. Was John Calvin Racist?

I recommend that you read the following article, which is a comprehensive yet simple exposé on the subject. I believe this article is extremely relevant particularly due to the fact that the ANC has chosen to harper on the Racism thing during the forthcoming elections. Used with permission from Philip Rosenthal. You can visit their website at www.ChristianView.org





In South Africa, the policy of Apartheid segregation was implemented by those who professed Calvinism.  Was this policy found in Calvin's writings? Answer: No.  Ironically, Calvin's Geneva was a miracle of racial harmony as it absorbed persecuted Protestant refugees from all over Europe.  How then did apartheid get linked to Calvinism?

Calvinism was birthed in opposition to Roman Catholicism at a time of growing ethnic nationalism in Europe.  The Pan-European 'Holy Roman Empire' and 'Roman Catholic Church' forming Christendom shared Latin as their written and diplomatic language.  'Catholic' is another word for 'Universal'
and asserted authority across ethnic boundaries.  The Protestant Reformation resulted in the breakup of religious institutions in Northern Europe into 'National Churches' each with their own 'national' statements of faith and each printing the Bible and conducting services in their native language. For example, Scottish Presbyterianism, English Anglicanism, German Lutheranism with the general policy of one religious denomination per linguistic-ethnic group generally corresponding to an ethnic-state which protected it.  The desire of new denominations for religious independence
was welcomed by nation-state rulers, who benefited from political independence from Rome and the Holy Roman Empire and an end to the flow of funds to Rome.  While the various Reformed Confessions of faith and church institutions were very similar, they were arranged around political-ethnic-linguistic groups.  The Dutch Reformed Church held to the Belgic Confession, which was shared by the ethnic groups in the vicinity of the Netherlands.  Protestantism slowly diversified away from these national-church-state unions.  The Eastern Orthodox churches also developed on ethno-linguistic lines, for example with separate hierarchies and liturgies for Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Russians and Ethiopians. Missionaries in South Africa translated the Bible and hymns into the
indigenous languages some envisaged each linguistic group developing its own Christian-national literature, music and culture as it had in Europe.

The 'Christian national' philosophy derived from this precedent in Europe evolved very differently in practice in South Africa.  In theory, the idea was to follow this European ethno-linguistic-religious model.  The practice fed into apartheid racial divisions.  Dutch Prime Minister and leading Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper as well as South African Dutch Reformed Church leader and theologian Andrew Murray disagreed with the direction this took.

After the Anglo-Boer war, the British attempted to suppress education in Afrikaans or Dutch, which was their policy for all European peoples and which they had successfully applied to replace Gaelic with English in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  The policy of Christian National Education initially applied in Afrikaans private schools to protect the Afrikaans language and culture against such imperialism.  Later this was extended to state education.

From the late 19th Century, political philosophy in Europe particularly those based on Johan Fichte became more race conscious, particularly in Germany.  Numerous Afrikaans intellectuals, who became future political, academic and church leaders, such as Dr H.F. Verwoerd, undertook PhD studies in Germany in the 1930s and brought these more extreme 'national' views back to South Africa.  Germany was at the time resurrecting racial segregation laws against the Jews, which had been in place in the Middle Ages, but abolished by Napoleon.  These European influences then fed into the policy of 'Christian National Education'.  Ironically, Stellenbosch University had been founded as an alternative to and to discourage European philosophical influences in South Africa.

The First World War was in part sparked by the desire for certain ethnic groups for independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  At the Versailles Peace Conference, the boundaries of Europe were redrawn on ethnic lines with the aim of giving each self-determination.

As former President FW De Klerk recently explained "Very well, thought Verwoerd, we will unscramble the omelette: each of the constituent peoples would have their own state and would be led to full independence. Like most ideologies, Separate Development was a delusion. Like most exercises in social engineering it could not be achieved without disrupting the lives of millions of people and causing massive injustice.  Like all ideologies, it simply ignored any realities that did not fit in with the plan – however obvious they should have been. The realities were that South Africa's
economy was becoming more integrated with each year that passed; that whites would be a diminishing minority in the 86% of the country that they had reserved for themselves; and that the policy was vehemently rejected by the vast majority of the people involved."


The apartheid segregation policy thus evolved out of and as a reaction to a mixture of historical influences, which pre-date apartheid and are not directly linked to Calvinism.

Philip Rosenthal