Isiphambano recently hosted a Round-table Discussion (online of course) with previous and current cohort participants. Below is an outline of the text and questions which we used to guide our reflections. You could also download a PDF of this post here.

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Psalm 13: Spend some time reflecting on the despairing cries of the Psalmist David as he struggles to hold in tension his present experience of God’s hiddenness in the midst of sufferings (v1-2), with his convictions of God’s unfailing love (v5-6). How is it that David can sing of God’s goodness (v6) in the wasteland of God’s absence (v1)?

SECTION 1: ALL THEOLOGY IS CONTEXTUAL THEOLOGY:

Tite Tienou writes that “All Christian theologies are products of their social, historical, and cultural environments” 1 and therefore all theology is, in some sense, contextual theology. There exists a dynamic relationship between text and context which always is at work shaping our theology and our missiology. Theology is a continual dialogue between text and context, or what Padilla terms “a participatory involvement,” 2 in reading the text and as result is always “provisional and hypothetical.” 3 Biblical interpretation is therefore far more than merely a literary or spiritual task; it involves the entire context of the interpreter and therefore is simultaneously also a social, political and economic task. because our entire context is at work when interpreting a biblical text.

Where read we Scripture from and who we read Scripture with greatly influences how we read Scripture, how we shape our theology and how we engage on mission.

REFLECTION 1:

  • In what way is your theology (individually, family, church, wider community) being challenged at this time?
  • What are the questions being provoked by this crisis?
  • How is your theology able/not able to speak to this crisis?
  • Are there unanswered questions?
  • How is your theology being strengthened or confirmed at this time?
  • What difference would it make to your theology if COVID-19 never happened?
  • Are there any passages of Scripture or spiritual disciplines which you have found particularly useful?
  • Who are your discussion partners at this time?
  • How have you interacted with the poor and the marginalised at this time?
  • Are there particularly local (South African) questions that you are being forced to wrestle with?

SECTION 2: PROPHETIC IMAGINATION

Prophetic Imagination, as described by Walter Brueggemann, is the capacity to move beyond the world as it seems to the world as it might be. God’s vision for the world as it might be. The prophet evokes, provokes, and challenges people to move from the world as it is to the world as it might be. This could be dangerous. “Prophets do not just criticise they open up the possibility for a different world.” 4

The task of prophetic imagination is two-fold:

(a) Critiquing:

Engaging the dominant powers of the day and exposing them to be unable to deliver on their claims or promises. This critique consists primarily in eliminating our numbness to the death and pain of the organising principles and systems of our world and creating space to mourn and grieve. Critique is the realisation and the declaration that things are not right. “Bringing hurt to public expression is an important first step in the dismantling criticism that permits a new reality, theological and social, to emerge.” 5

(b) Energising:

Painting an alternative vision of God’s new reality where oppression and injustice will not continue forever. Prophetic imagination often uses symbol, poetry and other creative means. Energising stirs hope through the use of symbol, poetry and other creative means. Prophetic imagination is often found in marginalised or oppressed communities who see the truth of the current reality and begin to imagine what a new world could look like.

REFLECTION 2: CRITIQUE

  • What is being exposed in society/church at this time?
  • Where is the pain?
  • What structural injustices (works of empire) are being exposed?
  • What anger is being revealed in you and in society?
  • To whom or what is it directed?
  • What are the cries of the poor, vulnerable and marginalised at this time?
  • Whose voices are being excluded during this crisis?
  • What questions are the pain and anger asking of our theology?
  • To what, beyond themselves, are the pain and the anger pointing?
  • How and to what may lament be expressed at this time?
  • Where is the church silent? Why?
  • Where is God provoking you to change?

REFLECTION 3: HOPE IMAGINED

  • Where are you seeing the signs of hope amid this crisis?
  • To what is God stirring your heart during this crisis?
  • What could be possible in this world where “nothing will ever be the same gain?”
  • What Scriptures have you been reading to imagine a new more just and more inclusive world?
  • How is your theology being broadened and grown in this time?
  • What are the signs of the Kingdom appearing amidst the cracks?
  • Where is God stirring you to dream?

CLOSING READING:

Revelation 21:1-4; 22:1-5: Reflect on the highly symbolic imagery of the final coming Kingdom of God, when the world truly will never be the same again. This kingdom has now broken in. How in this age of change and realignment might the church begin to better embody the life of this coming Kingdom?

Footnotes

  1. Tienou, T. 1993. Forming Indigenous Theologies. In Philips, J.M. & Coote, R.T. (eds). Towards the 21st Century in Christian Mission: Essays in Honor of Gerald H. Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. pp246
  2. Padilla, C. R. 1980. Hermeneutics and Culture: A Theological Perspective. In Stott, J.R.W. & Coote, R. (eds.) Down to Earth: Studies in Christianity and Culture. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p67
  3. Bosch, D. J. 1991. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis Books. p427
  4. Mark van Steenwyk: What is Prophetic Imagination https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJXEMLBSgio&list=PL0-qOmdGl9zQ4_BGZ3k-LX7w4VzhFxMmw
  5. Brueggemann, W. 2001. Prophetic Imagination (2nd Edition). Minneapolis: Fortress Press. pp 11-12

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