This is a special edition of The Counsel of Chalcedon. Its primary focus is on the history and strength of the Reformed Faith in South Africa. It is addressed to our distinctively Christian readership. We pray that you take time to read every word of this issue. The future of the United States of America is inseparably entwined with the future of the Republic of South Africa. Both our nations have the same roots--in the Biblical Calvinism of the Protestant Reformation of the Sixteenth Century; and the worldview of the heart of South Africans is still in large part, shaped by the foundational principles of that Calvinism, in a manner that the heart of Americans is not.
God has a wonderful plan for the land "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia," (Zephaniah 3:9,10). And right at the heart of that plan is the Republic of South Africa. This sketch of South Africa grows out of the several weeks I have spent there in 1985 and 1988.
South Africa is at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. Its strategic location is of vital importance to the United States. In many ways we are more dependent upon South Africa, than South Africa is upon us because of her treasure-house of strategic minerals and her strategic sea-lanes, so vital to our national security. South Africa is the one place in the world, outside the Soviet Union, where we can obtain the quantity of strategic minerals essential to the production of steel. Her sealanes, along the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope and along the Indian Ocean, are among the most important sea-lanes and "choke-points" in the whole world. Much of the West's oil from the East comes around the Cape of Good Hope.
Approximately 26 km east of Nelspruit lies the town, kaNyamazane. The name "kaNyamazane" means 'the place of wild animals.'
This Reformed Church (Gereformeerde Kerk) and parsonage are situated between the mountains on the western side of town.
The present minister, Rev. P.W. Sibiya, was inducted into this church in 1983. In those years the total number of confirmed members was 36. Prior to 1983 the congregation was without a minister since the death of the late Rey. Mogashoa, who was called from Potchefstroom to kaNyamazane and died of diabetes about three weeks after his induction.
Pity and sadness and horror - and an incredible sense of urgency - are normal reactions when faced with a starving child. I don't mean a hungry child. Hunger is a healthy response. The starving child feels no hunger pangs.
It does not cry either. That's a luxury enjoyed by the healthy. The starving child is past tears and cries - it has energy only for mute appeal.
Starvation means more than just pangs in the belly. It is the terrible agony of a body literally cannibalising its own tissues as it fights off death.
A few months ago, some of my fellow "clergy" in Lynchburg, Virginia, got agitated when I wrote criticizing those who supported sanctions against South Africa. I argued that those who supported the sanctions "hated the Whites more than they loved the Blacks."
Though stark, doesn't this cut through a lot of the confusion and hypocrisy that we hear concerning this dear country? My argument consisted of the fact that sanctions definitely hurt Black South Africans more than Whites, and that pro-sanction people were more in love with the idea of hurting Whites than helping Blacks.
Psalm 45:1 "My heart is stirred by a noble theme." But what is this theme? The psalmist goes on to say that his song is for, is about, is to, the 'king'. It's also about his bride and their marriage. But who or what is this 'KING' and who or what is the bride?
People have given many answers, some more satisfactory than others, but to bring the matter closer home, to make it more relevant to us, to make it more practical: what is the centre, what is the heart of your religion? You will answer, "Obviously it is God." But I ask further, what about God? To say that God is the centre of your religion is somewhat vague. What do you mean when you say 'God' is the heart of your religion?
It is common knowledge that the role of the church in society - particularly the role of the Dutch Reformed Church in South African society - has been the major topic of discussion in various synods of this church recently. It is no secret either that certain views adopted by its General Synod in October, 1986, have caused grave dissatisfaction among a fair number of its members. It has even led to some of them leaving the church and going their own way.
It stands to reason that it is no easy matter to address the issue of the role of the churches in South Africa today from the angle of the Dutch Reformed Church. In a large church of approximately one million members there is no single angle of approach. A great variety of views on the role of the church will be found among members and even among leading theologians of this church. In the Dutch Reformed Church we actually leave much room for differences of opinion - as long as members will stay within the boundaries set by our confessional standards - which are not at all very specific regarding this issue.
In essence the Reformation of the 16th century differed wholly from the movements of the Renaissance and Humanism. Firstly, it was not concerned with a renewal in science and arts and the improvement of social and political conditions, but was, in its origin, purely religious in nature. Its principle is briefly and powerfully expressed in the tripartite creed: Scriptura sola, gratia sola, fides sola, in other words, the Scriptures alone, grace alone, faith alone!
But this was not a new principle; it was the old Gospel of Jesus Christ which was preached by the apostles in the first century of the Christian era. After the Dark Ages, it was a new discovery and re-discovery. As Columbus discovered the New World and the Renaissance revived the old Latium and Hellas, so the Reformation shed new light on the meaning and significance of the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, began to take over the dominant role in the church in a radical way.
The entire world knows that South Africa is one of the most strategic regions in the world from naval and land viewpoints. Who controls the Cape of Good Hope controls the sea route between East and West, and the South Atlantic as well. The British knew this. That is why Britain occupied the Cape in 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars.
The land importance of South Africa is based upon its enormous mineral wealth and its highly advanced mining and industrial technology. Many of the minerals in which South Africa is rich are crucial to the maintenance of America's defenses. Without these, the US might find it impossible to defend itself.
Just as the Messianic ideology of Marxism-Leninism is guiding the Soviet Union's missionary quest in southern Africa, so it is that Christianity may save the region from its ever-approaching dismal fate.
Whatever else one may think about South Africa, religious tolerance is widespread. There are no restrictions on any form of worship and all South African schools begin their day with prayer, something our "democratic" society will not permit. The vast majority of South Africans, black and white, are Christians. Eighty-five percent of the black community professes some form of Christian allegiance. Further, the majority of these worshippers could be classified as fundamentalists since they accept the literal interpretation of the Bible as God's word. Like the American experience, South Africa's has come at the expense of "mainline" churches.
The Frontline Fellowship is one of the most magnificent and effective missionary groups I have ever encountered.
The Frontline Fellows are a group of South African and Rhodesian War Veterans, including some men still on active duty. Their mission is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to suffering Black Christians in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Southwest Africa.
The Director of Frontline Fellowship is Peter Hammond, a handsome and articulate former Rhodesian who served in the South African Army as a combat infantryman in Southwest Africa and Angola.
In a much ballyhooed agreement signed Dec. 22 in New York, South Africa agreed to remove its occupation force from Namibia by Nov. 1, 1989. South Africa also has promised to stop funding Dr. Jonas Savimbi's organization, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNIT A). The bad news for UNIT A and South Africa is that the Cubans occupying Angola have until July 1, 1991, to withdraw. Not surprisingly, this deal was worked out by the United States State Department.
There are now 60,000 Cuban soldiers in Angola, and 15,000 of those were added since negotiations began in earnest last year. The agreement says that the United Nations will have a whopping total of 70 "peace keeping officers" and 20 civilians to monitor the Cuban withdrawal. As Jardo Muekalia, the United Nations observer for UNIT A told the New York Times, "It's a big country for 90 people to verify the withdrawal." Hold the kudos for American diplomacy until it's clear South Africa is secure on its northwestern border.
"'Therefore, wait for me,' declares the Lord, 'For the day when I rise up to the prey. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal. For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, will bring My offerings.'"