Jesus Restores True Spirituality
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Your testimony will grow stronger through your experiences. It will expand as you show your willingness to serve in the Church, wherever you are called. It will increase as you make decisions to keep the commandments. As you lift and strengthen others, you will see that your testimony continues to develop. As you pray and fast, study the scriptures, attend Church meetings, and hear others share their testimonies, you will be blessed with moments of inspiration that will bolster your testimony.
Such moments will come throughout your life as you strive to live the gospel. Do not wait for your testimony to be fully developed before you share it.
Calvin and Farel instituted the first free public education for both sexes. Beyond the welfare system and education the work of Calvin and the pastors reached out to suggestions for railings to protect children on stairs and balconies. Fires and chimneys were regulated and efforts were made to clean the town and for street repair. Regulation of prices for the necessities of life was an accepted principle of the early reformation in Geneva McKim At the heart of the reformation was the intent to reform, revive and renew the church.
In their minds the church was not standing up to the realities of its time in confronting financial corruption, sexual immorality and political power. Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others called for the 'reawakening' of the Church to address these issues.
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In so doing they did not hesitate to point out the inadequacies and corruption of the church which impacted on its life, work, witness and theology. Thus the 16th century Protestant Reformation was an attempt to reform and transform both church and society. The Reformation embraced a number of quite distinct, yet overlapping, areas of human activity: the reform of both the morals and structures of church and society, new approaches to political issues, shifts in economics thinking, the renewal of Christian spirituality and the reform of Christian doctrine McGrath The Reformers generally advocated an involvement with the world though not all of them, for example, the Anabaptist.
However, unlike the Middle Ages, they went a step further in the attempt to transform society. And this they engaged as they influenced social and economic policies of the government of the day Stivers It is thus not surprising that some 'secular interpretations' tend to discount the importance of the religious element in the Reformation.
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They simply state that Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli and others are products of their socio-economic and political backgrounds and circumstances Van Der Walt Further, the school of social history that views the religious motives behind the Reformation as marginal phenomena specific to the period has, not surprisingly, found the thesis that the Reformation failed to be very attractive Oberman As Gerald Strauss argues, the 'official Christianity' throughout the centuries was able to capture only a very narrow elite layer of the population, not the 'underground' constituted by popular culture Strauss It can be said of Luther and Calvin, for example, that they did have a vision of the 'common man' and wanted to remodel faith in a practical and lasting way.
However, did they want or attempt to realise Reformation in the terms of transformation? Steven Ozment offers a significant affirmative comment in response to this question:. There can be no doubt that other factors played a role but the religious one cannot be ignored.
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The Reformation movement did not only renew and change the church leaving the world uninvolved. This movement intervened dramatically in the lives of all and brought about radical changes in the social, political and economic aspects of a new developing world. It gave rise to a new epoch in the history of humankind. And all through this time there were small groups of Christians who kept to the task of transforming the lives of the poor.
It is thus not surprising that one of the theological miracles of the late 20th century is the rediscovery of the biblical witness to God's particular concern for the poor and oppressed. We shall now show this by focusing on the church in South Africa. The church as transformation and change agency in South Africa. The early missionaries, especially in the 19th century, are to be commended for sowing the seed from which the black churches of the 20th century grew.
They did extensive evangelistic work and built churches, schools and hospitals. John de Gruchy points out that Black Theology has its foundations in the work of the early missionaries:. The church has been involved in the establishment of society, though its contributions were not at all times positive. In South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church, in particular, used its economic and political power to secure the rights of the white minority, seriously impoverishing the majority black people in South Africa, and even providing theological justification for such economic and political policies by misinterpreting Calvin's theology.
This was evident in the policy of separate development which led to the rich white getting richer and the poor black getting poorer. This is a classic example of how Reformed theology was [ ab ]used to perpetuate racial and economic injustice. Duchrow points out that we need to today understand and judge the theological positions of the Reformation and the resultant churches on the double criteria: 1 are they life-enhancing?
This is precisely what Allan Boesak did in his academic contributions, preaching, church leadership and in his brief stint in politics. Particularly outstanding is his theological contributions and his pioneering efforts to interpret Reformed theology in the South African and African context.
Given the devastating misinterpretation of Reformed theology and tradition in the justification of apartheid, Boesak managed to recapture the true essence of what Reformed theology is all about. His books Farewell to Innocence and Black and Reformed , among others, are incredible attempts to cast a new light on Reformed theology while seriously engaging the black experience and context.
This is further explored in his endeavour to connect the concept and quest for an African renaissance with Christian theology and faith which he does so well in his book The Tenderness of Conscience In essence, living under apartheid the ecumenical church had no real choice but to fight for the majority of people who were poor and oppressed. In living out the gospel it attempted to transform society and enhance the quality of life of the poor and oppressed.
