Verbum et Ecclesia is a theological research journal that challenges traditional discourses within and between the fields of biblical, religious, social and human sciences as well as the constructive engagement with the natural sciences. It is an instrument of engagement between theological disciplines, on the one hand, and theology and other disciplines, on the other. This periodical is juridically connected to the Centre for Ministerial Development (Excelsus), located at the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria. English, Afrikaans and Sepedi are the languages of publication which makes the journal unique.


The library contains articles of Verbum et Ecclesia as of vol. 2(1981) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • A postfoundational ubuntu accepts the unwelcomed (by way of �process� transversality)

    Wayne G. Smith (AOSIS, 2017-10-01)
    This examination of ubuntu is engaged in a conversation with the speculative philosophy of organism (�process�) to acquire an extended tool by which to engage within its ontology the widest possible range of human interaction. The engagement by ubuntu�s relational doctrine of the speculative philosophical cosmology of A.N. Whitehead placed portions of the latter�s constructs at the service of ubuntu�s transversal capacity to examine and apply the deepest understanding of its own etymology. It has been a challenge to understand occasions of injustice and suffering which have manifested within the same African culture which has given to the world the language and concept of ubuntu. It has been commonplace to isolate the utopian relational ontology implicit in the aphorism from occasions of the worst of human nature. It was the premise of this study that an understanding of an ubuntu which excludes dystopian occasions has done a disservice to the breadth, depth and height of what is to be fully human � including occasions of suffering and anti-social behaviours.
  • Die filosofie kan die teologie help om weg te beweeg van �n onhistoriese, sinkroniese interpretasie van tekste na �n historiese, diakroniese interpretasie van tekste

    Pieter H.J. Labuschagne; Jurie H. le Roux (AOSIS, 2012-02-01)
    In the last few decades in South Africa, much emphasis has been placed on unhistorical, synchronistic interpretations of the text of the Old Testament. Very little effort has been made to look into the long historical development of the text from the sources to the present form. Sometimes the advocates of these synchronistic approaches even responded with hostility towards any approach that would, in their words, deny the authority of the text. Their search was for absolute truth, which they believed could be secured by their methods. The uncertainties of historical research were not attractive to them. In this article, we briefly look at Gerhard Von Rad�s <em>Traditionsgeschichte</em> [History of Traditions] and Hans-Georg Gadamer�s <em>Wirkungsgeschichte</em> [Reception History] and point out that mankind is rooted in history. We thus come to understanding through a process that is tied to our historical horisons. Furthermore, it will become clear that theology and philosophy can help one another in defining the process of understanding.
  • Etienne de Villiers as etikus van verantwoordelikheid

    Dirkie Smit (AOSIS, 2012-12-01)
    <strong>Etienne de Villiers as ethicist of responsibility.</strong> The paper considered six ways to describe Etienne de Villiers as ethicist of responsibility. They broadly corresponded with chronological phases in his academic career. The first was the way in which he initially took responsibility to teach theological ethics in a methodologically reflective way. The second was the way in which he increasingly found answers to these methodological concerns in responsibility ethics as an approach. The third was the way in which he spent much time analysing the work of responsibility ethicists. This critical engagement led to a fourth phase, still ongoing, developing his own approach. Against this background, the paper argued that he had always been an ethicist of responsibility in the fifth sense that he addressed urgent moral challenges. Developing this, a final section claims that he was an ethicist of responsibility according to Weber�s description of science as vocation. The paper was read as key note presentation at the University of Pretoria on 09 November 2011, when D.E. (Etienne) de Villiers was honoured on the occasion of his retirement. On the specific request of the organisers, the speech was held in Afrikaans and the original oral form was retained here, including the personal rethorical style of the introduction and conclusion.
  • Teaching Open Distance Learning undergraduates in Theology to become effective change agents

    Erna Oliver (AOSIS, 2013-02-01)
    <span>Teaching Theology in the African context presents unique challenges. In general, living conditions in South Africa did not improve much since the first democratic elections were held in 1994. Students have to cope with extreme living conditions whilst also focusing on their distance learning activities. Reflexive research that started in 2010 showed that opportunities could be created to make a greater impact on the students’ lives through innovative and interactive study material and teaching methods. The second year course ‘World Christianity and ecumenism’ provided ample opportunity to be used in an experiment to interact with students during the course of the semester in such a way that they could be challenged to act as change agents in their congregations and communities. By helping students to practise the values and skills learned and to transfer the knowledge gained from the course, they could be motivated to see themselves not only as learners, but also as teachers and educators. This motivated students to take greater responsibility for their own learning and also help to create a more favourable learning environment for others by acting as educators and leaders in their respective communities. By advocating, planning and implementing actions to promote positive change, students could become actively involved in ecumenical activities, upliftment projects and environmental awareness programmes. The positive impact of this study could be expanded into the wider B.Th. programme at University of South Africa through the current process of re-curriculating.</span><br />
  • Conundrum of religious mafia and legislation in South Africa: When does religion become a national threat? Reference to the Seven Angels Ministry

