WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 1

who-is-this-manEven those who do not believe he was God must find the life of Jesus of Nazareth incongruous. Yet do they ever wonder? How did a mere man, a man unbelievers say was not God and never did anything, ever become the most famous man in history?  Well, the unbelievers are wrong. Jesus did quite a bit, and that is the point of John Ortberg‘s book, Who Is This Man?

In chapter 1, Ortberg begins his book by observing that Jesus did not become famous in any of the usual ways. He was not a conquering general of armies. He was a teacher, but not just a teacher. He was not particularly famous in His lifetime, but He left a church that grew and spread His Gospel.

Made In The Image Of God (Chapter 2)

We live in a nation — in a Christian culture — that believes that we were all made in the image of God. There was a time men did not believe any such thing. Some men, like the emperor or the king, claimed kinship with the gods, but rest of men? No. Some men were thus thought literally better than other men.

Until 2,000 years ago, when Jesus taught about the virtue of humility, the elites did not bridle their pride. In fact, except for those unfortunates at the bottom of the pecking order, most men thought it appropriate to “peck” upon those lower than themselves in the pecking order. Their justification was simple enough.

The king was divine, or semi-divine. The king was understood to be made in the image of the god who created him. Only the king was made in the image of god. This was the dividing line between the king and the rest of the human race. Peasants and slave were not made in the image of god; they were created by inferior gods. (from Chapter 2, page 25)

Jesus taught differently. He said there is only one God, and He made all of us in His image. Jesus destroyed any justification for a pecking order. In Jesus Christ we are all God’s children.

Colossians 3:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Because of Jesus, the men who wrote our Declaration of Independence added these words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (from here)

To be continued

WHERE DO THE CANDIDATES STAND WITH RESPECT TO OUR GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS? ELECTION 2016

United States Declaration of Independence (from here)
United States Declaration of Independence (from here)

What is Donald Trump’s signature issue? He wants to control our border. Hence it is no surprise PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL LAW: ‘Borderless’ or ‘Open Society’ = Lawless Or Tyranny

In response to your last to me Tom, Immigration policy IS federal government policy. Whether that policy is to open the flood gates and grant amnesty, or instead to build some hugely expensive giant wall down the (middle? our side? their side?) of the Reo Grande and over a thousand miles of rugged border and then set up a jackbooted deportation force to round up 11 or 12 million illegal families and send them on some sort of modern trail of tears south, either way, it has to be paid for by taxpayers and OUR federal government has to do it.

You expect the President to somehow solve the structural issues that are causing refugee problems in other countries, but wouldn’t that call for us to send taxpayer resources and/or the American people’s kids and grandkids to fight in these other countries? (continued here)

Tony, who wrote the comment above, demands that we must solve all the problems of the world before we send a “jackbooted deportation force” to control our border. Yes, Tony and other Democrats will tell you they are in favor of controlling the border; it is just that we must solve all the world’s problems of the first. Therefore, only Nazis and Indian-haters would demand that we control our borders.

Do we have to solve all the problems of the world first? Consider again The Parable of the Good Samaritan. What did that kind man do when he got home and went to bed?  Don’t you suppose he did what most of us do at night? He barred the door to his home. If he lived in a city or village, didn’t watchmen stay up at night to patrol the wall? Don’t policemen cruise through our neighborhoods all hours of the day? And what about those dreaded Roman legions? Did they not keep the barbarians at a distance? Didn’t those legions make a great effort to patrol the Mediterranean Sea and their vast network of roads to keep them safe for travel?

Should we try to solve all the problems in the world anyway? Seems like a nice thing to do, right? Not exactly. You and I have a responsibility to help our neighbor, but saving the world is not our government’s job. Why is giving all our problems — all the problems of the world — to one of our great leaders a fruitless endeavor? Who would we elect? No one is wise enough, good enough, or powerful enough to take on such a task. That is true even if he or she leads the government of the most powerful nation in the world.

Our government is not God. Our government is just composed of corruptible flesh and blood men and women. In fact, the more we expect from our government — the more we idolize it — the more we corrupt ourselves and our government, the more we deliver ourselves and our government into the hands of Satan.

Consider how Satan once tempted Jesus.

