Probing the “global Reformed Christ” of Nico Koopman: An African-Kairos perspective

Jakub Urbaniak


This study seeks to probe Nico Koopman’s Christological approach through the lens of the theological framework spelled out in the Kairos Document (1985), and in particular its understandings of church theology and prophetic theology, critically re-appropriated in the current socioeconomic context of South Africa. Four essential aspects of Koopman’s Christological perspective are examined: (1) the Reformed view of the lordship of Christ as the basis for the public vocation of theology; (2) Trinitarian and Christological foundations of human dignity; (3) Jesus as the epitome of divine and human vulnerability, and (4) the organic connection between the threefold office of Christ and the public calling of the church. In conclusion, I argue that Koopman’s Christ, albeit displaying an African veneer, upon scrutiny, appears to be unfamiliar with and unconcerned about the problems faced by most South Africans today, and thereby fails to constructively engage with African (especially black African) contexts of our day. This is due to four major factors, namely (a) Koopman’s choices regarding theological references; (b) his cursory and un-nuanced treatment of African theological notions; (c) his a-pathetic mode of theologising; and (d) his inability (or lack of willingness) to engage with structural (especially macro-economic) issues. I further suggest that my conclusions concerning Koopman’s “global Reformed Christ” may be (at least tentatively) extrapolated into a number of approaches developed by South African theologians under the umbrella of “public theology”. I also point to some promising (prophetically-loaded) insights coming from the chosen public theologians, including Koopman himself, as a way of illustrating the tension between civic spirit and public anger, inherent in this mode of theologising.


Public theology; Nico Koopman; African Kairos perspective; Prophetic theology; Christology

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ISSN 2413-9467 (online); ISSN 2413-9459 (print)

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