GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS OR GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS?

Tony and I are on opposite sides of our nation’s great political divide. votes Democrat. I vote Republican.  believes government gives us our rights.  I believe government can only codify and protect those rights God has given us.

Since our comment thread has gotten a bit complicated on this post, INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 3B, I decided to construct a post out of ‘s reply to a comment I had made (here) and out of my response.

Are  and I typical members of our respective parties? Probably not. Nevertheless, we chose our party affiliations based upon how close each party reflects what we believe. Therefore, I hope you will find ‘s comment and my response helps to crystallize the fact that the Democratic and Republican Parties have major differences. I also hope our comments make it clear that the two major parties differ over significant principles.

  • Tom wrote:

    “Where we differ is that I believe government exists to protect our right. I do not think your belief, that government gives us our rights, is either moral or practical.”

    Tom, if government exists to protect our rights, does not government necessarily have to define those rights in order to resolve real world disputes and enforce against real world deprivations of those rights? At the most basic level, does not the Constitution define certain basic rights in its Bill of Rights and in the 14th Amendment? Once legislatures define certain rights (such as the bundle of rights that attaches to the use and exclusion from use of real, personal and intangible property), is it not the courts who arbitrate disputes over those laws and the executive that is charged with enforcing those laws and the courts’ judgements?

    You want to make this about whether God grants us certain rights. Well, as a Christian, at some level I not only have to agree with you, but say that you are not going far enough. God grants us everything. We can claim that we own “rights” to certain liberties and properties, but it all belongs to God.

    God’s love began and continuously suspends our very existence and the existence of everything. At a Christian theological level, we should not care if government taxes away our property (“render unto Caesar”?) because we never actually own anything in the first place – God owns everything, including us. Therefore the idea that you somehow claim to divine God’s infinite will on the endless intricacies of the bundles of rights and responsibilities to life, liberty and property that are exclusively yours and that you don’t have to lovingly share with the rest of the community of humanity is presumptuous in the extreme.

    As Christians, the one preeminent law that God has given us is to love God and to love one another. All our morality flows from our unselfish and loving submission to this “natural law”, not only commanded by God, but constantly manifested by God’s love through the air in every breath we breath, by the suspension in motion and attraction of every molecule of our very being. The virtue in our attempts to rank order the vast myriad of all the moral and material goods provided to us by God derives from our willing obedience to this God given law of love.

    On a practical level, “human will” forms our imperfect governments in an effort to moderate our relations with one another other. Governments write, arbitrate and enforce laws that create rights and responsibilities that moderate those relations. The degree to which this governmental legal systemic more virtuously facilitates the distribution of God’s moral and material goods, in the most general sense, depends upon the necessarily imperfect measure and balance that that system and those laws comport with God’s law of love. On the other hand, whether or not a given governmental system actually acts more virtuously (in other words more lovingly in keeping with God’s natural will for the universe) in general or as to specific cases as to certain rights and responsibilities, such rights and responsibilities simply do not exist, nor have they ever existed in the history of civilization, unless they are defined, arbitratable and enforceable by very imperfect human created governments.

    To get to the core of your misunderstanding of rights, look up the definition of “inalienable”. Something is “inalienable” if it cannot be taken away from, sold or even given away by the possessor. What do you have that does not belong to God? And on a practical material level, what of God’s massive universe do you momentary control that cannot be taken away by, given away to, or sold to others, including your life, your liberty and your property? When Jesus was telling us to store up our treasures in heaven (Mathew 6:20) do you think He was talking about the life, liberty or property that He specifically said was transient and able to be stolen? Or was Jesus really talking about the moral goods that come from love? If anything is “inalienable” isn’t it those kinds of moral and spiritual goods. And, if these spiritual goods are truely “inalienable” as I believe they are, then government could not define, arbitrate or enforce their ownership or theft even if it tried.

    • Tom, if government exists to protect our rights, does not government necessarily have to define those rights in order to resolve real world disputes and enforce against real world deprivations of those rights? At the most basic level, does not the Constitution define certain basic rights in its Bill of Rights and in the 14th Amendment?

      The answer to your question is no.

      This is a fallen world. When Adam and Eve sinned, they ran into the problem that Paul describes in Romans 7. They became slaves to sin, and only faith in God could free them — and now us.

      Think through this quote from James Madison again.

      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

      If we need government to define our rights, then whether or not we are angels makes only this difference. We do not need policemen, but we still need legislators and courts.

      Yet Madison says no government would be necessary because we know the difference between right and wrong. We know what sort of behavior is abusive to the rights of another. We each know what rights belong to our neighbor because the law is written upon our hearts.

      Unfortunately, we are fallen creatures.

      Romans 7:14-20 New King James Version (NKJV)

      14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

      That is why for most of the history of man governments have operated according to the principle that might makes right, and people have accepted such governments because even a tyrannical government must maintain order. That’s why Jesus said we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Yet He also said we must render unto God what is God’s. In our sinful world, we must obey God and yet still find a way to satisfy the demands of men.

      Because the Caesars of this world rule so poorly, on occasion men have found the courage and the wisdom to attempt something different. They have conspired to create a government that serves the people instead of making slaves out of them.