Matthew 4:8-10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

Did Jesus say Satan could not do as he said? No, but He knew Satan lied, boasting he could give what only God has the power to give.

What does the Bible say about government? The Bible says government exists to punish evildoers (Romans 13:1-7). We, on the other hand, if we turn to Jesus, were made to glorify God by doing good works.

Ephesians 2:4-10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Like Satan himself, boastful politicians will promise great things, but look to the past. Which times do we remember as being best, when we had men and women boasting of the great things they could do or when we had leaders who just sought to maintain law and order? What was the difference?

  • The boaster thinks charity consists of forcing people to obey their “generous” supreme leader.
  • Wiser leaders understand that charity requires a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), not a taxpayer.

Now compare the candidates. Which is most likely to respect and accept the limitations of government power?

ISSUE Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Limited Government: Government grows at the expense of our rights. Advocates tax simplification, getting rid of Obama’s numerous executive orders. Would repeal Obamacare. Approves of what Obama has done. Duh!
Immigration Control: Democrats are using immigration policy to import voters, voters who will vote themselves government benefits. Ending illegal immigration is his signature issue. Favors voter ID. Hillary Clinton declares war on Voter ID
Freedom of Religion: Religious freedom involves both the freedom to worship and the right to exercise our religious beliefs. Would fight to revoke legislation that prevents churches from participating in the political process.
Gun Rights: the right of self-defense. Trump wins NRA endorsement, blasts Clinton on gun stance at forum NRA exec says it is ‘a lie’ Clinton won’t take your guns
Judicial Restraint: the intent to appoint judges who strive to abide by the original intent expressed in the Constitution. Donald J. Trump Releases List of Potential United States Supreme Court Justices. Trump’s Supreme Court list: all conservative, some provocative Clinton’s court shortlist emerges. Her first pick would be someone Obama picked.
School Choice: the right of parents to control who educates their children and what their children are taught. Donald Trump Jr. Hits Home Run On Education. End Common Core. Nation’s largest teachers union endorses Clinton for president. The NEA is dead set against school choice (see here).

Want a laugh?  Clinton vs. Trump: The Best Argument For Limited Government Yet.

Other Views

Continued from: What Are God-Given Rights?

WHY WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF OUR RIGHTS — PART 2

freedomconscienceThis post is the second of a series. The first post was Why The Law Written In Our Hearts Is Not Enough. Here we discuss the nature of God-given rights.

What Are God-Given Rights?

Our Nation’s Founders Fought For God-Given Rights

Instead of just calling our rights God-given, we now call them “human rights”. Why? Well, here is the excuse.

Attributing human rights to God’s commands may give them a secure status at the metaphysical level, but in a very diverse world it does not make them practically secure. Billions of people do not believe in the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. If people do not believe in God, or in the sort of god that prescribes rights, then if you want to base human rights on theological beliefs you must persuade these people of a rights-supporting theological view. This is likely to be even harder than persuading them of human rights. Legal enactment at the national and international levels provides a far more secure status for practical purposes. (from here)

Is that what happened in the United States? Were people just persuaded without the benefit of theological support to respect each others rights? No. Consider.

Natural law was deemed to pre-exist actual social and political systems. Natural rights were thereby similarly presented as rights individuals possessed independently of society or polity. Natural rights were thereby presented as ultimately valid irrespective of whether they had achieved the recognition of any given political ruler or assembly. The quintessential exponent of this position was the 17th. Century philosopher John Locke and, in particular, the argument he outlined in his Two Treatises of Government (1688). At the centre of Locke’s argument is the claim that individuals possess natural rights, independently of the political recognition granted them by the state. These natural rights are possessed independently of, and prior to, the formation of any political community. Locke argued that natural rights flowed from natural law. Natural law originated from God. (from here)

The ideas, if not the words of John Locke, found their way into our Declaration of Independence. Here is a pertinent excerpt from the SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT by JOHN LOCKE.

Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrouled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men; but to judge of, and punish the breaches of that law in others, as he is persuaded the offence deserves, even with death itself, in crimes where the heinousness of the fact, in his opinion, requires it. But because no political society can be, nor subsist, without having in itself the power to preserve the property, and in order thereunto, punish the offences of all those of that society; there, and there only is political society, where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. (from here)

Those who founded our nation were familiar with John Lockes ideas. Hence, these words in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (from here)

Complicated “Rights”

Our “rights” are growing more and more complicated. Positive Rights, the Constitution, and Conservatives and Moderate Libertarians By provides a relatively straightforward and tolerably brief explanation of the term “rights” from a legal/academic perspective.

What Volokh focuses upon in his presentation is something called positive rights. What are positive rights?  Volokh believes “positive” rights should remain limited, but we should not deny they exist. What are “positive” rights? Wikipedia provides this distinction between positive and negative rights.

Philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between negative and positive rights (not to be confused with the distinction between negative and positive liberties). According to this view, positive rights usually oblige action, whereas negative rights usually oblige inaction. These obligations may be of either a legal or moral character. The notion of positive and negative rights may also be applied to liberty rights. (continued here)

Basically, when we observe each others negative rights, we don’t commit crimes against each other. We don’t murder, rob, and enslave our neighbors. On the other hand, when the government insists that we observe other people’s positive rights, we have to give other people something. If we did not agree to give other people something and don’t want our government to give away our life, liberty, or property, that can be especially irksome.

This distinction between positive and negative rights is a 1979 invention by the Czech jurist Karel Vasak. Still unsatisfied by the additional complexity he had added, Vasak split our “rights” into three separate generations.

There are three overarching types of human rights norms: civil-political, socio-economic, and collective-developmental (Vasek, 1977). The first two, which represent potential claims of individual persons against the state, are firmly accepted norms identified in international treaties and conventions. The final type, which represents potential claims of peoples and groups against the state, is the most debated and lacks both legal and political recognition. Each of these types includes two further subtypes. Scholar Sumner B. Twiss delineates a typology: (continued here)

Effectively, first generation rights are negative rights, and the second and third generation “rights” are positive rights.

What is the problem with “positive rights”? Since Libertarians have a pretty good understanding of this issue, let’s hear from one. See the video below.

Prof. Aeon Skoble accepts the nomenclature of “positive” and “negative” rights, but he points out a basic problem with so-called “positive” rights. Unless government infringes upon people’s “negative” rights, government cannot guarantee anyone’s so-called “positive” rights.

Here is the problem in a nutshell.

Natural rights—or, as they have been un-euphoniously dubbed, “negative rights”—pertain to freedom from the uninvited interventions of others. Respect for negative rights requires merely that we abstain from pushing one another around. Positive rights, by contrast, require that we be provided with goods or services at the expense of other persons, which can only be accomplished by systematic coercion. This idea is also known as the doctrine of entitlements; that is, some people are said to be entitled to that which is earned by other people. (from here)

Biblical Support For God-Given Rights

The first book of the Bible speaks of human rights. Genesis 1:27 says we are each made in the image of God.

The image of God in man also means that murder is a most heinous crime. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, / by man shall his blood be shed; / for in the image of God / has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). The severity of the punishment underscores the severity of the offense. The Mosaic Law is full of examples of how God expects everyone to be treated humanely. The Ten Commandments contain prohibitions against murder, theft, coveting, adultery, and bearing false testimony. These five laws promote the ethical treatment of our fellow man. Other examples in the Law include commands to treat immigrants well (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34), to provide for the poor (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 15:7-8), to grant interest-free loans to the poor (Exodus 22:25), and to release all indentured servants every fifty years (Leviticus 25:39-41). (from here)

Are there positive rights in the Bible? Not exactly. What the Bible speaks of is our responsibilities towards each other.  When Jesus told The Parable of the Good Samaritan, He gave us an example to follow, not a government program.

Consider this quote from John Quincy Adams.

Jesus Christ. . . . came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free. — John Quincy Adams (from here and here)

Additional References

ARE YOU A PHILOSOPHICAL CONSERVATIVE?

preamble to the constitutionLabels are imprecise things.  Therefore, when we call ourselves Conservative, we don’t tell people much.  Hence, we try to clarify with adjectives.

Consider this list.

