DO YOU BELIEVE MAN CAN PERFECT HIMSELF? — REVISITED

On July 22, 2012, I posted DO YOU BELIEVE MAN CAN PERFECT HIMSELF? Since tsalmon (see comment) wants to discuss the topic, here is an updated version of that post.

Why this discussion? Well, this is a blog that mixes politics and religion. Our religious differences and two distinctly different world views drive our political differences.

  • God defines man.
  • Man defines god.

When we believe in a Creator God, an infinitely wise and powerful Being far beyond our understanding, then we believe in a God who made us. We believe we exist for God’s purposes, not our own. To accept the fact we exist for God’s purposes requires humility. To accept the fact we exist to worship and glorify God requires us to give up control to Him. Consider this question: are you willing to love and obey God? What is the cost?

Some people are not willing to love and obey God. So they choose their own god. When man defines god, what does that mean? What god? In the past men worship idols instead of an infinitely wise and powerful Being. Idols made of wood, stone and metal showed what they imagined to be gods. To placate and manipulate these gods, they offered sacrifices, sometimes even their own sons and daughters.

What about today?

So finally: What is an idol? Well, it is the thing. It is the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God. It could be a girlfriend. It could be good grades. It could be the approval of other people. It could be success in business. It could be sexual stimulation. It could be a hobby or a musical group that you are following or a sport or your immaculate yard. I was looking for some yard stuff the other day and I clicked on a video ad for a yard service and three people came on and all of them made the point that this yard service enabled them to brag that they had the best yard in the neighborhood. I thought: What a motivation? I want to be number one in green grass. So that could be an idol. Or your own looks could be an idol. It could be anything. (from here)

What do all these idols have in common?

Question: “What are some modern forms of idolatry?”

Answer: All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms.

(from here)

When we worship our self, then every question becomes some form of a simpler question. What is in it for me? That is, our world view revolves around “me”.

How does self worship affect our politics. If everything revolves around “me”, then the only good government is that government that gives “me” what I want. That government exists to make everyone and everything perfect for “me”.

Why is self worship in conflict with the belief that God defines man? That depends upon what we believe our Creator wants from us. Christians point to the Bible. The Bible says that we are all made in God’s image, that we are all the children of God. In the Christian world view, government is not terribly important. What matters is knowing the truth.

John 8:32 New International Version (NIV)

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

What truth? How does it set us free? Free from what?

Out of context, John 8:32 may not be understood.  When we think of freedom, we automatically think of freedom from oppression.  When Jesus used these words, He meant freedom from sin, not freedom from mere oppression.  Jesus explained.

John 8:31-38 New International Version (NIV

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.  I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Because we are heirs to our fleshly wants, we cannot escape from our sinful nature without God’s help.  Jesus offers us that help.  Those who accept Jesus’ help He can in time free from sin.  When enough of us accept Jesus, only then can we live in a society freed from oppression.

Free societies exist only to the extent men accept God’s offer to free men from sin. When we free ourselves from sin, we become perfect. 

Consider Jesus’ words to a young man who idolized his wealth.

Matthew 19:21 New International Version (NIV)

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

To become perfect, we must set aside our worship of self and follow Jesus. What has that to do with government? Except for the fact we can use government to perfect others for our own worldly purposes, not much.

The Bible does not point to government as the means to either perfection or salvation. The opposite is true. God is ultimately in control, but the kingdoms of this world very much belong to Satan (Matthew 4:8-10). Therefore, the Bible tells us to pray for leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3), to be good citizens (Romans 13:1-7), and to render unto God that which God’s (Matthew 22:21).

48 thoughts on “DO YOU BELIEVE MAN CAN PERFECT HIMSELF? — REVISITED

  1. There is a good deal to digest here. I asked for the discussion, but now I don’t have the time to give it the concentration it requires. I’d like to mull on it some before I respond in more detail, but I can tell you Tom that at first glance, I understand and accept on reason and faith much of the foundation of your thoughts here. It is the conclusions that you jump to, particularly the political conclusions, from that well thought out foundation that I will need to give some thought to before I respond.

    I have been reading the selected works of Riengold Nehber lately and interspersed with the speeches of MLK. Despite being rooted in a healthy cynicism about man’s sinful nature, there is an hopefulness in both great churchmen that belays an optimism, not just for the afterlife, but for the “arc” of progress of man on Earth toward justice in Christ’s love. I think Pope Francis reflects this same spirit.

    Perhaps, Tom, you would like to address this concept further while I consider a more thoughtful reply.

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    1. tsalmon

      No rush. Thoughtful answers are better than the other kind.

      Don’t expect to suddenly change your mind. When we change our minds, we use a self help program. Being born again is an exception. That requires the Holy Spirit.