      Those who founded this nation did not at first put our rights on paper. Because they feared they would be unable to list them, the framers did not seek to define our rights. At first they dealt with the problem simply by saying that what the Constitution did not authorize the government could not do. Yet other men, remembering the recent past and still fearful insisted upon a Bill of Rights. They wanted to be able to point to that list of rights so that those who connived for power over others would have no excuse. They, their victims, and their fellow citizens needed to know with certainty when the government had deliberately violated people’s rights. So they wracked their brains, trying to express on paper truths God has written on our hearts.

      Still, because we are sinners, putting our rights on paper is not enough to protect them. We must, as you say, love God above all and each other as we love ourselves. These are the preeminent laws. Yet these laws are contained in no laws codified by men. Instead, we prohibit crimes, the violations of rights that stem from them, because that is the best we can do.

      In our laws, when we are at our best, we strive to express God’s will for us. When we are at our best, we know that what we do is our own work. When we are at our best, we know enough to beg for our Lord’s blessing, and we know enough not to call what we have done a work sanctified by God.

      When we are proud, however, we become more demanding. Instead of respecting the rights of others, we use whatever power we have to force others to conform to our will. The finest excuses are altruism and the will of the majority. Yep! When we boss our fellows around, we are doing them a big favor, and we crow about the fact the majority of the people think what we would do is good. Yet these are abuses of love and majoritarian power.

      Romans 14:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

      4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

      Our rights are “inalienable” because we cannot take them away from each other. Because God granted them — because He is our master and we all belong to Him — we have no right to take from each other what He has given us. Yet God allows us to sin. So until the final judgment we will sin.

      As you said, we belong to God. This world belongs to God. We have responsibilities to each other, but we don’t have the right to take from each other just to give away what rightfully belongs to someone else.That is not loving, and it is not charity. It is just buying votes.

Which of us is right? Well, both of us thinks the other needs to give the matter more thought, and that much is true. Only God knows with absolute certainty which of us comes closer to the truth, but I obviously think I do.

Please consider our arguments and feel free to add your thoughts.

28 thoughts on “GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS OR GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS?

  1. Well said,Tom.

    Something that helped to broaden my understanding is the fact that “rights” are always about depriving someone else of their freedom. Government is actually force and authority and “rights” are about depriving another individual of their freedom in order to enforce our own. We may agree with some of those “rights” and we may be pleased the Gov uses force to enforce them, but we should never forget what is actually happening there. So every time we grant people “rights” we are actually revoking other people’s and limiting their freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your observation reminds me of one of those disputed quotes. Here is the older, longer, version.

      This arm is my arm (and my wife’s), it is not yours. Up here I have a right to strike out with it as I please. I go over there with these gentlemen and swing my arm and exercise the natural right which you have granted; I hit one man on the nose, another under the ear, and as I go down the stairs on my head, I cry out:

      “Is not this a free country?”

      “Yes, sir.”

      “Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

      “Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

      Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes. (from => http://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/10/15/liberty-fist-nose/)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post which goes right to core of the greatest problem that confronts a free people.

    And that problem is a rather pernicious form of tyranny: the tyranny of the majority.

    Just as facts are not determined by the majority (for facts are true by their very nature), neither can human rights be determined by the majority.

    That is because human rights are what they are because of human nature.

    Therefore, the notion that human rights come from the government is absurd.

    And people who believe that rights come from the government believe in an absurdity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, since he put it more kindly, I think I like the way one of our presidents put it better.

      It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” ― Ronald Reagan

      Because we have to back up and reexamine the assumptions upon which they are founded, it tends to be difficult to unlearn beliefs that are not true. In addition to discarding the belief in question, we have to consider discarding truths we may regard as foundational.

      Matthew 7:24-27 New King James Version (NKJV)

      24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

      26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

      Why does it take so long for someone to accept the fact they have built a house upon the sand, They don’t want to start over and begin building anew. Yet because Jesus is the Rock upon which we should build, it is not as difficult as it may seem.

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  3. Right or wrong is not an adequate question, . Rather it should be truly wise ,or truly foolish.

    In my opinion, Tony will never be truly wise until he grasps that to be truly wise, you must first realize and accept that there is mans wisdom ,and there God’s Spiritual Wisdom.

    There would be no differences of opinion or conflicts about Rights if everyone understood and humbled themselves to take the time to understand the Blessing of Spiritual Wisdom in their lives..

    Interesting comments help promote understanding..

    God however knows the truth, of which one of you is the wiser..,

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose I asked for this, but I should not have done so. Tony is my brother. So I definitely don’t want to offend him.

      There is also a larger issue. Liberals already get irked when they think we are playing the God card as some kind of universal trump. They see it as claiming greater wisdom, which to them reeks of arrogance. It is kind of like humility. The moment you think you have it you lose it. If I think myself wise, then I am less likely to strive to see a problem from God’s point of view.

      Do Liberals reek of pride when they to apply man’s wisdom to problems for which it is unsuited? Sometimes, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

      So I ask you to step back a little bit. Let’s give Tony the benefit of the doubt. Does Tony grasp that there is a difference between man’s wisdom and God’s Spiritual Wisdom? I think so, and there is a place for both. Here we are debating which applies.

