By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Introduction and Summary:
The implied social contract is that having been born in a nation, that we have an obligation to follow the laws of the land. John (in an email thread below) makes the following statement, “No human or group of humans have the moral authority to establish a government the way all governments of the world are established today.”
John has elaborated on this concept in previous correspondence, and I believe he objects to the concept of any government having the right to rule over a man who has not agreed to be ruled. This is a Libertarian argument that is meant to philosophically de-legitimize the entire concept of government, and therefore open up the consideration of other governmental solutions such as anarcho-capitalism (government by market forces). When the concept of government’s legitimacy is questioned, the Libertarian solution seems to have a greater philosophical plausibility.
John does not believe that “no government” is the solution, but believes that possibly some new governmental configuration may be acceptable, but this current construct where men are born into a society, and then must obey the government charter, without having agreed to it, is immoral. He doesn’t know what to put in the place of the current governmental structure but thinks that there may be some untried possibility that would be better.
Paraphrased and restated again, “What right does a government have to demand obedience and enforce compliance with rules, regulations, and policies that the new generation had no part negotiating? What right does any government have to administer punishment for violations of a contract a person did not sign?”
I agree with this criticism of government to the extent that it is immoral to force a new generation to follow a specific unrighteous rule. Likewise, it is immoral for a new generation to rebel against specific righteous rules of government. Thus, as a first level of argument, we note that the rule of government is moral or immoral to the extent that their laws are moral.
But, this consideration does not specifically address or rebut the generic concept of “the illegitimacy of government having the right to rule and enforce compliance of new generations.” But, we can generalize this concept to declare that it is immoral to resist the rule of a fully righteous and Godly government. In other words, if a government were in fact as righteous as the rule of the Kingdom of Heaven, then to resist any law would be immoral. And, by definition, if the laws of the government are in fact the laws of God, then the rule of that government is moral.
Thus, the argument that “Government is immoral” is proven false, because a single example of an exception to this hypothesis has been found. The hypothetical universal negative that, “government is immoral” is proven false by finding an example of an exception.
Another argument for the validity of government as a valid sphere of life is the fact that Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven throughout His ministry. Clearly, a “Kingdom” is a type of government. Likewise, throughout the Old Testament, the relationship of God and government is portrayed. When the government was righteous, the people were happy, and God blessed the land, and vice versa. Thus, from a Biblical perspective, the generic concept of government is strongly validated.
But, given that governments will necessarily be imperfect, containing a mixture of moral and immoral laws and persons occupying the various offices of government, the question becomes, at what level of offense, violation, or imperfection should a people object to the rule of government? Since government will always exist, and government will always be imperfect, we must continue to be vigilant, informed, and resist the bad aspects of government, and support the good.
The first power men have over government is the sharpening of their moral senses to discriminate good from evil. Having made that discrimination, men can then enroll others in similar discernment and judgment and create alliances to oppose the rule of an unrighteous government or support a righteous government.
The governed, the citizens, cannot properly regulate government without having a proper moral sense. And, the foundation of a moral sense is having a right moral template. Without a standard of Truth to compare law and circumstance, we make judgments based on feelings or opinions.
God’s Law (also known as Natural Law) is written on men’s hearts, and reflects the way we were created and dictates the way we should live to experience optimal joy. God constructed the universe so as to allow choice. He gave men the freedom to choose ways of momentary pleasure that lead to destruction; or the path of sacrifice and hard work that leads eventually to joy in this life and the next.
To the ignorant, the path to death and slavery is disguised and looks pleasant and desirable. To the wolf, the self-interested opportunist, the ways of control, theft, and seduction offer the opportunity for enrichment at the expense of others. To the deceived, those who believe they know the right way, the way that will save the planet, that honor diversity, who exalt earth and nature worship over God’s ways, sadly, their good intentions bias the world toward to poverty, slavery, and death. All who raise any other name above God’s will see their dreams turn to nightmares, all while expecting a grand new age of hope and change.
God’s Law must be obeyed, regardless of one’s assent or knowledge of its contents. Consequences will be administered by life and nature regardless of one’s ignorance or malicious intent in breaking Natural Law. Thus, the question is only whether or not the government and its body of laws comply with the Natural Law. A casual examination reveals a wide gap between Godliness and the mores of modern America.
What is the moral obligation of a citizenry to obey the unrighteous edicts of their government? Men only have an obligation to God to obey righteous laws. But there will be consequences on this earth for the man who disobeys the governmental commands. The State has the power to enforce is demands, and disobedience can exact high costs. Be prepared to pay the price of protest before taking that step. A law may be unjust and unrighteous, but a high cost is assessed against those who object and refuse to comply.
