After our conferences in Visegrad-Budapest (Hungary) in 1995, Doorn (The Netherlands) in 1997, Stellenbosch (South Africa) in 1999, Princeton (USA) in 2001, Bogor-Jakarta (Indonesia) in 2003, Seoul (South Korea) in 2005, Cluj (Romania) in 2007 and Aix-en-Provence (France) in 2009, the next, ninth international IRTI conference will be held in South Africa in the brand new faculty of theology of the North West University, Potchefstroom Campus (South Africa) from 5 till 10 July 2011.
The theme of the conference will be: Christology in Context. It will be divided into three
sub-themes: Christology in the context of the history of the church, in the context of contemporary world Christianity and in the context of current systematic reflection.
To the first item will contribute Dr. Suzanne McDonald (Calvin College, Grand Rapids, USA); Prof. Bram van de Beek (VU University, Amsterdam-NL) and Dr. Jaesung Cha (South Korea/Philippines) and Prof. Rickus Fick (NWU/Potchefstroom).
To the second item will contribute Prof. Dirkie Smit (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa), Dr. Robert Agyarko (Accra, Ghana), Prof. James Haire (Canberra, Australia) and Dr. Bambang Subandrijo (Jakarta, Indonesia)
To the third item will contribute Prof. Michael Welker (University of Heidelberg, Germany), Dr. Oliver Crisp (University of Bristol, UK), Prof. Callie Coetzee (NWU/Potchefstroom) and Prof. Martien Brinkman (VU University, Amsterdam-NL).
Summaries of papers to be presented at workshops on one of these three items can be submitted till March 1, 2011 to dr. Maarten Wisse ([email protected]).
The enrollment will be opened within a few weeks at the website of the IRTI conference (www.irticonference.org). The digital enrollment will only be confirmed after the digital transfer of the conference fee (including housing and lodging).
Students can submit their applications for cheap housing and exemption of the conference fee to Suzanne Huisman.
Potchefstroom can be reached by plane to Johannesburg. From Johannesburg a shuttle will be arranged to Potchefstroom. Because of the relatively large distance (150 kilometers) the shuttle will leave the airport only two times. That could imply that you have to wait a few hours at the airport (like you had to do in Princeton, Bogor and Seoul). When you arrive earlier or later than Tuesday, July 5, you have to arrange your own transport by taxi.
The average temperature in Potchefstroom will be mild (15-20 C.) with rather cold nights. The accommodation will be excellent. It was the accommodation of the Spanish football team during the football world championships 2010. They survived the mild temperature and the cold nights in such a good condition that they even beat the Dutch in the final!
More detailed information about the travel facilities and the exact conference program will be placed at the website (www.irticonference.org) in the next months. Please watch first this site, before you put your potential questions to Maarten Wisse, the conference manager, or to Eddy Van der Borght, the conference director. Later on, the e-mail address and telephone number(s) of a local contact person will be published on the website as well.
The conference theme
Christology has always been a fiercely contested issue in church history. We do not need to repeat here all the fiercely debated items around the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon and the controversies between the Alexandrines, Antiochenes, the mono- and duofysites, etc. Many of the past issues are still a matter of controversy today, but nowadays of course in another garment. Let us mention just three central items, each area of reflection linked to our three sub themes:
- How can the relation between the doctrine of God, Christology and pneumatology be described in an adequate way? Does Christology absorb the doctrine of God and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit? Or does the doctrine of God absorb Christology and does pneumatology run the same risk? In this sub theme we shall try to link historical debates to current questions.
- The development of Christology from the Reformation period onwards was mainly a Western concern. Nowadays we are confronted with a huge number of so-called non-western Christologies: Jesus as ancestor, healer, prophet, guru, etc. Along which lines of argument are these new Christologies developed and what is their relation to classical Christology?
