Papua theology a new paradigm in theology


Published on

Arguing in favor of new paradigms in systematic theology

Published in: Spiritual
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Papua theology a new paradigm in theology

  1. 1. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm1Contents1. Introduction 12. The new context for theology and its challenge 33. Secularization 64. New tasks for academic theology 65. The challenge for Christian theology 86. Three models: God, humanity or the world as “object” of theology 127. Theology as a theory of faith 158. Papua theology 169. Conclusion 1810.Bibliography 19Towards a Theology “From Below”1. IntroductionIn this paper I want to set out a way how to come to a new way of practicingsystematic theology that is adequate with modern or even post-modern society.I will try to evaluate some different approaches in systematic theology, includingthe so-called “theologies of the genitive hermeneutics”, that is feminist theology,liberation theology, African and Asian contextual theology, Black theology. Thesetheologies may be considered one-sided or even marginal form the perspective ofthe traditional “grand system” systematic theologies like those of ThomasAquinas, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich or Karl Rahner tomention a few great systematicians. However, I consider a main advantage of the“theologies of the genitive hermeneutics” that they are equally interested in thecontext, in the receivers of the Gospel message as in the analysis of the Gospelmessage itself. These are theologies at least of “flesh and blood.” In that they arein accordance with the dominant metaphor in Christianity of the Incarnation.These theologies are clearly free from the Docetic error!I will look for a common ground in these theologies. I will suggest that thesetheologies have in common that their focus is on people who are in one way orthe other, politically or culturally, oppressed. These people are inspired by the
  2. 2. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm2Gospel to liberate themselves and they use the stories of the Scriptures toanalyze their situation for new hope. The Gospel helps them to gain a newawareness of the oppression and provides metaphors for the struggle forliberation. I assume the reality of divine revelation. The “Anknuepfungspunkt” iswhere divine revelation touches the human heart and makes people moving inaccordance with eth Gospel of Jesus Christ. The task of theology is to observeand analyse people’s theologies in liturgies, hymns, prayers, forms of worshipand social action. The methods are derived from the social sciences. Though thistheology is close to science of religion it is different as one assumes the reality ofdivine revelation, God’s continuing involvement with humanity. The Scriptures arean example of God’s close involvement with the patriarchs, the people of Israel,and with the whole of humanity and the world. These provide also for moderntimes consolation and metaphors that make people move into action.Thistheology “from below” is inspired by my stay in West Papua as a lecturer at atheological college of the Evangelical Christian Chucrh in PapuaLand from 1995till 2002. The Papuans since the annexation of their land by Indonesia in 1962have been suffering discrimination, severe violations of their human rights, therobbing of their ancestral lands. There is a great risk that they are doomed toextinction in one generation. West Papua does not has only very few professionaltheologians, because of the deprivation in the area of education. MoreoverPapuan society, like the San society in Southern Africa, is highly egalitarian. Thisegalitarianism, or democratic attitude in traditional society, has determined theirrole theologians choose for themselves, that is to analyse the way ordinaryChristians practice their faith and struggle for freedom. I will analyse the methodsof two Papua theologians, Dr Benny Giay and NelesTebay M. Th. Both lecture inWest Papua, Both originate from the Me area of the Highlands. Benny Giaydefended a doctoral thesis at the Free University of Amsterdam on theWegeBage Movement, an independent church in his home area. NelesTebaystudied the contents of hymns in the Me language composed by lay people in hisRoman Catholic Church without interference of Europeans missionaries. Iconsider both theologians as representatives of a “theology from below”.2. The new context and its challenge for theology
  3. 3. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm3The past century the world has changed beyond recognition in the area ofscience, education, politics, communication, transport, technology and customs.This has an effect on the church and on the way systematic theology is definedand practiced.The world has become, increasingly,a world without political,religious, ethnic and cultural borders. One can have encounters with people ofdifferent ethnic, cultural and religious groups. “Closed” societies are being brokenup. This not only refers to so called “tribal” societies, but also to traditionalagricultural or fishing village communities of Hollandand other countries. Humanbeings, men and women, feel that they can makeand have to make their ownchoiceswhat education and career to choose, what marriage partner to shareone’s life with, the sexual orientation one wants to follow, the number of childrenone wants to take care for, the place where one lives and increasingly also thecountry and part of the world where one wants to live.How far modern society, or rather post-modern society, has been transformedcompared with the traditional agricultural society the world has know for millennia,could be illustrated by the idea of the of cyber world. When one moves into thisworld on the World Wide Web all certainties disappear: gender, age, skin colour,prejudice, and nationality. Everything is a matter of choice, using “skins”.However, real encounters emerge out of this virtual world, like people finding theirmarriage partner there. One can also buy and sell real items, play games, watchmovies and so on. This new medium provides the opportunity of real encountersacross human made, artificial bordersScience has to be free to be able to advance. In Soviet Union technological andscientific advances in those sectors where the state had an interest in: defenceand spacecraft. Here the state created an isolated environment of intellectualfreedom. But in the area of consumer technology the Soviet Unionfailed to makemuch progress. In the arts (history, literature, philosophy, theology,)there wasequally little progress. Some very gifted authors like Solzhenitsin ended up inprison. As the state (or party) tried to control the minds of its citizens it preventedthe possibilities of the development of information technology through the use ofpersonal computers. This in the end, in my mind, more than anything else led tothe downfall of, apart from the USA, the only other superpower.
