WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIMITED AND SECULAR GOVERNMENT?

Christ among the doctors by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)
Christ among the doctors (Luke 2:41-50) by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)

I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) (from here)

Should we be able to select the one true religion? I think so, but I don’t think it is just a matter of faith. I do, however, think making the choice requires reasoning we find difficult.

  • We must admit we need God, not an idol of our own making, but our Creator. That requires humility.
  • We must believe our reasoning is sufficient to know God and that God wants us to know Him. We need that belief to give us hope.
  • We must have the courage live by our choice. That’s why faith is required. To exercise the courage to live by the choice our reasoning dictates, we must have faith in God.
  • Most of all we must believe God loves us, and we can love Him.

Still, we make such a large variety of religious choices that that quote above from Heinlein seems to prove something, but what? I expect it shows how much we need God. Without our Creator’s help, we do not make good choices. We do not make good choices about much of anything.

That’s what makes America so remarkable. Ours has for the most part been a happy, productive, and prosperous land because for the most part Americans have made good choices, far from perfect, but generally good.

Why good choices? Consider that the Bible contains wisdom revealed by our Creator. Until we choose to read the Bible and strive to understand it, we cannot know how much our Maker loves us.

Americans once cherished the Bible. They actually read it.

Why did Americans care about the Bible. America is a product of the Protestant Reformation, the lessons from bloody wars in Europe, and the English Enlightenment.  Our notions about classical liberalism and freedom of religion in particular come from those experiences.

  • The Protestant Reformation cracked the intercessory control of the Roman Catholic Church between man and God.  Prior to the Reformation, most of Europe accepted the Catholic clergy’s claim to speak for God. Subsequent to the Reformation, many Protestants believed they need no intercessor except Jesus.
  • The Protestant Reformation resulted in the multiplication of Christian sects and violent disputes over articles of faith. Therefore, in addition to the usual excesses that set off European wars, men fought and persecuted each other over their religious differences
  • The Protestant Reformation also resulted in the opportunity for people to study the Bible in their own languages. In fact, we can attribute both the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment in particular to the invention of the printing press. When people studied the Bible, the Word of God, for themselves, they could not find a command from Christ Jesus to spread the Gospel by force. Instead, many agreed that Jesus commanded His disciples to forgo violence and love their enemies.

Who settled America? Some came to America for riches and glory, but more came just for the hope they could live as they chose. Pilgrims, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and others came so they could practice their religious beliefs in peace. Others came to just avoid debtors prisons.  Still, those who came were generally Christians, just different kinds of Christians. In the vast land of America, these different kinds Christians separated themselves into different communities, focused on their local governments, and experimented in new ways of governing.

Eventually, the American colonists tired of the rule of a faraway tyrannical king. Eventually, the American colonists decided that self-defense and the regulation of commerce required a federal government, but what kind of government? What would be the proper goals of an American government? To answer those questions, the American colonials considered the fruit of their experiments and turned to a political ideology we now call Classical Liberalism.

Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. (continued here)

Why a limited government that values individual freedom? Because they had diverse societies, the American colonials did not share exactly the same beliefs or  worldview. That is, they had limited set of shared values. Therefore, particularly with respect to the Federal Government, the colonials thought it best to limited the scope of government powers. Even then, because they feared Federal powers would be abused, the colonials insisted upon a Bill of Rights.

Consider the first words of the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Because we are are Christian nation, we have some shared values, but we also have huge differences. What is Christianity? Some people — not all — say Christianity is what the Bible says it is.  However, the Bible is a large work. So even Christians who uphold the Bible as the inerrant Word of God emphasize different parts. Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve. Who has the wisdom to decide  for everyone else what God would have us do?  Hence, the First Amendment says religion is a matter the Federal Government should leave to the states and the people.

Because of the First Amendment, we now have something that prior to the rise of the United States as a world power was almost unheard of, a secular state. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans did not want the government to establish a religion or to interfere in the free exercise of religion (see Establishment of Religion and Free Exercise of Religion at heritage.org).

Unfortunately, the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution no longer works quite the way the framers of the Constitution intended. That’s because:

  • We no longer have a limited government. When the government has so much power, power mad politicians and the religious sects they represent find it tempting to impose their own beliefs.  Currently, various manifestations of Human Secularism have combined to pose the greatest threat to religious freedom. Thus, the budget for health, education, and welfare programs has exploded, and Christians, even though the Bible says no such thing, are suppose to support health, education, and welfare programs because its what Jesus would do.
  • The 14th Amendment requires the application of the Bill of Rights to state governments. As originally envisioned, all the Bill of Rights did was keep the Federal Government from sticking its nose where it did not belong. The 14th Amendment, however, allows the Federal Government to impose “religious freedom” upon the states. That added complexity has made it possible for Human Secularists to twist the law. So now many insist we equate the free exercise of religion with freedom of worship. That is, to keep the freedom from religion people happy, we are supposed keep our religion to ourselves and let the state indoctrinate our children in various “isms” including Human Secularism. Then we are supposed to loudly proclaim we still live in the land of the free.

There is an old bit of wisdom any good doctor knows.

Do no harm. — (contracted form of the Hippocratic oath, from here)

When we try to engineer our society to “fix” it, we are effectively trying to heal other people (if our motives are good). The problem is that the operation of a society is quite complex, and we are not qualified to play God. Hence, we must respect the right of our fellow citizens to make decisions that more appropriately belong to them. That’s why for any people who want to remain free limited government is not optional.

Other Views

48 thoughts on “WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIMITED AND SECULAR GOVERNMENT?

  1. Well said, Tom. These are complex issues because the nature of freedom and freewill requires personal responsibility and people submitting to the will of God. Not every single one, but the majority of us. I don’t think America would work at all if we weren’t a Christian nation. We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, so the rights we have are dependent on us recognizing from Whom our rights come. God grants us our freedom, we attempt to be worthy of that freedom.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. God grants us our freedom, we attempt to be worthy of that freedom.

      We don’t have to 100 percent successful; that would be perfection, something our Lord knows we cannot achieve. Yet if too few of us submit to his Will America as we have known it will cease to exist.

      Because we are free we know that in the past people in this land obeyed the Great Commission.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent post Tom…
    I am reminded of the Israelites and Moses…the people so wishy washy, so shallow, so torn between the God of Moses and their own little man made idols—literally stuck in their tracks until they made the decision to listen, to believe, to trust and to follow…and once they did, it still was always smooth sailing…yet it was moving forward none the less….
    Our founders held a belief and respect in God as Divine Creator–not all viewed Him the same, but still they revered His Divinity and yielded that His was a power greater than their own.
    Little by little the freewill of man, coupled with the ego of man, has deluded man’s clarity and vision…we have taken our eyes off of God and placed them back onto the little manmade idols we are toiled to create…thinking that what we have here is far better then some God we neither see nor care to hear…kind of back at square one….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Julie (aka Cookie)

      You are so right. We credited to our own works the divine providence of God. So we think ourselves big stuff, but it is just a dumb old stupid thing to do. It is like a little boy puffing himself up with pride fulled words as he watches a big bully run away. Full of himself he chooses to forget his father is standing behind him, and he does not notice his father’s wry amusement.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tom,

    The only logic I can surmise why God allows for various religions is to challenge his human creations to figure out a way to live in peace and harmony. The only reason His logic has not come to fruition is because we are humans that uncapable ,and too foolish and stubborn to take the time to wise up and focus on His challenge.

    All we seem to want to do is repeat the same mistake of Adam and Eve, King Solomon, and host of philosophers over the ages. That is to believe we are capable of being on the same level as God. The result is we religious faithful cannot even figure out how to get along peacefully with other religious faiths, regardless of religious cultures or sects within Christian communities.

    The USA government is not God, and it Is folly to believe it can substitute as God and believe we know what He thinks. You are right on about the crux of humanity age old problem, humility.
    .
    https://rudymartinka.com/2016/10/17/king-solomon-on-the-true-jesus-church/

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @scatterwisdom

      That proverb in your post to makes a good point. Jesus put it this way.

      John 13:35 New King James Version (NKJV)

      35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

      I doubt there is anything we can do that would entirely resolve our difference. God is to big, and we are too tiny. We each can perceive and understand only a small part of God. So we each will define God a bit differently. Yet it that way because it is what God intended. So we should accept our limitations and share what we know with each other. Then we can grow in fellowship and glorify our Lord.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Americans once cherished the Bible. They actually read it.”

    Per capita, more Americans cherish the Bible than they did then. Certainly there are fewer deists in government. So this appeal to a fictitious golden age does your argument no credit.

    “America is a product of the Protestant Reformation, the lessons from bloody wars in Europe, and the English Enlightenment. Our notions about classical liberalism and freedom of religion in particular come from those experiences.”

    Yes, the notion that every man is himself the arbiter of what is real and not real sure does make our lives simpler, right?

    I know it is the character of liberalism to propagate falsehoods and inaccuracies until they become irrefutable doctrine, but can we dispense at least with this flagrantly fictitious notion?

    “The Protestant Reformation also resulted in the opportunity for people to study the Bible in their own languages.”

    The printing press sure did. The Protestant Reformation, if anything, allowed the printing of inaccurate and sometimes purposefully altered translations. But Modern Liberalism needs this false narrative. Otherwise, how can it continue to claim that each individual, independent of anything besides his own ingenuity, can divine the sum of all Divine Revelation, even though he is merely copying earlier heresies? Honestly, I thought the Monophysites were contained solely to the Church of the East, but now it seems to have taken hold in a number of Protestant denominations.

    “Who settled America?” Well, the oldest settlement in the US was Childersburg, Alabama which was settled by the Spanish Catholics. Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement, was a mix of Catholics, Anglicans, and a few Lutherans. The Puritans didn’t arrive until much later and didn’t have a legitimate claim to the land anyway. The first settlers actually came here because it was going to be profitable. Ironically, those who came here to escape religious persecution decided to persecute others, establishing the theocracy that they allegedly escape. Such is the temperament of liberals; they want no tyranny but their own and only enjoy torture and death when they get to inflict it on others.

    “In the vast land of America, these different kinds Christians separated themselves into different communities, focused on their local governments, and experimented in new ways of governing.” And sometimes they took advantage of the religious tolerance of other Christians to come in, violate their charter granted by the monarch, and then persecute different Christians.

    “Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government.” And in doing so, it isolates the individual by telling him he needs to determine what the world is on his own, separating him from the community of human persons, and seeks to set him apart and in conflict with his fellows.

    “Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve.” A problem that was invented by an Augustinian who couldn’t get over himself. If this is truly a problem, then God is ineffectual. Why give a religious text that contains all man needs to understand God but then not give man a means to understand it. Its like giving someone a piping hot dinner but not giving them a spoon.

    I think you mean Secular Humanists, not Human Secularists. Secular Humanism is a product of Classical Liberalism. Do you doubt it? Well, then look no further than the man who’s image you bear Tom: Thomas Paine.

    In his liberal garbage that is “The Age of Reason,” Paine lays the foundation of American Secular Humanism. This reverence you claim the Founders seemed to have for the Bible did not extend to Thomas Paine. Think this book and Paine were not influential? People as petty as John Adams thought otherwise:

    “I am willing you should call this the Age of Frivolity as you do, and would not object if you had named it the Age of Folly, Vice, Frenzy, Brutality, Daemons, Buonaparte [sic], Tom Paine, or the Age of the Burning Brand from Bottomless Pit, or anything but the Age of Reason. I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine. There can be no severer satyr [sic] on the age. For such a mongrel between pig and puppy, begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf, never before in any age of the world was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind, to run through such a career of mischief. Call it then the Age of Paine.”

    Jeffersonian Democracy that swept out the last true Federalists is a result of Paine’s thoughts, thoughts that Jefferson praised highly. Adams’s interpretation of the Enlightenment was not only different from Paine’s, but different from yours. Guess who said this: “the Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient Mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue.”

    Nope, it wasn’t Christopher Hitchens. It was Founding Father Thomas Paine to the rescue with moral relativism and slavery to the appetites of man for all. These are the people you would immortalize with adulation and reverence. In reality, they are libertines and the creators of the current moral confusion. Your precious Classical Liberalism–for Paine was a student of Locke and basically copied his liberal dogma word for word–has produced the current irreverence that you now bemoan.

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    1. @Stephen

      Per capita more Americans read the Bible? I’d laugh, but it is not that funny.

      Anyway, I think your comment fits the definition of a “diatribe”. It is much more abusive than accurate. So for the most part I will just let what I wrote stand.

      What will I say? Well, I use to write more about Thomas Paine. So I think these old posts will address your rant about him.
      https://citizentom.com/2008/09/09/the-utopian-dreams-of-thomas-paine/
      https://citizentom.com/2007/11/13/thomas-paines-profession-of-faith/
      https://citizentom.com/2008/09/10/deism-and-the-founding-fathers/

      Paine wrote “The Age of Reason” well after the American Revolution. Ironically, he wrote it for the French. Their revolution frightened him because they had lost sight of God. Thomas Jefferson remained Paine’s friend, and the Federalists castigated Jefferson for that, sort of the way have done. Because the Federalists labeled Paine an atheist, his fame and his reputation suffered. Jefferson gained nothing from his continued association with an old friend except a clear conscience.

      One more observation. What are you advocating? That you do an awful job of explaining. It seems you are too filled with contempt for anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe to clearly explain what you believe. What about that problem I spoke of?

      Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve. Who has the wisdom to decide for everyone else what God would have us do?

      You have that all figured out? You will tell us all how the Bible should be understood? Really? If not you, then who?

      We are all sinners Stephen, and that simple observation is the basis of Classical Liberalism. Christ Jesus has the wisdom to judge us, but we don’t have the wisdom to judge each other. Christ Jesus has the right to be our master, but we no right to call each other anything except brother and sister.

      Therefore, when the framers of our Constitution set up of system of government, they decided we must let God be God. Because we are not angels, we must protect each other from each other, and that requires force, therefore the unavoidable need for government. Charity, however, requires love, not force. Charity does not require government either to make it happen or to prevent it. In fact, when charity is forced, it is nothing more than legalized theft. And when government prevents charity by force? God help us.

      When will you stop to consider the irony of this statement?

      Such is the temperament of liberals; they want no tyranny but their own and only enjoy torture and death when they get to inflict it on others.

      What is the basis of your anger, the reason for your diatribe? If you are not trying to justify forcing others to do things your way, then what are you doing?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. According to the data from various sites such as the American Bible Society, about a third of the population reads the bible at least once a week. That is about a hundred million people. The total population of the US at the time of the ratification of the Constitution was about 4 million people. You can be incredulous all you like; but the shear weight of numbers proves you wrong UNLESS you are contending that less than 4 million people in which case, you would need to cite your source.

