This article suggests a theoretical and methodological perspective primarily hinging on the
categories of Horizon, Totality and conditionalism, with an outspoken mystical orientation,
radically relativising yet simultaneously treasuring diverse religious expression. This model
was developed with a view to interpreting the history of religions, in this case applied to the
history of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria from 1917 to 2017.
Utilising this perspective, the history of the faculty is analysed in terms of three qualitatively
distinct yet continuous epochs, overlapping with the three epochs of South African history
during the twentieth century: 1902–1948, 1948–1994 and 1994 to present. In particular the
article focuses on two dimensions of theological existence at the University of Pretoria: firstly,
its interaction with the state over this century, that is, its political existence during the decades
prefiguring apartheid, during apartheid and during the aftermath of apartheid; secondly, its
relationship with the wider world of religious pluralism over the past century, implying its
notion of religious truth. Differences of emphasis and conflicts during the century, involving
both sets of problems, are explained and understood conditionalistically and with reference to
Totality and Horizon. Racial exclusion and religious exclusion are understood as mutually
determining and are both informed by and dependent on a certain view of religious truth.
In the context of its own ambit this article has a reconciliatory intention, not evaluating the
mistakes of the past in terms of the categories of sin and guilt, but rather in terms of tragic
misjudgements of situations: shortcomings in historical hindsight, sufficiently wide peripheral
vision, realistic foresight and sufficient insight into the epochal conditions of the times and the
essence of religion. Greed and hatred, seemingly ingrained in human nature, are taken to feed
on such lack of insight.
Prof. Dr Kobus Kruger is
participating in the research
project, ‘University, Education
and Theology’, directed by
Prof. Dr Johan Buitendag,
Departement of Dogmatics
and Christian Ethics, and Dean,
Faculty of Theology, University
of Pretoria, South Africa.