  4. 4. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm4This may prove that also in the area of religion control of the minds and hearts ofthe faithful can not be enforced by a system of central ecclesiastical authority, theformulation of fixed dogmas, the control by the churches of education fromnursery to university, control of the choice of marriage partners of its adherents(only form ones own religion or denomination), condemnation of otherdenominations and religions, whose followers are condemned to eternalpunishments, though no fault of themselves, to eternal fire in the hell togetherwith the devils and demons. There is an emancipation of church adherents fromthe church. The rules and regulations with regard to moral conduct are more andmore only accepted when the people personally agree with them and when theyare workable in practice. An example in case is the ruling of the Roman CatholicChurch on the use of any form of birth control except that of periodical exemption.The use of condoms, advocated by governments and health organisations, toprevent the spread of Aids, is forbidden. In practice, this ruling is universallyignored as it is too unpractical. Also the need for some ruling on voluntaryeuthanasia, the legal arrangement of same sex relationships and the right toabortion has been implemented without or at times even against rulings bychurches. The Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian Church evenopposed strongly all of these. Systematic of dogmatic theology used to have therole of legitimizing positions of the church in the area of science, morals,cosmology and so on. In view of these developments of a moving apart of thechurch as an institution, including the rationalisation of its position on so manyissues as done in theology, from the practice and faith of its own adherents, thereseems a is a need for an emancipation of theology away from control by thechurches. This will also challenge the methods used in theology. It will not do tobase oneself on the authority of previous theologians. It will also no longer do toassume as infallible one particular way of exegesis (one’s own) of the Bible as aHoly Book, assumed to be directly inspired by God.The Church is an integral part of society and is affected by changes in society.The Church as an institution can not separate itself from society by assuming atension or even a conflict between the two. There is now the insight that there isno visible “eternal” church, which is the Body of Christ in a concrete way. That the
  5. 5. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm5visible, institutional Church could be identified with the Church as the mystic Bodyof Christ was the dominant view of the Roman Catholic Church till the VaticanCouncil II. Outside the Church (i.e. the visible Roman Catholic Church as aninstitution) there is no salvation. Without the visible and concrete sacraments ofthe Church like baptism there was no salvation. The Church could in a concreteway handle (sell, dispense) the excess of good deeds of saints. The spiritual ismade concrete; the supernatural has been made natural. The transubstantiationis another example. The concrete bread and wine of the Eucharist becomes realflesh and blood of Christ, though in a mysterious and scientifically not verifiableway.Theology has been a theology from above. It is part of the Constantiniandispensation. In exchange for support by the state the Church had to submit tothe interests of the state, even to the extent of giving away the right to appoint itssenior clergy or seeing the Emperor presiding over Ecumenical Councils settlingtheological disputes and determining what doctrines are heretic and whatdoctrines are orthodox. As the Empire is a top down institution in the same waythe doctrine of God and Christology is developed top down. God is “the King ofKings”. The Messiah, though on earth a peripatetic preacher without any worldlypossessions, became pictured as the Son of a King, descending from Hisheavenly abode, a palace, with a throne. Like God He was seen as eternal andall-powerful like the dynasties of the Roman Empire and Europe between the 9thand the 19thcentury.There is a clear analogy of a specific type of social structureand the way the Bible is exegeted, and the doctrine of God and Christology isdeveloped. Pelikan1finds not less than 18 titles for Jesus or rather ways todescribe his mission between the first and twentieth century. Jesus as “King ofKings” is developed in the time of Emperor Constantine. Jesus as “Son of Man” isdeveloped at a time of the decline of the Roman Empire in the West by SaintAugustine.The latter legitimated the first and the first the latter. Opposition againstone means punishment by the other! This even led to the Inquisition where tortureand capital punishment was applied to eliminate doctrinal errors.21See for a very enlightening exposition of this phenomenon JaroslavPelikan 1985, Jesus through theCenturies, New Haven/London (Dutch translation, 1987. Jezus door de eeuwen heen. Zijn plaats in decultuurgeschiedenis, Kampen).2The Inquisition properly so called did not come into existence until 1231, with the constitutionExcommunicamus of Pope Gregory IX. In 1252 Pope Innocent IV, under the influence of the revival of
  6. 6. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm63. Secularization.There has been at least in the traditional Christian countries, like those inWestern and Southern Europe, an enormous loss of influence and power of theestablished churches. This is with regard to church participation, membership, butalso control by the church over education, health services, voluntaryorganisations, trade unions, women and youth organisations, the media, politicsthrough religious and denominational parties and so on. This regards mainly theinstitutional aspect. There remains a general and large interest in spirituality, butalso is there an increased interest in issues which really belong to the essence ofthe diaconal tasks of the church, like the preservation of the environment, thestruggle against violations of human rights, equality and legal protection of allcitizens, the provision of basic rights, like the right to work, to housing, to goodhealth care, a fair and easy access to essential drugs independent of social,ethnic of economic status (eg. the HIV drugs in Africa), the