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Picture of Confessional Theology?

Confessional Theology?

A Critical Analysis of the Theology of Karl Barth and its Significance for the Belhar Confession

Author(s): Rothney S. Tshaka

Book Description

Christian confessions are usually seen as statements of faith which has no relationship with politics. The result is a tendency to view these documents as theological but not political. This study discusses this misconception but adds that although these documents are not to be perceived as political per se, that they can nonetheless not ignore the political contexts from which they emerge. Two confesional documents are discussed to illustrate the point, viz the Barmen Theological Declaration (1934) in Nazi-Germany as well as the Belhar Confession (1986) during apartheid South Africa.

The findings of the study is that the theology of Karl Barth and therefore the Belhar Confession establishes and unavoidable link between christian confessions and politics. The word ‘confession’ is used here in relation to Barth’s interpretation of our responsibility to speak about God because of the fact that we are christian and also our inability to speak about God as if God is known in God’s entirety to us. Seen in this way, confesional theology is opposed to tendencies that gives the impresion that we are able to speak about God as if we know Him in His entirety.

Five characteristics in the theology of Barth are investigaed. These characteristics illustrate the degree to which theology is related to politics. It also point to the fact that politics was never a marginal factor in the theological reflections of Barth. The study suggests that the theology of Barth remains relevant because it interprets the Word in a manner that does not ignore the contexts in which this interpretation of the Word takes place.

The study furthermore suggests that the entire theology of Barth can be construed as confessional theology. It arrives at this end and makes very clear that confessional theology differs fundamentally from ‘confessonalism,’ but that confessional theology always calls for those who espouse it to embody that which is confessed. To uphold the characteristics of confessional theology in the theology of Barth, it is agreed that his theology continued to play significant roles in different theological contexts. It is because of this view that it is argued that the theology of Barth had a great influence on the Belhar Confession. The debate around the Belhar Confession brings further important questions about the theological situation in South Africa today.

In the end it is suggested that confessional theology is a significant theological method which can safeguard theology from the claws of ‘theologised politics.’ Confessional theology can thus make a significant contribution to the current theological debates in democratic South Africa.


ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-2165-0
ISBN-10: 1-4438-2165-9
Date of Publication: 01/07/2010
Pages / Size: 280 / A5
Price: £39.99


Rothney S. Tshaka was born in Ritchie, a small village on the outskirts of Kimberley in the Northern Cape of South Africa. He completed his secondary schooling at the local school there, and proceeded to study Theology at the University of the Western Cape (BTh). He then moved to the University of Stellenbosch, obtaining an MDiv cum laude and a Licentiate in Theology. He has an MTh from the Free University of Amsterdam and a DTh from the University of Stellenbosch. He is an alumna of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur Georgia. He taught Theology and Ethics at the Murray Theological College in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, and was also elected dean of students. He was Associate Professor of Ethics and Community at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, USA. He is an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the URCSA and is currently Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at the University of South Africa. He has published in the areas of systematic theology and theological ethics. His current research interests are in the areas of ‘African and Reformed,’ white privilege and black internalised suffering as well as race and politics in general. He is married to Precious and they have two boys Xolani (14) and Vuyani (4).