    Bekithemba Dube (AOSIS, 2019-01-01)
    In this theoretical article, I analyse the hearing of the Seven Angels Ministry before the Commission for Religious and Linguistic Rights, and subsequent events that led to the killing of police and army officers at the Ngcobo Police Station. Informed by critical emancipatory research theory, I unpack the emerging nexus of the state, gender, legislation, religious freedom and human rights in the context of religious mafia. I answer two questions in relation to the Seven Angels Ministry and the Ngcobo killings: ‘What are the tenets of a mafiarised religion?’ and ‘What can be done to mitigate the challenge?’ I argue that a philosophical understanding of the constitution, education, gender and politics as practiced by the Seven Angels Ministry presents a trajectory of religion in contemporary society that must be problematised, unearthed and challenged to produce a world order that is responsive to societal needs and devoid of oppression and coloniality. I also argue that while religious freedom is a human right, it is important that legislation protects citizens from religious mafias, particularly when religious discourses negate schooling, promote gender inequality and emphasise constitutional delinquency. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article is interdisciplinary in the sense that it addresses the issues of education, constitutionalism, gender, child abuse and a need for a theology that challenges religious mafia exhibited by some religious movements. It calls for a change in legislation, and a different approach to theology as well as in curricula to address lived realities.
  • The ancestors, violence and democracy in Zimbabwe

    Zorodzai Dube (AOSIS, 2018-10-01)
    Are the departed silent in their graves or do their voices influence the way we participate in politics? While in other places their voices could be less loud, it is not so in Zimbabwe. Using Terrence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm’s theory regarding invention of traditions, this study explores the deployment of ancestral voices in Zimbabwean politics as a strategy to legitimise political power and social hierarchy. In Zimbabwe, each cycle of election is characterised by constant reminder concerning the voices of the departed, reminding the voters that their democratic exercise through elections must align with the wishes of the nation’s ancestors such as Nehanda, Kaguvi, Chamunika and Mwari – the national god. The study consists of three parts: the first part looks into the belief in ancestors, focusing on the ancestral hierarchical order; the second part explores how the spiritual world of the ancestors in terms of its hierarchy is reflected through the spatial arrangement at the village and household levels; and the last section looks into how Mugabe utilises the ideology concerning the ancestors to maintain political power. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Through use of explanatory theories in religious studies and theology, this study unpacks the complexity of theorising politics and democracy within contexts in which the spiritual (in this case, ancestors or gods) takes precedence. After dialoguing and critiquing the current and dominant theories regarding religion across the continent, the article finds Terrence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm’s theory regarding invented traditions the most plausible perspective to explain the interaction of religious canopies and political configurations in Zimbabwe.
  • The role of the Old Testament in a violent world

    Esias E. Meyer (AOSIS, 2011-06-01)
    This article explores the responsibility of Bible critics with regard to the role that the Bible should play in our violent society. The crucial question that needs to be addressed is whether the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is part of the problem or part of the solution. The Old Testament is clearly a violent book. How do we deal with this? Does the Old Testament really have a positive contribution to make in a society riddled with violence? Some Bible critics tend to shy away from these questions, but there are exceptions. For some, violence is so endemic to the Bible that there is little to save. For others, the Bible has a very constructive role to play in a society plagued by violence.
  • Overcoming violence - a basic task of Christian churches

    Wolfgang Huber (AOSIS, 2011-06-01)
    In this article � based on the second of two keynote lectures at a conference on violence � the view is developed that the task of the church with respect to violence consists mainly in overcoming violence. In the first part of the article dealing with the basic tasks of the church it is argued that the task to overcome violence is close to the essence of the church. The point of departure is taken in Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession, which understands the church as the �communion of saints� and names the pure proclamation of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments as the two characteristics of the church. The Christian message that the church has to proclaim the gospel entails a preferential option for nonviolence that includes the responsibility to put an end to existing violence. In the second part of the article attention is given to the implications the basic task of the church in overcoming violence holds for the practice of the church. It is argued that the starting point is that the church has to proclaim the gospel of peace and as a community of faith become a community of peace herself. Some of the most important practical consequences the proclamation of the gospel of peace has for the church as a community of action, for her work in education, for her promotion of justice and for her solidarity with those in need, are discussed.
  • Seeking the good (peace) of the republic: The violence against and of difference in defining the public space