        It is not just about Paine; it is liberalism as an ideology. Paine is merely the natural progression of liberal thought. Have you noticed that Paine’s ideas were unacceptable back then, but now they are so common place that you spend a considerable amount of time addressing them and their effect on society? It is not some power of Paine’s ideas. It is a result of taking liberalism to its natural conclusion. Have you noticed how many liberal thinkers created utopian ideals of human interaction? Mill created the utilitarian paradise with every self sufficient. Locke had a similar idea. Rousseau had the state of nature.

        Anyone with the good sense to read the tea leaves saw that liberalism, an ideology based on overthrowing ideas deemed too old fashioned or irrelevant, would lead to a disrespect for religion, a denial of the natural order, and the dissolution of traditional institutions. If the monarchy is not inviolable, then how can marriage be? You note, to your credit, the cascading effects of modern liberalism on traditional institutions but you fail to address the root cause.

        Ironically, you extol the one thing about liberalism that is precisely the problem: individualism. Through the idea that man can somehow govern his own affairs–a strange perversion of free will I might add, and contrary to the Gospel–men have believed that they can determine, for example, that marriage can mean whatever they want, that life can be compromised if it is deemed “not viable.”

        Individualism and liberalism tells each person that they can decide what is right and wrong. As a Christian, that is unconscionable. It is incompatible. It is contrary to the Divinely Revealed fact of creation i.e. that it was ordered from the beginning of time for one purpose only: for the greater glory of God. Liberalism and individualism places man, de facto, as the arbiter of who God is, what his moral laws are, and how society should be ordered as a result. Under such a scheme, there is no objective moral order, no structure besides what men believe.

        This necessarily means that the moral thing is whatever the majority decides it is. Thus, “marriage equality” is declared true justice and the moral order is restructured to fit the new ideas of whatever liberalism came up with this time.

        Classical Liberalism is disjointed on the question of man’s concupiscence. Even Locke and Hobbes had ideas that man could self-determine right and wrong and that government was only necessary to check where they went wrong. The obvious problem with that is that they advocated for popular government so the same people who are being checked by government are shaping the government. In reality, there is no compulsion to anything, provided you can get enough votes.

        The basis is this: this nation is infected with a disease. It is the disease of liberalism. Our constitution is broad enough to allow for its destruction and the erasure of the Jeffersonian stain on the American Republic. It is a disease that men like Adams and Hamilton, though they had liberal tendencies of their own, fought against. It is what has soaked into the great carpet of America and cause the great mildew of gender politics, Randian economics, religious discrimination, and the rest of the maggots that writers like Paine foreshadowed.

        As for my criticism of the Puritans and their propensity to either set up a religious tyranny on land they do not own or overthrow legitimate governments and set up a religious tyranny on land they do not own is a counter to your rosy opinion of religious relations in the US. In short, the Puritans were a stain on America’s history regarding respect for the rule of law–the Massachusetts Bay Charter was written on the boat when they realized they had no legal claim to land Great Britain had already claimed some fifty years prior–and commitment to religious freedom–Anne Hutchinson was expelled to die in Rhode Island and John Coode led a revolt to overthrow the governor of the Maryland colony to set up a Puritan dictatorship. Daniel Carroll, having seen his families lands and property revoked under the said Maryland dictatorship, was eager to ensure the principle of religious freedom be implemented, especially the religious test clause. I mean, one of the so called “Intolerable Acts” that were tyrannical and that jackal Jefferson had the audacity to criticize in the Declaration was the Quebec Act, which granted freedom of worship to Catholics in Canada. The liberals in the US, like Jefferson, thought that the local legislature should have the power to discriminate against whoever they wanted. And before you say that it replaced criminal law to a foreign system and established a direct rule of colonies, nothing of the sort happened. I mean, when the Massachusetts Bay charter states, “that forever hereafter there shall be liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God to all Christians, except Papists, inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within, such Province or Territory.” How noble, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom – this is said to be the continuation of a discussion from your previous post, if you don’t mind, I will repost my comment there to here as well:

    Tom –

    Notwithstanding 1st Amendment principles that government should not establish a particular religion, why shouldn’t our politics reflect our universal moral values?

    At it’s heart, turning one’s life over to God is turning one’s life over to love. As undeserving as we all are of such mercy, it is accepting God’s gift of love and then giving our love back to God in grateful return. Such giving of one’s life over to God has also always meant compassionately sharing that merciful and compassionate love with each other, even with our enemies.

    Although Christ is our example, the virtues that come from these core principles seem to be universal throughout time and culture, from the pagan Greek philosophers to St. Augustine to most of today’s secular humanists. As you yourself have said, the universality of these virtues in the hearts of all people of all times in all places stands as some proof that God planted those laws there in all human hearts. As Christians we practice a religion that demands that we alleviate suffering and treat each other, especially the stranger and the least among us, with a transcendental dignity that honors the spark of God and God’s mercy and love that is there in every soul. However, despite Jesus’ perfect love sacrifice being the foundation of our everyday practice of virtue and justice (including our political practice), because the same universal concepts of virtue and justice can and do derive from more or less perfect religious and philosophical sources, our government can remain secularly neutral without also necessary being completely irreligious and amoral.

    The fatal inconsistency in your argument that Stephen has pointed out repeatedly is that you think that government should follow these universal Christian values of justice and virtue in some areas (for example, in criminalizing abortion), but you expect government to be ammoral in others (for example, in preventing private discrimination and in ensuring a “fairer” distribution of the wealth of production, especially to the poor).

    Government is perhaps one of the most impactful ways that we institutionally implement our commonly held concepts of virtue and justice. The world shrinking practicalities of modernity has made the institutional import of government increasingly more important. The issue is why should not a Christian act to glorify God by loving as God commanded in every aspect of community, including government. While recognizing that there are practical concerns about human vices that will never make any human institutional invention, neither a church nor a state, perfect and will always make any institution subject to corruption, shouldn’t the structure and powers that a free and democratic people give to our institutions of government also reflect our universal Christian values and virtues in every way possible? Shouldn’t Christians wish every human institutional invention, whether it be the church or the corporation or the local city government, work to reflect our commonly held values as much as is practical? Even though we may have different foundations for our religious and philosophical beliefs, why would a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, or even a Aethist secular humanist object to a government empowered by us all to help people in suffering and need, that provides common goods and services, and that must treat every citizen with dignity? Tolerance requires us not to legal force our foundational Christian reasons for believing in virtue and justice on nonbelievers, but tolerance doesn’t mean that we can’t enforce such commonly and consually held American values and virtues on anyone who wants to be an American and live in an American community under an American form of government. (And let us set the constitutional powers question aside for at least a minute to deal with the underlying issue because, even if we were to concede that the federal government did not have the power to help the poor and deal with fairer wealth distribution, the Constitution certainly does not forbid the states that power as long as it is done in compliance with the 14th Amendment).

    From what I have read about the history of Christian activists in this country from the great abolitionists to MLK to Dorothy Day, it seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon that government should be amoral and positively Darwinian when it comes to economic justice and yet Calvinist to an unmerciful extreme when it comes to judging individual vice. Stephen’s argument seems more consistent with actual Christian theology all the way back to St. Augustus and St. Thomas Aquinas.

    You two are the scriptural scholars, but it is hard for me to understand why, if St. Paul had been allowed to set up his own government, he would not have set up one that showed as much mercy as practically possible for human vice and as much compassion and sharing as possible of material goods. And as Stephen has pointed out, this kind of government sounds more like the one scripture predicts that Jesus will someday more perfectly create. Even given the impossibility of such perfection before then, why would we not try to model our government as much as humanly possible along that divine direction and model?

