Secular humanism in Malawi : a historical-theological inquiry

Phiri, Michael John Jonifani (2014-04)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The goal of this thesis is to present a historical-theological inquiry regarding secular humanism in Malawi. Some Christians have tried to respond, but there has been no detailed historical-theological response from the Church or theologians, nor has there been any critical investigation into the philosophy and underlying assumptions of secular humanism (understood as a specific movement and a broader intellectual current). (SHOULD BE REMOVED) The study is both historical and theological in perspective. It is historical, in that secular humanism is dealt with from a historical dimension, whereby its development over centuries is traced and lessons are learnt on how to respond to this movement in Malawi today. This study is also theological, in that it explores whether Christian humanism can engage constructively with concerns raised by secular humanists. It describes secular humanism on the level of its underlying assumptions, which are laid bare and their possible weaknesses exposed. The researcher holds that a critique of the assumptions is of greater merit than that which ends only on the level of specific arguments. Such a method of critiquing is borrowed from Klaus Nürnberger, who in his book Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion: A Repentant Refutation, critiqued Dawkins on the level of assumptions as well as Alister and Joanna McGrath who, in their book The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, challenged Dawkins at representative points, leaving it to readers to judge the overall reliability of his evidence and position. This is not to throw away specific arguments for it is through such arguments that we discern assumptions. This study is a critical engagement with the assumptions of secular humanism in Malawi, with the goal of responding to the challenges posed by their critique of religiosity. The study seeks to offer a constructive and adequate way of engaging Secular humanists and at the same time, explores whether Christian humanism is ideal in engaging concerns raised by secular humanists. The Christian humanist John W. de Gruchy is studied. He drew from John Calvin and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the study also shows how he made use of their insights.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die doel van hierdie tesis is om ‘n histories-teologiese ondersoek aangaande Sekulêre humanisme in Malawi in te stel. Sommige Christene het probeer reageer, maar tot dusver was daar nog nie ‘n georganiseerde en sistematiese histories-teologiese reaksie van die Kerk of teoloë nie, daar was ook nog nie enige kritiese ondersoek na die filosofie en onderliggende aannames van Sekulêre humanisme (hier verstaan as ‘n spesifieke beweging en ‘n breër intellektuele stroming). (SHOULD BE REMOVED) Hierdie studie is sowel histories as teologies in perspektief. Dit is histories, in dat Sekulêre humanisme vanuit ‘n historiese dimensie benader word, waardeur die ontwikkeling oor eeue heen gevolg word en lesse geleer word oor hoe om te reageer op hierdie beweging tans in Malawi. Die studie is ook teologies, in die sin dat dit van die aanname uitgaan dat Christelike humanisme konstruktief met die vraagstelling wat Sekulêre humaniste op die tafel plaas, kan omgaan. Dit beskryf Sekulêre humanisme op die vlak van die onderliggende aannames, wat uitgelig word en waarvan die moontlike swakhede ontbloot word. Die navorser voer aan dat ‘n kritiek van die aannames van groter meriete is as een wat eindig op die vlak van spesifieke argumente. Hierdie metode van kritisering word geleen van Klaus Nurnberger, wat is sy boek Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion: A Repentant Refutation, Dawkins kritiseer op die vlak van aannames, asook Alister en Joanna McGrath, wat in hulle boek The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, Dawkins op verteenwoordigende punte uitdaag, wat dit aan die lesers oorlaat om die oorhoofse geloofwaardigheid van sy bewyse en standpunt te bepaal. Dit is nie om spesifieke argumente weg te gooi nie, aangesien dit deur sulke argumente is wat ons aannames onderskei. Die studie is ‘n kritiese omgaan met die aannames en filosofie van Sekulêre humanisme in Malawi, met die doel om te reageer op die uitdagings wat deur hulle kritiek van godsdiens gebied word. Hierdie studie poog om op ’n konstruktiewe manier met Sekulêre humaniste om te gaan en bied terselfdertyd Christelike humanisme aan as die ideaal in die omgaan met die vraagstellings wat Sekulêre humaniste opper. Die Christelike humanis John W. de Gruchy is ‘n voorbeeld van hoe ‘n Christelike humanitiese veldtog uitgevoer kan word. Hy bou op Johannes Calvyn en Dietrich Bonhoeffer en die studie dui ook aan hoe hy van hulle insigte gebruik maak.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86417
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