Original Research - Special Collection: Ignatius van Wyk Dedication

Reformed theology and ‘decolonised’ identity. Finding a grammar for peaceful coexistence

Nico Vorster
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 4 | a4915 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i4.4915 | © 2018 Nico Vorster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 January 2018 | Published: 30 April 2018

About the author(s)

Nico Vorster, Department of Systematic Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa


Decolonisation discourse has gained significant momentum in South Africa with the rise of the various #MustFall movements that strive to rid South Africa of its colonial vestiges. But does South Africa need another national metanarrative that envisions an ideal South Africa and champions utopian social ideals? Following the logic of Johan Degenaar and Dirkie Smit, this contribution argues that we should refrain from developing social meta-narratives that seek to frame a single South African identity and social ethos. However, we do need a grammar for peaceful coexistence that goes beyond legal and procedural considerations to establish basic parameters for a constructive social discourse that promotes peaceful coexistence. Such a grammar cannot be imposed unilaterally on social groupings but should be framed by a public discussion aimed at reaching a consensus among social imaginaries on the rules of discourse. Drawing on Reformed thinkers such as John Calvin and John Althusius, the essay continues to discuss the contribution that the Reformed tradition can make to such a grammar. The last part of the essay proceeds to apply the proposed grammar as a benchmark to evaluate the validity of decolonisation discourse.


Reformed Theology; decolonization; identity; South Africa; social discourse


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