      Do I lack for hope? No. In fact, I have much hope and a sound basis for it. My hope rests in Jesus Christ, not man.

      Look at history. Look at the 20th Century. There was a time people believed World War I would be the war to end all wars. Do you know anyone who believes that sort of thing anymore? World peace seems to be within the realm of possibility, but is a silly idea to believe people will stop warring just because war causes people to suffer and die. So we devise governing bodies like the League of Nations and the United Nations, and they don’t work either. The idea we can ban weapons is just absurd. To enforce the ban, some body has to have weapons, but who would everyone trust? The Anti-Christ. Given the naivete of human beings (and I don’t exclude myself), why not?

      What will it take to end war? The Bible says Jesus will come again.

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      1. One of the first things that one learns in law school is that any discussion begins by framing the issue.

        To me at least, issue really isn’t whether or not humans are capable of “perfecting” themselves. We are in complete agreement that that will never happen in this life, and if it happens in the next life, it is only because we are redeemed by the grace of God. So I think that we can set aside that issue, as least as far as you and I and most Christians are concerned.

        The issue to me is whether or not all people (and in particular Christian) can and should try to make progress toward being more just and loving (ie. more Christlike) both as individuals and as a community, nation and world. Certainly, one can believe that individual progress can be gained (and sometimes lost for that matter) without the necessity of perfection as the goal. And if progress can be made (and sometimes lost) as an individual, then why not as a community, a country and a world?

        If we agree to frame the issue in this manner, then what is your opinion?

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        1. “The issue to me is whether or not all people (and in particular Christian) can and should try to make progress toward being more just and loving (ie. more Christlike) both as individuals and as a community, nation and world.”

          To me that is the issue as well. And if we want to try to make such progress it is good to take a look at what works, and what does not.
          Unsurprisingly, what works is very much a reflection of what the Bible would indicate works….for families, communities, and nations.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. @tsalmon

          I think I addressed your question implicitly, if not explicitly. Consider how you defined the issue.

          The issue to me is whether or not all people (and in particular Christian) can and should try to make progress toward being more just and loving (ie. more Christlike) both as individuals and as a community, nation and world.

          Consider these words from my post.

          To become perfect, we must set aside our worship of self and follow Jesus. What has that to do with government? Except for the fact we can use government to perfect others for our own worldly purposes, not much.

          Following Jesus is a freedom of religion issue, one that involves the free exercise of religion.

          Using government to make the world more just makes sense, but loving?

          I wonder if you and I even agree upon the meaning of “just”. Like as not what you mean by “just” is that oxymoron, “social justice”. What the SJW’s mean by social justice sounds too much like equality of outcome. What does enforced equality with respect to wealth have to do with justice? We each are not entitled to own what we have earned?

          Consider that you just defined what you think of as progress. When we try to force our vision of progress upon others, that is a sin. Don’t we define progress based upon what we consider most virtuous? When we force others to adopt our notions of virtue, we make a direct assault upon freedom of religion, especially the free exercise of religious belief. Alternatively, when we work together voluntarily to make our communities more loving and Christlike, that is as it should be. That is the innate difference between a totalitarian society and a free society.

          God gave each of us a free will. We can choose to love Him. We can choose not to love Him. We can even choose to hate Him. If God gives us such a choice, what gives us the right to force our brothers and sister to “love” us by being charitable to us?

          It is a silly idea anyway. Government is force. Ideally, government is a protector that keeps misbehaving people from infringing upon the rights of others. In practice, government does well if it just maintains order. Doesn’t everyone want to live in a society where there is at least enough security so that we can provide ourselves food, clothing, and shelter? Of course, we hope for more, but we don’t get that when government starts providing us what rightfully belongs to someone else. Instead, when we make such demands upon our leaders, we turn our government into a threat to our neighbor’s security and eventually our own. Because there is no honor among thieves, no one is safe from them.

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          1. Fair enough. But before we take off on what forms that progress may or may not be made toward incrementally greater justice, perhaps we should define the idea of “justice” in its most simple meaning.

            The term “social justice” is a bit too loaded with controversy for both liberals and conservatives to provide much clarity, so I would like to know what you think “justice” means, particularly in a Christian sence. Is there really any justice without love as its purpose?

            You have said on numerous occasions that we do not deserve the mercy and redemption that we are afforded by God, and I agree. And yet because God loves us, He redeems us anyway, if we just accept that love and offer ourselves to it. Love is the ultimate justice it would seem. And the justice that we afford as individuals and as communities should therefore be premised in love and mercy as well. Do you agree?

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          2. @tsalmon

            What is Christian justice? Justice is not necessarily a Christian virtue. Faith, hope, and love are Christian virtues, but justice is a virtue even the pagans practiced.

