Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Friday, 21 June 2013

Revive Us, O Lord - Steve Camp

We have turned from Your ways, Lord Your fruit we cease to bear
We lack the power we once knew in our prayers
The gentle voice of heaven,we cease to hear and know
The fact that He has risen no longer stirs our souls

Revive us, O Lord, revive us, O Lord
And cleanse us from our impurities and make us holy
Hear our cry and revive us, O Lord

Though we've been faithful we have never been disowned
The Spirit that raised Christ from the dead compels us to His throne

Revive us, O Lord, revive us, O Lord
And cleanse us from our impurities and make us holy
Hear our cry and revive us, O Lord

Monday, 4 March 2013

The struggle over the Enlightenment and Christ’s bodily resurrection in the new South Africa’s Dutch Reformed Church - Review Article of Ferdie Mulder's book: Opgestaan in Reformation Today (252) March/April 2013

To all my English friends, I am delighted to let you know that the reformed Baptist journal Reformation Today has just published an English review article of my Afrikaans book: "Opgestaan" (Resurrection) by Dr Gert M Augustyn that is available for free on their website. To read the whole article click here:

I think Dr Augustyn captured the heart of the book very well. Here is a short excerpt:

The Man and the Story: “Opgestaan”
Onto the scene in 2001, for the six years theological training (BTh four years, MDiv two years), at the Theological Faculty, University of Pretoria (also called “Tukkies”, and by far the largest of the three), came a student, full of passion to be equipped with theological knowledge and skills for ministry. Frederik S. Mulder (also called Ferdie) comes from Afrikaner parentage on both sides, with missionaries and reformed ministers from both Dutch and Scottish descent in his lineage. He ended up being barred by the DRC from entering the ministry in his final year of study, as well as being banned by Tukkies from any further theological study, after completing his MTh in Biblical Studies in 2006, following disciplinary hearings. In 2011 his 368 page book Opgestaan (in English Risen or Resurrected) is published, with subtitle “Students’ struggle for faith at Tukkies in the years 2001–2006”, in which he reflects on how and why his expulsion came about. Mulder finished the book shortly after completing a M.A. in Biblical Studies at Durham University, United Kingdom, and before starting as Ph.D. candidate in New Testament at Nijmegen, the Netherlands in 2010.

In the Preface (xi-xix), dated February 2010, Mulder gives us the outline of his story. One of the professors whose teachings drove Mulder and other senior students to formulate a “Status Confessionis” in June 2005, Julian Müller, published in 2006 an account of his interpretation of the resurrection with the title Opstanding (in English Resurrection). He wrote the book to vent his protest against what he regarded as a growing stream of fundamentalist belief in the “bodily” resurrection and “empty tomb” of Christ, and which had challenged him in the preceding years. Following Müller’s book, with the encouragement of DRC members, ministers and also anonymous senior professors, Mulder eventually became convinced to describe in as nuanced a way as possible, the story of how he (and some other students) lived through it, and to express his concern about what he saw as a theological river swelling in the DRC, whereby Enlightenment worldviews were welcomed uncritically to the extent of causing substantial skepticism about central Christian claims such as Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the testimony of the empty tomb.

