David Bosch and the South African emergence (part 1)
March 30, 2009
Mark Sayers (Australia) has brought some conversation to the table by classfying many different “neo-“movements within the emerging stream. Andrew Jones (UK) consider himself something of a neo-missiologist or a blender and Jonny Baker (UK) simply considered it to be a normal and not problematic if you look at it from a network while Brother Maynard (Canada) can’t seem to place himself. In the South African conversation Steve Hays has already mentioned that Sayers definitions doesn’t really fit our own scene, and that reality might be a bit complex. All over there seems to be a general feeling that people might not really fit exactly into these categories.
I’m not going to say much about the “death of emerging” conversation last year, which in the end concerned mainly the American conversation. I had some links to what I consider to be important posts here, and Andrew Jones had some here and here. Within Sayers’ division, the two sides to the coin within the American conversation at that stage might have been neo-liberal (a very bad label indeed) and blenders.
Steve Hays asked a bit about the South African conversation. Where are we? Here’s some thoughts from me, a 20-something Dutch Reformed pastor and student of theology. Linked with this conversation for about 2 and a half years, and part of the network that probably got together through emergingafrica.
For I believe a growing group of us, the work of David Bosch is becoming key to the emerging conversation in South Africa. He’s had an important influence on thinkers such as Alan Hirsch and Brian Mclaren, he is South African, he wrote brilliantly, and on the questions that we are currently asking. So in attempting to answer the question I’ll refer to my own and other’s interpretation of Bosch, and show where I believe Bosch is guiding us at the moment.
David Bosch was trained in Europe, in New Testament under Oscar Cullman. Ons of his greatest contributions to the church (in my humble opinion) was that he provided the tools for conversation between the evangelicals and ecumenicals wintin the 70’s and 80’s church scene. He provided very strong critique of anyone who emphasized either evangelism or social justice as having priority over the other.
For me one of the most important keys to understanding where Bosch found himself comfortable is the 1982 article in the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, titled: How my mind has changed: Mission and the Alternative Community. In the article Bosch find himself comfortable in combining the ecclesiology of the Anabaptists and the Reformed tradition in their understanding of the relationship between the church and the world. “The more identifiably seperate and unique the church is as a community of believers (Anabaptism) the greater significance it has for the world (Calvinism)“. This would allign most closely with Sayers’ neo-anabaptism. His neo-calvinism is however something totally different, Bosch didn’t think that an emphasis on mission would be contrary to Calvinism, he rather understood Calvinism to be inherently missional, although drawing to direct a line between church and world (the Charismatic and American Evangelical influence on neo-Calvinism might be responsible for proponents of this network to not see this traditional Calvinist ecclesiology as being missional).
Steve Hays has pointed to the fact that many in the South African conversation seem to be reacting against Calvinism. Tom Smith has maybe pointed to some of the discomfort South Africans experience with Calvinism, in that we see Calvinism as undervaluing orthopraxis. Bosch didn’t undervalue Orthopraxis however (see the posts appearing from our recent discussion on chapter 2 of Transforming Mission for this). In a country where the Afrikaans community (which make up the majority of the white population) has historically been 99% Reformed, we’d have to see how our relationship to this historical faith plays out in the emerging conversation.
OK, this post is becoming long. Let’s summarize by simply saying that neo-anabaptism rather than neo-calvinism seem to be the stronger emphasis from where I’m coming from, and in how I read Bosch up to now. More tomorrow.