My brain is cluttered with thoughts concerning the church as “alternative community” at the moment. I’m writing a mini-dissertation at record speed, and my middle chapter concerned primarily some thoughts on this concept. For the purpose of my dissertation, I moved away from this concept, but didn’t reject it. I really think Bosch was able to keep this fine balance of always keeping the alternative community as part of the tensioness whole of our approaches to understanding the relation church and world. At the end of Transforming Mission he talks about a distinct community, which I believe communicates this more nuanced understanding, not the there-is-nothing-good-in-culture approach we found in Resident Aliens, but an understanding which have the church and especially individual Christians as part of the world, but always in way that is distinctly church. I started trying to explain this here.

Come have said that Bosch was probably the greatest South African theologian, and the current growing interest in Transforming Mission might also point to that. For me, and a few of us who studied at the University of Pretoria over the last few years, Andries van Aarde would be another one of the most brilliant theological minds that South African theology has ever delivered. In some circles he isn’t popular, because of his participation in historical Jesus research (on which I’ve written here). Van Aarde has recently been showing some interest in emerging literature, wrote a brilliant article in an academic journal using Mclaren’s the church on the other side concept, and seems like he might be developing more and more thoughts on what church is looking outside the institutional and denominational boundaries. Van Aarde also uses the alternative community concept.

In a recent paper delivered at a seminar on public theology, he used the concept not to point to an alternative on society, but an alternative on institutional church. Such alternative communties Van Aarde calls the church on the other side, which might be similar to some of the non-denominational communities we see forming within the emerging conversation.

Between 1975 and 1982, when David Bosch was using the alternative community concept, he used it to talk about a church which should change society by showing it that reconciliation was possible. This was especially concerned with racial reconciliation in South Africa. Bosch wanted the church to be a united church, in order to show society that unity is possible, and in that way help society to change.

Currently Van Aarde’s alternative communities consists of those who have already reached second naiveté. Without going into his argument, I just want to note that what he is talking about is communities consisting of those who have had a change in worldview and theology, and therefore no longer find themselves comfortable within the bounds of institutional church. But if part of this change (and Van Aarde is not saying this, but I have a gutt feel he might agree) include a larger emphasise on orthopraxy, then Bosch’s alternative communities of reconciliation might also be important in this.

Within a South African church context (speaking specifically from the Dutch Reformed Church of which I am part, but this reality I believe is still very common also outside my own church) of churches and congregations devided along racial and economic lines, a combination of Van Aarde and Bosch might be appropriate. We need alternative communities which can point to an alternative to existing churches. These communities should point the way forward, showing that unity is possible. Contrary to the earlier Bosch, this is not to provide a strong alternative upon society, for that his later distinct community remain more appropriate, but to help churches in forming communities which is reconciled. To point to way forward, showing us that it is possible to be a united church.

Hopefully this can be part of the gift which emerging churches in South Africa give the church in South Africa, and also give the world…


I know I’m not blogging that often at the moment. Something I believe we should give ourselves freedom to do: sometimes not blog! And I was at the point of writing something on Revelation and preaching, but that will have to wait. When I opened my dashboard, I saw the amount of people searching for stuff on the “evangeliese initiatief” (EI)*, and I decided that maybe it has become time that I write some thoughts on this.

First of all. I did not attend the EI event at moreleta yesterday. I was lucky enough to attend Arthur’s birthday party, and have some great conversations with Cori and some of the Nieucommunities people. About allergies, beer, God, poverty, South Africa, Rugby and some other stuff. But really, I did not want to attend this event! Usually I’m all for listening to everyone, and I would have said that actually I should go, even though I don’t agree with them. But then they came with the whole idea that if they get enough people at their event, then they can proceed with their cause, knowing that the church supports their ideas. Since when are we back to a democracy? Why, if I get 10000 young people in our church together to say that… well… to say anything, does that add weight to my argument? Come on, really, can’t anyone see where this is going?

And when are the church going to learn to talk to each other. I’ve been studying theology at TUKS for 5 years. I’ve been chairman of theological students for the past year. When will the EI, and all these other people stop talking about how bad it is for the poor students that get indoctrinated by lecturers, and start talking to us. Start really listening. And listening is only listening if it’s possible that both sides can change their point of view. So please, don’t come to theological students with the idea that you have all the answers and that they simply need to confirm your ideas of heresy in the faculties or something, we have had enough of that kind of thing!

So, you want the inside info? I like my lecturers (sorry for those of you whose classes I skip from time to time, if you were to read this, I know I’m not that good an example for other students:-)). I respect my lecturers. I respect them as academics, they are brilliant people. But I also respect them as fellow believers. They taught me some greek and hebrew (although I’m not always so sure how successful that was), they taught me theology. Theology which helped me through some difficult times. But in them I also saw fellow believers, in different ways some of them have been mentors for me.

But this happened in relationships. It happened in relation with lecturers, together with the rest of the theological students. So I just wish all those supposedly well meaning people from the EI who are so worried about the theological students and their lecturers would just keep quite for a while and act like Christians and take the conversation where it is supposed to go on: with the people it is about. You are really hurting students! Have you ever thought what you are doing to theological students when you tell them that the lecturers whom they like, respect, and learn from, are supposed to be heathens or heretics of whatever? Do you really think you will call them closer in the proses? Come on, stop the joke, all you are doing is making us more and more uncomfortable with the type of theology you are practising, since we see the bad side to it. You are reminding us to keep up with that which we have been taught: To search for better, more biblical, ways of being followers of Jesus in this world we live in today.

I dream of a church where we listen to each other

I dream of a church where we make room for each other

I dream of a church where we live in the way of Jesus, acknowledging that not one of us have the final word on this

I dream of a church where God is central, and we realize that sometimes our words are simply not enough, that the words of another might be necessary, and that sometimes we should all just shut up… be quite

The direct translation for Evangeliese Initiatief would be Evangelical Initiative, although I not sure if this will do justice to there cause. I understand that they want to link with the Reformed Evangelical tradition, rather than the more American Evangelical tradition, which is what people generally think about when they hear the word evangelical. They started a few months ago, have been talking a lot about a literal physical historical resurrection, claiming that this is the way the Bible portray the resurrection, and