            The Romans were famous for their justice, but not their charity. So I don’t think this virtue stems from love. The Romans sought honor, not love. Their legal system was relatively just, but it was definitely not charitable.

            Why the confusion? We use the word justice in two distinctly different contexts. Justice is both an activity of government and a personal virtue. In his autobiography, Franklin provided a brief definition of justice as a personal virtue.

            8. Justice.
            Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. (from => http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20203/20203-h/20203-h.htm)

            What are the benefits that are our duty? I suspect The Parable of the Good Samaritan provides a great illustration. Unfortunately, the SJW crowd has tried to take the personal virtue of justice and impose it upon our government. While it might make sense to use government resource in an emergency, redistributing the wealth is unjust, and it corrupts our government. That makes the cure worse than the disease.

            As individuals and volunteers in private organizations we can be charitable without much risk of corruption. Do some steal from charities? Yes, but our whole society now trying to steal from the Federal treasury. If we don’t stop, we will just impoverish everyone.

            Depending upon the translation, the word “justice” appears in the Bible well over a hundred times. To understand what justice means in practice, check out the Mosaic Code, that is the first five books of the Old Testament.

            The primary concern God seems to have about the administration of justice is impartiality. The poor, it seems, do not ordinarily receive as much “justice” as the rich. Some things never change, unfortunately.

            Consider this definition.

            justice (n.)

            mid-12c., “the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment;” also “quality of being fair and just; moral soundness and conformity to truth,” from Old French justice “justice, legal rights, jurisdiction” (11c.), from Latin iustitia “righteousness, equity,” from iustus “upright, just” (see just (adj.)).

            Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. [“The Federalist,” No. 51]

            Meaning “right order, equity, the rewarding to everyone of that which is his due” in English is from late 14c. The Old French word had widespread senses including also “uprightness, equity, vindication of right, court of justice, judge.” In English c. 1400-1700 sometimes also with a vindictive sense “infliction of punishment, legal vengeance.” As a title for a judicial officer, c. 1200. Justice of the peace first attested early 14c. To do justice to (someone or something) “deal with as is right or fitting” is from 1670s. In the Mercian hymns, Latin iustitia is glossed by Old English rehtwisnisse. (from => https://www.etymonline.com/word/justice)

            There is nothing here about forcing people to be charitable. We may, because God expects it of us, owe our brothers and sisters help when they are in need, but who knows how much? Only God and our consciences know, but our government doesn’t. In fact, we have more than enough trouble keeping our government fair and impartial as it is,

            So why did God redeem us? Why does He not punish us as we deserve? Why did we not receive the justice we deserve? The answer is that justice was served. Jesus, because of God’s mercy and grace, paid the price for our sins. Because of His mercy, we did not pay the full price for our sins, Because of His grace, we can go to Heaven.

            This post, => https://citizentom.com/2018/03/26/why-the-cross/, provides some good analogies. You may find it interesting.

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          3. “So why did God redeem us? Why does He not punish us as we deserve? Why did we not receive the justice we deserve? The answer is that justice was served. Jesus, because of God’s mercy and grace, paid the price for our sins. Because of His mercy, we did not pay the full price for our sins, Because of His grace, we can go to Heaven.“

            So this takes us to the core of it then Tom. As you say, there have been many philosophies on justice. In fact all philosophy comes down to differing rationals for justice. However, the Christian eschatology that you present above gives the basis for an ultimate theology of justice that has been prevalent since the High Middle Ages:

            John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

            Let me just say that I am no theological or philosophical scholar. The study of this has only been a hobby of mine for much of my life. However, I can’t help but think this is the ultimate justice that you describe in the eschatology from our Christian faith, the ultimate justice which arises out of love, mercy and sacrifice – the love of God and the love that God would have us show to one another in His example.

            If ultimate justice indeed does arise out of love, then don’t you think that God expects us to make progress in this justice of love, both as individuals and as a community?

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          4. @tsalmon

            If ultimate justice indeed does arise out of love, then don’t you think that God expects us to make progress in this justice of love, both as individuals and as a community?

            I don’t think this question makes sense.

            Mercy and grace arise out of love. Justice is cold and hard. When someone refuses to love, justice is all that is left them. Hell is ultimately a choice.

            What is progress? We each make our own pursuit of happiness. I think government exists to allow us to choose our definition of progress, not to impose one.

            Government does not love anyone. It is is an instrument of force. To ameliorate the remorseless nature of government, we give juries the power of nullification and presidents the power of pardon. No where does the Constitution say the Federal Government has the power to redistribute the wealth. That is just plain corrupt.

            So what does God expect? I think He expects us to love each other. I don’t think He expects us to abuse the power of government and twist each others arms.

