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Peer-Review Record

Diaconia and Identity: Agency of the Marginalised

Religions 2023, 14(6), 745;
Reviewer 1:
Reviewer 2:
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Religions 2023, 14(6), 745;
Received: 13 April 2023 / Revised: 29 May 2023 / Accepted: 30 May 2023 / Published: 5 June 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diaconia and Christian Social Practice in a Global Perspective)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The article deals with an important question related to the "agency of the marginalised as a model for taking responsibility for care and progress". Theologically the questions around theological anthropology are important in this context. Yet it seems that a rather narrow approach is taken to the concept of image of God. Only the positions of two modern authors are discussed which can't be seen as mainline representatives or as the most noteworthy contributors to the broad range of theological discussionare around these themes. I suggest that the history and theology of the concept "imago Dei" with its various interpretations is discussed at least in a footnote and the choice of the authors discussed is made in an argumentative way so that the choice of commented authors doesn't give the impression of a random choice.

In the Christian tradition Christ as the "second Adam" or "last Adam" and salvation in him has traditionally meant renewal of the image of God or likeness of God in a human being. There seems to be an arficial and even misleading juxtaposition here (lines 80-81) when as opposing understandings are given understanding a human being as "the only unique species" or "humans as image of Jesus who is the image of God". Being an image of God is not a biological description of a species. As a species humans share the same preconditions of biological life. The concept "image of God" is in the mainline understanding theological and relational, not based on biology. 

The thesis (lines 136-137) that Jesus as the image of God would be alone in the world would require a deeper reflection and explanation, because being the image of God according to the definition means quite the opposite, that is: being there for the others as the Creator intended. The essence of Creation is love as a gift, even self-giving gift. In contras, the sinful human being is alone because of his/her sin which destroys and perverts all the relations in the world. The uniqueness of Christ means conquering the world back to himself through the cross, through being forsaken for us. Because he was abandoned, we are through him not alone. The church is his body. This calls Christians to take part in his sufferings in the world and to be Christ-like to others. The theology of the cross brings marginalisation to the centre.

When discussing how the human beings (lines 162-163) it might be claryfying to reflect how the anthroposentric enlightenment philosophy with the Cartesian or Kantian dualism easily forgets the rest of the creation. It is not the same as traditional or biblical anthropology which can be seen emphasising a holistic approach to life and creation. Denying the uniqueness of human beings doesn't help combining the value of individual, human and cosmic community and relating them to each other, because uniqueness in this context is related to a unique and big responsibility too.

It seems the implied traditional understanding of imago Dei is here (lines 222-224) portrayed almost as a charicature. There are several ways to understand the image of God in the history of theology, and you could say that new hermeneutical interpretations emerge constantly. 

There are many ways to understand a shepherd-sheep-relation (lines 274-275). It can also be dialogical and non-hierarchical, based on the necessary division of leadership because of for example safety.

Referring to the reflections on lines 284-286 it is on the other a reality that the input of marginalised people is often downgraded, but it can be asked how does the understanding of the marginalised avoid false idealism and neglecting the factual lack of capital, skills, capabilities  etc. if it is a reality, and how can the respect of human dignity be maintained despite of skills and capacity? In other contexts the marginalised naturally would have more to give than presupposed.

Ubuntu would be good to be explained in this context as a term (line 319).

The conclusion is not very clear (379-381). One can maintain that if everyone is marginalised, the survival of the fittest is factually supported, because no specific group is identified as being in the need of help. 

Referring to lines 405-406 during the 2nd and 3rd century the Roman Emperor had no (constructive) relation to church. Only in 313 the Christians received freedom of religion.

Lines 433-434: It is referred to Hauerwas as a quotation, yet no source is mentioned and no direct quote implicated. This should be expressed more definitely.


Author Response

Dear Reviewer

Thank you for your constructive and valuable feedback.

I attended to all your comment and the following were done:

A extensive footnote provides a overview of the history and theology of imago Dei and my motivation for the choice of scholars and perspectives.

I explained the perceived misleading juxtaposition about the image of God. This is evident in the footnote mentioned above and in a second footnote.

Jesus as the image of God would be alone in the world is explained by drawing from Marais who I use as a primary source. This is a critical position and by no means placed as definitive.

I agree that the limitations of the Kantian dualism negates the rest of creation. I inserted a sentence or two to clarify this but did not elaborate extensively because underlined in my thesis is the responsibility inherent in identity.  

I provided clarification on the perceived replacement of the traditional notion of imago Dei and clarify that different interpretations has emerged within the corpus of scholarship of Christian anthropology.

For clarification I removed Shepherd-sheep.

I clarified the position of marginalization and marginalized communities.

I thought my broad discussion of Ubuntu within the various streams provides a adequate description of the concept as used by Dietrich.

I included a short passage to identify the marginalized as those in need and those with capital.

Thank you very much for your comments and it is very constructive.

Reviewer 2 Report

This contribution fits well in the special on Diakonia of Religions and the argument is clear. A strong point of the article is the underlining of the power of the 'marginalized'. My most important comment regards the discussion of this term.
* It takes quite long until the term 'marginalised', which is called a contested concept in the first paragraph, is discussed.  For the argument of the article, it would help to move paragraph 4 and put it above what is now paragraph 2. The debate on anthropology and marginalisation becomes more specific and gains strenght, when it is placed after what is now paragraph 4. It would also help if the criticism of the term 'marginalised' would be explained more directly, before the author develops his own view on this concept. Now, it is not really clear, why 'marginalisation' is contested as a term.  I just give this for consideration to the author.

Other, minor points:
Paragraph 1, 44: Mercy Amba Oduyoye calls herself an Afrian feminist, not a womanist, which is a term usually reserved for the American context.

Paragraph 1, 53-54: The way the sentence reads now, it looks as if the shepher-sheep model is proposed by the Gospels as a Church model, which is not the case, of course. It is choosen by the early Church from many other images describing the community of the followers of Jesus. 

Paragraph 4, 287: strictly speaking, the WCC in 1966 and 1968 didn't use the term 'option for the marginalised', but "option for the poor". The shift from "the poor" to "the marginalized" isn't explained in the article. They are used as synonyms, which I think is debatable, as the choosen vocabulary matters and expresses a certain theological view.

Paragraph 5, 408-409: Why is the Reformation absent here? The author jumps from the 2nd and 3rd century and the monastic movement to the 17th century, whereas the Reformation , for which a more egalitarian Church was a main point. (sola gratia!) The Quackers cited drew on the (radical) Reformation for their egalitarian ministry. In a short and rough overview of the Church History, the Reformation cannot be left out.

Paragraph 5, 425: This view of the Mission Dei as a Mission of the Church is contested. There are views that Misison Dei means that the Church is not in the Center, because God is at work in the World. Or didn't I read this sentence rightly? It is not quite clear in what direction the word embeddedness should be interpreted.

Author Response

Dear Reviewer

Thank you for your constructive comments which improves the text coniderably.

Amongst other recommendations I attended to the following:

Moved the discussion of marginalization to your suggested position in the text,

Rectified your observation about Oduyoye's discipline,

Inserted a sentence to clarify the use of Shepherd-sheep symbol by the early church,

Inserted a footnote to explain the use of marginalization and poor interchangeably,

The omission of the Reformation is in the extended footnote that is added,

I change the sentence that creates ambiguity about the mission of God as the primary mission.

Thank you.   

Reviewer 3 Report

The agency of the marginalised is a key topic in diaconal research and this is a timely contribution.

The ambition to discuss the role of doctrine in diaconia, and to explore Christian anthropology in relation to God's creation is very good. Similarly, the ambition to explore the role/identity of the marginalised in diaconia is very good. However, the article seems to want too much, and the structure of the argument the author wants to make, needs to be made clearer and more accessible to the reader.

The title of the article promises a focus on identity, but this largely disappears in the following text. The relationship between identity and diaconia, as well as identity and agency, is mentioned. The “identity of humanity” is mentioned, as well as the “identity of the marginalised”.

