Volume 10 - Issue 2

Church and state in South Africa

By James J. Stamoolis

The question of the church’s role in the political life of a country arose first in the ministry of Jesus. While rejecting the offer to become the political messiah, Jesus clearly delineated the authority of the state (cf. Jn. 19:11). The state’s demand for loyalty has been the source of conflict for many Christians. Often Christians died rather than deny their relationship with God.

The crucial task for every group of believers (be they local churches, regional churches or a national church) is to examine their own function in society to see if they are bearing witness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is difficult both to ascertain and accomplish because of our tendency to conform to the cultural expectations of society and because of the personal sacrifice opposition to the state may involve. In many countries, especially those composed of groups from various cultural, ethnic and denominational backgrounds, there may be no agreement on what would appear to be even the most basic social principles. Diversity in doctrinal belief is compounded by diversity in Christian social ethics.

The question of allegiance to the state is further complicated when the state makes a claim to be Christian. A government that declares itself to be operating on Christian principles effectively undercuts certain potential opposition. Political figures who invoke the name and sometimes the authority of God, even if their lives and actions seem to contradict the working of God’s grace in their lives, can have their persuasive power multiplied among Christians who accept their words at face value. Therefore the question of church-state relationships involves many complex components.

In analyzing the components of the social and political situation in South Africa, the complex dynamics of what appears to be a simple problem become evident.

The present situation

The Republic of South Africa is an example of a society where racial separation is governed by a set of thorough laws. While South Africa is not unique in having laws on racial segregation, it is unique in claiming a Christian basis for doing so.1

In many countries the various ethnic groups are often found living in separate areas. In South Africa this separation has legal status, so that it is unlawful for people to occupy a home in an area not assigned to their racial classification. Likewise schools (primary and secondary) are racially segregated. Some limited enrolment is permitted at tertiary institutions across racial lines, but for the most part, even tertiary institutions are segregated, with the establishment of separate colleges and universities for different racial classifications.2The list of separate public facilities is quite long and would include separate transportation, hotels, restaurants, restrooms, entertainment and recreational areas. The chief justification for this separation is the theory that racial groups must be kept separate for their own best interests. A key piece of legislation is the prohibition of mixed marriages which makes it unlawful for South Africans classified as ‘white’ to marry a person of another racial classification, no matter where the marriage is performed. If it is performed in South Africa, the minister who conducts the ceremony is liable to prosecution. The couple, even if married outside South Africa, are also guilty of a civil violation and can be imprisoned.

The separation of the races meant the large-scale removal of people from areas which had been inhabited by their ancestors, in some cases for several generations. These removals entailed great hardship and personal distress for the people affected. The law under which this population transfer occurs is known as the Group Areas Act, which was first introduced in 1950 and subsequently amended several times.3 The justification for this action is the supposed consolidation of ethnic groups and the removal of ‘black spots’ from the midst of white land areas.4

Racial discrimination also has an economic side. The supervisory and managerial positions are reserved for those of the white race group. In any case, no non-white (a term used to describe all the racial classifications apart from the whites) would have authority over a white. The reservation of certain jobs for certain race groups and the differential in wages paid on the basis of racial classification has meant severe economic distress to the non-whites. The financial success of South Africa and the high standard of living of its white population is due to the relative poverty which the rest of South Africa endures.5

In no other society is the contact between the races so thoroughly defined by law. Several questions immediately arise. What are these classifications? On what are they based? What is the real result of this racial segregation? And finally, what role does the church have in the South African situation?

The racial classification system

To maintain such a rigid separation in South African society, a thorough system of race classification has been developed. Currently, the population of South Africa is approximately 30 million. The largest population group in South Africa is that of African tribal ancestry. The black African peoples of South Africa number 21 million, divided (though not equally) among 16 different languages. For the purposes of this article, they will be referred to as the blacks.6

The next largest population group (5 million) is the so-called European, or white, race group. This is composed of European-descended settlers, some of whom can trace their lineage back to the arrival of the first Dutch colonists in 1652. The white population group is divided 40/60 between those who would claim English as a mother tongue and those who speak Afrikaans, a South African-evolved language comprised of Dutch, with some German, French and African vocabulary. It is incorrect to assume that 40% of the white population is of British descent, as many immigrants from other countries choose to adopt English as their home language, rather than Afrikaans. English and Afrikaans are the two official languages of South Africa. All public documents, signs and notices appear in both languages. The 60% of the white race group which is Afrikaans-speaking consider themselves to be white Africans. They have long since dropped the notion that Europe is their homeland.7 The solidarity of the white population speaking Afrikaans is an important factor in the racial situation in South Africa.8

The third largest group is those who are classified by the South African government as coloured. These are people whom the government determines to be of mixed racial ancestry, the offspring of marriages and liaisons between early Dutch colonists and slaves or the indigenous people. This also includes any descendant of any of the mixed marriages in South African history. Linguistically, especially around Cape Town, this group speaks Afrikaans and is culturally close to the white race group. The coloured number approximately 3 million.9

The fourth population group is those of Indian descent. In the 1860s a number of indentured servants were brought from India to work in the sugar cane plantations of the east coast of South Africa. These stayed and were followed by their families and other traders and business people, so that at present the Indian population is about one million people. This group has maintained its own identity and 85% are Hindu.10

In the political situation of South Africa, only the people classified as whites have the rights of full citizenship. Under a new constitution, the coloureds and Indians have some limited voting rights, though not for the main house of Parliament. The history of voting rights in South Africa is tragic, in that in the Cape Province, blacks and coloureds had been able to vote for white representatives to Parliament but lost the right (blacks in 1936, coloureds in 1956) through a series of parliamentary moves.11

Under the process of separate development, or apartheid, the black population group are being made citizens of independent black ‘nations’ within the borders of South Africa. It is in these homelands that the black people have political rights. However, these homelands are only 13% of the land area of South Africa.12

Therefore it can be seen that the whites, a very small minority of the South African population (approximately one-seventh of the total population of the area) own 87% of the land and effectively exercise political control over the entire population.13

How the situation developed

The Dutch settlers arriving at what became Cape Town in 1652 did not find an empty country. There were indigenous inhabitants. Though there were minor clashes, the colonization proceeded without serious opposition for nearly 150 years, until the settlers migrating eastward came in contact with the Bantu tribes occupying the east coast of South Africa. In a series of wars with the Xhosa people, the eastward expansion of the colonists was halted. The British occupation of the Cape in the early 1800s and the subsequent abolition of slavery (1834) led to an exodus of Dutch-descended settlers who moved into Natal. Here they had clashes with the Zulu tribe.14 However, it was the annexation of Natal by the British that led to a further trek into the interior.15 The African tribes in the interior had been disturbed by a series of tribal wars, which made the situation for the settling of the colonists favourable.