      Our desire to apply God’s Spiritual Wisdom drives us to the Bible. The challenge is to quote the Bible humbly. We must remember it is His Word, not ours, and none of us understand God. Therefore, to figure out when and how the Bible applies to our situation is a challenge for anyone.

      Anyway, that why I don’t want to get into a competition over which of us is wiser. I doubt Jesus would approve. Consider what He told Peter.

      John 21:20-23 New King James Version (NKJV)

      20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

      22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

      23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

      Like John, we need to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. Like John, we need to be content just to follow Jesus. It is not about us. It is about Him.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. at least there is a dialogue that seems to be civil taking place between two people who differ in thought and opinion and probably differ in a wide range of ways yet who can hold their tongues so to speak…that is without resorting to striping down to the primeval heaping of vile insults at one another…the result an oh so juvenile tit for tat that we see play out daily on national television by people who are grown educated adults who know better….yet that doesn’t stop the idiotic bravado of ego….
    And isn’t that what so much of this is about…ego…
    the stocking of ones self and the stocking of one’s self importance into a place of false holding…

    When man takes the ultimate Supremacy out of governing–meaning when we remove that which is to be the ultimate pinnacle of our obligation and yielding—-that ultimate yielding to our Creator, that perfect chain of command, as it were, when everything flows from the Creator down to man in a Divine and perfect balance…..instead opting to leave man or men (or yes even women) to be the ultimate end, because in his and her errant ways they have decided that God is no longer vital or necessary, then indeed we will see tyrants, dictators, oligarchs, pawns, vassals, antipopes, councils, cabinets, parliaments all vying for the bowing down by the people—as the ego of both man and woman, vies to be stroked, stoked and puffed up by those needing to be governed ….or what we actually see “controlled” by said governing states. And this is the beginning of all the trouble—removing the recognition, the sovereign, the Omnipotence from its rightful place and replacing such with a broken and fallen creature…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Julie

      I genuinely appreciate your comment. If you read our comments carefully, both Tom and I recognize exactly what you are saying, that it is God’s will and God’s law that should be paramount. Although we differ on how that recognition can be formulated into the actual moral and legal specifics of we call rights, you at least seem to appreciate that even our disagreement ultimately comes from a common fundamental principle – God’s will is what matters.

      I doubt that either all liberals or all conservatives share this starting place. (I actually don’t consider myself an ideologue in either direction, but instead a Christian moderate who is asking questions and looking for answers). On the other hand, I dispute the knee jerk reaction of some Christian conservatives that automatically dismisses any liberal point as not also trying, in their own way, to divine the will of God in their views about politics and government. Forgive me, but it would seem that this attitude by either side to know the absolute will of God in all large and small things is more than a bit pridefully pretentious. As Tom’s quote from John above implies, wisdom is a humble recognition of the vastness of God that one does not understand, perhaps even more so than the grace of some small but profound revelations.

      Thank you for realizing that, although we differ, Tom and I both start our journey toward wisdom from the same place of trying to figure out what God wants. And thank you Tom, for affording that recognition as well.

      I enjoy this discussion and I will try to have more to say on this later tomorrow when I have time, but for now I’m off to work.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I in turn thank you Tony for such a kind and sincere response—I will say that I did see that you both look to God as the higher command which I dare say many progressives and or liberals, be they labeled democrat or something else, do not.

        And you’re right, who are we mere mortals to know the mind of God….
        as my favorite mantra is God is God and I am not…He is the Creator and I am but the created…it’s when I try to usurp that position that I get myself into all kinds of trouble.

        It’s just that as Christians, I hope, we are trying to glean His words, His will, His commands as we go about wading in these most uncertain and turbulent waters which are consuming our Nation.

        I am not a card carrying anything, I’ve just always voted trying to surmise how best will a Judaeo / Christian moralistic code of law and living be maintained…which leans more to a republican / conservative ticket—but dare I say I’ve yet to see a perfect President in our Nation’s history—some have simply fared better than others and have risen to the needed occasions better than others…
        as they have tried to be guided by a power greater than their own.

        God is a demanding God and as I even espoused today over on cookieland, we humans don’t do “demanding”…His Love is a demanding love—and how hard it has become to remember that demanding Love in today’s sea of ugliness, villainy and hatred—the charge of which is being lead by various politicians and news outlets…

        I am very sad seeing how far and to where we have fallen as what was once the great example of civil societies—albeit a society that has had its fair share of growing pains and sorting out on the quest to that very civility—

        But what I do know is that all great empires will eventually fall and crumble—we would be wise to remember that…..

        Happy weekend Tony

        Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s a good post and discussion. From my perspective I will always come down on the side of individual freedom over collective rule. As you have stated, men being what they are, fallen and far from grace, will always have to struggle mightily to not let the power and/or high positions they hold veer them astray and thus toward evil acts. And that’s just the good men, the bad ones don’t bother to fight off the darkness that’s always trying to corrupt our hearts, they gleefully embrace it!