In a representative democracy (a republic), we have the power to vote for representatives who can change the law in response to the voice of the people. Thus, unless the violation is of a felonious nature, many choose to comply with the unGodly law for a season and suffer the humility of being forced to act in a manner unbecoming to free and Godly men. When corruption and unGodliness have permeated the system to the point of the government disconnecting from the vote, the populace may find it necessary to endure the pain and sacrifice of civil disobedience. In cases of authoritarian tyranny, an even greater sacrifice may be necessary – a modern Tea Party rebellion.
It is my contention that the government constituted by our Founders, and the moral system held by the general populace of the founding era was largely righteous and Godly. But, it was not perfect in its Godliness.
An example of the error was slavery. The allowance of slavery was accepted due to the political expediency of ratifying the Constitution. The cost of embedding such error in the nation’s founding documents reflects the price of missing the mark of perfect Godliness.
The Civil war was fought to eliminate the evil of slavery, but the history books have been rewritten to pretend that it was about “State’s Rights”. A complex play precipitated the Civil War, but ultimately it was the Union’s stand against slavery and the South overstepping with its demands to expand slavery in the new territories. The stance of the Union was right and good. In essence, they took up arms to enforce a moral principle. Those who declare Lincoln as the evil perpetrator against all the Southern States who were supposedly just exercising their “States Rights” have fallen prey to the historical revisionists.
Possibly we should formalize citizenship with a coming of age ritual. If every man is educated in the nation’s history, law, culture, and science, he could make an informed decision about accepting citizenship. Citizenship does not mean that he agrees with all the laws of a government. Rather, citizenship means that he has chosen to be subject to the law of the land, accept the consequences of disagreeing, and be given status as a vested participant in the process of creating a more perfect social organization.
Every public servant takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. But, the Constitution is worthy of allegiance only to the extent it is an extension of the righteous rule of God’s Law.
There may be error in the law and the younger generation should object to anything that misses the mark of Godliness. The tools of objection include voting, enrollment of others (discussion, education, publication), civil disobedience, and revolution. The final protest is revolution, but if men are faithful in discerning and resisting the incremental divergence from Godliness, the magnitude of governmental error will not reach the threshold of pain and oppression that justifies revolution.
Each generation should use that window of adolescence and young adulthood to speak out and confront the imperfections of the societal paradigm and its implementation. Parents and adults should teach children the art and disposition of critical thinking, and the standard of Truth (the spirit of Truth hidden within the Biblical hologram) against which to compare all thought, speech, and action. Every generation, at all ages of life, should continue its examination of the rationality of the current societal organizations (which includes the social, religious, business, and governmental institutions).
Part of good citizenship should include an ongoing critique of the society on all levels: personal, family, group (church, business, service club…), city, state, and nation. By constantly comparing principle and theory with practicality and actuality, the social organization can be refined. If such conversations are common in the family and church, the youth will recognize the fallacy of simplistic and utopian solutions, and be prepared for the ongoing debate that public life requires. Each generation should agree to participate in the ongoing development of a more perfect union, and be prepared to make the sacrifice of being informed and opinionated, and should then enroll others in holding this new and better opinion. If each generation has a strong foundation in Biblical understanding, they will be well equipped with a right and true standard by which to judge the society. Armed with a right standard of Truth, the youth are fit to inject valuable opinion into the public debate.
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 1:33 PM
Subject: Fw: No Longer Will We Stand Idly By
John, I think you will like the quote from the following article:
Excerpt: Isn’t it incredible that, despite all the historical evidence to the contrary, that anyone can still believe that the founders would’ve fought a long, cruel, bloody war just to exchange one central, overpowering government for another?
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 3:51 PM
Subject: RE: No Longer Will We Stand Idly By
You were right, Tom. I love the quote.
I am swamped with work and stuff today. I have a HUGE backlog from you, essays, etc., not to mention this link and other stuff. I hope to catch up soon. Too many desires and projects and too little time.
– John ‹(•¿•)›
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 12:16 AM
To: John Subject:
Re: No Longer Will We Stand Idly By
John, I understand the backlog problem. I’m so pleased to hear that you are attempting to read my essays. I put an incredible amount of effort into them. Whenever I reread one it takes me hours, because I always find something that I’ve learned, or can make more clear/ easy to read/ or more poetic. Hours later it’s longer, but usually better, at least in my estimation. I’ve really gotten a lot of value out of confronting the ideas you have presented me with. I really appreciate that. Your points have been the primary stone upon which I have sharpened my mind and argument, and clarified my political position over the last few years. I don’t think my solutions/positions are popular or common, even among conservatives/constitutionalists/Republicans. My method of development is to put myself inside of the situation described, feel inside what feels right, and I follow the logic that justifies that position. I have really tried to hear the positions that you have presented, and I, of course, compare them to my conceptions of what would really work (re: men being satisfied in their relationships to each other and their world) based on the principles that I understand about how life works. And of course, the principles I use are based on what I believe are the most fundamental rules that govern humanity and the physical universe. Our debate appears to be about the logic of the proposed policies of governance (or lack thereof), but in fact, the actual debate is about the embedded nature of humanity and the universe (i.e. the stage upon which men play — the geography and terrain which creates barriers around which men must navigate).