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          5. You cultivate a culture of love and kindness via personal generosity.
            Someone does something good for you and (assuming you’re not a grifter) you feel gratitude and a compulsion to give back. The person who gives also receives the pleasure of joyful giving.

            You cultivate a culture of dependency and distrust via enforced “generosity”.
            Enforced mandatory generosity isn’t generosity at all. No one gets a good feeling paying their taxes, and no one feels any obligation toward the individuals in the same manner they do when receiving kindness from an individual.

            I can’t imagine anyone over five years old would argue with the above (though I am often surprised). Seems pretty self evident. There might be some reasonable arguments for a government mandated “social safety net” but the government enforced “love” and “charitable community” arguments fail.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Anyone who wants to test this theory out, ask yourself the question: How many government subsistence recipients feel a great deal of gratitude to the one percent whose money pays for the majority of taxes?
            Doesn’t happen. It’s essentially exactly the opposite.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. Just to add, it does the same thing for the giver. People are far less generous personally when they feel that is the job of the government. This is evident in demographic data as well (Europeans are less personally generous, their private donations are far lower…but they pay more in taxes).

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          8. Tom,

            I’m affraid that you and anon are leaping me to conclusions that I have not made. I have not said government should necessarily be in the business of charity. I agree, less as a moral matter than as a practical matter, that depending upon how one defines charity, government is not the best place for that role.

            This issue that I brought up was whether or not as individuals, as a community, as a nation and as a world, humans can make moral “progress”. Increasing justice is moral progress.

            Progress in governmental justice is one organizational form of justice and increasing private charity is another type if progress in justice.

            This issue is whether we can make moral progress, moral progress as individuals and in groups, not that that progress only only takes one organizational form such as either government or charity. My argument here is that moral progress, in other words progress in increasing justice, is founded in love, can and is happening.

            Tom brings up the reward of Heaven and the punishment of Hell, but it is not our place to supply either in this life. That reward and that punishment, whatever they actually are, are God’s and God’s alone. It’s hubris to assert otherwise. Our duty is to carry out God will for us, and God’s will for us is to love. It seems to me that that task is difficult enough without our deciding who goes to Heaven or Hell.

            Whether we commit acts of charity as individuals or as organizational groups that we allow to govern our giving, that sharing is done out of love and for the sake of greater justice, Don’t you think Bill Gates is giving his billions away to creat greater justice in the world. It is hard to imagine that such an act of giving and the “progress” in greater justice such an act creates is not motivated by love.

            “Progress” is the issue, not necessarily the organizational forms that such progress might take.

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          9. @tsalmon

            Justice is a fine idea, but I tend to think you have put the cart before the horse. In order to have a more just society, we each have to become better people first. That is, how just a society is reflects upon the morality of the people of that society. When the people of a society don’t care about each other, justice is not their concern.

            What is “moral progress”? Do you think the definition of “progress” is obvious? Is what you think of as “progress” actually progress? Maybe you are right, and maybe you are not. Progress, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

            The whole point of a free society is to allow each of us to work for our own idea of progress. Instead of making “progress” about who controls the government and who defines “progress”, we each work both individually and in volunteer organizations for what we think is “progress”.

            Can we make “moral progress”? I don’t know. I don’t see anything inevitable about “progress”. What I do know is the only thing I can control is my own attitude. If I can improve that, I consider that progress.

            If I have a good attitude, will others copy me? Do I copy others? Yes and yes. Seems to be our nature, but we copy both what is good and bad. If we want to make certain we each understand what is bad, we have to let people suffer some of the consequences of their bad actions. Unfortunately, bad actors have had much success using the government to shift the consequences of their foolishness to the innocent, and that is not just. It is just enabling evil.

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          10. ““Progress” is the issue, not necessarily the organizational forms that such progress might take.”

            Well, it is my assertion that the “organizational form” has an impact on the progress. So yes, it matters.

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          11. @anon

            Of course it does. However, you seem to be in agreement that, because of charity, “progress” has been made. As long as we seem to agree that progress is possible, and that progress is defined as greater justice, and that justice in the Christian eschatology Springs from love, then we are only debating what organizational forms are best utilized in a given situation to achieve progress. We are then just debating systemics, and I probably agree with you more on practical systemics than I disagree.

            As just to just government, don’t you think that the invention and improvement in democracy here and it’s spreading around the world during the 20th Century was a form of progress?

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          12. Two problems jump to mind with the cynical view that progress as individuals and as humanity are not even possible.

