Detlev Tönsing

Dr. Detlev Tönsing

Position Lecturer
Discipline Theology
Phone 033 260 6293
Campus Pietermaritzburg Campus
Office Address 208B


  • Detlev Tönsing is currently employed as Lecturer in Systematic Theology at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics of the University of Kwazulu-Natal, seconded from the Lutheran Church through the Lutheran Theological Institute. He lectures in Lutheran Theology, Theology and Science, Theology and Modernity, Ethics and Classical Systematics. He also is Deputy Principal of the Lutheran Theological Institute, which has a long association with theological education at UKZN.

    He is currently working on a doctoral dissertation in the field of theology and science.

    Before coming to UKZN in 2006, he was parish pastor of the Lutheran Church of Peace in Hillbrow, together with his wife, from 1996 to 2005. He is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Africa (N-T).

    In this inner-city slum area, they led the congregation through transition from a German pastoral maintenance congregation to an inner-city, multicultural outreach congregation, with an emphasis on culture and education linked healing processes concentrating on youth and children.

    Detlev completed his M Th in 2004 on an interpretation of Lutheran and Liberationist Theologies using a theoretical framework from the theory of science, developed by Imre Lakatos

    His B Th studies were at the School of Theology of the University of Natal.

    His interest in Theology and Science is due to his first field of studies, which was Physics. He studied Physics at the University of Pretoria, completing his Ph D in 1990 in theoretical solid state physics. The interest in science goes back to his school years in Potchefstroom, during which time he participated in the South African National Youth Science weeks, the International Youth Science Fortnight in London (as third-placed Science Week competitor) and the Weizmann Youth Science Institute in Israel (as winner of the SA Science week competition).

    Detlev Tönsing was born in Ermelo, then Transvaal, in a German-language family, and grew up in the university town of Potchefstroom.

    He is married to Gertrud Wittenberg, who teaches Ministry, Liturgy and Homiletics at the Lutheran Theological Institute. They have two children, Elisabeth and Paul.

Publications by Detlev Ludwig Tönsing:

Journal Articles and Conference Proceedings in Theology

  • ‘Physics and Emergence’ in Chance, causality, emergence: Interdisciplinary perspectives ed. CW du Toit, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, Pretoria, 2013, p. 21-29
  • Cornel du Toit’s Science and Religion contribution in the Lens of the Divine Action Project: The advantage of limited aims and epistemological diversity’ St Hist Eccl August 2013, 39 Supplement, 7-21
  • ‘Science and Theology: presuppositions, presumptions, prejudgements’ in Knowing, believing, living in Africa: Perspectives from Science and Religion, ed. CW du Toit, RITR, UNISA, Pretoria, 2012, p 35-49
  • ‘Can matter and spirit be mediated through language? Some insights from Johann Georg Hamann’, HTS Teologiese Studies/ Theological Studies 68(1), Art. #971, 5 pages. 2012
  • ‘Transcendence in Physics: an oxymoron’ in Homo transcendentalis? Transcendence in science and religion: interdisciplinary perspectives, ed. CW du Toit, RITR, UNISA, 2010, p 41-51
  • ‘Theology speaking to modernity both critically and creatively: JG Hamann.’ JTSA May 2009
  • Design and Physics’ in Design, Information and Complexity in Creation, ed. CW du Toit, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, Pretoria, 2003, p. 117-132
  • ‘The use of creation language in Job 3, 9, and 38 and the meaning of suffering’ in Scriptura 59 (1996:4) 435-450
  • The importance of Hegel for contemporary theology’ JTSA 90 (March 1995), 56-66

