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September 5, 2011 / attilashrugs

On The Blessings Of Nations (Theory of Moral Sentiments) not by Adam Smith

The Question Of Causes

I read an article that was cited on FB.  It had to do with the sanitation inadequacy of Haiti.  It made the claim without noticing it that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.  The writer made the following claim:

“Those of us who live in countries that emerged from strong biblical roots need to take note of the abundant blessings we take for granted.”
Yes, I agreed, definitely.  But we must also be clear that the power and wealth of some of our nations are the result of God keeping His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Is it possible to differentiate the Blessings America enjoyed that were due to the fulfillment of promises made to Ephraim by Jacob from YHVH; from those blessings accrued over many years of righteous “puritanical” actions?

I suppose the larger question is: when prophecies are fulfilled is it possible to untangle the immediate causes of the emergence of the blessing (or curse), from those that would have occurred regardless of the immediate causes purely by God’s faithfulness in fulfilling prophecies?

One often hears that America’s liberty, wealth, and power were due to the moral codes of our earliest immigrants, and their descendents. The Reformed Protestant (Calvinist) underpinnings of American ethics, whether held directly through active immersion in the Congregation or passively simply by living it and breathing it, are associated historically with the development of the middleclass.  In addition, wherever reformed Protestantism became predominant, free-enterprise economics and libertarian-leaning theories on the role of government also predominated.  It is argued that this ethic and the once-in-an-epoch condition of it arriving on the edge of a continent whose native inhabitants had just recently been fatally weakened by epidemics resulted in the exceptional American story.

The question is: how much of America’s Rise was due to religious, economic, political views in combination with the massive and virtually free for the taking natural resources of North America?  And how much of it was from God’s fulfillment of a promise to Ephraim and Joseph?

Are they separable? Were the beliefs of the immigrants, founders and framers linked to America’s greatness?  Did God working upon the spirit of men and women who dwelled in a relatively small region of England from which the vast majority of Pilgrims and Puritans arose, cause the fulfillment of prophesy? Or, would the descendents of these same people if they had remained within the Roman Catholic fold still have laid the groundwork for America’s greatness, because they were the descendents of Ephraim?

When we compare Latin America with Anglo-America we see a huge difference in wealth, power and liberty. (Or we did, but the difference is waning!) Clearly the religious system and the culture of the nations penetrating the Americas played a role. Mexico and Peru are not good comparisons to America and Canada, because they differed in having a much more powerful and unified native population. The Iberians saw the conquest of the New World as a continuation of the Reconquista, which had finally succeeded in forcing the capitulation of the last Moorish enclave in Andalusia, in 1492. In a military manner, rather than a settlement style, Spanish males conquered an empire.   They ruled as a new elite superimposed upon native customs to a degree.  Their sons and daughters were Mestizos, not European and not Native.  This is far removed from the North American story.  (Jamestown and French North America were actually somewhat similar to the Latin incursion.   Both consisted of a huge male preponderance, of second sons of Nobility seeking fortunes in the New World with an eye towards returning to the European metropolis.)

Argentina is a better parallel to Anglo-America. Neither had powerful unified native opposition to the degree that the Incas and the Aztecs represented. And up to the end of the 19th-century Argentina’s GDP was greater than that of Canada. But, by the early 20th Century Argentina began its long period of stagnation and political instability. This was exactly the time at which the USA exponentially exploded in every manner onto the world stage: in economics, industrialization, manufacturing, and even European Style Imperialism in the Philippines and Panama Canal.

So, was America’s and Britain’s parallel (though perhaps merely 2 generations earlier) rise to unheralded world domination due to the fulfillment of Prophecy, or was it through the particularities of a culture derived from Calvinist Reformed Protestantism and historical happenstance? (Or was the former fulfilled by God’s spirit working on those whose time had come?)

Are blessings earned?  If so, how is it that they are “blessings” and not merely the predictable result of the sober and directed application of a successful strategy?  Is the Blessing in the form of the strategy, as ideas come and go across our minds, perhaps one such idea was especially good?  Or is The Blessing in the recognition of the goodness of the idea?  Or is the Blessing in the summoning of sober steadfastness in carrying out the idea?  Or is the Blessing in the Faith required to harness ones motive powers and enlist them into the service of the idea?  Or is it in the Faith to recognize the goodness of that idea?
Faith, from where does it come?  Does one choose to have faith?  If so, why do some choose Faith and others will not?  Are you expecting me to have an answer?

But there is my question. “Those of us who live in countries that emerged from strong biblical roots need to take note of the abundant blessings we take for granted.”  Not only must we take note of our abundant blessings, but also we must ask why it was that our peoples had such strong biblical roots!   Were we destined to be great (on the level of nations) and so were blessed with faith?

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