Kairos - a moment in time

From 17 to 20 August, an international group of about 200 people will gather at the University of Johannesburg to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Kairos document. Since the launch of that document, several other Kairos documents were launched across the world, the latest two being the Palestine and Swaziland Kairos documents.

The Greek word “Kairos” means “God’s moment” or a “moment of truth”. It is a special time and is the opposite of ordinary “chronos” time. It is used several times in the New Testament in texts such as Luke 19:44, Mark 1: 14 – 15, etc.

While many people think of the Kairos document as a “challenge to society”, the Kairos document was actually sub-titled “a challenge to the churches”. It challenged the Church to ask itself whether it is a sign of hope, an Easter sign of resurrection (which it should be as the risen body of Christ), in a particular time and place for all God’s people. It also then analysed the church as divided amongst itself and not being united by the Spirit of Truth and Love.

These questions and analyses made some people very uncomfortable, but to this extent it was thoroughly prophetic, if prophecy is understood in its original Biblical sense as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”. It is said that former President PW Botha had a copy of the Kairos document on his desk and would challenge any church leader who went to meet with him. For Kairos theologians, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. And if Caesar is particularly oppressive and not a servant of all God’s people (as we analysed the apartheid system to be in the 1980s), then it cannot be obeyed by Christians. This is why the Kairos document called on the churches to engage in non-violent civil disobedience against apartheid.

Kairos theology is particularly potent when some people of faith use the Bible and the name of God as justification for their oppression and evil, as happened in Germany and in South Africa and as is happening today in Palestine and Israel. There are many situations of injustice and oppression in the world, but as Christians we take special notice when our Bible and our God is misused in situations of oppression, and when the Church is either silent or wants to be “neutral”. These two stances of the Church only benefits the oppressor and not the oppressed.

The first step in Kairos theology is to “discern the signs of the times” and to ask whether this moment we are living in is a moment when God is speaking to us in a special way. This is some of the work of discernment those gathered at the Kairos conference will begin to do, but whatever is discerned there would need to be tested with a wider group.

The week before the Kairos conference has been declared as a week of prayer, fasting and discernment and everyone is invited to join in this week of prayer. The question for discernment during that week is: Is there today an equivalent to the 1985 “Kairos-moment”, in which God is challenging us?

Kairos theology is generally not done by individuals but is typically done in small groups across the country, who then discern together whether this is a “Kairos moment” we face, either in South Africa or globally.

Please pray with us and please keep the Kairos conference in August in your prayers.

by Edwin Arrison, Kairos SA General Secretary

You may send any reflections to Edwin at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

For further reading, please see

Most of the Kairos documents at http://ujamaa.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/manuals/The_Kairos_Documents.sflb.ashx

A 2012 Kairos SA letter to the ANC: https://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/kairos-logo/

The Palestine Kairos document: http://www.kairospalestine.ps

Kairos SA response to the Palestine Kairos document: http://www.voltairenet.org/article164794.html

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