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:00 PM
Subject: RE: No Longer Will We Stand Idly By
Tom, to be clear, I am not *advocating* anarchy or “no government”, nor implying that civilized society can operate without some kind of organizing principle or practices. What I am pretty clear on is that “government” as it is defined today, as founded and justified by some kind of collective charter signed by certain people who claim to have the authority to do so, is a completely false construct. They did their best, but what they did is logically full of holes. That doesn’t mean that I think “having nothing” will work better!! I think what we have (in all republics around the world) is probably a primitive form of some more advanced, moral, and logically consistent organizing principle that will eventually be developed to take the place of a “government charter”. No human or group of humans have the moral authority to establish a government the way all governments of the world are established today.
I don’t know the answer. I would love to know the answer. But I am pretty sure that the social organizing principles we have today are NOT the answer.
As a side note… Almost as a matter of principle, I am opposed to holding “conviction”. That does not mean I am lacking in a strong opinion. BUT, I am pretty convinced that humans have an unfortunate trait of closing our minds to evidence once we have made a position into a conviction. Conviction is the opposite of gathering information, thinking through it, and making an analysis. I want to stay in the mode, as much as possible, of observing, thinking, analyzing, understanding. So I try to reject holding a “conviction” which to me has a blindness to it. I hold a strong opinion that I hope is rational enough to change based on new evidence. But I try not to let my strong opinion develop into a conviction. People will die for convictions! People will do almost anything for their convictions except think about them.
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Friday, November 05, 2010 10:16 PM
To: John Subject:
Re: No Longer Will We Stand Idly By
John, your reply was concise and elegant as always. Thanks for your well-articulated comments questioning the morality of a societal contract put upon unborn generations. In my rebuttal of Sobran’s defense of anarchy, I confront to some extent the concept of demanding allegiance to a governmental charter established generations before. I will summarize and expand on those concepts now.
I defend accepting an unspoken cultural contract to the laws of the Republic only to the extent that it is an expression of Godly Law.
(Aside: The question, “What is Godly Law?” can only be defined by God in its totality. Godly Law is not a circumscribed set of standards that we as humans can fully elaborate. But, He has given us a hologramic representation of His Law and mind in the totality of the Holy Bible. These written words give the human mind anchors and boundaries by which to approximately circumscribe and define His law and way.
I do not believe that words and phrases from the Bible should be taken out of context to justifying societal standards or doctrine. But, when taken in a large view, the Bible can give strong indications as to the direction of a properly lived life and disciplined soul.
The Bible is a hologramic instruction manual, which gives ever greater fidelity with each larger view of its totality and the context of the circumstance we are analyzing. The Bible is not a fully literal or comprehensive manual of do’s and don’ts of all life actions (although many use and consider it as such). If it were fully literal, its required adherence would reduce life to robotic obedience, having very little meaning. This is the opposite of the intention God has for the people of His creation. This was the challenge that God faced – to give direction and at the same time give freedom; to create a world with boundaries and consequences for violating them, an opportunity to choose to the momentary pleasure of violation, or the long term pleasure of righteous adherence to Godly limits.
Command modified by circumstantial ambiguity, multiple layers of message, and the appearance of, but not the actuality of, contradiction are all required aspects of an absolute instruction manual that still allows freedom for error, growth, love, and rebellion. The Truth within the Bible allows for instruction, edification, and reproof. It has within it enough texture and triangulation to give us clues as to the proper standard for the conduct of every societal relationship (self, others, and God).
(And yes, other religions, paths, and gurus have instructions/wisdom that may be helpful or illuminating, to the extent that they reflect the same Godly absolute truth, illustrate the same principle in a manner easy to grasp, or bring up alternate perspectives about the same issue for consideration. But, I do not advocate following them as an accurate revelation to the extent that they contradict the Holy Bible.)
I believe there is a benefit in choosing to regulate one’s life according to the hologram of the divine mind represented in the Bible. But, each man must come to the place of conviction that the Bible, in fact, reflects the divine mind accurately.
I have come to that peace and conviction because I have done my own challenging of the Bible with every philosophical, lifestyle, paradox, scientific, political, theological, mystical, psychological test that I could conceive in an effort to prove it inconsistent internally, or with a life lived in the highest manner. I have only found that every paradox is resolved by a higher layer that is present within it, and consistent with my sense of Truth in how a universe must, in fact, be created to have meaning and true liberty.
The Holy Bible is a hologram of truth. It is a hologram in the sense of being a pattern of words that reflects the truth about life principles. The Bible is composed of fragments (words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, and ultimately the totality of its assembly of 66 books) which represent aspects of the truth. The smaller fragments of similar consideration may be mapped together to create a more defined picture of the Biblical prescription regarding any particular life thought, speech, or action. The peripheral scriptures surrounding the more obviously instructive or illustrative text give texture, context, and refinement to the text under analysis.
To determine truth from the scripture requires intense and focused effort. Jesus gave a parable describing the Kingdom of Heaven (the finding of truth) as like a man who searched and found, after great effort, a pearl of great price, and upon finding it, sold everything he had to possess it. The metaphor was, of course, an illustration that this world has within it elements of the Kingdom of Heaven that are of great value, but very difficult to discern. When one of the principles of truth has been found, it is appropriate and profitable to cast aside all of our idols of false concepts that we once held so dear. Truth is the prize, knowing the absolute is the highest goal; it is the pearl of great price. Finding truth produces the fruit of goodness, peace, beauty, and fulfillment that is characteristic of Godliness and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Men can be tempted to elevate the search for truth, and open-mindedness, to the level of the absolute good. But, the search is less valuable than the goal of finding truth, as far as organizing our minds, lives, and society. If the search is more valued than the Truth, then Truth may come, but no fruit ever comes from that truth. Searching for Truth can become an end in itself, an idol, or false god. Openness is good to the extent that it allows one to continue to introspect, refine, and get deeper revelations. But, deification of doubt and open-mindedness as the highest virtue prevents the growth and maturation in the way of living truth and influencing the world in that way. When the truth is found, our search for truth should then shift to seeking a deeper understanding of the Truth. Of course, we should always maintain an ear for new arguments that qualify the application of Truth, and stay awake for indications that we may, in fact, be in error. With enough time and work, eventually, the search may provide enough data to flesh out the body of Truth. When the principles and knowledge of Truth are seen, it changes the character of our search from doubt and uncertainty, to a deeper exploration and confirmation of Truth. But, having found the Truth, we should never let the fire of the search be replaced with a tepid belief or pride that comes from believing that “I already know”.
The Bible, and our conceptualizations about life cannot be converted into a codified list of laws, because all law is static and inextricably bound to individual circumstances. The spirit of truth is dynamic and expresses itself as a unique set of speech, thoughts, and actions for each circumstance. Truth in its totality is not knowable in its infinitely small division, but as humans, a major theme and purpose of life is striving to express ourselves as closely as possible toward manifesting that standard.)
Giving allegiance to and compliance with any unGodly cultural norm, “societal contract”, or governmental law would by definition be immoral. No other definition of “immoral” has universal applicability. The definition of morality is not individual; rather, it is the standard of perfection established by God. When growing up, each person must engage in a process of deciding what is universal, circumstantial, and individual truth regarding every moral principle, cultural norm, and personal taste.
Ideally, society would have a “coming of age” ritual”, such as a confirmation, a bar/bat mitzvah, or swearing in, where each person embraced or challenged all, or part, of the cultural contract. Such a ritual could be a place where the group debate was continually energized by the questions of the new generations. This has been done in small tribes and communities. In a dispersed society, implementation would be possible through a church or small community groups.
The current culture has promoted the mythology of the wise child that provide brilliant insights to solve the problems of society. But in actuality, most children/youth are far too inexperienced and ignorant of the principles of life to give valuable and workable suggestions. Their limited perspective and experience give them a false sense of superiority, not realizing that many of their ideas have already been tried and failed. Still, a childlike innocence may perceive the holes, errors, and assumptions that were invisible to a people that have grown accustomed to sub-optimal solutions.
In our search for the perfect societal organization, we should remind ourselves that mastery of God’s Law is all that is necessary to live life well. His law and way are perfect. But, knowing and implementing His way is not simple or obvious. As a culture, we engage in much debate, research, and experimentation, trying to develop new methods of management, law, relationship… and all that is important and valuable. But, we have hobbled ourselves by our exclusion of the Biblical perspective in our current deification of man and his concepts.
The exclusion of the God of the Bible from the public debate and life is purposeful. There is a significant portion of the population which wants to be free of any mention or consideration of God in the public debate.
God has been excluded because men do not wish to be shackled by the limitations of God – primarily in the realms of sex and pharmacy. Thus, the best minds of the centuries have devoted themselves to arguing against the existence of God using philosophical, scientific, evolutionary, theological, cultural, sociological, and moral considerations. Evolution has been elevated to the level of creed.
The philosophy of Nietzsche the quintessential doctrine of the humanist. He argued for the benefit of living in a world where God is dead. He declared that we are much freer when God is dead, meaning that we do not have to live according to a standard that restricts the options of life. Instead, men can choose to act as they choose, living life as dangerously as they wish, and experiencing the pleasure or pain of life without the preconception or restrictions of an imaginary or mythological God.
While such a philosophy has elements of truth within it, it misses an important element. If there truly is absolute truth, then simply choosing to act as we please will ultimately produce more pain than pleasure. If a man chooses to learn to the lessons of life lived in rebellion to God by hitting the walls of life, instead of learning by wise instruction, that is an acceptable, albeit painful way to live life. The largest error comes from believing that there are no limits, absolutes, or boundaries. A man who simply believes life is what it is, just a lot of experiences with consequences pain and pleasure, may experience life with abandon and the appearance of freedom, but if he does not heed the boundary markers, life will break him. It is my thesis that life is lived more fully and joyfully by simply learning the proper (God’s) boundaries of life, obeying them, and living life attempting to optimize life for self, and all who come into contact with me.
A nation which embraces the concept of an absolute, a standard of life which is True, will prosper greatly if its standards are actually True. It is a great responsibility to train (socialize) new minds in the ways of life. And the training of youth can be abused by forcing them into compliance with false principles using threats and punishment.
A national moral code or religious creed was not written into the Founding Documents because of the recognition of how people will take scripture and use it as a tool of tyranny. Thus, our Founders avoided declaring any but the most general principles at the national level, and even left the obvious fact of the Biblical basis of our Christian moral governmental system implicit – as the duty of each man, and surrounding community, to perpetuate the propagation of the moral mind/heart into each succeeding generation. The holy lineage of faith passing broke with the generation that came of age in the ’60s. The sacred trust of the Founders was betrayed. It was at this time that the nation turned sharply toward eventual slavery and poverty. At some point, the holy lampstand (the blessing of God on a nation) is removed from a people.
The 10th amendment is a monument to the wisdom of allowing families and smaller groups take responsibility for issues of local and individual morality. As part of the national duty, parents and the community must discipline the unbridled selfishness of infancy, the unskilled foolishness of childhood, the rebellious challenges of adolescence, and yet leave open room for learning from mistakes, and questioning the rationality of societal norms.
This is the gauntlet of perfect parenting, and it has been largely delegated to the bureaucratic mediocrity of a State-implemented education. The nation needs a vast army of wise parents to guide their children into the perfect balance between; accepting societal norms and seeking a deeper revelation and implementation of universal truths. A society that lets its children lead and find their own way without strong guidance in the ways of culture and Truth, will find itself ruled by childish ignorance, foolishness, and passion.
At the time of the founding of our country, the Bible was the best selling book, and “The New England Primer” was the second-best seller. The New England Primer used scripture, Bible stories, and the doctrines of Christianity as the reading material to train First Graders to read. This produced a nation of men who guided their worldview according to Biblical precepts. Men have always rebelled against the guidance of Godly restrictions. Over our nation’s history, the decaying influence of prosperity, and the seduction of philosophy, and the deception of wrongly judged law have led the public to lay down their strong armor of scriptural truth and take up the soft clothing of tolerance and peace with all ideas. Flaccid thinking and reasoning have lead men to embrace poisonous doctrines, and our nation will eventually fall like all other cultures that decayed from moral depravity.
The stellar results of the American experiment should be questioned. Why has our nation has prospered more than any other in history? We have been blessed with a Constitution that reflects Godly organization of men, and we have been blessed with abundant natural resources. But, other nations have implemented a representative government with a division of power, and much the same constitutional document as our own, but have not prospered as we. Other nations (e.g. Russia) have vast land masses and resources but have not prospered as we have.
I believe our success is due to a supernatural blessing that arises from our national character and spirit. I believe we prosper because we are dedicated to serving the one True God, and following the eternal moral principles. In turn, Godly character reflects in productivity.
The founders widely recognized and spoke about the need for a society to be based upon religion and morality. And clearly, it was the Christian religion to which they referred when declaring the need for foundations of religion and morality. All of law should be based upon Biblical principles, and it is right and just to the extent that it is Biblical.
For many years after our establishment as a nation, new legal principles and legislation had to be validated by Biblical reference. Sir William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England” was used as the primary law text during the colonial days and as a basis for frontier law. It was based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. This reflects the fact that God’s law (from a Christian perspective) was the foundation of our legal system.