    So no, I don’t believe an all encompassing and powerful government that confiscates societal goods and distributes them in so called equal manner would be virtuous at all. In fact I think it would be quite catastrophic, as we’ve seen throughout history and are watching now in slow motion with Venezuela.

    I also don’t buy in to the idea that societal dependency on government benefits is a good thing, but that’s probably best left for a different post.

    I do think though that Tony and others who share his beliefs only want what’s best for man and society, as most of us do. We just have different ideas on how to get there. It’s nice to be able to shed light on how and why people think the way they do. It humanizes the discussion as opposed to the demonization of views/character you see so often.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Tricia
      There is a saying. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It is warning to those who are so proud of their virtue that they fail heed another saying: “Look before you leap.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If we set aside all the sturm and drang about about our imperfections and , the finite nature of a fallen world and focus instead on God’s will, perhaps we can get to the crux of the issue. In order to do so, let us first start from fundamental ideas that we both seem to hold in common.

    We hold in common that God is love. Out of a spark of His love, God engendered the universe into being and God’s love suspends every particle and every motion continuously in being every second of every minute for all time. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son into a world that was fallen into sin and death. Jesus serves as perfect human incarnation of sacrificial love and our shining example of love, the divine key to unlock our redemption. Jesus divinely embodied the law of love, the Word made into flesh and bones. Both through His Word and through His sacrifice, Jesus provided the ultimate law from which all other law derives: Love God and love each other.

    God’s love is therefore the natural and universal law of existence. Love is so universal and so natural that, as you say, all humans in all times and all places, although they may try to harden their hearts against it, innately know when they and others unselfishly obey God’s law of love and they also innately feel guilty in their hearts when they selfishly do not follow God’s law of love in order to travel down dark corridors of hate and lust. Our honor of such unselfish and loving virtues and our disdain of such selfish and sinful vices is therefore as universally natural to people of all times and all places as are the laws that spin the Earth and tether our planet to the Sun.

    We also hold in common a belief that, although God gifted humankind with free will, we have somehow cursed ourselves to an imperfect and fallen world where we endlessly and selfishly sin by willfully acting against God’s law of love. Jesus gave us our redemption from this fallen world and from our own willfully sinful nature.

    With perhaps some slight differences, none of what I have just said, I would hope,is significantly disputed between us. From this common foundation, therefore, perhaps we can focus rather on how God’s love and our responsibility to follow God’s natural law of love becomes “rights”.

    How does such a natural law “responsibility” to God and to each other become a “natural right” that we each own and that cannot materially or spiritually be given away or taken away by another? And, if there are natural and “inalienable” (under the common definition of that word) rights, how do you define such rights? If they are definable can, and normatively should, governments attempt to define, arbitrate and enforce such rights at law? If governments do not define, arbitrate and enforce their deprecation, how do such rights actually in real world practice become inalienable?

    Tom, maybe I am just misunderstanding your statements thus far, but they seem to contradict one another. You say on the one hand that these rights somehow are gifted from God and cannot be taken or given away from us, regardless of government, but at the same time, you say that the only purpose of government is to protect these God given rights. Which is it? Even if, as you say and I completely agree, these natural laws Are given to us by a perfect God and as such universally written in the hearts of all men, wouldn’t any practical enforcement of such universal laws in a fallen world require that imperfect men through the vehicle of human government (albeit very imperfectly) define, arbitrate and enforce these laws?

    The other thing that seems erroneous to me is your explanation that our material life, liberty and property are “inalienable” if these materialities can quite obviously all be taken away and given away, as they are constantly every day, in real life, by governments and by tyrants. While I agree that all these things are blessings from God that God continues to own (everything is!), at best whatever life, liberty and property we momentarily possess are all on loan from God, and God grants us all have the free will to use them and abuse them as we see fit. I think that you are confusing the transient material goods of this Earth, which are quite “alienable”, with the spiritual treasures that Jesus says that we can store eternally in Heaven that do not decay and cannot be stolen, but I could be wrong. Besides, doesn’t it seem a little presumptuous and silly to think that the mundane intricacies our worldly patent rights somehow can be divined as coming inalienably from God. Please explain these contradictions.

    Next, I think that you are also conflating God given “responsibilities” with God given “rights”. While I agree that if we act virtuously toward others in accordance with our God given responsibility to love others, then we will naturally allow them certain rights and liberties that are quite definable and enforceable at law. However, such rights come from God only tangentially and indirectly through our very human “responsibility” to God. Can you see that this is not quite the same thing as a directly definable “natural right”? Can’t you see how a natural “responsibility” to love others by granting them the respect and dignity that we would want to be granted, though it may come to a similar place if we all were to feel the same way, is not quite the same thing as a natural “right” to be loved and to an “inalienable” entitlement to such love, dignity and respect from others or even toward ourselves?

    You may have a natural responsibility not to pollute the air of others, which, if everyone believed the same, would afford us all clean air. However, unless the law defines, arbitrates and enforces a “legal” right to clean air, even if you could indirectly find such a universal right out of a universal responsibility, practically speaking, what really is to keep others from infringing upon our rights by not meeting their responsibility?

