Darrow Miller and Friends

John Calvin, Sound Economy, and a Development Ethic

Check out Catherine Hornby’s fine article Moral Rebound Finds Dutch Exploring Calvin online at REUTERS UK. With the emergence of the Global Economic Crisis, the Dutch are looking at their Protestant roots for answers.

It would behoove Christians anywhere in the world who are concerned about the economic crisis to read this article. It points to the root and solution of the problem in a way that all of the political posturing – hot air – coming from the world’s political and financial capitals have not. It is also an important read because it is critical to help those trapped in the bondage of poverty in developed or developing countries to see that the direction to solve economic problems is rooted in the moral and metaphysical (see my earlier blogs on this subject).

It is unfortunate that Ms. Hornby chooses to use such derogatory terms as “moralistic stance” and “puritanical debate” in her article. These phrases took away from what was otherwise an exceptional piece.

I say this because, after all, it was the power of a moral vision that brought about the reduction or end to massive poverty in nation after nation. It was the great Protestant Ethic articulated by French theologian John Calvin, his fellow Reformers, and their later Puritan children that brought governments of freedom and created prosperous economies in Northern Europe and North America respectively.

In her article, Ms. Hornby records the call of some Dutch leaders to go to the root of the problem and to return to the moral vision of Calvin and the Reformers.

At the end of her piece, Ms. Hornby alludes to the tension between the need for “greater moral awareness” and the more recent Dutch tradition of tolerance – “live and let live.” Here we have the frame of a classic struggle between a government that legislates an external morality and the promotion of license. The former leads to tyranny, the later to anarchy and economic breakdown.

However, there is an alternative to legalism and license, that is liberty. It was the Puritans who gave the world its greatest model of political and economic freedom. Their secret was to avoid the extremes of external tyranny or moral and economic license.  And what was that secret?

It was Christian internal self-government. Her citizens govern themselves internally by Biblical principle – moral and metaphysical. This is why Christ has called his followers to “disciple nations . . . teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.”

-Darrow L. Miller

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1 Comment

  1. Les Thompson

    March 20, 2009 - 7:44 am

    Alex, did you see the article in TIME magaize this past week, on the impact of Calvinism in today’s changing climate?


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