Browsing by Author "Muller, Retief"
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- ItemAfrikaner Reformed missionary enthusiasts and the Voortrekkers : with special reference to Dingaansdag/Geloftedag and also the 1938 Eeufees(Church History Society of Southern Africa and Unisa Press, 2015) Muller, RetiefThe missionary discourse in Afrikaner Reformed Christianity has been controversial, because it is implicated in the development of early apartheid policies, which were subsequently implemented by National Party governments. This article does not directly concern itself with apartheid, however, but rather with the ideological backdrop against which this policy developed, i.e. Afrikaner nationalism. Afrikaner nationalism was deeply informed by a mythological reconstruction of the Voortrekkers as ideal Afrikaners. For this reason, the 1938 ox-wagon centenary Trek was a formative occasion in Afrikaner, and consequently South African history. What role did the Afrikaner missionary/ evangelical discourse play within these celebrations and within commemorations of the Voortrekkers and Geloftedag more generally? With a particular focus on the early to middle twentieth century, this article demonstrates that missionary and evangelical co-optation of this discourse was indeed pronounced, at the centre of the political situation, but also containing an element of surprise and the potential for unexpected outcomes in at least a couple of cases.
- ItemAfrikaner socio-theological discourse in the early twentieth century : war and mission in J.F. Naude and J. Du Plessis(Historical Association of South Africa, 2014-11) Muller, RetiefWars and their subsequent interpretations have shaped twentieth century Afrikaner public discourse profoundly. The remembered trauma, particularly of the Anglo-Boer War might have been a contributing factor to the late survival of white supremacy in South Africa, and Afrikaner doctrines of separateness and apartheid.1 With this view in mind, here I shall present a close reading of a couple of interesting early twentieth-century Afrikaner Christian leaders concerning their experiences and thought relating to war, volk, and religiosity.
- ItemThe awkward positioning of a Dutch Reformed "missionary" in apartheid South Africa : Rev. D. P. Botha and the Cape "coloured" question(The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2020) Muller, RetiefThe Rev. D. P. (David) Botha was a lifelong apartheid critic and minister in the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) and later the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). Early in his career, he served as a "missionary" in a DRMC congregation in Wynberg, and subsequently in other congregations in the Western Cape, South Africa. During his career, he wrote an important book and engaged in public discourse through contributions in newspapers and other mainstream publications. Focusing on these sources, most of which now form part of his private collection in the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) Archive, this article traces Botha's growing agitation regarding the implementation of apartheid policies, in the aftermath of the institution of the 1950 Group Areas Act. Among other things it illuminates the early apartheidera white view of the other, as experienced and critiqued by this insider-outsider minister with respect to his assessment of general white perceptions of so-called "coloureds" in the Cape Town area. Through specific attention to Botha's correspondences with A. P. Treurnicht and Beyers Naudé, this article also shows the problematic perspective of a white missionary seeking to alleviate the impact of policy decisions on his church members, while simultaneously buying into the predominant ideology of racial categorisation.
- ItemBritish imperial wars and the strengthening of the Dutch Reformed Church's mission : Mashonaland in the late 19th to early 20th centuries(Church History Society of Southern Africa and Unisa Press, 2017) Muller, RetiefThis focus is on conflicts in which the British South African Company (BSAC) had a direct hand, and in which British forces were victorious. Three specific conflicts will be highlighted: the First Matabele War (1893-1894), the First Chimurenga (18961897), and the Second Anglo Boer War/South African War (1899-1902). It is argued that the Cape Dutch Reformed Church's (DRC) missionary enterprise directly and indirectly benefited from these wars. The personal letters and other writings of A. A. Louw, pioneer DRC missionary to Mashonaland, reveal a relatively good relationship with Cecil John Rhodes and the BSAC. The weakening of powerful local polities through the colonial suppression of African uprisings might have helped mission stations such as the DRC's Morgenstêr to attain surrogate status as centres of power in the affected areas. After the South African War, a number of Boer prisoners of war were recruited for the DRC missionary campaigns, including Mashonaland. A contextualising feature to this narrative of Afrikaner mission in British Colonial Africa is the fact that two of the foremost recruiting agents were direct family members of A. A. Louw.
- ItemThe Dutch Reformed Church, mission enthusiasts and push and pull of empire(Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2019) Muller, RetiefThe various ways in which the British Empire acted as both a beacon and a repellent for Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) mission enthusiasts in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, are considered here. Focusing especially on Andrew Murray Jr, D.F. Malan and J.G. Strydom, but also with references to Johannes du Plessis and G.B.A. Gerdener, among others, the article illustrates the evolution of Afrikaner attitudes to Empire in this period. The Empire in question is primarily the British Empire, but this paper will make the case that the developing Afrikaner nationalism, in which some of these mission enthusiasts played leading roles, in some ways appropriated imperial aspirations, while simultaneously disavowing Empire in public discourse. The wider and more general relevance of this paper is that it sheds light on the allure of power, and how a minority in opposition to power might become contaminated, even captured, by that very power it seeks to oppose.
- ItemIncarnation theology versus the sacralisation of authority(AOSIS Publishing, 2015-03) Muller, RetiefThis article juxtaposed the theological theme of incarnation with quasi-religious invasions of public power structures and institutions in southern Africa, which has been described by the term sacralisation of authority. Incarnational theology as constructed on the model of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ concerns a Divine-human border crossing from above to below or from power into powerlessness. Sacralisation of authority concerns an opposite process whereby mundane structures and people of power seek to bolster their authority even further by the acquisition of godlike attributes. This article referred to political realities in southern Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe and South Africa as illustrative of the latter, whereas the Tshwane Leadership Foundation – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) operating in Tshwane’s inner city – served as a case study in incarnational theology of the grassroots.
- ItemThe (non-)translatability of the Holy Trinity(AOSIS Publishing, 2019) Muller, RetiefThis article considers the ambiguous translatability of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The theme of the Trinity, as a central Christian doctrine, is brought into conversation with the so-called ‘translatability thesis’ regarding Christian history, which has been particularly expounded upon by Lamin Sanneh and Andrew Walls. Does the translatability of the gospel also imply the translatability of the Trinity, or is the equation not that straightforward? In answering this question, specific reference is made to early church formulation and controversy surrounding the theme, as well as attention to specific attempts at translation or interpretation in the modern and contemporary forms of Christianity. The article acknowledges the problematic nature of Trinitarian translatability and concludes that such translatability is nonetheless possible as long as a static conception of Trinitarian doctrine could be avoided.
- ItemThe other's humanity with or without the other's religiosity? Reflections on the affirmation and limitation of human dignity in early Afrikaner missionary discourse in Central Africa(AOSIS, 2021-09-27) Muller, RetiefTaking Wentzel van Huyssteen’s work on early human uniqueness in relation to symbolic or religious awareness as a starting point, this article raises a question whether an implicit connection between humanity and the capacity for religiosity had anything to say about how one could evaluate the so-called other’s religion and their humanity. Does the recognition of the other’s full humanity demand an equal recognition of their religiosity, or are these separable? Rather than attempting to answer this hypothetically, the question is approached historically. The article touches on how the capacity to evaluate religion from the outside emerged in modernity and discusses some of the ways this capacity played out in Christian theology. In reference to the colonial era Afrikaner missionaries in Central Africa, the article argues that even partial recognition of the other’s religiosity might have detrimental consequences particularly where this is tied to a partial recognition of their humanity as had happened during the apartheid and proto-apartheid periods. Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article challenges both critical and affirmative scholarly views of religiosity by positing an essential link between humanity and religiosity whilst simultaneously suggesting that a scientific approach to religiosity, which has uncovered important relationships between religiosity and humanity, might be the appropriate approach for full recognition of the other’s humanity.
- ItemSacralisation and the colonial-indigenous encounter in Southern African Christian history : the memory and legacy of Johannes du Plessis as case study(Church History Society of Southern Africa and Unisa Press, 2016) Muller, RetiefThe 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.
- ItemUnderstanding Christianity in the history of African religion : an engagement with theological and anthropological perspectives in the pursuit of interdisciplinary dialogue(AOSIS OpenJournals, 2014-08) Muller, RetiefThere is ample ground and good motives for interdisciplinary engagement between theology and the ‘new’ anthropology of Christianity. Theologians can learn much about the character of the church in all its plurality from the often insightful descriptions of anthropologists who have recently started to take a strong interest in Christianity. On the other hand, theologians can help anthropologists come to more complex understandings of the meaning of Christianity. Concerning contrasting anthropological perspectives of anti-essentialism and culture theory regarding the nature of Christianity, this article suggested that the work of missiologists, such as Andrew Walls, might usefully aid the progression of the debate and referred to the historical interplay and conflict between Christianity and indigenous knowledge in southern Africa by way of illustrating this point. The argument pursued in this article hinges on the prioritising of an interdisciplinary approach in theological studies, a cause which Prof. Julian Müller has long championed. Therefore, this contribution sought to honour his legacy by illustrating a further avenue of interdisciplinary engagement.