The role of the Calvinistic Theodicy in the civil religion of the Afrikaner during Apartheid:
This paper will introduce the Calvinistic Theodicy, some of its more famous proponents as well as its strengths and weaknesses. After the introduction of Calvinism, the civil religion of the Afrikaner during Apartheid will be analyzed as a rationalization of a political agenda through the Calvinistic worldview.
The American Heritage Dictionary provides the following description for the word Zeitgeist: “The general moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an era; Zeitgeist is German for ‘time-spirit.’” This research paper makes use of the word in this sense, that, for evil to prosper you need a critical mass of certain elements to be present and make people behave in a discriminatory manner. This paper aims to show that there were more than enough of these factors present during the formation of Apartheid.
The Calvinistic theodicy, as a component of Calvinism and its theme of predetermination, holds the position that God is in complete control of His people’s destiny. It is within this central belief that we find the following basic elements.
3. Elements of the Calvinistic Theodicy
Having defined the term Zeitgeist and the Calvinistic theodicy, we now turn our attention to the rise of Afrikaner belief system. According to Dunbar Moodie in his book “The Rise of Afrikanerdom,” the civil religion of the Afrikaner aligns closely with the Calvinistic Theodicy (Moodie, 12-15). This theodicy includes elements of many other theodicies including Power, Participation, Recompense, Soul Making and Apocalypticism.
The Power and Participation aspects of the religion can be found in the basic tenants of Calvinism, namely that of Depravity and Predestination. According to these, Mankind is totally depraved and unwilling to seek God due to our sinful nature, and, therefore, God has chosen from eternity which humans will be saved. Moreover, if we are one of the “chosen,” we will not be able to resist God’s Saving Grace. By the same token, if we are not one of God’s chosen, there is nothing that we can humanly do to be saved (Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion). Notice how all the power is ascribed to God, leaving humanity with no power, not even free will.
The roots of the Redemptive and Soul Making aspects of the religion can be found in these words of John Calvin:
God is deemed omnipotent, not because he can act though he may cease or be idle, or because by a general instinct he continues the order of nature previously appointed; but because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel (Calvin, I, 16:3).
This means that God is involved in every little detail of what happens in heaven and on earth. He is therefore also involved with and allows tragedy or evil in people’s lives. The belief is, that this evil allows the believer to get closer to God and become more Christ-like as the believer associate more with the image of the suffering Christ (Calvin, III, 25:3). Secondly, the believer can trust God that the ultimate goal of all the suffering will be a “greater good.”
The Apocalyptic aspect of the Calvinistic Theodicy is rooted in the belief that “one day” the suffering of all believers, or rather God’s elect, will be end when God returns. In many Bible verses the believer is reminded that on that day, God will wipe away all tears. Notice how Calvin seizes on this idea and makes it his own:
They will turn their eyes to that day (Isaiah 25:8; Rev. 7:17), on which the Lord will receive his faithful servants, wipe away all tears from their eyes, clothe them in a robe of glory and joy, feed them with the ineffable sweetness of his pleasures, exalt them to share with him in his greatness; in fine, admit them to a participation in his happiness” (Calvin, III, 9:6).
In summary then, the Calvinistic Theodicy has the elements of Powerin that God controls everything, especially who will be saved and who will be lost. The Redemptive element takes God’s power to the next level by claiming that God allow evil and suffering in our lives and that all our circumstances, good and evil, serves an ultimate purpose of good. Lastly, there is the Apocalyptic promise that God will return and end the suffering of all believers.
To Be Continued: