Daniel T. Nel
Utrecht, 23 June 2010
The main theme of the conference, “BEING SURPRISED BY GOD”, amazed me at first sight. I found it astounding that the hosts were organising an international theological conference with a spiritual theme. One of the questions introducing the theme, namely “Can we discern God-in-action?”, reminded me of a remark my son made after returning from a charismatic church service. “Father”, he said, “they are staging the Holy Spirit!”
However, I claim to be a missiologist, and the central theme of missiology is, after all, the missio Dei – God in action! The second part of the theme, “Embodied Ecclesiology in Local Contexts”, suggests an attempt to discern the missio Dei in local contexts. In this regard, the questions introducing the theme struck a resonant chord as I focused on them in my doctoral thesis (Nel 1988):
· We are specifically interested in ontological and epistemological questions.
· What methods facilitate a combined empirical and theological approach?
· How are theology and the social sciences related when they focus upon the church in local contexts?
In this paper I aim to illustrate how issues such as these have influenced my journey in bridging the divide across philosophy, theology, social sciences and spirituality.
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