right to life, access toproper education, the fight against corruption and discrimination, liberation andemancipation of the oppressed and so on. Many of these issues areclearly anessential part of the Gospel message as found in the New Testament. We couldsee here a deinstitutionalisation. The values and norms, the church has beenpropagating, have moved out into the world, in a way like the biblical salt, yeast ora light metaphor, to transform the world. Many of these religious and Christianvalues in turn get institutionalized, like the Charter of the Human Rights of theUnited Nations, confirmed in various binding protocols, national legislation withregard to right to a social minimum income for unemployed, homeless or thehandicapped. The Government, at least in many Western and developeddemocratic countries, has become, especially in the past five decades, a lovingand caring institution (though very bureaucratic) taking over traditional diaconaltasks of the church like in health care, care for the old aged, care for orphans andwidower and widows. The state now persecutes those who discriminate women,foreigners, ethnic minorities. It gets involved in peace missions to prevent war inhot spots in the world like Bosnia, East Timor, Afghanistan, Palestine, Liberia andso on. I consider secularization as a form of inculturation of gospel values, and inRoman law, officially sanctioned the use of torture to extract the truth from suspects. Tomás deTorquemada, the first and most notorious grand inquisitor, in the Spain of Philips II, alone had thousands ofreputed heretics executed. The Inquisition in Spain was only suppressed as late as 1834.(Microsoft®Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002).
  7. 7. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm7as far as these values are realized and institionalised I want to see secularizationis as something positive.4. New tasks for academic theology.Academic theology could find itself new and challenging tasks in view of thesechanges in politics and society, and the changing relationships between churchand stateto investigate where and how the Spirit makes people moving. I define(Christian) theology as the study of (Christian) faith. What are the values inherentin the Gospel message? How are these realized in the concrete world? How getpeople inspired by these values? This is not restricted to Christianity and can beand should be recognized and honoured in other religions.We live increasingly in a world without borders, the result of globalisation, and ofthe formation of large political units like the European Union. Because of theexponential growth of air transport, new forms of communication throughtelevision and through the internet and mobile phones the world is shrinking. Theidea of the global village has already been realized when young people find asoul mate through chatting on the internet, where they also play games and findthe information needed for their studies. One can speak about the end of theConstantinian era for the church, which lost a lot of influence, at least theestablished churches, especially in Western and Northern Europe. Through theonslaught of secularisation, the church as an institution lost its grip on the people,who no longer needed the church for finding a partner, livelihood, work, status, orinfluence. The other side of the medal of secularisation has been individualemancipation, where issues like abortion, euthanasia, same sex partnershipscould be discussed openly without moralizing and could become a matter ofindividual choice. This very much improved the well being of the individualsconcerned. In due time these opportunities for choice became individuals rightsenshrined in laws. Notwithstanding the decline of the role of the church as aninstitution the way the (Western) Christian theologians, apparently remainedunchallenged, continued tooperate from a particular denominational base. Thetype of theology practiced, remained dominant at a world level, at least inacademia. The major theologians, who set the tone are from Western Europe,Northern America or South Africabelong to mainline churches. They are generally
  8. 8. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm8speaking male and white or of European (Caucasian) descent, like for instanceKarl Barth, Paul Tillich, Karl Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Johannes Metz,WolfhartPannenberg, JurgenMoltmann, Bishop John Robinson, Hans Küng andAdrioKönig. The theologians from other areas, women, and non white, are givena marginal role as theologians of a “genitive” and so a partial theology, like BlackTheology (J. Cone, S. Maimela), Liberation theology (Gustavo Gutierrez,MiguezBonino, Leonardo Boff, Assman), Feminist theology (Mary RedfordRuether, Sallie McFague) and African (S. Kibicho, LaurentiMagesa, TeresaOkure) and Asian theologies (Aloysius Pieris, Michael Amaladoss). In theologicaltextbooks, in international conferences and in theological journals the former typeof theologian dominate. In the field, however, it is the other way around. Thedynamism, the growth of the church is in Africa, Latin America and in Asia andwith charismatic and Pentecostal churches and Independent Churches. We needa theology that is faking these churches serious. Here different, often pluralist,theologies are emerging.At Independence in the 1960s many African countries introduced the disciplineReligious Studies at their newly built universities. With this they deviated from thetraditional pattern to establish theology departments. Also the syllabi of religiouseducation for primary and secondary schools were of an interfaith character,though often taught by Christian priests or ministers. This was true even incountries like Zambia where the great majority of the people are Christian. I seehere an intention to open oneself up for pluralism and accepting it as a fact. In thepast four decades the religious picture in Africa has become more pluralist. In acountry like Ghana one can find neo Hindu sects like AnandaMarga, theBhagwan, Sai Baba, Hare Krishna, next to Muslims, mainline churches like thePresbyterian Church, the Methodist Church or the Roman Catholic Church an allkinds of African Initiated Churches. There is in Ghana also a new resurgence ofAfrican Traditional Religion, which is modelling itself organisationally after AfricanInitiated Churches.5. The challenge for Christian theology(a) The Constantinian periodIn the Constantinian era pluralism could be ignored. To maintain the harmony and
