post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa

September 16, 2008

Professor Jurie le Roux is one of the unsung heroes of my life. He was the first who attempted to teach me the modern and especially the postmodern philosophers, all those French and German people, I think he failed in this. He also was the first to attempt teaching me the early Church Fathers, also in this I believe he failed. Not because of anything he did wrong, but because I don’t think I ever was a good enough student for this brilliant man. But he was also the one who taught me that South African has missed the enlightenment, and in this, I think, he did strike a chord with me somewhere.

The Enlightenment was a time amazing technological progress, a time of positivism, a view that all problems can be solved. It elevated the perception of human reason to an all-time high. It is a time of which postmoderns are extremely critical. And it is a time with which I agree a lot of critique need to be voiced. But it is a time which never should have been missed. This was the time when critical thought also grew into adulthood…

This was the time South Africa missed. OK, I’m aware that what I’m now saying applies to the European immigrants only. But while the enlightenment was going on in Europe, we were busy fighting the British authorities in the Cape, then the blacks in the Vrystaat and Transvaal, then the British in the Vrystaat and Transvaal. Then we had the poor-white problems, just trying to survive, trying to get the farms going, then trying to institutionalize Apartheid, by the time the Republic of South Africa was founded (1961), the Enlightenment was at an end, and we just started to catch on. But Apartheid wasn’t the best place for this critical thought to develop. In this environment church was always right, and state as well. 1994 came, and the floodgates of South Africa was opened for the world to come in.

We were suddenly opened up to postmodern and post-enlightenment thought, but we weren’t post-enlightened, because the enlightenment never hit home. We never learned a culture of critical reflection. We never learned the art of critically looking at a government of societal structure, not simply as an individuals, but as a society. We don’t like what is happening in current South African politics, but do we have the ability to critically react, for a critical societal voice to appear.

It’s a society that maybe still need to grow up. That need to get out of adolescent shoes of emotional shouting or giving those we are mad of the silent treatment. We need to find an adult reflection, a deep critical voice. This is not a cry-out for the “better old days”, but the reality is that being postmodern without having engaged with enlightenment thought is only naïve, not post-enlightenment.

OK, so this was not the most religious synchroblog I ever wrote. You’ll find other synchrobloggers on the list below:

Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?”
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories”
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse with “the future is ours to see: crumbling like a mountain
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent
Bethany Stedman at Coffee Klatch with “Moving Towards True Being: The Long Process of Maturity”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up”
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schraml at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue

21 Responses to “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa”


  1. […] Contemplations</a> with “<a href=”https://mycontemplations.wordpress.com/?p=406“>post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa</a>” Steve […]


  2. […] Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with Post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa […]

  3. Steve Says:

    Not “religious”, Cobus, wut with profound implications for religion generally. Remember those children of the Enlightenment, de Mist and Jannssens, who came to South Africa in 1802, and left when the Napoleonic Wars resumed four years later? What influence did they have? Or were they here for too short a time.

    And then there is the Hervormde Kerk — much of its theology was influenced by the Enlightenment. What influence did that have?

  4. cobus Says:

    Although enlightenment ideas existed in many parts of our society (we were a modern nation-state, with western organizational systems), that does not yet create a culture of critical thought. Although the Hervormde Kerk (and to a lesser extend my own Dutch Reformed Church) used enlightenment language in there theology, is was communicated in a pre-critical way. Theology was never something to be interacted with, but the absolute truths communicated by those in power.

    But you are the better historian, I’m just looking at what I’m seeing around me today. What would the answer of a historian be?


  5. […] Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa“ […]

  6. reibwo Says:

    My post on the synchroblog was a little late getting to the list. I’d appreciate it if you would add mine to the list. Many thanks!

    http://kaischraml.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/mature-virtue/

    Feel very free to remove this comment after you add it. Thanks again.


  7. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity“ Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa“ Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content“ Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and […]


  8. […] Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with Post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa […]


  9. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity“ Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa“ Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content“ Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and […]

  10. timvictor Says:

    Kobus,

    I believe you’re on to something. Academically one could reason through this differently but it seems like you’re tapping into something more “root” level – culture.

    We definately don’t have a “can do, let’s try it” ethos in our country. Much of our faith – and society – is imported and franchised from the US and UK (or thereabouts).

    Maturity means growing up, recognising that we’re the descendants of SAs Colonisers, but growing toward independence – wisdom, critical reflection, being producers rather than receivers.

  11. nic paton Says:

    Tim –
    Its more complex in my observations. One British friend said that the reason he enjoyed South Africans was precisely becuase of a can-do attitiude. He was route marched up Table Mountain with kids in tow, when he said to his host , “Are you sure this is safe?” the reply was “Who knows? Let’s find out.” It was a Nanny State vs Pioneer culture clash.

    That said, it is true that on moral and religious isssues South Africans “by and large” are very complient, deferring to the voice of authority, be it the chief, the party leader, the pastor, or the CEO.

    So the first question the Brit asks is “But does it conform to Health and Safety regulations?”, and yet they see no reason whatsoever to base a morality on the bible, for example.

  12. cobus Says:

    I tend to agree with Nic. I think we have a “can do let’s try it” ethos, but not “hey wait, let’s think about this” ethos. We like to critique, but not to critically discuss. We can say when we don’t like thing, but we aren’t very good at self-critique, and not very good at critical conversation on societal level. But, I agree that what we are talking about is something “root level”, not what is spread in the philosophical classrooms at universities all over South Africa.


  13. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity” Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa” Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content” Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and […]


  14. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity” Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa” Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content” Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and […]

  15. timvictor Says:

    Nic & Cobus,

    The problem with generalisations is that it really depends on where you’re looking. I find your reflections about “can do” vs. “let’s not” to not be the things I’m looking at.

    How often do you have conversations with thoroughbred SAs around doing something new whether in business or church? How often do people say, “Sounds great, let’s do it.” vs. “Is it safe? Has it been done before and known to work?”

  16. cobus Says:

    Tim, I think we are talking about totally different things. I like the fact that South Africans can live up to a “just do it” mentality, however, I worry about the fact that they can’t stop and ask themselves: “Why am I doing this?”. Both of these would be good traits, and doesn’t necessarily need to oppose each other.


  17. Cobus–
    This was a brillian post on this topic (thanks in part to your teacher!) The quote below:

    “It is a society that maybe still need to grow up. That need to get out of adolescent shoes of emotional shouting or giving those we are mad of the silent treatment. We need to find an adult reflection, a deep critical voice. This is not a cry-out for the “better old days”, but the reality is that being postmodern without having engaged with enlightenment thought is only naïve, not post-enlightenment.”

    …could be said of the church in many aspects, not just in SA, or other 3rd world communities, but in totality. The critical thinking necessary for maturity has been squelched in many aspects of Christianity, for fear of apostasy.

    Thanks so much for this–
    Beth P.


  18. […] cobus van wyngaard – post-enlightenment christians in unenlightened south africa […]


  19. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity” Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa” Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content” Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and […]


  20. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity“ Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa“ Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content“ Sound and Silence considers Inclusion […]


  21. […] The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity” Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa” Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content” Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and […]


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