A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke PDF

By Matthew Engelke

ISBN-10: 0520249038

ISBN-13: 9780520249035

The Friday Masowe apostolics of Zimbabwe consult with themselves as “the Christians who don’t learn the Bible.” They declare they don't want the Bible simply because they obtain the note of God “live and direct” from the Holy Spirit. during this insightful and delicate old ethnography, Matthew Engelke files how this rejection of scripture speaks to longstanding issues inside of Christianity over mediation and authority. The Bible, in fact, has been a key medium wherein Christians have famous God’s presence. however the apostolics understand scripture as an pointless, even harmful, mediator. For them, the materiality of the Bible marks a distance from the divine and prohibits the belief of a dwell and direct faith.

Situating the Masowe case inside of a huge comparative framework, Engelke exhibits how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presence—which is to assert, how the spiritual topic defines, and claims to build, a courting with the religious international throughout the semiotic potentials of language, activities, and items. Written in a full of life and available type, an issue of Presence makes very important contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the background of religions in Africa, semiotics, and fabric tradition studies.

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Like other ancients, he understood the divine in writing to be “a power that belonged to words, but no less to the books in which they stood” (Gamble 1995, 241). As things, the books of the Bible can be effective in themselves. This dual character of Scripture is another aspect of the problem of presence worth investigating. As part of a semiotic ideology, it is the claim that the Bible’s significance cannot be reduced to the register of either word or object. The Bible is a sign that does not conform to such brute categorizations, just as the Word cannot be reduced to the register of either written or spoken.

The Bible is a sign that does not conform to such brute categorizations, just as the Word cannot be reduced to the register of either written or spoken. This emphasis on the Bible’s materiality is also a good indication of how presence can be indexed in and through physical objects. Here I focus on how this dual character of Scripture has been articulated within certain trends in Protestantism. I begin with a brief consideration of sixteenth-century iconoclasm, then move on to sketch the gradual differentiation between “liberal” and “conservative” Protestant theologies, which helps us to make sense of how the Bible has been understood in colonial and postcolonial Africa.

One of these spirit mediums became a close contact and friend. My partner, Rebecca Nash, herself an anthropologist, spent four months in Zimbabwe in 1999. She attended the Sunday services at Juranifiri Santa each week and often accompanied me to meet with apostolics on social visits. As I discuss in more detail in chapter 4, Rebecca was instrumental in helping me to gain a better perspective on the dynamics among women at Juranifiri Santa, dynamics that the apostolics—who maintain a discourse of equality—did a good job of preventing me from investigating 34 introduction in any depth.

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A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church by Matthew Engelke


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