            1. It’s isolationist and tribalist. It leads to the fatalistic conclusion that we were doomed to Heaven or Hell for all time. We may as well dig us a hole for ourselves and our family and wait out the apocalypse.
            2. It’s self defeating and self loathing. If one does not think individual progress or progress for humankind is possible, then one does not even try to make progress. Jesus’ mandate to love others as you love yourself presumes that one loves oneself, or in other words, that one finds the image of God, the human dignity, or whatever you want to call it, in oneself to love so that he can find and make that dignity, that image of God, the object of his affections in others.

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          13. Tom,

            What you wrote about the differences and difficulties of defining “progress” is fair just as are the differences in defining “justice”. However, before we can even communicate, we have to define our terms. I have defined justice in very Christian terms of love. I would therefore define the possibility of the progress of individuals and communities of individuals as being a more just individual and a more just community.

            Quite obviously the more individuals there are acting out of a commitment to love, the more likely it is that the communities that they form will be just, whether those communities take the form of charities or corporate governance or actual government or some combination.

            I also agree that such progress is not inevitable. The idea that communities will progress toward greater justice is not deterministic any more than the idea that any given individual will progress toward living a more lovingly just life is inevitable. We all move in fits and starts. Perfection is impossible so the journey is never complete, but unless we take that first step and have a goal in mind then we are defeated before we start. The journey, after all, is what matters and trying to be better as individuals and as a community than we were the day before, even if the day before we fell back two steps.

            We have to start with the idea that such progress is even possible, and indeed that such progress has already been made in history and specifically in our own country. The best way we could lose all that progress tomorrow is to not appreciate the hard work it took to get here and that the hard work never ends, at least not in this life. We each are not finished ever, not as country or a world, at least until we die or we reach the end of times.

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          14. So Tom, I’ll ask you the same thing that I asked anon:

            Was not America at its founding something more just than anything the world had seen before? Wasn’t America even more just as a result of ending slavery and the enactment of the 14th Amendment than it was at the founding? Is America not even more just as a result of the enactment and enforcement of civil rights laws than it was after the Civil War?

            We are not perfect nor will we ever be. We have done terribly unjust things throughout our history, and I have no doubt we will do unjust things again. However, to deny progress in justice is not even possible is to ignore the whole American experiment, and to say that all that our ancestors did and fought for in the name of governmental progress in Christian justice was for nought.

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          15. @tsalmon

            Won’t try answering each comment separately. Gets too confusing, and I am pressed for time.

            With Respect to Defining Progress

            Can you define progress so I would want it? Then it would be my definition and not yours, and you would not want it. Given such a conundrum, is it cynical to let everyone pursue their own version of happiness (or progress)? Or is it just respecting each other in love?

            Consider. Do you believe in life after death?

            If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. — by C. S. Lewis

            Jesus defined “progress”. We call it the Great Commission. We live out the Great Commission when we love God and each other, when we share our fellowship in Jesus Christ. If we help each other into an eternity with our Creator, that is not pursuing progress? It is what matters to me. The rest of it doesn’t, and that is not cynicism. That is just comparing this life with eternity. At least that is what I believe. Others have their own ideas. Instead of trying to please everyone, I believe everyone should be allowed to pursue their own beliefs.

            With Respect to Progress in America

            America was settled by large numbers of people seeking religious freedom. Here the found just that. Freedom of religion, a uniquely American idea, produced the progress you just described.

            Sometimes we receive as gifts good things because we did what we thought right instead of what we thought would be most rewarding. Therefore, instead of seeking progress, I suggest you consider the importance of respecting the rights of others.

            If Jesus wants us to have “progress”, then we will have progress. In any event, we can still love God and each other, share the Gospel, and enjoy the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

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          16. TSalmon: ”As long as we seem to agree that progress is possible, and that progress is defined as greater justice, and that justice in the Christian eschatology Springs from love, then we are only debating what organizational forms are best utilized in a given situation to achieve progress. We are then just debating systemics, and I probably agree with you more on practical systemics than I disagree.”

            From my perspective the “how to” is the debate.
            I can’t think of a person who would argue that love and justice are bad and undesirable things. I’m sure (as an extreme example to make the point) even dictators wouldn’t argue that those are bad things….they just argue over “semantics”.
            Without the “how to”, it’s much like discussing wishes…kind of pointless. If the queen had balls she’d be king.

            ”As just to just government, don’t you think that the invention and improvement in democracy here and it’s spreading around the world during the 20th Century was a form of progress?”

            I agree that human condition has generally improved. Liberty is preferable to tyranny. The REASON is the point. The “how to”.
            Note that the French and Russian Revolutions started out with fine intentions too.
            The American Revolution created a republic that endured, while the French and Russian revolutions degenerated quickly into tyranny, because the American Framers didn’t try to create a government capable of doing great good in the hands of brilliant and well-intentioned people. Instead, they tried to create a government that couldn’t do too much to ruin the country in the hands of a bunch of corrupt morons. And they did a pretty good job of it.

