The Reformed Theological Academy (RTA) is a school of higher learning, and academic enquiry, specialising in Reformed Theology. Our programmes are designed in collaboration with and approved by the Reformed Churches in South Africa. Our confession is, in accordance with Scripture, articulated in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt. The Christian Bible and its effect ask for and are worthy of careful study. All subjects are taught and researched in communion with Christ in recognition of the authority of the Word of God. Hence our dictum: ‘Send your light and your truth’ (Ps 43:3).
The RTA is a South African registered qualification-awarding Private Higher Education Institution to foster classical Reformed Theology through teaching, research and community engagement. Its campus and accommodation facilities are seated in Potchefstroom, North-West. All our facilities are equipped with high-speed internet and Wi-Fi access.
OUR VISION AND MISSION
We exist to:
- offer tertiary level ministerial education and training,
- promote and present scholarly research,
- foster classical Reformed Theology,
- position the ATR as an Academy of consequence on the African continent,
- participate globally in the promotion and encouragement of Reformed Theology and
- provide facilities, services and administration to sustain our purpose.
‘Send your light and your truth’ (Ps 43:3) shapes our MISSION and VISION in pursuing the reasons for our existence. At the RTA staff and students thus form an intimate community, devoted to a life of thought, worship, service, study and research, giving in all circumstances thanks to God.
What you can expect
Graduates can expect to be prepared, through acquired knowledge and skills, as well as the development of intellectual capabilities and personal faith formation, to serve Christ through contemporary relevant and biblical-reformed ministry in challenging environments and contexts. Successful candidates, will be equipped to apply for entrance to ecclesial examinations to be inducted for ordained ministry.
The RTA is devoted to outstanding scholarship and credible education. We do not comprise the responsibility for setting and maintaining the academic standards, quality and integrity of our programs. We cultivate an innovative learning and study environment, both on-line and face to face. Our teaching is student centered. Active, involved and reflective learning characterize what you will be exposed to in our teaching spaces.
Characteristic of our institution is the intensive guidance and support of our students. It is aimed at providing a life-changing learning experience. Our student support services include financial and accommodation provision.
In following the words of Christ Jesus in John 19:30 and Matthew 28:19 & 20, the RTA is distinctly and pervasively Christian and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin. We embrace students with disabilities and is committed to making reasonable arrangements to meet needs in this regard. The normal rules of confidentiality apply. We conduct our business in both Afrikaans and English, but willingly take care of one another, as far as possible, in a common language. A Code of Conduct serves as a fundamental guideline for demeanor towards the institution and each other.
RTA has at its disposal excellent facilities, distinguished and engaged staff, efficient administration, accurate recording and accountable governance, led by a devoted Board of Directors.
- Our history
- Our mandate: Reformed Theology
- Historical Overview
- The Early Years
- The Theological School in Burgersdorp: 1869-1905
- The Theological School Potchefstroom The period 1905–1919
- The period 1919–1951
- The Building Complex
The RTA has a long history. Established in 1869 as the Theological School of the Reformed Churches in South Africa, we count among the first generation tertiary institutions in South Africa. Since 1876 the School accommodated a second department which offered a broad and preparatory training. Candidates could sit for the BA degree examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1905 the School relocated from Burgersdorp to Potchefstroom. After the 1910 unification of South Africa the new dispensation saw the creation of the University of South Africa, composed of a conglomerate of participating university colleges. In 1921 the second division of the Theological School was constituted as participating Potchefstroom University College, ‘for Christian Higher Education’, added to its name in 1933. Agreements of academic collaboration offered the opportunity for our theological staff to participate as professors and lecturers in the respective Faculties of Theology of UNISA, PU for CHE and since 2004 North-West University. In 2021 the Reformed Churches in South Africa founded the RTA, with its current seat in Potchefstroom. Although we are entrusted with the official ministerial training course of the Reformed Churches in South Africa, we welcome a wide constituency of Christian churches, organizations, ministries and individuals in our academic project.
With more than 150 years of experience, the RTA positions itself in the South African higher education sector as an institution with a significant intellectual history and expertise, equipped and committed to execute its calling and vision. In seeking to be an institution of consequence, the RTA values partnerships with academic institutions, churches, denominations, organizations and ministries. In our quest fostering classical Reformed Theology, we engage in a local, African and global network of academic cooperation and partnerships, promoting and encouraging Reformed Theology together
Our mandate is encapsulated in our academic project: the provision and delivery of accredited programs and training opportunities in classical Reformed Theology and ministry.
Reformed Theology is our demarcated field of specialization. In conformity with three recognized ecumenical creeds, known as the Apostles Creed, the Nicaean Creed and the Creed of Athanasius, Reformed Theology constitutes a significant trajectory in the Christian tradition. In the history of the Christian church Reformed Theology is most evidently expressed in the biblical commentaries, confessions, church orders, literature and liturgical writings published between 1500 and 1650. This is the cradle of our academic endeavor and embodies our offering. In proclaiming the Gospel it played a pivotal role in shaping the church’s ministry, understanding and explicating Scriptures and informing intellectual reflection. Globally it is a vibrant field of study, profoundly informing relevant, contextual ministry of the Christian service and message.
Our trademark, therefor, is the provision of admirable education and notable research in classical Reformed Theology. Our accredited curriculum is biblical, confessional, historical informed and contemporary relevant. We respect original scholarship and require our faculty to engage with and present research in support of our academic project. Our research is guided by honesty, scrupulousness, independence, transparency and responsibility and our Research Policy provides for the standards of trustworthy research. We participate in a global network of institutions engaged in the study of Reformed Theology. We endorse the inception of scholarly chairs. Our institution is home to a cohort of research fellows and annually hosts an academic conference of international prominence and standing. We welcome research entities, societies and centers as partners.