    Your hyperbolic answer that somehow everything that government does is “stealing” is an old refrain. I’m sorry, but I humbly fail to see how it is responsive to the basic issue, but I’m not as bright as you so maybe I’m missing something. Perhaps, if you can more rationally elaborate why this stealing is true about government in some areas rather than others instead of just saying this statement over and over again, then perhaps my simple mind will finally get past the apparent fallacy of it. Until then, respectfully brother, I think Stephen’s just got the better argument here.

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    1. @Tony

      Why do I have to justify that redistributing the wealth is stealing? Taxation is taking money by force. That’s what has to be justified. And your excuse is love? From the government? That’s rubbish!

      Government is a tool. It is people that make it behave morally. When we give the people running the government too much power, we just ensure the corruption of those people and the government they run. It has been ever thus, and you have not offered any solution. Except to limit the power of those who govern us, we don’t have one.

      What about that problem I spoke of?

      Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve. Who has the wisdom to decide for everyone else what God would have us do?

      You have that all figured out? You will tell us all how the Bible should be understood? Really? If not you, then who?

      We are all sinners Tony, and that simple observation is the basis of Classical Liberalism. Christ Jesus has the wisdom to judge us, but we don’t have the wisdom to judge each other. Christ Jesus has the right to be our master, but we no right to call each other anything except brother and sister.

      Therefore, when the framers of our Constitution set up of system of government, they decided we must let God be God. Because we are not angels, we must protect each other from each other, and that requires force, therefore the unavoidable need for government. We cannot allow individual men the power to arbitrarily punish their enemies. We know such power will be abused.

      Charity, however, requires love, not force. Charity does not require government either to make it happen or to prevent it. In fact, when charity is forced, it is nothing more than legalized theft. And when government prevents charity by force? God help us.

      An observation about Saint Paul. Before he became Paul he was Saul. What was Saul doing?

      An observation about abortion. Where did I say I would criminalize it? Yes. Abortion is murder, but what court would hang either an abortion doctor or the mother who had her child aborted?

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      1. “Why do I have to justify that redistributing the wealth is stealing?”

        Because it is typical for someone making a claim to prove that claim. Your defense is that taxation is theft…sometimes…when it suits your argument. As near as I can tell, taxation is only theft, to you, when it funds things you don’t agree with. Taken strictly, even national defense spending is redistributing wealth since the DoD is merely shifting taxpayer wealth into the pockets of defense contractors. But you won’t take it that strictly because you agree with defense spending.

        “Government is a tool. It is people that make it behave morally. When we give the people running the government too much power, we just ensure the corruption of those people and the government they run.” Leap in logic and non sequitur. If government is a tool that people make behave morally, then the size of it is irrelevant to the morality since you establish in your first term that the impetus of morality is not size but people. While I don’t disagree with you concerning the necessity for decentralized government, your argument is formally illogical.

        “Christ Jesus has the wisdom to judge us, but we don’t have the wisdom to judge each other.” Except when we want to call people traitors, narcissists, tyrants, and all manner of other judgments that you have made against your political enemies. How about calling voting for a different candidate madness? Or saying that someone has little regard for the truth? You make judgments all the time. I guess it is ok if its a political figure and you think that they should be in jail, right?

        “We cannot allow individual men the power to arbitrarily punish their enemies.” But what about “locking her up?”

        “Charity does not require government either to make it happen or to prevent it.” So Charity is unique among the virtues in that everyone is Charitable according to their station in life? If that were true, why are there murders?

        “Where did I say I would criminalize it?” Nowhere, which is telling. Your reverence for Liberalism has superseded your reverence for life. I mean, after all, what right does any of us have to tell a woman that she can’t do what she wants with her own body, right? Man, you sound more and more like the Democrats 20 years ago with each post.

        Whether the court would convict a doctor for performing an abortion or not is irrelevant to the reality. You see, Tony and I are arguing from the point of view that there is an objective moral order that supersedes SCOTUS decisions.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “The fatal inconsistency in your argument that Stephen has pointed out repeatedly is that you think that government should follow these universal Christian values of justice and virtue in some areas (for example, in criminalizing abortion), but you expect government to be ammoral in others (for example, in preventing private discrimination and in ensuring a “fairer” distribution of the wealth of production, especially to the poor).”

    I hope you don’t mind Tom, but I simply must answer this one paragraph. I am not inconsistent at all. I expect the Gov to follow “universal Christian values of justice and virtue” in ALL areas. I don’t expect gov to be ammoral, also known as immoral in any given situation.

    “Preventing private discrimination and in ensuring a “fairer” distribution of the wealth of production, especially to the poor, ” is ammoral, immoral, illogical, leads to unintended consequences,and is and is also extremely harmful to the poor.

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    1. Thank you. That was well said.

      Socialists think their good intentions are enough. They refuse to anticipate the “unintended consequences”. They refuse to except the fact that what they want to do has been tried before, and it does not work. We are incapable of making it work.

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    2. Insanitybytes22, yes, but you must admit that is a broad statement. Please make your consistent argument, especially with regard to the arguments already made.

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      1. A broad statement? I was trying to be concise. 🙂

        Okay, let’s take this part, “Government is perhaps one of the most impactful ways that we institutionally implement our commonly held concepts of virtue and justice.”

        Some, well, we’ll say 100% of all human government, all through time, have proven themselves to be epic failures at “institutionally implementing our commonly held concepts of virtue and justice.” The precise opposite really, war, famine, injustice, poverty, death, power struggles, often a harming the poor the most. One thing that makes the US unique is that the founders were aware of history and so determined that the cure for the unpleasantness of government was going to be…. less government, balance of powers, 3 branches of gov, states rights, all things designed to limit gov’s negative impact on virtue and justice.

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        1. Insanitybytes22 – if the theory is that government is evil then we should have no government at all. Give an example in history where that has worked. Checks and balances are not less government, but complex mechanisms within the systemics of government. Our system of federalism actually creates more government, not less (we have two separate and often competing court systems for example). Even a corporation, that ubiquitous necessity of modern capitalism, is a form of government. If one actually studies the history of law, private property ownership itself (a bundle of legal rights and responsibilities to use and exclude others from using something tangible or intangible) is a fairly new invention of government that requires government for definition, arbitration and enforcement. Without government to create and define such mechanisms, any market system, just or unjust, is simply impossible.

          Utilitarian theories of government such as pure Socialism don’t work for the practical reason that they don’t provide the necessary incentives that make individuals want to build and create. In modern capitalism, those incentives often (but not always) appeal to individual human vices rather than to our virtues, such as inviduous human incentives toward individual power, wealth and fame. The practicalities that stem from human vice that make capitalism work aside, there is nothing inherently immoral about Christian concept of sharing (unless one buys into the Gordon Gekko concept that “greed is good” or Ayn Rand’s Aethistic Nietzschian nonsense).

          Because it doesn’t work for practical human reasons, pure socialsm is boogyman that the Right conjures up to scare themselves, but it doesn’t really exist in capitivity anywhere outside of a few communes, and Randian ungoverned individualism is a unicorn as well, but a morally dangerous unicorn. The history of the most successful modern democratic states and how they exist around the world today is and has always been one of a balance between regulated individualism and government provided public goods and services. The whole argument about collectivism verses individualism is a ridiculous debate about which is better, boogeyman or unicorns, but it has nothing to do with the reality of the modern state.

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        2. “The whole argument about collectivism verses individualism is a ridiculous debate about which is better, boogeyman or unicorns, but it has nothing to do with the reality of the modern state.”

