Sacralisation and the colonial-indigenous encounter in Southern African Christian history : the memory and legacy of Johannes du Plessis as case study

Muller, Retief (2016)

CITATION: Muller, R. 2015. Sacralisation and the colonial-indigenous encounter in Southern African Christian history : the memory and legacy of Johannes du Plessis as case study. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae, 41(2):82–99, doi:10.17159/2412-4265/2015/375.

The original publication is available at http://www.scielo.org.za

Article

The role of the Dutch Reformed Church's mission policies in the development of apartheid ideology has in recent times come under increased scrutiny. In terms of the formulation of missionary theory within the DRC, the controversial figure of Johannes du Plessis played a significant role in the early twentieth century. In addition to his work as a mission theorist, Du Plessis was a biblical scholar at Stellenbosch University who was found guilty of heresy by his church body, despite having much support from the rank and file membership. This article asks questions regarding the ways in which his memory and legacy are often evaluated from the twin, yet opposing perspectives of sacralisation and vilification. It also considers the wider intellectual influences on Du Plessis such as the missiology of the German theologian, Gustav Warneck. Du Plessis's missionary theory helped to lay the groundwork for the later development of apartheid ideology, but perhaps in spite of himself, he also introduced a subverting discourse into Dutch Reformed theology. Some of the incidental consequences of this discourse, particularly in relation to the emerging theme of indigenous knowledge, are furthermore assessed here.

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