Download e-book for kindle: A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke

By Matthew Engelke

ISBN-10: 0520249038

ISBN-13: 9780520249035

The Friday Masowe apostolics of Zimbabwe check with themselves as “the Christians who don’t learn the Bible.” They declare they don't want the Bible simply because they obtain the observe of God “live and direct” from the Holy Spirit. during this insightful and delicate old ethnography, Matthew Engelke records how this rejection of scripture speaks to longstanding matters inside Christianity over mediation and authority. The Bible, after all, has been a key medium wherein Christians have well-known God’s presence. however the apostolics understand scripture as an pointless, even risky, mediator. For them, the materiality of the Bible marks a distance from the divine and prohibits the belief of a reside and direct faith.

Situating the Masowe case inside a wide comparative framework, Engelke indicates how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presence—which is to claim, how the spiritual topic defines, and claims to build, a dating with the non secular international during the semiotic potentials of language, activities, and gadgets. Written in a full of life and obtainable sort, an issue of Presence makes vital contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the heritage of religions in Africa, semiotics, and fabric tradition studies.

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As things, images were problematic. As one English reformer put it, in a more extreme articulation of this point, “nothing spiritual can be present when there is anything material and physical” (Edwards, quoted in Aston 1988, 13). This is an extreme articulation because it demands the impossible. It rests on a differentiation of the spiritual and material that would have to deny the existence of the physical world as God’s creation. ) But as an impossible statement, it tells us something important about how the categories of the spiritual and the material come into play.

It produced a “sense of wonder,” according to Nicholas Howe, in “a man who believed that the way to truth was through the written word as performed or interpreted within a community” (1993, 60). Silent reading thereafter became an increasingly productive mode of apprehension. Augustine’s argument amounted to the proposition that in Christian reading “sounds cease but meaning endures” (Stock 1996, 75). He helped to make the written word valuable not because of its potentials in an oral performance but because it was there, as a physical thing, and could be taken up in silent contemplation by the individual reader.

I begin with a brief consideration of sixteenth-century iconoclasm, then move on to sketch the gradual differentiation between “liberal” and “conservative” Protestant theologies, which helps us to make sense of how the Bible has been understood in colonial and postcolonial Africa. My aim is to suggest how these trends can situate the apostolics’ live and direct faith, at the formal level, as an engagement with the problem of presence. As Hans Belting remarks, because the Word is paramount in any Christian theology, this begs an important question about presence through other representations: “the question of whether God has established other means of encountering him besides the word” (1994, 465).

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A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke


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