South African perspectives on the communication of the Bible in church and society
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This thesis reflects research undertaken over the past eight years about the way in which the Bible has been brought to bear on a number of frameworks within the South African socio-historical context. It is argued that it is not at all surprising that the Bible would become a part of the dialogues of the church; the Bible remains the source of the Christian identity of the churches in South Africa in a very particular way. Nor is it really unexpected that the Bible would be influential in discussions on broader societal issues in South Africa. With ± 80% of the South African populace subscribing to the Christian faith, and with the most prominent strands of Christianity found in South Africa making so much of the role of the Bible in their lives of faith, it would be perplexing if the Bible had indeed not been a major feature in these debates. The Bible spoke and speaks to church and country in South Africa. Put differently, as a phenomenological formulation: the Bible is brought to speech, that is, is brought to communication within the closer ecclesiological precincts as well as the broader socio-political environment of South Africa, precisely because of the particular religious configurations that characterise church and culture locally. The following is thus, albeit retroatively, posed as a general research question running centrally through all the research essays under review here: How was the Bible brought to communication within different spheres of the South African society? A total of nine scholarly publications are included, although in fact they represent seven research outputs. In two cases the research was first published as chapters in books, and was then re-published in article format. The most important conclusions reached, are: that the Old Testament is a vastly under-utilised source for communicating Christian spirituality, a state of affairs for which ten reasons can been indicated; that literal Bible translations are more effective in engaging Bible readers, because they invite active, interpretative participation by the intended receivers; that the use of the Bible for political purposes, even for opposing political causes, always reduces the Bible to a rhetorical tool, namely to substantiate views being propagated; that the present government's communication on religious matters has been rhetorically ambivalent: while continued funding for university programmes of - by name - Biblical Studies, has been questioned in Parliament and elsewhere, the churches (for whom the Bible is central to their identity and as a motivational force) are called upon to support government's social relief programmes; that the editorial and other comment columns of newspapers offer a substantial, yet vastly under-utilised resource for preachers in their attempts to deliver contextually relevant sermons; that deliberate consideration given to persuasive variables are of substantial importance to preachers; most important, though, for the long term effectiveness of the Gospel message, is the perceived integrity of the preacher; that both the Old and New Testaments offer substantial resources for the enhancement of communication and the building of relationships between different church denominations, with the caveat, though, that texts should not be misinterpreted, as has been the case, since this undermines the integrity of such processes. The ways in which the Bible has been used in these different societal spheres are, thus, varied, yet seldom satisfactory. By indicating the problems and perspectives that have come to light through these research projects, a contribution may be made towards a more mature society in which religion plays a constructive role, and is, as a corollary, respected for what it is in its own right.
- Humanities