On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values – Part 1

Nations and cultures in North American and western Europe have been on a moral decline since the enlightenment period, even though there have been periods of ups and downs. Nevertheless, there has been a gradual secularization of the Christian civilization, especially in the late 20th century. Today, a secularized North America and Western Europe lacks strong moral values. As a results, this has weakened the moral authority of Christian America and British Commonwealth countries like the U.K., Canada, and Australia. The western world no longer hold the respect of nations in the southern hemisphere like they once did. Western nations once recognized and classified themselves as Christian nations.

Today, liberal secular humanism is behaving as if our Christian roots had no bearing on its past, and will have no bearing on its future.
Some people will deny that moral values is interdependently related to political stability, economic prosperity, and social advancement; but to do so is like denying that fruits have grown from its own branches. They may deny the true merits of moral values and reject society’s need for religious instruction. This attitude can lead to a corrosion and decline of an entire society and a nation. Any strong culture, society, and nations that rose to prominence throughout history, had some sort of basis in strong moral values. A great example of this is the rise, and eventual, decline and fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon’s work).

In our western democracies, we have applied political and theological principles that are biblically-based; and a lot of it actually stems from John Calvin’s theology. However, we have forgotten about this because it is a neglected part of our secular public education system. Out of the Reformation’s theological reforms flowed a sense of morality and law-abiding citizenry. As a result Calvin’s political theology, much of Geneva was politically reformed. The city of Geneva became a biblically-centered state under Calvin’s spiritual leadership. Hundreds of years later, this political and theological reform provided a basis for the development of representative democracy in England, and later, a democratic republic in America, which became a model that spread throughout the world. Our free and democratic society has its roots in a biblically-centered political theologynamely Hebrew-Jewish political theology. It is not rooted in Greek or Roman culture as some would like to believe and teach in university.

When a strong sense of morality is able to permeate an entire culture, it will have the potential to effect positive changes within an entire nation. What was permeated within a culture, and even an entire nation, was actually a sense of strong moral values in its people and its leaders. Morality and religion are critical determinants of a culture’s and nation’s significant worth. If there is a lack of good strong values, a culture is weakened by them rather than helped. These values, whatever they may be, usually have roots in religious faith.

We can follow a logical path that moves from moral values to economic prosperity and social advancement. In the western world, the Christian faith and heritage, which was formed by the people’s spiritual-religious experience, has greatly shaped traditional western culture. It has led to many blessings including political stability of democracy, great economic prosperity, and countless social advancements. It is only out of this sense of morality, that people make covenantal laws with God their creator. As society decides to make covenantal laws with God as individuals and as a nation, the people will eventually establish civil laws to provide the public with instructions from which to live by (Deut. 16:18-29:1; 33:1-5). This gives protection to the people. These public laws are, and should, always be for the common good of all peoplegreat and small, rich and poor, male and female. The great benefit of civil laws is that it brings political stability to a nation. As political stability of a nation is established, a natural outflow will be economic prosperity (Deut. 30:15-20). Economic prosperity can only arise if there is political stability; this is a pre-condition. In countries where there is continuous political unrest, there can only be poverty. Without political stability, economic prosperity will never come about. This is the reason western civilizations like America and Great Britain have been able to prosper economically in the recent modern history. Economic prosperity is a fruit that results from strong moral values. Finally, when a society or nation is economically prosperous, its people will be self-empowered to advance socially. Examples of social advancement might be higher education for children, solid health care for the young and elderly, a cultivation of greater skills in the fine arts, and opportunities to greater enjoyment of recreational sports, and enjoyment of gracious living.

Without a sense of strong moral values, a society loses its moral integrity and authority to direct public policy domestically and abroad. When this happens, a nation’s immorally corrupt leaders can no longer lead; and a nation’s immorally corrupt people can no longer follow their corrupt leaders. The United States, Europe and Commonwealth nations must once again return to their Christian roots and learn to live by moral values.

On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values–Part 2

(photo: John Calvin; Neighborhood Clinics. Health Dept. East Side Baby Health Station, New York, NY)

6 thoughts on “On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values – Part 1

  1. Calvin was in effect a mass murderer.

    Strong words anonymous. Despite what Calvin contributed to church government, Calvin’s Geneva was definitely not what you would call a political haven for free-thinkers. But I don’t think I’d call him a mass murderer, or at least any more a authoritarian than the Roman Catholic state-church that previously ruled Europe. This type of heavy-handed rule of the state-church was still the norm and it was seen as the only legitimate form of rule. You have to understand that our modern-day free and representative democratic governments couldn’t have even been imagined in the minds of the Reformers like Calvin and Luther. However, I’m not minimizing Calvin’s wrong judgment.


  2. Hi, Im from Melbourne Australia.

    Personally I think Geneva under Calvin was the original example of a Western totalitarian state–a precursor to the twentieth century totaliteraian states–“heretics” were executed and for the most trivial reasons.

    Calvin was in effect a mass murderer.

    By the way execution by the state is never justified. In one way it degrades and debases everyone—the entire boy politic.


  3. Peter, I would agree that they were competing systems of church government, i.e. oligarchy and democracy. I don’t think Calvin even had in mind a reform of the political-civil realm. Since the reformers just came out of a 16th c. monarchy (oligarchy), and where the pope dictated the religious realm, and to an extent, the secular realm, Calvin definitely couldn’t have foreseen our creation of political democracy. Calvin never intended to separate church and state as we have it today; his only vision was to see a congregational self-government for the church.

    I wonder what would happen if Calvin could see into the future and witness the present success of the secular realm’s representative democracy and republican government. He would be shocked in utter disbelief, and then, to see such an extent of separation of church and state, he’d probably faint and keel over in a second. But since Calvin is a fighting reformer, he’d probably be fighting against the creation of our modern-day representative democracy.


  4. Kevin, I can see how you can trace democracy back to congregational church government, which became widespread in England during Oliver Cromwell’s time and was also strong in the early American colonies. But did this system actually arise out of the proto-Presbyterian church government of Geneva? If so, surely only as a reaction and rebellion. These were and continue to be competing systems of church government, which correspond to competing systems of national government, i.e. oligarchy and democracy. They are similar only in that neither is monarchy, by pope, bishop or king.


  5. You are quite right in saying that Calvin’s Geneva was like an autocracy, maybe even almost a theocracy; so yes, maybe it was something like modern Iran. But Geneva hadn’t moved further enough to create a democratic state.

    Actually, what I was getting at was that the Reformed style of ecclesiastical government, by which it ran its church affairs, was the basis on which it established congregational self-government. It was actually this practice of congregational self-government that led to the modern form of representative government. This became a model for the early founding fathers of the American colonies on which to create a republican type of political government. It may have influenced the English parliamentary style of government somewhat, but I think Anglicanism had a bigger impact in England.


  6. Calvin’s Geneva may have had a strong moral basis, but you are quite wrong to suggest that it was some kind of prototype of modern democracy. It was an autocracy in which no dissent was permitted, more like modern Iran than the USA.


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