of the vibrancy and growth of Christianity in the ‘global South’ on the one hand and the decline and decay of European Christianity on the other, and that both the selective representation of migrant Christianity and its discursive functionality within triangulation aim to reinforce this binary. The article also argues that this binary forms the fulcrum of a particular conceptualization of world Christianity as a postcolonial project, theorized by Lamin Sanneh, and shows how this postcolonial agenda fashions the representation of migrant Christianity in Europe. The article concludes with a discussion of some of the problematic presuppositions of this construct.
J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu
Navigating Christian and Muslim Identities in Interreligious Dialogue in Pakistan
As an organization working in a context that seems increasingly Islamized and marked by religious conflict, the Christian Study Centre (CSC) in Rawalpindi has tasked itself with facilitating “interfaith harmony” and “co-existence” between Christians and Muslims. The organization has a large and diverse network of Christian, Muslim and non-affiliated partner organizations, groups and actors, who participate in CSC’s interreligious dialogue activities. These participants differ from CSC in their perceptions about the role of religion in society at large and in facilitating interreligious coexistence in particular. As a result, the participants bring a variety of, sometimes opposing, expectations and attitudes to the interreligious dialogue encounter. In order to facilitate harmony and peace in its dialogue activities CSC carefully navigates the communication about religious identity between Christians and Muslims. This article will explore the strategies employed by CSC to navigate communication about religious identity in interreligious dialogue.
The project of Saint Paul occupies Pasolini’s imagination between 1966 and 1974. It originated with and connects to Pasolini’s previous Franciscan project on the subversive hagiography, Bestemmia (“Blasphemy”), another (unshot) screenplay in verse about a rascal of twelfth-century Rome, transformed into a saint after a vision of the Passion in the midst of an orgy. Pasolini worked on Blasphemy from 1962 to 1967, and still later was referring to the project of Saint Paul with the same title of Blasphemy. The continuity, as well as the difference, between the two projects is relevant. I will investigate the roots of Pasolini’s Pauline turn, after his Franciscan stage, and contextualize the project of Saint Paul within Pasolini’s production and within the rise of European queer cinema. I will also put it into dialogue with contemporary political theology, for instance with the Franciscan turn of Agamben, or the emergence of new, multi-stable subjectivities within the Kippbilder model proposed by Luca Di Blasi in his interpretation of Pasolini’s Saint Paul.
Joseph A. Marchal and Robert Seesengood
Victor H. Matthews
Because Pier Paolo Pasolini never completed his movie Saint Paul, any discussion of it must be speculative. However, insofar as the film appears in Pasolini’s screenplay outline and plan, it depicts Paul, in relation to the Pauline writings of the Bible, as a seriously fragmented person. This Paul struggles with multiple personalities that are continually fragmenting and at war with one another. In this way the film fuses together in a single cinematic narrative the many “Pauls” who appear in the Pauline letters and the Acts of the Apostles. The “remixed” quality that then appears in the screenplay contrasts sharply to Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew. The resulting story echoes some of the writings of Italo Calvino, as well as Spike Jonze’s movie Adaptation.
Theodore W. Jennings Jr.
This essay explores the remarkable radicalities as well as ironies of the Paul featured in both Pasolini’s screenplay and other receptions of Paul’s letters. Pasolini’s depiction stages a series of potential historical correspondences by setting the words written or attributed to the apostle (in those letters and the Acts of the Apostles) into the times of Pasolini’s own life. This juxtaposition allows for a more complex view of the radical, passionate, but manipulative saint and more recent politics of revolution, corruption, and accommodation. The tension between two different views of Paul, organizing militant cells and struggling with bodily weakness, then, provide entry points for identification with and interrogation of notions of sexual liberation and political transformation. These political investments are brought into further relief throughout by situating both Pasolini and Paul in a genealogy of Marxist thinkers and organizers, from Engels and Lenin, through Benjamin, to Agamben and Badiou, surfacing important new insights about the Paul of history and of reception in the West.
Elizabeth A. Castelli
The legacy of Pasolini’s work persists beyond the recent English translation of his screenplay for Saint Paul. This concluding essay then provides a brief reflective extension into three additional genres: painting, poetry, and public art. These artistic adaptations reflect the open-ended impacts of Pasolini’s work, its provocations and excesses in particular evoke a notion of saintliness.
