Recovering the Calvin of "Two Kingdoms"? : a historical-theological inquiry in the light of church-state discourse in South Africa

Jooste, Simon Nicholas (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is a historical-theological inquiry into the social thought of John Calvin through the lens of the “Calvin” of the church struggle with the purpose of recovering his doctrines of two kingdoms and natural law for Christianity and culture discourse in South Africa today. This thesis enters into conversation with a body of scholarship in North America that has sought to recover and refine these early Reformed theological categories, which is suggestive of their promise in other contexts. Is there perhaps a compelling alternative to the apartheid and antiapartheid “transformationist” reading of Calvin, which might provide some resolution to his contested legacy as well as more adequately equip the church as it engages the challenges of life in South Africa’s young democracy? In order to answer such questions, this thesis sets out on the road back to Calvin through the lens of his appropriation in the church struggle, with the hope of gaining instruction in cultivating a more faithful historical hermeneutic. Once in sixteenth-century Geneva, both the theology and practice of Calvin’s social thought are examined for evidence of substantive doctrines of two kingdoms and natural law. The findings of this historical inquiry generate the claims of this thesis. Central among them is that Calvin did make constructive and meaningful use of the doctrines of two kingdoms and natural law in relating Christianity and culture, church and civil magistrate. Herein lies a different portrait of Calvin, which challenges his previous appropriations in the South African context and offers fresh theological resources for critical reflection in ongoing Christianity and culture discourse. To provide a sense of their ongoing promise, this thesis outlines the major contours of North American theologian and ethicist, David VanDrunen’s, development of the Calvin-informed and early Reformed two kingdoms and natural doctrines as a normative paradigm for Christians living in South Africa today. When considered against the backdrop of Calvin’s contested legacy and the challenges presented by South Africa’s young liberal democracy, this paradigm offers liberating trajectories for the Reformed churches today, and therefore potential for reformation and renewal by “goods” already constituting its broader historic tradition.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie is ’n histories-teologiese ondersoek na die sosiale denke van Johannes Calvyn deur die lens van die “Calvyn” van die strydende kerk, met die doel om sy twee doktrines van twee koninkryke en natuurwet vir die Christendom te herwin asook vir die kultuur-diskoers in Suid- Afrika, vandag. Hierdie tesis tree in gesprek met ’n groep vakkundiges in Noord-Amerika wat streef om hierdie vroeë Gereformeerde teologiese kategorieë te herwin en te verfyn, wat op sigself belowend is in ander kontekste. Is daar dalk ‘n aangrypende alternatief vir die apartheid en anti-apartheid “transformatoriese” lees van Calvyn, wat dalk ’n mate van oplossing vir sy betwiste nalatenskap kan bied, asook om die kerk meer doelmatig toe te rus waar dit betrokke raak by die uitdagings van die lewe in die jong demokrasie van Suid-Afrika? Om hierdie vrae te beantwoord, hebesoek die tesis Calvyn se erfenis deur die lens van sy resepsie tydens die kerklike strud teen apartheid, met die hoop om sodoende ‘n meer getroue historiese hermeneutiek te ontwikkel. Eens terug in sestiende eeuse Genève, word sowel Calvyn se teologie as die praktiese uitvoering van sy sosiale denke ondersoek vir bewyse van die substantiewe doktrines van twee koninkryke en natuurwet. Die bevindings van hierdie historiese ondersoek genereer die bewerings van hierdie tesis. Sentraal in hierdie bewerings is dat Calvyn konstruktief en betekenisvol gebruik gemaak het van die doktrines van twee koninkryke en natuurwet in sover dit relevant is tot die Christendom en kultuur, kerk en burgerlike wetgewing. Hierin lê ’n ander beeld van Calvyn, wat sy vorige toe-eiening in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks uitdaag, asook om vars teologiese middele vir kritiese refleksie in die voortdurende Christelike en kultuur diskoers aan te bied. Om ’n smakie van die volgehoue belofte te gee, bied hierdie tesis ’n oorsig van die hooflyne van die Noord-Amerikaanse teoloog en etikus, David VanDrunen se ontwikkeling van die Calvyn-invloed en vroeë Gereformeerde twee koninkryke en natuur doktrines as ’n normatiewe paradigma vir Christene wat vandag in Suid-Afrika woon. Wanneer hierdie paradigma teen die agtergrond van Calvyn se betwiste nalatenskap en die uitdagings wat Suid-Afrika se jong demokrasie bied, gestel word, dui dit ’n bevrydende rigting vir die Gereformeerde kerke van vandag aan en daarom potensiaal vir reformasie en hernuwing deur ‘goedere’ wat reeds die breë geskiedkundige tradisie onderskryf.

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