Suffering and God : a theological-ethical study of the war in the Sudan, 1955-

Dau, Isaiah Majok (2000-12)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2000

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation is a theological-ethical study of suffering and God in relation to the war in Sudan. It examines historical, political, socio-economic and religious factors behind one of the longest wars of Africa. Over the last forty years, Sudan, the largest country in Africa has intermittently been at war with itself. This bitter conflict, pitting the predominantly Moslem north against Christian and animist south, has devastated communities, families as well as basic socio-economic infrastructure and has turned this potentially rich land into one of the most impoverished and heavily indebted countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. From 1983 to the present, this war of attrition has claimed nearly two million lives and displaced double that figure of people from their homes, scattering them all over the globe. But in the midst of this human catastrophe, the church has grown enormously. It has one of the fastest growth rates in Africa today. In its struggle with faith and the reality of suffering, the church in Sudan variedly interprets its predicament if only to make sense of this sordid experience. In that regard, it interprets suffering as divine judgement and as a direct result of a cosmic conflict between God and the forces of evil. At the same time, the church pleads with God for his intervention and deliverance. Thus, the image of God as Judge-Deliverer largely dominates the theology and worship of the suffering church in the war-torn country. This seems to be the major theme of more than 1 500 Bor Dinka new songs, composed in the war. To place the suffering of the church in Sudan in the larger context of Christian theology, this dissertation briefly looks at the problem of evil and suffering in 'classical theology', examining the thought of Augustine, Luther and Calvin as well as the paradigm shift in the optimism of the Enlightenment. Similarly, this dissertation takes a brieW look at 'alternative theodicies' that followed the collapse of the fine edifice of the Age of Reason and the dereliction of the world wars and natural disasters. In this category is to be found the dialectic theology of Karl Barth and Ji.irgen Moltmann. The praxis of Liberation Theology is also briefly explored as a response to suffering. GC Berkouwer's 'believing theodicy' is examined as a theological and Biblical critique of the whole project of theodicy as a wrongheaded enterprise vainly trying to justify the ways of God to man instead of the reverse. The African traditional view of suffering and evil is explored as a sharp contrast to the Western view. Looking at the Scripture, this work identifies five ways the Bible addresses the problem of evil and suffering. In the Bible, suffering may come as a punishment for sin or as a disciplinary measure from God or as a test of faith or faithfulness or as a price of choosing to follow Jesus or simply as innocent as in the case of Job. Admitting to the apparent mystery and insolubility of the problem of evil, this dissertation, finally, proposes the cross, community, character and hope as the only viable framework of transcending and transforming suffering. It argues in that regard that the incarnation is the distinctively Christian answer to the problem of evil and suffering in which that transcending and transforming can be effected. Within the framework of the cross, community, character and hope suffering can be transcended and transformed into the highest good possible in this life. The cross reminds those who suffer that God has done and will do something about suffering and that he does not abandon us in suffering. The community absorbs suffering and helps the victim through the ordeal. Character is formed and toughened as the sufferer chooses to respond appropriately to suffering. Hope tells us that suffering shall be ultimately overcome and a new order of things shall be ushered in, thus spurring us on to participate in the present as we anticipate that bright future.