  9. 9. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm9consensus dissenters could be persecuted as heretics. They could be ostracized,expelled, banned, and brought to court and so on. In the Constantinian era thereis “a theology from above”, an authoritative theology, establishing religious truth,needed for salvation, often expressed in written down doctrinal statements, whichare authoritative. Social institutions controlled by the church, like schools,hospitals and professional associations would enforce the doctrines upon theparticipants. People had to avow, often with a signed declaration, adherence tothe basic doctrines like the Three Statements of Christian Unity (“DeDrieFormulieren van Enigheid”), or had to have active church membership inorder to get employment. The church would get support from the state. In turn thechurch would provide theological legitimation to the state, in the form ofestablishing a divine right of rulers, finding parallels between the benevolent ruleof God over humankind with the present incumbent of the royal office. The churchwould also be actively present at royal marriages, coronation ceremonies, royaljubilees, and national memorial days. The context in which theology waspractised had its effects on the contents. God is at the top of the pyramid, sendinghis son to the earth as his representative. The believer is the passive receiver ofthe gift of salvation. There are necessary intermediaries in the salvation process,like priests or ministers holding the monopoly of the sacraments without whichone still could risk one’s damnation.(b) The pluralist eraIn the pluralist ear there is no dominant religion anymore in the metropolitanareas where before the world political and economic power was firmlyestablished. Part of the new pluralism came, in fact, as a result of the “burden ofempire” when people form the colonies went to the universities of themetropolitan power or large numbers of workers went from poor countries in theso-called Third World to work in the industries of the First World. This process isstill going on. South Africa being economically more developed than itsneighbours has received its share of migrants from abroad, extending the existingpluralist character of the nation culturally, ethnically, and religiously. In America 5% of the population are Muslims.The Netherlands, previously known as a bastion for Protestant orthodoxyprotecting the legacy of the Synod of Dordt, has now one million Muslim. On a
  10. 10. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm10population of 16 million only about 40 % are Christians, of which again a minorityis religiously active. It has become to a large measure a post-Christian nation.Nevertheless many values which are intrinsic to Christianity have remained andfound a new organisational form. In correlation with the decline of religiousparticipation is the rise of all kinds of new organisations getting massive supportof the people, like Green Peace, Oxfam Netherlands (Novib), WWF,Natuurmonumenten, VerrenigingMilieudefensie, the Red Cross, Foster ParentsPlan, Foundation For Refugee Aid (StichtingVluchtelingenwerk), and AmnestyInternational. These organisations are in fact doing the diaconal work of thechurches. Christian values are also entrenched in the social policy of thegovernment, protecting widows, widowers and orphans, the unemployed, thehomeless, the political refugees, the sick and handicapped. One could see it as akind of institutionalisation (“incarnation”) of the Gospel.In many African and Asian countries one can not find the same level of welfare ofthe citizens. Here churches and other religions still have the role in providingeducation, health service, and shelter for the homeless, to help women, workers,victims of human rights violations and so on. Churches very often also play a rolein strengthening one’s identity, in empowering the powerless by providing aninstitutional from where people can feel at home and exercise a position ofinfluence and authority not possible in secular society. This has been the role ofAfrican Initiated Churches, like the ZuluZionChurch in South Africa and inZimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire and Nigeria.For a South African example of the pluralist challenge for Christian theology wecould mention the Roman Catholic Zulu priest who is asked to conduct a funeralservice. After he has finished with it he knows that the people who remain willnow start the traditional Zulu rites for the spirit of the deceased, which is forbiddenby the Roman Catholic Church. As a Roman Catholic priest he has to condemnthese rituals. However, as a Zulu he sees these as indispensable to please thespirits of the ancestors and as essential for the well being of the living clan andtribesmen and women. Another African example is about a person who suffersfrom a particular ailment like barrenness or impotence but does not find a curewith the medical doctor. He or she goes to a healing church specializing in this
  11. 11. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm11type of ailment and find his complaint redressed. We find in one and the sameperson the influence of a mainline church, an African Initiated healing church,traditional religion with its veneration of the ancestral spirits and possiblyinfluence of a modern secularised scientific world view.How to meet the challenge of a new theology which can cover theseexperiences? In the first place we have to take the spiritual experiences of thecommon people in the context where they are living serious. In the second placewe will have to assume the existence of something like divine revelation. Thisrevelation manifests itself in the human person as faith. We can go along with theapproach of Prof. Van Niekerk, who sees theology as a theory of faith. (VanNiekerk, 1988: 127 ff) In this approach the links between church and churchstructure on one hand and theology on the other hand have been severed.Theology has emancipated itself and has become a tool for the ordinary believerto understand his faith. This is a “theology from below” as its starts by analysingthe statements, hymns, prayers of common man/woman