In GOD-GIVEN OR GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS? — PART 1, we discussed the meaning of inalienable Rights. If Rights are inalienable, that is, one group of men cannot take away the Rights of another away from them, what does that mean in practice? We are all familiar with the fact that one group of men an enslave another group of men. Doesn’t that mean that the first group deprives the second group of its rights? Not exactly. When men enslave others, what they do is deprive their slaves of the ability to fully exercise their Rights. In doing so, they sin, and God, apparently the service of a greater good, often permits the sin. Yet the Bible says to sin is to wrong another.
How Does The Bible Affirm Our Rights Are God-given?
Why does God permit sin? What was the Old Testament was about? Much of it was about the Law. What does the Law exist to do? The Law exists to show us our sinfulness (Romans 7:7-12) and our need for a Savior (Romans 7:13-25).
The people of the Old Testament struggled to manage their sinfulness. Because our Savior has come, we have a different alternative. Yet we often choose to manage sin instead by developing rigid ideologies for either ourselves or for other people. That is the point Everett Piper makes in Sinners on the right and the left. Here is how he ends his column.
Managing sin (mine or yours), while a necessary starting point, can never be the end goal. Isn’t this the lesson of the Pharisees? Anything short of confession, short of forgiveness, short of selfless humility, short of transformation (i.e., short of Christ-likeness) will prove itself to be a morbid fixation on managing the cancer rather than celebrating the cure. (from here)
WHEN DO THE PEOPLE STEAL THEIR OWN FREEDOM? discusses this problem. What Jesus taught — what the Old Testament records — is that we cannot defeat sin by hating sin, managing sin, or fighting sin. We can only free ourselves from the tyranny of sin with love. What kind of love?
Luke 10:27 New King James Version (NKJV)
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Is agape love a choice, something we choose or something that chooses us? I don’t know, but agape love seems to be both caught and chosen. When we see selfless love displayed by others, many of us want to be like Jesus.
So are our rights something that just exist, or do we create our rights? Do we create laws by choosing to sin? Are laws something we create or do we just write down laws against things we already know are wrong? Do we already know others have Rights, or do we create Rights? If others have innate Rights, then if not God, what is the source of these Rights?
The Declaration of Independence says we don’t give others their rights. God gives us our Rights. The Bible adds more. When we love our neighbors, we don’t sin against our neighbors by violating their Rights.Instead, we protect our neighbors from the sins of those who sin.
In The values underlying Independence Day, Andrew P. Napolitano discusses the following:
The two central values of the declaration are the origins of human liberty and the legitimacy of popular government.
Whether we agree with Napolitano or not, his article provides a good place get an understanding of the issues and the terminology surrounding natural Rights. Where I differ from Napolitano is in this bit of assertion of conventional wisdom.
Even those who question or reject the existence of the Creator — was Jefferson himself among them? — can embrace natural rights, because they can accept that our exercise of human reason leads us all to make similar claims. These claims — free speech, free association, free exercise or non-exercise of religion, self-defense, privacy, and fairness, to name a few — are rights that we all exercise without giving a second thought to the fact that they are natural and come from within us.
Can those who question or reject the existence of the Creator embrace natural rights? Is the embrace of natural rights simply a logical result of the exercise of human reason? Is it just about the Creator or human reason? I think not. I think we respect the rights of others because we love our neighbors. I think it is easier to love our neighbors if we believe everyone is a child of the God and that God loves each of us. Until we care about someone, no one’s Rights are self evident. When we do love someone, their Rights are indisputable. Then, because we love someone, we begin to reason about their Rights.
In You Have No Rights Without Natural Law, Jim DeMint argues in defense of the concept of natural Rights. His concern is the rejection of natural Rights by the political Left. Consider how he begins.
While musing on the writings of author and philosopher G.K. Chesterton in his personal notebook, a young John F. Kennedy wrote, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” Fences hold things in we want to keep close, and protect us from things we want to keep out. But Chesterton and JFK were not making a point about physical fences. They were speaking of the ideas, principles, and institutions that surround the things that make life worth living, and protect us from threats to those things we value and love.
It is not threats to “things” we value and love that good ideas, principles, and institutions protect. It is threats to the “people” we love that good ideas, principles, and institutions protect.
What does the rejection of natural Rights by the political Left look like? The Danger of Claiming That Rights Come From God by David Niose provides as good as an example as any. With unusual clarity, Niose states the usual arguments. Here is an example.
First let’s consider the claim that “our rights come from God.” Since even believers will acknowledge that the very existence of God cannot be proven, this claim leaves us in a most unsettling position: our most precious rights are apparently flowing from an entity whose existence can reasonably be doubted. Even believers acknowledge that faith, as opposed to verifiable evidence, is the basis of their belief. That’s fine for one’s personal religious outlook, but why would we feel that cherished human rights and civil rights are more secure if they arise from a source that may not even exist?
There are good, kind, smart, and wise people who believe in God who will acknowledge that the existence of God cannot be proven. However, this admission is that the existence of God cannot be scientifically proven. Anyone who has studied the Bible knows that the Bible says that a man who denies the existence of God is being a fool. It is just considered impolite to point this out more often than necessary.
Here is Niose most absurd argument.
Even more absurd is the claim that the government can’t take away our rights. Wishful thinking! Of course it can. On the constitutional level the framers even created a mechanism for doing so—it’s called the amendment process. Any constitutional right—free speech, free press, due process, etc.—could be eliminated by constitutional amendment. To be more specific, a vote of two-third of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures can repeal any constitutional right. However unlikely it may seem, all of our “God-given” rights are ultimately vulnerable to governmental action. Only the will of the people that protects them.
When the Bible says it is wrong to sin, that God abhors murder, for example, is the Bible saying that God won’t allow us to sin, won’t allow us to commit murder? Of course not. The Bible offers us wisdom, including the wisdom we should love our neighbor, but that does not mean we will. Sometimes we will vote for the wrong people. Consider Niose’s little list of human rights violations (next paragraph). These human rights violations were all committed by Democrat administrations, of course. Even the Patriot Act was abused by the Obama Administration, not the Republican administration that asked for it. Among other things, the Obama administration appears to have abused its authority by spying on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Where did the Founders get their ideas about natural Rights? One of the books our nation’s founders consulted is The Spirit of laws by Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Consider this excerpt.
After what has been said, one would imagine that human nature should perpetually rise up against despotism. But notwithstanding the love of liberty, so natural to mankind, notwithstanding their innate detestation of force and violence, most nations are subject to this very government. This is easily accounted for. To form a moderate government, it is necessary to combine the several powers; to regulate, temper, and set them in motion; to give, as it were, ballast to one, in order to enable it to counterpoise the other. This is a masterpiece of legislation; rarely produced by hazard, and seldom attained by prudence. On the contrary, a despotic government offers itself, as it were, at first sight; it is uniform throughout; and as passions only are requisite to establish it, this is what every capacity may reach. (from here)
In FROM WHERE DOES MORAL GOVERNMENT FLOW?, I have a post that discusses this paragraph, but I hope this much is obvious. The founders understood that our Rights come from our Maker. At the same time they understood we are fallen creatures. Hence, we are the greatest threat to each others Rights.
John Locke, because of his SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT, is probably most famous for arguing a belief in God-given or natural rights. When he wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson obviously consulted Locke.
Does Locke just offer Bible citations as proof of God-given or natural rights? No. Instead, Locke makes his argument by referring to the Bible, God, and the common understanding of most men. Consider how he ended his work.
Sect. 243. To conclude, The power that every individual gave the society, when he entered into it, can never revert to the individuals again, as long as the society lasts, but will always remain in the community; because without this there can be no community, no commonwealth, which is contrary to the original agreement: so also when the society hath placed the legislative in any assembly of men, to continue in them and their successors, with direction and authority for providing such successors, the legislative can never revert to the people whilst that government lasts; because having provided a legislative with power to continue for ever, they have given up their political power to the legislative, and cannot resume it. But if they have set limits to the duration of their legislative, and made this supreme power in any person, or assembly, only temporary; or else, when by the miscarriages of those in authority, it is forfeited; upon the forfeiture, or at the determination of the time set, it reverts to the society, and the people have a right to act as supreme, and continue the legislative in themselves; or erect a new form, or under the old form place it in new hands, as they think good.
What Locke explained is that we institute a government to protect our Rights, Rights that preexisted government, that when a government no longer serves that just end, the people have a right to erect a new government. The clarity with which he stated these beliefs is why Locke was so influential with the Founders.
To Be Continued (see Part 1)
Further reading 2 Corinthians 6:11-18
How do you think that passage applies?
I dont Thank it necessarily applies is just scripture that points out that we are vessels of god
To add and correct my statement” from poor, to meek will inherit the earth,” in relation to the rich warning.
The four woes that follow in Luke 6:24–26
Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
If you relate to what can happen in a Republic, vs. Heaven, the results will be the same kind of woes, in my opinion. That is if we consider past history of the poor overthrowing the rich governing over them.