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif is 'n teologies-etiese studie van lyding en God in verhouding tot die oorlog in Soedan. Dit ondersoek die historiese, politiese, sosio-ekonomiese en godsdienstige faktore agter een van die langdurigste oorloe in Afrika. Soedan, die grootste land in Afrika, is oor die afgelope veertig jaar ononderbroke in oorlog met sigself gewikkel. Hierdie bittere konflik, waarin die hoofsaaklik Moslem Noorde die Christen en animistiese Suidelike deel van die land teenstaan, het gemeenskappe en gesinne verwoes, sowel as die basiese sosio-ekonomiese infrastruktuur, en het sodoende hierdie potensieel ryk land omskep in een van die armoedigste lande, met een van die swaarste skuldelaste, in Afrika benede die Sahara. Vanaf 1983 tot op hede het hierdie uitputtingsoorlog amper twee miljoen lewens geeis, terwyl dit tweemaal sovee! mense van hul tuistes verplaas en hul wereldwyd versprei het. Ter midde van hierdie menslike katastrofe het kerklidmaatskap ontsaglik toegeneem. Die groeitempo is inderdaad tans een van die hoogstes in Afrika. In sy worsteling met die geloof en die realiteit van lyding interpreteer die kerk in Soedan sy toestand op 'n verskeidenheid van wyses, in 'n poging om sodoende van hierdie haglike omstandighede sin te maak. Lyding word interpreteer as die strafgerig van God, en as 'n direkte gevolg van die kosmiese konflik tussen God en die bose magte. Gelyktydig pleit die kerk met God vir sy ingryping en verlossing. Die siening van God as Regter- Verlosser is dus oorheersend in die teologie en aanbidding van die lydende kerk in 'n oorloggeteisterde land. Dit blyk die hooftema te wees van die meer as 1 500 Bor Dinka liedere wat ontstaan het gedurende die oorlog. Om die Iyding van die kerk in Soedan binne die groter konteks van die Christelike Teologie te plaas, word die probleem van die bose en Iyding in die klassieke teologie in hierdie proefskrif kortliks behandel. Die denke van Augustinus, Luther en Calvyn, sowel as die paradigmaverskuiwing wat gepaard gegaan het met die optimisme van die Verligting, word ondersoek. Hierdie proefskrif beskou ook kortliks die alternatiewe godslere wat gevolg het op die ineenstorting van die agttiende eeu se "Age of Reason" asook die verwaarlosing and ontwrigting van die wereldoorloe en verskeie natuurrampe. In hierdie kategorie vind ons die dialektiese teologie van Karl Barth en Jurgen Moltmann. Die praktyk van die Bevrydingsteologie word ook kortliks ondersoek as reaksie op Iyding. GC Berkouwer se 'believing theodicy' word ondersoek as teologiese en Bybelse kritiek op die hele projek van godsleer as 'n aweregse onderneming wat vergeefs probeer om die werkwyse van God te regverdig vir die mens, in plaas van die teenoorgestelde. Die tradisionele Africa-siening van lyding en die bose word ook ondersoek, as skerp kontras met die Westerse siening. Vanuit die Skrif, identifiseer hierdie studie vyf wyses waarop die probleem van die bose en lyding in die Bybel aangespreek word. In die Bybel is lyding In straf vir sonde, In tugmaatreel van God, In toets van geloof oftrou of die prys wat geeis word vir die keuse om Jesus te volg. Andersins, kan die mens heeltemal onskuldig wees, soos in die geval van Job. Hierdie proefskrif erken dat die probleem van die bose raaiselagtig en skynbaar onoplosbaar is. Die kruis, die gemeenskap, karakter, en hoop word uiteindelik voorgestel as die enigste gangbare raamwerk vir die transendering en transformasie van lyding. Daar word geredeneer dat in hierdie verband die opstanding die kenmerkende Christel ike antwoord op die probleeem van die bose en lyding bied, waarbinne hierdie transendering en transformasie kan geskied. Binne die raamwerk van die kruis, die gemeenskap, karakter en hoop, kan die mens lyding transendeer en dit transformeer tot die hoogste moontlike goed in hierdie lewe. Die kruis herinner die lydendes dat God reeds iets gedoen het, en nog sal doen omtrent lyding, en dat Hy ons nie in ons lyding sal verlaat nie. Die gemeenskap absorbeer lyding, en help die slagoffer deur die beproewing. Karakter word gevorm en geslyp soos die lydende kies om op geskikte wyse te reageer op die lyding. Die hoop verkondig die uiteindelike oorwinning oor lyding, en die begin van In nuwe bedeling; dus word ons aangespoor om deel te neem aan die aksie van die hede terwyl ons op daardie helder toekoms wag.

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