Original Research - Special Collection: Ethics education and social justice

Re-examining a theology of reconciliation: What we learn from the Kairos Document and its pedagogical implications

Demaine J. Solomons
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a5843 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.5843 | © 2020 Demaine J. Solomons | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 October 2019 | Published: 08 June 2020

About the author(s)

Demaine J. Solomons, Department of Religion and Theology, Faculty of Arts, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


This contribution is derived from a more extensive 2018 PhD study in which the contested nature of the discourses on reconciliation is explored. It provides a conceptual analysis of how reconciliation is understood in the Kairos Document (1985). Regarded as an outstanding example of a theological response to the problem of apartheid, what is often overlooked is the tension implicit in its approach which, in turn, has serious implications for how matters of social justice are understood and acted upon. Here, the need for political, economic and cultural liberation is emphasised. It is assumed that social justice can only follow upon liberation, and that reconciliation is only possible on the basis of following justice. In this contribution, I contend that those who take this approach are confronted with the danger of self-secularisation, of reducing the Christian confession to nothing more than an example of religious affiliation that may be tolerated as long as its particular claims are not foregrounded. The obvious danger, as may be the case with the Kairos Document, is one of being socially relevant without having anything distinct to offer. This, in turn, has serious implications for how its history and significance are approached pedagogically.


Reconciliation; Liberation; Justice; Kairos Document; South Africa


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