Regards and good will blogging.
Tsalmon, you state,
“thus contain the seeds of the contradictory opinions on property which have divided the democratic world from the sixteenth to the present centuries.”
I believe the opinions of rights and property go back 3000 years ago when King Solomon wrote this proverb.
Rich and poor live side by side, Yahweh makes them all. (Proverb 22:2)
King Solomon is said to be one of the earliest philosophers in time. If you read and discern his philosophy in simple terms, I believe this relates to the subject of rights as follows.
God made everyone equal to each other.
Man separates themselves from each other, not God.
There is no sin when a man accumulates wealth.
There is a sin when a man does not look after his brothers who are poor or unfortunate from causes not of their own making.
The rich sin when they accumulate more wealth than they can ever use in their lifetime.
The rich who employ men and give greater equity to their workers will profit more than a miser.
In other words, when God gifted life to us, he gave each of us the same rights in life. He also gave us each special talent to serve his design for mankind.
Nothing has changed since Creation under the sun. The sixteenth-century philosophers’ designs are nothing new either. All any philosopher has to do is read the Bible and discern the words and live the advice rendered rather than keep on dreaming up new philosophies or different words for the same message.
We all were born with the same rights given us by God to serve Him. Serve Him and there is no problem living side by side with any other man or nation.
Regards and good will blogging.
Yep! King Solomon does go back quite a ways in time. And Moses still further, but there is nothing new under the sun.
So what does God want from us? He wants us to love Him with all we have, and He want us to love our neighbor as we love our self. Does loving our neighbor include using the government to steal from him? Don’t think so.
Tom, to answer your question,
“Does loving our neighbor include using the government to steal from him? Don’t think so.”
I agree there is no relation to love our neighbor by allowing the government to steal from him.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a Republic which is based on the majority rules. Apparently in our republic, the super rich are not by their own volition following the wisdom of Solomon to look after the poor and unfortunate suffering from causes not of their own making.
In a republic, the greater the number of voters who become poor from causes of government folly, in the end another Bible verse will result.
“The poor shall inherit the earth.”
Is this a warning to the super rich. Perhaps so, if they reside in a Republic.
The premise of the majority rules can work out two alternatives. Either the rich provide more equity for their workers, or the workers will use government to provide more equity for the deserving poor.
In other words, the saying, “We are the masters of our own disasters,” can apply both for the rich and the poor in a Republic.
Time will tell. The warnings are apparent of what we are witnessing of the divisiveness we are reading in the news about our Republic.
Regards and good will blogging.
You have outlined our God given “responsibilities”. I agree that the Bible makes pretty clear in many placed that God has given us these responsibilities. However, it is one thing to say that God has given the rich man the “responsibility” to share his wealth and quite another to say that the innocent poor man somehow has a “right” to that share.
Niebuhr deals with the two convoluted Christian viewpoints on these God given rights that came out of the 16th and 17th Century rationalists and how they later evolved into two secularist extremes. One viewpoint inevitably lead to secular communism. The other lead to the classic secular liberalism that is essentially advocated here. In his book Niebuhr argues that the communist viewpoint was the least idealistically flawed of the two, but they are both ultimately flawed by their own idealistic and deterministic disregard for one very important problem: man’s sinful nature.
As you alude, God’s will is clear. In a prefallen world or in Heaven God would have us share. In a fallen world full of sinful men, government can neither enforce that perfection nor ignore its dark reality.
But Niebuhr explained all of this half a century ago, and we are still stuck in the same arguments.
This is a very nice presentation of only one line of development of the idea of rights (basically, the Calvinist view), but we shouldn’t act as if that line of thought flowered naturally into the sunlight without roots or trunk or branches. After almost two millennium since Christ, 16th and 17th Century rationalists didn’t just suddenly invent Christian theology.
Take property law as just one example. The Middle Ages Christian rational view represented by Saint Thomas Aquinas (interpreting Aristotle) conceived of Natural Law as an eternal state of being. Property Law does not exist in an eternal sense, meaning that no concept of selfish ownership (either defensively or offensively) could be necessary in Eden and it would not be necessary in the Kingdom of God in Heaven and on Earth after the End of Times. In contrast, Property Law represented the Positive Law (moral and political law of government) that became necessary when humans fell from grace. The need for Property Law was the practical law that derived, not from God, but from free will and the original sin of human selfishness. As George O’Brien put it: “It was one of the institutions rendered necessary by the fall….Property must be respected as one of the institutions which put a curb on his [man’s} avarice.” (This Catholic thinking takes me back to our “If all men were angels” analogy in that, in such an ideal state of man, property law is unnecessary).
Property Law as a form of Natural Law comes from Protestantism and was originally split into two branches: the Calvinists and the Sectarianism. It is worthwhile to quote Reinhold Niebuhr at some length here:
“It remained however for orthodox Protestantism, particularly Calvinism, to accept property distinctions without scruple or discrimination. In the case of Calvin this uncritical acceptance of property was due to his excessive determinism. Since property existed, he was certain that it must be by the will of God. Calvinism did not, of course, emancipate the administration of property from all moral restraint, as was done in laissez-faire theory; the Christian idea that we are God’s stewards of all we possess remained a force in Calvinistic as in Catholic thought. But the idea of stewardship easily degenerated into the idea of philanthropy as justification for property distinctions. ‘Why then,’ said Calvin, ‘does God permit some to be rich and others poor on earth if not that he wants to give us an occasion to do good?’ Thus Calvinism laid the foundation for the hypocrisies of bourgeois and plutocratic idealism in which charity became a screen for injustice. These hypocrisies deserve all the strictures which have been leveled against them by sixteenth-century sectarianism and Marxism.
“If both orthodox Catholicism and orthodox Protestantism tended to give a more and more uncritical justification of property, in which the early Christian scruples were forgotten, the sectarian Christianity of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which social revolt was combined with religious rebellion against feudalism, laid the foundation for the property ethic which finally culminated in the Marxist theory. The Anabaptists of the Continent and the Diggers of England were equalitarian and communist. They believed it possible to restore the original state of man’s innocency and they thought that the primary method of the restoration was the return to primitive communism. The Anabaptists taught ‘that a Christian must not possess anything proper to himself but that whatever he has he must make common.’ Gerard Winstanley, leader of the Diggers of the Cromwellian period in England, anticipated practically every facet of the Marxist creed. ‘The earth,’ he declared, ‘was made by Almighty God to be a common treasury of livelihood for the whole of mankind.’ This state of common ownership was destroyed when ‘our ancestors by the sword first did murder their fellow creatures and then after plunder and steal their land.’
“Winstanley was half Christian and half Marxist in his interpretation of the rise of evil. Sometimes he declared that sin arose through the development of ‘particular love’ which destroyed the perfection of ‘universal love’ and brought private possession in its train as the first fruit of evil. Sometimes he reversed the process and, as in Marxism, made the inception of private property the root, rather than the fruit, of evil: ‘This particular propriety of mine and thine,’ he declared, ‘has brought all the misery upon the people.’
“Against the conservative idea that property may be the fruit of diligence Winstanley presents a telling argument: ‘No man can be rich, but he must be rich by his own labors or by the labors of other men helping him. If a man has no help from his neighbors he shall never gather an estate of hundreds and thousands a year. If other men help him then are those riches his neighbors’ as well as his own.’
“The economic viewpoints of Calvinism on the one hand and of the sectarian Christians, as typified by Winstanley on the other, thus contain the seeds of the contradictory opinions on property which have divided the democratic world from the sixteenth to the present centuries. Even the modern class conflict, in which these ideas are the weapons of opposing classes, was anticipated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; for Calvinism was on the whole the religion of the middle classes and sectarianism was the religion of the disinherited.
“But modern secularism, both [Classical] liberal and Marxist, has set property theories in even more complete contradiction to each other. [Classical] Liberal thought tended to emancipate property relations from all political control or moral restraint which Christian thought always maintained. Marxist philosophy on the other hand derived all historic evil from the rise of private property more completely than sectarian Christianity. Thus secularism removed the last common denominator between opposing convictions on the question of property. ”
This comes from Niebuhr’s book, “The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness”. The book speaks at historical, theological and philosophical length on just the topic that your serious of posts here are about, and I think refutes the whole concept of Natural Rights better than I ever could. This is just a taste. In aligning my thoughts with Niebuhr, I hope that you might read this book before your next post on this subject. However, I think that IB summarized the whole problem of Natural Rights pretty succinctly in his comment on your earlier post on this topic, and you have not refuted his argument here, so I suppose we could just leave it at that.
I enjoy Reinhold Niebuhr “Share
Serenity Prayer”, but I am not certain how wise he was. => https://www.britannica.com/biography/Reinhold-Niebuhr. However, I am not surprised a Socialist would attack John Calvin.
The Bible says: You shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15). I think that predates quite a few theologians. However, whether they invented them or not, we tend to personalize ideas to people. So some want to attack the proponents of ideas they oppose and split us into factions. “I am with Her” (Hillary) versus “Make America Great Again” (Donald) crowds, for example. What matters, however, is the quality of the ideas and the competence of the person in implementing those ideas.
