The Bible and Our Life – No. 3: The Bible and the National State

Scripture: Genesis 11:1–9

Revelation 13


The material for this outline is taken from chapter 3 of The Bible and the Life at the Christian (available at Calvin College bookstore or Speelman’s Book House, Rexdale, Ontario). The questions we ask you to face under this topic are: Are separate national states desirable, necessary, justifiable? What is the Christian attitude toward his country? Is there such a thing as Christian patriotism?



1 – Why did God cause the separation of mankind into various nations?

Right after the Flood all mankind was under one government (Gen. 11), a situation which God destroyed deliberately by confusing the speech of Babel’s residents. Why did God do this? Here are two considerations:

a – Negatively, God disturbed a concentration of power against Himself. Sinful, rebellious men were unwilling to obey the “cultural mandate” (Gen. 1:28), preferring to seek comfort and security rather than to exploit God’s creation in obedience to Him.

b – Positively, Acts 17:26 teaches that through the medium of historical development God has brought into existence those nations whose boundaries have been set by Him. This has made for justice rather than tyranny, for rich variety rather than the oppressive monotony of a single world state.

2 – What is the significance of a given individual national state?

History, tradition and ethnic type are interwoven in a given national state. Geographical location and the distinct character of the nucleus of people from which a nation springs affect the character of the people in that state. In history each nation has its own peculiar task, and that not necessarily more important by virtue of size. Greece is the cradle of our western culture, and the Netherlands has meant much for western Europe culturally. Certain larger nations have affected the cultural development of the nations adversely: Germany, for example.

3 – The Nations in today’s world, what is their state of affairs?

That awesome movement which we know as Communism is really a modern effort at a new world-empire. lnternationalism is not only the aspiration of such peoples, however, but of many others today. The unity of the human race, the danger of war (especially after the invention of atomic weapons ), the common interests of all peoples in prosperity and welfare and the availability of radio and television, etc. make this idea seem practicable as well as desirable. Scripture, however, gives no evidence so far as we know to support the idea that national states ought to be dissolved in favor of a single world-empire, and it offers no hope for true peace except in terms of the regenerative power of the Spirit by which war’s root (sinful hatred) is replaced by a heart of obedience and love.

Questions for discussion: What makes love of country legitimate for the Christian? Is love of country the same as patriotism? as nationalism? as chauvinism? Is war the work of statesmen? of capitalists? of arms manufacturers? Can we distinguish between an international state and an international order? What is the significance of international law? Can international law really be effective without power of enforcement?