Aksie en kontemplasie? : op weg na mistiek-profetiese gereformeerde spiritualiteit in dialoog met David Tracy en K.H. Miskotte

Hansen, Leonard Dirk (2008-12)

Thesis (DTh (Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology))—Stellenbosch University, 2008.


This study concerns the relationship between mysticism and social action (widely understood, as including political and economic action), or as it was formulated for centuries in the Christian tradition: the relationship between action and contemplation. Chapter 1 differentiates between different forms of Christian spirituality. Also, the reason for this study is stated: the apparent search amongst certain contemporary Reformed Christians for a more contemplative spirituality, while preserving the socially and politically involved character of Reformed spirituality. Chapter 2 investigates the origins and evelopment of contemplation (or “mysticism”, as it is commonly called today). Taking into account the history of the meaning of the term “mysticism”, a contemporary definition is sought that would address the changes, distortions and misconceptions that have developed over the centuries. A major focus in Chapter 2 is the relationship between action and contemplation/mysticism. This issue is reviewed with reference to its history, from patristic times until approximately the time of the Counter-reformation. The extent to which distortions regarding this issue have occurred, as well as possible subsequent corrections of these, are also examined in this chapter. In Chapter 3, a short overview is given of the recent revaluation and incorporation of mysticism alongside a commitment to social action in the theology of a number of prominent “mystical-political” Roman-Catholic theologians of the 20th century. The focus then shifts to the revaluation of mysticism and the reformulation of mystical-prophetic theology in the theological project of the 20th-century North American theologian David Tracy. Of especial importance is his use of the Ricoeurian methodology of “suspicion and retrieval” to retrieve and incorporate the Christian mystical tradition into his own theology, as this forms the ethodological basis for the next chapter. Chapter 4 takes the form of an “exercise of suspicion and retrieval” with a view to find and retrieve possible mystical elements in the Reformed tradition via an investigation into the history, way of life and spirituality of the Roman Catholic contemplative monastic order of the Carthusians – specifically their tradition of manibus praedicare and the manifestations thereof. Chapter 5 focuses on the theology and spirituality of the Dutch theologian K.H. (Kornelis) Miskotte as an example of a Reformed theologian in whose theology elements of both contemplation/mysticism and social action are present. Contrary to the views of many researchers into Miskotte’s theology (as well as Miskotte himself) it is concluded that: In light of the recent, sometimes retrieved, views of mysticism by present-day scholars of mysticism – as well as those of the mystical-political theologians, especially David Tracy – Miskotte’s spirituality can indeed be seen as a form of mystical-political spirituality. This is true despite some profound differences between the mystical-prophetic theologians and Tracy on the one hand and Miskotte on the other – differences that, however, stamp Miskotte’s mystical-political spirituality as authentically Reformed.

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