To cross the threshold to this world of knowledge, comprehend its validity and to communicate its significance, requires involved dedication from our students. Becoming part of our community, will not only broaden and deepen your personal outlook on life, but also have a lifelong impact. Joining the RTA is indeed a life-changing event.
The fourth general synod of the GKSA made the decision, in May 1869, in a small little church building in Potchefstroom to open a theological school with the aid of the Lord. This “little old church” can be found right next to the current church building of the Gereformeerde Kerk Potchefstroom.
This decision was taken during the synod 10 years after the founding of the first Gereformeerde Kerk in Rustenburg in 1859 by only 14 churches and their four ministers. A decision made in faith. They were but a handful of churches with no expectation of financial aid from the authorities and no infrastructure to speak of at all. Yet, they were of the conviction that it was their duty to ensure the training of ministers of the Word independent government involvement.
Historians are in agreement on 1869 being the year that both the theological school and the university (now the Potchefstroom campus of the NWU) came into being. The university eventually became independent of the TSP and after all these years both institutions still exist independently side by side. The agreement between the GKSA, as owners of the TSP, and the Council of the NWU has created a unique bond between these two institutions.
It was clear right from the founding of the GKSA on 11 February 1859 that provision would have to be made for the training of ministers of the Word. Rev. D. Postma stipulated in his proposed church order, already designed and formulated prior to the founding of the church in Rustenburg, the need for the training of ministers and ensured that this matter be included on the agenda of the first church assemblies of 1862.
The need for establishing a theological school grew over the years as did the churches’ support for this incentive, leading to the courageous decision in 1869 to open a theological school in Burgersdorp. The weekend of 26-29 November 1869
The churches and curators of the fledgling school highly prized a scientific approach to training and decided, for example, to compile the theological course in accordance to that of the Theological School of the Christelike Afgeskeie Gereformeerde Kerk in the Netherlands.
Rev. Postma and Rev. Jan Lion-Cachet took charge of the training of students during the early years, in conjunction with their ministry in the Burgersdorp congregation.
The wish for introductory training, in preparation for theological studies, and the ideal of a preparatory institution led to the establishment of a literature department.
The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) caused great upheaval in church life as well as the activities of the Theological School. The students from the Transvaal and Free State were called to join the commandos and the school was closed for long periods during the war. The first synod after the war occurred in 1904 where important decisions over the future of the School would have to be made.
J.D. du Toit and Ferdinand Postma took up theological studies at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam during the war years, with a renewed conviction that the School needed to be moved to a new milieu. Synod 1904 saw a young Dr. J.D. du Toit, fresh in his post at the Potchefstroom congregation, eager to offer suggestions over the future of the School.
The Synod of April 1904 in Middelburg Cape came to the surprising decision, upon the suggestion of Dr. J.D. du Toit, to re-establish the Theological School in Potchefstroom. Alternative locales such as Pretoria, Middelburg Cape and especially Steynsburg were considered, but Dr. du Toit and his brother-in-law, Rev. P. Postma of Pretoria, had already consulted with the Transvaal congregations and the city council of Potchefstroom that supported his recommendation with an amount of £3 010 cash and the necessary land for the erection of the institution. The proposal was gratefully accepted. The TSP opened its doors in February 1905 in Potchefstroom, already sporting a boarding house and school building.
Ferdinand Postma, who served as head of the literature department, interrupted his lecturing duties for approximately two years (1912-1914) to obtain his doctorate at the Vrije Universiteit and resumed these duties in 1914. J.D. du Toit succeeded Lion-Cachet as professor in theology in 1911 and in 1914 Dr. S.O. Los from the Netherlands was called as professor of theology, providing the TSP and its literature department with three doctors by 1914. It was indeed the start of a new era and would serve the scientific approach to training all the better.
As a result of the conscience clause of the University Act of 1916, the literature department was released from its commitment to the TSP and the church in 1919 to operate independently as the Potchefstroomse Universiteitskollege (Potchefstroom University College), officially setting aside the Christian ethos. The aspiration of J.D. du Toit and F. Postma of an open university based in Christianity for South Africa, in emulation of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, was not quite a reality just yet. The curators, together with the Council of the College, then fought for a fully-fledged Christian university.
In 1921 the authorities recognized the institution as an affiliate college of the University of South Africa and thus incorporated, followed by legal recognition of the Christian character of the PUK in 1933. The state would only come to confer the status of full and autonomous entity on the university, namely the Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys (PUK), in 1950.
A unique bond and relationship grew between the two independent institutions of the TSP and the PUK. The curatorium and the Council of the PUK already decided in 1920 on mutual representation on the Council of the PUK and the Senate of the TSP.
The curatorium of the TSP and University entered into a contractual agreement in 1945, subsequently amended in accordance with the prevailing circumstances.
The PUK opened a theology department in 1922 and the Faculty of Theology has offered training in theology as science since 1930.
The TSP is currently housed in its third building in Potchefstroom: the first (Molen Street) was erected in 1905, the second (Borcherd Street, known as the Old Theological School) in 1922 and the third (between Van der Hoff Drive and Molen Street, right across from the second building) in 1951. The current building complex forms part of the church building of the Gereformeerde Kerk Potchefstroom Die Bult and portrays the wall of the Reformation in Geneva on the east side. The well-equipped library was appropriately named after Prof. Jan Lion-Cachet and is connected to the Ferdinand Postma Library of the NWU. The GKSA’s church archive and archive offices can also be found at the TSP.