Acts 15-20 for South Africa today

May 14, 2009

I’ve spent the past 2 days with some 15-20 reverends from the Dutch Reformed Church, Smith, Reggie Nel, Gert Steyn, the lecturer that taught me exegesis (although maybe he don’t want to be linked to that), and Scot McKnight. We started a discussion on the theology of Acts and what that might mean in practice for the church in South Africa today. The final reports was done by myself and three others that also blog, so we’ll be giving some thoughts on our reports. I’ll add the links as the posts come in.

Reggie Nel on Acts 21-28

Our group worked on Acts 15-20. Between 11:00 and 12:00 today, we identified the following as the most important theological thread for South Africa today:

Looking at our text, but also at the whole of Acts, we notice that Acts tell the story of boundries that was crossed. Of course, we didn’t notice this first, the scholars that introduced he discussion also pointed us to this.  However, what we believe is important is that the boundry crossing always caused the Jerusalem church to change their theology. When Peter visit Cornelius, the theology change. At the meeting in Jerusalem, the fact that boundries have been crossed changes the theology.

That we need to cross boundries is commonly accepted in South Africa today. But crossing boundries need to change the theology of those on the inside. The Dutch Reformed Church need to cross the racial and economic boundries (among others) that form our context, and this need to deeply change the theology of our church.

Missiologists call this contextualization. Contextualization should not be misunderstood as mere translation. Bosch pointed to this in Transforming Mission. I’ve written some thoughts on this about 2 years ago (check page 4 about of this document). Translation would imply a rethinking of symbols and language. Contextualization would imply a rethinking of theology, a transformation of our reflection on God and what that would mean for this day and age, within a differing context.

The core question for our church today: How would our understanding of God and the gospel be transformed when we cross the borders of our community? How would this changing reflection on God impact the practice of congregational and church life today?



4 Responses to “Acts 15-20 for South Africa today”

  1. Mark Penrith Says:

    Hi Cobus,

    Is your point that at the Jerusalem counsel the apostolic church conformed its’ Theology to Scripture and a correct understanding of the Gospel of Christ and that is what the church of today in South Africa needs to do?

    In your opinion what Theology or doctrines need to change in the church in order for the church to better reflect the original intent of Scripture?

  2. Ronald Says:


    Allow me to interpret the post (I was part of the group working on Acts 15-20). I think Cobus was not referring to Scripture – but rather, to theological questions that the Christian community found “on the mission field” (so to speak). They didn’t always know beforehand how this would impact their theology – in some cases, they first crossed boundaries and then this changed the way they see things.

    If I had to choose any one “doctrine” or point of view that we should change, it would be that we cross borders more often.


  3. […] can read more about this on his blog at McKnight on conversion theory and deconversion as well as Acts 15-20 for South Africa today. Tom Smith has also been blogging about these sessions and wrote two excellent summaries of what […]

  4. cobus Says:

    That was the heart of our discussion, yes Ronald, which obviously need to be understood to understand the post.

    I would add that the “dictrine” that need to change is not omly that we need to cross borders, but that the borders that we cross need to change us. Crossing racial borders for example need to change our church.

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