Types of Conservatism (from here)

  • Cultural Conservatism.
  • Social Conservatism.
  • Religious Conservatism.
  • Fiscal Conservatism.
  • Paleo-Conservatism.
  • Neo-Conservatism.
  • Bio-Conservatism.

What you won’t often see in any list is the expression “Philosophical Conservatism.” Why? Well, many of the people who educate us are opposed to the concept of Conservatism. They don’t like Conservatism, they don’t understand Conservatism, and they don’t want anyone to be Conservative. The last thing they want is any discussion of a coherent Conservative philosophy.

Consider some quotes.

Some are just shallow and silly.

Philosophical conservatism is defined as the belief that people are evil or selfish by nature, while philosophical liberalism is described as the belief that people are good or have great moral potential. (from here)
Some are so “deep” they drown in their own nonsense.
Fourth, there is what I would call philosophical (or also anthropological) conservatism, that in turn is rooted in a particular philosophical anthropology or perhaps social ontology. This stance implies a commitment to realizing a set of substantive values, irrespective of whether these values are already instantiated in the present. In other words, for philosophical conservatives, the primary question is not about what the past suggests, or how, or by which proven method, these values should be implemented. The question is of course what sets of values we are talking about in this context. I claim that philosophical conservatives are primarily invested in the importance of hierarchical relationships, or some more or less naturalized conception of inequality. They do not simply emphasize the particular and the potential importance of its preservation; they attribute differential value to particular sets of human beings, and they emphasize that certain social arrangements distributing power unequally are unalterable. (from here)

Some are just hateful.

The philosophical conservative is someone willing to pay the price of other people’s suffering for his principles. (from here)

This last quote is actually fairly popular, and it is the way too many see Conservatism. Such is the headache with letting politicians educate our children. Should we be surprised that our SOCIALIST school system does not encourage us to ponder what it means to be a Conservative?

Consider this observation.

Conservatives typically possess a pessimistic vision of human nature, drawing on the modern tradition, on Hobbes’s belief, that were it not for strong institutions, men would be at each others’ throats and would constantly view one another with deep suspicion. (Their emphasis is thus not on the ensuing hypothetical pacifying social contract but on the prevalence of fear in human society). Conservatives are highly skeptical of power and man’s desire to use it, for they believe that in time it corrupts even the most freedom loving wielders: hence, the potential accession to any position of supreme power over others, whether in the guise of a national or international chamber, is to be rejected as being just as dangerous a state as Hobbes’s vision of the anarchic state of nature. Conservatives thus applaud those institutions that check the propensity for the stronger or the megalomaniacal to command power: conservatives magnify the suspicion one may hold of one’s neighbor. (from here)

Do Conservatives possess a pessimistic vision of human nature? Yes. We realize that we are all imperfect and quite corruptible. The Christian Conservative takes it for granted that but for the grace of God we would all be going to hell. And yet because God loves us we all have infinite worth. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we each can do good works.

Are you a Social Conservative or a Fiscal Conservative? Why? What is the logic that drives you to be a Social or Fiscal Conservative? Have you ever asked yourself questions such as these questions?

  • What is the purpose of government?
  • What powers should the government have?
  • Can the government provide justice? What sort of justice? How should the government provide justice?
  • When is it moral to force our neighbors to pay taxes? What functions of government justify punishing people when they refuse to pay their taxes?
  • When is it proper for government officials to transfer public funds to private charities? Is a private charity that is funded entirely by the government still a “private” charity?
  • Is it moral for government officials to take money from some citizens and provide charity to other citizens? Can we trust the same government officials to redistribute the wealth and protect our property rights?
  • What is a constitution? What purpose does a constitution serve? How should a constitution be interpreted?
  • What is the role of the Declaration of Independence in our nation’s heritage?
  • Are men corrupted by power? How do we prevent our leaders from becoming too powerful?
  • What obligations does each citizen have to exercise control over the government?
  • When do citizens have an obligation to rebel against the government?

Unless we consider such questions, and we have ready answers, how can we say we have a coherent Conservative philosophy? To be any kind of Conservative, we must first construct a coherent Conservative philosophy. Once we have done so, I think many Conservatives will realize that for our Conservatism to have any meaning, we must be Philosophical Conservatives, that is, we must be able to logically explain why we believe what we believe.