In several of his writings on the relation between film and language, Pasolini discusses the possibility of a moment in which a screenplay can be considered an autonomous object, “a work complete and finished in itself.” In the first part of this essay, I will reflect on the concept of the screenplay in a larger context and more specifically, Pasolini’s writings on the ontological status of the screenplay as a “structure that wants to be another structure.” The case of Saint Paul is thought-provoking, precisely because this original screenplay was never turned into an actual film. Despite this, Pasolini argues that the screenplay invites – or perhaps even forces – its reader to imagine, to visualize, the film it describes. Pasolini’s ideas on the function of language as a means to conjure up images are central to this act of visualization. In the second part of this essay, I will attempt an act of visualization. This endeavor to visualize Saint Paul as a possible film is hinged upon a careful reading of the screenplay. I analyze the opening and closing sequences outlined in the screenplay to visualize the possible filmic expression of its protagonist Paul.
After situating Pasolini’s sketch for a screenplay about the apostle within a broad context of Pauline retellings, this essay goes on to explore the uneasy tension Pasolini develops between Paul as representative of an oppressive religious authority, and Paul as frail, entrancing, humbled mystic. The tension is uneasy because it represents something of a false dichotomy. The real choice offered in the screenplay, the paper argues, is between Paul the New Testament personality, and Paul the ordinary, and mostly unknown, individual. While Pasolini may barely hint at the possibilities of so understated a treatment, his example sets the stage (so to speak) for an intriguingly contemporary response to more typical examples of Pauline reception (especially among critics inspired by the Paul of Badiou, Agamben, et al.).
Missionary Policies and Diplomatic Interest of the Melkites in Jordan during the Interwar Period
In the Emirate of Transjordan, the interwar period was marked by the emergence of the Melkite Church. Following the Eastern rite and represented by Arab priests, this church appeared to be an asset from a missionary perspective as Arab nationalism was spreading in the Middle East. New parishes and schools were opened. A new Melkite archeparchy was created in the Emirate in 1932. The archbishop, Paul Salman, strengthened the foundation of the church and became a key partner of the government. This article tackles the relationship between Arabisation, nationalisation and territorialisation. It aims to highlight the way the Melkite Church embodied the adaptation strategy of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Transjordan. The clergy of this national church was established by mobilising regional and international networks. By considering these clerics as go-between experts, this article aims to decrypt a complex process of territorialisation and transnationalisation of the Melkite Church.
The Case of the Salesian Society (1904–1920)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, some Palestinian and Lebanese Salesians, influenced by the Arab Renaissance movement, began to claim the right to oppose the ‘directorships’ of the institutes of the Don Bosco Society in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. They also began to request better recognition of their native language, in schools and within the religious community. They clashed with their superiors who, in the meantime, had signed an agreement with the Salesian government in Rome, committing them to developing the Italian language in their teaching institutes. The struggle became particularly fierce after the Holy See rebuked the Palestinian religious congregations for teaching the catechism and explaining the Sunday Gospel to people in a foreign language and urged them to do so in Arabic. The clash caused a serious disturbance within the Salesian community. Finally, after the First World War, the most turbulent Arab religious were removed from the Society of Don Bosco. All converged in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where they continued forcefully (but in vain) to put forward their national demands. This article is based on several unpublished sources.
Reconsidering the relationship between the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Melkite Catholic Church, the paper aims to analyze the changes and developments of the Catholic Church’s presence in post-World War I Palestine and Transjordan. It specifically examines how the dialectic and debate on the issue of Arabization and Latin-Melkite competition during the Mandate period went beyond the traditional inter-Church rivalry, epitomizing the progression of a complex process of reconfiguring the Catholic ecclesiastical and missionary presence in the Holy Land in efforts to amalgamate and harmonize its “national-local” and “transnational” scopes and characters. The paper will specifically look at the local Catholic dimension and its religious hierarchies to understand the logic behind their positioning in regard to such issues. This perspective makes it possible to reveal how local religious Catholic leaderships (of both the Latin Patriarchate and Melkite Catholic Church) sought to interpret and promote the reconfiguration of their respective Church and religious community organizations and structures in these two lands during the Mandate. The intra-Catholic perspective will help us understand how intra-denominational as well as inter-denominational competition acted as tools for missionary, ecclesiastical and community development as well as a catalyst of change, anticipating most of the issues that still characterize the complex position and condition of the Church in this territory.
William Vance Trollinger Jr.