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          17. Think I’ve mentioned this before…but since it kind of goes with the theme of improving the human condition I’ll say it again: Civilization is based on trust. The key to improving the “human condition” is to take a deep look (in practice, not theory) at the social mechanisms that build trust as well as destroy it.

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          18. @anon

            True. Most people don’t break the law because they don’t want to break the law. Most people do the right thing because they want to do the right thing. The framers of the Constitution counted upon the relatively high moral standards of most Americans to make the country work. They counted about the volunteer spirit to get things done, not government.

            Check out => https://citizentom.com/2009/12/07/the-right-of-free-association/. Alexis De Tocqueville wrote about the different types of associations Americans formed his classic work, Democracy in America, It is an eye opener. It reveals what we lose when we insist government do too much.

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          19. Who says that a focus on the ultimate justice of eternity and a focus on justice in this life now are mutually exclusive things? I’ve read some of CS Lewis’ works and I love him, but somehow I doubt that he took a scientific poll to arrive at this opinion. Besides if Lewis didn’t believe that the justice of nations could progress or recede, then why even bother to give all those inspiring radio talks in Britain during WWII?

            In response to requests that he bide his time while injustice was done to another generation of children, MLK talked about “the fierce urgency of now”. MLK’s speeches, letters and sermons are an inspiring religious message of how the progress of justice requires us to put love into action. In my opinion, to understand the progress that has been made in American history MLK is a more pivotal figure and more representation of American aspiration than anything that the Founders wrote. King died for American progress in justice and we have far to go, but we also have come far since and because of MLK’s sermons and actions of love in Christ. If you want a far more convincing and hope filled theology that progress in justice is possible and that justice in the Christian sense is defined by love, than I recommend that you read MLK, or if you have read him, that you return to reread him.

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          20. anon wrote:

            “From my perspective the “how to” is the debate.
            I can’t think of a person who would argue that love and justice are bad and undesirable things. I’m sure (as an extreme example to make the point) even dictators wouldn’t argue that those are bad things….they just argue over “semantics”.
            Without the “how to”, it’s much like discussing wishes…kind of pointless. If the queen had balls she’d be king.“

            I agree completely. No one loves to argue process and systemics more that I do. I’m a lawyer.

            However, if you read my comment that Tom was good enough to address in this post, then you will see that the issue was aspirational rather than procedural. The question was not so much “how to” make progress as whether progress in moral justice in this life is even possible. Obviously, as Tom points out, whether progress can be made or lost depends also upon how we choose to define “progress” and “justice”.

            As to the “how to”, I’d love that debate depending on how you define the issues and the terms. Tom always wants to debate the morality of “process” as well, but the only debate he wants to have is extreme collectivism verses extreme individualism. Because I don’t believe either of those extreme positions are moral or practically workable, nor do I think do virtually all Americans, I think it’s very similar to your wonderful metaphor: “If the queen had balls….” It’s a stupid argument.

            As to things in between the extremes of perfect collectivism and perfect individualism, where most of the world actually lives, then a process argument depends on a deep understanding of the various processes. For example, you want to discuss whether or not government should be in the business of charity. Well, the plain answer IMHO, is “no” based less on moral grounds than on practical grounds. However, this depends very much upon how we define “charity”. Is providing military, police and fire protection to poor people who pay little or no taxes for their support government provided charity? What about schools? Is a retirement insurance program that we all unequally pay into and we all benefit from charity? Are social safety nets such as unemployment insurance that we all pay into charity? How about government laws and regulation that force corporations to incorporate costs such as pollution or unsafe working conditions into the price of their products rather than “externalizing” those costs on to local communities and workers? Is that charity?

            Extreme ideologues want to define many of these diverse governmental processes as socialism or government enforced charity. But this is more jingoism than an actual serious debate about morality and pragmatism in processes. A real debate takes expertise and knowledge about the history and development of the modern state, about the rule of law and about economics. But we don’t want to waste time on that. Everybody’s opinion is equally valid, right?

            Because this sort of forum tends more toward rhetoric than knowledge, a very limited discussion on progress seems to fit the platitudinous format. As you say, the fact that we can and even have made progress as I have defined it in moral Christian terms really seems historically obvious, but obviously not that obvious to everyone here. I’m as much in favor of separation of church and state as anyone, but to deny that, even in a secular state, we measure moral progress in very Christian terms is to deny our very real “Christian cultural heritage” that Tom keeps harping on. Both in its most noble and loving emphasis, as well as its misuse in judgemental hatreds, Christianity has influenced moral progress toward justice, don’t you think? I think simple Christian principle of love should be used to define and evaluate that progess. How we get there is another, far more complex thing.

