Chapter 3 LOCATING MY VOICE WITHIN THE THEOLOGICAL DISCOURSE
It is necessary in any study that the researcher not only position his research paradigm, but also clearly indicate the context from which he does the research, in order to enable the reader, in the words of Thiessen (2003:3): “to place oneself in the author’s shoes” in order to be able to read the research narrative emphatically. Connelly and Clandinin (2006:485) further emphasize that: “in a research report on a narrative inquiry the text must reflect the circumstances, places, times, personal and social aspects of the researcher that may influence the research”. These authors place the emphasis on the personal aspects of the researcher. I believe that if the reader wants to stand in the shoes of the author, when he or she reads the research article, it is necessary that the reader also knows the academic and theological background of the researcher. This background of the researcher influences the manner in which the research data is handled and the researcher’s narrative influences the content and direction of the research narrative (Louw 2003:62). This aspect must be kept in mind during the research process where new knowledge is created.
In Chapter one I wrote about my experience with psychotherapy and pastoral therapy. This chapter focuses on the location of my voice and that of the research in the theology and practical theology discourses. In order to do this, it is necessary to have knowledge of, firstly, my (hi)story with regard to the Christian theological tradition (3.1), secondly, how I position myself with regard to the theological discourse (3.2), thirdly, with regard to the Practical Theological discourse (3.3) and fourthly with regard to the discourses of Pastoral care and pastoral theology (3.4).
I grew up in the reformed tradition of the Christian faith. My parents, especially my mother, had a very pious and legalistic approach to their faith. For example, Cobb (1991:19) points out that many of the members of the church, generation after generation, viewed the church leadership “as watchdogs over the moral behaviour of their congregations”. It led to me accepting this legalistic approach that as a child made faith seem synonymous with “don’t touch, don’t taste”. Furthermore, my father’s side very strongly influenced me with regard to Afrikaner nationalism, in effect making it the norm of Christian life.
Nevertheless, my mother’s philanthropical approach saved me from becoming a racist. The following anecdote may illustrate something of this. At age 9, when I heard in 1958 that Dr. Verwoerd had become Prime Minister, I went to the black lady working for us. I said to her: “Now you k…. are going to get it,” probably something I had heard from my father, but of which I am now very much ashamed. My mother heard my remark. She took me aside and taught me; in a way I still remember today, the worth of every person created by God. That conversation changed my point of view forever. In fact it plays an important role in the locating of my voice within a paradigm where the voice of each participant in the research is respected and appreciated.
The education I received in my parents’ home led to me enrolling for my theological training with a strongly pious attitude on the one hand and a philanthropic approach on the other. There the “sola’s” of the reformed tradition were made plain to me, namely, Sola Christi, Sola Gratia Sola Fidei and Sola Scriptura. The training made me conscious of the worth of the Covenant and the centrality of Christ in any ministry. Essentially, my whole ministry has been influenced by those two “discourses”. I suspect that because TPM ascribes such a central place to Christ, it is one of the reasons why I felt attracted to this model.
I now wish to focus on Theology as an academic discourse and its influence on my personal narrative.
Theology as an academic discourse
The word “Theology” is constructed from two Greek words: “Theos” and “Logos”, which mean “a word about God”. However, God cannot be made the object of science (Heyns & Pieterse 1990:3) as any word about God is a word of faith. The study object of theology is therefore rather discourses about faith (Hermans 2002:ix). Already in 1927 Heidegger described Theology as the science of faith (Hart & Wall 2005:10). Meyer (2007:7) points out that Descartes’ subject-object split of scientific thoughts, including Theology, had the upper hand for three centuries. Accordingly, theology was understood to be a rational clarification, explanation and delineation of dogmas and belief systems.
Contrary to it, Jones (1999:6) and Louw (1999:8) refer to the definition of theology by Anselm of Canterbury as: “faith seeking understanding”. Louw (1999:9) points out: “Understanding entails different experiences of God. Understanding is a process of contextual interpretation, not of rational explanation”. Theology focuses on this understanding and how to communicate it. Louw (1999:9) then submits that Theology can be defined as “faith seeking ways of discoursing”. I can identify myself with the latter definition.
These discourses always imply two parties, namely God and a human being. It brings me to Tillich’s “correlation method”. Tillich views this method as the only one in which there can be theologised. According to this method it is about the human question that must be connected with the Godly revelation, while each stays independent but yet does not exclude the other. The existential question of the human race is dependent on the theological answer, while the content of the theological answer cannot be concluded from the question of human existentialism. The form of the answer is indeed moulded by the question, but the content is moulded by the Christian revelation (Donga 1989:25).