produced in thatparticular political, cultural and social context in which he or she lives andcelebrates his or her faith. together with the (religious, ethnic, cultural) communityof which he or she is part. This approach empowers the believers, teaches thepeople to do the theologising themselves. It is not a normative theology, but itsresults are validated by criteria derived from the Christian Gospel like justice,peace, life, hope and love.If we look at the history of theology we see that the “object” of theology alternatedamong three uniting concepts of God, Humanity and the World, whichrespectively, roughly, represents the orthodox approach, the liberal approach andthe “scientistic” approach, represented by the theologians Karl Barth, FriedrichSchleiermacher and Wolfgang Pannenberg. (Van Niekerk: 101). We follow VanNiekerk (Study guide) about the role of theology in the modern age. Van Niekerk(5) argues that we should reject secularization, or rather in his terminology, “thesecularization hypothesis” as secularization is by no means universal.Secularization means that the sacred and the profane are separated, also ininstitutions. It means that God’s primary area of revelation is the church and itscommunity. This ignores experiences of God outside the church. This view has
  12. 12. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm12far going consequences for the identity of theology, for the identity of the church,for the way the church relates to other religions. Van Niekerk’s theology isunorthodox in that he rejects the Bible as the sole source of knowledge aboutGod. He also rejects the notion that God is revealed only in Israel and JesusChrist. He uses the authority of the Bible to prove his point. (Amos, Rom. 1) (13).This is a paradigm shift, which is timely, as we live, increasingly, in a worldwithout borders, where we have to orient ourselves to a larger world, and wherewe should be ready for an encounter with other religions and ideologies on abasis of dialogue and mutual respect..In my opinion one has to have an “Anknüpfungspunkt” , a point of contact,between divine revelation of any nature and the objective, empirical world inwhich we live and which we experience. My assumption is that there is somethinglike “revelation” that has an impact on human individuals, giving them inspirationand perspective. In orthodox theology God is, in fact, placed outside our world.“God is not part of human reality.” This theology wants, however, still saysomething about God, apart from and beyond his revelation This is also whatBarth is doing. For Barth there is no “Anknupfungspunkt”, but miraculously, God’sWord, as a stone thrown from Heaven, comes about when the preacher startclimbing the pulpit. For Schleiermacher this Anknüpfungspunkt is a sense ofunconditional dependance (schlechtsinnigesAbhängigkeitsgefühl). This is not somuch a feeling, but something that comes about from a real encounter with theHoly, about which his student Rudolph Otto wrote a famous monograph. ForPannenberg the Anknüpfungspunkt is the experience of the accomplished totalityof meaning. This is a chiliasm.The task of theology is to deal in hypotheses tomeasure to what extent that which features as implicitly, proleptic meaning in anexperience is formulated explicitly in the proposition of religious tradition.(:125-126) . This is, apparently, a kind of proleptic vision of the totality we willexperience when we are “all in all” at the end of times.For Van Niekerk dualism should be avoided, in particular the dualism implicit insecularization. Van Niekerk rejects the three main methods or approaches intheology, because in one way or the other they bring in the secularisationhypothesis. In secularization, or rather in secularism, there is a dualism between
  13. 13. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm13God and the world. This leads to an isolation of the church, to a a ghetto position.For Van Niekerk human faith is the Anknüpfungspunkt. In faith God meets thehuman. Faith is oriented toward the world and tries to be relevant in the world.This theology may target on the church as the community of the faithful, but in noway theology should be subservient to the church. It should not be anecclesiastical science. Only with this view theology in the modern age takes itsrightful place among the scientific disciplines at a university, relevant for and indialogue with other disciplines and with other religions.6. Three models: God, humanity or the world as the “object” of theology?(a) Orthodox theologyIn orthodox theology God is the “object” and focus of theology. God is studied asHe is revealed in documents, like the Bible, pronouncements of church councils,the confessional writings of the Reformation, the decisions of synods etc. It is KarlBarth (1886-1968) who tried to make orthodox theology relevant for the 20thcentury. Barth tries to refute the liberal theology of the 19th century, in particularthe theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher. God is to be God again. God should notbe brought into the world of science, where He could be grasped by scientistsand intellectuals. God, according to Barth, is not part of human reality. God canbe known by God alone. Because God knows us, we are able to know God. We,however, do not know God as God knows us, and we do not know God in theway we know one another. Though God is an “object”, He is it in a way differentfrom any other “object”, just as Israel is separated from the other peoples as aholy people, and as the church is separated from the world. All other objects(peoples, cultures?, religions?, ideologies?) are also divinely determined (but notholy). God is self-posited in free grace as an object of divine revelation to humanbeings. Divine revelation is a form of sacramental reality: God elevates andselects a definite subject-object relationship as the instrument of the Covenantbetween Creator and creature. God meets the human subject halfway in HisWord and through the Holy Spirit. (104). There is an interactive relationshipbetween God and humanity. Human thought, following divine revelation, isdifferent from our self-determined existence (105). The surrender in faithpresupposes and includes within itself the union and distinction which the humanfulfills between him/herself and God, who makes it possible and necessary (106).