- Christology has to do with a divine-human person. But how can the divine and the humane of Jesus be understood? Does the definition of the humane depend upon the definition of the divine or the other way around? Or is Jesus redefining the meaning of the divine and the human?
We presume that the emphases articulated in the different approaches have always a certain setting. Either a historical controversy, either a contextual urgency or a philosophical logic. Hence we speak in all cases about ‘Christology in context’: in the context of historical debates, of current contextual settings or of philosophical and systematic reflection. So, the setting of our Christological reflections will be the main focus or our conference theme.
Obituary Flip Theron
Flip Theron, one of the founders of IRTI, has died. They diagnosed pancreas cancer by the end of 2009 and he died on 7 July 2010.
Philippus François Theron was born in the little village of Hoekwil at the South coast of South Africa on 4 August 1942. He studied theology at the University of Pretoria and after having been in the ministry in Pretoria and Stellenbosch he became professor at the University of Stellenbosch. He was one of the persons who took the initiative to bring Reformed theologians in, what we called, living theology together in joint research by conferences and exchange resulting in the founding of IRTI. He was present at all conferences except from Seoul in 2005 due to health problems. Though one of the leading persons of the organization, Flip was not dominant. He was rather the person who at the right moment critically observing could indicate the right track or sometimes had to warn against tracks which were disastrous according to his opinion. We will miss his contributions in lectures and papers wherein his bright mind and careful attitude challenged colleagues to new thought. Most of all we will miss him as a good friend, a vulnerable human being who did not cease to stress that we cannot live but by faith alone. When I asked what he liked that I would say on his memorial service he just answered: ‘Do not speak about me but just about the three solas.’ Sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura, bound together by solo Christo was the heart of Flip’s theology and that is why he claimed to be Reformed.
Flip was a man of the church. Certainly he knew about politics, and even more about politics in South Africa. However, he was never involved in politics and also not in public theology. That does not mean that his theology would not have great political impact but that is according to him not her main goal. We should rather focus on the church. Flip’s position was immediately clear from his PhD thesis on the unity of the church. The church cannot be divided, she must be one as God is one. Her unity reflects the very unity of God and the whole cosmos. He wrote this in 1978, the high days of apartheid in South Africa. His thesis was a call on the church to see her very being. However, though he got his degree, and a prize as well, the church did not change – and it is divided still now. What would the impact on society have been if the church in South Africa in 1978 would have drawn the consequences of Flip’s theology! And what would have been the impact if the worldwide church would have drawn her conclusions from it! For Flip was not a local theologian and even less a national theologian, he was rather an ecumenical theologian, with contacts all over the world and especially with critical European theologians. He certainly was the main expert in the intriguing work of the Dutch theologian Oepke Noordmans.
Flip’s critical and compassionate theology is reflected in his contributions at the IRTI conferences which are published in the Studies in Reformed Theology. One of these papers is ‘The Church as paroikia’. Christians are resident aliens, but they are so not because they do not have a home: their home is Christ. There is another article about the God of War and the Prince of Peace. God is violent indeed – but precisely therefore we should not be violent: God’s violence is aimed to end up all human violence. We are followers of the crucified Lord, vulnerable and always strange in the world of violence, but living by the violent experience of the cross which as the core of the solas provides eternal life. His last contribution to the Journal of Reformed Theology is a review of Michael Allen’s The Christ’s Faith. It is characteristic for Flip’s theology that the last book that so much challenged his that he did not stop speaking about it is not about our faith, but about the faith and faithfulness of Christ
We will miss the deep theological reflections of Flip and his vivid conversation and jokes during breaks and meals. However, if we want to remember him we should just keep to ‘sola gratia’. That is enough. (Bram van de Beek)
Valedictory Lecture Bram van de Beek
At September 16, 2010, Bram van de Beek delivered his valedictory address in the big hall of the VU University Amsterdam. Because of the serious concerns about the health of his wife Nel, he delivered it a year earlier than originally planned. His address was entitled God Talk. On the Origin of Theological Knowledge [Spreken over God: Over de bron van theologische kennis].