It is conceivable that the two republics founded by the colonists would have remained as independent countries had not diamonds been found in the Orange Free State and subsequently gold in the Transvaal Republic. Both led to British pressure for annexation. In the case of the diamond fields, these were annexed without a war; regarding the gold fields, it took two wars with the Boer Republics before the situation was resolved and all of what is now the Republic of South Africa came under British control.16

The Dutch settlers, or Boers (farmers) as they chose to call themselves, were basically an agricultural people. Their own self-perception is that they were taken advantage of by British entrepreneurs and British civil servants. There is some truth to these claims as there were some very heavy-handed attempts to suppress the Dutch language and make the Boers and their children use English.17

While the Dutch East India Company, which organized the Cape Town settlement, had no plans to establish a permanent colony, the Dutch burghers became adventurous pioneers and pushed into the interior of South Africa. It was this pioneer spirit that opened the settlement of the interior of South Africa for the Dutch, and that formed the settlers. Therefore, the exodus, or Great Trek, of the settlers (from 1836 onward) was accomplished because of the perceived threat to the Boers’ way of life and to their cultural values. Likewise, the Anglo-Boer wars were also an attempt to defend the rural, pastoral values of the independent Boer republics.

To note this is not to pass judgment on whether these feelings were correct or incorrect. It is merely to state that this is the perception of the situation held by the Boers.18 After the war was over in 1902, there developed a renewed awareness of their identity by those who were descended from this Dutch settler stock. The identity grew and a formal language developed out of the low Dutch that the settlers had spoken.19 The language became known as Afrikaans.20 Afrikaner means a man of Africa. This must be noted because the Afrikaners see themselves as true Africans. It also explains why, in South African politics, it is difficult for the Afrikaners to find a word to call the black people of South Africa, because they have already preempted the word African for themselves. Therefore, various names, such as native, Bantu and now finally black, have been applied to what the rest of the world call the African peoples.

Having been beaten on the battlefield, the Afrikaners turned to politics.21 What they could not gain by force of arms, they gained by parliamentary means, so that in 1948, an Afrikaner government was elected which continues to rule South Africa. While many of the practices which are now known as apartheid had their origin in South African history, since 1948 these have become systematically made into law.

The history of black South Africa only really touches on white South Africa after the initial contact made in the eastern region where the Xhosa tribes had been living in a settled situation.22 The contact with the Zulu tribe came about when the Boers tried to settle in what is now Natal Province. The leader Shaka (1787–1828) welded a number of small clans into an effective and disciplined nation.23 His army was the most powerful on the subcontinent. His defeats of the surrounding tribes led to a forced migration known as the Difaquane (1822–1836) which temporarily depopulated the interior. Each tribe, as it was defeated and displaced by Shaka’s Zulus, in turn attacked and displaced another tribe further inland. This ripple effect, emanating from the Zulu conquests, destabilized vast areas in South Africa.24

It was this situation that enabled the Boers to establish themselves. However, the African struggle did not cease there. While the Afrikaners’ history records the Battle of Blood River (1838) as being decisive in breaking the Zulu nation, this same Zulu nation handed the British Army one of its worst defeats in history at the battle of Isandlwana (1879).25

The continued resistance to domination and the emergence of gifted leaders who have advanced the cause of their people speaks of the vitality of the African peoples.26 One of the consequences of apartheid is that the real contributions of the African peoples are not recognized nor is there a place in the overall political scene for the talents and abilities of the black leaders to be utilized.27

The reason behind apartheid

Given the history of the Afrikaner people and their cultural and, in a sense, linguistic isolation, they developed a very strong sense of being God’s chosen people. Some would explain this as arising out of the Dutch Calvinism that the Afrikaners espoused. But others would see it as arising from their identification with the Israelite people of the Old Testament, who made their exodus from Egypt into the promised land. Whatever the original trekkers felt of their religious impulse, certainly much has been made of it in the contemporary development of the apartheid ideology. It is appropriate to speak of the mythology of apartheid, which reviews past history, especially that of the trek, and of misfortunes that befell the Afrikaner people, in biblical terminology. Therefore, the Afrikaner nation is viewed as the special people of God, with a mission to fulfil in the Southern African region.28

Since the mission depended on the ability of the people of God to carry out God’s wishes in Southern Africa, strict lines of racial separation were maintained. Many biblical passages were introduced to support this separation, but it must be realized that the biblical support is not the primary pillar for the policy of apartheid.29The policy of apartheid is ideological and national. It comes from those who perceive themselves to be the heirs of a people who have suffered great injustices and are determined never to let these injustices happen again. The religious background of apartheid is devised to fit in with the existing ideology. Since, in the case of the Afrikaner people, their religious heritage is Christian and Calvinistic, this reformed heritage is applied to sustain the ideology. It can easily be demonstrated by reference to other countries where racial or national superiority is assumed, that other religious beliefs can be made subservient to national ideology.30

The best way to insure the continuance of the Afrikaner nation is to assure their continued position of power. The development of apartheid can only be seen in this light. It is to fence around and safeguard the Afrikaner people from possible influences or contamination from other sources. Lest it be assumed that this contamination only occurs from sources designated as non-white by the government bureaux, it needs to be seen that segregation in South Africa also exists on the level of English and Afrikaans speakers. The schools for children in the white population group are segregated by language, so that Afrikaner young people may not be tempted to leave the Afrikaner fold, and dilute the Afrikaner nation by marriage to English-speaking young people.

In South Africa, some thirty miles from Cape Town, stands a monument to the Afrikaans language. That a living language needs a monument in stone seems strange. But its existence points to the seriousness with which language is regarded in South Africa. Another type of monument to the Afrikaans language was the Soweto riots of 1976, when black school children held a protest against the use of Afrikaans in their high school.31 The subsequent police action, and the escalating scale of violence, testify to the passions unleashed by language. The assault on Afrikaans was perceived by the Afrikaners as an assault on their very nationhood.32

The concept of nationhood and national identity that is so dominant in the Afrikaner tradition also motivates the black people of South Africa. One fascinating aspect of the South African scene is that these two competing nationalisms have so much in common. The same cycle of repression of identity and language, the economic disabilities, the loss of independence and self-government have been experienced by both groups. While some commentators see the Afrikaner oppression in terms of other models,33 an observation that has many elements of truth, the picture of competing nationalism is more complex.34 At present, the struggle is whether Afrikaner nationalism can continue to dominate or whether the tide of African nationalism will grow stronger and win out.