Charles Finny became a Christian because of his study of law. He saw the elegance of Biblical principles reflected in the law, and the resultant good and right order it created in men’s lives when they lived according to its precepts. Finny lived from 1792-1875 and became a great evangelist. He was credited with the second great awakening, which occurred around the Civil War. His faith was so strong, stories were told of his fervent prayers bringing men back to life. Some of his accomplishments included founding Oberlin College, being an abolitionist and running an underground railroad, graduating the first black woman in 1837 from his college, and teaching the man who started the YMCA and the couple who started the Salvation Army. He was involved in the formation of the American Bible Society and the American Temperance society. He believed every man must work to bring the gospel into everyday life, the church must take right ground into politics, and that politics and (the Christian) religion in must be closely intertwined in a Constitutional Republic.
The Universities of the day, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia, were all seminaries and dedicated to teaching men the principles of Christianity and their application to properly living life. In 1859 Darwin published the origin of species and declared that man came not from the divine creation, but through as a series of incremental transformations, pressured by survival. Shortly after this new “scientific” theory was presented as truth, the president of Harvard hired an evolutionary ideologue to administer the law school curriculum. That man introduced the concept that law was an organic living body, just like man, that naturally evolved to take different forms depending on its prior state and the current environment.
Thus was born the practice of using case law as precedent, rather than using the Bible as the absolute standard against which to measure the law and judge circumstance. The “evolution-ization” of the law profession spread from Harvard to all the other law schools to replace the Bible as the standard of legal philosophy. The lawyers who follow such an errant philosophy of life are the tares (the weeds) sown into the society, and their influence has deeply degraded the national morality.
John Dewey (another evolutionist who wanted to eliminate the Biblical standard of morality from education) and his theories influenced the same transformation in the primary and secondary education system. Man has elevated himself to the position of supreme and sole arbiter of truth and law. But man is poorly wired to make judgments as to the absolute nature of truth from his own perspective. Children can be programmed to embrace any system of logic and values. Men can accommodate to any environment and moral system, and then defend its rationality. The disastrous results of the Hitlerian, Stalinist, and Maoist experiments illustrate the end of the utopian ideals of men.
The Bible has been the central force and standard in humanizing and sanctifying man’s passions. We have been seduced away from our Judeo-Christian roots as a nation, and rather than blaming the socialist-humanist theology for our decline, we have bought the big lie, that the failures of America are due to the oppressive Judeo-Christian ethic. The liars and perpetrators have falsely taken the moral high ground and blamed the victims for the societal decay.
Those who declare that the Bible has been the source of wars and oppression fail to note that men can misuse an absolute standard. Men’s lust for power has driven armies and nations to war and tyranny. Ultimately the Bible will civilize men only when they deeply drink of its words and the spirit behind them. The Constitution in concert with the Bible has been the greatest civilizing influence the world has seen. The balance of powers it prescribes uses men’s passions to hold the larger system in check. But, for such a balance to endure, the populace must generally embrace the Biblical moral principles and live them in spirit and in truth.
This concept of ritualizing an acceptance of the societal contract would require the crystallization of the societal principles, the overt teaching of them, and a conscious embrace of those principles.
For those who choose to object or opt out of the currently constituted societal contract, there may be various levels of privilege, and removal of privilege, as the consequence of those choices. The details and complications of implementing such a societal ritual are large. The ritual itself would contain elements of a societal contract. Nevertheless, such a ritual would overtly confront the issues of the morality of and conscious assent to state-enforced compliance.
In general, the societal contract should contain a few broadly moral principles, and the specifics of behavior left to private contract and confrontation. To the extent a state specifies the proper and improper way of doing anything, freedom is limited. It is appropriate that right and wrong be identified and properly chosen by the people of a society, but there must be room for individuals to fall, hurt themselves, and grow from experience and choices.
The Bible, as the central pattern of morality, should be made the North Star of our moral compass. A society organized around the Bible will be moral to the extent they have rightly interpreted the Word. The fruit of their societal experiment will be the ultimate evidence of that right embrace.
Those who objected, but complied, would be in the category of the philosophical protester. Those who objected but resisted would be in the category of the civil disobedient. Those who violate the Godly societal norms of personal care, the “victimless crimes”, would not receive the compensation and societal support associated with being a true victim. Those who cross the lines of violating the space of others would be confined and separated. Restoration to society should be allowed when rehabilitation through penitence is deep and complete.
Of course, such a system could be abused by men who wished to mind-wash the youth and program them for robotic allegiance to the state. But if Godly men administered a system of training and confirming, it would allow each person the opportunity to be part of the mainstream of the current social norm or object and chose to march to a different social drummer.
By institutionalizing protest, the various streams of thought would be illuminated as to the fruits of men’s choices. Overtly identifying oneself as an objector, and either standing in the place of not knowing what was better, or having a well-articulated alternate social theory, would illuminate the implicit assumptions of society, and bring them forward for debate. The confrontation associated with the ongoing legal/philosophical debate would purify the societal morality. It would give a forum for debate about the errors/truths and assumptions of previous generations to be confronted, evaluated, and ultimately changed if found lacking.