    Johann-Albrecht Meylahn (AOSIS, 2011-06-01)
    This article will reflect on the role of legitimate and authorised violence in state-making. This violence in the name of the good defines the state (Benjamin�s law-making violence) by the exclusion of others (Benjamin 1996). Law-making violence together with the violence that coerces or binds [<em>religare</em>] the public into a common understanding of the good (Benjamin�s law-maintaining violence) is at the exclusion of other interpretations of the good (Benjamin 1996). As the law-making and law-maintaining violence of the state is always at the expense of the excluded other, the excluded other will produce a counter violence of difference seeking a legitimate place within the common space of the republic (Benjamin�s divine violence). What is the church�s role in such a context of violence? Is the church�s role to help clarify and clearly define the good that will bind [<em>religare</em>] the citizens into a stronger and more prosperous and peaceful state � onward Christian soldiers marching as to war? Or is there another calling, to be disciples of Christ � with the Cross of Jesus going on before � and enter the space of violence beyond the knowledge of good and evil as peacemakers? These questions will be examined by bringing into dialogue �i�ek�s (1997) interpretation of Christianity with Derrida�s (2002) interpretation of hospitality, specifically in the violent South African context.
  • �Mission and Power� � The relevance of the Edinburgh 2010 discussion in the theological engagement with violence

    Cornelius J.P. Niemandt (AOSIS, 2011-06-01)
    <p>The ecumenical conference in Edinburgh in 2010 identified the issue of �Mission and Power� as one of the pressing mission themes for our generation. Christian mission has always been associated with power. The promise of the risen Christ was that his followers would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them. History, unfortunately, recounts how Christian mission became backed by force and violence, the very opposite of the kind of power and energy associated with the Spirit of God. At the Edinburgh 2010 conference this violence in mission was studied as expressed in churches� relations with indigenous peoples. This article engages violence theologically and ecumenically by inviting the Edinburgh 2010 discussion into the reflection on violence in the democratic South Africa, as it was presented as a contribution to a wider discussion on violence in South Africa. This is done with the following objectives in mind: (1) to better understand the interplay between violence and power against the background of a broader global and ecumenical discussion of this issue; and (2) to suggest clues for the theological reflection on violence that may help to create a powerless, spacecreating discourse that opens up thinking and contributes to healing and justice.The article concludes by building on the Edinburg 2010 <em>foundations of mission</em> as dialogue and proposing prophetic dialogue as a powerless discourse: �Transforming the meaning of mission means that � God�s mission calls all people to work together for healing and justice in partnerships of mutuality and respect.�</p>
  • Violence: The church is part of the problem

    Erna Oliver (AOSIS, 2011-06-01)
    South African Christians are not only surrounded by violence, but actively participate in acts of violence, therefore contributing to the unacceptably high levels of anxiety and counterviolence across the country. Christian churches � both the institutions and their individual members � are accomplices to the current chaotic state of affairs in South Africa. Simply accepting and adapting to the standards and values of the society in which the church operates erases the signs and characteristics of the alternative community that Christians are supposed to be. Being no different from the rest of society deprives the churches of their power and influence on society.<p>The churches are caught up in a number of crises, causing them to be sidetracked from serious issues that need urgent attention. This calls for amelioration, which focuses not so much on creeds, but on deeds. Faith is supposed to change people and their behaviour. Challenging the way people behave, calling upon them to live without compromise and emphasising the need for introspection regarding the use of violence could bring creative transformation to both the church and society. To this end, this paper aimed to focus attention on the fact that the Christian churches in South Africa are not living up to their calling and, through its examination of the problem at hand, sound a call for introspection and action.</p>
  • Truth, Reason, and Faith in Modern Civilisation: The violence of truth and the truth of violence in modern �secular� Western civilisation

