Dirkie Smit


The article argues that it is not to be taken for granted that Christian churches have
a public witness and that Christian theology should play a public role in South
Africa today. Although many believers may indeed proceed from these assumptions
without any self-critical awareness and reflection, there are simply too many
unspoken assumptions embedded in these convictions that have become problematic
in the eyes of many, both within and outside ecclesial and theological circles, also in
South Africa. The article points to some of these critical considerations that are
suggested by typically modern conditions, by the radical transformation of South
African society to a secular democracy, and by the particular legacy of South
Africa’s recent history and the role of church and theology during that history. The
article achieves this by arguing that at least three clusters of questions should be
separated from one another for careful consideration. In a first section it iterates
and briefly motivates a cluster of questions all dealing with the necessity of public
witness and theology. In a second section it briefly proposes a separate set of
questions focusing on the content of any possible public witness and theology. In a
third and final section it suggests a third cluster of issues all related to the practical
question how such public witness and theology could and should take place under
conditions prevailing in South African society today.1

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

Attribution CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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