The Importance of the Penultimate: Reformed Social Thought and the Contemporary Critiques of the Liberal Society
Journal of Markets and Morality, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 219-249, Fall 2006
Posted: 15 Oct 2007
I argue that the predominant approach to social thought among Reformed thinkers of the past century - what might be termed generally Kuyperian or neo-Calvinist - anticipated the contemporary critiques of the liberal society in many respects and offers considerable intellectual support for this critique, though equivocally. I also argue, however, and here is the twist that may be unexpected, that an older Reformation and post-Reformation era Reformed approach to social issues, from which twentieth-century Reformed social thought has in significant ways turned aside, may offer a rather distinct theological response to the critique of liberalism. This older approach, which appealed to categories such as natural law and the two-kingdoms doctrine, was not itself utilized at the time to defend a liberal society - such a claim would be anachronistic. What it does do is offer an intriguing and largely forgotten alternative to the current terms of debate over liberalism and its trappings; it provides a tempered and indirect theological defense of the liberal society. It does not dictate liberalism as the Christian social theory but gives many reasons to appreciate it.
Keywords: neo-Calvinism, Reformation, liberalism
JEL Classification: Y800
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation