Original Research - Special Collection: Public Theology

The (demanding) history of South African public theology as prophetic theology

Martin Laubscher
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 56, No 1 | a2856 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v56i1.2856 | © 2022 Martin Laubscher | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 March 2022 | Published: 16 November 2022

About the author(s)

Martin Laubscher, Department of Practical and Missional Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The purpose of this article is to tell the story of public theology as prophetic theology in South Africa by highlighting some of the dramatic twists and turns in this history. It seeks to expose and interrogate those whose voices either did not differentiate (enough) between the two, or who have polarised the (apparent) different ways of doing theology in South Africa, assuming inevitably that we are currently on two opposing pathways towards the future. There is, I believe, a more nuanced way to explore these seemingly flat and contradictory ways of doing theology, as we critically reflect on the literature of the last three to four decades. Or, to state it a little differently (but with the same intention), it is no simplistic black or white matter as many seem too often to argue in their writings. We need to open and deepen the discussion in order to see how our knowledge might move on a specific trajectory and still mutate over time. Lastly, even if there are more creative common grounds and tensions to be explored in this particular narrative (with its many voices), I feel the need to point to some urgent, critical questions, perhaps taking us into new directions.

Contribution: The author seeks with this literature review to articulate the tensions in the development of public theology as prophetic theology within the South African context.


public theology; prophetic theology; history; South Africa; demanding; mutation; trajectories.


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