Would the ideal be a fusion of these two nationalisms? Whatever the political ideal might be that would bring peace and justice to the people of South Africa, the Christians there are faced with the question of how to relate to the competing ideological forces. Can they give their total support to either nationalism? Should the Christian support either the existing system or the prospect of the overthrow of the government? Or is there another alternative for the Christian?

Apartheid and the church

Because of the all-embracing scope of apartheid, even the church cannot escape the effects of the legislation. But the responses of the churches to the situation are different. Even in matters on which there is agreement, the approach or line of action taken varies considerably. Likewise, there is no absolute uniformity within any denomination.

One example of the government’s attempt to control church life is found in clause 29(c) of the Native Laws Amendment Bill of 1957. The ‘church clause’ prohibited the attendance of an African at a church service in a ‘white’ area without the permission of the Minister of Native Affairs.35 The response from the churches was swift and all made essentially the same point. This time the government had gone too far; this was a matter over which the state had no right to interfere. The original statement drawn up by the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) made this clear in unmistakable tones.

Most of the churches chose to make public their opposition by using open letters submitted to the press as well as the government. The DRC met privately with Dr Verwoerd, who as Minister of Native Affairs was the author of the legislation. The DRC subsequently published only part of the statement and omitted the sharp criticism of the state.36 The other churches stated publicly their intention to violate the law. For example, the Baptist Union statement declared: ‘The proposed bill will compel law-abiding Baptists, together with members of many other churches, to violate the law. This we do not desire to do, but where conscience and legislation conflict we must take our stand with conscience, whatever the consequences may be.’37

If one tries to categorize the position of the churches toward apartheid, one can make some general observations. The white Afrikaans Reformed churches support the government.38 This is part of the Afrikaner group identity.39

The Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational denominations are often grouped together under the designation ‘English-speaking churches’.40 This is a clumsy and misleading description for several reasons. First, these are not the only churches in South Africa that use English. In fact, the majority of the members in each of these denominations are black and English is not their mother tongue. Furthermore, in each denomination, other languages are used in worship. But the term ‘English-speaking’ derives from their origin in Britain and their common opposition to apartheid.

To speak of the above two groups is not to indicate that the other denominations in South Africa have nothing to contribute to the debate. The Roman Catholic hierarchy have issued several statements and taken a firm stand against apartheid.41 The various Lutheran synods have also focused on the unity of the church, black and white, as a witness against racism.42

The question of compulsory military service for white men has also become an issue, with several young men from the Baptist and Anglican churches refusing to serve on religious grounds. The laws regulating conscientious objection are quite severe and some Christians have gone to prison for their beliefs.43

One notable expression of black protest against racial discrimination is the African Independent churches. The size, credal statements and histories of the more than 3,000 independent churches in South Africa vary a great deal, but the movement itself must be seen as a protest against the segregation and second-class status of the African in the mission churches.44

The social situation that developed from the first colony at the Cape did not leave the church untouched.45The first official separation of congregations by colour passed the Cape Synod of the DRC in 1857.

The Synod considers it desirable and scriptural that our members from the Heathen be received and absorbed into our existing congregations wherever possible; but where this measure, as a result of the weakness of some, impedes the furtherance of the cause of Christ among the Heathen, the congregation from the Heathen, already founded or still to be founded, shall enjoy its Christian privileges in a separate building or institution.46

The weakness mentioned here was the antipathy on the part of some whites to worship with blacks. However, what was intended as an exception became the standard practice. Separate congregations, and eventually separate missiond churches, were formed for the different racial groups by the DRC.47

The existence of separate congregations according to locality and therefore race creates problems for even the churches that are not intentionally divided. Contact between the groups varies both by denomination and congregation. Part of the task is to inform white congregations on the conditions under which their Christian brothers and sisters in the same denomination live.48

Apartheid is a heresy

The theological reflection on apartheid in one sense predates the implementation of the scheme in 1948. As was shown above, the roots of discrimination and the responses to it, both positive and negative, are part of the total story of South Africa. But the policies of the National Party from 1948 on have caused much theological discussion. Several conferences have been held to discuss the Christian response to the South African situation:49

However, the most far-reaching theological condemnation has come from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) who at their General Council in 1982 declared:

… apartheid (“separate development”) is a sin, and that the moral and theological justification of it is a travesty of the Gospel and, in its persistent disobedience to the Word of God, a theological heresy.50

In identifying apartheid as a heresy, it raised the issue to a status confessionis, which means it is not an issue about which disagreement is possible without contradicting the common confessions of the Reformed Churches.

The reaction of the DRC and the NHK was to dispute the decision as combining in an unscriptural manner theology and politics. Both official statements made in response accuse the WARC of being influenced by liberation theology.51

This type of argument is the same as has been followed by the DRC in previous statements. For example, in the DRC’s landmark study of the racial question, Human Relations and the South African Scene in the Light of Scripture, we read the following:

But at all times it will have to be taken in consideration that each society has its own nature and structure and must abide by its own laws. Thus church and nation each has its own structure and is sovereign in its own sphere, despite the intimate relationship between the two. Mutual boundaries will therefore have to be respected, for as soon as the church attempts to churchify the entire national life, it becomes a totalitarian institution which abrogates the principle of sovereignty in individual spheres. No nation, not even a Christian nation, is subject to the sovereignty of the church. The nation is, however, subject to the ultimate authority and discipline of Christ and His Word.52

Therefore, the political sphere is free from criticism by the church, though subject to the authority of Christ. It is difficult to comprehend how this authority is to be transmitted to the state, unless the political leaders are also regarded as men of faith. Therefore, the individuals who work in the political sphere must act on their Christian convictions in their state functions; this apparently is the only avenue by which the nation can be held accountable to the ultimate authority and discipline of Christ.

However, the real effect of such a position is to put the state in a realm where it can not be challenged and raise the commitment to the nation to a level equal to, if not higher than, the commitment to Christ.

The report goes on to make it clear that national identity is the key element in the believer’s religious experience:

Just as members of a certain people or nation may in principle not be prevented from becoming members of another people or nation, so members of one “national” church may not be forbidden to become members of another “national” church. In other words, in principle there is no exclusive national church in the sense that no believer from the ranks of any other people may join it if he should choose to do so, even if we should uphold the importance of national identity for the preaching of the gospel and for experiencing the communion of the saints. A separate church is certainly not a closed church.

If, however, such a transfer of membership should disturb the order and peace of both church and people (peoples or sections of the people) to such an extent that the kingdom of God is no longer served, that the fellowship of believers and their ability to serve should suffer and the nation or nations concerned should find it difficult or impossible to give full expression to their national identity—in these circumstances a temporary arrangement against the transfer of membership cannot be condemned since it would enhance the well-being of the churches concerned.53

The Afrikaner cannot conceive of a situation where national identity could be superseded or set aside. From their point of view, they must hold on to their position in South Africa because to do otherwise would be to threaten their national identity.54 That alternative seems to be equivalent to national (in the sense of the Afrikaner nation) suicide.