Philippe Bourmaud and Karène Sanchez Summerer
The Stance of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
The aim of the paper is to elaborate on the Jerusalem Orthodox Patriarchate’s missionary work in late Ottoman times, paying special attention on its incapacity to counteract the activities of its rivals within the religious market of Palestine. In particular, the article addresses the following research questions: What was the extent of the Patriarchate’s missionary activity, and its stance vis-à-vis the work of the other Church missions, i.e. the Roman-Catholic, and Protestant? Was its policy effective; and if not, why? Overall, the article argues that neither the missionary enterprise nor the blocking of the western missions’ conversion activities were at the top of the patriarchal agenda. It is suggested that the causes of this stance were mainly: a) the financial and political disadvantageous position of the institution; b) the centrality of the custodianship of the Holy Places as the primary aim of its function; and c) the development of Greek nationalism as the nodal point of the discourse.
Frediano Giannini et les Églises orientales face au mandat français (1918-1936)
Au début du mandat français en Syrie et au Liban, le Saint-Siège renouvelle ses objectifs et ses moyens d’ action dans la région. Nous avons étudié ce mouvement à travers les lettres adressées à Rome par Mgr Frediano Giannini, vicaire apostolique d’ Alep et délégué apostolique en Syrie de 1905 à 1936. Les rapports de Giannini constituent un bon exemple de la manière dont les missionnaires participent à la production de connaissances sur les communautés chrétiennes orientales. En rendant compte des épreuves et des migrations qui leur sont imposées, Giannini participe au développement d’ une nouvelle perception de ces communautés, vues comme des minorités persécutées. Giannini sollicite les autorités françaises pour défendre les intérêts des chrétiens (à la fois les catholiques et les orthodoxes). Sa position est ambiguë : alors qu’ il exprime sa nostalgie au sujet du fonctionnement traditionnel du protectorat français, Giannini s’ implique lui-même dans le domaine politique et prend en charge une partie de l’ ancien rôle des Français. Cette ambivalence révèle l’ émergence d’ une nouvelle politique pontificale, fondée sur un double mouvement d’ autonomisation et de centralisation.
Les salésiens dans l’ Égypte nassérienne
Les décennies 1950-1960 constituent un tournant pour les multiples sociétés missionnaires implantées en Égypte depuis le XIX e siècle. De nombreuses missions se retirent du pays pour laisser la place à des Églises qu’ elles ont elles-mêmes contribué à créer. D’ autres ordres parviennent, au prix de plusieurs réajustements, à assurer leur présence. Cet article interroge les restructurations à l’ œuvre dans une mission italienne – la mission salésienne – et la manière dont elle relève le défi de l’ arabisation. Au-delà des stratégies d’ adaptation d’ une mission catholique dans l’ Égypte nassérienne, cet article propose une réflexion sur l’ évolution des formes et des contenus de l’ action missionnaire durant deux décennies.
This article examines the similarities and differences between a religious-philosophical approach to contingency and a (religious) psychological approach to coping with health problems. We elaborate on theoretical and empirical developments in research on coping, meaning-focused coping and religious coping. Religious coping is seen as a special form of meaning-focused coping. These coping perspectives are related to Wuchterl’s model for dealing with contingency and an extension of this model, based on Dutch empirical research among cancer patients.
This article focuses on the methodological meaning of the concept of contingency. I illustrate this with a study of doctoral qualification processes, which examines the methodological and substantive dimensions of the contingency paradigm. The study focuses on the way in which doctoral students perceive and conceptualize their research processes, and it crystallized the factors that influence the writing of their dissertations. Horizons of meaning and epistemic concepts, for example, play an essential role. These influence the areas of conflict that arise, the strategies for acting that the doctoral students opt for, and the consequences that result from these strategies. Dealing with contingency turns out to be the central challenge, especially in the supervision of dissertations. The study demonstrates the importance of developing competencies in “contingency encounter” in research and teaching.
Two Case Studies, Ancient Sources, Modern Embodiment
Paul van der Velde
A meeting in South India (Bylakuppe) with a group of Buddhists, followers of the low-caste politician Ambedkar led to a closer investigation of the often found idea that the Buddha opposed the caste system. In this contribution we focus on the tension between the generally held ideas if it comes to the Buddha’s attitude of the caste system (rejection) and everyday practice of a modern group of followers. For this, apart from the exposure in Bylakuppe several episodes from the Pali canon were investigated. It was the unexpected course and the end of the meeting in Byalakuppe that brought the researcher to this reflection, surprised as he was by the course of events. This lead to a renewed reading of several of the ancient sources that are usually brought forward if it comes to the Buddha and caste distinctions. In his own words, a case of ‘creative contingency’ ensuing in a reflection that things were yet more complicated than they seemed to be at first sight. Methodologically speaking one could say this is a field observation that led to a further reflection and a closer investigation of ancient textual sources.
Menno R. Kamminga
This article revisits theologian Ulrich Duchrow’s three-decade-old use of the Protestant notion of status confessionis to denounce the capitalist global economy. Scholars quickly dismissed Duchrow’s argument; however, philosopher Thomas Pogge has developed a remarkable “negative duty”—based critique of the current global economic order that might help revitalize Duchrow’s position. The article argues that sound reasons exist for the churches to declare the contemporary world economy a—provisionally termed—status confessionis minor. After explaining the inadequacy of Duchrow’s original position and summarizing Pogge’s account, the article develops a twofold argument. First, Pogge’s in-depth inquiry into the world economy gives Duchrow’s call for a status confessionis a strong yet narrowing economic foundation. Second, to declare the world economy a status confessionis minor is theological-ethically justifiable if the limited though indispensable “prophetic” significance of doing so is acknowledged. Thus, Duchrow’s approach is justified, but only partially.
Andrew Basden and Sina Joneidy
Meaning is important in everyday life, and each science focuses on certain ways in which reality is meaningful. This article (the second of two) discusses practical implications of Herman Dooyeweerd’s understanding of meaning for everyday experience, scientific theories, scientific methodology, and philosophical underpinning. It uses eight themes related to meaning in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, which are discussed philosophically in the first article (and summarised here). This article ends with a case study in which the themes are applied together to understanding Thomas Kuhn’s notion of paradigms.
In contrast to the dominant way of thinking in economics, in which economics is seen as a positive or neutral science, this paper argues that economics is a discipline that has its own normativity. This economic normativity should be distinguished from what is usually considered as ethics, which normally has a broader scope (e.g., stewardship). This paper further argues that the budget constraint is a key source of economic normativity, although it is not the only source. Economic-theoretical and philosophical aspects are discussed, and consequences for economic life and policy are assessed.
J. Copier, C.A.M. Hermans and T.S.M. van der Zee
This article reports the results of an empirical study into the relationship between school leaders’ experiences of contingency, and how they formulate goals and aims for the future of the children at their schools.
We distinguish between three ways of handling experiences of contingency: contingency denial, contingency acceptance, and contingency receiving. We expect that school leaders who have received new insights in their experiences of contingency (contingency receiving) formulate future aims more often than school leaders who have accepted or denied experiences of contingency. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that both contingency receiving and formulating aims are characterised by transcendental openness and an ethical orientation towards the good life.
The study consisted of qualitative interviews with 24 school leaders of primary schools in the Netherlands. The results confirm the hypothesis, and give insight into the complex relation between personal biography and professional identity in school leadership.
Yvonne Weeseman, Hanneke van Laarhoven and Michael Scherer-Rath
Narrative integration of experiences of contingency describes the ways (modes) in which people assimilate the uncontrollability—or contingency—of life, while accepting, acknowledging and tolerating the existential fears accompanying these experiences, thus keeping contingency open. Contingency is defined as events being ‘possible (or not impossible) and also not necessary at the same time’. Experiences of contingency, caused by the interplay between life events, one’s worldview and ultimate life goals, disrupt one’s life story, challenging one’s basic needs for understanding, coherence and meaning.
The different modes of narrative integration are studied in six highly sensitive Dutch children, aged between 6 and 12 years old. A practice-based model by Kruizinga et al. (2017) is compared to a theoretical construct of religious philosophical contingency constructed by Wuchterl (2011; 2019). Practical and theoretical differences are discussed. This study confirms the findings by Kruizinga et al. (2017).
Four modes of dealing with contingency are identified: Denial, Acknowledging, Accepting and Receiving. In mode four, Receiving, people transcend themselves (self-transcendence). Contrary to Wuchterl’s theory, vertical transcendence is not a prerequisite for narrative integration of contingency, or for keeping contingency open. We conclude that the model of narrative integration of experiences of contingency by Kruizinga et al. is a valid tool for further research. Possible applications in the field of spiritual care are discussed.
