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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


STRAUSS, Piet. Church and law in the 2015 Church Order of the Dutch Reformed Church. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.1, pp.229-245. ISSN 2224-7912.

It was the German scholar Rudolph Sohm who stated in 1892: the being of the church is spiritual and that of the judicial aspect of life and the state sinful and not spiritual. With this viewpoint, Sohm enhanced the tension between church and state (between the church and the rest) in the thought of Martin Luther. Luther argued that the church was God's own work (opus propium) and the state the work foreign to God (opus alienum). To the reformer of Geneva, John Calvin (1509-1564) and his followers, this was unacceptable, for, in their opinion, there could be no inner tension in anything recreated by God, following His redemption in Christ through His Holy Spirit, which event signalled His salvation of people. The redemption or the recreation of mankind in this world, which was broken after the fall, leads to the recreation of a totally new heaven and earth. God renews everything in this world as a harmonised unity in diversity and a place in which man has a central position. The Bible sketches creation as a unity in diversity, where the law of God is applicable to both nature and the behaviour of mankind. Any action by a church is founded on the Christian faith as its leading aspect or principle in creation, and the core of this aspect, in connection with the core of other aspects, reveals the law of God and norms for human life. According to I Corinthians 14:40 God wants order in the services and existence of the church. This verse is accepted in reformed circles from Calvin onwards as God's command embracing the entire being of the church as an institution in human society. This is also accepted in the Church Order of 2015 of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Bible does not specifically give a church order but rather the principles required to establish such an order, which functions merely to provide the necessary channels for ensuring an unencumbered rule of the Word of God in the church as a whole. A reformed church accepts that obedience to the Word entails doing everything in the church according to the Bible. This also means that obedience to the Bible puts the church in a position of doing things in the right way or pursuing the justice of the Bible. A just church appeals to the state to honour the church as an institution of the Christain faith. In keeping its law and order, the state has to make lawful room for the church to formulate its own beliefs and confessions, to organise its own services and meetings and to proclaim the message of the Bible in accordance with its own conviction. At the same time this also means that the state as an institution for justice in society should also be accepted in and influenced by the church. The church should be able to request the state to protect it in terms of the justice relevant to a church, rather than being alienated and persecuted by the state. The strongest weapon and method available to the church is the persuasion and inner conviction of its believers. The aim of a church order in the reformed churches is to safeguard the Biblical way -for the church the correct and just way - of exercising its faith. Every action in the church also has a judicial side and should honour that which is just from a church's political point of view. A church order should provide an orderly framework or the just way within which the church can be governed by the Bible. It is within the right of the church to obey Christ in His Word with regard to the offices, assemblies, services, work in general, church discipline and relation to the state and other institutions in society (the themes of the chapters of the Church Order of 2015 of the Dutch Reformed Church). There are also terms in the Church Order of 2015 with a judicial link or inclination. Examples are, inter alia, a person holding the position of a minister, has to be recognized and legitimized by the church; a church service must meet certain standards to be ratified as a meeting of believers; its assemblies as assemblies of the body of Christ must be just and fair in their procedures; the rules of natural justice are relevant in the disciplinary actions of the Dutch Reformed Church; and this church has to accept the laws of the state pertaining to the ownership of buildings and land.

Palabras clave : order commanded by God; Bible provides principles; creation a unity in diversion; every deed in church has a judicial aspect; rules of natural justice applicable with regard to disciplinary actions.

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