    Johann-Albrecht Meylahn (AOSIS, 2012-02-01)
    What is truth? What is reason? What is faith? These questions have been hotly debated and have been the cause of violence prior to the rise of the modern and so-called secular state. The rise of the modern �secular� state was founded on the distinction between reason and faith thus bringing to an end the religious violence which was inspired by their respective truths. The concept of truth will be questioned, thus questioning the �truth� that reason and faith can be neatly separated from each other and consequently that the secular and religious can be separated into neat categories. There is an inherent violence (political, religious and linguistic) in <em>the</em> Truth(s), be it the truths of either religion or secular reason, namely the originary linguistic violence of truth. This article will ask the question: How can one speak of truth, reason and faith in a modern civilisation and seek ways beyond the violence of truths towards interdisciplinary open dialogue of a democracy still to come?
  • Reconciliation in South Africa in light of the imago Dei and koinonia

    Phemelo O. Marumo (AOSIS, 2019-04-01)
    It is evident that the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its consequent findings, together with the dawn of the new South Africa, has not achieved its goal of a unified ‘rainbow nation’. This is because of the fact that South Africans still face racialism and segregation from most quarters of the community. The racialism and marginalising are not only white and black dichotomies, but the fissures are evident in black-on-black and white-on-white anxieties. The infighting in churches and communities represents other contributing factors. The dream of the ‘rainbow’ society, which is raceless, has smothered the vision of peace and harmony of a reconciled society. This smothering has had a divisive impact on the possibilities immanent in South Africa. Despair, the promotion of hatred and polarisation are common anxieties among most South Africans. The race card is used for ‘one’s’ own greediness and personal aggrandisement and there is a need for a solution. This study seeks to establish the theology of the image of God (imago Dei) in relation to fellowship (koinonia). Then, the study highlights the causes of distress in some denominations, especially those that privilege the name of God and thereby making a comparison between the churches and TRC which was a government initiative in the restoration of peace and fellowship process. From that premise, the article argues that despite the inclusive accommodative TRC sessions, racial intolerance and deep infighting are still rife in South Africa. Then, the study concludes by proposing a mission paradigm that advances fellowship and advocates that all people are made in the image of God, thence they are equal. The article brings forth the political era post-1994 in South Africa and links that to the social setting of churches post-1994. In that way, there is a link between politics and the church and how these have influenced the present in South Africa. The question is: Did the TRC usher in a new era of koinonia and brotherhood from a theology of the image of God? This missiological aspect is linked to socialism and politics.
  • The semper reformanda principle under scrutiny in an African context in relation to inculturation

    Graham A. Duncan (AOSIS, 2018-10-01)
    The semper reformanda [always reforming] principle has been poorly promoted by all traditions since it was conceptualised following the 16th-century Reformation. A significant problem caused by the missionary movement was the imposition of a Western-style approach to theology, liturgy and polity with little regard for the cultures that were being invaded and diminished. This article examines the hermeneutical problem in the African context, as well as the concept of and practice of inculturation, and proposes a way forward on the basis of faithfulness to the semper reformanda principle. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article is interdisciplinary in the sense that it transcends the theological disciplines of Church History, Church Polity, Dogmatics, Practical Theology, African Theology and Missiology. The topic indicates the relevance of an interdisciplinary approach in order to produce an inclusive, integrated and well-rounded approach within the broad field of hermeneutics.
  • The state of the church in a postcolonial era from Newbigin’s perspective: Challenges and opportunities for mission

    Phemelo O. Marumo (AOSIS, 2018-09-01)
    As the Christian church engaged in the so-called foreign mission, an unfortunate perception ensued that mission was of service to the colonial aspirations of the sending countries. Subsequently, labour missionaries came under suspicion as they were regarded as oppressors who robbed local communities of their culture and the way of thinking. It is in this regard that Newbigin pondered the question whether the West could be converted from ignorance and religious imperialism that exploited the local population. This gave rise to the thinking that related missiology and ecclesiology to a missional church which is Trinitarian in nature and based on missio Dei (God’s plan). In this research, it is argued that mission will always be a suspect of colonial and imperialist motives that cannot contribute to the society in which it works unless the mission is conducted through a missional church which is embedded in missio Dei as presented by Newbigin. In order to address this, the research initially highlights how the mission was conducted from a missiology that was not embedded in missio Dei and how this has adversely affected the spreading of the Christian message and undermined the transformation of society. Secondly, the research shows that lack of contextualisation and not taking cognisance of the culture and the worldview of the colonised has greatly affected the mission in the postcolonial era. And thirdly, the research indicates how a missional church as advocated by Newbigin could contribute towards an effective missiological agenda that could bring unity and glorification to God in the postcolonial era. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article focuses on how the mission was conducted, not taking cognisance of the worldview of those it preached to. This is the philosophical implication. The other issue is that contextualisation was not taken into consideration which means the socio-cultural issues were not addressed. This article brings forth that if the blending of both philosophy and social science could be infused in missiology, then missiological attributes like koinonia and evangelism would serve as an appropriate vehicle to transport missio Dei.
  • Missional postures and practices for South African Baptist churches