The title was a clear reference to the title of his inaugural address, delivered at Leiden University in 1982: Knowledge of God – living with God. A Plea for a pneumatological founding of Church and Theology [God kennen – met God leven. Een pleidooi voor een bevindelijk-pneumatologische fundering van kerk en theologie].
In his address he showed that many traditional options to found faithful knowledge of God were actually not convincing like the reference to God’s revelation in history, to Jesus and especially to his resurrection and to the bible. Neither historical nor literary research of the resources can in the end found theology as talk about God. The only option is to point to the founding role of faith that anticipates each form of reflection. This faith, granted to us by the Holy Spirit, has the Bible as its content and is experienced in the celebrations of the church.
Bram was during ten years the director of IRTI. He was together with Flip Theron and Ference Szúcs (Hungary) its founder as well. He delivered many contributions to the conferences and took the initiative to start an own series and later on an own journal. At the VU University he started the English master courses in Living Reformed Theology and supervised a great number of Ph.D. students. So, his importance for IRTI was immense. We hope that he will be able to continue to deliver some contributions in the near future as well (Martien Brinkman).
Sabbatical Martien Brinkman
From January till the end of June 2011 Martien Brinkman will spend his sabbatical partly at the University of Oxford (UK), partly at Duke University (USA). In that time he intends to write a book on the Western Jesus. In 2007 and 2009 he published his book on the Non-Western Jesus in Dutch and English respectively. During his sabbatical he will still be involved into the conference preparations and be continuously in touch with Eddy Van der Borght and |Suzanne Huisman. To regular e-mails he will not respond. He will return from the States just before the Potchefstroom conference .
In 2010 six dissertations are or will be defended under the supervision of Bram van de Beek and Martien Brinkman respectively:
F.G. Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (08-04-2010, supervised by Bram van de Beek)
R. Iwamony, The Reconciliatory Potential of the Pela in the Moluccas (08-06-2010, supervised by Martien Brinkman)
S. Bene, The Identity of God: Modern and Biblical Notions of God (16-06-2010, supervised by Bram van de Beek)
A. Atiemo, Religion and Human Rights: Towards The Inculturation of Human Rights in Ghana (29-09-2010, supervised by Martien Brinkman)
Tj. de Boer, ‘Hoe zullen we over God spreken’: De poёtische theologie van het alledaagse van Rubem Alves, (13-12-2010, supervised by Martien Brinkman)
J.P.Gavera, The Theology of Hendrikus Berkhof : A critical analysis of aspects of a modern design of Mediation Theology (16-12-2010, supervised by Bram van de Beek).
In our series Studies in Reformed Theologies a new volume with the title Freedom of Religion has just been published in the month of October 2010. Bram van de Beek, Ben Vermeulen and Eddy Van der Borght edited the volume and it contains a selection of contributions by theologians, philosophers, civil law and canon law specialists from a variety of countries in Europe and from South Africa.
In recent months three other manuscripts have been accepted to be published in the SRT series. Dolf te Velde compares the doctrine of God in the Reformed Orthodoxy, in the theology of Karl Barth and in the so-called Utrecht School. Brian Mattson researched the central role played by the covenant concept in the theology of Herman Bavinck. And finally Ernst Conradie looks into the way creation and salvation are linked in the work of Abraham Kuyper and how this can contribute to the construction of a modern ecotheology. And last but not least, Henk van de Belt and Eddy Van der Borght are working on the volume with a selection of the contributions to the IRTI conference in Aix-en-Provence on the theology of Calvin. We hope to have these four volumes published next year. In the meantime new submissions have been made to the series. They are in the reviewing process right now.
We are convinced that reading about these topics you will be convinced of the important contribution and focus this series provides for the advancement of Reformed theological scholarship. Please make sure that your theological institute takes a subscription to this book series!
