By Matthew Engelke
Situating the Masowe case inside a wide comparative framework, Engelke indicates how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presencewhich 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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Additional info for A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church
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).
A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke