David C. Innes was for 18 years professor of politics at The King’s College in New York City. He is Associate Pastor at Calvin Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Phoenix, Arizona.
His scholarly research has been the political philosophy of Francis Bacon, with articles in Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy (1993), Piety and Humanity (1997, reviewed here), and Civil Religion in Political Thought (2010).
He is author of Christ and the Kingdoms of Men: Foundations of Political Life (2019), Francis Bacon (2019), and The Christian Citizen: Faith Engaging Political Life (2020), and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (2011).
Scholarly and Popular
(Great Thinkers Series)
November 1, 2019
This is a study not only of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) but also of the crisis of modernity and of technological civilization, and of the relationship of these to the Christian faith. If scientism has subverted Christian civilization, Bacon was a great and subversive thinker. The father of uniquely modern science, he took as his project "a total reconstruction of the sciences, arts, and all human knowledge, raised upon the proper foundations." In "all human knowledge" he included moral and theological knowledge, so the movement from Bacon's works to Bultmann and Skinner was only a matter of time as each generation of Baconians worked out the implications of this project. His goal was to subvert and, as it were, retrofit Christianity as a vehicle for his new scientific civilization, a substitute hope for the Christian hope. The project is complicated, however. Were it not for Bacon, there would be no Richard Dawkins, but also no penicillin, no automobile. But if there is good in it, then it is capable of regrounding on biblical foundations.
“Innes gives an insightful analysis of the sixteenth-century thinker Francis Bacon, whose vision was foundational to the rise of empirical science and technology. Indeed, Baconianism has become part of the very intellectual air we breathe, which is why it is crucial for Christians to think critically about Bacon’s influence—both on Western culture and on our own thinking. Innes skillfully disentangles the elements in Bacon’s thought that are compatible with biblical truth . . . from the elements that are contrary to biblical truth, and therefore destructive both personally and socially. . . . Innes is a reliable guide, and this book will be especially helpful to readers concerned about how science and technology have shaped the modern worldview.”
—NANCY R. PEARCEY, Professor of Apologetics and Scholar-in-Residence, Houston Baptist University
1. Bacon’s Heroic Ambition
The World as it Was
Bacon’s Plan to Change It
2. Bacon’s Complex Character
His Life: Bacon’s Twin Peaks
His Reputation: Bacon’s Tides of Glory
His Religion: Bacon’s Dubious Faith
3. The Promise of Bacon’s Project
Hope as Method: The New Reason
Hope as Goal: The New Progress
4. The Problem of Bacon’s Project
5. Redeeming Bacon’s Legacy: A More Godly Dominion
P&R Publishing 2019
Christ and the Kingdoms of Men is an exploration of how the Bible and the Christian tradition present the fundamental principles of political life and how they stand in relation to our modern liberal democracy. It is an initial exploration of the nature of political life itself in a world God calls his “kingdom.” In view of sin’s disruption of that kingdom, this book introduces the reader to the fundamental questions and challenges of political life.
Introduction: Why the Christian Study of Politics?
1. The Kingdom of God: the Theological Framework for Political Life
2. The Authority of Government: the Divine Foundation of Political Life
3. The Purpose of Government
4. Punishing Evil: Life and Property
5. Punishing Evil: Piety and Morality
6. Punishing Evil: Liberty
7. Praising Good
8. The Problem of Government and the Modern Solution
Trust and Distrust
The Political Problem
The Modern Liberal Solution
9. The Problem of Government and a Christian Response
Modern Christian Republicanism
A Christian Doctrine of Rights
10. The Problem of Government: Submission & Resistance
11. The Practice of Government: Citizenship & Statesmanship
Conclusion: Understanding Our Common Life
Book Trailer: Christ & the Kingdoms of Men
“In an era when politics seems defined by the medium of Twitter and the aesthetics of outrage, calm, deep reflection is desirable but not easy to accomplish. That is why David's learning and ability to communicate important and often-complicated ideas in a concise and clear manner are so helpful. The book is not simply about the American politics of the moment; it is a class in how to think politically.”
Dr. Carl R. Trueman,
Professor of Biblical & Religious Studies,
Grove City College
"In Christ and the Kingdoms of Men, Dr. Innes offers an excellent contribution to to Christian political thought: a erudite and well-synthesized theology of politics that is steeped in Scripture and in the riches of tradition--all while attending carefully to the questions and problems that are central to political theory. If you are looking for vague virtues and gentle generalizations that will sit comfortably with all readers, look elsewhere. Instead, Innes offers a bracing, pithy, and Reformed account of the Bible's teaching on politics that is both far-reaching and concise. Readers will be instructed, exhorted, and challenged to greater faithfulness and to further inquiry by Innes' fine work--both where they agree with him and where they wish to debate with him."
Professor of Political Science,
“David C. Innes’ Christ and the Kingdom of Men is a remarkable accomplishment. At once learned and lucid, sophisticated and accessible, the book certainly serves its principal audience—students and the reading public—exceedingly well. But teachers and Christian intellectuals should not be misled by the word “Introduction” in the subtitle. The book is a formidable synthesis of deep scriptural and theological learning, on the one hand, and a broad and rich understanding of the history of political philosophy, on the other. We will long be in Professor Innes’ debt.”
Joseph M. Knippenberg,
Professor of Politics,
"It has been a long time over the last two or three decades since anyone has written a fairly comprehensive view of the role of government from a Christian perspective, let alone a Reformed perspective. No matter what nuances one might have with this or that, this book is long overdue and much-needed in Christian circles, including in the classrooms of Christian colleges and universities. The Lord of Heaven desires that we serve Him in the governmental-political-legal realm here on earth, and this work helps us to know how to do that. In addition, it enables us to ask the important questions which might take us deeper into this most crucial subject. Dr. Innes has given all of us, of whatever theological stripe, a critical work at a critical time."
Kevin L. Clauson, M.A., J.D.
Professor of Government & Law
Chair, Department of Government & Justice
Director, Center for Faith, Freedom and the Constitution,
“David Innes's new contribution to clear thinking about politics includes dramatic quotations that show our sinful nature, including one from serial killer Carl Panzram: "I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it." Some on the right express a similar sentiment about federal officials, but Dr. Innes is far wiser than them, and also wiser than those on the left like former Rep. Barney Frank, quoted within as saying, "Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together." Christ and the Kingdoms of Men shows we have many ways to do things together: All who read it will learn which activities should involve government, and which should not.”
Great Christian Books 2020
The Christian is inescapably a citizen not only of Christ’s heavenly kingdom but also of this earthly republic of laws. And by God’s great mercy, government in America is not just something other people do in faraway places and impose on us, though sadly that is increasingly so. It is still the beauty of what Lincoln described at Gettysburg as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” If a Christian people is to govern itself and choose wisely those who will represent them in their decision-making responsibilities, then Christians need to be properly informed. They need godly wisdom. If the reader is urgently occupied with family, business, church, and community and needs a handy help for understanding the times, perhaps this book will do.
Kings of the Earth: The Good of Government & its Limits
By Me King’s Reign: Citizens, Voters, & Statesmen
Our Daily Bread: Wealth and Poverty
Heal the Sick: Healthcare
Dominion Over the Earth: Creation Care
Peaceful and Quiet Lives: Liberty Issues
The Two Shall Be One: Marriage and Family
In the Beginning: Abortion
The Way of Peace: Security and Terrorism
The Stranger Within Your Gates: Immigration
Seek First the Kingdom: Our Future in the Culture
● “Christian Civic Duty & the Idea of Citizenship,” Journal of Christian Studies (Jan. 2023).
Should a Christian “engage” with earthly politics or “get involved” with the contentious questions of public policy? Dissent from Christian political involvement often assumes a strict dichotomy between the concerns of this world and the next, between occupation with the things that are passing away and eternal matters. According to this view, Christians should be saving souls, not changing laws. Our calling centers on spiritual redemption, not political reform. But today, dissent from civic engagement has become a mainstream concern, largely in reaction to the culture wars of the latter twentieth century. Thus, for this past generation there has been a call to set aside saving the kingdoms of men for Christ so as better to advance the Kingdom of Christ among men.
To settle this dispute, the conscientious and thoughtful Christian must ask what a Christian’s civic duty is, not in this or that political order, but in political life as such, political life as it ought to be. The nature of shared human life within the structure of creation informs our Christian moral obligations, as it does everyone’s. An element of this political givenness-of-the-world, regardless of one's place and time, is citizenship, the moral bond of obligation that unites people who share a civic community. In Book III of The Politics, Aristotle investigates “the citizen in an unqualified sense.” His account of what a citizen is, properly speaking, helps the conscientious Christian think more clearly about our moral obligations to contribute as citizens to the common good.
City, Citizen, and Civic Obligation
The Moral Bond of Civic Obligation
Christian Democratic Citizenship
But if God has given government for our good (Rom 13:4), for the good not only of his church but also of our unchurched and apostate neighbors, and if bad government is a blight on a people insofar as it is bad, then we have a responsibility to follow through on our God-given civic responsibilities and bless our communities and our country with what godly wisdom our God has given us. This assertion of democratic privilege—and, along with it, the claim of moral responsibility—is not merely an American cultural assumption, an outgrowth of the peculiarly American kingdom of man that obscures by its earthly glory the priority of the kingdom of Christ. It is the God-given privilege of democratic citizenship, a rare and precious form of vice-regency for ministering God’s goodness among us.