  14. 14. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm14Barth’s whole systematic theology (church dogmatics in his words) is exclusivelychristocentric. In the human nature of Jesus Christ, the incarnation of the eternalWord, is the sacramental reality of revelation. Through proclamation of theGospel message this unique event, the incarnation of the Word, and so creaturelyunity with God, is repeated (108).Van Niekerk sees a dualism in Barth’s theology as, one the one hand, there is“the divinely determined” totality, and on the other hand the human “pre-arrangedmode of existence.” (112). Van Niekerk rejects Barth’s position that “theeschatological suspense in which we live ... derives from the “immanent” logic ofa dialectic between God’s power of disposal over us in faith and ours over otherobjects.” Van Niekerk sees at as very important to maintain that the perfectsalvation of the world is still to come. If not, faith becomes “the one prolepticcipher of salvation.” and “a ghetto in human life with minimal socio-politicalrelevance”.(115). I would suggest, against this view, that faith has both an“already” and a “not yet” character. If only the “not yet” is stressed as Van Niekerk(and Pannenberg) are doing, the unique salvific work of Christ on the cross andwith the Resurrection is downplayed. If only the “already”is stressed there is arisk of a Christian faith that no longer is salt and a lamp in the world. This basicduality in our human existence can not be ignored. There is a duality of life anddeath (though we have, in faith, already eternal life), light and darkness (thoughwe have moved out of spiritual darkness into the light), the spirit (that is willing)and the body (that is weak), sin and salvation.. Another criticism of Van Niekerkagainst Barth is that if God is the object of theology it implies that God can not bethe object of other sciences, because the vertical subject-object relationship isstructured like other (horizontal) subject-object relationships. If God who is aboveand in everything is defined in terms of a structure normally applied to theeverything, it means that God has to be removed from that everything. In myopinion this is not necessarily so. The statement that God is above and ineverything is a statement of faith. This statement would not withhold any scientistto study God, though on his/her own conditions, as a scientist of religion, apsychologist, or a philosopher. What all scientific disciplines have in common issome basic agreement about the discourse, about scientific communication andthe scientific method.. Methods of astronomy and philosophy or psychology differ
  15. 15. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm15widely, so theology could have its own methods. Theology, however, can notclaim a position of supremacy because its object is so all-encompassing.(b) Liberal theologyFriedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) tried to bring theology “down to earth” andrelevant for the atheistic or agnostic intellectual of the 19th century, who beganadhering to a scientific view of life. Schleiermacher maintains that one can onlyspeak about God in human terms (116). Theology must get together with othersciences and find some mutually accepted concept of science. All thepropositions of Christian dogmatics must be interpreted either as descriptions ofthe conditions of human life or as conceptions of divine attributes or asstatements on the nature of the world. Schleiermacher’s central concept is “piety”,an empirical fact, which is determined by “a feeling of immediate self-consciousness.” (117) Our relationship to God is a sense of unconditionaldependence (schlechtsinnigeAbhängigkeitsgefühl). But God can not be identifiedwith this feeling (118) as God can not be made into an object. One discoverswithin oneself the all-embracing Whole that supports the objective world; God isthe source of the human sense of dependence (119). Piety, linked to the sensoryself-consciousness, effects the encounter between self and the world, and the all-embracing, all-supporting ground of existence, is discovered. Humanity is the“object” of theology because all statements about God and the world aredeveloped as a translation or modification of pronouncements about the self(120). Van Niekerk (122-3) is of the opinion that “stealthily” the secularizationhypothesis re-emerges, because “piety” in the thinking of Schleiermacher is areligious province in human consciousness, which is a substantialism in respectof the human being. .(c) “Scientistic” theologyThe third method takes the world or history as the mediating function betweenGod or divine reality and human awareness (124). How can the totality of finitereality inherent in the concept of God provide a feasible criterion for theverification of statements about God? According to Pannenberg the total realityhas a “not yet” character as it has not yet been consummated to its proper totality(125). This totality can only be experienced in the form of anticipations, which is