What separates Christians? Well, here is one thing. All recognize to some degree that the ideas contained in the Bible are great. Not all accept the fact that we are completely incompetent to implement those ideas without the grace of God.
Here is the problem.
Respecting the property rights of our neighbors is just one of the ways we obey the voice of the Lord.
King Saul, the fellow to whom Samuel spoke, would not trust in God. So he could not and would not obey God.
Trust in God is paramount.
Socialists refuse to respect property rights of their neighbors. According o their own whims, they redistribute what rightfully belongs to others. When we use the government to steal, we do so in disobedience to God.
Anyway, I suppose I could turn this post a defense of Calvinism, but John Locke did not defend natural rights based upon Calvinism, and neither did the Founders. So I don’t think I need to go there..
Niebuhr was actually pretty thorough in connecting both Locke and Adam Smith to Calvinism and in showing how both have also been misinterpreted by your current version of classical liberalism. You might also enjoy that Niebuhr was also pretty thorough in his criticism of the idealism in the purely collectivistic approaches like communism and socialism. if you are ever interested in actually going there.
Like most of us, Niebuhr learned and changed a good deal from his start as a young pastor building a congregation in a working class industrial neighborhood and on throughout his later studies and writings as a Christian philosopher. (I live and learn and change with every day). It amazes me how on point he is to this whole discussion and to the divisions that continue to plague democracy and Christianity. Rather than an easy cure, he also has some difficult pills to swallow for those who dream paradisal Utopias of either the socialist or the Randian varieties. I find Niebuhr sincere, scholarly and enlightening. But you can lead a horse to water of wisdom….
Either way I would find it difficult to make a more convincing Christian oriented treatise on this than Niebuhr has already written. As it is, you didn’t really refute anything about the wisdom in what Niebuhr wrote in the quote I provided, much less his life’s works. Instead, you simply mischaracterized him and dismissed him. Yes, wisdom is indeed in short supply these days. Often we find it where we most fear to look.
You are making this too complex. You say the government both gives and protects our rights through the law. The Bible says what is the true law. In addition, the Bible says God appoints our leaders, that is, our government.
You don’t believe the Bible? Perhaps that is the crux of our disagreement.
If I don’t believe in your interpretation of the Bible, then I don’t believe in the Bible? Well, I guess I could make the same argument: if you don’t believe in Niebuhr’s, Aquinas’ or the Pope’s interpretation of the Bible, then it is you who don’t believe in the Bible, but that is a silly argument don’t you think? Isn’t it the same argument to some extent that you found so frustrating when Lander7 made it? Lander7 at least had a certain sincerity in his belief that we should take scripture literally “as is” rather than saying we should go to the Bible trying to prove what we already want to believe.
Scripture has been around for a long time you know, and neither you nor I are the first ones to look at it. Lots of really smart, sincere scholars and theologians have studied scripture their whole lives and have disagreed vehemently about how to apply it to their own individual lives, much less the politics that ultimately by definition can control all our lives. Incredulously for worshipers of the God of Love, terrible wars have been fought over those disagreements. Why? Well, not because the people fighting and dying didn’t “believe” in the Bible. Perhaps, it was instead because many found it way to easy to believe what they wanted to believe at their own time and place in history instead of what Jesus meant for them to believe for all time. (Niebuhr similarly make this point). If I claim ignorance of perfect interpretation, it is only because the opposite seems to me to be far worse.
You have cited Locke and I have cited Niebuhr. Because of the effect they have had on thought, it seems wise to me to let these scholars disagree and see whose argument is most rational and scriptural. Either one of us just dismissing these two incredible and influential minds as unwise seems ostentatious don’t you think? Even Marx who was the Frankensteinish creator of the monster that I spent most of my early life fighting against had some intellectual, rational appeal to truth that we simply dismiss without study or debate at our own hazard.
Oddly, as Christians what we both believe in common from the Bible far outweighs these petty political disputes and don’t you think that putting that in question because of petty political disputes is the most unchristian act that either one of us could make in the guise of being Christian?
Where have you actually referenced the Bible. Name dropping, and long quotation that doesn’t reference the Bible focuses on human, not Godly wisdom. When Niebuhr tries to cut down John Calvin, I see no reason to be impressed.
The guy may have been a good man. Not for me to judge.
The fact Obama claimed him was not, however. A recommendation.
Anyway, Niebuhr ministered in a reformed church. Look up what that is. The fact he attacked Calvin was somewhat treacherous. Not the behavior of a guy I want on my team.
You accuse me of making it complex, but it is you that has to twist reason and scripture into knots to devise amorphous God given rights out of obvious God given responsibilities. Jesus made the law of the scriptures and all the wisdom of the prophets very simple for us: the law of God is love. However, humans fell from grace to a fallen and finite world where God granted us the free will to follow that law or not. The fact that a man will not only selfishly steal from his neighbor what he did not earn, but that he (capitalists and collectivists alike) will also use whatever political or economic power he can grab in order to force other men to give the fruit of their labor to him is the reason we need positive laws to assure those rights. Assuming that we have natural material rights from God rather than just natural responsibilities is naive of our own sinful nature, our own selfish will to power. Rights ARE complex, imperfect man made things subject to endless dispute and change and that can only exist in this fallen world. God given responsibilities, on the other hand, are eternal and so simple that only a hypocritical and self serving Pharisee can make the law complex.
I don’t think there is anything sacred about my interpretation of scripture. Take it or leave it. It is the Bible that is sacred. If you want justify Socialism with the Bible — stealing — I will vehemently disagree.
In the interests of justice, property rights must be regulated. What Socialism does is eliminate property rights. That is even more wrong.
Here is a thought for you (not original with me). In a Capitalist society, the rich become powerful. In a Socialist society, the powerful become rich.
We live in a fallen world, not heaven. We cannot make it heaven by twisting people’s arms and forcing them to act like we think they should.
Are property rights eternal? How should I know? All I know is that Satan wanted to be God, and God made it clear that position belongs to Him.
If you want to make rational argument against any purely collectivist system of economy or government, as I’ve explained many times, you are preaching to the choir. I have not spent my whole life sucking off the government teet, nor do I ever want to. Don’t believe in it, have not lived it, don’t think it works. I don’t have to get on the side of collectivism to believe that the perfect angels of men will somehow regulate themselves in a capitalism either. It’s not an either/or proposition. Niebuhr points out the numerous problems of collectivism, but he also addresses the numerous problems of excessive individualism as well.
First of all, as much as we may think so, we actually find our greatest real fulfillment, but for good and for bad, in the community – in other words, in either acting unselfishly in service of our fellow men or in gaining selfish power over them.
Second of all, as Niebuhr also points out, perceived self sufficiency is one of the greatest illusions of modernity. At a time in history when each man is more and more collectively obligated to other unknown men for food (that most of us don’t grow), for water (that most of us don’t bail) and for power to do virtually anything else, the anonymity of our endless benefactors gives us the time and resources to pursue our own ambitions and the delusion that we are doing it all in our own by the sweat of our own brow.
I have yet to figure out how “moderate” Socialists distinguish themselves from extreme Socialists. Less extreme busybodies? Nicer control freaks?
Capitalism is not perfect, and it cannot be made perfect, but what is there that we do perfectly? Will some people be greedy and hoard their wealth? Does Socialism prevent that? Only in your dreams.
When compared with Socialism, Capitalism has two huge virtues. It is a system that distributes control over capital, and customers don’t have to give up their money until they get something they want.
Look at DC. The Establishment always wants more control. The more power we give those people the more they demand.
Their health care plan did not work. The “fix” is single payer. Surprising? No.
And yes, Socialism is about power. Look at your own justification. Socialism is about forcing the beliefs of some people on other people, supposedly selfish people. That is what it exists to do, but it does not work.
Because making the supposedly selfish share requires an abuse of power, Socialism is not good for our country, but you will have to convince yourself of that. If it is not obvious to you at this point……
I’m no Socialist any more than you are an actual capitalist. With all due respect, Tom, you talk mostly in hollow platitudes. You claim to worship capitalism, but you have no regard or experience with the complex collective dynamics of how real markets actually work or the legal regulatory playing field on which they actually thrive. All your ideas don’t exist in the reality of the vast web of commercial and governmental modernity, but only in naive concepts of absolutes. It’s not either/or.
I don’t make apologies for being a modest advocate of the good features of and a critic of the bad features of either regulated market economics or for public goods and services. That’s the reality of the most successful and free economies in the world today, including our own. Your Randian Utopias, in contrast, exist only in your waking dreams. If you can find your individualist market paradise, then please point out one of these unicorn thriving collective markets without any government regulation or public goods and services, and we’ll discuss it.
Well, I guess that proves it. I know nothing. I need Hillary Clinton to run my life.