Journal Articles in Physics

  • JH van der Merwe & DL Tönsing (2000) “Interplay between misfit strain and Stranski-Krastanov growth in fcc(111)/ bcc(110) ultrathin film epitaxy Part 2. Quantification using embedded atom method potentials” Surf Sci 449, p. 167-172
  • JH van der Merwe, DL Tönsing & PM Stoop (1997) “Elastic properties of a bcc{110} monolayer on a fcc (111} substrate” Surf Sci 388 p. 33-38
  • JH van der Merwe, DL Tönsing & PM Stoop (1994) “Role of misfit strain and proximity in epigrowth modes I. Strong substrate-epilayer interaction” Surf Sci 312 p. 387-392
  • JH van der Merwe, E Bauer, DL Tönsing & PM Stoop (1994) “Pseudomorphic to close-packed transition II. Application to Ni on Mo (110)” Phys Rev B 49 p. 2137-2139
  • JH van der Merwe, E Bauer, DL Tönsing & PM Stoop (1994) “Pseudomorphic to close-packed transition I. General Formulation” Phys Rev B 49, p. 2127-2129
  • JH van der Merwe, DL Tönsing & PM Stoop (1994)Elastic constants of FCC(111) films Part 2: A monolayer on a {110} substrate” Thin Solid Films 237 p. 297-301
  • PM Stoop, JH van der Merwe & DL Tönsing, (1993)Elastic constants of FCC(111) films Part 1: Free monolayers” Thin Solid Films 226 p. 230-233
  • DL Tönsing, PM Stoop & JH van der Merwe (1992) “The formation of misfit dislocations by climb in pseudomorphic monolayers” Surf Sci 277, p. 193-195
  • DL Tönsing & JH van der Merwe (1991) “Discommensuration nucleation and growth by climb” Phys Rev B 44 p. 550-552
  • DL Tönsing (1991) “Quadratic substrate energy term and harmonics in the Halperin-Nelson model” Phys Rev B 43, p. 26-29
  • DL Tönsing & JH van der Merwe (1988) “Misfit-Taylor dislocation in a misfitting monolayer” S. Afr. J. Sci. 84 , p. 657-661

Tertiary Education


  • B. Sc. (Physics, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics) 1981 University of Pretoria
  • B. Sc (Hons, Physics) 1982 University of Pretoria
  • M. Sc. (Physics) (cum laude) 1983 University of Pretoria
  • Ph. D. (Physics) 1990 University of Pretoria


  • B. Th. (Systematics, New Testament, Old Testament) (cum laude) 1992 Univ. of Natal
  • Ministerial Training, SALTTT: 1st Theological Examination 1993 (cum laude), Thesis: Was Luther a contextual theologian of his time?
  • Ministerial Training, SALTTT: 2nd Theological Examination 1996 (cum laude), Thesis: Inner City work as a explication of Lutheran understanding of the congregation
  • M. Th. (UKZN School of Theology) (Systematic Theology) (cum laude) (2005), Thesis: Down and Out: Parallels and Divergences in Structure and Method between the Theological responses of Martin Luther and Contextual Theologies to their times.
  • Currently registered for D Th with UNISA (Systematic Theology, Title: Creation on the Edge of Chaos).

Employment History

  • 1979 – 1982 – Full time study, University of Pretoria
  • February 1983-June 1985 – Research assistant, Dept. Physics, University of Pretoria
  • July 1985 – June 1987 – National Service, partially at ARMSCOR
  • July 1987 – December 1989 – Research assistant, Dept. Physics, University of Pretoria
  • 1990-1993 – Full time Study, University of Natal. Occasional Consultant at ARMSCOR and Consulting Research Assistant, Dept. Physics, UNISA
  • Feb 1994 – Feb 1995 – Intern, United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa, Wynberg Parish & Strand St Congregation.
  • Mar 1995 – Mar 1996 – Intern, United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa, Auferstehungskirche Oststeinbek, near Hamburg, Germany
  • May 1996 – Oct 1997 – Pastor Coll, ELCSA(N-T), Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Johannesburg (Friedenskirche)
  • Nov 1997 – Feb 2005 – Pastor, ELCSA(N-T), Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Johannesburg (Friedenskirche) Position held: Deputy Dean (2002-2005)
  • Mar 2005 – June 2006 – Pastor, ELCSA(N-T), Study leave
  • July 2006 – Present: Lecturer, Theology, UKZN & LTI Positions held: Deputy Chaplain: 2008-2009, Chaplain 2010, Principal 2011 to 2013, Deputy Principal 2014 to present