The Religious Roots of the Civil War

Nicholas Miller (Church History)

The Religious Roots of the Civil War: Slavery, Judgment, and the Moral Government of God

I propose to trace the influence of the Arminian-influenced concept of the Moral Government of God on western conceptions of public morality, the rise of the British and American abolition movements, and ultimately on the popular willingness among northern Americans to support a civil war as a crusade to end slavery.

While aimed at a general audience, the book will have special interest for Adventists, as a part of the book will show how this Moral Government of God vision served as the foundation for Ellen White and other early Adventist pioneers to construct a Great Controversy theme about the character and government of God, and contributed to their efforts for abolition and social justice. 

More generally, I will trace the development of the Moral Government of God from its roots in the free-will theology of Jacob Arminius and the legal mind of his protégé Hugo Grotius.  From there, it will explore this theme through the lives and writings of some prominent individuals like John Milton, John Locke, John Wesley, and William Wilberforce, as well as through some less common names, such as New England theologians Jonathan Edwards Jr., Samuel Hopkins, and Nathaniel Taylor. 

There will also be some ethnic and gender diversity in the thinkers I examine, and I intend to look at Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ellen White, as well as some African-American thinkers, including Frederick Douglas.  In conclusion, I will show that the language of sin, morality and judgment found in Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address can only be understood in the context of this Arminian strand of Protestant thought.