          Hmmm. Well, I think it has everything to do with the reality of the modern state, in fact I think it is the argument of the day. We are actually discussing whether or not the government is a good vehicle for mandated collectivism. As an example, I’ll use Obamacare. It’s a collectivist mandate passed off as justice and virtue that violates personal property rights, violates capitalism, and denies individualism. It’s cost our family thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills,the eventual loss of all health insurance, and now several thousand dollars in fines for being uninsured.

          I would very much like the Gov to stop sending so much justice and virtue my way.

          I’d really like my unicorn back. Boogeymen are scary.

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    3. “Preventing private discrimination and in ensuring a “fairer” distribution of the wealth of production, especially to the poor, ” is ammoral, immoral, illogical, leads to unintended consequences,and is and is also extremely harmful to the poor.”

      Does it always? Let us suppose a person was guided solely by universal Christians principles of virtue. Now, if the virtue of justice is “the perpetual and constant will to render to each one his right” and a virtue is a habit that is the principle of a good act, and a virtue must needs be defined by means of the good act bearing on the matter proper to that virtue then the proper matter of justice consists of those things that belong to our dealings with other men. Therefore, justice is a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will. But man does not have a perpetual will due to concupiscence. As Tom has related, government is there to negate or mitigate the effects of concupiscence.

      What this means is that we now have to understand what is each person’s right. This is where, I think, the largest departure lies. From Genesis to Aristotle, the ancients agree that man was given the earth and its fruits to be held in common yet particularly with regard to private property. Thus, as the likes of Locke argues by passing on Thomistic doctrine as some novel idea, each man is entitled to that private property as is required to sustain him.

      Now, we know that the natural world is damaged also by concupiscence. So, if we believe that man was given dominion over nature and that such dominion was never abrogated, wouldn’t that then mean that man is responsible for correcting the effects of the natural world’s concupiscence? If not, then what responsibility does man have for correcting other manifestations of concupiscence such as murder? Furthermore, if man is given the command to do justice and do so with special attention to the poor–it is good to note that, of the verses with commands to do justice, the protection of the poor either precedes or follows directly–then protecting the right each person has to the fruits of the earth is responsibility stemming from nature and God.

      It is the contention of perfidious liberalism that such a responsibility does not extend to every part of human society. In reality, this is a soft atheism, bullying God and the Natural Law out of political affairs. Through this scheme the person guided solely by universal Christians principles of virtue is prevented from enacting laws that would promote such virtue because Liberalism denies its necessity and relegates virtue to the individual only. Catch that? The principle by which a person is directed towards the good must be contained to the individualistic sphere. As such, virtues like prudence and temperance cannot enter into the social planning because liberalism demands those and all other virtues remain unlegislated and open to interpretation. For advocating that such virtues govern public life, I am considered a tyrant and a socialist. Bravo. Liberal logic is such that the qualities that they embody–what is a person without virtue but the tyrant of himself and those under him?–are always found in other people…while they complain about the effects of the qualities these qualities ad nauseaum.

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      1. “Now, if the virtue of justice is “the perpetual and constant will to render to each one his right”

        I guess I disagree with our definitions of “justice,” because for me justice is much more about grace. We are in fact, not getting what we deserve. Our “right” is actually death. So we are entitled to nothing. What we are seeking from God, from the world, is really grace, a waver, a pass from the consequences of our actions.

        “So, if we believe that man was given dominion over nature and that such dominion was never abrogated, wouldn’t that then mean that man is responsible for correcting the effects of the natural world’s concupiscence?”

        Absolutely! That is kind of the essence of what Christ did for us, so to be a Christian is to emulate that same idea. Our thinking on the issue however, must not go too far into the realm of rights, responsibility, obligations, because that detracts from the entire concept of grace and creates entitlement in our minds. If I get struck by lightening, does the world owe me compensation? They should care for me,they ought to be kind to me, but is that really the mindset we want to create, where such things are mandated and owed as entitlements?

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        1. Justice can be said in many ways. When making moral determinations, only two justices really matter: Divine and Natural. Divine Justice is affected through the interventions of God while Natural Justice is affected by the will of man conforming to the Natural Law, which is merely a reflection or boot print of the Divine.

          Now, since it is the character of Divine Justice that it is affected through the interventions of God, then those interventions must stem from the institutions of God i.e. the Church of Christ. The demands and punishments of Divine Justice are uniquely tied to God and his Church and no government has the authority to alter or abolish them. Divine Justice–unless you are a Christian and in which case there is MORE impetus towards affecting virtue in society–is not at issue but Natural Justice.

          What I have argued this whole time is against the idea that there is some great divorce between man in society and man the individual. The conflicts between the individual and government, the individual and other individuals, the individual and *insert token for liberals to exploit here*, all stem from the incompatibility of individualism with Christian and indeed man’s nature itself.

          “The heresy of individualism: thinking oneself a completely, self-sufficient unit and asserting his imaginary unit against all others. The affirmation of the self as simply “not the other.” But when you seek to affirm your unity by denying that you have anything to do with anyone else, by negating everyone else in the universe…what is there left to affirm?” Thomas Merton

          After all, doesn’t the Gospel teach that the highest form of humanity is giving of one’s self to another, especially when they “don’t deserve it?” Thus, when I call upon the universal humanity of my fellows to do something to do justice for the poor, I am called a tyrant and a socialist because I dare to say that there is an objective principle that binds each of us together, both in community and responsibility: our God-given humanity.

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        2. Well, that all sounds very good. I call collectivism in a Christian context, interconnectedness. We are our brother’s keeper and to some extent, we will all answer for how we kept them. The conflict tends to arise when we decide gov is a good vehicle for creating that. I don’t believe it is, one reason being gov is force. This tends to create a host of other issues. So, morally are we being our brother’s keeper by taking other people’s money and handing it over? Doesn’t that create a situation where we never have to get our own hands dirty, but we can declare our own conscience is now clean? And us in the body, arent we called to create relationship and heal people? Is it really even charity if it is more about relieving our own conscience rather the actually improving people’s lives? How too do we ever show them the love of Christ if we have outsourced our role to secular gov?

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        3. “The conflict tends to arise when we decide gov is a good vehicle for creating that.” But the government, theoretically, is us, right? I mean, isn’t it the contention that our representative republic is a government of “We the People.” I have seen you and Tom, but Tom to a greater extent, two conflicting notions: we are responsible for the government we have because we elect them since we are, ultimately, the government AND the government is oppressing us so we need to resist the government. In reality, the whole thing boils down to each “individual” being in conflict with himself. Hence the quote from Thomas Merton.

          Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think the current system is very effective. I don’t, however, believe its abolishment will help anyone nor do I think it is inherently immoral.

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        4. “two conflicting notions: we are responsible for the government we have because we elect them since we are, ultimately, the government AND the government is oppressing us so we need to resist the government.”

          I’m sure it sounds conflicting, but what it simply is, is an awareness of power. Government is force. We form Gov to increase power. We hand them authority to “oppress” people, so to speak. So the amount of oppressing we are doing must be very limited, and full of checks and balances.

          Individual rights are not in conflict with the common good, they are a way to ensure the common good for the greatest number of people. So some thug of questionable morals still has individual rights and protections that help to keep him safe from government oppression.

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        5. That’s a pretty good explanation of this quote.

          But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51

          Tony and Stephen really don’t seem to grasp just how difficult it is to control the government.

