Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Good and Evil: History on Repeat

Written by: on March 14, 2024


This week I enjoyed frequent reading interval sessions using both audio and ebook formats of Nigel Biggar’s, Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning. Biggar’s treatment of history is both humble and enlightening, presenting a balanced perspective on the complex issues of empires, colonialism, and morality that feels both honest and reflective. By acknowledging his faith upfront, Biggar frames his discourse within a broader humanitarian context, exploring the dichotomy of good and evil in a manner that illuminates and challenges many scholars and readers alike. Niall Ferguson, author, and Fellow says this about Biggar’s work, “Nigel Biggar fearlessly goes where few other scholars now venture to tread: to defend the British Empire against its increasingly vitriolic detractors. He does not ignore the many blemishes on the face of British rule, but he demonstrates that there were profound differences between Britain’s empire and the totalitarian empires of Stalin and Hitler.”[1]

Through the lens of history and the teachings of the Bible, I cannot help but ponder the intricacies of human expansion, the justification of wars and conquests, and the spiritual battles that underpin the physical ones. I fall into the camp of “everything is spiritual,” and realize I resort back to this point often, however, belief in the perspective justifies its repetition in arguments because “everything” is the qualifier. That being said, I find it near impossible to examine the growth of empires and global expansion in trade, influence, military strength, location, and resources, as anything but a spiritual interaction played out in the physical realm.  This blog post seeks to unravel a small portion of the complex interplay of moral, spiritual, and physical conquest that has shaped human civilization, specifically the British, in their efforts of colonization and empirical growth.


History has a habit of repeating itself in both the secular and religious sectors, with both good and evil motivations. Biggar dissects this paradox and employs a positive perspective stating, “We ought not to judge the past by the present.”[2] Biggar tackles difficult subjects such as slavery, equality, genocide, exploitation, and just war, to name a few of the “wicked problems” and challenging topics in his book.[3] He cites Jonathan A.C. Brown’s thoughts on the subject of slavery and moral culture, “There could be good or bad forms of it – some granting slaves certain rights, others not; some being merciful, others being cruel – but the institution itself was taken for granted.”[4]

Biggar explores the British Empire’s complex legacy, advocating for a balanced view that recognizes both its contributions and its failings. Biggar contests the idea that empires are purely malevolent, instead suggesting that a detailed examination can reveal a mixture of moral outcomes.  He argues that “Such varied good and evils cannot be sensibly reduced to a common currency and then weighed against each other.”[5]

My Take

Biggar’s approach emphasizing balance and moral scrutiny, aligns with broader ethical considerations, including those found in Christian ethics and the concept of just war theory outlined beautifully by author Marc LiVecche’s in his book, The Good Kill.[6] It seems almost too simple but, Biblical leadership principles, focusing on justice, righteousness, and stewardship, could offer a framework for evaluating the moral actions of empires, suggesting that leadership should aim for the welfare of all people, including those under colonial rule.

Biggar seamlessly illustrates historical colonialism, detailing both the beneficiaries and the atrocities. His views have been labeled controversial in some circles and I found the opening story of his “Ethics of Empire” project and the challenging attention it received to be a credit to the author regardless of the point of view.[7]  I believe morality should be considered in both history and theology and the idea of omitting it as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘beneath the historian’s’ methods for interpretation are close-minded.

Zooming out, it seems as if cultural norms often twist initial good intentions and take advantage of the institutions with power and greed. This goes back to the argument of spiritual warfare and the evil influences that directly oppose the teachings of Jesus – such as money, control, and domination. I agree with Biggar in the notion that not all forms of colonialism were inherently evil, yet the pursuit of power and financial gain has often led to morally questionable actions by many empires, corporations, and various governing bodies.

Biblical Colonialism, Today

Today’s society, much like the narratives found in the Bible, showcase and point toward expansion influenced by both noble and ignoble desires. I think it is safe to say that similar outcomes from Biblical narratives should not be surprising in the present considering the similar motivations for millennia.  I also think the present can be described as an era of ‘Biblical Colonialism,’ which admittedly sounds weird and dated but I think it also makes sense today. The ‘Church Age’ is still alive and well and the collective Body of Christ is steadily growing in numbers since the first century.  There in less than two thousand years from the Bible’s conception, and close to it for the first Church, Biblical Colonialism is still active. The colonies of Christ are imperialistically introducing new believers to a culture and lifestyle as one that redefines the boundaries of temples, truth, and, territories – and points directly at Christ to be the head of the ultimate empire.

Let’s continue to extend the Kingdom of God on Earth with spiritual outreach that propagates the teachings, values, and principles of Jesus. This collective mission invites us to examine our motives and the impacts of our actions, guiding us toward fostering justice, peace, and righteousness in alignment with the core values of God’s Kingdom.


[1] Nigel Biggar, Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning (HarperCollins UK, 2023), 6.

[2] Ibid, 22.

[3] Joseph Bentley and Michael Toth, Exploring Wicked Problems, 2020.

[4] Slavery and Islam (London: Oneworld Academic, 2019) Jonathan A. C. Brown presents the following scene (pp. 28–9).

[5]  Biggar, Nigel, Colonialism, 348.

[6]  LiVecche, Mark. The Good Kill.

[7] Biggar, Nigel, Colonialism, 22.

About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

8 responses to “Good and Evil: History on Repeat”

  1. Kristy Newport says:


    This is an interesting topic that you bring up. It makes me curious how other authors/theologians would frame things up historically in light of spiritual insights:

    This goes back to the argument of spiritual warfare and the evil influences that directly oppose the teachings of Jesus – such as money, control, and domination.

    This encourages me to pray.
    It also prompts me to rely on God’s Sovereignty because I do not believe things are going to get easier. I may be a martyr for Christ or my grandchildren may.

    Thank you for your thoughts

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      I really believe everything is spiritual. I also think other cultures outside of our Western norms, really understand this perspective. I have served on a few mission trips in Africa and they have a much better grip on spirituality than we do in the West. Yet, we are the ones flying over there to “teach” them something.

      I concur that things may get worse, but we have hope and His promises that no one can take from us. Also, prayer is powerful. He is in charge but we can still make a difference and assist in His plan.

      Thanks, Kristy.

  2. Michael,
    Great post and excellent points throughout your post. I especially enjoyed when you wrote “He does not ignore the many blemishes on the face of British rule, but he demonstrates that there were profound differences between Britain’s empire and the totalitarian empires of Stalin and Hitler.”

    Great post Michael, you are a great man of God. Keep being uncompromising in your faith and character. Bless you friend.

  3. Tonette Kellett says:


    I so enjoy your posts – continually look for them in particular. I love how you bring the writing home to modern-day missions and the spread of the Word of God. It is where the very heart of my being rests.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thank you, Tonette. I used to dread the blogs and have really come to enjoy them. Your words made my day.

      I am grateful for you and our friendship. I also love that you have a heart for people just like Jesus. You are in love with Jesus just like God, and you move in Spirit like we are commanded to. Keep it up. You are an inspiration to many and making a huge difference in this crazy world.


      • Tonette Kellett says:

        Well, your words just made my day! Thank you for being a light in my crazy world. You make a difference, too, for so many people. Keep pressing on!

  4. mm Daron George says:


    I found your concept of “Biblical Colonialism” very interesting. IT represents the ongoing expansion of the collective Body of Christ, propagating the teachings, values, and principles of Jesus. If I understood it correctly.

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