Iris D. Hartog, Michael Scherer-Rath, Tom H. Oreel, Justine E. Netjes, José P.S. Henriques, Jorrit Lemkes, Alexander Vonk, Mirjam A.G. Sprangers, Pythia T. Nieuwkerk and Hanneke W.M. van Laarhoven
The theoretical model: ‘Narrative meaning making and integration of life events’ hypothesizes that life events such as falling ill may result in an ‘experience of contingency’. Through narrative meaning making, this experience may be eventually integrated into patients’ life stories, which, in turn, may enhance their quality of life. To contribute to our understanding of this existential dimension of falling ill and to further validate the theoretical model, we examined the relationships among the concepts assessed with the RE-LIFE questionnaire.
Two hypothesized mediation models were assessed using regression-based serial multiple mediation analysis. Model 1, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘acknowledging’, was significant and showed partial mediation by indirect influences through ‘negative impact on life goals’ and ‘existential meaning’. Model 2, assessing the influence of ‘experience of contingency’ on ‘quality of life’, was also significant, with a full mediation by the variables ‘negative impact on life goals’, ‘existential meaning’ and ‘acknowledging’. In conclusion, several hypothesized relationships within the theoretical model were confirmed. Narrative meaning making and integration significantly influence people’s self-evaluation of their quality of life.
The existentially important problem of contingency has in recent times been the topic of discussion not only in the philosophy of religion, but also in psychology, in sociology and especially in empirical theology. In the theory of the experience of contingency developed here, “contingency” is first clarified by differentiating the meanings of “necessity”, which makes it possible to distinguish several fundamental personal patterns of behaviour in dealing with contingencies. Since both the purely scientific considerations as well as those relating to reason have reached their limits, the focus is on the meaning of contingency in religion. The central point at issue is what lies beyond the limits of reason. Naturalists and immanent agnostics judge responses to contingency differently from religious agnostics and adherents of institutionalised religions.—Finally, by applying the notion of a latent philosophy as a basis for these religious-philosophical reflections, it becomes a bridge to empirical theology, which attempts to mold the individual ways of dealing with contingency into being practically applicable.
Michael J. DeMoor
This paper offers a characterization and critique of the idea of bounded rationality and its consequences for public policy. It offers an alternative way of accounting for the crucial features of human rationality that bounded rationality sees, using categories inspired by the Reformational philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and others, and then shows how this alternative account of the “bounds” of human rationality points toward an alternative orientation toward public policy-making.
Egbert van Dalen, Michael Scherer-Rath, Hanneke van Laarhoven, Gerard Wiegers and Chris Hermans
According to philosopher of religion Kurt Wuchterl, contingency acknowledgement (German: Kontingenzanerkennung) means that rational thinking is inadequate for explaining contingency experiences. The authors argue that, in the tragic narrative of a contingency experience, subjects face limitations in three dimensions: in the individual, social and transcending dimensions. The individual dimension is expressed in powerful, visual metaphors for the confrontation with forces that do not take the human dimension into account in any way, even coercing the subjects to relinquish their existence. The social dimension concerns the tragic subject’s feeling of being avoided and excluded by some individuals in their environment. The transcending dimension emerges in the complaint “Why me?”, which religious persons address to a religious power, using moral arguments. Empirical research suggests that the acknowledgement of one’s own limitations resulting from a contingency experience can be seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness, for, by doing so, one shows the courage to let go of past interpretative frameworks and be vulnerable. This creates the possibility of an opening in the interpretation crisis, which can lead to an unexpected, new perspective.
Anastasia M. Ivanova
In the course of the Middle Ages, the Copts experienced a variety of drastic changes in the attitude of Muslim rulers towards them, from confidence to disgrace. The latter included not only the increasingly rigorous tax policies, but also social and domestic constraints.
Laura Carlson Hasler
Determining the authenticity of Ezra-Nehemiah’s sources was a central question among scholars more than a century ago and remains so today. In this article, I explore why posing questions of authenticity about the source documents endures as a mainstay of Ezra-Nehemiah scholarship and argue that the implications of the authenticity question are frequently overstated. This overstatement reveals a prevailing scholarly instinct to separate “the real” from “the ideological,” a dichotomy traceable since C.C. Torrey’s Ezra Studies. Using Ezra 4 as an example, I argue that determining the authenticity of Ezra-Nehemiah’s source documents is not a worthy litmus test of historical-critical scholarship. Instead, considering how Ezra 4 resembles a space of collection rather than a linear story collapses methodological boundaries, calling into question the usefulness of categories like authenticity and fabrication in our understanding of Ezra-Nehemiah and beyond.
