Reflections on the ecclesiastical interpretations of 6th April 1652 as a South African symbolic date

  • R. M. Britz University of the Free State
Keywords: Dutch Reformed Church, Commemoration dates, Church Historiography, Apartheid, Historical interpretation, Cape of Good Hope, Van Riebeeck Festival, 6th April 1652, Afrikaner people, NG Kerk, Gedenkdatums, Kerkgeskiedskrywing, Historiese interpretasie, Kaap die Goeie Hoop, Van Riebeeckfees, 6 April 1652, Afrikanervolk

Abstract

This article verifies the theological interpretation of the 6th April 1652 as a South African symbolic date, which marked the beginning of the European and Christian contribution to the history of Southern Africa. The exposition deals, in particular, with 1752, 1852 and 1952 interpretations by leading ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church, the “oldest and original church of the land.” The three commemorative addresses are scrutinized and presented in terms of the historical and ecclesiastical settings against which each was articulated. Obviously, the orators were subjected to contemporary perceptions, sentiments and experiences. The interpretations of the 6th April 1652 were deliberately theological, but they were however not based on a comprehensive exposition of Scripture. Consequently, theological and cultural inferences that played into the hands of an ideological understanding or appropriation of the past and its symbolic date, hampered a critical and responsible assessment. This was illustrated at the 1952 celebrations. To many blacks the date commemorated inaugurated three centuries of wrong. They could not assess it as an event caused by the determinant will of God. The article argues that this is the consequence of a (church) historical interpretation which is not accompanied by a theological-critical reflection and confessional  consideration in terms of the Church of Christ with the Word of God as norm. This methodological preference presupposes a fundamentally different way of coming to terms with history (and its perplexing symbolic dates) to what happened in 1992 in Latin America. Instead of advancing radical theology in order to rectify history, what happened should be appreciated in view of Scripture.

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Published
2004-06-30
Section
Articles