By means of Mulder's story, those wishing to become familiar with personae, plots and positions in recent Afrikaans Protestant theology in South Africa can find their guide. In the first half, in a narrative-based style, he carefully sketches the build-up to the “Declaration” that caused all the trouble. Amongst other incidents, he refers to the influence of a book, published in 2000 by prominent DRC theologian Dr Ben du Toit, as an indicator of the left-wing theological current (8-23). Du Toit advocates a post-modern faith, cleansed of what he sees as old-world mythological baggage. Controversially, Du Toit was appointed to the position of chairman of the church’s doctrinal committee, formulating new doctrinal recommendations for the General Synod to consider every four years. Mulder tells how students' unease with being presented with these so-called “new” truths as legitimate and in accordance with the gospel were brushed aside consistently by the workings of the official church machine and faculty. Also important, he makes clear that students' concerns had nothing to do with uneasiness about things like social justice, honest wrestling with and thorough engagement with the plethora of developments in critical biblical scholarship, as well as fresh and cutting edge research, which should be standard practise at universities and seminaries. Mulder and some of his friends were involved in mercy projects in a black “township” and white orphanage at the time, and, significantly, achieved distinctions for their bachelor degrees, showing their diligence and desire to make a difference on ground level as well as taking critical scholarship seriously. Their main problem was that some ordained DRC scholars, in their teaching and public pronouncements, went far beyond the heart of the confessional identity and boundaries upon which the DRC confessions are built – and which all DRC professors and ministers promised to uphold in an ordination ceremony. In the mix of troubling teaching was enthusiasm for the historical Jesus book Fatherless in Galilee by the Hervormde Kerk, New Testament scholar, Andries van Aarde (member of the American Jesus Seminar and personal friend of John Dominic Crossan), and in particular Jurie le Roux, a DRC Old Testament professor's boundless support and appreciation for it, as well as Le Roux’s ruthless focus on classical nineteenth-century historical-critical work and Enlightenment worldviews. Mulder reports on a controversial public meeting about the New Reformation (sister organisation of the American Jesus Seminar) where Le Roux stated that his support of Van Aarde’s Fatherless in Galilee should be seen as an indication that the resurrection of Jesus does not have to be taken literally any longer. In another unfortunate incident in 2004, Le Roux lost his temper during a lecture for undergraduate students and called Scripture “the fraud of people” (Afrikaans: “die gekonkel van mense”) (36-38).

Chapters one to five of Mulder’s book narrate a tale of student adventure, deep and honest study, struggle, shock and officialdom’s uncaring opposition and obstruction. In addition to the complexities described above, the unfolding events which eventually led to the notorious 15 June 2005 student declaration about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, which Mulder (shortly after resigning as chairman of the DRC student body) formulated primarily – but with input from senior postgraduate students, was among other things:

i) the church board, under the chairmanship of Dr Kobus Gerber’s extended and consistent inability or unwillingness to deal with oral and written complaints with regards to Christ’s uniqueness and bodily resurrection,
ii) The church board’s refusal of further conversation with senior students about pressing doctrinal concerns in March 2005,
iii) Five left-wing students, under the leadership of Cobus van Wyngaard, an undergraduate student, who went to the secular media in June 2005 giving their unequivocal support to all the DRC professors, denying any serious doctrinal problems, and significantly also
iv) Professor Julian Müller, DRC Head of Department in Practical Theology’s unwillingness to confess the bodily resurrection of Jesus when asked about it during a June 2005 national radio broadcast.

All of these events eventually contributed to the declaration which were signed by some forty-six students, and distributed at the faculty and in the church (61-68). The declaration’s heading reads:

We believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead historically-literally and bodily”.

In the paragraph that follows, Mulder explained those interpretations they disagreed with:

We want to differ from views that take the resurrection of Jesus to be non-historical, non-literal and non-bodily. Such theories hold amongst other things that Jesus' resurrection is possibly figurative, metaphoric, non-literal, mythological, symbolic, a pre-modern worldview expression, and that the resurrection does not matter historically” (88-89).

In footnotes at the bottom of the one-page declaration, each of the above interpretations were linked to published articles, books or personal conversations with these DRC theologians. Additionally, reference was also made about two theologians from the Cape Province: Dr Ben du Toit and Prof Louis Jonker, the latter from Stellenbosch University.

Mulder is very candid about the shortcomings of the declaration, the naïve way in which he went about constructing and publishing it, and acknowledges his technical errors of process and procedure along the way. For example, nine of the forty-six students whose names appeared on the declaration did not read the declaration first-hand, they were phoned, and the document's first edition was redactionally fine-tuned following recommendations made by an anonymous DRC professor. Before any disciplinary hearings proceeded (see below), Mulder offered his apology to students for technical errors.