You claim you are not a Socialist, but you vote for Socialists. So think about your argument. Everything is so complex. Tom could not possibly understand. Well, Tom understands this much. The more socialist we make our government the more difficult it becomes to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens. Unless we vote for people willing to dismantle the unconstitutional parts of our government, we can’t even find someone to vote for who knows how our nanny state works.
“Well, I guess that proves it. I know nothing. I need Hillary Clinton to run my life.
You claim you are not a Socialist, but you vote for Socialists. So think about your argument.“
First of all, I challenge the premise of you supposition that anyone I have voted for is an actual “Socialist” as that word is commonly defined. That said, you voted for Donald Trump. What identity does that make you? You have said Trump is not a real Republican or a real conservative, so are you not a Republican or a conservative? Donald Trump is a self confessed serial philanderer. Are you a philander?
I have to prove Obama and Clinton are Socialists? Funny how Liberal Democrats nitpick. They are Progressives! Too funny!
Trump is doing a good job. Don’t know what label fits, but he’s done more things to make a Conservative happy than I ever expected.
The basic problem with the political philosophy you are espousing is that it is unprincipled. You think it pragmatic, but it is dangerous to give people unrestrained by principles power.
Did you ever wonder if you are more interested in instigating tribal warfare than actually defending your position? This kind of consumes everything if you let it.
When you seriously want to discuss the issues surrounding the topic of God given rights verses God given responsibilities, let me know. I think it is an interesting topic.
Yeah, T, I’ve noticed that more lately with conservatives. The denial to compromise because that taints their image of what their world should be; the idea it’s them against us.. or the reverse; the idea of white privilege according to the (so-called… refer here…https://findingpoliticalsanity.com/who-are-those-founding-fathers-anyway/) Founding Fathers; and in one case I ran across, some Trumpster is willing to fight using his own weapons if California passes some lame magazine capacity law.
I mean.. they are loosing their grip. But then again… the guy leading his has has been loosing it since day one.
Compromise is not all it is cracked up to be. Thieves often are quite willing to compromise. It goes like this: your money or your life. That is why compromising with thieves is only popular with thieves (and Democrats).
Tom.. you’ve gotten more radical in your old age. You honestly believe there should be some day of reckoning between the right and the left where only one comes out alive?
Have you ever heard of the American Civil War? Democrats would not abide by the Constitution then either.
Compromise requires two parties willing to accept a deal that both parties can abide. What Democrats want today is just as bad as slavery, but they refuse to see it that way.
Damn, Tom. I just want the clown removed from the Presidency.. you want to go to war over it. And I’m the one generally being accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome?
You may wish to review some history.
When Abraham Lincoln won the presidency, the Democrat South seceded. It seems the “cheap labor” crowd is at it again.
You’re comparing events of now with the politics of the mid 1800’s?
The parallels are not perfect, but people do keep making the same foolish mistakes. You think the feuding over the Supreme Court is new? Ever heard of the Dred Scott decision?
Will we have a shooting war? Probably not, but if we want to leave our children and grandchildren a working republic, compromise doesn’t seem to be an honorable option.
The “republic” seems to have done just fine for the last 230+ years… and along comes Trump.. and he’s some sort of political savior for the nation?? Who is he saving the nation from? Liberals? Again.. the two ideologies seemed to have worked just fine together over the last couple centuries. .. each getting their own turns at the helm. You and your ilk trying to re-shape the country?
Well, if we skip events like the Civil War and the Great Depression, I guess there has never been a rocky moment in our history. Kind of silly to do that.
Who is Trump saving the nation from? I don’t think Trump put it that way. Remember his campaign slogan?
If you insist upon a villain from whom we require rescue, a mirror may be helpful, but I would prefer that you set aside your personal disdain for Trump. Focus on two facts: (1) Trump won the election, and (2) our country’s main problem right now is a bunch of sore losers. If the losers won’t accept losing, we cannot make our republic work peacefully.
By definition pragmatism is unprincipled. Virtue, on the other hand, requires the application of principles. Agape love is a virtue, not an excuse for “pragmatic” government.
“Anyway, Niebuhr ministered in a reformed church. Look up what that is.”
Ha! Why does that matter? If your not Catholic, you’re all heathen to me!😘
“By definition pragmatism is unprincipled. Virtue, on the other hand, requires the application of principles. Agape love is a virtue, not an excuse for ‘pragmatic’ government.”
That is funny because your unflinching support of the self serving Trump can be seen as nothing less than a textbook case in the worst sort of pragmatism.
You say so, but Trump has been keeping his promises. Keeping one’s word is principled behavior.
To some degree we all just do what we do what do because we don’t have a better idea. Is that pragmatism? Is Trump imperfect? No, but now he is the best alternative, and choosing the least of evils is a good principle. Sticking by people who are doing their best is also a good principle.
Constitutional government is also a good principle. Get use to it.
LOL. If every other word that comes out of Trump’s mouth is a verifiable lie, how do you know he’s keeping his word?😆
Admit it Tom, you could really care less what Trump does as long as I makes the Dems hopping mad, am I right? You hate Democrats far more than you actually like Trump don’t you?
How about Trump’s proposed farm subsidies? I know, that sort of corporate welfare is only unconstitutional when Democrats do it. How about another 1.5 trillion in national debt? Yes, I know, Republican deficits are good if they help corporations and Democratic deficits (historically less) are bad because they provide social safety nets for poor folks. Careful, Tom, your cynical means-justify-the-ends tribalism is showing.
Tsalmon… you said it best here, as I’ve told Tom myself… Trumpism is an acceptance that the end justifies the means… the “means” being the acceptance of all of Trump’s psychological and behavioral and immoral approach is well worth.. well, pick anything.. or lump all his alleged accomplishments together. I see absolutely nothing worth having this guy as President. Anyway.. not my intent to encroach on your debate with Tom… as him and I have been down this road before and you are doing fine on your own. But I did want to echo your point is the essence of the anti-Trump argument.
I think you are so busy trying to attack someone you have forgotten what this post was about.
“I think you are so busy trying to attack someone you have forgotten what this post was about.”
Funny, I was about to say the same thing about ypu.
Look back at your comments here. Rather than respond to the flaws in your argument for natural rights that Niebuhr points out, you attack Niebuhr, you attack Democrats, you accuse me of being a socialistand not believing in the Bible, anything to change the subject. Why do you feel the need to do that?
You mean we are back to the subject? WOW!
Let’s see. Why did I attack Niebuhr? What exactly did Niebuhr have to say about John Calvin? Compared to that, did I attack Niebuhr, or did I just infer I did not see much reason to take the man seriously? I don’t know much about the man, but I wonder just how much he was ruled by his emotions.
Why do I attack Democrats? Actually, I don’t. Look at the way you and Doug talk about Trump. Then compare that to what I say about Democrats. What I talk about is the validity of what you and Democrats say you believe. I don’t make stuff up. I use your own words. I point out that when you tolerate Socialism you have let the camel’s nose into the tent. I point out that Socialism is stealing. I point out that government-given rights allow the government to so define our rights that we don’t have any. I point out that a “living Constitution” is useless because the whole point of writing down the law is to keep our leaders from arbitrarily changing the law.
Did John Calvin have a significant role in the development of ideas related to natural law? I suppose he helped to start the discussion, but I doubt the wisdom of overrating his importance.
Here is a smattering of what I found.
I gather Calvin had something to say about the matter (He was a prolific writer), but he did write anything comparable to what John Locke wrote.
You seem incapable of actually dealing with ideas lately, especially any idea that conflicts with your preset notions. Instead, you want to make it about personalities, and classify people into tribal camps. Honestly, who cares whether you take Niebuhr seriously or your need to defend or attack the reputation of anyone? It’s their “ideas” with regard to the topic at hand that need to be understood and debated. If you don’t agree with what Niebuhr wrote, then I am interested in knowing specifically why? Why are you so afraid of working toward truth that you have to change the subject and throw out an army of your favorite straw enemies?
If you really want to get back on topic, what exactly did you disagree with that Niebuhr wrote about natural law? Specifically, Niebuhr critiqued with two views of natural law with regard to property – the Calvinist view (from which Locke’s derives) and the sectarian view (which was essentially communistic). Niebuhr says that both are flawed in that neither represents anything eternal or natural. In a fallen world full of flawed humans, property law is a response to the unnatural state of things, not the natural will of God but the flawed and fallible will of men.
You expect me to think? Well, as a privileged white male Liberal Democrat, you will just have to be more patient. You know I am just a deplorable.
Since you think it important, I suppose I could read that Niebuhr quote again tomorrow.
Now it’s bedtime.
Let consider the validity of the assumptions.
1. Does property Law exist in an eternal sense? When we start talking about eternity, we can’t say we know much about it. Only Jesus has come back from the dead, and He did not discuss whether property rights exist in the life to come. We don’t know.
2. Is the need for property selfish? Not necessarily. God gives us stewardship of what we “own” in this life. Whether we use our property selfishly is a choice, not an inevitable consequence of property rights.