    Finally, even if God given rights exist (which as I said I believe they indirectly do from meeting our God given “responsibilities”), who gets to enumerate and define God’s rights? You? The church? Even you said that the Framers questioned their enumerating rights in the Constitution, and that the States were not prevented from enumerating more, which they constantly do. SCOTUS has also found certain penumbra rights that are derived and implied by the Constitution. Don’t you think that it is pretentious to confuse man’s imperfect “legal” definitions and enforcements with God’s will? I can imagine no greater tyranny than a tyrant’s claim that he is only enforcing God’s will.

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    1. @Tony

      Sturm und Drang

      You don’t like Sturm und Drang? I thought you were an old soldier. Because he is so good at confusing the opposition with Sturm und Drang, I voted for Donald Trump.
      😉

      You don’t like societal Sturm und Drang? Then keep your government small.

      Romans 13:1-7 New King James Version (NKJV)
      Submit to Government

      13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

      Does God force us to love Him and each other? No, He does not. Yet are we not His servants? Then what gives any of us the right to force each other to love God and each other? That’s the function of government? Of course not, but is that not that where you are headed?

      We have responsibilities that stem from the fact God wants us to love Him and each other, but we cannot require someone to love another. Yet, when we redistribute the wealth, this responsibility to love each other is our lame excuse for what amounts to theft. Little love is involved. Such “charity” just is just about the buying of votes.

      Government does not exist to spread the wealth; it exists to punish evil. Government exists to stop thievery, not conduct it. Unfortunately, as the Apostle Paul well knew, government itself is corruptible, but he also knew we have to have some form of government. Therefore, God inspired him to write that passage above.

      God-Given Responsibilities Versus Inalienable Rights

      When I saw this line, for awhile I was completely confused.

      Next, I think that you are also conflating God given “responsibilities” with God given “rights”.

      Consider my point of view. I think God has written the moral law upon our hearts (That belief comes directly from the Bible. (Romans 2:12-16)). Because it contains a well-defined moral code, I think the Bible itself provides a sturdy foundation for our laws. Moreover, I don’t propose to put the government in the social engineering business.

      What I call rights are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unless it is absolutely necessary for the protection of life, liberty, or property rights, I don’t think the government should be forcing people to do things they don’t want to do.

      Do we need imminent domain laws so we can build public infrastructure? Yes, but we don’t have to make people pay for things they don’t use. If some bozo wants a road built so he can develop some land for housing, then the people who use the road ought to pay for it. When nobody is willing to risk and invest their own money for the prospect of a payback, then why should the taxpayers be put on the hook? How is that ethical?

      The other thing that seems erroneous to me is your explanation that our material life, liberty and property are “inalienable” if these materialities can quite obviously all be taken away and given away, as they are constantly every day, in real life, by governments and by tyrants

      What does government exist to do? The Declaration of Independence says its proper function is the protection of our inalienable rights. These are spiritual, not material rights. We owe each other respect as human beings because God is our master, and He loves each of us. It is His love that we cannot lose. Even when we reject Him, because He is Holy, He still loves each of us.

      Every sin we commit is against God. Yet even when God has forgiven us, we still have trouble forgiving ourselves. Why? I suspect the reason we have trouble forgiving ourselves is that we don’t realize that after God has forgiven us our sins don’t matter. When God forgives one of us, we are forgiven. He even has the power to undo the wrong we have done.

      When we sin, we may hurt ourselves or some other human being, but the sin that matters is the sin against God, the rejection of His love. Any hurt we do to each other He can undo. Unless we choose not to accept His love and grace — unless we choose not to repent and turn from sin to Him — He can and will restore us.

      Thus, because God has chosen to make our rights inalienable — His love for us eternal — what anyone else does to us does not matter.

      Revelation 7:15-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

      15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

      Consider your use of the word “inalienable”. The only reason a property of any object is inalienable to that object is because God has made it so. Otherwise, the term inalienable is meaningless. Because God loves us, our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable.

      God Has A Plan

      If we are to live well, then we must live for the life to come. We must live with the understanding that our souls are eternal. We must each strive to make our life a living sacrifice for God. We must practice here how we will behave in the Kingdom of God. We must each use our life, liberty and property to glorify God.

      Because the founders believed our souls will live forever, they spoke of inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

      Consider Romans 8:28.

      Romans 8:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

      28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

      Can someone take away your life? Yes, but only if God permits it. Then it is time to go home.

      Can someone take away your liberty? Yes, in a physical sense, but only if God permits it. Then it is time to remember you have spiritual freedom. It is time to lead the man who would be your master to your true master.

      Can someone take away your right to pursue happiness? If God permits it, someone can take away your property, but your attitude — your love of God and neighbor? No. Hence, during Roman times the church grew in spite of persecution.

      What the founders understood is that all our rights stem from the right to pursue happiness. As Aristotle understood it, the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of virtue. However, unlike Aristotle, they saw the church, not government, as the institution which is best suited to help us learn virtue.

      What is virtuous? Repenting of our sins and turning to God. This is a free choice. Government cannot coerce this choice. It has been tried, and it does not work.

