When personal faith and theology meet

Published November 1, 2003

Every now and then an exceptionable book appears in the market place and such is After the Locusts, Letters from a Landscape of Faith , by Denise M. Ackermann. She is a white South African feminist theologian, part Afrikaner in background, who, in the experience of apartheid and its aftermath, struggled with her faith and theology and discovered a vehicle to express those struggles so that she might write not only for, “the limited inner circle of the academy,” but also for, “the general reader, for people in the churches.” [pullquote]That she succeeds is a credit to the transparency of her faith and the integrity of her theological discourse. She draws from the Old Testament Book of Joel and the plague of locusts that devastated Judah for her reflections. “The locusts became a metaphor in my life for the ravages of apartheid as well as for my own personal demons.” At the same time she rejoices in the prophet’s central message underlining God’s promise to fulfill the, “longing for healing and freedom.” The vehicle she has chosen is a series of letters to her granddaughters, a close friend, her children and also to her mother and a spiritual mentor now deceased, with a postscript to Seth, the son of a daughter-in-law, whom she describes as, “Our ‘ready-made’ Jewish grandson, truly a gift.” In each letter she addresses issues pertinent to their relationships as effected by daily life amid the tumult in South Africa and in her own life of faith. She reveals how faith has informed her theology and theology her faith. She believes deeply that theology should never be a detached ‘ivory tower’ pursuit. This book is a compelling testimony that will help all those who struggle with the relevance of their faith to the daily life that all must live, too often within circumstances over which they exercise little control. However it is not a faith of acceptance, but rather of overcoming in a trust that God ultimately stands for justice and love. Evil, like the locusts will eventually subside and in the meantime, she quotes from Canadian theologian John Stackhouse, “What do you think about God and evil? Your life is your answer.”


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