There is a gradient between error and truth. It is my thesis that a central absolute standard of right thought, speech, and action exists regardless of our beliefs or feelings. I refer to this inborn and eternal standard of truth as Natural Law.
There is a set of overt violations of the Godly societal contract which is so obviously unGodly, that no civilized society would allow the non-conformist to walk the streets freely. The man who declares it his inalienable right to lie, murder, thieve and batter without restraint has grossly violated Godliness. Such a man should not be given the privilege of unrestrained participating in societal commerce or relationship.
In general, those who extol the virtue of “tolerance” will not tolerate the violations of theft, murder, and battery upon their person. Even the relativist, in general, takes a stand against personal harm inflicted by perpetrators, which illustrate the fact of natural law, of the existence of an absolute standard written on men’s hearts. A few men have reversed their natural senses and fallen in love with tolerance, even at the expense of their own bodies. But that tolerance survives only when the issue is hypothetical. Even such men cry out for relief with sufficient pain. There is no denying that pleasure and pain are not equivalent, the world is not symmetrical in its values. Truly there exist thoughts, speech, and actions, where one is better than the other. The debate about the existence of an absolute standard becomes heated around the more subtle considerations of sexuality and intoxication for pleasure. I believe God has created these boundary issues as an easy testing ground where men can see evidence of their own soul’s allegiance to the short term pleasure of sin, versus the long term payoff of living according to Natural Law.
The current implicit contract, the Constitution, has no provision for resolving the questions of youth coming of age. When men engage in deeply self-analytic and introspective processes about the justice and righteousness of the political process, there is no formalized institution which addresses their issues with the group “way”.
Nevertheless, even though not formalized, our current system of lobbying friends, family, community, state, and nation allows men to advocate new social theories. And, men can choose compliance, questioning and debate, or rebellion as their polar relationship with society. Socialization and enculturation is already a de facto (although ill-defined and poorly rationalized) institution. Rebels, violators, and perpetrators are confined for arbitrary lengths of time, having little to do with their actual repentance and change of heart. Philosophers and protesters are tolerated to the degree of their divergence from social norms, and the volume of their protest.
I know you believe any implicit cultural charter or contract not entered into as an adult is immoral. And, to a large extent, I agree. A society is mature, Godly, and enlightened to the degree which it can tolerate those who object and sincerely engage the questions raised by the philosopher class. That society is best which dedicates itself to comparing every societal contract with the highest standard of wisdom. The society will rise no higher than its ultimate source of authority.
I believe the Constitutional intent of our Founders largely satisfied the standards of the above mentioned enlightened society. But, our current implementation differs greatly from that original intent. I believe that men who drift from allegiance to a Right absolute standard (The Holy Bible, and its God), and instead embed perverse law within its body of societal precedent, will find themselves subject to a hard taskmaster.
The government described in the original charter, the Constitution, is only workable for a Godly people. In my estimation, the limited Federal government proposed by the Founders, with its balance of powers, Bill of Rights, Constitution, and Declaration are an adequate framework upon which to build a prosperous and happy society. When men are organized in their group efforts (i.e. Government) around Godly principles, they are free to engage their personal passions for comfort and pleasure.
The inner drives of the soul give men the motivation to act as entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, educators, and lovers. Men will naturally manifest the good life that is God’s intent for humanity if they 1) restrain from excessively satisfying their passion and desire for pleasure, and 2) when the environment (government, economy, and war) do not interfere with men engaging in productive labor.
In a righteous society, men who exalt their wisdom above God’s, and men who lust for power will be rejected as unfit for positions of leadership. Likewise, those who violate the space, person, and property of their fellow man will be restrained by penalties and bars as necessary to contain the passions they are unwilling to control internally. Both the top (leader class) and the bottom (criminal/perpetrator class) must be continually monitored by us all, and judgment passed against those who seek to violate the inalienable rights of their fellow men.
Ultimately, each man must continue to judge his neighbor, and confront him with hearty counsel and reproof on the perceived violations. But, of course, such reproof is most effective when we have won him over, and he has convicted himself of his own error by reasoned debate. The Internet age now allows us to have some influence on a larger sphere, but that influence is re-diluted when everyone can has the same access. Thus, we must simply continue to do the hard work of having an effect in our own little world and sphere of influence. When our competence and wisdom grows, life will elevate us to greater positions of influence and honor.
