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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Ian A. McFarland
Affiliation:
Emory University's Candler School of Theology
David A. S. Fergusson
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Karen Kilby
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Iain R. Torrance
Affiliation:
University of Aberdeen
Ian A. McFarland
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
David A. S. Fergusson
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Karen Kilby
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
Iain R. Torrance
Affiliation:
Princeton Theological Seminary
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Summary

Kairos Document The Kairos Document is a theological comment on the crisis in South Africa, originally published in 1985. Written by a group of theologians who were brought together by F. Chikane (b. 1951), later to become general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, the document arose from discussions among primarily Black Christians. They were eager to develop biblical and theological models that would inspire activism to end apartheid, the system of racial separation and subjugation that characterized South Africa until 1994, when the first democratic elections were held. The 1985 edition was signed by 151 Church leaders, theologians, and others, despite the country being under a partial state of emergency. It was revised slightly and reissued in 1986 at a time of a total state of emergency, but with thousands of Christians openly endorsing it.

The kairos is defined as ‘the moment of grace and opportunity, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action’. The text critiques ‘state theology’, which defends the status quo, and ‘church theology,’ which cautiously criticizes apartheid. The document promotes instead a ‘prophetic theology’, which calls for action to confront ‘the evils of the time’ and announces ‘the salvation that we are hoping for’.

Many inside South Africa denounced the document. Some theologians in other parts of the world criticized the text as too millenarian and apocalyptic (see Premillennialism). Widely hailed as a turning point in theological debates within the country, however, the text inspired similar efforts across the world.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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References

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