● “Francis Bacon” in Religion & Politics in America: An Encyclopedia of Church & State in American Life (ABC-CLIO, 2016).
Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher and statesman born in 1561 to Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He rose to be Lord Chancellor of England before his enemies used a bribery scandal in 1621 to drive him from public life. He died in 1626.
Throughout his years of political climbing and then political exile, Bacon indulged his project for developing, popularizing, and directing a new approach to learning: the application of reason to the world for “the relief of man’s estate.” [Advancement of Learning I.v.11] Bacon was father of the inductive method of science–empiricist, non-teleological, and oriented toward production and control. He envisioned it being not one discipline among many but a “new logic,” a new understanding of how reason itself functions. Thus, it applies not only to chemistry and biology but also to ethics, politics, and religion. [New Organon I.127]
Because all reasoning properly so-called aims at control, ethical and political sciences attempt to manage people in their ethical and political behavior. They investigate how people operate in these matters, especially the passions that move people, “...how affections are kindled and excited; how pacified and refrained…and how they do fight and encounter one with another; and other the like particularities” [Advancement of Learning II.xxll.6].
Studying the Bible, theology, and religion proceeds in the same manner. Modern political thought has always viewed religion as dangerous, disturbing the peace both in society and among nations. Bacon himself wrote, “The greatest vicissitude of things amongst men, is the vicissitude of sects and religions.” [Essays No. 58] So religion that has been brought under scientific control for everyone’s benefit is a civil religion in the service of peace and comfort. The pseudo-Christian religion on Bacon’s fictional island, Bensalem, in New Atlantis functioned this way.
The American Founders did not share this view, but they admired Bacon highly and followed his method of reasoning. Benjamin Franklin considered Bacon "justly esteem'd the father of the modern experimental philosophy." Thomas Jefferson regarded Bacon, Newton and Locke as "the three greatest men the world ever produced," calling them his "trinity." In Federalist Papers No.9, Alexander Hamilton alluded to the political application of the Baconian project in the proposed American Constitution. “The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement,” he wrote, listing principles such as checks and balances and the separation of powers.
Baconian political science does not seek to suppress man’s religious nature, much less to eradicate it, but to identify the religious passions that give rise to faith and zeal, harness them, and channel them in publicly useful ways. “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed.” [New Organon I.3] James Madison applied the Baconian method in Federalist Papers No.10 where he advocated controlling factions by multiplying them in an extended republic. In Federalist Papers No.51, he applies the same argument to religions. “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.” The Constitution disestablishes, diversifies, and thus depoliticizes religion, making America not irreligious but peaceful in its religious diversity.
● "Civil Religion as Political Technology in Bacon’s New Atlantis," in Civil Religion in Political Thought, John von Heyking and Ronald L. Weed, eds. (Catholic University of America Press, 2010).
"In the New Atlantis, Francis Bacon presents a fictional island civilization, Bensalem, kept secret from the rest of the world. His purpose in this is to illustrate the unrestricted development of his new science. What is striking in the tale, however, is the prominence of religion on the island. The reader's first impression is that Bacon's rhetorical purpose in advancing this new science is not only to suggest to a skeptical establishment the many attractive ways in which life could be improved but also to show the compatibility of the new science with the reigning religion, even the godliness of the project. No doubt, this was on his agenda.
"A closer look at the religion reveals, however, a questionable orthodoxy at best. This calls into question the sincerity of Bacon’s most obvious rhetorical purpose. When he appears to be making a place for the new science within the land of the old religion he is, in fact, refitting the old religion for its use in the world of the new science. The fact that Bacon introduces his readers to the promise of the new science using the story of a “land,” or “kingdom,” an identifiable place and polity that is devoted to and founded upon this science, alerts the reader to a still larger issue. What Bacon presents is not simply a more comfortable but otherwise recognizable England. He shows us not a familiar place with an improved science added, but an alien civilization whose strangeness stems from its being founded in every respect upon this new science, this new orientation toward the universe. The scientific project is fundamentally a political project. Essential to its success is a perfected religion that is suited for this perfected, or at least steadily perfecting, world. It is a civil religion. It fits men not for their eternal rest but for a more peaceful earth. It is an application of Bacon's political science, a political technology as it were. ..."
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● "Bacon's New Atlantis: The Christian Hope and the Modern Hope," in Piety and Humanity: Essays on Religion and Early Modern Political Philosophy, Douglas Kries, ed. Foreword by Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).
"Modern politics is distinguished by its orientation toward, and confidence in, what is called "progress." Accordingly, a particular hope, the anticipated end of this progressive historical development, has a prominent and even fundamental place. This hope, which gives our world its character and is the key to understanding the progressive attitude which permeates modern politics, is the promise of the modern scientific enterprise. The high expectations that we have for politics are informed by all that we have accomplished in the past through our science and the disciplines which look to it as a model, as well as what we are confident we can accomplish in the future by the same means. That is to say, this progressive attitude is fundamentally shaped not only by our dominion over nature, but by the hope which that dominion inspires and supports: the confident expectation that, by means of this scientific enterprise, a particular world or way of life in which we judge that we would be happy is attainable. This hope implies a judgment as to what sort of life is most satisfying to human beings, and this judgment reflects a particular theory of human nature and a view of God.
"It was through Biblical religion that hope became a central religious theme and a virtue. Biblical hope is a certain expectation of the highest good. For the pagans, hope was merely a passion, and a misleading one because of its propensity for error. Because of the certainty which revelation affords, however, Biblical hope is a sure thing. Nonetheless, because of the role played by faith in the revealed promises of God, it is also a virtue. The Christian hope, like that of the Hebrews of which it is the fulfillment, is ultimately theological. It begins and ends in God, who is the grounds, the means and the object or end. It is grounded first on the nature of God, who is immutable, sovereign and pure, and thereby on the perfect trustworthiness of His word (Tt 1:2). Secondly, the resurrection of Christ provides an historical witness to this certainty (I Co 15:20; Rm 8:32). Lastly, the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer testifies to the same certainty (I Co 2:14; Rm 5:5, 8:11). Furthermore, God the Father, Himself, is the means by which the hope is affected or secured. It is He who foreknows, predestines, calls and justifies His people (Rm 8:29,30). The Son's crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead atone for all the sins of every generation of the faithful from the beginning of the world until the end (Col 1:20; Heb 9:22). The Holy Spirit applies and secures this work in the believer (Tt 3:5-7). Finally, heaven, the end or substance of the hope itself, is not the enjoyment of those pleasures which God's faithful, by suffering and toil, were prevented from enjoying in this life. Rather, it is God Himself. It is God in whom the perfected believer, resurrected in body and sanctified in spirit, shall find perfect and eternal satisfaction.
"In the modern age, hope of this sort takes on a secular role and emerges for the first time in the writings of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), where it is the focus of his scientific project. In the promotion of his new science, Bacon anticipates many of the technological developments which distinguish our modern age. In his account of the research activities of Salomon's House in the New Atlantis, he alludes in a shadowy but confident way to what resembles modern accomplishments in, for example, medicine, meteorology and agricultural science. Bacon himself, however, understands this prescience not as a passive seeing into the future but as an active leading through the promotion and establishment of his new science. If what Bacon claims for himself is true -- that he is the inventor of the very means of invention as we know it today in its fantastically productive form -- then it is primarily to Francis Bacon that credit is due for the power which we possess in varying degrees over almost all aspects of creation. The success of Bacon's science, in addition to Bacon's writings themselves, have been decisive also in shaping our own attitude toward the future, which is to say the character of the hope which animates our civilization.
"Bacon's promises have proved increasingly, with every passing century, to be universally appealing, even at the expense of people's trust in Christ's promises. Part of the appeal, at least in the years immediately following Bacon's death, before the science had much to show in the way of fruit, can be seen in the New Atlantis. The literary function of the New Atlantis is to accomplish precisely the task with which, at the end of the story, the narrator is charged: to proclaim the revolutionary technological possibilities, and thus the hope, of the new science. The excellence of the science is seen in the attractiveness of the island of Bensalem where the fullness of the hope which it offers is showcased. Those who populate the island, like us, are modern people. They are "happy," widely enjoying as they do what is most important to them, i.e. the comfort and security which are the fruits of that largely triumphant science. Their virtue is their "humanity." This is primarily the disposition to provide others with these goods, the only goods which modern science equips us to provide. This virtue also encompasses, however, the toleration and civility underlying the religious and civil peace which mark the island. This peace derives from the priority which the Bensalemites give to the comforts and security which science successfully provides.
