Sovereignty and Decline

News of American society's decline

It has become commonplace to discuss with a certain level of anxiety the decline of American society. I hear this sort of talk from folks on both sides of the political aisle. More germaine to what I wish to discuss today, I also hear this talk from folks of all sorts of religious persuasions, including no religous persuation at all. It’s my belief that, while the discussion itself is certainly valid and important, the anxiety surrounding it is largely unhelpful.

To lay my cards on the table up front, I write this as a Christian believer in the Reformed tradition. My tradition takes it’s name from the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, and we trace many of our theological distinctives back to that time. One of the central theological distinctives of Reformed Christians is the thoroughgoing commitment to the sovereignty of God, the belief that God is all-powerful. The Reformed commitment to the sovereignty of God is thoroughgoing insofar as it operates as a basic smell-test for theological doctrines. If a certain doctrine requires the sovereignty of God to be somehow qualified, Reformed Christians are certain to reject it.

If we accept the Reformed view that the Christian God’s sovereignty, his all-powerfulness is not to be challenged, then it must be true that he is sovereign over such things as the rise and fall of nations, and indeed all of human history.

(To be sure, this raises all sorts of knotty questions about how evil can exist in a world under the sovereignty of a God who is both Good and all-powerful. Those are important questions, but not ones I mean to address here.)

If we accept all of this, then it must be true that what is happening today in America is not out of God’s control. That should be some comfort to Christians who believe (as many of the folks I talk with appear to) that the general trend of American society is not good.