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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


STRAUSS, Piet. Church and state in two reformed church orders: An analysis of the orders of the Reformed Churches in South Africa and the Dutch Reformed Church post-1962. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.4-2, pp.940-954. ISSN 2224-7912.

The viewpoint of churches on the relation between Church and State shows signs of the specific churches' view on church and society. This article investigates the attitude of two South African reformed churches, namely the Reformed Churches of South Africa (RCSA) and the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), to church and state in their church orders post-1962. Both churches accepted the term "reformed" in their name and subscribed to reformed confessions of faith. They are attempting to be reformed in their church government and, in so doing, their church orders. It is accepted in reformed churches with reformed confessions that their confessions of faith should be a true and acceptable interpretation of Scripture on the core issues of the Christian faith. Confessions are, therefore, an expression or formula of the unity of faith. The reformed confessions of the RCSA and the DRC are, in fact, called "The Three Formulas of Unity". These churches accept the Word of God as the first and highest norm (norma normans) in church life, followed by the confessions as the second norm (norma normata) and an answer of faith to Scripture. If that is the case and if the confessions express the core issues of faith, the church order of a reformed church should obey and follow the confessions and, in doing so, Scripture. This means that a church order should also follow Scripture and the confessions in formulating the church's attitude to the state or states in which it finds itself. State borders cannot restrict the church as an institution of faith. In addition, a church order is only binding on the church that accepted it. The church order of the National Synod of Dordrecht in 1618-1619 (DCO) for reformed churches was, at that time, accepted as an example of a scriptural church order. Post-1962, the church orders of both the RCSA and the DRC strived to be an offspring of the DCO. In the same process, Article 36 of the Dutch Confession of Faith played a determining role in Article 28 of the RCSA's order, while neo-Calvinist thought, in the reformed tradition, strongly influenced Article 65 of the DRC's order, both on the topic of church and state. The DCO followed the Dutch Confession of Faith in that it accepted it as the task of the state to obey God and His commandments and to protect and promote the true Biblical doctrine of the church by the means of the state, if necessary. This was not the case in the order of the DRC. In 1967, the order of the RCSA was changed. It now refers to the task of believers to show respect for state authority, in general, because it is ordained by God. Prior to 1998, the order of the DRC referred to the protection of the church by its state authorities in showing gratitude for this, an emotion seldom found in a church order. In the stormy 1960s in South Africa, it also promised the government not to undermine its effort to uphold the authority of the state. In 1998, the order of the DRC was changed and its explicit support for the state authorities was omitted. Some of the verbal influence of neo-Calvinist thinkers was also omitted. Article 67 of the present church order of the DRC endeavours to adhere to the essence of Romans 13 on the state. TO CONCLUDE: Both the church orders of the RCSA and the DRC are reformed in nature, but the former keeps a more verbal tie with the DCO. This is also the case in this order, in general. On the contrary, the DRC's order uses a freer attitude, but keeps the topics of the chapters of the DCO and some of the wording. In comparison with the order of the RCSA, the DRC's order shows far more links with the situation in which it finds itself, namely Southern Africa and the Afrikaner

Keywords : Confessions on core issues of faith; Church order according to Scripture and confessions; Church order determines church government; Church order order for church in relation to state Dutch Reformed attitude.

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