In my theologising I want to side with both Tillich (1968) and Louw (1999). I view theologising in this study as my faith seeking ways of discoursing, as Louw understands it, namely not rational explanation, but contextual interpretation. As TPM practices are built around people seeking answers to their existential questions and about what God is revealing to each recipient, Tillich’s correlation method provides a framework within which one can theologise about TPM.
I want to add to this the post-modern view that “intuitive and mystical ways of knowing ought to be included” (Herholdt 1998:223) in our theologising. Herholdt (1998:223) sees it as the task of Theology to no longer follow a strictly systematic approach to doctrinal issues. Rather, the Post-modern Theology should see its task in terms of integration and coherence of all different loci. In this way every individual locus of the Dogmatic discipline is seen as part of a greater whole. It implies that, for instance, I cannot study ecclesiology without Christology or pneumatology, or soteriology etc It is also about more than just the acknowledgment of the context (also used in modern theology) but about the integration of it. I cannot speak of the one without including the other. If I want to understand God’s revelation it is not limited to certain loci in the Dogmatic discipline to explain it. The “intuitive and mystical ways” in which revelation is experienced is part of our theologising, because we are limited in any case by interpretations of the revelation.
In my opinion this discourse about “human experience of Divine revelation” mainly addresses three dogmatic loci or discourses, namely theological anthropology, Divine revelation (including viewing Scripture) and spirituality. In light of the abovementioned post-modern viewpoint, I want to view it as a whole and discuss the different loci in an integrated way. It falls outside the scope of this study to have in-depth discussions about these loci.
I focus on the discourse about the human experience of Divine revelation, as an example, to locate my voice in the Theological discourse. Although I focus on my own voice in this discourse in this chapter and will attend fully to TPM’s position in respect of it in chapter 4, when it is necessary in a discourse, I will refer to TPM’s position.
Human experience of Divine revelation
In TPM the emphasis is that the person receives a revelation directly from God. Therefore there cannot be a discourse about TPM without ascertaining that you have a thorough discourse about human experience of divine revelation. The way in which humans experience “Divine revelation” is influenced by each person’s spirituality or experience of faith. Firstly, therefore, I want to give an overview of how spirituality influenced people’s experience through the ages, in order to position myself responsibly.
In 1987 Firet (1987:73) wrote about how important it has become in modern society not only to know (in terms of faith) but also to experience. The Christian faith has lost its place in the Western culture as a social presumption. For centuries children grew up with the stories about Jesus Christ, but this is no longer the case. Firet says that the loss of the mystic, or the experience of faith, may well be greatly responsible for it. Also Holmes (1976:5) said that the crisis in the ministry over the last generation was deepened by the loss of the mediation of transcendence in Christian ministry. Where TPM again places the emphasis on experience, it is necessary to devote extensive attention to “spirituality”.
Firet (1987:172) defines spirituality as a personal and/or shared fundamental, fairly continual life orientation of a religious nature. Spirituality is the way in which people seek meaning in life, the living centre according to which people live their lives. Firet compares it to the way in which people pray (religious way of asking), in which they meditate (religious way of listening), the way in which they open themselves up to divine input (religious way of practice, for example asceticism), and the way in which they participate in the culture (religious way of socialising).
When Holmes (1981:1) writes about spirituality, he refers to the meaning of the word “spirit”, namely breathe, and places it in context with the ancient proverb: “to breathe is to pray”. In his opinion, spirituality is more than just the communication with God by means of prayer. He sees spirituality as how we experience the communication with God, in which the particular experience of prayer of each person plays an integral part. Holmes (1981:158) stated: “Authentic Christian spirituality is rooted in the common human experience of transcendence”. According to this definition spirituality plays an enormously important role in TPM. TPM is prayer and is built specifically around a recipient’s experience of God’s revelation in prayer.
Heitink (1993:259) views differences in spirituality as a plurality in the faith experience. Within and outside the church there are movements pursuing mystic spirituality, and others, such as the confessional, charismatic, evangelical, sacramental or a society-critical spirituality.
In a nutshell: spirituality showcases how human beings can experience God and His revelation. It can therefore be accepted that the recipient’s spirituality is a very important factor in the way in which TPM is experienced. Therefore it is necessary to set forth a thorough exposition of it.
Benner (1998:70) points out, with regard to the relationship between psychology and spirituality, that psychologists and theologians continually get ensnared in one of two extremes. Spirituality is reduced to basic psychological constructs and processes, or on the other extreme, it is placed outside the framework of human behaviour, standing alone as a reality removed from the rest of a person’s existence.