      Christ taught us to follow His example. To follow His example, we must repent. We must give up sin and turn to Him. In a sense, because something in us wants to sin, giving up sin is a sacrifice. Serving God, however, is something we can do joyfully. We are enslaved by sin. We are freed to serve God. In this freedom we can find happiness and joy.

      Stewardship

      Have you ever given much thought to the meaning of stewardship. Go look up “The Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30). God doesn’t make government the steward of His gifts; He makes each of us a steward. As noted above, the Bible speaks of rulers as people who punish sin, and it has little good to say about kings (1 Samuel 8). Instead, the Bible has a great deal to say about how each of us should each use our material wealth to store up treasures in heaven.

      How do we store up treasures in Heaven? We each follow our calling. This is the pursuit of Happiness. We use the gifts God has given us to bear the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

      How do we recognize the gifts God has given us? We have talents, and we have work we enjoy doing. I suspect their talents and their joy in using those talents usually guide most people to their calling — if they love others. What we own and can lawfully/rightfully acquire is what God gives us to exercise our talents and gifts.

      What does stewardship mean in practice? It means we strive to live by the Golden Rule. Because nothing we have do we own, as good stewards we use what we have as our Lord would have us. We manage our talents and material goods as best we can to help our family, friends, and neighbors; our brothers and sisters in Christ.

      Codifying Our Rights

      What does government do when it codifies our rights? It is much like reverse engineering. When the Russians built their Space Shuttle, they reverse engineered the American design. That is, their own design just borrowed the characteristics of the American Space Shuttle.

      When good legislators make laws, they don’t invent them. God has already done that. Instead, good legislators consider their own hearts and the hearts of their constituents. Good legislators put in writing laws which require each of us to respect rights God has ordained. Secularists forbid it, but good legislators can even look to the Bible for guidance.

      Consider the meaning of good and evil. Does anyone have to tell you the difference? Hence, when some guy sets up a factory and deliberately pollutes the water, we throw him in jail because we each ALREADY KNOW that should be against the law and so we make it so.

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  7. I think you may be avoiding the issue to some extent by assigning me positions that I have not made nor do I hold.

    Tom wrote:

    “Does God force us to love Him and each other? No, He does not. Yet are we not His servants? Then what gives any of us the right to force each other to love God and each other? That’s the function of government? Of course not, but is that not that where you are headed?”

    Where did I say that I want to “force people” to love God. In fact, I have said the opposite. On the other hand, don’t you see that if you claim that the very fallible human laws that you would have legislatures write are, in your opinion, “ordained by God” then that would be the exact tyranny that you disdain in others.

    This contradiction is where your argument to know when rights are “God given” and when they are not, objectively keeps falling apart. The reason why we try to keep laws “secular” for the most part is this recognition that, although we have universal agreement on what is virtuous and what is vice, we would not want to give fallible human government the power to “ordain” what mundane property and liberty rights for example are spiritually and inalienably God given and which ones we require to materially get along with each other as a community.

    Much of the rest of what you said I agree with even though we come to different conclusion.

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    1. @Tony
      Actually, I did not say you intend to force people to love God and each other. I said that is the direction you are headed. When you demand that government perform charitable activities because God is love, you are headed towards establishing a religion. Can you state a clear principle for limiting the power of government? Maybe, but I have yet to hear it.

      Romans 13:1-7 indicates those in authority are appointed by God. Given what Romans 8:28 says, that is something we should expect. Nevertheless, we are fallen creatures, and our government is our own creation, not God’s. Even under the best of circumstances it would be foolish to suggest our laws are ordained by God. The Bible doesn’t do that.

      Consider what you just stated in so many words. Government is a fallible creation of man. It is wrong to force people to love God. We keep our government secular so that we don’t force our religion upon others.

      We need laws to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because we are fallen creatures, we should not risk giving government officials more power than is necessary to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Otherwise, the government itself becomes a threat.

      Go back again and read what I wrote about codifying our rights. Consider that every man knows the basic difference between good and evil. Good legislators craft laws that people can understand and support. Good legislators can craft laws that are needed and enforceable. What good legislators cannot do is say God inspired their legislation. All they can do is say that they tried to write something that God would approve.

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  8. Things we don’t disagree on:

    1. Government should somehow force people to love (I don’t even believe it is possible).
    2. Government should supplant the best works of charities.
    3. Government should be any bigger or more powerful than it needs to be to do what we want and need it to do. (And for the record, I feel the same way about every other human created institution including churches, charities, partnerships, NGOs, LLCs, unions, corporations, etc.).
    4. We should not have a collectivist totalitarian state just as we should not have an individualist anarchy.

    Now that we have set aside those straw men, let’s focus on the issue of rights. You wrote:

    “We need laws to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because we are fallen creatures, we should not risk giving government officials more power than is necessary to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Otherwise, the government itself becomes a threat.”

    You have also written that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are God given, and inalienable. You have further implied that the material property that we earn is somehow God given. Following this logic, then how can you say that the laws we need “to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as earned property) are not also God ordained? Once you start sacralizing material rights, then you cannot help but sacralize the government that you say has the sacred duty to protect those rights.