    Desmond Henry (AOSIS, 2018-07-01)
    This article enumerates the importance of a missional posture in our Baptist cultural moment and details various issues related to the author’s definition of the concept missio Dei. Moving to contextual practices among South African Baptists, the author deals with missional practices deployed in the Baptist context from a participant observer basis. Important principles for the effective implementation of those missional practices across the evangelical denominational divide can be drawn. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article seeks to challenge the modern conception of church as attractional and presents an alternative model that aligns with the recent missional conversations by highlighting five missional practices for congregations to implement for the common good. The fields of theology, missiology and ecclesiology are impacted by this study as it uses the author’s contextual findings as participant observer.
  • Social media and religion: Missiological perspective on the link between Facebook and the emergence of prophetic churches in southern Africa

    Mookgo S. Kgatle (AOSIS, 2018-07-01)
    Recent works on social media and religion have paid particular attention to the role of social media in the development of religious values, improvement of social values and gratification of faith-based content by using various methodologies. A missiological perspective or approach to social media and religion will assist in exploring the role of Facebook in the emergence of prophetic churches. The background of prophetic churches is discussed here to demonstrate the growth of these churches and how such growth is linked to the use of Facebook. The shortcomings of the use of Facebook are highlighted and recommendations are made on how such shortcomings can be addressed in future. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article demonstrates the link between social media and religion on one hand and a link between Facebook and the emergence of prophetic churches on the other.
  • A missiological exploration of Australian missionary James Noble Mackenzie�s ministry to lepers in South Korea

    Sang Pil Son (AOSIS, 2017-01-01)
    <p>The history of Australian Presbyterian Mission in Korea (APM) is not comprehensive, nor the study of missiology that addresses the marginalised. This study of the ministry of APM missionary, J.N. Mackenzie, to lepers in Japanese-occupied Korea, adds significantly to both these areas. An understanding of the role and methods of Mackenzie�s missionary activities among the marginalised in Korea can encourage today�s Church to effectively restore the marginalised in society, moving from Church doctrine to practical reproduction of the example of Jesus recorded in Mark�s gospel. Using original and published sources, the study examines the social conditions in which Mackenzie found Korean lepers, their historic treatment and government policies and the growth of his holistic mission, with its methods and fruits. Mackenzie�s work is documented with recorded data included to demonstrate its Christ-like effectiveness both spiritually and physically. By tracing Mackenzie�s work with lepers, it is clear that holistic mission can helpfully impact the situation of the most marginalised. Mackenzie�s work expanded dramatically, churches were formed and it even created cured evangelists, making it a useful model for mission work among the marginalised. Mackenzie�s work played a significant part in the Church and National history of Korea and presented a new path in the mission work of APM. It has the potential to influence modern mission in being �as Christ� to the marginalised and thus to impact the society. This study has given a unique perspective on the history and theology of mission to the poor and traditionally powerless in society.</p><p><strong>Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: </strong>Traditional views of history, theology and missiology have focussed on the ruling classes and urban societies. A perspective of the marginalised encourages a shift in these as it can be seen that the rural poor responded to holistic ministry and affected history and society. Such insights can give direction now.</p>
  • The Celtic connection with southern Africa: Tracing a genealogy of missionary spirituality

    J.J. (Dons) Kritzinger (AOSIS, 2014-01-01)
    It is quite generally accepted that the missionary monks from the Celtic tradition in Ireland and Scotland played a significant role in the Christianisation of Europe during the Dark Ages.This is a story that should not be forgotten. It is also well known that this was preceded by the thorough evangelisation of Ireland and Scotland (and northeast England) itself by these Celtic monks. What is, however, not getting enough attention is the (much later) outreach to southern Africa coming from those same quarters. In this article an effort is made to give credit to this, and to trace the specific spirituality that made all this possible.
  • A vision for the sending of the Church in Botswana

    Desmond Henry (AOSIS, 2011-03-01)
    The purpose of this article was to present a vision (of a preferred future) for the southern African ecclesia, based on an accurate understanding of what can be termed a missional ecclesiology. This concept was explored using the current context of my ministry, that of the Republic of Botswana, as a primary interlocutor.

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