Two questions arise here. The first is clearly political and pragmatic. Given the strong sense of Afrikaner identity and the need to preserve the nation, is the practice of apartheid the best policy? Faced with increasing guerrilla pressure on the borders of South Africa and the possibility of increasing ‘terrorist’ attacks within South Africa itself, can the present government control the situation and at what cost?55 The Afrikaners believe that a defeat of the white government would threaten the very roots of the Afrikaner nation.

But even if the military might of white South Africa is able to keep the current government in power, is that the best way to assure the continuity of Afrikanerdom? For the second, more theological, question is: do the arguments used to back up separation of the Christians into nations meet the test of biblical truth? Does the Bible support the racial separation as envisioned by the Afrikaners?

At this point the debate is very strong. Many from within the Afrikaner nation have challenged either the emphasis on race or the equality of the existing system or both. In every case, the dissenter was isolated from the people he was trying to reach and considered in some sense misguided, if not a traitor, to his race.

One of the most famous and best documented examples of this is Beyers Naudé, a former DRC minister, who had held high positions of power in the DRC and was a member of the Broederbond.56 Naudé was one of the founders of the Christian Institute and its director. Those involved in the Institute hoped it ‘would enable members of all races of the Afrikaans and other churches to share together in bearing witness to the unity of the church and the lordship of Christ over society’.57 From its beginnings in 1963 until it was banned in October 1977, the Christian Institute attempted that task. The banning of Naudé and the Institute is evidence of the seriousness with which opposition to apartheid is dealt.58 The full story of the Institute and the dramatic details of Naudé’s trial are important reading for the South African situation.59

Another Afrikaner deeply committed to Christian unity in South Africa is David Bosch. As one of the organizers of SACLA (Southern African Christian Leadership Assembly),60 Bosch has been on the forefront of attempting reconciliation between Christians of different groups. Keenly discerning the tragedy of the situation, Bosch assumes a prophetic role. In his own words:

It is the easiest thing in the world to criticize but desperately difficult to be prophetic. That presupposes solidarity. The critic condemns from the outside, the prophet confesses from within. The critic judges, the prophet weeps. The former therefore remains unscathed while the latter receives blow upon blow.61

Bosch sees the church as the ‘alternative community’ needed in South Africa. ‘Unless this cross somehow becomes visible in us, there will be no reconciliation and the church’s mission will remain incomplete. Reconciliation is costly.’62 It is the church which must manifest reconciliation in the South African situation and it is the church which will suffer by being crushed between the two opposing nationalisms, but the suffering will be the means for reconciliation.

The amount of uniformity in the South African religious system might lead some to conclude that the prophetic voices are an insignificant minority. That they are a minority is granted, that they are insignificant is incorrect.63 ‘The Koinonia Declaration’, produced by a group of Calvinists from Potchefstrom and a Reformed study group from Johannesburg, challenges the state to re-examine its activities. While accepting the existence of black homelands, it argues for a fair distribution of land and increased economic opportunities for blacks. It also makes a strong case for the removal of many current legal restrictions (like the prohibition of mixed marriages) and the granting of more freedom to the blacks in all areas (e.g. political, labour, etc.). In short, the declaration is an appeal for the advocates of apartheid to live up to the lofty claims of justice they make for their policies.64

Criticism or change?

There is no shortage of critics of apartheid. Some are Afrikaners who want the system to be made more humane. Migratory labour practices, pass laws, even the prohibition of mixed marriages, are some things that have been questioned. But even in criticisms, there remains the question as to whether the basic foundation of separate development is challenged.65

Even among the English-speaking whites, there are few who would advocate a complete change of the government. There are several reasons for this. In the forefront is the swart gevaar,66 the fear of what would happen if the blacks were not controlled. This theme is used in political speeches, but is pervasively spread through the selective reporting of the government-controlled radio and television. White South Africans hear of the unrest in other parts of the world, and especially other parts of Africa. They are reminded of the communist threat to their security and of the way the rest of the world hates them. This propaganda serves to maintain the laager mentality, the idea that only within the circle of wagons (the laager) is there safety.67 Therefore, the laager may need to be adjusted, but it can never be abandoned.

Threats to the safety of the laager are treated seriously. That is why protesters and dissidents are dealt with so severely. Beside the banning orders which cut off the banned person from public life, the threat of detention without trial is very real. Under South African law, any person may be arrested and indefinitely detained by the police without ever being charged with a crime.68 This law is effectively used against political leaders and others who oppose the government. Sworn testimony recounts the torture and beatings administered by police to political prisioners.69 The death of Steve Biko, the black leader, while being detained, is only one of many.70Other deaths in detention are listed as accidents or suicide.71 Therefore, for anyone, white or black, protest against the system is risky.72

In spite of the pressure to conform to the system, there are whites who do indicate their desire to see a more just society. Hard ethical choices must be made. Is it right to disobey the law? While more interracial contact is permitted by law than most whites realize or experience, it is still true that some choose to deliberately, though discreetly, disobey the law. The same type of problem is raised by the question of compulsory military service which was mentioned above. To resist is to go against the general trend of white society. But individual defiance of the law and individual refusal to serve in the armed forces do not change the basic structure. While the sacrifice or danger is real, the net effect has not changed government policies.73

Many cosmetic changes are taking place in South Africa. To outside observers and to the white group these changes often seem significant steps toward a new society. Perhaps some of them, had they occurred thirty of forty years ago instead of now, would have been Perhaps. But the truth is that most shifts or developments are not changes in the basic structure of apartheid. The future seems to be one where there is the inevitable spectre of violence. A prospect which John Vorster (former Prime Minister) called ‘too ghastly to contemplate’.74 Facing a bloody civil war and unable to accept a political settlement which would mean majority rule, the white population tends to live for today and is tempted to give up hope for the future.

The black perspective

The division between black and white is so complete that on virtually every issue there is polarization. ‘Actually you could become a kind of Euclid and propound an axiom: whatever pleases most white South Africans is almost certain to displease blacks and vice versa.’75 Therefore, it is not strange to find that while to whites the situation looks bleak and frightening, for blacks the future is one of hope. It is eloquently expressed by Desmond Tutu:

My opinion is that we are going to have a black Prime Minister in South Africa within the next five to ten years. No serious-minded person today thinks that it is possible for a group outnumbered five to one, as the white community is by blacks, can go on forever lording it over the majority. All the logic of history is against such a thing happening.76

To have hope is not to consider that the end will be obtained without a struggle. Rather the hope is that the struggle will result in freedom. Suffering is not foreign to the black peoples; therefore they are better prepared to endure affliction in order to press for a change. It is difficult for white South Africans, who are led to believe by the government that the blacks are generally satisfied, that there is such an intensity of feeling. But then it is difficult for the whites to understand the oppressive and degrading nature of the system. White Christians often express surprise that black Christians are so critical of the ‘Christian’ government of South Africa. However, the real surprise and an indication of the power of God’s grace is that black Christians still communicate with white Christians.