    These so-called material rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness were the invention of men, not God. Our Founders and Framers were men, not God. Prior to the 18th Century, no one had ever even heard of such a concept. Christians from the time of Jesus through the first 1500 years of Christianity would have found the whole concept absurd. Based upon what Jesus said about these transient material qualities, I tend to think Jesus would have thought the whole concept of inalienable material God given rights absurd.

    The only eternal goods that truely are inalienable the moral, spiritual goods that we store in Heaven by doing good. We do good when we act out of love commanded by loving God toward God and toward each other. Because we all have free will, we can take away the material life, liberty, property and happiness of our neighbors. Because we have free will we can waste, give away, or cheaply sell our material life, liberty, property and happiness any time we want. The fact that God allows it is not what prevents it – it is what defines it as “free will”. On the other hand, the spiritual goods that we store in Heaven truely are inalienable; they cannot be provided to, taken away by or given away to anyone including government, and government has very little to do with providing, defining or protecting such inalienable spiritual goods. This is why someone could be a pauper or a slave and still be saved. In fact, it is the materially rich and powerful that Jesus said would find it most difficult to find salvation.

    What the Founders tried to do as a propaganda argument in the Declaration, but significantly not in the Constitution, was to sacralize what is only transient and material. Creating sacred rights to what is not and has never been sacred to Christians or to Christ only demeans the truly sacred and eternal. It also dangerously attempts to envoke in government sacred powers that it does not, could not and should not ever possess, unless we want it to engage in the worst sort of religious tyranny. The Founders knew this and that is why they envoked no such sacred powers in the Constitution. In fact, it was was the most religious Founders and Framers of that time that insisted that the federal Government neither pretend to act as God (including in rights protection) nor interfere with anyone’s worship of God.

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    1. @Tony

      4, 3, and 2. Continued growth of the Federal Government must eventually produce a collectivist totalitarian state. The lion share of Federal Spending now goes to health, education and welfare programs, and the relative number, size, and power of these programs continues to grow. Virtually all these programs consumed programs that once resided in the private sector.

      1. Health, education, and welfare programs all function as government-run “charities”. The success of charities depends upon personal relationships. Politicians, focused on election and reelection, strive to buy the votes of the clients of government-run “charities”. Other than choosing which charity they want to use, the clients of private charities don’t have a vote. The donors decide whether they care enough to give and whether their money is being used effectively.

      What are God-given rights?

      In spite of my best efforts, it seems you are stuck on the definition of a term or two.

      What is an inalienable right? It is a right that we cannot take away. God has made it so.

      If I take away someone’s property, does that person still have a right to own property? Yes. Just because I sin against someone successfully does not change the fact I have sinned. It just means I stole what rightfully belongs to someone else, and I appear to have gotten away with it.

      If I make another man my slave, does my slave still have a right to liberty? Yes. Yet that man is a slave. What if he is black and I owned him in 1850 in Virginia. The law would say my slave has no right to liberty. Yet we both know that by owning another man and keeping that man as property I have sinned. Because a higher authority than man gave my slave the right to liberty, I have sinned.

      What if I murdered someone in secret? What if I killed someone my society regards as a worthless savage? Would these people have had the right to life? Yes and yes. We both know that by murdering either in secret or by openly murdering a “worthless” soul I have sinned. I may not have broken man’s law, but I have broken God’s.

      We regard theft, slavery, and murder as evil because we believe God condemns such behavior. We believe God ordained that we have the right to life, liberty and property.

      Does a man lose his rights to life after death? I don’t think so. Are we eternal or not? That is another discussion, I suppose, but we punish murderers even after the material bodies of their victims cease to have life. The knowledge of the sin persists, anyway. What is of immediate interest to the crafting of laws is that our rights are inalienable in this life.

      Still, because we are concerned about the next life, we concern ourselves with doing what is good in this life.

      In other words, the rights to life, liberty, and property are sacred to Americans. That is just saying what it is and has been for hundreds of years. Only a lawyer could make it more complicated.

      What about the fact that the Declaration of Independence refers to the pursuit of happiness instead the right to property? The pursuit of happiness is a broader expression. It implies the right to own property and the right to make use of our property as we each think proper (according to our own religious beliefs).

      Before I proceed, note this fact once again. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are spiritual. We exist in a material world, but our motives are spiritual, derived from a moral law given to us by our Creator.

      Is the Constitution or the law in general sacred, inspired by God? No. When our legislators enact a law that prohibits murder, they do something we know God would approve. On the other hand, our legislators could needlessly declare war on a small country and send our soldiers to kill bunches of people. Even the best of our legislators are sinners just like us. So we cannot count upon them to write Godly laws.

      Because our laws are enacted by men, we have that statement that Jesus made.

      Mark 12:17 New King James Version (NKJV)

      17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

      And they marveled at Him.

      As citizens we must do our best to make certain our laws don’t conflict with God’s laws. If our laws were ordained by God, would that be a problem? No, and we don’t have any way to contrive God ordained laws.

      These so-called material rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness were the invention of men, not God. Our Founders and Framers were men, not God. Prior to the 18th Century, no one had ever even heard of such a concept.

      In a free society, laws prohibit people from doing things that they should not do. So we have laws against stealing, slavery, and murder. What John Locke proposed that was “new” was speaking of the rights that the laws against stealing, slavery, and murder protect.

