What is meant by principled polis?
The term principled may be understood in two ways. First, it may refer to behavior properly deemed as moral. Quite simply, a principled person is one who understands the difference between right and wrong and lives accordingly. Second, it may refer to a system or method thoroughly based on a set of rules or standards. These rules, of course, may refer to the “laws of the land”.
Both notions of the term, principled, are in view here. The term polis often refers to the ancient Greek city-states; however, it may more broadly be utilized to refer to a society. Therefore, by principled polis I mean a society whose institutions and persons operate and live in a moral and just manner, both according to Natural Law and the laws of the land, as well as to custom. This, of course, assumes such laws are in themselves just. However, it is not enough that a society’s laws be just; the institutions and persons of the society must likewise operate and live according to these just laws and receive just punishment when they fail to do so. Otherwise, such a society is merely nominally just (in name only), all the while being practically and truly unjust. Russell Kirk has expressed this conviction more nobly:
A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society—whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.[from Ten Conservative Principles]
Why the tagline: God, Government, Ethics?
In an increasingly “secular” society, or a society that seeks to exclude God from both government and the public square, the first of these is likely to raise a lot of eye-brows. Allow me, therefore, to first address the other two categories.
Government. As a political science major I am naturally interested in the justification of government, the different forms of government, and how governments relate, justly or unjustly, to the family, the Church, and economic institutions (the matter of political economy). A principled society is one that has a healthy view of government and its roles.
Ethics. This is an important area of study and discussion, both in relation to politics and theology. How is the concept of ethics derived and how are we to apply it to pressing matters like abortion, LGBTQ+ (i.e. the sexual revolution), war, and criminal justice? A principled society is one that applies sound moral reasoning to the varied issues that seek to undo it.
God. The previous two categories, rightly understood (so I believe), have their radix (root) in truth, which is absolute, being derived from God. This not only entails the revelation of God in Scripture (the Bible), but likewise that more general revelation which can be found in His creation – Natural Law. A principled society is one that recognizes from whence it derives its existence and its objective concepts of good, evil, and justice.
One other conviction I wish to express, and one I hope comes through in my writings, is the importance of looking to the wisdom of those who came before, rather than arrogantly assume we are necessarily more advanced in knowledge and wisdom simply because we are more technological, more scientific, and even more in number. I shall put it into practice now by supplying a quote from one who lived thousands of years ago and expressed this very same wisdom in his own day:
Please inquire of past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, and bring forth words from their minds?– Bildad (Job 8:8-10)
I am a husband, father, Christian in the Reformed tradition, and lover of books. I have a Bachelor’s in Religion: Biblical Studies from Liberty University and am currently working on a MA in Theological Studies (Systematic/Historical Studies) from Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a MA in Political Science (Public Policy) from American Public University.
Tolle lege! (Take up and read!)