Hope for even the most wretched? : on remembering the Reformation
CITATION: Smit, D. J. 2018. Hope for even the most wretched? : on remembering the Reformation. Stellenbosch Theological Journal, 4(2):703-725, doi:10.17570/stj.2018.v4n2.a32.
The original publication is available at https://ojs.reformedjournals.co.za/stj
Commemorating the Reformation, the paper reflects on the distinction (by Assmann and Welker) between forms of cultural memory, some weaker, more fluid and fading, and some stronger, longer lasting, with the potential of suddenly becoming alive again, providing new orientation and inspiration. One particular fragment of the Protestant tradition that became alive during late 20th century South African theological discourses is pursued as illustration, namely the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck’s claim that election is a source of inexpressibly great comfort since it promises hope for even the most wretched. The paper shows how these forms of cultural memory may inspire new generations to reclaim what they regard as the heart of their tradition against dominant historical understandings; can form new histories of interpretation finding new expressions of embodiment, different from anything past; and may surprise and even shock those standing in the tradition, offering a rich new surplus of possibilities.