          The gun control folks are even sillier. They are horrified that ordinary people have guns. Guns kill people! It never seems to dawn upon them just how many people tyrants have had murdered.

          Consider a contrasting quote, the words of a tyrant.

          Every Communist must grasp the truth, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party. Yet, having guns, we can create Party organizations, as witness the powerful Party organizations which the Eighth Route Army has created in northern China. We can also create cadres, create schools, create culture, create mass movements. Everything in Yenan has been created by having guns. All things grow out of the barrel of a gun. — Mao Zedong from => https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_power_grows_out_of_the_barrel_of_a_gun

          What Mao demonstrated (as so many have before and since) is the consequences of insisting that our rights come from government instead of God.

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        6. “…but what it simply is, is an awareness of power.” So are we more aware of power than previous ages i.e. prior to Liberalism. Whenever I think about power, I become a Tolstoyan.

          “What is power? Power is the sum total of wills transferred to one person. On what condition are the wills of the masses transferred to one person? On condition that the person express the will of the whole people. That is, power is power. That is, power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand.”

          Power, when divorced from the ancient context by Liberals, becomes contradictory. The problem I expressed about the government being the will of the power and the government oppressing the people is echoed by Tolstoy. These circular reasonings, non sequiturs, and hypocritical and contradictory maxims make up the patchwork quilt of Liberalism.

          Tom asserts that I do not understand how to control the government based on a Madison quote about controlling the government. Madison alluded to exactly what I am saying: that government by the power requires virtue in men to function properly. For me and for Madison, government=the people. If the government is tyrannical, then the people are the cause. There is a seeming cognitive dissonance whereat government is described as a tool that is good or bad by the use of the user and government as this entity that seeks only to enslave. If government, according to the first maxim, seeks to enslave, it does so at the behest of the user i.e. the people.

          Now, individual rights, true individual rights, cannot conflict with the common good because those individual rights are held in common among all human persons. The Founders, especially that jackal Jefferson to his detriment and ours, argued this and what they appealed to in the declaration. The common good cannot be, therefore, for the most people possible, but for ALL people. For something to be common, it must be common to all. For if not, then it would said to be specific to a given group which, in your maxim of “for the greatest number of people,” means only the majority of people.

          The ancient ideal of the common good was based upon a universal destination of man that Liberalism placed out of the public sphere and left it to the private sphere. In doing so, the hyper secularization has made the end of government and human society entirely materialistic and, therefore, prime planting grounds for Marxism.

          The lack of a universal destiny has eroded the metaphysical bonds of humanity. This is a direct result of the Liberal maxims, such as Locke’s, holding every opinion on the subject as valid, provided it is not introduced into the public sphere. The result is base materialism in every sector of human society and the commoditization of human life.

          Take the “individual right to choose.” It is based upon the idea of the current cultural majority that the common good for the greatest number of women is to allow them to brutally slaughter their children. Without enduring moral censure from a universal destiny, enriched by time honored tradition and logical development from the wisdom of the past, there is no argument against it as the only arguments can be material and base. From the Liberal logic of it all, there is no real, authentic, and compelling reason for why abortion should be banned. And here we are, some fifty years after Roe, and all we can muster is a stage production supporting it and a yearly march to protest it.

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  7. Great post Tom with lots to chew on. Just to answer one part of it, the original question up top about why God leaves it up to us to choose Him. I believe it was an enormous act of love for Him to give us free will to do that. Otherwise we would just be robots, living dull lives with all our choices already decided for us. It would be I might add, hell on earth.

    As far as government redistribution of wealth being a moral good, there really is no arguing with people that advocate that. Pride in their own righteousness has overtaken their ability to see the evil that lies at the heart of such programs.

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    1. “Pride in their own righteousness has overtaken their ability to see the evil that lies at the heart of such programs.”

      “The harshest form of covetousness is not even to give things perishable to those who need them. “But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own?” Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all-this is what the rich do. They first take possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. But if every man took only what sufficed for his own need, and left the rest to the needy, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.”

      That Basil the Great! So proud in his own righteousness! Can’t he see that Jesus said, “Blessed are the producers because their economic activity eventually help the poor?” Geez, basic Scripture!

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      1. Are you responding to my comment or someone else’s? It’s not clear by your comment. Anyhoo, to continually misrepresent the views of myself and others who don’t take kindly government to income redistribution, is, I think unhelpful to your cause.

        It’s a straw man argument to uphold that we are against it because we want to selfishly hold on to what is ours. We believe it’s immoral, or at least I do because of the totalitarian and ungodly nature at the heart of such schemes and not least because of the corrosive effects large government welfare programs have on a healthy society.

        Start by assuming your opponent is coming from a place of good faith and you’ve opened a much more fruitful pathway to debate,

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        1. “Anyhoo, to continually misrepresent the views of myself and others who don’t take kindly government to income redistribution, is, I think unhelpful to your cause.” I can only respond to what you write. It is why I take such lengths to explain my reasoning so fully and why my comments are small essays.

          “It’s a straw man argument to uphold that we are against it because we want to selfishly hold on to what is ours.” I didn’t make that argument. Basil doesn’t make that argument. Rather, Liberalism backtracks on what Basil is saying here. Whereas Basil places the ultimate and prime cause–I trust you understand Aristotelian definitions of primary and ultimate or final causes–of all material things as being God, Liberals such as Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Kant, and so on place it in man. The utopias these philosophers devise, especially Locke, are ones where each “individual” attains solely through his own ingenuity material goods. It is by his ingenuity that he gains a right to them cf. Locke’s example of the man picking from the apple tree. According to Locke, you can only take as many apples as you can reasonably use and that is man’s natural right: to attain material goods for his use and keep them. Basil is arguing from an older, more Christian idea of natural right whereat the right in question is a universal one to all men i.e. the God given right to the fruits of the earth. To Basil, God did not give the earth to one man, a few men, or the men who could till it solely, but to all men.

          Basil argues that whatever excess we receive is not received through our own ingenuity like the Liberals say, but from Divine Providence whence comes everything. Thus, the property we acquire in excess to our needs is not, according to Basil and the traditional Christian definitions of right and justice, ours but belongs to the poor. This is in direct contradiction to the Liberal idea that every person is only entitled to what he can grab. Now, if the government is concerned with justice–which, if it is not, then why does it concern itself with criminal and civil suits?–then it stands to reason that it would be concerned with the misallocation of material goods due to natural concupiscence.

          “…because of the totalitarian and ungodly nature at the heart of such schemes and not least because of the corrosive effects large government welfare programs have on a healthy society….Start by assuming your opponent is coming from a place of good faith and you’ve opened a much more fruitful pathway to debate.”

          Hmmm, methinks there is some incongruity here. Don’t you think it is a great assumption that the current models of social assistance have, at their heart, the nature of totalitarianism and ungodliness, instead of assuming they come from a good place? A question: is whatever that is good, true?

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        2. Stephen, we share some common ground in wanting what’s best for society, for people and the poor, and in believing our respective philosophies would be best for their well being. What I mean by “start by assuming your opponent is coming from a place of good faith” is that while I don’t agree with your ideas on governing society, I do think your belief in them stems from a sincere place of wanting to do what’s best. On the flip side however, you seem to be saying that those of us weary of growing state intervention and the idea of giving the govt inherently more power to enforce Christian values on charitable giving and income redistribution are coming from a place of selfish, self interest.

          We can write long and flowery comments back and forth to each other but neither is likely to budge because our points of origination are polar opposites . You are pro collectivist and I am pro individualism and for the sake of overstaying our welcome on Tom’s blog, we will have to leave things there. Happy weekend.