      In a free society, we prohibit certain forms of destructive behavior. Free citizens then can do whatever is not prohibited. That gives people quite a bit of latitude. Noting that the American colonies were relatively free and their governments limited, John Locke used America as his example of natural rights.

      In a free society, on the other hand, the government is only allowed to do only what it has been chartered to do. That is, the powers of government are defined.

      In a totalitarian society, the government passes laws that say what the people are allowed to do. That is, if certain behavior is not authorized, the people are not allowed to do it. In a totalitarian society, the power of the government is unrestrained.

      Totalitarian societies are not the sort that protect natural rights. In general, the people are impoverished and struggle to feed themselves. Think North Korea.

      What Locke did by defining natural rights is put the focus on the objective of a good government. He did not invent anything; he just verbalized and formally expressed what people already knew in their hearts. To protect each other’s rights, we prohibit certain evils.

      So why do we have trouble with the idea of natural rights? The answer is sin. Because of sin, we have limited experience with a world where people respect each others rights. Various forms of stealing, slavery, and murder are more common than most would like to admit.

      Anyway, I doubt I have said anything you have not heard before, but it appears the notion of natural rights contradicts some basic assumptions. That is why your arguments are so convoluted. Look at what you are doing with the expression “inalienable rights”. It must hurt to think like that. And the way you regard the Declaration of Independence is sad.

      We celebrate the Declaration of Independence as the founding document, not the Constitution, and we don’t do it because it is good propaganda.

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    1. The document you referenced provides links to http://www.congress.gov, that is a government website that provides information on the bills Congress is working on. http://www.govtrack.us is a privately operated counterpart.

      Both the House and the Senate have similar bills. If people don’t complain, the rascals will send the bills to a joint committee to iron out the differences and pass the stupid at stupid “hate crimes” bill. Waste of time and money.

      What the bill focuses on is “hate crimes”. What government exists to do is to deter people from committing crimes. That is about as much as we want. Only a fool would want politicians trying to police their thoughts, but that is essentially what the bill proposes to “investigate”.

      The expression “hate crime” is a Progressive/Liberal fetish.

      fetish
      noun
      1. an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency.
      2. any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades.
      3. Psychology. any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.

      When a Republican buys into the idea of “hate crimes”, it is a pretty good bet that Republican is just posturing for votes and not to be taken seriously. Rubio and Collins are sponsors of the bill in the Senate. Collins is no surprise. Rubio has been such a continual disappointment I guess there is no longer an reason to be surprised.

      How do we deter people from having bad thoughts? We sanction their speech and writings. Do we want the government doing that? No.

      When someone says or writes something they should not, the people around that people can either let them know or ostracize that person. What should we should say or write, however, is a judgement call we don’t want politicians making for us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My greatest fear is that is exactly where organizations like The Council on American Islamic Relations will lead us and I am not altogether devoid of the notion that Islam’s intent is to subjugate the world for the pleasure of Allah and that America should not fantacize that we are not on the target list …. but that might be nothing but paranoia on my part — I admit that might be paranoia on my part — but it is fed by certain other people’s interpretations of sections of the Quran and their seemlingly endless postings …. I do not know where I stand on these fearful prospects or whether there are actually even any fearful prospects to consider …. I might be guilty of over-reacting — a lot of people have told me that I am guilty of over-reacting —but at any rate thank you for taking your precious time to highlight some of this for me so I can understand it better. I appreciate your efforts and I am not treating your information lightly … I am actually studying it …. Thanks again.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If you are concerned about Islam, I suggest reading the Koran. There are various translations out there online, and you can probably find one at your library.

          Keep in mind that the Koran is not in chronological order. Why is that important? The latter writes overrule the earlier, and the peaceful writings came first.

          You can also review the life of Mohamed. He was a warrior who beheaded those who opposed him. His example was war, not peace.

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        2. I think of him as a pedophile and a war lord …and not especially qualified to be a religious leader …. but then I am fraught with all kinds of prejudices based on reports I am hearing coming in from around the world …. As to the Koran — I cannot see it as a religious text … more of a political ideological excuse …enabler .. apoologist … a political idiology with a religious mask … a disguise … something like if The Devil were to start carrying a cross and pretend he was Jesus …. something like that …. but then you must realize that I am an eccentric soul and my mind is probably always way out in left field on anything that is supposed to be practical, pragmatic or real. It is tough being a linear genius with pent-up prejudices.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. People are going to believe some strange things. When the Bible says this is a fallen world, we are talking about our minds and bodies as well as the rest of creation.

          Some people have minds that don’t work well. So in addition to making bad decisions because they are ignorant, badly educated, have incomplete information, are fooled, immoral, or guess wrong; some people make bad decisions because their brains work poorly. God only knows how He judges such souls.

          So what do we do? Well, freedom of religion is a right, but there is no right to immigrate here. So we really should not be accepting immigrants from nations full of people who will not contribute to the strengthening of our democracy. Except for those with lots of oil, those nations which are predominantly populated by Muslims are poor and badly educated. How does it help America to let hordes of such people come here?

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