The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London





A Brief History of Calvinistic Afrikanerdom from 1652-1980

By Rev Prof Dr Francis Nigel Lee, LLB, ThD, PhD, STD, DMin, DEd.*

In view of the decades-long defamation of the Christian Afrikaners (which needs to be countered) we excerpt from Dr Lee’s lectures given at the Geneva Divinity School in Texas during 1980.

The Eschatology of Victory in Afrikaner Politics

Paul Kruger

A colossal figure in South African history was Paul Kruger – after whom the famous “Kruger Rand” gold coin was later named. He seems to have been born in 1825. We may never know the exact circumstances of his birth. But that he was a man among men, is certain.  He was rugged, bearded and tough, and a very brave man. One day when hunting, a rhino turned on him. Kruger ended up wrestling this rhino and blew out its brains. But in doing this, he blew off his thumb. Praying to Almighty God and pretending it was someone else’s thumb, he cut off the remains with his pen-knife. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says about him: He imbibed early the strict Puritanism of this frontier era.  His 1902 memoirs reveal him in youth as a brave hunter and arbitrator. He was a staunch Dopper.”

He gave his personal Christian testimony to the great Rev Dr Andrew Murray, who wrote to his children and his wife: Mr Kruger says that when God gave him a new heart, it was as if he wanted to tell everyone about Jesus’ love ... ” And while Murray was still visiting, he sent a message to the Black chief Ramkok to come and have a talk with us …” Kruger was known for pronouncements such as: “God’s Word shall be my rule of conduct in politics, and the foundation upon which the State must be established.

He passed a law offering two acres of land free of charge, to be granted by the State to any group of Christians who would undertake to erect a place of Christian worship to the honour of God.  And so a lot of churches arose in the principal towns of the South African Republic.-  But then the Jewish community came and said: “Mr President, we would also like to have two acres.” Kruger produced his Bible and said:  “Do you believe the Bible?”  The Jews said: Yes, Mr President, we believe all of it from Genesis to Malachi.”  Kruger said: “The Bible has got two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. 1ll give you one acre of land immediately, because you accept the old Testament. When you come back and tell me that you believe the New Testament as well, 1 will give you the second acre. ” – When the synagogue was completed, the Jews invited President Kruger to open it. He did so.  At the end of his speech, facing all the wealthy Jews of the Witwatersrand mines, he said:  “And now, as State President of the South African Republic, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pronounce this synagogue duly opened!”

Pesident Kruger did everything he could to promote Christian National Calvinist Public Education. He imported from Holland school teachers who had studied under Abraham Kuyper. He also appointed South African Reformed preachers as regional superintendents of the Education System, among them Reverend SJ du Toit, a father of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners, who established Afrikaans as a medium of cultural expression as from 1875.

In 1902, after Kruger had lost the (Anglo-Boer) War he went into exile on a ship that Queen Wilhelmina, the Calvinist monarch of Holland, had sent to fetch him at Delagoa Bay. She received him royally in Holland. Kruger died as a broken old man in Switzerland, the land of Calvin.  His body was later taken to Pretoria, where it was reinterred in state in Church Square.

Calvinist State Craft

Calvinist statecraft in South Africa was given a big push by the famous Professor Dr LJ du Plessis, who was for many years the Head of the Department of Political Science at Potschefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. Here are some points from what duPlessis wrote on the Calvinist Theory of State. Based on the Ten Command­- ments (Exodus 20), he said, the State is responsible to maintain civil righteousness and social peace.

The First Commandment,  “You shall have no other gods forbids idolatry. False doctrine should not threaten true law and order. The Commandment demands that God be honoured by the authorities.

The Second Commandment,  “You shall not make yourself idols ” demands that the State remove all images and false religious ceremonies in the public sectors.

The Third Commandment,  Don ‘t misuse the name of the LORD ” demands that blasphemy must not be tolerated.

The Fourth Commandment,  “Remember the Sabbath day ” demands that the State protect and promote a Sabbath day of rest.  The Sabbath-keeper’s rest is not to be disturbed by Sabbath-breakers.

The Fifth Commandment,  “Honour your father and mother …” demands that the State uphold parental powers and encourage respect toward political authorities.