3. Did property law become necessary when humans fell from grace? I don’t think so. It is true that Adam and Eve had only one direct command from God, not to eat the fruit from that tree. Nevertheless, that does not mean that God neglected to write His laws on the hearts of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve loved each other. Think about what that means. How do we show love? Doesn’t love include respecting the person and property of another person.
Adam and Eve may not have known the difference between good and evil. Nonetheless, they knew how to love each other.
You say Adam and Eve had no personal property? Not likely. We are both spiritual and material beings. Our bodies innately belong to us. Other things belong to us by extension. If nothing else, when we have used an item for awhile, we grow accustomed to it. Those who care about us will respect our fondness for that item.
4. Does Niebuhr’s critique of two views of natural law with regard to property – the Calvinist view (from which Locke’s derives) and the sectarian view (which was essentially communistic) somehow prove our rights are given to us by government? Niebuhr castigates both views, but where does he address where our rights come from?
5. Is the ownership of property is a bad thing? Should all things should be held in common? Why? If everyone loves everyone else, why is it more efficient for everything to be held in common? Consider just one problem with that proposition. Every thing requires maintenance. Someone has to do that maintenance. If everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible. It does not make any difference whether people are selfish or not. Responsibility has to be delegated.
What we own, what God has given us to steward, He has made us responsible to maintain and share with our fellows.
Flaws in the Argument
Since the assumptions are all fouled up, there is not much point in proceeding much further. However, I think this observation pertinent. Property rights predate Christianity. Calvin did not invent the idea. Neither did Catholics. What did Jesus change? We now see government as a servant of the people. What Jesus taught is that ALL men are made in the image of our Creator, that because God loves us all as His children we should all be equal before the law. Men like John Locke put that thought into words.
Consider that the first Right protected in the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion. We have the right to believe what we wish and to practice our beliefs so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others. Why? The answer is that we belong to God, not each other. When we respect each others rights, we respect God’s ownership of us.
Who is John Calvin? Would not hurt you to learn a little about the man.
This site is a ministry site for a Reformed Church.
Here is a little bio on Calvin.
Here is a little information on what the folks at Ligonier believe.
While I appreciate that we are back on topic and I also appreciate the thoughtful response, I think that you have it backwards. After over a millennia and a half of Christian philosophy and with no mention of such things as God given rights in scripture, suddenly in the 16th and 17th Centuries, certain Protestant Rationalists came up with two opposing views on natural rights. It seems to me that if one comes up with something so presumptuous as the assumption that God gave us all something such as certain definable rights and responsibilities to the use and exclusion of use of certain real and personal, tangible and intangible, property, then the burden to prove that amazing assumption is on the presuming parties, wouldn’t you think.
Niebuhr provides a critique of both assumptions and shows that their is no scriptural or rational basis (and yes Niebuhr does reference scripture) for either the Calvinist or the Sectarian view. If it is obvious that property rights actually do exist, and it cannot be proven that they are God given, then it is not up to Niebuhr to have to give any absolutist or determinative formula for perfect property rights. That’s like saying that because a scientist proves that someones false cure for growing old isn’t really a cure, he now has to himself provide a perfect cure for old age. Knowledge that the their may not be a perfect cure for old age is knowledge in itself, at least in so much as it keeps us from dangerous delusions that may lead us to waste our lives and keep us from more meaningful pursuits.
Knowledge that in a finite and fallen world, property rights are a work in progress toward something more or less just is a more realistic and workable view of what we actually have, don’t you think?
What have you proven about government-given “rights”? No one is arguing government, given enough power by foolish people, cannot enforce laws that uphold privileges as if those privileges were rights. The mere fact something can be done, however, does not make it ethical.
You have not justified government-given rights. You have not even distinguished your theory of rights from Marxism. Think about that.
Effectively, you have just complained that a more modest theory has not been perfectly dumped into your lap. Do expect God Himself to pull you aside and explain everything? Well, it doesn’t seem to work that way. So you should appoint a God of your own? Hasn’t God at least told us that’s a bad idea?
God-given rights says you can worship what you want, but let the rest of us make our own choices. Government-given rights puts no limits on those who govern. Yet as Romans 14:4 indicates, we are the slaves of our Creator, not a great man or the almighty state.
Still don’t like the fact God has not told us everything to your satisfaction? Well, God is God, not you, not me. All I know is that we are works in progress, both individually and collectively.
When the Bible was first printed in the language of the people, that started a revolution. Ideas and beliefs long suppressed germinated and grew. Even poor and ignorant men began to understand the fact that we are all made in the image of our Creator, not just the king. Then people began to realize we belong to God, not the king. Then people began to understand God, not government, gives us our rights.
Think about what rights are actually about. Does it matter what the law says? No. Our rights come from what is “right” and true. Because it is of God — because God is truth — it is the truth that sets us free, not government. To see what I mean, check out that old post I link to in this post, WHEN DO PEOPLE STEAL THEIR OWN FREEDOM? Part of that post is about a certain Bible verse.
Just keeping to property rights is crucial. Why? Well because it is so fundamental to the view that our God given responsibilities are exclusively materialistic and that the rights that we indirectly grant each other when we carry out those responsibilities are materialistic as well. Thus property (the right to use and exclude from use to real and personal, tangible and intangible material places, concepts and things) is somehow sacralized. Why do you find it necessary to sacralize the materialistic? Because without making your material property holy and somehow God given, you cannot claim that rendering unto Caesar what is actually Caesar’s creation is magically a sacrilege against God. Without this whole strange notion, the notion that paying your material taxes is a theft of what God somehow magically gave you, just simply collapses under the weight of its own absurdity, like a house of cards.
God didn’t tell us to hoard some sort of sacred material treasures of Earth. God told us to steward the blessings (not rights) that we purchance receive from Him and share them so as to store up the real sacred goods – spiritual goods in Heaven.
In so far as government is a tool to effectuate either selfishness or good, it is neither God nor devil, but just the imperfect expression of man’s own God given free will to either selfishly seek power over each other or to selflessly serve one another. Recognizing our fallen nature in a finite world, our Constitution imperfectly seeks to allow the one while checking the other.
That property is somehow inherently God given to any individual can be shown to be patently absurd by looking at one of the engines of modern economies – the patent. A patent is by definition a limited governmental monopoly, or in other words, a complete creation of government which it takes government to define, arbitrate and enforce, or else intellectual property in the form of patents simply does not exist in reality (whether it mysteriously comes from God or not). What part of the creation of a patent right is somehow sacredly come down from God and what part is a man made invention of governments?
Another engine of every modern capitalistic economy is the invention of the corporate ownership – the whole cloth of a legal fiction. As some sort of corporate stakeholder, if you can parse out for me Locke’s individual extension of your God given being through your labors from the government fabricated machinery of a large modern corporation, then you are either a magician or, more appropriately, a witch doctor. Whether an employee, a stockholder, a creditor, supplier or a customer of a corporation, your property rights and responsibilities explicitly exist only within the confines of a government of laws that defines, arbitrates and enforces those corporate rights.
Though they are somewhat altruistic, Locke’s formula of God given rights was based on ownership assumptions about man in a state of primitive nature that were only partially true in that they entirely neglected the primitive tribe’s highly communal nature and were also based on assumptions about agrarian life that was already becoming obsolete at the time that Locke penned them. If one actually studies the history of property rights, then it is clear that they do not and did not and can not ever exist at any point of our fallen history in some sublime moment of perfect stasis, but instead exist on continuum of governmental fluctuations between man’s sinful use of property law to control other men and efforts by men to make property distribution and control more just and in keeping with our God given responsibilities to each other. The arc of that continuum has been more toward freedom and equality because of fairly embryonic and fragile progressive and democratic improvements in governing. However, the tug-a-war between imperfect man’s selfish nature and man’s selfless nature means that that progressed us is neither determinative nor complete. We can just as easily fall back to some old feudalism
from whence we came or some new dystopian Putinism with which we are increasingly threatened as we can continue to inch forward. And because good or bad government can be the only practical tool for our progression or the only weapon for our decline, then magical, made up, God presumptive formulas for assigning rights, whether they be of the collectivist or of the individualist imagining, are dangerously naive.
What in tarnation are you are advocating, Gnosticism? Do you think the material world is just an illusion? Are you going to give up eating?
Think of the silliness of a thief trying to justify his thievery. Yep! He just doesn’t want his “clients” to get greedy. How is your attack on materialism any less silly?
Before God gave Adam a companion, He gave him a garden and orders to tend and to keep it. That is, God made Adam the steward of The Garden of Eden; He gave Adam property and the responsibility to care for it. Contrary to all the noise out of Hollywood, the oldest profession is gardening, not harlotry.
What gave Adam “ownership” of the Garden of Eden? The fact he obeyed God. Adam tended and protected the garden, but he disobeyed God.
Why is possession 90 percent of the law? That is because making use of property requires us to labor both over it (to tend it and keep it) and with it (make use of it). The Garden of Eden provided Adam his home and his food.