I concur and approve of adherence to, and enforcement of, the implicit social contract, if the concepts were Godly (right, true, in accordance with Natural Law). If the charter written generations before is True, then it is as applicable then as now. Men are bound by the law of God to comply with it. Resistance is futile and self-destructive. A charter which reflects the will and way of God should be followed. The rebel who chooses to flirt with, and experiment with concepts opposing the Law of God should be restrained or separated. Allowing rebellion and unGodliness in the social milieu will pollute the environment for everyone. Government should be only modestly involved with legislating the specifics of group morality. Most confrontation, training, reproof, and confinement should be handled on a local level. This allows the group morality to enforce and maintain itself. The Federal system only makes sense when there is a common moral ethic, and that ethic is dedicated to True Godliness. Otherwise, immorality will be legislated as moral and imposed upon the entire system. Such was/is the case in the rulings of Everson v. Board of Education; Roe v. Wade; Lawrence v. Texas; Abington v. Shempp. When a nation allows men of low/wrong moral standard as the arbiters and judges of Truth/Righteousness/Goodness, we condemn society to the degradation of the rulings such men impose upon the national legal/moral system.
(You allude to a government that may exist in the future that is truly good, right and fair, and I agree, that such a government may someday emerge. But, I contend that our current Republic could be that government, but it will only manifest to preside over a fair and lovely world when men truly are good and Godly. The current charter is adequate only for a Godly people. Within a system allowing freedom, sinners (men who give way to the passions of lust, anger, greed, and pride) have many tools to pervert the authority and power of the state. And, the more freedom a system allows, the more tools are available for the unrighteous to subjugate a people under the rule of misdirected, egotistical, and authoritarian self-conceived godhood.)
The concept underlying my thesis is that there is an absolute. I use the word “absolute” as a synonym to the concept of a God who has an optimum will and way in every situation of life. His will and way are extensions of Natural Law, and moral law is a reflection of His nature. I believe that God has built a world where good and evil both have an opportunity to thrive and rule in the lives of men. God gives men free will to hurt and harm or build and love. (Note: The reason why a world would be so constructed is left for another discussion. Other writings have already been generated that explore this concept at www.theoryofabsolutes.com.)
Of course, I agree with the concepts of closed minded-ness which are implied by the word “conviction”. I likewise attempt to avoid the closed-mindedness that you so vigilantly avoid. Possibly the difference between our positions (and I don’t think there is a polar difference on this point) is that I eagerly embrace the concept of an absolute God-given, God-ordained absolute standard (in whatever arena of life — politics, marriage, business, friendship…). But, the existence of an absolute does not mean that I know it, only that I am in pursuit of an ever more perfect knowledge and acting of it.
Another aspect of the absolute which I wish to make sure is strongly understood is that the “absolute” in any one situation is modified by the circumstance. The classic example is the issue of lying. Is lying good or bad from an absolute perspective? And, the answer is that in most situations lying produces bad results (on many levels), but not lying is the equivalent to murder when answering, “Yes, there are Jews in the attic.”
Thus, the need to be wise in our application of moral standards in many dimensions as they apply to each unique circumstance. Knowledge, experience, and good counsel can help produce wisdom and proper judgment in each situation. Every drama of life has within it a hierarchy of values that dictate the proper action. Each situation requires assigning proper relative weight to each moral domain active in that circumstance.
Conviction in your definition implies a fixed opinion where no further growth in understanding or application in its subtleties. But, I look at conviction as a dynamic process of maturation. In every circumstance, there is a primary moral principle that we use to decide how to act. But, usually, there is a secondary confounding, and opposing, moral principle that competes for satisfaction. It is in this tension between principles that growth occurs. A deeper understanding of how to apply my conviction arises as a result of the analysis before action and examination of results afterward.
I believe this deeper exploration into the subtleties of moral law bears a strong resemblance to what you call “avoidance of conviction”. I would not avoid using the word conviction, I would merely redefine it so that there is a place for its proper use. The trap of belief and thinking which you are seeking is appropriate. Having an opinion, and never modifying it can be a myopic habit, closed-mindedness, fixed thought, mental ossification, or belief fixation. Such exaltation of one’s own ideas as being “the Truth” lead to pride, and an elevation of one’s ego and sense of self to the point where a man believes that he is God.
What I call conviction, you call “strong opinion”, and I agree with your support of strong opinion, and modification of it as life experience and wisdom is accumulated. I believe a man should speak his mind strongly, and then listen to the reply of another with an equally passionate and well-reasoned belief.
Speaking a conviction should not be a declaration of truth that cannot be challenged. Speaking opinion, even strongly, should incur risk. Speaking should open a man’s world to the vulnerability of being challenged and possibly modified. And, when words actually are true, they should be heeded and regarded with the same honor and respect we would give to the voice of God. There is an absolute, but it is our task and duty to find it, and persuade others to follow that truth. My persuasion of truth in a circumstance, or as a universal principle, does not make it so. But, your (the general you) doubt or disbelief in truth does not mean that there is no truth, or that all declarations of truth are of equal value. There is Truth, and we must find it. The reward is a good life, the cost of following error is pain.