In connection with this, I think that the psychologist Jung made an important contribution: “Jung developed a psychology that place religious and spiritual needs at the very centre of the psyche” (Benner 1998:71). In the process of developing the typology of personalities he also assigned different types of spirituality to each of the personality types. Hirsh and Kise (1997:5) made the following classification based on Jung’s personality types and spirituality:
Extraversion: Experiencing God with others.
Introversion: Experiencing God through ideas.
Sensing: Experiencing God through the concrete and specific.
Intuition: Experiencing God through paradox and mystery.
Thinking: Experiencing God intellectually.
Feeling: Experiencing God wholeheartedly.
Judging: Experiencing God through discipline.
Perceiving: Experiencing God in the moment.
This classification offers an explanation as to why TPM is successful in certain cases and not in other cases. But in this way spirituality is narrowed down to a function of personality, reducing the concept. Indeed, Jung made a big contribution, but when it comes to experiencing God it is about much more than just personality types. It implies that one cannot speak about divine experience without encompassing both concepts, namely theological anthropology and Divine revelation as dogmatic loci. Nevertheless Jung’s contribution was indicating that the role of personality in experiencing God should not be overlooked. We can deduce from it that personality also played a role in the way recipients experienced TPM.
In my understanding Holmes’ formulation namely: “spirituality is how we experience the communication with God” tells us in a nutshell what spirituality is about. Keeping in mind my own experience of TPM and my theological positioning, it is important to give an exposition of the different traditions with regard to spirituality. In my opinion, Urban Holmes (1981) provides a good framework according to which the great variety as well as the complexity of spiritualities, or ways that Christians experienced God throughout the ages, can be illustrated.
The model of Urban Holmes uses two bipolar scales, categorising those experiences into four dimensions. I don’t see this category as absolute knowledge, but as a social construction through which a framework is built to give a quick oversight of the (hi)story of spirituality. Firstly, there is the apophatic/kataphatic scale that Holmes represents as a horizontal axis on a graph. Secondly there is a speculative/affective scale represented as the vertical axis. The apophatic/kataphatic scale describes the techniques of spiritual growth, while the speculative/affective scale describes the primary focus of the techniques.
Apophatic and kataphatic refer to the different approaches to meditation. The kataphatic approach refers to the active use of the imagination. The Christian identifies a positive image about God and uses this imaginative image as a tool for meditation. An example of this is the image of the shepherd with sheep in his arms. The other senses can also be used to enhance imagination, for example the sounds on the hillside or the smell of the fields. This way of meditation was very popular in the Middle Ages in monasteries, especially in sixteenth century Spanish mysticism.
On the other hand, the apopathic approach is based on an emptying technique of meditation. All imagery representing God is seen as limited and dangerous representations of His Being. Benner (1998:92) remarked in this regard: “Apopathic spirituality warns of the dangers of glib over familiarity and the idolatrous assumption that the reality of God can be captured in words or symbols”. For apopathic spirituality the goal of meditation is to experience unity with God. What is experienced during this meditation is not so much about knowledge of God as the experience of His love. Although God is incomprehensible to the human mind, it is possible to experience His love. The Eastern Orthodox spirituality falls in this category.
The speculative/affective scale indicates the variety of ways in which Christians approach God and expect to meet Him. The speculative approaches emphasize the illumination of the mind while the affective approaches emphasize the illumination of the heart. Speculative spirituality emphasizes encountering God with the mind. This approach is usually associated with a rational, propositional theology with the Eastern Orthodox and particularly the reformed tradition in Western Protestantism being good examples to cite. Within these traditions God is encountered with the mind and by means of Scripture, rather than through direct experiences. Again, affective spirituality emphasizes the direct experience of God. Knowing about God is set against a personal knowledge and experience of God. This type of spirituality does not acknowledge study of Scripture and doctrines as as important as the personal experience of God.
Holmes finds an interaction between the two scales, that is to say the different ways of experiencing God are closely interrelated. He proposes that there must be a balance between all four of the approaches of experiencing God in order to cultivate healthy spirituality. Schematically, it is set out below:
Holmes (1981:158-9) uses the following metaphors to describe the journey through the (hi)story of spirituality:
Two images, the mountain and the desert, stand out as characteristic of the terrain over which this journey leads us. There is in the first image the constant rehearsal of the ascent – as the ascent of the Mt. Carmel in John of the Cross – toward union or perfection. In the second image we are reminded that purity of mind and poverty of spirit are required. Both images emphasize the danger or risk in the spiritual journey. The risk cannot be avoided.