Is patent law absurd? Have you any idea how expensive and difficult it can be to invent or devise something new? Yet an idea is not material? Is it of the spirit? I don’t know. All I know is the effort a man puts into thinking says much about the quality of his heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Are our ideas about property and our laws about property perfect? And that proves what? You get the right to declare the truth whatever you want? You are getting too much like that silly thief. If you want the government to steal for you, please remember who you really have to fool. Is it another human being? No.
I hate dealing with these long threads but I’ll try to take your points one at a time.
“What in tarnation are you are advocating, Gnosticism? Do you think the material world is just an illusion? Are you going to give up eating?”
You misunderstand the Christian distinction and interplay between the material and the spiritual. Everything, as I have often explained to you, is not either/or.
In Eden there was material abundance. In the finite fallen world, there is material scarcity. Whether we steward that scarcity with both realism toward our sinful nature and love in accordance with God’s Will determines the spiritual goods we earn in Heaven, at least that appears to me to be the profound nature of what Jesus said. In other words, spiritual goods come from our realistic and loving connection to the material reality, not from some mystic otherworldliness.
When we vote to use the government to force our neighbors to render unto Caesar what we want Caesar to give to us, exactly how does that earn anyone spiritual brownie points?
And please don’t tell me you don’t think Democrats are encouraging people are voting that way.
“What gave Adam “ownership” of the Garden of Eden? The fact he obeyed God. Adam tended and protected the garden, but he disobeyed God.”
If property is defined as the right to use and exclude others from using something, then what did Adam have exclusive use to that he could or would deny from Eve or from God? The whole concept is incomprehensible.
You want paradise, but you don’t understand the concept? Well, who among us does?
God gives us property so we can use it to accomplish His purposes. Stewardship may involve excluding some people, but possession is actually satisfied by control. If you are the only person in existence, that just simplifies matters.
When God gave Adam possession of the Garden of Eden, Adam misused his authority as steward by eating that fruit.
Since Adam and Eve were man and wife, they were one, probably more so than any couple since then. With the Fall their marriage became imperfect too. Imagine the angst they experienced over just that one loss.
Selfishness is one of many sins, just one of the ways we can abuse the privilege of stewardship. Pride, putting our self before God seems to be at the root of the problem of sin.
“Is patent law absurd? Have you any idea how expensive and difficult it can be to invent or devise something new? Yet an idea is not material? Is it of the spirit? I don’t know. All I know is the effort a man puts into thinking says much about the quality of his heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Are our ideas about property and our laws about property perfect? And that proves what? You get the right to declare the truth whatever you want? You are getting too much like that silly thief. If you want the government to steal for you, please remember who you really have to fool. Is it another human being? No.”
I never said patent law was absurd. I said it is absurd to think a patent is somehow a God given right, when it quite obviously comes from government, a government that that can create it for equitability and fairness or for power and selfishness. Either way, let’s not blame God for our finite and fallible governmental choices.
“God gives us property so we can use it to accomplish His purposes. Stewardship may involve excluding some people, but possession is actually satisfied by control. If you are the only person in existence, that just simplifies matters.
When God gave Adam possession of the Garden of Eden, Adam misused his authority as steward by eating that fruit.
Since Adam and Eve were man and wife, they were one, probably more so than any couple since then. With the Fall their marriage became imperfect too. Imagine the angst they experienced over just that one loss.
Selfishness is one of many sins, just one of the ways we can abuse the privilege of stewardship. Pride, putting our self before God seems to be at the root of the problem of sin.”
Well, yes, exactly brother. God gives us everything in the finite world to with our God given free will chose to selflessly steward and use or selfishly abuse, but He does not give us rights, only responsibilities.
Actually, what God gave Adam was the most fundamental right, freedom of religion. Unfortunately, instead of loving, trusting, and obeying God, Adam and Eve allowed themselves to be deceived by Satan.They put their own desires ahead of of the commands of God.
Look at what you advocate carefully. In your quest to force others to fulfill what you call their responsibilities, you have denied we have any rights. You have never explained how Liberal Democrats limit the power of government because they don’t.
“Look at what you advocate carefully. In your quest to force others to fulfill what you call their responsibilities, you have denied we have any rights. You have never explained how Liberal Democrats limit the power of government because they don’t.”
The topic here is “God given rights”, something you advocate. I have mostly presented Niebuhr’s viewpoint that property rights are no such thing, but instead very flawed and fallible creations that are either used by more selfish men to gain and maintain power or are written by less selfish men to be more equitable in sharing scarce resources. That said, I do very much believe in rights.
Although we have not yet gotten to any system of rights that I or Niebuhr might advocate, I think that it is clear from what has been written so far that I favor neither a pure collectivist approach represented by secular socialism or communism nor a purely individualist approach represented by libertarianism or the most ammoral extremes of classical secular liberalism. In a finite and fallen world, any realistic view of government must recognize and understand the complex nature of something that is indeed a gift from God – that is human free will. The basic flaw of Randian individualism and Marxist collectivism are that in their determinative Utopianism, they simply do not deal with either the dark reality of our selfish will to power nor with our finite and fallible capacity to perfectly fulfill our God given responsibilities. We are very stubborn creatures in both regards.
This is the struggle that every one of us has with our nature. With regard to that struggle as a community of men, government also has to also be, for good or for bad, a realistic manifestation of that struggle. We must be free to choose between right and wrong if we are to actually “choose” what is right, but because we will often choose selfishness, we must have checks on that selfishness as well. This conflict between individualistic free will and communitarian checks against the tyranny on our will to power is the driving ideology behind the Constitution.
“When we vote to use the government to force our neighbors to render unto Caesar what we want Caesar to give to us, exactly how does that earn anyone spiritual brownie points?
And please don’t tell me you don’t think Democrats are encouraging people are voting that way.”
It seems to me that when logic and scripture fails, you inevitably try to tribalistize the discussion.
Well if that is the hypocrisy game you want to play, Trump just gave a 12 billion dollar bailout to farmers. You don’t think that the Republicans are vote buying. Imagine sarcastic laughter here.
Have you ever read POLITICS by Aristotle? The demagoguery of class warfare is as old as civilization.
“Have you ever read POLITICS by Aristotle?”
Well, actually yes, and Much if Locke as well. Have you ever read Niebuhr?
How about Thomas Aquinas? Or any number of court holdings or books of philosophy and history?
We both have graduate degrees. Do you really want to compare the length and girth of our reading lists?
Of course not.We would just prove we spent too much time in institutions run by Liberal Democrats.
If you’re going to run around with a crowd that makes grandiose promises, it pays to carefully examine the methods and the means your leadership proposes to use. What is their track record? How have similar proposals worked in the past? What might .motivate their great generosity with what belongs to others?
Since it is true enough, it is okay to call others selfish and naive, but the Bible is a mirror. It shows us to ourselves as we are, and it flatters none of us. Only Jesus Christ was perfect.
We are to seek to seek perfection by being like Jesus, by following His example. If you think that involves a government program, think again.
“If you’re going to run around with a crowd that makes grandiose promises, it pays to carefully examine the methods and the means your leadership proposes to use. What is their track record? How have similar proposals worked in the past? What might .motivate their great generosity with what belongs to others?
Since it is true enough, it is okay to call others selfish and naive, but the Bible is a mirror. It shows us to ourselves as we are, and it flatters none of us. Only Jesus Christ was perfect.
We are to seek to seek perfection by being like Jesus, by following His example. If you think that involves a government program, think again.”
Except for your insatiable need to hand me over to some mythical tribe of boogeymen of your own imagination, I agree with most of that. You give liberals and Democrats way too much credit in thinking that they are either diabolically or altruistically monolithic. You give yourself way too much credit if you think Republicans aren’t just like them.
I think I have been clear that too much government is just as dangerous as too little government, but the topic here is government’s role in rights, particularly property rights. Your argument is that rights somehow magically exist eternally somewhere in the ether as a God given exemplar, and that you somehow have divined exactly what they are. I’m saying that rights and their protection are the practical man made invention and necessity of a finite, fallen world, not Heaven. As such, property rights of all the various kinds simply, practicality do not exist in this world unless they are defined, arbitrated and enforced by governments.
Don’t get me wrong. You and I can choose to leave each other alone to do whatever we want to ourselves and to the community, but if we want the community and every one else to recognize that freedom, we need government to do it.
We have a fundamental difference over the definition of rights. You run around justifying your definition of rights by calling those who object selfish and tribalistic. Then you get on your high horse when I point out the difference between Liberal Democrats and Marxism is miniscule. If it exists then why don’t you explain it?
Does your party explain how it’s proposals are suppose to work? No, and they never do for long. So when they don’t work, they just find someone to blame.
Yet the reason Socialism doesn’t work is simple. Once we start using government to give people rights instead of just using government to protect people’s God-given rights, we discover it is too easy to spend other people’s money. Eventually, when the fraud, waste and abuse has grown bad enough, we run out of other people’s money. And you have not got a clue how to prevent that. That’s because Socialism is just a fancy excuse for stealing.
