What makes a society successful? With all the talk this last year about trying to Make America Great Again, the focus has been on individual political and economic policies. As important as those are, we need to step back and ask the bigger question about what makes for successful societies.
Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has an answer to that fundamental question. His book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, puts so much in historical context: “For 500 years the West patented six killer applications that set it apart. The first to download them was Japan. Over the last century, one Asian country after another has downloaded these killer apps—competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. Those six things are the secret sauce of Western civilization.”
Most of these ideas that Ferguson mentions arose in the West because of Christianity. In previous commentaries I have talked about how a Judeo-Christian view gave rise to modern science, legal principles, and even the Protestant work ethic. If these were the killer apps that made for a successful society, then certainly a Christian foundation for society today would nourish and develop these even more effectively than any other cultural or religious foundation.
Of course, here is the problem. Our secular society loves the fruits of Christianity, but is also ready to cut down the tree that provided them. We see attacks on Christianity and attacks on religious liberty. Christian values gave rise to successful societies, so a return to biblical values is an important ingredient some trend watchers have been missing.