It falls outside the scope of this research to fully set out the (hi)story of spirituality throughout the ages, and therefore I am going to refer only to a few of the prominent exponents as examples of each of the abovementioned categories with this journey through the (hi)story of spirituality. I am going to concentrate on highlighting central aspects of a particular category, rather than trying to reflect thoroughly on the important theologians’ contributions. On account of the fact that I use Holmes’s framework for this overview of spirituality, I rely mainly on his work as a source.
From the area of philosophy, Neo-Platonism had a major influence on the spirituality of Christianity. Before discussing the different types of spirituality, I want to briefly set out the central themes of Neo-Platonism. Plotinus interpreted Plato in a way that does not really reflect Plato’s own viewpoints. He and his followers’ understanding of Plato came to be known as NeoPlatonism. Neo-Platonism is a philosophy with clear overtones of religion. Plotinus saw the absolute transcendence of the One who is the total Other. He viewed creation as a process of emanation from The One. Furthermore, there are two manifestations of the transcendent, namely the mind and the soul. The World Soul had two parts, the rational and the irrational soul. In that ay people too had these two parts. Still, he sometimes distinguished three parts of the human being: the rational, the spirited and the appetitive. The latter he associated with the body.
He views salvation of humanity as being the consequence of purification of the mind. It is achieved by an ascent to participate in the divine Mind. The motivation of this ascent lies in the urge for unity with the One. Plotinus divided this ascent into four movements (Holmes 1981:24):
Purgation and the practice of the virtues;
A rising above sense perception to thought;
A reaching beyond thought to union; and
An ecstatic absorption in The One.
The influence of philosophy on spirituality must, therefore, not be overlooked. Bloesch’s (2007:64) argument is that neo platonism is completely foreign to the New Testament. Philosophy is actually nothing else but social constructions. The question arises, if it has such a substantial influence on spirituality, in what way is man’s experience of God determined through man made social constructions that s(he) believes, rather than the Word of God. I will, therefore, now go on and demonstrate how this philosophy in the differing spiritualities played a role. This will also contribute to an evaluation of what influence this had on TPM and help to answer the “why” question about TPM.
I want to expound on how the first three of these four movements influenced Christian spirituality, especially in the case of Origen. Seeing that Origen is judged to be the seminal thinker in the (hi)story of Christian spirituality (Holmes 1981:26), I briefly expound his spirituality.
In his youth he was an encratite, believed to have been castrated while never abandoning his austere discipline. Scripture held the central place for him. However, he thought allegorically and always wanted to discover the deeper meaning behind each visible thing (A rising above sense perception to thought). He viewed spirituality as the imitation of Jesus Christ. The ascetic saw it as detaching himself from the world, leading to an illumination by the Logos. Because so very few people achieved it, Origen developed a “practical gnosticism” (a knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means).
According to this approach, the process of illumination begins with self-knowledge. Origen differentiated between two types of self-knowledge. Firstly, there is the knowledge that contains a constant struggle with demons. There the Cross was the supreme expression of hope. From that developed his image of the “spiritual battle” where demons were to be defeated in the desert. This aspect clearly influenced Smith in his earlier writing on TPM. Secondly, there is the knowledge that he called a gift from God, namely “a sober intoxication”. Using an allegorical setting out of the life of Moses, Origen indicated how growth in holiness must be attained in the desert. Purity of soul is achieved by serving your neighbour in love (Purgation and the practice of the virtues). That was a complete shift from the ascetism of his youth. However, the core of Origen’s mystical theology is the union with the Logos (a reaching beyond thought to union) that he described as a marriage between the soul and the Logos. He envisioned this unity as: “we are to be as much like God as possible” (Holmes 1981:28).
Origen described his personal experience of God’s presence, which according to Holmes should be the cradle of most ideas in Christian spirituality (Holmes 1981:28), as:
God is my witness that I have often perceived the Bridegroom drawing near me and being most intensely present with me then suddenly He has withdrawn and I could not find Him, though I sought to do so. I long for Him to come again, and sometimes He does so. Then, when He has appeared and I lay hold of Him, He slips away once more, and, when He has so slipped away, my search for Him begins anew. So does He act with me repeatedly, until in truth I hold Him and go up, leaning on my Nephew’s arm.
In a way, this spirituality resonates with the experience of the theophostic moment in a TPM session where recipients intensely experience the presence of God when He shows them His truth. Holmes (1981:26) classifies Origen’s spirituality as speculative/kataphatic. Starting with this category, I wish to broadly discuss each category, referring to exponents whose spirituality is similar to each category. Lastly, I want to expound on balanced spirituality that Holmes (1981:119) calls the “Circle of Sensibility”.
a) Speculative/ kataphatic spirituality
The central aspect in this approach is that spirituality is rooted in Scripture. The emphasis is on the role of the nous (mind) and not on emotion. Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) points it out when he says: “The mind is a sleeping power, and when the Holy Spirit awakens it, the person is given over to a contemplative intuition of the Word. This leads to an awareness of God’s presence in us” (Holmes 1981:143). Furthermore, Holmes (1981:68) also referred to Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) in whose spirituality the two aspects of meditation and contemplation played important roles. He viewed meditation as “reason is a discursive deduction from the principles of truth” while contemplation is “a simple, intuitive, vision of truth”. It is, however, impossible to know the essence of God.
Another aspect that is the legacy of Dominic (1173-1221), also characteristic of this spirituality, is seriousness about training others by means of spiritual direction.
It can therefore be said that speculative/ kataphatic spirituality emphasizes that the experience of God’s presence must be rooted in Scripture. It is about an illumination of the mind (nous). The latter term also appears in TPM. Ed Smith emphasizes that TPM is mind renewal. TPM also makes full use of imagination. Therefore, TPM could fit into this approach. However, TPM does not emphasise Scripture to the same degree as the exponents of this approach.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO CRACK THE SHELL AROUND YOUR HEART
1.1 The motivation for the research
1.2 The research problem
1.3 Research objectives
1.4 Research design
1.5 Research Journey
1.6 Review of this chapter
1.7 Preview on the contents of the other chapters
CHAPTER 2 THE CONCEPTUAL FRAME OF THE RESEARCH
2.1 Paradigm – a perspective on how to study the world
2.2 The journey of scientific thoughts
2.3 Positioning of the research within a post-modern paradigm
2.4 Closing remarks
CHAPTER 3 LOCATING MY VOICE WITHIN THE THEOLOGICAL DISCOURSE
3.1 My (hi)story
3.2 Theology as an academic discourse
3.3 The Practical Theology discourse
3.4 Discourses of pastoral work and pastoral theology
3.5 Closing remarks
CHAPTER 4 TPM RELATED DISCOURSES FROM PASTORAL THERAPY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY
4.1 TPM within the Inner Healing Prayer-Landscape
4.2 The discourse of the professional
4.3 The “not knowing” position of the facilitator
4.4 The discourse of the free will of man
4.5 The discourse of the voice of the Bible
4.6 The discourse of free association, repression and repressed memories
4.7 Childhood sexual abuse memory
4.8 The discourse of demonology
4.9 The discourse of Retraumatising
4.10 Closing reflections
CHAPTER 5 THE JOURNEY THROUGH THE LANDSCAPE OF TPM
5.1 Starting the Journey through the Landscape of Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM)
5.2 The Journey with the participants through the TPM landscape
5.3 Mind renewal is a lifelong process
5.4 Closing reflections
CHAPTER 6 EIGHTEEN NARRATIVES: INTRODUCING THE PARTICIPANTS (CO-RESEARCHERS).
6.1 The Facilitator
6.2 The Pilot study
6.3 The Successful group
6.4 The “one session” group
6.5 The randomly selected group
6.6 When TPM was not so successful
6.7 Closing remarks
CHAPTER 7 THE PARTICIPANTS’ INTERPRETATIONS OF THE HEALING POSSIBILITIES OF TPM
7.1 The participants’- and nominees’ assessments of the shift in the way they narrate their lives
7.2 The voice of God and the transition in a participant’s life story
7.3 Practices of the TPM process that play a part in reconstruction of reality
7.4 Closing reflections
CHAPTER 8 THE PARTICIPANTS’ EXPERIENCES OF THE PRACTICES OF TPM AND THE ETHICS OF THE PROCESS
8.1 Reflection on the participants’ experiences
8.2 The dance of ethics and spirituality
8.3 Implications of ethicising as participatory action
8.4 Closing reflections
CHAPTER 9 TPM AS A CHANGING AGENT IN THE PARTICIPANTS’ LIVES
9.1 The Four-fold test of healing
9.2 Why did it work in some cases and not as well in others?
9.3 Closing reflections
CHAPTER 10 REFLECTING ON THE RESEARCH JOURNEY
10.2 Reflecting on the goal of the research
10.3 Reflecting on the participants (co-researchers)
10.4 “Not-knowing” and the ethical accountability of TPM practices
10.5 Reflection on the further development of TPM
10.6 Reflection about TPM in my life
10.7 Suggestions for further research
10.8 Reflecting on the research process
10.9 Quotations from the participants’ interviews.
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