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        3. “On the flip side however, you seem to be saying that those of us weary of growing state intervention and the idea of giving the govt inherently more power to enforce Christian values on charitable giving and income redistribution are coming from a place of selfish, self interest.”

          This is where you shift the goal posts. Originally, you said that social welfare programs were ungodly and tyrannical. When I point out a very reasonable basis for having social welfare programs from the point of view of St. Basil, you have moved the goal post so that you only have to defend your own sentiments about “government overreach.” Why I waste time on well thought out philosophical responses, laying out a continuity and a logic of philosophical and theological thought when I get responses that amount to cunning rhetorical tricks is beyond me. Perhaps I enjoy the suffering.

          Essentially, you blew past the crux of my argument–i.e. Liberalism is the problem, not government–and go straight for an emotional appeal. From the point of view of Classical Rhetoric, that was certainly a bad move.

          ” You are pro collectivist and I am pro individualism…” Right. I am pro-collectivism in the same Christ is. The dialogue is fruitless not because our positions are diametrically opposed. It is fruitless because, based on your replies, you aren’t actually reading anything I am saying. Philosophy 101 would indicate that I reject the central premise of collectivism so your charge is baseless. I AM against individualism. That is really the only thing you got right.

          Case in point is where I turned your call to having good faith on your first statement. You don’t address it. In fact, you make a concerted effort NOT to address it. I don’t blame you. To address it is to reveal the central truth of Liberalism: all is conflict so fend for yourself. I mean, I can argue against socialism till I am blue in the face, but Liberals like you and Tom will continue to tell me I am a socialist and a tyrant, as if I didn’t know what I believed.

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        4. Stephen, you have many words but you’re not saying much other than that you have a strong belief in your own beliefs. You ignore other points people bring up, or completely distort their meaning and then complain when folks don’t respond how you would like them to. You are a smart man no doubt, but perhaps a bit blinded by your own brilliance.

          Off to enjoy the weekend now, cheers.

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        5. 😆

          You picked that up on that amazingly fast. Took me forever.

          Some people write to be understood. The more Stephen writes the more inscrutable he becomes.

          I think Stephen has a belief he very badly wants to make sense, and he resents anyone who questions the sanity of it.

          Socialism at the local level doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work as badly as it doesn’t work at the national level.

          Moreover, Socialism at local level eventually be Socialism at the national level. In fact, we have already demonstrated how that works. So what Stephen is proposing is pointless.

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        6. “You ignore other points people bring up, or completely distort their meaning and then complain when folks don’t respond how you would like them to.” As I have said before, I respond to what you have said, nothing more. I can’t read into what you have written.

          Also, as I have said before, I only repeat what I have learned from people much smarter than me. If I was truly wise, why would I bother arguing with people?

          I have said much, that is true. I have given arguments, countered points, and basically everything you do in a normal debate of ideas. I have engaged your ideas as you have expressed them. Meanwhile, I remain branded as a power hungry socialist. I don’t complain. Don’t get me wrong. I am merely pointing out the absurdity of the accusation as a means of undermining the opponents argument. The ancients called that Ethos.

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        7. @Stephen

          I asked you how we could make your plan work. Where we we find people the moral fiber to make it work? You waved that issue off.

          Redistributing the wealth is Socialism. You don’t want us to believe you are a Socialist, but the only difference between what you propose and what the Democrats are doing is you want you redistribution to take place at the local level, apparently.

          You don’t like being branded a power hungry Socialist? Well, by definition all Socialists are power hungry. That’s because redistributing the wealth requires tyranny, even if it is majoritarian tyranny. When government money from one person just to give it to another, that is stealing. Government requires resources to protect our rights, including our property rights; but when politicians do charity; they just buy votes.

          When we give our leaders the power to redistribute the wealth, they abuse the power. Pretty soon they start spending money on this, that, and every other “worthy” cause they can fine. Pretty soon we are all working for the government instead of the government working for us. Do you know how to keep that from happening? Where is the evidence you do?

          You use your own unique definition for Liberalism. That definition ridiculously distorts the differences between Classical Liberalism (modern Conservatism) and Modern Liberalism. What you are trying to do is win the argument by insisting upon absurd definitions of the terms of debate. When you abuse the language that way, what is the point of the debate? We can’t even figure out what we are talking about.

          Anyway, I will attack the problem of Socialism from a different angle this weekend. God willing you will find a post by Monday.

          Have a good weekend.

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        8. “I asked you how we could make your plan work.” Overall or specifically the social safety net?

          ” You don’t want us to believe you are a Socialist, but the only difference between what you propose and what the Democrats are doing is you want you redistribution to take place at the local level, apparently.” False. Whereas the current models rely almost exclusively on federal funds to state run programs–such as Medicare, food stamps, etc–and grants to private charities, the overall plan is to integrate the efforts of private and public, thereby reducing the need for federal dollars and simultaneously lowering–or abolishing–the taxes from your paycheck. I have spoken before about the objective moral order and how it defines the universal destination of material goods. I have also spoken about how material goods are pointless if you don’t know how to use them and won’t make you happy even if you do know how to use them. Thus, the economic renewal of society must accompany a moral or spiritual renewal. After all, we acknowledge that man is more than the sum of his material parts, that he has an ultimate destiny. Find me a Liberal in either party that not only agrees with that but bases their policy and programs on it, and I will be very much surprised.

          Now, you Liberals base your programs on things which have, in our current culture, dubious meanings like freedom or equality. If I hear how such and such program reduces/increases such and such entities freedom or equality or whatever, I may have to write a lengthy paper on the subject.

          In contrast, we base our plans on Solidarity. It is not the Solidarity of Socialists where everyone gets together to steal each other’s stuff. Rather, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. Be base this on the idea that our common humanity, granted by God Almighty, grants certain rights and responsibilities. We have rights to do many things, but with them come responsibilities. With the right of private property, one of the most inviolable rights dealing with material matters in our opinion, comes the responsibility to help those without private property. Everyone is enriched by more people owning property so it is also in everyone’s interest that more people own property. From your capitalist perspective, such an idea should be favorable.

          So the common good, which naturally respects each individual person’s rights rights being the source of human rights, is the best possible aim for a society. The common good cannot be accomplished without a firm commitment to accomplish it. Hence, Solidarity.

          You can see already where we differ from the socialists. A socialist believes each person should own everything in common. We believe that each person has a right to the common inheritance of the earth as a grant from God, but that each man also has the right to set aside a portion sufficient for his need. Such was the arraignment in the beginning and, like marriage, nothing has changed. This is what is meant by the universal destination of material goods i.e. that each human person is granted by God and Nature a sufficient share of the fruits of the earth in order to live. Locke makes such a contention but denies the truth of Genesis by declaring that it is by man’s industry, not Divine Providence, that he has a right to material goods. We see this as a great error since the toil for goods is a punishment for sin, not the Natural order as designed by God. Therefore, if we want to live according to the nature we were created and sanctified with rather than the one we obtained through sin, a commitment to ensuring to our true nature is necessary.

