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15. Calvin’s Theological Heritage in South Africa: Engaging an Ambivalent, Contested and Promising Legacy

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Chapter Summary

This chapter provides a brief historical theological comment on the viewpoints that linked Calvin and Calvinism to what is sometimes called Afrikaner civil religion. It discusses the ways in which Calvin is used by some theologians from the Dutch Reformed family of churches to critique the theological presuppositions associated with Afrikaner neo-Calvinism. Against this historical theological backdrop, the chapter offers a few searching remarks regarding the promise of reclaiming the legacy of Calvin amidst the challenges posed by the current South African context. The challenge remains for Reformed churches in South Africa today to find a way between, on the one hand a narrow confessionalism, and on the other hand a sentimental, privatised and often anti-theological (if not anti-intellectual) spirituality. In taking on this challenge, Reformed Christian communities in South Africa may well discover that Calvin's life and theology offer unexpectedly rich and as yet untapped resources.

Keywords:Afrikaner neo-Calvinism; anti-theological spirituality; Beyers Naudé; Calvin; Reformed churches; South Africa; Willie Jonker



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