The introduction is too long. Could the introduction of the shepherd-sheep model vs the gifts of the Spirit model and the claimed difference between mainline church traditions vs. Charistmatic and Pentecostal traditions be supported by references to the research literature? What is meant by "the extent of marginalisation is less than the New Testament and Early Church systems of order, class, and institution" is unclear.

The "image of God" is rooted in both Testaments, but only Old Testament references are made.

In the introduction Kelsey is mentioned, with a reference to Marais. However, in the abstract, one gets the impression that van Huysteen and Kelsay provide the key positions/perspectives in the article. This seems to disappear in the introduction, although it becomes somewhat more important later.

The author hypotheses on page three that "Notwithstanding [a long range of contributions] that "diaconia and identity are two sides of the same coin". It would strengthen the article to explain the latter further and to make clear how this hypothesis challenges these other contributions. 

The author writes "Is there room for dynamism, creativity, and non-essentialism." Should this be a question? What is meant by this?

In the second section - 1 Christian Anthropology and marginalisation - Kelsey is referred to in the first sentence, but there is no reference to Kelsey's works. Should Kelsey be given more attention? After only two paragraphs, Van Huysteen is introduced much more comprehensively. The four definitions of power are only loosely connected to the overall argument in this section and do not seem to play any significant role in the argument. Could be deleted? On the other hand, Horan's more nuanced approach to doctrine/Imago Dei is insightful and constructive. The author might want to focus more explicitly and clearly on different understandings of Imago Dei in this section.

The third section - 3 Radford Ruether, dialectics and marginalisation - introduces Radford Ruether's dialectical approach. It would be helpful if the author could explicate more substantially how this adds to the preceding section on Imago Dei and also the implications of dialectical approach for diaconia.

Section 4 - Marginalised, marginalised spaces and identity - introduces the topic of the agency of the marginalised. Much attention is given to contributions from Dietrich. In fact, this seems (together with the dialectical approach) to provide grounds for the diaconal perspective in the article and a key role in the overall argument made in the article. Should this be made more clear in the abstract? 


Section 5 – The Church as community of diaconia – moves the discussion into the domain of ecclesiology, or diaconal ecclesiology. The quote from Stanley Hauerwas does not have a reference. 

Author Response

Dear Reviewer

Thank you for very constructive comments,. Your comments enhanced the quality of the article and I have considered all your comments with that of other reviewers to improve the structure, flow of argument and technical presentation. 

The following changes has been affected that pertains to your comments:

Identity is the underpinning of the approach of the article. Although no definitions are provided, the notion of image is discussed extensively in relation to identity.

The introduction is shortened by shifting the approach and structure and making part of the introduction a different section. I also included a few sentences to clarify the shepherd-sheep and gifts of the spirit models of church.  

I included references in a footnote where requested.

To clarify the New Testament notions of image according to Kelsey I expanded his description and added a biblical text. It it is worth mentioning that I use Marais to expand on Kelsey's position.

I added a sentence to clarify my hypothesis.

A question mark has been added to "Is there room....".

I would prefer to keep the section of power as it substantiate the repositioning of marginalization. 

Radford Ruether's dialectical approach is a introduction and underlines the section that follows. The two should be read together to make sense of Dietrich's notions of church, marginalized and empowerment.

I included this point in the abstract.

I removed the name of Hauerwas and the paraphrased phrase.

Thank you very much. 


Round 2

Reviewer 1 Report

After the revisions the paper is now in my estimation a well qualified research contribution in the area.

Author Response

Thank you for the positive response. Your comments assist a great deal.


Reviewer 2 Report

The article looks really good now!

In note 2, I detected a typo: Within the Newt Testament.

Since this note is so long, I would recommend to take it into the main text, as it adresses an important issue.

Author Response

Thank you for your valuable input.

I change the spell error to New Testament and double checked the whole document for any grammatical errors. The article has been thoroughly checked. I prefer the addition as a footnote and not part of the text.

Thank you. 

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