This declaration caused a threatening response by the DRC governing body who oversees theological training for students. The threat was initially in the form of a mobile phone sms (text) sent by Dr Flip du Toit to students’ phones whose names appeared on the declaration stating: “Note taken of signing of Declaration (Ferdie). Possible legal action can follow. Contact me urgently...” [English translation]. Within a few days, and following a formal threatening letter from the church board, all except Mulder revoked their support for it. One student, Riaan Rossouw rejoined it again later following unsatisfactory talks with church officials, but he resigned from the DRC shortly after ordination (91–103).

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Scottish origins of the Dutch Reformed Church revival and seminaries in South Africa

Ever heard the names Andrew and John Murray? 

Their father, Rev Andrew Murray was one of several Scottish ministers who came to the Cape of Good Hope in the 19th century and became ministers in the Dutch Reformed Church.

Why was a seminary established at Stellenbosch in 1859?

Andrew and John Murray, who studied in both Aberdeen, Scotland and Utrecht, Holland saw the need for an evangelical and reformed seminary in light of the devastating liberalism in Holland at the time. The latter under the leadership of the likes of the young W.C. Opzoomer from Utrecht rejected things like Jesus' virgin birth, his miracles, bodily resurrection and uniqueness. Jesus was followed for being a good moral example. Also, God had to be stripped of his personal and supernatural attributes, and became the panentheist god constructed by Karl C.F. Krause, whom Opzoomer followed.

It is always special for me when a British journal publish good and interesting theological stuff from South Africa. Recently, the reformed Baptist journal Reformation Today (available here at Tyndale House, Cambridge) published an article by Rev Erroll Hulse in which he reflects on the 19th century revival in South Africa in which the Murray's played an important part. Two excerpts:

"Some pinpoint the beginning of the 1860 revival in the Cape to a prayer by Dr Andrew Murray Junior. It was so powerful and moving that it lit fires in the hearts of those present. They took these strong convictions home to share with others.
It is important to note that gifted-pastor preachers were given to the churches in the Cape. The best known of these was Andrew Murray Senior. For over thirty years he had prayed specifically every Saturday night for revival. He had two sons, Andrew and John, both of whom became well-known pastors".

The discussion of the 1902 revival in the Prisoner of War Camps  is absolutely amazing:

"After the Boer War (1899-1902) the Afrikaners found themselves in a depressed and poverty-stricken state. They had lost their farms and suffered terrible loss of life in the notorious prisoner of war camps. 26,400 women and children died in those camps through starvation and epidemics.
During the Boer War which eventually consisted of 400,000 British soldiers seeking to overcome about 80,000 farmers who were skilled marksmen. Captured Boer soldiers were exiled to prisoner of war camps in Ceylon, India, St Helena and Bermuda. It was there that they experienced very remarkable and powerful spiritual revivals.
They did not enjoy telephone or e-mail communication. Research needs to be done to establish the details of these revivals. We do however know how the revival began in Ceylon. Two prisoners engaged in a quarrel.  The British encouraged chaplains to minister to the prisoners.and so it was that the resident minister exhorted the two unhappy prisoners to go out to the field that they used for rugby football and there pray together. They heeded this exhortation and came back later with the testimony that the Holy Spirit had fallen on them. The next evening four returned to that spot to pray together. They came back with the same report. This proved to be the beginning of the revival with an ever increasing nightly prayer meeting. When the war ended, it was calculated that 2,000 out of the 5,000 were committed to Christ".

So what happened after the war?

"After the war the seminaries were filled with men who dedicated themselves to the ministry and to missions. A mighty missionary movement spread across Africa. Throughout her history a battle with liberalism has taken place in the NG Kerk. Since the 1950s a downgrade has taken place. The spiritual decline has been catastrophic. Unregenerate liberal professors have been allowed to destroy the faith of the seminary students.  
We must pray that the Lord will give the gift of faithful leaders again. And we must pray that the Afrikaans believers will study their history and again be blessed with spiritual awakening".