From the black perspective, little or nothing has been accomplished by the white Christians to relieve the most glaring abuses of the system. Individual examples, like the late Rev. Frikkie Conradie, who worked in Alexander Township,77 or the Rev. Dr Nico Smith, who left the prestigious Chair of Missiology at the University of Stellenbosch to serve a black congregation in Mamelodi,78 only highlight the lack of action on the part of so many others. Dr Smith and his wife have recently petitioned the government for the right to move from a white Pretoria suburb to a home in the black township so they can better identify with the people among whom they minister.79

But exceptions to the rule do not change the rule. The government is seen by blacks as cruel and oppressive. The close identification made between the Christian faith of the Afrikaner and the policies of apartheid present a stumbling block to the acceptance of the gospel.

Many members of the Black community, especially the younger, urbanized, educated youth, regard the Bible and the message of the gospel as symbols of White religion, White domination, White oppression. The racial policies of our country, as accepted and propounded by Whites claiming to be Christians, and implemented with the justification of a sincere Christian motivation and concern, have filled the minds of millions of Blacks with serious confusion, growing doubt, and even sheer cynicism.80

Therefore, those who labour among these people face a double problem. For in addition to the normal scandal of the cross, the added scandal of the behaviour of most white Christians is added. Yet there are black Christians who combine their Christian faith with a social consciousness. In their sermons and speeches, the implications of the Christian faith are worked out. The gospel is applied to the situation. While some applications may sound political, it is because they are answering political questions. Preaching in the aftermath of the 1976 riots, Allan Boesak speaks of the actions taken by the police:

Many ask the question: how are such things possible? How can persons who are so ‘Christian’ also be so brutal?… At one level it lies in the fact that when persons defend a policy that in its essence is a denial of humanity, with the result that inhuman laws and views become ‘normal,’ then it is safely predictable that the defense of such a system will be just as inhuman.… At another level, the answer is to be found in the way persons behave when they are estranged from God. Precisely for this reason apartheid is, in the final instance, sinful.… Apartheid and its results are the appalling embodiment of estrangement from God and his Word.81

Apartheid causes alienation between people by keeping them separate, but this alienation on the human level has implications in the relationship between God and man. ‘If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen’ (1 Jn. 4:20).


The emphasis on race denies the gospel. The challenge before the Christians in South Africa is to live out all the implications of the gospel. It cannot be regarded as an easy matter that can be solved without cost. Reconciliation is costly. To reconcile us to God, Jesus had to suffer on the cross. But the task given to the church in South Africa is to be partakers in reconciliation. As Christ’s death abolished the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, so in the church must the dividing wall be abolished in South Africa.

For in the end, one question remains, which loyalty will claim the hearts of South Africans? Some form of nationalism or allegiance to the King of Kings?

The question with which the gospel confronts us here then is: Are you, white man, black man, Afrikaner, English-speaking South African, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho or whatever you may be, prepared to count your identity in terms of your racial or language group as of merely relative importance compared to your identity in Christ? Indeed are you so prepared to do this that like St. Paul you will count it as so much vuilgoed wherever it threatens to impede the sovereign claim of the gospel—for the sake of Jesus Christ as your one and only Lord and thus for the sake of His righteousness (or justice) in our society? Or will you instead allow your group identity to qualify and limit the gospel, so that like Peter in Antioch you really deny that the principle of sola gratia is the only ultimate criterion of our lives, and so imply that ‘Christ died for nothing’. (Gal. 2)?82

1 See for example the following quotations given on the Day of the Covenant celebrations in 1966: ‘We believe the only road is that which fulfils the demands of our Calvinist creed’ (W. A. Maree, leader of the Nationalist Party in Natal); ‘God saved the Afrikaner people at Blood River and allowed them to carry on to where they are today’ (Prof. F. J. M. Potgieter, formerly of the Theological School, Stellenbosch); as cited by René de Villiars, ‘Afrikaner Nationalism’ in The Oxford History of South Africa, vol. II, eds. Monica Wilson and Leonard Thompson (London: OUP, 1971), p. 371. The Day of the Covenant celebrates the victory of a group of Afrikaners over a much larger Zulu force at a place subsequently called Blood River on 16 December 1838.

2 On the question of university education, see H. W. van der Merwe and David Welsh (eds.), The Future of the University in Southern Africa (Cape Town: David Philip, 1977).

3 For an analysis of this and other apartheid laws, see K. L. Roskam, Apartheid and Discrimination (Leyden: A. W. Sythoff, 1960), pp. 58ff. An able comment on the act and its effects on the people is found in Alan Paton, The Long View (London: Pall Mall Press, 1968), pp. 101–127. See also, Leonard Thompson and Andrew Prior, South African Politics (New Haven: Yale UP, 1982).

4 One needs only to look at the scattered nature of the ‘homelands’ created for the blacks to question the principle of consolidation. Cf. Gerry Mare, African Population Relocation in South Africa (Johannesburg: S. A. Institute of Race Relations, 1980); M. Nash, Black Uprooting from ‘White’ South Africa (Johannesburg: S. A. Council of Churches, 1980); Cosmas Desmond, The Discarded People (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971).

5 To be accurate, one must speak of relative poverty, since the government information agencies are forever making comparisons between the standard of living of blacks in South Africa with blacks in other parts of Africa and finding the black South Africans better off. This fact would seem to be reinforced by the flow of migrant labourers from the neighbouring countries to work in the mines. The real question, however, is whether the wage differentials paid for similar work are justifiable, since goods and services cost the same, no matter how much or how little the labourer earns. Therefore, in South Africa, lower wages mean a lower living standard and also lower life expectancy. Blacks have a significantly higher infant mortality rate that can be directly attributed to lack of health care and proper nutrition. On the economic aspects of apartheid see: Peter Randall (ed.), Power, Privilege and Poverty (Johannesburg: SPRO-CAS, 1972); South African Labour Bulletin, vol. 5:2 (August, 1979), which examines a major government study on the labour situation; D. Hobart Houghton, The South African Economy (Cape Town: OUP, 1973); and Ralph Horwitz, The Political Economy of South Africa(New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967). The role of economics in South Africa is extremely important since it is the abundance of natural resources, especially precious metals, that enables the government to bear the expense of apartheid. For an African’s analysis of this phenomenon, see: Bernard Makhosezwe Magubane, The Political Economy of Race and Class in South Africa (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979).