The third issue of volume 4 (2010) of the Journal of Reformed Theology has been sent to the publisher and we hope it can be sent to the subscribers in the month of December. Some IRTI members have been asking whether they can have a subscription at a special IRTI tariff. We are glad that we can announce an agreement with Brill Publishers at this point. Instead of the official rate of 58 euros for individual subscriptions for one year, we offer our members a two year subscription for the years 2010 and 2011 for the price of 80 euros. And that is not all. Those who take the two year subscription will get a reduction of 50 euro to the IRTI conference fee in Potchefstroom. Those who want to make use of this generous offer will have to make sure that there payment is received on our account by the 15th of December of this year the latest. You will be able to pay through paypal for which you can find the link at our conference website (www.irticonference.org, forth coming at the end of November).
Some of you might have noticed it in the colophon of the first issue this year. The name of the assistant/managing editor changed. Annette Mosher was replaced by Okke Postma. I am glad to use this newsletter to give some background. Annette Mosher successfully defended her PhD dissertation with the title Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Endurance: An Examination of One Christian’s Persistence in the Face of Evil and Injustice at the VU University Amsterdam on December 16 of last year. We congratulate Dr. Mosher. Annette showed endurance in her own way. After finishing her master thesis at the same university in 2004, for six years she continued her research combining professional work, family responsibilities and doctoral research. Over the last few years, her professional tasks expanded continuously. I was happy when the Faculty of Theology at VU University Amsterdam provided help by hiring Annette in order to give me editorial assistance. She helped tremendously with the language check, especially given the many non-native English contributors to the Journal and to the series Studies in Reformed Theology and she took care that all authors followed the style sheet. Many of you will have come to know her through her reactions to your contributions. Others will have met her at the IRTI conferences in Seoul (2005), Cluj (2007) and Aix-en-Provence (2009). She took care of the practical organization of these conferences. Soon others discovered her potential. Colleagues at the Faculty of Theology began asking for help in correcting and even translating texts. Then she was asked to assist the internationalization process of the Faculty. People realized her managing potential, her strategic thinking, her commercial instinct, and her leadership qualities. At the moment, she is head of the department of research and of internationalization at the Faculty. Because of all these new responsibilities, it became clear to her and to me that she would no longer be able to carry on with her initial task as managing editor. Looking back, I feel a lot of gratitude for her contribution to the development of the JRT and SRT. Thank you Annette. It was great working with you. We wish you a fruitful period in your new responsibilities.
It took some time to find a new assistant editor. I am glad to be able to introduce to you the new assistant editor Okke Postma. Okke grew up in the Netherlands but more than three decades ago he followed his American wife to the USA, where he became an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. In 2005 he finished a master thesis at the Faculty of Theology of the VU University Amsterdam and he is now in the final stages of his doctoral research. Our first experiences as editing team are great. I am convinced that the contributors who have worked together with him have the same experience. I look forward to working together with him in the time to come. Thank you for accepting the invitation to join the editing theme, Okke! (Eddy Van der Borght)
The Uniting General Council at Grand Rapids
At their Uniting General Council the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) merged into a new ecumenical world communion, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). IRTI is an affiliate member of this communion. On behalf of IRTI Martien Brinkman and Eddy Van der Borght attended the council as observers. More or less simultaneously the Global Institute of Theology (GIT) offered a summer course to around fifty international students. The Students first met in Chicago from June 4-17 and then moved to the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids for June 17-29 where they witnessed the historic merger. The Dean of Students and Academic Affairs was Dr. Annette Mosher, a member of the IRTI-staff.
We wish you and your families a Christmas filled with the grace of the Lord, and his blessing for the year 2011 and hope to meet most of you in Potchefstroom.
Martien E. Brinkman (director IRTI)
Eddy Van der Borght (vice-director and editor-in-chief of JRT and SRT)
Maarten Wisse (conference manager)