In this sense the church has a history of being a transformation and change agent in South Africa. This can be seen by some of the things we will now mention. In October a circular was sent to heads of churches and superintendents of missions to investigate their attitude towards the Bantu Education Act. The Committee believed that the Act would violate certain principles of education.
This greatly stirred the Sharpeville incident in , and the subsequent banning of black organisations. The result was the Cottesloe Consultation, led mainly by dissatisfied Reformed Christians reacting to racism, in December which attempted to address 'Christian race relations and social problems in South Africa'.
Clearly, one can see from this that the CCSA was working towards the transformation of the human person and community, free from discrimination, racism, exploitation and oppression. Assisted by the World Council of Churches, a Department of Inter-Church Aid was started in , to collect and distribute funds for disaster relief and community development projects. The SACC became more and more a place where the Churches could witness together on the problems which faced them in South Africa - above all, the social and political problems produced by the government's apartheid policy.
Further, the evil of apartheid was clearly exposed in two documents that attempted to express a Christian and theological understanding of South African society: The Message to the People of South Africa and The Kairos Document The message was a serious attempt to interpret what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ means and implies within our complex and difficult situation Balia The key question concerning the message was: Who does my first loyalty go to - a human being; an ethnic group; a tradition; a political ideology or to Christ?
The document called on Christians to be truthful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be aware of the false gospel apartheid. The message stated that apartheid by its very nature is both divisive and antithetical of a just social order and reconciliation.
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Hence, it established that the struggle for justice is for the sake of overcoming the alienation of our social order and enabling reconciliation between the conflicting parties to become a reality De Gruchy The most significant fact that emerges here is that the 'message' drew the church into addressing the socio-economic and political injustices of the time. This was to be further enhanced by the formulation of the Kairos Document much later. The Kairos Document is a Christian, biblical and theological commentary on the political crisis in the country that took seriously the experiences of black people.
The document spoke of the crisis in the church, which was born out of the divisions in the church. Consequently three trends developed from these divisions, that is, state, church and prophetic theology. The document challenged the state on its ideologies and condemned apartheid as a heresy. Firstly, it pointed out that church theology lacked social analysis and that the analysis of apartheid that underpins its theology is simply inadequate. Secondly, this theology lacked an adequate understanding of politics and political strategy.
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Changing the structures of a society is fundamentally a matter of politics. It requires a political strategy based upon a clear social or political analysis. The Church has to address itself to these strategies and to the analyses upon which they are based. It is into this political situation that the Church has to bring the gospel. Hence there is no way of bypassing politics and political strategies. Thirdly, it challenged the type of faith and spirituality that has dominated church life for centuries. Spirituality has tended to be an other-world affair that has very little, if anything at all, to do with the affairs of this world.
Social and political matters were seen as worldly affairs that have nothing to do with the spiritual concerns of the church. The Kairos Document rejected this notion. It asserted that the Bible does not separate the human person from the world, in which he or she lives; it does not separate the individual from the social, or one's private life from one's public life. God redeems the whole person as part of God's whole creation.
Hence a truly biblical spirituality would penetrate into every aspect of human existence and would exclude nothing from God's redemptive will. We see in this document a new theological orientation in South Africa that directed itself to a radical social involvement. The document did not give a blueprint for an alternative political future, but challenged the church to side with God by deliberately supporting the oppressed and poor.
The ecumenical movement in South Africa identified itself with the poor as it joined forces with the exploited working class.
Embracing liberation theology, it insisted that God is on the side of the poor and it therefore joined with the poor to fight for justice and human rights. In seeking the liberation of the oppressed it radically opposed the structures that dehumanised the masses. It encouraged the participation of the poor in the processes of enabling them to become more human and took up the struggle for justice.
For Allan Boesak, who comes from the Reformed tradition, the issue of justice is crucial; it is part and parcel to the Christian Gospel. In fact, it is the declaration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Whenever Christians speak out and act against injustice, inequality and the dehumanisation of the human being, they serve as the ambassadors and servants of Christ. Boesak singles out the Belhar Confession in this respect where it states:.
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Boesak points out that this Confession helps us to, firstly, stand up and be counted for the poor and the destitute, and secondly, to stand where God stands. Not just in front of, in protection, but alongside, in solidarity of struggle. Not in mere sympathy but in identification with. The church must do that not because it is obsessed with the poor, but as the possession of God, in Whom its grounds of being, its identity is found Boesak It actively resisted the apartheid laws that were imposed on the majority people in South Africa by calling for disinvestments and international sanctions on South Africa.