6 There are many resources available on the history and customs of these groups. A general survey is I. Schapera (ed.), The Bantu-Speaking Tribes of South Africa (Cape Town: Maskew Miller, 1966).

7 See for example the book issued by the South African Information Counsellor. ‘The white African nation speaks Afrikaans and English. They claim their African nationhood on the same grounds as the whites of the United States claim their American nationhood.’ All the Facts About South Africa (Washington, DC: The South African Embassy, 1978), p. 4

8 The Afrikaner people have been the subject of several studies, among them: W. de Klerk, The Puritans in Africa: A Story of Afrikanerdom (London: Rex Collings, 1975); T. Dunbar Moodie, The Rise of Afrikanerdom: Power, Apartheid and the Afrikaner Civil Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975); and Sheila Patterson, The Last Trek: A Study of the Boer People and the Afrikaner Nation (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957).

9 For a detailed analysis, see J. S. Marais, The Cape Coloured People, 1652–1937 (first published 1939, reprint ed.: Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1968), and A. J. Venter, Coloured: A Profile of Two Million South Africans (Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 1974).

10 The Indians were from the beginning of their immigration to South Africa under certain restrictions. Cf.Bridglal Pachai, The South African Indian Question, 1860–1971 (Cape Town: Struik, 1971).

11 See Oxford History of South Africa, vol. II, pp. 402–423. On the new constitution see: André du Toit, ‘Perspectives on the Constitution’, South African Outlook (October, 1983), pp. 159–162. In the August 1984 elections for the new houses of Parliament, 70% of the coloured and 80% of the Indian voters boycotted the elections.

12 Alexander Kirby, South African Bantustans: What Independence for the Transkei? (Geneva: WCC, 1976).

13 The policy of separation is defended by the South African government on the basis that ‘South Africa is not a single integrated country like France or Germany. South Africa consists of the lands of several nations living under a political system inherited from a former colonial era.’ All the Facts About South Africa, p. 5. Just how much the British Colonial Office had to do with the current situation is examined in: Benjamin Sacks, South Africa, An Imperial Dilemma: Non-Europeans and the British Nation, 1902–1914 (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1967).

14 It was one of these clashes that forms the basis for a national holiday in South Africa on 16 December, celebrated as the Day of the Covenant. The Boers or Voortrekkers (Pioneers) made a vow to celebrate that day as a perpetual sabbath to the Lord, should they obtain victory over their opponents. At present, a full size replica of the battle formation of the Voortrekkers’ wagons marks the site at Blood River. A monument to the Voortrekkers is situated on a prominent hill outside Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa.

15 For a history of the events of this period (1835–1854) see Oliver Ransford, The Great Trek (London: Cardinal, 1974).

16 For the history of what led to these wars and of the wars themselves, see: Joseph Lehmann, The First Boer War (London: Jonathan Cape, 1972) and Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (New York: Random House, 1979). Much of the Boers’ antipathy towards the British after the war was the result of the policies carried out on the Boer civilian population. See: S. B. Spies, Methods of Barbarism? Roberts and Kitchener and Civilians in the Boer Republics, January 1900–May 1902 (Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 1977).

17 See e.g. Irving Hexham, The Irony of Apartheid: The Struggle for National Independence of Afrikaner Calvinism Against British Imperialism (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1981), pp. 147–168. See also de Klerk, The Puritans in Africa, pp. 90–122. There are examples of this disdain for the Afrikaners even before their defeat in 1902. See M. Streak, The Afrikaner as Viewed by the English, 1795–1854 (Cape Town: Struik, 1974).

18 Cf. F. A. von Jaarsveld, The Afrikaner’s Interpretation of South Africa History (Cape Town: Simondium, 1964).

19 The first translation of the Bible into Afrikaans was completed in 1933. Before that the Afrikaners used the Dutch translation. A. P. Smit, God Made it Grow, History of the Bible Society Movement in Southern Africa, 1820–1970 (Cape Town: Bible Society of South Africa, 1970), pp. 225–236.

20 See Hexham, Irony of Apartheid, pp. 123–146, for an introduction to Afrikaans language movement.

21 The history of the political development of the Afrikaner is more complex than the present near monopoly exercised by the National Party would seem to allow. See Oxford History of South Africa, vol. II, pp. 416–423. Cf. Alan Paton, Hofmeyr (Cape Town: OUP, 1964), the life of an Afrikaans politican who opposed the Nationalist movement.

22 ‘Co-operation and Conflict: The Eastern Cape Frontier’, The Oxford History of South Africa, vol. 1, eds. Monica Wilson and Leonard Thompson (London: OUP, 1969), pp. 233–271.

23 For complete history see: E. A. Ritter, Shaka Zulu (London: Granada, 1969) and Brian Roberts, The Zulu Kings (New York: Scribner, 1974).

24 See Oxford History of South Africa, vol. 1, pp. 391–405 and Peter Becker, Path of Blood (London: Granada, 1972).

25 Philip Gon, The Road to Isandlwana (Johannesburg: A. D. Donner, 1979). A general history of the Zulu conflicts is Donald R. Morris, The Washing of the Spears (London: Cardinal, 1973).

26 The struggle for freedom in South Africa is recorded in Edward Roux, Time Longer than Rope (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1972). Cf. Mary Benson, South Africa: The Struggle for a Birthright(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966).

27 Because their writings are banned (i.e. forbidden by South African law from being circulated or even possessed), the contributions of many black South Africans are not available to white (or even other black) South Africans. This is a real pity because many constructive proposals for the sharing of power are to be found in these works. The narrow ideology of the current government makes such suggestions too radical.

28 See de Klerk, Puritans in Africa, pp. 213–222.

29 Consider A. B. Du Preez, Inside the South African Crucible (Cape Town: HAUM, 1959) where the ideological factors are first discussed then the scriptural ‘confirmation’ is produced.

30 A parallel is suggested by the modern state of Israel. The Israelis are determined to avoid another attempt at annihilation like the holocaust. Interestingly, South Africa and Israel have co-operated on several projects, a great number of which concern military matters.

31 See South Africa in Travail: The Disturbances of 1976/77 (Johannesburg: S. A. Institute of Race Relations, 1978), pp. 1–68 for a chronological account of the way in which the language question developed.

32 This writer attended a university debate between an Afrikaner student leader and an English-speaking student leader where the Afrikaner student made this very point.

33 Cf. Sipp E. Mzimela, Apartheid: South African Naziism (New York: Vantage Press, 1983).

34 Edwin S. Munger, Afrikaner and African Nationalism (London: OUP, 1967).

35 The story of the ‘church clause’ is told from the Anglican point of view in Alan Paton, Apartheid and the Archbishop: The Life and Times of Geoffrey Clayton (Cape Town: David Philip, 1973), pp. 275–288. Clayton wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister (J. G. Strijdom) ‘… we feel bound to state that if the Bill were to become law in its present form we should ourselves be unable to obey it or counsel our clergy and people to do so.’ Ibid., p. 280. Clayton felt the step he took in counselling disobedience a serious one, as harsh civil penalties could be applied to this type of protest. His associates recorded the strain he was under. Clayton died the day he signed the letter.

36 ‘Towards the end of March a Commission appointed by the Federal Council of the N.G.K. (that is the Council of the N.G. churches of the Cape, the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and Natal) drew up an eight-point statement setting out its view on the original clause 29(c). The statement was sound and forthright.

  1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ emanates from God to all mankind and is subject to no human limitations.
  2. The task is laid on the Church of Christ, in obedience to the Head of the Church, to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and to all peoples.
  3. The right to determine who, when, where and to whom the Gospel shall be proclaimed is exclusively in the competence of the Church.
  4. It is the duty of the State, as the servant of God, to allow full freedom to the Church in the execution of its divine calling and to respect the sovereignty of the church in its own sphere.
  5. When the State lays down provisions which limit the attendance of services of bona fide religious gatherings arranged by the Church, it affects the freedom of religion and the sovereignty of the Church.
  6. Therefore it is to the benefit of the Church and the State that each should confine itself strictly to the task which through the Word of God is entrusted to it, and the Church is called upon to warn the State of possible obstruction of the execution of the task of the Church.
  7. For that reason we regret that we and, as far as we know, other Christian Churches originally did not devote the necessary attention to all the implications of the original Act which already in principle imposed limitations on specific church gatherings.
  8. The Church acknowledges the fact that the State is called upon to act against the propagation of sedition and incitement under the cloak of religion; but nevertheless the Federal Council feels that as far as this legislation is concerned it cannot agree with the width of impact of the proposed provisions of the Bill.

The Federal Council appointed a delegation to interview the Minister of Native Affairs, who assured its members that the Bill was not intended to interfere with freedom of worship so long as the freedom was not misused. To remove all possible misunderstanding he would re-word the clause, framing it in a positive rather than a negative form.

One can only suppose that Verwoerd asked for something in return. Be that as it may, the delegation published an account of the discussion, omitting all mention of points 5, 6, 7, and 8, and omitting the word where in point 3, and the word full in point 4. By omitting the word where the delegation virtually capitulated to the Minister. It was the where that all the controversy had been about.

The Minister’s second re-wording did not alter the intention of the clause in any way. Instead of directing that no African shall attend a church service in a “white” area, he now took the power to direct that the attendance of Africans should cease as from a date specified. Why that should have satisfied any delegation is beyond one’s powers to explain.

The Bill became law on 24 April 1957. It was passed by 78 votes to 47 in the Lower House, the 78 in favour being Nationalists, the 47 being members of the United and Labour Parties, and the Native Representatives.’Ibid., pp. 285–86.

37 Statement of the Executive of the Baptist Union of South Africa, March, 1957, as cited by John W. de Gruchy, The Church Struggle in South Africa (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 61.

38 There are three white Reformed Afrikaans Churches. The largest and oldest is the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), referred to in English translation as the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC). Two other churches were formed among the Voortrekkers. The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk (NHK) and the Gereformeerde Kerk (GK). The GK is also called the Dopper Kerk. The overt support for the policies of the National Party and the voices of dissent from some in the DRC are documented in: J. H. P. Serfontem, Apartheid, Change and the NG Kerk (Emmarentia: Taurus, 1982).

39 ‘Afrikaner church leaders themselves have proudly described apartheid as the child of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), which is often referred to as “the Nationalist Party at prayer” ’ (Marjorie Hope and James Young, The South African Churches in a Revolutionary Situation (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1981), p. 5).

40 See de Gruchy for a complete discussion of this term, including why the Baptists and Pentecostals are not included in this group. Church Struggle in South Africa, pp. 85ff.

41 W. E. Brown, The Catholic Church in South Africa (New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1960) contains a chapter on the Catholic Church’s response to apartheid. Andrew Prior, (ed.), Catholics in Apartheid Society (Cape Town: David Philip, 1982) provides an update including the various church statements.

42 De Gruchy, Church Struggle in South Africa, pp. 99ff.

43 The February 1983 issue of the South African Outlook is devoted entirely to the issue of conscientious objection. See also, War and Conscience in South Africa: The Churches and Conscientious Objection(London: CIIR, 1982).

44 See the two books by Bengt Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa (London: OUP, 1961) and Zulu Zion(London: OUP, 1976) and Martin West, Bishops and Prophets in a Black City: African Independent Churches in Soweto, Johannesburg (Cape Town: David Philip, 1975).

45 Jane M. Sales, The Planting of the Churches in South Africa (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), pp. 11–24, gives a brief account of the situation in the early colony.

46 As cited in de Gruchy, Church Struggle in South Africa.

47 For a history of the mission churches of the DRC, see J. M. Cronje, Born to Witness (Pretoria: N. G. Kerkboekhandel, 1982). An older work, still invaluable for understanding the situation, is W. J. van der Merwe, The Development of Missionary Attitudes in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (Cape Town: Nasionale Pers, 1934). Statistics on these churches are found in de Gruchy, Church Struggle in South Africa, p. 240.

48 For example, see: Christians and Apartheid: An Information Paper (Braamfontein: SACC, n.d.) and A Guide to Multi-Racial Contact (Durban: S. A. Institute of Race Relations, n.d.). An interesting study is Robert Buis, Religious Beliefs and White Prejudice (Johannesburg: Raven Press, 1975). See also de Gruchy, Church Struggle in South Africa, pp. 92–97; and Peter Randall, (ed.), Apartheid and the Church (Johannesburg: SPRO-CAS, 1972).

49 For a summary see: de Gruchy, Church Struggle in South Africa, pp. 53–101. Some of the important documents are: The Christian Citizen in a Multi-Racial Society: A Report of the Rosettenville Conference, July 1949 (Strand, CP.: Christian Council of S.A., [1949]); Christian Principles in Multi-Racial South Africa: A Report on the Dutch Reformed Conference of Church Leaders, Pretoria, 17–19 November, 1953 (n.d.); Christian Convictions About Multi-Racial Society (Cape Town: Methodist Church, 1960); Cottesloe Consultation, The Report of the Consultation Among South African Member Churches of the World Council of Churches, 7–14 December 1960 at Cottesloe, Johannesburg (n.d.); Consultation of Church Representatives on Racism(Braamfontein: SACC, [1980]).

