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Anthony Balcomb

Abstract

Nicholas Bhekinkosi Bhengu was founder and leader of the Back to God Crusade in South Africa. This movement started in the mid-1950s and became affiliated with the Assemblies of God in South Africa. But Bhengu's influence went far beyond the confines of the movement he started. His revivals impacted South African society in a profound way and he became internationally recognized as a powerful force for change in South Africa. Controversially, however, he did not enter into the political arena as such, even though he was at one stage of his life a member of the Communist Party of South Africa and even later on in his career continued to affirm the policies of this party. Though apparently apolitical his message had profound political consequences. For example he did much to promote the self-confidence and dignity of his people (despite the dehumanising influences of apartheid which he openly denounced), he insisted on reconciliation between the so-called 'red' people and the so-called 'school' people amongst South African black Africans, and he politely but veryfirmly rejected the standards imposed by white society on blacks. There were also very specific reasons — both theological, philosophical, and pragmatic — why he chose not to become a political activist. His is therefore a very significant case study of the socio-political influences of a ministry that was not overtly political.

Anthony Balcomb

Abstract

'Disenchantment' was an expression coined by Max Weber to describe a process whereby the world was rid of all spiritual reality and subjected to the power of the calculating and rational human mind. An enchanted universe was one in which space was presenced with spiritual agency, where things were subjects, not objects, and in which an epistemology of engagement, not disengagement, operated. Disenchantment involved, amongst other things, the emptying of space, the objectification of being, and the linearizing of time. Christian theology from the seventeenth century became associated with a disenchanted, modernizing agenda through early Christian scientists such as Bacon, Newton, and Descartes. While modernity has brought unprecedented levels of supremacy over nature the association of Christian theology with the modern agenda of disenchantment has been questioned in the postmodern context. Theologies of place and space are now being sought that take seriously an agenda that places God and spirituality back in the world and not beyond the world, that emphasizes an organic and not a mechanistic universe, and that resuscitates the notion of agency in the world.

Anthony Balcomb

Abstract

In this article, I attempt to distinguish between five responses to the political situation in South Africa made by evangelicals before and after the end of apartheid in April 1994. I characterize the adherents of these positions as the conservatives, the pragmatists, the protagonists of the Third Way, the protagonists of the 'alternative' community and the liberationists. I then attempt to demonstrate their influence in the transformation of South African society towards democracy by undertaking a series of typological case studies of prominent representatives of these positions. In the process, I attempt to unpack some of the theological and political thinking that underlies and explains each position.

Of Iron Cages, Double Binds, Epistemological Crises, and Environmental Destruction

The Fragmentation of the Western Worldview and Gestures Towards Another Way of Being in the World

Anthony O. Balcomb

The Western worldview, otherwise known as the modern worldview, has its origins in ancient Greek culture and its best known analyst and critic is Max Weber. Weber described the rationalization processes by which it came about as involving the disenchantment of the world, the disengagement of the autonomous self from the world in order to become its central agent, the objectification of the cosmos and the bureaucratization of all aspects of human life with the intention of mastery and control. This has led to what Weber called the Iron Cage in which modern human beings find themselves, unable to escape the alienation that such disengagement has brought about but equally unable to find an alternative. The exploitative nature of the western project is the basic cause of the contemporary destruction of the environment. Gregory Bateson probes more deeply into the alienating influences of the modern worldview which he says is based on its inability to understand the world holistically, which will inevitably lead to the world’s destruction. At the heart of this condition is his theory of the double bind. His advocacy for a more holistic understanding of the world resonates with postmodern critics in the fields of philosophy, anthropology, and theology, all of whom are advocating engagement, vulnerability, and participation as opposed to separation, prediction, and control.