“Of course not.We would just prove we spent too much time in institutions run by Liberal Democrats.”
LOL. Actually, I got my graduate degree from a conservative southern baptist university. It was even rarer to find a liberal Democrat there than it is to find an honest politician in Congress.
Yeah. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Conservative lawyers out there.
“We have a fundamental difference over the definition of rights. You run around justifying your definition of rights by calling those who object selfish and tribalistic. Then you get on your high horse when I point out the difference between Liberal Democrats and Marxism is miniscule. If it exists then why don’t you explain it?
Does your party explain how it’s proposals are suppose to work? No, and they never do for long. So when they don’t work, they just find someone to blame.
Yet the reason Socialism doesn’t work is simple. Once we start using government to give people rights instead of just using government to protect people’s God-given rights, we discover it is too easy to spend other people’s money. Eventually, when the fraud, waste and abuse has grown bad enough, we run out of other people’s money. And you have not got a clue how to prevent that. That’s because Socialism is just a fancy excuse for stealing.”
Why should I have to defend Democratic Marxism, whatever that is? You defend it since you made it up.
The topic is “God given rights”, particularly property rights. Before you can claim that government is stealing property from you that God came down and personally gave you, you have to prove that God gave you this sacred property to begin with. (If you can find God on the chain of title for your house, that might be worth something). Just saying that government is stealing your divine property from you over and over again and then accusing everyone who disagrees of being socialists and marxists does not prove your underlying premise isn’t a fallacy – the fallacy that God somehow gave you any material property.
Don’t you think that the Jews of Jesus’ time thought the taxes that Caesar demanded were somehow inherently theirs from God too? And yet what did Jesus say? Jesus essentially told them that, because that material property (the coin of the empire) was only definable, arbitratable, and enforceable through Caesar’s government, then that material property already belonged to Carsar. The fact that it is a representative democracy, rather than a tyrant, that is demanding some of the coin of the realm, coinage property that is only definable, arbitatable and enforceable by our democratic government, should give you more reason to believe in the fairness of the taxes, but regardless, as Jesus said, that coinage is a product of man made government, not God.
The reason that even a slave or a surf who owned nothing could be a Christian is that what God demands is spiritual, not material.
Well, if your argument is correct, then it impossible to rob a Christian. We don’t own anything. In fact, the command against stealing only applies when Christians steal from non-Christians.
Where did I say that exactly? I would say, however, that a Christian cannot be robbed of the goods that Jesus told us to store up in Heaven.
What do you think “ownership” of property is Tom? At law, it is ownership of a bundle of rights and responsibilities to the use of something and to exclude others from using something. When someone says that they “own” a house, their possession of the house is defined at law by those very specific legal rights and those responsibilities.
Virtually all rights and responsibilities to ownership of property are alienable, meaning that those rights and responsibilities can be bought and sold. In fact, laws were passed centuries ago making real property and even monetary estates alienable because of a democratic disdain for making royal estates that were passed by lineage inalienable. The Rule Against Perpetuities in all jurisdictions is an example of one such a law preventing inalienability.
If a given property is a bundle of rights that can be defined at law, then that those rights can be expanded or limited at law. For example, the rights and responsibilities that you purchased when you bought your home may specifically disallow you to have a pig farm there, and your neighbors probably really appreciate that restriction. Is it a theft by the government on behalf of your neighbors to place such a restriction on your property for the common good? I guess if the restriction was so limiting that you lose substantially all the value of your land, then you might have a case for an unconstitutional taking, but then we are talking about the limits of restricting (or essentially taxing) property for the common good, not the right, or even the responsibilities, of government to do so.
If every taxing of property for the common good were an immoral theft, then taxing for the common defense would also be a theft of your God given property as well – the whole theory defies both reason and scripture.
Absent this whole strange 16th Century notion of God given property rights, then we are really only talking about the practicality and common necessity of a given tax for a given purpose, an argument where, in a democracy of laws not tyranny, our recourse is both political and legal. We do after all have taxation WITH representation. However, the whole idea in representative democracy of whining that our so-called “God given” coin is being stolen by government, but only for common goods and services some some of us don’t like, well that seems just a little too self serving, don’t you think?
What you are trying to do is persuade me that Christians believe we are slaves to the government. If government has the right to every bit of property we own, it owns us.
Let’s assume you are right. Since non-Christians are not going want to give everything they own to government, they will try to avoid taxes. If we are as brainlessly docile as you insist we be, that means Christians will eventually be the slaves non-Christians.
How are you trying justify this nonsense? Your first tack is to misunderstand that verse about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Your second is to mindlessly point out it takes laws to enforce our rights. Duh!
What does it mean to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s? Why did Jesus ask His interrogators whose image was on a coin? The point is that if we are going to use the things of Caesar we have to pay Caesar. However, we are made in God’s image. We owe our strength, our heart, our mind and our soul to God. These are not just spiritual things. We are not just spiritual beings.
What about the fact It takes laws to enforce rights? The first five books of the Bible are called the Mosaic Code. Our legal system has Biblical underpinnings.
It wasn’t until I read the Bible that I really began to appreciate the way He changed Western Civilization. Until Jesus, men governed with the attitude that might makes right. The pragmatist still believes in might.
I have a series of posts on book written by John Ortberg. Ortberg’s explains Jesus’ historical impact. I suggest you search my blog with Ortberg’s name. If those posts incite sufficient curiosity, maybe you will read his book. Of course, it is no substitute for the Bible, but it is a start.
Once again, did not say that. What I said is that, unlike what the founders revolted against, you have taxation WITH representation. You have God given property on the form of government coinage
The Framers of the Constitution contrived a government based upon God-given rights, recognizing that democracy without restraint would lead to tyranny. Your insistence upon Socialism, for rights created by man, removes — doesn’t even admit the need for — those restraints.
that somehow magically cannot be taxed, but only when you disagree with what the taxes are used for. When you agree with what those taxes are used for, well, then I guess it’s somehow more voluntary, but of course you don’t mind taxing others’ supposedly God given property for what they may disagree with but you feel is necessary, like military spending.
Unlike the Jews during Jesus’ time or the Founders during their time, you have fair representation for your requirement to render unto the representative government what is due the representative government. What if I were a passivist whining about paying out my God given, inalienable money in taxes for the military, what argument would you make then? Would it be consistent?
Good! You have finally brought yourself to underlying question. When is it moral to tax our fellow citizens and spend their money?
I am sure you would agree that the tyranny of a single man is evil, but why is it evil? If the same evil is perpetrated by the majority, is that okay? No? Then when is it moral for us to tax our fellow citizens and spend their money? When does the necessity of using government force become an excuse for tyranny?
Very thought-provoking post-Tom. Rights come from God or Man brings to my mind an idiom of “what goes around comes around.’
So if we choose to believe we have Rights from man and can change them at our will, there is really no such thing as God-given rights. In other words, we will get whatever rights we as a group choose by the election of people we choose to represent us to uphold the Constitution we all agreed upon.
If we choose to believe Rights are from God, we have to include the laws and morals of the Bible.
“Sometimes we will vote for the wrong people.”
This could also mean we can assume that sometimes we vote for the right people.
Based on that assumption, if you don’t believe God intervened, you should bow down and thank President Trump for defeating Clinton, in my opinion..
Trump is trying to bridge the hatred Putin has for Clinton for her interfering in his nation elections.
People who hate people often times start wars with each other.
There is a reason why Putin hates Clinton and he probably used his KBG training to do to her what she did to him, in my opinion.
if you do not want to elect people who believe in the Bible training, that is your voter choice. Clinton should have followed the advice in the Bible,
What Clinton did to Putin and he repaid in kind?
Regards and good will blogging.
You know, Tom… far be it from me to challenge anyone’s spiritual preferences in life. But there’s something not right carrying political differences into the realm of the Bible and finding (yet again) quotations to justify turning the political divisiveness into some holy war of morality.
“Sometimes we will vote for the wrong people. Consider Niose’s little list of human rights violations (next paragraph). These human rights violations were all committed by Democrat administrations, of course. Even the Patriot Act was abused by the Obama Administration, not the Republican administration that asked for it. The Obama administration appears to have even abused its authority to spy on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”
Yeah.. and what about Trump’s moral political abuses (and not just sexual liaisons either). A good post for discussing some level of historical application of political theorists and philosophers as they relate to inspiring the Declaration or the Constitution. But there you go again trying to cite Biblical scripture to promote YOUR preference for political thought. Just fanning the flames of divisiveness and your own moral arrogance as being correct.. and those “other” people are wrong.
Interesting how since the “Surrender Summit” the Conservative blogs have been quiet, or just droned on with mindless discourse on the same old subjects as if nothing happened.
Can you explain to me what exactly happened at the “surrender summit” that has actual ramifications with our country? What has changed today that was different?
I know you don’t watch TV, Tom.. but maybe you should flip on the news occasionally.. even if it is only the national propaganda network, FOX news.