  16. 16. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm16the theme of religion. Therefore religion is the immediate object of theology.“Theology deals in hypotheses to measure to what extent that which features asimplicitly proleptic meaning in other experience is formulated explicitly in thepropositions of religious tradition” (126).Here s, according to Van Niekerk, there isa risk that Pannenberg is seeking the substance or essence of things, the oldproblem of classical metaphysics, taking the totality of reality as the primary fieldof his theology. Theology then becomes a philosophy that sees the totality ofreality in respectu Dei.(126).7. Theology as atheory of faithTo overcome the limitations in the three previous methods Van Niekerk suggestto take faith as the “object” of theology. This is in line with how theology, generallyspeaking, is defined. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines theology as “arational analysis of a religious faith.” William Madges also defines theology as“the process of reflecting critically upon the way people ... should live out theirfaith.” (Hill, 1997: 286) or as “the rational reflection upon and the systematicexpression of the meaning and significance of any religious faith.” (Hill, 1997:289) or even more detailed as “the process and product of conversation betweenthe Christian tradition and our contemporary situation, aiming at the deepening ofour understanding of Christian faith and our commitment to transform the world.”(Madges in Hil, 1997: 4)..Faith is something essentially human, a basic function of human nature. Faith isintrinsically human. Unlike faith, grace is a divine affair, to be used by theologians- and all other people - for actual salvation and reconciliation. Theology is theperspective of faith, but the theoretical perspective of faith. There is the everydayexperience of faith (the praxis) and the theoretical reflection on faith (theory)(128). Hill defines faith as “a human response to the experience of TranscendentMystery (Hill, 1997: 1).Here it remains open what this “Transcendent Mystery” is.It seems similar with the “numenous” of Otto. Is it any transcendental mystery? Isthis purposeful? Is it benevolent? Does it have a focus, a use? How is experiencethe mediating factor? One should, in my opinion, add “a positive humanresponse” to the mystery. How does this relate to the Calvinist view of revelationin the Word of God as found in the Bible? How does the concept of salvation
  17. 17. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm17come in? If theology is then defined as “the critical reflection upon the response offaith and the expression of religion ” there are new problems. Faith is itselfdefined as “a response”, while religion is the context of the response.Van Niekerk defines theology as the theory of faith with reference to the unitingconcepts of God, humanity and the world, or those of origin, totality and thecoherence of meaning in relation to faith. Theology deals with the church as thecommunion of the faithful. However, theology is a free discipline in the context ofa university with other disciplines, with mutual cross-fertilization; theology is notan ecclesiastic science. (129). This view overcomes the limitations of thetraditional methods of theology, evaluated above. It also allows for a monist viewof reality, overcoming the secularization hypothesis. The view has similarities withthe liberal approach of Schleiermacher and Otto, in that the focus is on whererevelation has its impact, in the human person, who has faith. In his monism, VanNiekerk, shows similarities with the process theologians, where also the unity ofGod and the world is stressed. In process theology God is involved with natureand with the world. By (over)stressing the need for a monism, and the rejection ofsecularisation, there is a risk that some of the paradoxical or even contradictorycharacter of the human condition and of reality, as we experience it, is ignored.8. Papua theologyAs a case study of this “theology from below” I will analyze Papua theology.ThePapuans of West Papua belong culturally and ethnically to Melanesia. In 1962 theDutch handed West Papua over to Indonesia, which is part of an Austronesianculture. Since that time Papuans feel that they are treated as second rank citizensin their own country. Any protest is violently repressed. For most of the period theterritory was under military emergency rule (“Area of Military Operation”). Most ofthe Papuans are Protestant Christians. The churches are nominally following theCalvinist theology. This is also taught at the theological college. There is not yet aPapua theology established like Black theology or African theology in Africa andAmerica, because of the relative backwardness of the educational system and theopen discouragement of anything which gives support to a Papuan identity,separate form, the Indonesian identity in the unitary state. At the congregationallevel the situation is quite different. People at the grass roots used the Gospel to
  18. 18. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm18express a liberation theology. Jesus was the Liberator, the one who wouldremove injustice and oppression. People were speaking about the period ofIndonesian rule as a period of the Babylonian captivity. Or they saw the periodafter 1963 as a period of living like the people of Israel in the desert. Forty yearsafter the departure into the desert they would arrive in the promised land, that isget back their own country.Jesus is called “The King of Papua” (Raja Papua). The Papuans have a specialrole in the God’s salvation plan for the world. The Papuans are faced with amajority of non-Christians. Nevertheless they remain faithful to Jesus. Maybesoon, maybe next month already, as a result of prayer, all the Muslims will leavethe country and they will leave behind their cars, their houses and their otherbelongings. Jesus will not forget his people, his Papuans. The Morningstar flag,(Sang BintangKejora) often raised at great personal risk in 1999 and 2000 is itselfa strong messianic and eschatological symbol. It is symbol ofManserenMangumbi, while in the book of Revelations Jesus is called the Brightand Morningstar Rev.. 22, 16b). It is now still dark, but the day and light will surelycome, as certain as we can see the Morningstar. Praying and the singing ofhymns is a major method of political action. “Onwards Christian Soldiers” ispopular in this context.. In December 1998 the Papua traditional leaderTheysEluay in Sentani called upon his followers to pray without stopping till thePapuans would heave realized their freedom. People were again asked to prayand to fast for three days on 3, 4 en 5 September and to decorate the house witha cross. One should pray that “the mighty hand of the Lord would accomplish thecomplete work of the demand of the struggling people of Papuans to achieve therecognition of the right to sovereignty in elation to Independence.” (Open Letter,dated. 28-8-1999) The letter ends with an identification of the suffering of thePapua people with the suffering an death of Christ on the cross. The final call wasone for forgiveness as they “have no knowledge of what they are doing” (Luc. 23,34).Is this people’s theology legitimate? I would argue that it is. The basis of theChristian faith as expressed for instance in the Apostolic Confession of faith isthat Jesus Christ was a historic person. He came in the flesh. He really lived and
  19. 19. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm19suffered and was crucified in Jerusalem under the Roman consul Pontius Pilates.God has a plan with individual persons who may be called like Noah, Abraham,Moses, David, but also with whole peoples. God made the people of Israel, somebands (or tribes) of nomadic pastoralists his chosen people, promising them aland of their own, the Promised Land. This promise still stands. It is a miracle thatIsrael managed to get the country after being away from it for almost nineteencenturies.9. ConclusionIn this world of globalisation where through exponential development of thetransport facilities and the means of communication (television, hand phones,internet with chat forum and mailing list facilities) there is an unprecedentedincrease in the exchange of ideas and people. This demands a Copernicanrevolution of theology. It has to leave its Western bias. Theology has to take as itsbase the location where divine revelation meets the human heart that is faith.Theology is to be defined as a theory of faith. The sources for this theology arethe hymns, prayers, and statements of the common believer validated by thatwhat can be seen as the essence of the Gospel: love hope, life, reconciliation,peace, and forgiveness.There is need for a new paradigm in theology. It is important that theology claimsits right as an academic discipline among other disciplines. It is also importantthat theology is freed from control of the church. With faith as the “object” oftheology, Christian theology opens itself for dialogue with other religions andother theologies. As a concrete example of a theology on the basis of theassumptions implicit in this approach is a study as done by Karen Armstrong, AHistory of God. From Abraham to the Present. 4,000 Year Quest for God, whichis a huge best seller, reaching a public which normally is not open for theologicalreflection.A topic for research, emerging from this approach, could be a study ofthe relationship between praxis and theory, i. e. between the praxis of theologiansand their theologies. How can the theory of faith make faith relevant for theproblems this world at this age faces?I do not agree with Van Niekerk where he rejects the secularisation hypothesis.There is no harm in accepting a moderate dualism, which is implied in the
  20. 20. At IpenburgPapua Theology. A New Paradigm20concept of secularism. The secular attitude has brought benefits which areconsonant with the Gospel message, like emancipation in science and society,civil liberties, including human rights, women emancipation, emancipation of theBlack people, democracy, in short he modern world as we know it. Faith is to besalt and a lamp in the world. Faith is the contents and the church is thewrappings. To become effective the faith in the Gospel has to be relieved of theinstitutional form. This is valid as much for the institutionalized church as for thetheology that is imprisoned by the institutionalized church. Academci theologianshave to unlearn their theoretical assumptions and to search for people’stheologies, the true place where faith is seen in action, where divine revelationmeets the human heart and the people’s heart.BibliographyHick, John 2001. Dialogues in the Philosophy of Religion, Houndmills: PalgraveHill, Brennan R., Paul Knitter and William Madges, 1990. Faith, Religion andTheology. A Contemporary Introduction, Mystic (Conn.): Twenty-ThirdPublicationsVan Niekerk, E., 1988 (2nded.). Systematic Theology (Honours BTh). Only StudyGuide for STH411-T (Theological Methodology), Pretoria: UnisaVerklaring over de Houding van de Kerk ten Opzichte van de Niet-ChristelijkeGodsdiensten. Consitituties en Decreten van het Tweede VaticaansOecumenisch Concilie (VI), Amersfoort: De Horstink (Katholiek Archief)(Declaration Nostra Aetate)