            Like

          21. @tsalmon

            This is my reply to this comment too => https://citizentom.com/2018/03/25/do-you-believe-man-can-perfect-himself-revisited/comment-page-1/#comment-80062. Hence this quote.

            Who says that a focus on the ultimate justice of eternity and a focus on justice in this life now are mutually exclusive things?

            ???????

            Did you read this?

            If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. — by C. S. Lewis

            What do you think it means to be ineffective in this world?

            God calls upon us to love Him and our neighbors in both this world and the next. We demonstrate our faith in the world to come by acting upon that faith in this world.

            However, we cannot perfect each other. God, working through the Holy Spirit is the instrument of our perfection, not government, not even our own will. Please read the Book of Romans.

            Romans 7:14-25 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
            The Conflict of Two Natures

            14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

            21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

            What Liberal Democrats propose is to use the Law and the force of government power to fix the unfairness of life and perfect man. There is no secret about this, but it does not work. We cannot find leaders that everyone believes are perfect enough to get the job done right. Inevitably, when we give our leaders that kind of power we give that kind of power, the power we give them corrupts them. However, this inevitable corruption is not where problems starts. The problems start when we cannot agree upon a definition of progress. Don’t Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have vastly different ideas about what constitutes moral progress? And what do Liberal Democrats do when Conservatives complain? They call us ideologues, as if some kind of extreme ideology is not driving Liberal Democrats. You clowns are so arrogant you have the gall to think you are just right, that there just has to be something wrong with the guy who wants your grubby hands out of his pocket. After all, you have good intentions. You are not going to keep that money. You are going to give it to the poor, the old, the disabled, and so forth. We should just trust you because you say want to do the right thing? When you waste dollars by the trillions?

            Is letting God perfect people doing nothing? Is freedom of religion meaningless? No and no.

            How do we recognize the authority of God? Is it by using the government to boss around our bothers and sisters? That is what it looks like Liberal Democrats want to do.

            Why don’t you think it makes more sense to personalty submit to God and do His will? You love Him. Don’t make other people love Him. You obey Him. Don’t make other people obey Him.

            Do what Jesus did.

            John 13:15 New King James Version (NKJV)

            15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

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          22. “However, we cannot perfect each other. God, working through the Holy Spirit is the instrument of our perfection, not government, not even our own will”

            I agreee completely and have not argued otherwise.

            “What Liberal Democrats propose is to use the Law and the force of government power to fix the unfairness of life and perfect man.”

            I wouldn’t know. I don’t think that I have ever heard a “liberal Democrat” make such s nonsensical argument. Perhaps, if you can point him/her out to me , we can debate him/her together because right now I’m not sure who you are responding to.

            “Why don’t you think it makes more sense to personalty submit to God and do His will? You love Him. Don’t make other people love Him. You obey Him. Don’t make other people obey Him.”

            Hmm. Ok. Really, who are you talking to here? You think some “liberal Democrats” want to legally mandate that we all love God? What bizarro world is that happening in?

            If you are talking about God’s will that we love one another, I don’t think that that can be legally mandated either, but it’s a nice thought.

            Like

          23. @tsalmon

            As I have described it I thoroughly agree that Democrats would call what I said Democrats want to do nonsense. However, the reasons differ. From your point of view, it is all about love. Love justifies anything, apparently. What you refuse to grapple with is the fact you want to force people to render unto Caesar what should only be rendered unto God.

            In the past the word charity referred to love of God and neighbor, and that is still the meaning when we speak of charity as a theological virtue (see => http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm). However, today we use the word charity to mean something else (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/charity), and Liberal Democrats think this form of charity is the primary business of government. Unfortunately, as anon has already government “generosity” has nothing to do with love.

            => https://citizentom.com/2018/03/25/do-you-believe-man-can-perfect-himself-revisited/comment-page-1/#comment-80035
            => https://citizentom.com/2018/03/25/do-you-believe-man-can-perfect-himself-revisited/comment-page-1/#comment-80036
            => https://citizentom.com/2018/03/25/do-you-believe-man-can-perfect-himself-revisited/comment-page-1/#comment-80037

            Government-run health, education and welfare programs are not charity. Such programs are just something crooked politicians create to buy the votes of crooked citizens.

            Unlike yourself, a great many in your party have little use for God. These have no confusion about looking to Caesar instead of God. What God?

            Here is an example.
            => https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/dnc-god-jerusalem-platform_n_1859200.html
            https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?id=402

            https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/angry-democratic-delegates-boo-rigged-vote-to-include-jerusalem-and-god-in-the-party-platform

            The chair at a political convention has an extraordinary amount of power, especially if his hearing is sufficient selective. That’s why party members need to seriously consider who they make the chair of a convention.