Gijsbert van den Brink
Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited
Richard A. Horsley
In Jesus and the Disinherited Thurman recognized that the all-important historical context of Jesus was among a people subjugated, similar to that of segregated and colonized peoples. He discerned the cost in human degradation for people subjected by overwhelming power as they struggled with fear, deception, and hate. In the Gospels he discerned Jesus’ uniquely creative response: His assurance that people are ‘children of God’ establishes a ground of personal dignity that leads to a new courage in the face of violence. Key was Jesus’ command to ‘love your enemies’, which Thurman understood broadly, as enabling the disinherited to forgive people who subjugated them. He finds in Jesus a transformative teaching and embodiment of non-violent direct action, which decisively influenced leaders of the civil rights movement. This essay will compare established scholarly interpretations of Jesus’ sayings with Thurman’s insights and explore how subsequent studies can build on them.
Eddy Van der Borght
Survival of the Disinherited and Womanist Wisdom
Mitzi J. Smith
This essay examines Howard Thurman’s interpretation of the historical Jesus and the religion of Jesus in his 1949 book Jesus and the Disinherited (jatd). Thurman interprets Jesus within his first century CE socio-historical context and from the perspective of disinherited African Americans. He articulates the significance of the religion of Jesus, versus religion about Jesus, for the disinherited and how it can ensure their survival. Since jatd addresses race/racism and class/classism but not the intersection of race, gender, and class, I place jatd in conversation with black feminist Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, womanist theologian Delores Williams’ Sisters in the Wilderness, and Angela Sim’s Lynched, who focus on the survival of black women (Lorde and Williams) and the resilience of black people living in a culture of fear.
This essay contextualizes Thurman’s “Jesus” within academia and the larger Western milieu of the 1940–1950s. Thurman offered a usable construction in order to encourage people to eliminate their “fear” of the other, discourage their use of “deception” as a strategy of survival, and replace their “hate” with love for the other, as a means of maintaining their own human dignity for the purpose of thriving in an American society that preferred their ghettoized isolation and dehumanized existence.
This short introduction to the life of Howard Thurman contextualizes his most celebrated book, Jesus and the Disinherited, with attention to the conditions of his childhood, social placement, career, and religious life.
Dennis R. Edwards
First Peter relies heavily upon the Jesus tradition found in the Gospels in order to motivate and encourage followers of Jesus who were being marginalized and harassed by the dominant society. Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited does the same work as 1 Peter. The social condition of Thurman and his audience mirrors that of the addressees of 1 Peter. This essay compares Jesus and the Disinherited and 1 Peter, demonstrating how both authors relied upon the Jesus tradition, especially the Sermon on the Mount and the Passion.
2019 marks the 70th anniversary of Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited (1949). Thurman’s classic was not a work of dogma nor a variation on the so-called “Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Instead, Thurman’s classic primarily offered a mystic’s message of hope to many marginalized persons in the first half of the twentieth century. In part, Jesus and the Disinherited reveals Jesus’s insight about the importance of personal dignity for dispossessed persons in any age. In part, Jesus and the Disinherited also frames the mystic’s message of hope as a defense of Thurman’s affinity for a religion that reputedly was linked to a long history of oppression, colonization, violence, and exploitation. Thus, in Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman avers that there is a distinction between the religion of Jesus (which Thurman put on the side of the marginalized) and institutional Christianity (which Thurman saw as aligned with dominant societal structures).
A Major Theme of the Gospel of Matthew
μετάνοια (repentance) is a major theme in Matthew, manifested in Jesus’s first words in Matthew 4:17, which also summarize Jesus’s teaching and ministry. The essence of μετάνοια is a change of one’s mind (or will, or heart) and conduct, and thus a turn of one’s whole life to Jesus the Son of God and the kingdom of heaven. While μετάνοια is directly mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels, the μετάνοια theme is constantly taught and illustrated in various ways in Matthew.