50 John de Gruchy and Charles Villa-Vicencio (eds.), Apartheid is a Heresy (Cape Town: David Philip, 1983), p. 170. The book contains several essays on the theological argument against apartheid and contains an appendix of the various theological statements on apartheid issued by South African churches.

51 Ibid., pp. 173–175; 183–184.

52 Human Relations and the South African Scene in the Light of Scripture (Cape Town: Dutch Reformed Church, 1976), p. 45.

53 Ibid., p. 47. A point by point critique of this book is given by Douglas Bax, A Different Gospel: A Critique of the Theology Behind Apartheid (Johannesburg: Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa [1979]). A short version of A Different Gospel is found in Apartheid is a Heresy, pp. 112–143. Another critique is: Charles Villa-Vicencio, The Theology of Apartheid (Cape Town: Methodist Pub. House, n.d.).

54 On the question of nationalism and Christianity, see: Theo Sundermeier (ed.), Church and Nationalism in South Africa (Johannesburg, Raven Press, 1975). The question of South African civil religion is the theme of the June 1977 issue of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa No. 19.

55 Cf. R. W. Johnson, How Long Will South Africa Survive? (Johannesburg: MacMillan South Africa, 1977) and two issues of South Africa Outlook on the destabilization of Southern Africa by military and economic means, May 1983 and August 1983.

56 The Afrikaner Broederbond (brotherhood) is a secret organization, founded in 1918, dedicated to ultimate Afrikaner domination. The first full-scale exposé is: Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom, The Super-Afrikaners(Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 1978).

57 De Gruchy, Church Struggle in South Africa, p. 104.

58 The banning of a person limits his movement (he must not leave the municipal district in which he resides without permission), his association (it is illegal to meet with more than one person at a time), his expression (he cannot make speeches, give interviews, be quoted in any form), his occupation (he must not enter any educational institution for any purpose). This in effect makes him a non-person while sparing the government the expense and burden of imprisoning the person in a state facility.

59 For the story of Beyers Naudé and the Christian Institute see: The Trial of Beyers Naudé: Christian Witness and the Rule of Law (London: Search Press, 1975); Peter Randall (ed.), Not Without Honour: Tribute to Beyers Naudé (Johannesburg: Raven Press, 1981); Peter Walshe, Church Versus State in South Africa: The Case of the Christian Institute (London: C. Hurst, 1983) and Peter Walshe, ‘Mission in a Repressive Society: The Christian Institute of Southern Africa’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 5:146–152. See also ‘Towards a Confessing Church’ in Apartheid is a Heresy (pp. 75–93) for a comparison with the church situation in Nazi Germany.

60 See the ‘SACLA Edition’ of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa No. 29 (Dec. 1979).

61 David J. Bosch, ‘Racism and Revolution: Response of the Churches in South Africa’, Occasional Bulletin of Missionary Research (Jan. 1979), 3:20.

62 ‘The Church as the “Alternative Community” ’, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa No. 13 (Dec. 1975), p. 11. See also, M. Nash (ed.), The Church and the Alternative Society (Johannesburg: SACC, 1979).

63 See e.g. Nico J. Smith et al., Storm-Kompas (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1981) and David J. Bosch, Perspektief op die Ope Brief (Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 1982). For the DRC reaction to these documents and others like them, see Serfontein, Apartheid, Change and the NG Kerk, pp. 149–189. Serfontein also provides English texts on the most important ‘dissenting’ documents.

64 ‘The Koinonia Declaration’, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa No. 24 (Sept. 1978), pp. 58–64.

65 This is Hexham’s view: ‘For the young Afrikaner Calvinists who produced it the Koinonia Declaration was an affirmation of faith in apartheid. What they rejected was the way the myth of apartheid had become incarnated, but not the myth itself.’ The Irony of Apartheid, p. 197.

66 I.e. the ‘black peril’. Cf. the essay ‘Fear: An Important Determinant in South African Polities’, in Steve Biko, I Write What I Like (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1979), pp. 73–79.

67 The image of the laager, or circle of wagons, comes from the days of the Voortrekkers who would use this defensive formation when attacked by the African tribes.

68 A discussion of the detention laws is found in A. S. Mathews, Law, Order and Liberty in South Africa (Cape Town: Juta, 1978), pp. 133–163. Mathews concludes: ‘The battery of detention measures now operative in South Africa obviously abolishes fundamental substantive and procedural rights of the individual. Less obvious than this is the violation of the general interest in the proper administration of justice.’ (p. 162).

69 See the news item: ‘Full Text of Neil Aggett’s Statement Before Death’, South African Outlook (Sept. 1982), 112:146. Cf. ‘Neil Aggett 1953–1982’, South African Outlook (Mar. 1982), 112:48.

70 See Donald Woods, Biko (New York: Paddington Press, 1978). The insensitivity of the government is highlighted by the comment made by the Minister of Police, James Kruger, ‘It leaves me cold’, when informed of Biko’s death. (Ibid., p. 166f.)

71 Cf. Mathews, Law, Order and Liberty, p. 163.

72 The system of secret police and informers is highly developed. Cf. Gordon Winter, Inside BOSS: South Africa Secret Police (London: Allen Lane, 1981). BOSS is the abbreviation for Bureau of State Security.

73 The contributions are evaluated negatively from the black perspective in ‘White Racism and Black Consciousness’, I Write What I Like, pp. 61–72.

74 Desmond Tutu, in an open letter to Vorster, agrees with the Prime Minister’s assessment. Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches (Johannesburg: Skotaville, 1983), p. 2.

75 Desmond Tutu, Crying in the Wilderness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), p. 68.

76 Ibid., p. 94.

77 See the funeral sermon by Tutu, in Hope and Suffering, pp. 122–123.

78 ‘Mr. Smith Takes a Black Parish’, Time, 26 July 1982, p. 42.

79 Personal letter, dated 7 September 1984.

80 Beyers Naudé, ‘Problems of Evangelism in South Africa: Political’, in M. Cassidy (ed.), I Will Heal Their Land (Pieter-maritzburg, Natal: Africa Enterprise, 1974), p. 279.

81 Allan Boesak, The Finger of God: Sermons on Faith and Responsibility (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1982), p. 49. Boesak’s work on black theology set the parameters for the discussion in South Africa. See Farewell to Innocence: A Socio-Ethical Study on Black Theology and Power (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1976).

82 Douglas S. Bax, A Different Gospel: A Critique of the Theology Behind Apartheid (Johannesburg: Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa [1979]), p. 44.

James J. Stamoolis