Dear Friends and fellow Pukke

It is a great honour for me to address such an important and interesting conference at my old Alma Mater.  The theme of the conference is as daunting as it is interesting - dealing as it does with ‘Reformation theology and its impact on world societies after 500 years’.   I must point out at the outset that I am a lawyer and not a theologian - so offer the following comments with some trepidation.

We are at the cusp of three significant celebrations:

  • first the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s letter in 1520 to Pope Leo X in which he spelled out his views “Concerning Christian Liberty;”
  • the second is the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dordrecht - which ended in 1619 - and which dealt with Arminianism and further refined and confirmed the doctrines of the Dutch Reformed Church; and
  • the third is the 150th anniversary of this university - which has its roots in the establishment of the theological seminary of the Gereformeerde Kerk in South Africa in 1869.

My objective today is to examine these developments and to consider the impact that they have had on world societies, on South Africa - and on me, personally.

The three events that we are celebrating are closely linked:

Martin Luther’s doctrines were the principal fountainhead of Calvinism and of the theology of the Dutch Reformed Church that was refined and articulated at the Synod of Dort.

The Synod of Dort, in turn, was a guiding influence in the formation of the Gereformeerde Kerk in South Africa in 1859 and the establishment of its theological seminary at Burgersdorp in 1869.

The new seminary had its roots in growing theological differences that had developed in the Cape during the first half of the 19th century.  

Speech by former President FW de Klerk to the Refo500 Conference at the Potchefstroom Campus of Norhwest University
28 November 2019

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