In the late 1970s and ’80s, a new generation of Chinese poets emerged with a powerful critique of the state’s aggressive political reforms. After the 1976 Tiananmen Square incident, the Bejing poet Zaho Zhenkai (known as Bei Dao) wrote a startling poem titled “The Answer” about his refusal to believe in the unquestioned ultimacy of China’s worldview. Bei Dao’s unique style of poetry helped readers make new associations that were otherwise inaccessible to them. This article examines Bei Dao’s use of metaphor in “The Answer” through the lens of the aesthetic philosopher Lambert Zuidervaart and suggests that the poet’s use of self-controverting metaphors makes an absent reality graspable and present. The article then considers the role of public theology as it listens to the witness of the poet’s bewildering evocation of accessing “the real” through disbelief. In consideration of Herman Bavinck’s essay On Contemporary Ethics, this article suggests that theologians (and religious practitioners) should resist the temptation to control the artist’s expression even when it limps with narcissism and moral deficiency. Instead, the theologian (and the church) should fight alongside the artist in helping them to share their staggering vision or, in Bei Dao’s case, the transcendent power of resiliency sustained by the shadows of the dead. This article aims to generate a fruitful dialogue between Bei Dao and the Reformed theological tradition that underscores the uncanny importance of disbelief as an alternative strategy for cultural transformation and faithful proclamation.
Interaction as a Theological Method
The way in which theology is formulated often relates to three components—texts, traditions, and contexts—each of which has its own distinctive and interactive forces to shape theology. The major conundrum affecting methodology of contemporary theology is, however, a radical shift from text and tradition to context, as if both text and tradition had been contextual and thus theology were always to be contextual. What if our contexts are oppressive and violent? On what basis can we resist such violent contextual values? Who are ‘we’ here and what does ‘resist’ imply for theological method? Reviewing various concepts of person in Max Scheler, Korean neo-Confucian scholar Dasan Cheong Yak Yong (1762–1836), and Emmanuel Levinas, this article argues that person, not as a self-sufficient subjectivity but as one interacting with others and their contexts, must be included as one of the subjects that formulates theology, along with texts, traditions, and contexts, and that interactions among the four components are the actual forces for constructing theology.
George J. (Cobus) van Wyngaard
The church struggle against apartheid remains a key case study in ecumenical public theology, with particular relevance for the Reformed tradition. The importance of Christian theology in both the justification of and opposition to apartheid is well known. Also, the process of ecumenical discernment for responding to apartheid became a significant marker in global ecumenical reflection on what today we might describe as public theology. However, the idea of a theological struggle against apartheid risks ironing out the different theological positions that oppose apartheid. This article highlights some of the attempts to analyze the theological plurality in responses to apartheid. Then it proceeds to present an alternative way of viewing this plurality by focusing on the way in which different classic theological questions were drawn upon to analyze apartheid theologically. Using as examples the important theologians David Bosch, Simon Maimela, and Albert Nolan, it highlights how apartheid was described as a problem of ecclesiology, theological anthropology, and soteriology. It argues that this plurality of theological analyses allows us to rediscover theological resources that might be of particular significance as race and racism take on new forms in either democratic South Africa or the contemporary world. Simultaneously, it serves as a valuable example in considering a variety of theological questions when theologically reflecting on issues of public concern.
Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited in Conversation with Jens Schröter and Dale Allison
Written in honor of the seventy-year anniversary of Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, this paper takes up Thurman’s plea that we should consider the relevance of historical Jesus studies to the oppressed. I heed his call by examining Thurman’s claims about Jesus’ life and ministry in light of the work of two contemporary Jesus scholars whose work on social history have moved the conversation forward in our day, Jens Schröter and Dale Allison. This comparison shows that many of Thurman’s insights about Jesus stand up to critical scrutiny. I then ask probing questions of Schröter and Allison’s work, particularly what their scholarship has to say to the disinherited.
Willem van Vlastuin
Old Catholic theology is the theology that is characteristic of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. Old Catholic Theology: An Introduction, authored by Peter-Ben Smit, an acknowledged expert in the field, outlines the main characteristics of and influences on Old Catholic theology, as well as the extant ecumenical relationships of the Old Catholic Churches. In doing so, it covers what may be called ‘mainstream’ Old Catholic theology, while paying attention to extant diversity within the Old Catholic tradition. Particular attention is given to the hermeneutical approach to theology, ecclesiology, sacramental theology and ecumenical theology. Old Catholic theology has come to be characterized by a sacramental understanding of the church. This is the result of ecumenical dialogue and the basis upon which the Old Catholic Churches engage in ecumenical rapprochement. Hermeneutics of Scripture and tradition plays an important role as well, given that Old Catholic Churches have developed their own form of a hermeneutics of communion.