          I use the definitions Liberals themselves use. For the student of philosophy, there is nothing remarkable about Liberalism except the idea that man is the arbiter of his own existence. The material and even political ideas–separation of powers, private property, consent of the governed, etc–can be found not only in the Ancients, but in the Medievals as well. The only real breakthroughs that were made were on terms of metaphysics and how man relates to existence i.e. individualism. This idea that each single man relates to the world alone is perhaps the largest departure and largest leap of the Liberal philosophers. The idea that man is an individual and that social interaction is something unnatural or painfully necessary flies in the very face of God’s own words: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Man was created to be in society. We create societies not because otherwise there is anarchy like Hobbes says; not because we want protection like Locke says; not because we happen to have the same interests as Rousseau says; and not because it is useful as Mill says. It is because we were MADE for it. St. Pope John Paul II, the most anti-communist and anti-fascist of all modern popes save St. Pope John XXIII who conducted a secret war against the Nazis, said this, “We are all one family in the world. Building a community that empowers everyone to attain their full potential through each of us respecting each other’s dignity, rights and responsibilities makes the world a better place to live.” We all stem from one family–Adam and Eve–and we were redeemed by one God-man and find our salvation in the acceptance of him. To say we are individual is to cut each person off from the natural community inherent in our nature and therefore cut God himself out.

          I think my error was assuming everyone had read the same texts as I have. It probably e

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  8. The conclusion to my post above is that the reason why pure utilitarian Socialism does not work is not because it is spiritually immoral; it is because people are not moral and spiritual enough to make it work. However, people are moral enough to also know that a selfishness based system of pure and unregulated free market capitalism doesn’t work either because it is inherently based on appealing to our bases materialist impulses.

    As Christians we need to discern when selfish practical incentives are at play and see them realistically with tolerence for what they are rather than glorifying them. We also should not demonize virtuous concepts such as community and sharing and helping those less fortunate. If we really believe in promoting Christian virtues and Christian tolerance for vice, then that should be reflected in all aspects of our life, including politics and government, and we should strive for a government that reflects that balance. That is a consistent virtuous Christian argument, not a Randian or a Nietzschian one that glorifies selfish individualism, and not one that shows dogmatic and self righteous intolerance for the human free will to sometimes chose wrong, or to make imperfect choices in an imperfect world. Such an argument must also take into account the infinite ambiguity and complexity of God, and that we somehow each mysteriously share some spark of that vastness. This is the Christian balance that introspectively recognizes lovingly and compassionately both our sinful human natures and our being created with a spark of God in our souls.

    Furthermore this balanced argument also reflects the actual history of Christian activists, theologians and leaders in this country and throughout Western civilization. Whereas this strange marriage of Right Wing Christians with Aethistic Randian libertarianism is a fairly new aberration which seems to mostly have been started and fomented first by TV evangelists as part of the Prosperity Gospel movement. Unfortunately that is more of a marketing scheme than a genuine Christian theology.

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    1. “The conclusion to my post above is that the reason why pure utilitarian Socialism does not work is not because it is spiritually immoral; it is because people are not moral and spiritual enough to make it work. However, people are moral enough to also know that a selfishness based system of pure and unregulated free market capitalism doesn’t work either because it is inherently based on appealing to our bases materialist impulses.”

      Well,call me crazy here, but you are actually asking where one should put their trust. Do we trust in the potential morality of people or do we trust in their base materialistic impulses? I don’t want to sound too cynical or jaded here, but people’s materialist impulses are a much safer bet.

      I am with you however on this part, “Whereas this strange marriage of Right Wing Christians with Aethistic Randian libertarianism is a fairly new aberration which seems to mostly have been started and fomented first by TV evangelists as part of the Prosperity Gospel movement.”

      I call that an unholy alliance, an adulterous affair,and it is the bane of my existence. One thing I often observe,the far right and the far left are the same darn thing, and the Prosperity Gospel is simply an inversion of Social Justice. How in the world you go about showing these people that they are all the same side of the wrong coin however, continues to elude me.

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      1. Glad for the agreement. I am saying that neither a collectivist nor a individualist system purely works for the reasons sighted, and as you say, because of ubiquitous human sinfulness.

        Because we all sin and because God gave each of us the free will to do either the right or the wrong thing, and finally because we often face dilemmas with no perfect choice, we should be respectful and tolerant of others’ choices as much as lovingly practical. On the other hand, we also have communal responsibilities, both to police particularly harmful immoral choices and to work with each other toward communal moral ends. Government provides an essential vehicle, and often the only vehicle for doing this. The government we choose should therefore try to reflect as best we can this imperfect balance between our moral responsibilities of tolerance toward individual choice and our Christian responsibility to act as a loving community that cares for each other, and especially the least of these. It is finding that balance that is difficult, but not even recognizing that the application of moral justice takes such is balance, although it is the only argument everyone wants to have these days, it is a dumb argument that ignores both reality and moral inconsistencies of taking either extreme side.

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  9. “Hmmm. Well, I think it has everything to do with the reality of the modern state, in fact I think it is the argument of the day. We are actually discussing whether or not the government is a good vehicle for mandated collectivism. As an example, I’ll use Obamacare. It’s a collectivist mandate passed off as justice and virtue that violates personal property rights, violates capitalism, and denies individualism. It’s cost our family thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills,the eventual loss of all health insurance, and now several thousand dollars in fines for being uninsured.”

    Insanitybites22, I am not trying to troll you here, or to make light of your personal issues, but only to have a rational friendly discussion. You are a delightful writer, and I have no doubt that you are a delightful and sincere person, but delightful sincere rhetoric is not necessarily a rational argument.

    Are you seriously arguing for unregulated pure individualism? Then really make that argument. However, if you think that modern private insurance of any kind is a unicorn that runs feral without government involvement at every institutional level, then I’ve got a herd of unicorns to sell you. Insurance, the act of risk spreading over a larger group, is itself by definition, a communal act. The rugged individualist wouldn’t buy insurance, but would risk sinking or swimming, living or dying from lack of health care on her own resources, or lack thereof.

    Before the ACA was Obamacare, it was Rommnycare and before that, it was hatched in a Republican thinktank as a more market based approach to what Republicans saw as the inevitability of the single payer system that every major successful democracy in the world already has and that we popularly already have with Medicare.

    The reason why Republicans sought to come up with a new system was because the old private system was increasingly broken as less people could count on spreading risk throughout the employee groups of paternal industries whose unions originally negotiated for those communal risk sharing benefits. People could not get health insurance unless the belonged to such paternal industries, and as less and less people stay at the same company for life, less people are permanently insured. And even if people had insurance, they tended to lose it when they got sick, couldn’t work, and needed it most. And even if they eventually went back to work somewhere else, they couldn’t get insurance because of their preexisting illness. Desparately going to the emergency room only when the problem becomes acute, and then depending on hospital charity is not a very efficient healthcare distribution mechanism and was driving up costs for both health care and insurance. People were bankrupting and literally dying from the increasing problems, and seeing that Medicare-for-all was the likely popular alternative, Obamacare was originally the Republican effort at a balanced market and government based approach.

    Why Obamacare is working where it is working and not working where it is not working is more a problem of complex systemics and Obama hatred, not the morality or immorality of using government to find communal solutions to the communal problems that the issue insuring risk in groups presents. Without the mandate and the subsidies to encourage greater communal coverage among healthy people, insurance companies can’t spread the risk in order to cover sick people and so as to keep insuring people with preexisting illnesses.

    My grown and still working daughter has a serious preexisting illness that may eventually incur great medical cost and cause her to quit working. These falacious arguments about which beast is better, feral free market unicorns or collectivist boogymen, may bankrupt or even kill her if people can’t get past their materialistic magical thinking and deal with the real moral issues concerning government. I say this, not to make you feel guilty about your opinion any more than I think that you bring up your personal problems to chastise me, but to show that whether our opinions are objectively true of false, many people have a very personal stake in how the community aspects of government are morally used or not used.

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