That’s not an answer, if you’re replying to me. I know what the news tells me or attempts, heck all news that editorializes is propaganda, but I was asking more or less your thoughts on what’s occurred. I see Anderson Cooper imply treason but why, what has resulted?
Damn.. I thought you were Tom. Apologies. You ask, what’s changed since the “Summit of all Fears”? Likely a deeper resentment of Trump domestically for pandering to Putin. Internationally.. that remains to be seen,. Stay tuned.
I think wait and see is a fair assessment of the situation.
Thanks for the unintended compliment.
Read for yourself.
Trump calls into question the veracity of the findings of the entire American national security community regarding Russian medling in the US 2016 election. After all his pal Putin gave a strong rejection.
Be careful how much trust you put into my words, I live in the domain of an organisation that has been declared a foe of the United States by your president, and we were on the top of that list.
Okay, yes…yes I’m aware of all of this but what’s different? Does the government no longer function as it did prior to his comments? Has the FBI stop functioning? Are we now under Russian rule of law—if operating under the ethnocentrism that American culture is better, but we’Lloyd say so for the sake of argument.
If Russia spent a small amount of effort attempting to interfere in our election, and Crooked Hillary lost, then then Trump must have colluded with the Russians. It is the only logical conclusion.
A US President is repeatedly questioning in public, whether or not the USA ought to honor NATO article 5, the core of the NATO commitment. A US President declares the EU a foe of the USA. A US President seems to get along better with Putin than with the leaders of your Western allies. A US President blames both the USA and Russia equally for the bad relations and thereby ignores the annexation of the Crimea, the invasion of East Ukrania, the convenient killings of journalists and politicians in Russia and former spies in Britain.
Business as usual, I guess.
It is interesting how selective some people’s hearing can be.
Have you actually listened? Trump does have specific complaints. For example, NATO nations won’t pay for their own defense.
Yes, at least the German military has severe deficits in weapon systems readiness and we need to spend more on that. However, committing to approach 2% of GDP to the military budget by 2014 does not equal having to pay 2% NOWNOWNOW as Trump falsely claims. It is not money paid to NATO, as Trump falsely claims. It is not money taken from the US tax payer, as Trump falsely claims. And when you insist on comparing total military budgets, what part of NATO does the US defend e.g. in South America and Australia? Or could it be, that not all of the US military budget is being spent on its NATO commitments?
Apart from the above, Europe needs to spend more intelligently, rather than simply just more. Russia is spending $70 billion, while the combined budget of France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Turkey (largest spenders in Europe in order) is about $200 billion. Personnel costs aside, given these numbers we ought to be able to wipe the floor with the Russian forces, yet we are not.
And just in case you forgot about it, so far, Article 5 has been invoked by one nation only. Your allies delivered on their commitment.
Article 5 has been invoked only once? That was because of all the money the NATO nations in Europe spend on their own defense?
Nobody likes criticism, but personally attacking the critic with hyperbolic nonsense is absurd. When Trump demands that a bunch of politicians who would rather buy votes with social programs spend on defense, it is silly to take the exaggerations press seriously.
In the above “approach 2% of GDP to the military budget by 2014” needs to read “approach 2% of GDP to the military budget by 2024“
2024 makes it someone else’s problem. It means the politician who set the date does not intend to anything except wait.
Article 5 has been invoked only once? That was because of all the money the NATO nations in Europe spend on their own defense?
No, Tom, it was invoked by the USA in the wake of 9/11.
Great! That proves nobody needs to spend anything on defense.
I thought we had something to worry about, but it turns out we can follow the example of the cheapskates and beat all the swords into plowshares now.
Seriously, this discussion is foolish. What is the advantage of forming a defense alliance with someone who won’t make the effort to defend anyone, including themselves?
Frankly, invoking Article 5 was a political move. When America started moving troops into the Middle East and Afghanistan, we risk upsetting Russia and China. We had to demand the overt support of our allies.
I recommend reading up on e.g. the composition of ISAF forces in Afghanistan. You come over as gratuitously ungrateful and willfully ignorant.
No. I just understand that well over half of the forces were American. I also understand that without USA military assets the expedition would not have been practical. Yet the European nations in NATO are quite capable of fielding a military force just as power as the one the United States is paying for.
What you don’t seem to get is that Trump is paying you all a compliment. If you were not capable of fielding stronger military forces, he would not bother to ask you to build up your forces. Yet you have chosen to call that an insult.
Note that the threat from Muslim terrorists is actually a more serious threat to Europe. The attack on the WTC was imaginative and deadly, but we eventually pushed the fools who refused to deal with the threat aside and dealt with it. Trump has renewed that battle. In addition, he is confronting the threats posed by the Chinese and the Russian. All he is asking you to do is get off the sidelines and help. World security has become too big a problem for the USA to deal with by itself.
Furthermore, I could care less about Trump, but why can’t someone tell me plainly what is different now?
There have been strong rebukes by Republican Senators and Congressmen. By shere coincidence – I guess – none of them seeks reelection.
By sheer coincidence? Not likely.
It is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
Everyone’s political views has something to do with their religious beliefs. That’s because what everyone values has something to do with their beliefs about the purpose of life.
The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s founding document. It is why we celebrate the 4th of July. Read it carefully.
“The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s founding document. It is why we celebrate the 4th of July. Read it carefully.”
Yes, read it carefully:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.“
The Declaration of Independence did not found our current nation of these United States. It did exactly what it says it does. It jointly declares independence, particularly the individual independence of the states. That’s why we call it Independence Day, not Founders Day.
Actual “Founders Day” was declared by the Continental Congress as October 11, 1782 in anticipation of winning the Revolutionary War (although the actual war did not end until later when we signed the peace treaty). Arguably, the founding of the actual national government that we now, however, did not happen until Constitution Day, September 17, 1787, when the Constitution was signed, but one could also say that it really wasn’t until the Constitution was ratified.
My point is that we did not have the actual national government that we have now until we had the Constitution. And it is no mistake whatsoever that the Constitution says nothing about any inalienable rights.
Years before the Constitution, the founders had already established the Continental Congress and an army. The Articles of Confederation also predate the Constitution.
What the Constitution represents is how much power the founders decided to give the central government, not the decision that the 13 colonies needed to cooperate.
Keep in mind that Constitution created a federation. Most power was suppose to remain at the state level.
I’m not disagreeing with the semantic argument that the Declaration was one of a broad category of documents (including the Articles of Confederation) and actions that ultimately lead to the founding of what became the United States of America. In that broad historical sense, yes, we can agree that the Declaration was A founding document. However, I do disagree with the contention that the Declaration is THE founding document. The Declaration itself makes no such claim, whereas the Preamble to the Constitution clearly does. Until the Constitution we simply did not have the actual federal government that we have now. As you say, we at first had a loose affiliation of independent colonies that were in varying degrees of rebellion against the crown. After the Declaration, it became a loose affiliation of independent states in all out rebellion.
The authors of the Constitution did not formally or otherwise adopt the Articles or the Declaration into the Constitution. With ratification, the Articles simply ceased and the new federal government that we have today with its actual branches and powers began. You could argue that the birth of the nation was with the Declaration, but the birth of our national government was with the Constitution. And the Constitution, not the Declaration, is controlling law as to the rights it enumerates and implies.
With regard to the Bill of Rights, yes, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights were originally designed to exclusively protect individuals and states from the federal government. That said, the Constitution also grants the federal government exclusive powers and preemption over the states in many areas as well. How the post Civil War Amendments, specifically the 14th Amendment, turned the rights protection in the Constitution on its head is another matter.
You don’t reject the semantic argument because you were the one making it. Then you realized we are called the United States. Oops!
You don’t want to celebrate the 4th of July? It is a free country.
Funny. No, I like a good firecracker as much as the next guy.
Remember when we were kids playing with firecrackers and John lit the little black cat firecracker and then got so excited that he threw away the match and held on to the firecracker. He cried for a while. We laughed. It was summer, school was out, and we ran wild and free like half naked tanned animals for a while.
Don’t know what made me think of that. What were we disagreeing about?
As we travel, we are attempting to visit the Capitol of the state we are visiting. We love history so the free (yes you can get a free tour in every state Capitol) tours we are getting we are amazed at how open and blatant the belief in God is portrayed! Oops, we best keep it quiet or we will see them destroyed like the statues of great men like Robert E. Lee. 🤫
When we believe in ourselves instead of God, we start thinking of ourselves as our own creations. We forget that just like Robert E. Lee we too are also to some extent a creation of our times.
I’m tired of seeing all these statues of Protestants as a Catholic—tear them down, all of my ancestors here in this country were victims of anti-Catholicism! Well, except my Dad’s side, who were Protestant…and probably were Anti-Catholic… I think I’m confused… let’s go to Baltimore and tear down Catholic statues! Wait…Wait… I have a grandmother is who was Cherokee…
Well I better go no further cause no one cares about offending Christianity.
That’s funny! Thanks for reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously.