Workshop 4C theology

Dr. Joseph Bosco Bangura – Charismatic Healing Evangelists and the Ebola Crises in Sierra Leone

When the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) washed up on the shores of Sierra Leone in May 2014, little medical knowledge was available about the deadly nature of the virus. The country’s hospitals were ill equipped and grossly unprepared to deal with any crisis, let alone the one to which the country was suddenly thrust. In a matter of days, the whole healthcare system simply collapsed, resulting in uncontrollable chains of transmission. As it became apparent that the crisis was a matter of life and death, the central government declared a state of national health emergency. Because healing is part of the perpetual quest for self-preservation, the nation went in search of any help it could find as it struggled to contain the virus. The government’s eclectic approach is not surprising because in every human culture, interest in the restoration of healing and wellbeing when health fails is always a priority (Gaiser 2010:36). The nations teaming healing evangelists along with other faith leaders were quick to argue that witchcraft and demonic forces were responsible for the Ebola outbreak. They went on to prescribe bathing with salt water, smearing imported holy water and anointing oil on one’s body, participating in midnight prayer vigils and three days of fasting for national repentance as remedial measures that would rid the land of this Ebola scourge. Instead of getting better, the crisis grew worse. By December 2014, this previously unknown mythical monster had fully arisen from its cave to demand more human blood and sacrifice (Gibbs 2014). Borders were closed, foreign expatriates withdrew and multinational corporations shut down operations. Airlines indefinitely suspended flights to the affected countries. Sierra Leoneans were left at the mercy of a venomous virus whose lethal invincibility eludes the naked eye. And the rate of new infections and death in the belligerent hands of Ebola kept rising.

Healing is a crucial aspect of every human culture. Sierra Leone’s cultures is clearly no exception (De Rosny 2006:99). To make sense of Ebola, the thoughts about health developed by healing evangelists drew attention to the connection between the Bible and local cultural context. In fact, the upsurge of Pentecostalism seems to have deepened awareness about the activities of Satan, demons and evil spirits and the need for healing and deliverance in African Christianity (Omenyo 2014:138, 145).Thus, this mystifying enemy who by now was leaving a trail of excruciatingly painful death and hopelessness, got the nation thinking about what actually went wrong. To what could we possibly attribute the cause of this national calamity that had outclassed the rebel war? Could it be that Ebola represents some sort of punishment from God for sin in the church and the terrible wrong doing in the land? How coherent is the African spiritual explanation that attributes Ebola to the work of evil spiritual forces who have angrily visited the land to collect their long overdue supply of blood and human sacrifices? How has Charismatic spirituality helped the churches deal with the crisis and cope with the impact of the outbreak? These questions are addressed in this paper.

Key Bibliography

De Rosny, E. ‘New Forms of Healing Ministry in Africa: The Catholic Church in Cameroon.’ 99-108. In E. African Christianities, Messi Metogo, ed., London, SCM Press, 2006.

Featherstone, A. Keeping the Faith: The Role of Faith Leaders in the Ebola Response. London: CAFOD Joint Publication, 2015.

Gaiser, F. J. Healing in the Bible: Theological Insight for Christian Ministry. Grand Rapids, Mich, Baker Academic, 2010.

Gibbs, Nancy. ‘Why the Ebola fighters are TIME’s choice for Person of the Year.’ TIME Magazine, 10 December 2014.

Omenyo, Cephas. ‘African Pentecostalism’, 132-151. In The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism edited by C. M. Robeck Jr., and Amos Young. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Dr. Dolf te Velde – Predestination and Destiny

It belongs to the typical capacities of human beings to inquire into the meaning and purpose of life. What is our destiny, and how do we arrive at that point?

The aim of this paper is to confront this common search for the destiny of life with the classic Christian notion of “predestination”: the act of God in which he determines the final destination of each individual. This paper suggests to leave aside – for a moment – the emphasis on the “pre-“ that evokes a tension between time and eternity, and instead to focus on the “destination” implied in God’s decree concerning humans. How does this notion of divine (pre-)destination help to disclose important dimensions of what constitutes a meaningful life?

In at least four areas, the Christian doctrine of predestination may be helpful:

  1. In discovering the non-immanent character of the purpose of life. During the past two centuries, the meaning of life has been increasingly defined in terms of utility, efficiency, and functionality. The prosperity of the Western world in which all needs and wishes can be satisfied immediately, has not made humans happier. Individuals and societies experience a deep sense of dissatisfaction. It can be questioned whether “horizontal transcendence” is ultimately sufficient. “Predestination” points to a purpose that transcends earthly fortune and misfortune: we are destined for eternal bliss in communion with God.
  2. In unmasking and surpassing the tacit meritocracy of our postmodern society. As a by-product of the idea of individual autonomy, people are often judged by their achievements, not only in their jobs, but also in personal relationships. The classic doctrine of predestination states that God elects us not because of our own merits, but by his mere grace. By embracing this gracious choice, we learn to experience our lives as a gift, not as an achievement. For many people who fail in the eyes of others but also in their own eyes, this may give a strong comfort.
  3. In realizing that the purpose of our life is not exhausted in reaching our individual destination. According to the locus classicus for the doctrine of election, Ephesians 1, God’s purpose is not only to give salvation to individuals, but “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” In recent theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg has advocated a strong connection between election in Christ and the comprehensive meaning of the history of the world.
  4. In indicating a deeply personal dimension of the human destiny. In the dominant evolutionary worldview, humans are a product of mere chance. We happen to be here, but we might as well not be here. For the worth of the human person as well as for all moral values, the evolutionary framework has enormous consequences. “Predestination”, by contrast, should not be understood as blind fate, but as the personal and loving will of God to bring us into existence and to guide us toward our destination.
Selected bibliography

Kratz, Reinhard G.; Spieckermann, Hermann, eds. Vorsehung, Schicksalundgöttliche Macht: AntikeStimmenzueinemaktuellen Thema. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

Levering, Matthew. Predestination: Biblical and Theological Paths. Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Overbeck, Franz-Josef. Der gottbezogene Mensch: Eine systematische UntersuchungzurBestimmung des Menschenundzur “Selbstverwirklichung” Gottes in der AnthropologieundTrinitätstheologie Wolfhart Pannenbergs. Münster: Aschendorff, 2000.

Ruse, Michael. Darwin and Design: Does evolution have a purpose?Cambridge, MA – London: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Visser, Gerard. De druk van de beleving: Filosofie en kunst in een domein van overgang en ondergang. 2nd edition, Amsterdam: Boom, 2012.

Dr. Hans Burger – The Noetic Effects of Sin: a Biblical-theological and Systematic-theological Analysis

‘Be reformed in your thinking…’ Although the necessity of the reformation of our thinking is well-attested in the Scriptures, Christian theorists differ in their expectations of Christian (philosophical or theological) thinking. Some tend to be rather negative, emphasizing the paradoxical nature of truth, and here we think, for instance, of the Dutch theologian A. van de Beek. Others have higher expectations, influenced by Duns Scotus and the scholastic tradition, the common sense philosophy of Thomas Reid, or evangelical theologians like Carl F.H. Henry. Though the neo-Calvinist tradition acknowledges the influence of sin on our knowing and thinking, Abraham Kuyper, in his Encyclopaedie der heilige Godgeleerdheid, is surprising optimistic about the restorative influence of regeneration on our cognitive capabilities and the resultant possibilities for the development of Christian science. Moroney surmises that reflection in the Reformed tradition on the noetic effects was often too individualistic and too negligent of the role these effects play in the life of the regenerate believer.

It is important, therefore, to analyse the noetic effects of sin. In so doing, one must acknowledge the tension between the yet and the not-yet of salvation because the transformation of Christian believers remains incomplete. This implies that an analysis of the noetic effects of sin will be incomplete as well because it is impossible for anyone on earth to transcend the consequences of sin completely.This qualification notwithstanding, this paper will offer a biblical and systematic analysis of the noetic effects of sin. According to Scripture, our nous must be renewed by participation in the nous of Christ.Where do we need this renewal?

This paper will begin, building on the work of e.g., Rik Peels and Dru Johnson, with an overview of the most important biblical motifs. Following this biblical analysis, I will provide an analysis from a systematic-theological point of view. Here I will begin by considering analyses that focus on propositional knowledge as warranted true belief, acknowledging the helpful contributions of Rene van Woudenberg, Alvin Plantinga and Rik Peels. I will propose that such analyses can be enhanced through the recognition that knowledge is more than simply “warranted true beliefs” acquired by our cognitive faculties and that reality is more complicated than their analysis acknowledges.

In the second part of my systematic-theological analysis, I will introduce several concepts which clarify the noetic effects of sin—namely, (a) the concept of perspective (building on Ingolf Dalferth), (b) the concept of relation (with indebtedness to Esther Lightcap Meek’s covenant epistemology), (c) the concept of existence (conceiving of the sinner as homo incurvatus in se and building on the work of Eberhard Jüngel), and finally, (d) the concept of dominium (i.e., the position of human in God’s creation, with indebtedness to Oliver O’Donovan). In the final section, I will draw some conclusions.

Literature

Dru Johnson, Biblical Knowing. A Scriptural Epistemology of Error, Cascade Books Eugene OR 2013

Esther Lightcap Meek, Loving to know. Introducing covenant epistemology, Cascade Books Eugene OR, 2011

Stephen K. Moroney, The Noetic Effects of Sin. A Historical and Contemporary Exploration of How Sin Effects Our Thinking, Lexington Books Lanham / Boulder / New York / Oxford  2000

Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, Oxford University Press Oxford 2000

René van Woudenberg, ‘Over de noëtische gevolgen van de zonde. Een filosofische beschouwing’ In: Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 52 (1998) 224-240