"The pictured hope, however, is deeper than this. It incorporates an almost religious dimension. We are shown "a land of angels" who are orderly, civil and satisfied with regard to all their needs. They combine incorruptibility and humanity, or goodness, both in themselves and toward others. To this they add faith. Through displays of piety and charity and through the miracle by which we are told the gospel was revealed to the island, we can see that they are consistent and undisturbed in their Christianity. Turning to the condition of life which these angelic hosts enjoy, we find medicines and finery of extraordinary distinction. The book seems to be designed to show the compatibility of Christianity and modern science to a generation of religious authorities which was sceptical of this new learning.[i] Disturbing details permeate these features, however. How does this change the nature of the hope? There are strong textual grounds which support the view that in Bensalem humanity masks inhumanity while genuinely providing for basic needs. Chastity, upon closer examination, is nothing more than regimented and usefully channelled passion. Pious Christian displays distract from a more fundamental assault upon, transformation of, and ultimately displacement of Christianity.
"Indeed, it was a hesitant and sceptical audience for which Bacon wrote the New Atlantis. Men despaired because they believed impossible a science which could deliver the power over nature for which Bacon argued. For this reason, the New Atlantis is not an argument, like The New Organon, but a captivating tale intended to inspire hope in a sovereign science which would remedy all our woes. This hope, the picture of what may be achieved through widespread and government supported devotion to scientific research and development, Faulkner calls Bacon's "vision," in particular a "visionary new state of security."[ii] In Bacon's tale, we are introduced to men who are beside themselves with joy at their experience of this civilization. Much of the language which Bacon employs seems appropriate to the description of men who have come into their hope, the satisfaction of their deepest longings (e.g. "a land of angels," "a picture of our salvation"). Bensalem is the hope which Bacon holds out for those who would see a better world or at least a safer and more comfortable world. Thus, these men undergo something of a conversion because they see in this land their salvation...but their earthly salvation.
"The fullness of salvation is the object of the highest human hope. That highest hope to which we are saved also indicates that from which we are saved, and thereby the fundamental and most besetting human problem. Bacon's use of the word hope in the New Atlantis is in each case associated with preservation of the body against decay and destruction. For example, his first use of the word occurs in the context of the storm in which the Europeans' ship is tossed. The object of the hope is the land which they sight, i.e. their immediate earthly salvation (NA p.37).[iii] The second use has reference to preservation against sickness (NA p.40). Just as the Christian hope includes the restoration of the body, but spiritual and incorruptible, through resurrection unto an eternal sabbath, the Baconian hope is in the restoration and preservation of the human body in this world by natural means.[iv] But as a hope, this condition must be certain and thus secure, and also happy, and thus comfortable or pleasant. Given the presentation of the hope as a particular nation, the governing authorities of which orchestrate the campaign of science, there is clearly also a pronounced political element to the hope. Thus, at the heart of the modern character is a grave ambiguity. We combine excessively high hopes with frightening moral and political possibilities. ..."
[i] Frank Manuel and Fritzie Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1979), 206, 208.
[ii] Robert K. Faulkner, Francis Bacon and the Project of Progress (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993), 243.
[iii] All references to Bacon's New Atlantis will appear in the text, abbreviated as NA , accompanied by the page reference in the Jerry Weinberger edition.
[iv] Jerry Weinberger, "Science and Rule in Bacon's Utopia," American Political Science Review 70 (1976): 872.
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● "Bacon's New Atlantis: The Christian Hope and the Modern Hope," in Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, Fall 1994.
This is the same article that is reprinted in the anthology of essays, Piety and Humanity (1997).
Overview of Courses
Because Life is Serious
Foundations of Politics
This course addresses fundamental questions about the nature of politics, religion and politics, the individual and the community,, power and wisdom, citizenship and statesmanship, liberty, justice, and tyranny, and does so through a selection of great political literature, essays, films and theological classics. Chiefly, The Bible, Augustine's City of God, Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Plutarch's Life of Lycurgus, Huxley's Brave New World, and the film, Anna and the King (1999).
Enlightenment & Liberal Democracy
This course explores the theory and practice of liberal democracy, including its relation to biblical teaching and to the American Constitution and the post-modern challenge to it. We consider the foundations of individual rights and liberal democratic freedom and the broader aims of the Enlightenment as a philosophic movement. We read chiefly Machiavelli's Prince, Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Second Treatise of Government, Nietzsche's Use and Disadvantage of History for Life, and Lewis's Abolition of Man.
This course examines the intersection of economics, politics, and ethics, including original and contemporary arguments for and against classical liberalism, socialism, democratic capitalism, the regulation of markets, the welfare state, economic justice, and the purposes of economic life. We read Locke, Montesquieu, and Marx, Tocqueville's Memoir on Pauperism, Wilson, Walzer, and Sandel, Friedman, Gilder, and de Jouvenel. Steven Rhoads' The Economist's View of the World crowns the course along with the Peter Sellers film, Heavens Above (1963).