Thank you Reformation Today!

Friday, 12 October 2012

FF Bruce's integration of academic and church life, and how he embarrassed Ernst Käsemann

Today 112 years ago, Frederick Fyvie Bruce, one of the most influential British New Testament scholars of the 20th century was born in Scotland. As a small tribute, I thought I will share two little excerpts of Tim Grass' biography of Bruce's life and academic work, published in 2011. Two specific sections caught my eye as I glanced over a few sections tonight. The first is the occasion of his presidential address, after being elected president of the SNTS in 1975 (with interesting comments about Ernst Käsemann's body language!); and the second, the lack of tension he experienced between his academic study of the Bible and his approach to the Bible in personal or church life:

The 1975 SNTS Lecture

"... in 1975 he became president of the SNTS ... His presidential address, delivered at Aberdeen, was on the subject of 'The New Testament and Classical Studies'. In it he contended that the classicists were uniquely placed to study the New Testament because it was part of the cultural world which was their field and because the skills required to do so were those which they used in studying ancient writings. As a test case he took the writings of Luke, and especially the book of Acts, arguing controversially for the essential historicity of the speeches recorded in it. His conclusion was that 'the Graeco-Roman contribution to early Christianity should not be depreciated as though it were an alien accretion upon the pure gospel' ... Bruce was probably well aware that his emphasis on the importance of the classical background and his attempt to achieve objectivity in his handling of the text would run counter to the more conceptually orientated and philosophically committed approach of many continental scholars, and that his lay status would not be approved of by some clerical scholars present, but his lecture was the best (his close friend Ward) Gasque had ever heard him give, 'bearing witness to his convictions as a scholar and as a disciple'. Ernst Käsemann, a distinguished if sometimes combative German scholar, was seen to grow redder as the lecture progressed, but it may be a mark of his respect for Bruce that he does not appear to have entered into debate with him at the conference" (p. 115).

The lack of tension between academic and church life

"The Christian acceptance of the Bible as God's word written does not in the least inhibit the unfettered study of its contents and setting; on the contrary, it acts as an incentive to their most detailed and comprehensive investigation" (p. 131 [F.F. Bruce, "Matter of Call" (letter), Christianity Today, 26 March 1965, p. 38]).

"I am sometimes asked if I am aware of a tension between my academic study of the Bible and my approach to the Bible in personal or church life. I am bound to say that I am aware of no such tension ... Naturally, when I discharge a teaching ministry in church I avoid the technicalities of academic discourse and I apply the message of Scripture in a more practical way. But there is no conflict between my critical or exegetical activity in a university context and my Bible exposition in church; the former makes a substantial contribution to the latter. At the same time, membership in a local church, involvement in the activities of a worshipping community, helps the academic theologian to remember what his subject is all about, and keeps his studies properly 'earthed'" (p. 131 [F.F. Bruce, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (London: Marshall Pickering, rev. edn, 1993)]).

*  This pdf is a related lecture delivered at the John Rylands University Library with the title: "Is the Paul of Acts the Real Paul?".

Monday, 17 September 2012

Adam or Divine Christology in Paul? Chris Tilling takes on Dunn, Casey etc

I will never forget that rainy afternoon in Durham, England, when I, together with Nijay Gupta and two other students helped clear Prof James Dunn's loft. Prof Dunn needed a few students to help him remove the boxes stored in his loft, as he was preparing to sell his house and relocate to the south of England where his daughter lives. After we finished clearing the loft of all the dusty boxes, we had a nice cup of coffee in the kitchen, each having the chance to ask Prof Dunn a few questions. One of my questions went something like this: "Professor Dunn, which of the books you have written, do you regard as the most controversial?" Prof Dunn's answer? Christology in the Making. An Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, first published in 1980. I agreed with him, in part, because I analysed parts of his book for  an essay on the pre-existence of Christ in Paul's letters for one of the modules for my MTh at the University of Pretoria. Agree or disagree, anyone working on the pre-existence of Christ in Paul, has to engage with Dunn's book. 
With this in mind, I was delighted to see Chris Tilling's 2012 WUNT monograph: Paul's Divine Christology arriving here at Tyndale House this morning. Tilling dialogues extensively with the big names when it comes to Pauline Christology. They include the likes of Bauckham, Dunn, Fee, Garland, Harris, Hurtado, Martin, Schnabel, Schrage, Thiselton, Thrall, Waaler and Wright.

Here are a few bits and pieces of Dunn's interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11 compared with Tilling, as well as a short excerpt of the latter's findings to wet your appetite:

Dunn: "It may ... be that the pre-existence-incarnation interpretation of Phil. 2.6-11 etc. owes more to the Gnostic redeemer myth than it does to Phil. 2.6-11 properly understood as an expression of first generation Adam christology - one way of outbidding and countering the appeal of the Gnostic systems. How much truth is contained in the last comment is hard to discern. What we can say with more confidence is that the reading of these passages with the presupposition of a pre-existent heavenly redeemer resulted in a critical shift in Adam christology - a shift from christology of death and resurrection to a christology of incarnation - and not only in christology, but also in the concept of redemption which goes with it ... it is certainly arguable that all these subsequent developments are the consequence in part at least of losing sight of the original meaning and intention of the Adam christology" (James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making. An Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation [SCM Press: London, 1989 2nd ed.], p. 128).

Tilling: "... if the passage [Phil. 2.6-11] was used as a hymn in the corporate worship of the early church ... then the singing of this 'hymn' about Christ would have constituted a feature of the 'corporate devotional practise of early Christians'. Dunn's rejoinder that the 'hymn' is 'not addressed to Christ, but gives[s] praise to God for Christ' would be more realistic if the biblical Psalms were always addressed to God and did not sing about God, which is, of course, regularly not the case. Besides, it is far from obvious that Philippians 2:10-11 must be addressed only to God, not Christ, especially as it is at the name of Jesus that every knee bends" (p. 127).

Excerpt of Tilling's findings: "... Pauline Christ-relation is a divine-Christology expressed as relationship. In light of this way of constructing and contending for a Pauline divine-Christology, the claims of Dunn, Casey and others who deny a Pauline divine-Christology were critically examined, and it was maintained that none of the arguments hitherto employed can  carry weight. For example ... Dunn's notion that Paul's 'christological reserve' only slipped into high Christology occasionally, are seen to crumble under the weight of data concerning the Pauline Christ-relation, Paul's divine-Christology. This way of dealing with the data in terms of the divine-Christology debate arguably has certain strenghts. To name a few: not only does it build on undeveloped lines of thought in Fee's work, but it constructively engages with the Christ-devotion emphasis in Hurtado, and the relational notion of identity in Bauckham" (p. 256).

Monday, 10 September 2012

FF Bruce's skepticism about German doctorate programs

Over the past few years I've had the privilege of giving a few papers at German universities and having interesting discussions with German biblical scholars. I was recently struck after reading some of FF Bruce's thoughts concerning doctorate programs in Germany.
Tim Grass, in his 2011 "definitive biography" of Bruce states that the latter expressed a degree of wariness, even skepticism concerning German research doctorates. Apparently, in 1944, Bruce argued that German critical radicalism was due not to the national character in Germany, but to the doctoral dissertation system:

"As, generation after generation, German students submit dissertations for the doctorate of their faculty, they have the choice of confirming old views or presenting new ones. Naturally, more 'kudos' attaches to the publication of a new theory than to the re-establishment of an old one, and the most brilliant and ambitious students seek to put forth 'some new thing.' In some faculties the results of this tendency are wholly beneficial, but in such subjects as classical literature or biblical theology this is not always so. The number of probable hypotheses in these realms is limited, and these have long ago been exhausted, the chances are that improbable hypotheses will multiply" (p. 106).

Very interesting ...