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          24. I really would like to thank you Tom for indulging me on the topic of whether human progress is possible.

            Like

          25. @tsalmon

            No problem! I got something out of it, and I hope you did too.

            This debate is actually not new. Plato wrote about philosopher kings. Aristotle wrote about how the government should instill virtues into the people. Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia.

            What is new? Jesus introduced the idea that we are all made in the image of God, not just the royals.

            During the pagan era, rulers claimed divinity of some sort. During the Christian era, kings tried to claim a divine right to rule. Unfortunately for the kings, when people started reading the Bible for themselves, they could not find any passages that supported that claim. That left Christians pondering what our government should look like. However, it was not until those seeking religious freedom arrived in large numbers in the New World that anyone experimented with the idea of religious freedom and tried to define what that means.

            The experiment continues.

            Now? Now we don’t have as many Christians, and very few people actually read and study the Bible. So would be royals are starting to feel a mite “empowered”.

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      1. I’ve read a couple of Hawking’s books. The physics was well beyond me but I got the gist of Hawking’s cosmology. Unlike your author here who just found fault with what he felt was the hopelessness of Hawking’s cosmology, I think Hawking’s argument fails to even address any metaphysical ontology. But that’s another discussion.

        I heartily agree with the concept of an afterlife. I accept its promise on faith without any real understanding of its infinite possibilities. On the other hand, regardless of that faith and my ignorance of Heaven, I also feel that we should do the right thing (love one another) simply because it is God’s will that we do so, and even if there were no heaven. I also think that a secularist (such as Doug) could have this same philosophy even though he may or may not base it upon any sound metaphysical and/or religious ontology. Does that make sense?

        Like

        1. I read some of Hawking’s books too. Hawking rejected the notion of God and the spiritual aspect of man. That does not leave much reason for hope. Hope in what?

          Do some people who reject belief in God or the afterlife nevertheless love others? Yes, but why? Has little to do with logic. We all have this moral law God wrote upon our hearts. Some people, even though they don’t know what to make of God intellectually, still allow their consciences to be informed by that moral law.

          We also benefit, even the secularists, from living in a nation with a Christian heritage. That is, we are the descendants of people who believed the Bible and tried to live by it. Even though we do not take the Bible as seriously as those before us, we still stand upon their shoulders.

          What if we deny our Christian heritage? Then we are in danger of forgetting where we stand. We risk falling off that shoulder and crashing to the hard and rocky ground below.

          Like

          1. Tom, I agree with most of that.

            The atheist preacher, Hitchens, has a new book out listing all the harm that has been done in the name of religion. I guess my answer to that would be, without a religion of love, would we really have the current moral standard by which we would we judge its hateful misuse? You can’t really uniting the moral bell of Christianity so as to be completely objective about its morality.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. @Doug

    If you consider the following wisdom Ecclesiastes verse logically, only one can be perfect. The proof of which one is perfect definition of God or Man can be quantified using the following Logic equation.

    Logic of x1 = x2

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570868305000911#sec028

    The answer proves God’s Sovereignty in this ancient wisdom verse written 3000 years ago.

    I also know that whatever God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken away from it. God has made it this way, so that men will fear him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not to dive in some religious debate with anyone.. but being a self-proclaimed amateur humanist I might write it this way… not as two separate debates but rather a statement…

    God defines man; man defines God.

    Like

    1. @Doug

      That is one way of looking at it, I suppose, but it is still in the camp of man defining God.

      Look at Romans 1:18-32 (=> https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+1%3A18-32&version=NKJV). Since Paul spoke frankly, that passage tends to infuriate some folks, but Paul wanted to confront people with the unvarnished truth. God’s existence is not in question. Even much of His character is readily apparent.

      You want to understand someone? Look at what they have done. Look at the quality of their work.

      Creation is all around us. We cannot miss it. Did Creation just happen? No. That is not possible. Just try to imagine anything like it happening by accident.

      Look at yourself. You too are part of God’s creation. What do you know about yourself? Is not God’s Moral Law written upon your heart? Don’t you innately know the difference between right and wrong? Once you are accepted by another human being as being human, one of his people, a neighbor; don’t you and that other human being know when one of you wrongs the other?

      Look again at your heart? Isn’t there an empty place nothing you know of seems able to fill. Is that the place God reserved for Himself? Have you tried to fill it with Him.

      Then there is the Bible. This is the Truth Christians say God has revealed about Himself. After I read it, I understood why so many believe it. No mere man would ever have written such a work. None could have done so unaided.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I beg to differ. Mercy! Mercy!

          I doubt you think of it that way, but he has gone through a harrowing experience, one very few could endure. Unfortunately, we put most of our presidents through a lot of misery these days.

          Like

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