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Calvin and His Influence, 1509–2009$
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Irena Backus and Philip Benedict

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199751846

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751846.001.0001

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Calvin(ism) and Apartheid in South Africa in the Twentieth Century

Calvin(ism) and Apartheid in South Africa in the Twentieth Century

The Making and Unmaking of a Racial Ideology

(p.306) 15 Calvin(ism) and Apartheid in South Africa in the Twentieth Century
Calvin and His Influence, 1509–2009

John W. de Gruchy

Oxford University Press

This is an analysis of how Calvinism contributed to the creation and undoing of South African apartheid in the twentieth century. It traces the implantation of Calvinism in South Africa via Dutch settlers and shows how with the increase of conversions by indigenous people, social as opposed to religious identity became the key factor. With the growth of Afrikaner neo-Calvinism, separate black and white communities were set up. A distinctive interpretation of Dutch neo-Calvinism gave a theological underpinning to the ideology of apartheid. However, in the second half of the twentieth century this was challenged by a new generation of Reformed theologians who appealed directly to Calvin’s writings as read through the lenses of Karl Barth and André Biéler to argue that genuine Calvinism provided no grounds for racial segregation.

Keywords:   apartheid, South Africa, Dutch neo-Calvinism, Afrikanerdom, Abraham Kuyper, Karl Barth, André Biéler

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