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

John W. de Gruchy

in Calvin and His Influence, 1509–2009

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751846
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914562 | DOI:
Calvin(ism) and Apartheid in South Africa in the Twentieth Century

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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

Chapter.  6639 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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