The Sixth Commandment, You shall not murder,” determines  that the death penalty be applied only after adequate testimony has been given.  Murder and kidnapping are strictly prohibited, and so is cruelty to animals.

The Seventh Commandment, “Do not commit adultery,” forbids adultery, sodomy, and bestiality.  It also forbids prostitution and fornication. It demands laws against incest, and regulates divorce. It protects marriage and modesty.

The Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal,” should help all people to earn an honest living.  It should punish, regulate and restore damage and loss of property, even as to its modem political application.

The Ninth Commandment, “Don’t give false  testimony,” forbids the giving and accepting of false testimony.

The Tenth Commandment, You shall not covet,” says Dr duPlessis, concerns the inward motion of man and therefore has no political applications.  –  Du Plessis goes on to say that the Calvinian statecraft is to be regarded as generally valid.  God has indeed required that the Decalogue  be applied in modem society in this way.

General Jan Christiaan  Smuts (1870-1950)

That brings me to a very fascinating  political leader.  Jan Smuts was born in Riebeeck West and studied first at Stellenbosch and then Cambridge  Universities.   He became the Attorney-General  of Paul Kruger’s South African Republic and later a Boer General in the Anglo-Boer  War.  After having written a book against the British, A Century of Wrong , he underwent a radical change and became pro-British.   He fell away from Calvinism and adopted “Christian Holism.”  He was a brilliant man, helping to launch the old League of Nations, and writing the Preamble of the United Nations Charter.  He became a Privy Councillor in the British Government,  a Field Marshall of the British Empire, and was Churchill’s right hand man in World War II.

A second great man born in the small village of Riebeeck West – was Dr Daniel Francois Malan (1874-1959). He was a student with Smuts at Stellenbosch  before he went to Holland to earn his Doctorate in Theology.   Malan became a preacher of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) first in Montagu and then in Graaff-Reinet. One day, reading his Bible in 1912 or 1913, Malan came upon First Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or whether you drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. ” He claimed that God was calling him into politics, and that he must do politics to His glory.  He became editor of “Die Burger” and, together with Smuts, attended the signing of the Peace Treaty with Germany  at Versailles.   He was instrumental in the 1938 Voortrekker  Centennial and in the revival of Calvinistic Afrikanerdom,  becoming Prime Minister in 1948.

That brings me to Dr Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd.  He was taken by his Dutch missionary parents as an infant to South Africa.  There he grew up, becoming a brilliant theological student, about the only one who ever achieved 100% for Hebrew.  He then moved on into the fields of Logic and Philosophy,  where he achieved equal brilliance.  He went to Germany and earned a Doctorate in Psychology.  On his return, he was appointed Professor first of  Psychology and then of Sociology at Stellenbosch  University, until he got interested in Politics and Anthropology. He became the Editor of the “Transvaler” and later Minister of Native Affairs.  He had a fine family life.  His daughter did missionary work with Coloured people every weekend, and his son became a Missionary.   Dr Verwoerd once said that the only possible defence of apartheid or separate development (which he promoted)  was the motive of love for one’s  fellow man.  He launched and won the Republican Referendum  in 1960 and then proclaimed  a South African Republic in 1961.  He acknowledged  Almighty God as the Head of the State, and opted for a revived system of Christian Public Education.

After his assassination  in 1966 he was followed by Adv. B J Vorster, whose brother was the Moderator of the National General Assembly of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa.  Prime Minister Vorster was a Calvinist and Lawyer.  He had studied Calvinist philosophy  during World War II, and pushed the reconstruction  of Christian Public Education.

The present Prime Minister (1980) is PW Botha.  He married the daughter of a Reformed Preacher.  He is presently working toward confederation of all Black and White South African self-governing  areas- to become a Christian Western confederated  bastion against communism.  –  In general, I would say that (in 1980) Calvinism is still alive and well in South Africa.  Gambling, prostitution, striptease and homosexuality  are all illegal.  Rape and murder are generally punished with the death penalty.  But of course there is always room for much improvement! –  It has often been said that the Church is the backbone of the Afrikaner people.  The strength of the people has unquestionably been this rigorous Calvinism.

  • Dr Lee was Chairman of the Department of Systematic Theology @ Church History at the Queensland Presbyterian  Theological  Hall, Brisbane, Australia.  He died at the end of 2011.

To be continued …