‘”Wipe out lines of Division (Not Distinctions)’: Bennie Keet, Neo-Calvinism and the Struggle against Apartheid’

George Harinck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Race was not a dominant factor in neo-Calvinism. Rather, stress was laid on the universal character of Christianity, especially in the case of Herman Bavinck. While some of the South African PhD students at the Vrije Universiteit's defended apartheid with reference to neo-Calvinism, it was B.B. Keet - who would become a noted critic of apartheid - who adopted Bavinck's views. As a professor in Stellenbosch, Keet initially accepted apartheid for cultural and practical reasons, but he became critical when South Africa officially implemented apartheid policy in 1948. This resulted in his book Whither, South Africa?, in which he rejected the theological arguments undergirding apartheid with arguments almost literally derived from Bavinck. It is clear from this case study that neo-Calvinism was employed not only to support apartheid, but also to criticize it as well. In the Netherlands his stand was recognized and shared by two more of Bavinck's students: J.J. Buskes and J.H. Bavinck. Keet met with opposition within his own circles but stuck to his position and inspired his student, the apartheid critic C.F. Beyers Naudé.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Reformed Theology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • A. Kuyper
  • apartheid
  • B.B. Keet
  • church history
  • H. Bavinck
  • Neo-Calvinism

Cite this