TWO DIFFERENT ROADS

bibles_books_01Over a decade passed now, but it was then I made a surprising discovery. Much of what I had been taught in public schools is not true.

How did learn of the deception? I began reading what people call the classics and historic works. When we study history, many of these great works serve as primary source documents for historians. Therefore, I have listed a small number of historic documents in Citizen Library.

What led me to read so many seeming long and sometimes difficult works? My long commute to work was driving me batty; I needed a distraction. So I decided to listen to classic works I would otherwise never read. Because my wife and daughters are Christians, the Bible was at the top of my list.

I have since read the Bible several times by listening to it, and I have read many other far less significant historic works.  I have learned there is a crucial difference between reading about history and reading historic documents.

Consider the Bible. Will what someone else says about the Bible be true to that work? Is reading what someone else has said about the Bible the same as reading it for ourselves? No and no.

Pick your favorite dessert. How could you ever describe the taste? You cannot. That’s why we are always willing to share a small sample of our pleasure with someone we love. We have no other way to share our pleasure except to help them taste it for themselves.

The same that is true of the Bible is true of any other historic work. Unless we study the great historic work of history for ourselves, instead of being informed we risk being propagandized. Instead of learning what historic men and women had to say, politicians will tell us what they want us to believe.

Why is it important to learn the truth? What is wrong with being propagandized? In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith spoke of our desire both to be respectable and to be respected. He spoke of a choosing between two roads.

We desire both to be respectable and to be respected. We dread both to be contemptible and to be contemned. But, upon coming into the world, we soon find that wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects of respect; nor vice and folly, of contempt. We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent. To deserve, to acquire, and to enjoy the respect and admiration of mankind, are the great objects of ambition and emulation. Two different roads are presented to us, equally leading to the attainment of this so much desired object; the one, by the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue; the other, by the acquisition of wealth and greatness. Two different characters are presented to our emulation; the one, of proud ambition and ostentatious avidity. the other, of humble modesty and equitable justice. Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behaviour; the one more gaudy and glittering in its colouring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline: the one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye; the other, attracting the attention of scarce any body but the most studious and careful observer. They are the wise and the virtuous chiefly, a select, though, I am afraid, but a small party, who are the real and steady admirers of wisdom and virtue. The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness. (from here)

If we want our children to be both truly respectable and to truly respected, they must study wisdom and the practice of virtue. Yet the public school system is a secular institution. When proper wisdom is Godly wisdom, we have little reason to hope our children will be taught Godly wisdom in the public school system.

Because the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue must be based upon the Truth, the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue is therefore highly controversial. As Pontius Pilate  said: “What is Truth?” (John 18:38). Then he had the Truth crucified. Thus, to avoid controversy, the public school system focuses our children’s minds on the acquisition of wealth and greatness.

 

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN WHAT?

cross2Those Who Mourn is about one of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.

When Jesus speaks of mourning, what are we blessed for mourning?

Most of the time, we don’t associate blessing with mourning; maybe we should rethink this… Matthew didn’t actually say what those blessed ones are mourning; it could be the loss of a loved one, it could be the loss of their home or possessions, or it could be the sinful and rebellious state of this world. Maybe it doesn’t matter… (continued here)

Here Don Merritt demonstrates a willingness to let the Bible speak for itself. Most commentators seem to think that given the context the word “mourn” here refers to mourning our sins. Perhaps, but the passage does not say. So a broader interpretation may more appropriate. Here is how The Jeremiah Study Bible explains the verse.

The hurting. The one who weeps over the pains of life can be confident of God’s healing and comfort. The Greek word translated as comforted is also used to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In our sadness, the Holy Spirit will move us to joy.

So what then is the meaning of that verse? The Message is not my favorite translation, but sometimes it gets at the meaning of a passage better than a straightforward translation. So perhaps its translation is better.

Matthew 5:4 The Message (MSG)

4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

I watched my children as they grew, and I learned much. When one of them lost a possession, I saw the grief. I recognized it because I had known such grief myself. But such grief is a small thing. If we live long enough, like Job we will lose everything.

  • We will lose our family. Our Lord may favor us with grandchildren, but even they will not replace our spouses and the people we grew up with.
  • We will lose our health. Suddenly, perhaps, but more likely we will lose it slowly. Dribbled away. Leaving us to wonder what happened. Why?
  • We will lose our fortune. How? If nothing else because we have become incapable, we will let our children or grandchildren take control.
  • Most important, perhaps, we will lose our innocence. Can you imagine King David’s grief after the prophet Nathan spoke these words from the Lord.

    2 Samuel 12:7-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

    Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’”

Each of us sins, even best of kings, and those who mourn most see their sins, understand the consequences, and grieve.

So how does the Holy Spirit comfort us? I once heard Chuck Swindoll describe a conversation with Corrie Ten Boom. Her words to him were something to this effect.

Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open. (from here)

Since that struck me as incomplete, I searched further. So I found this quote. I think it helps, perhaps, to explain the first.

You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have. (from here)

Why are those who mourn blessed? We understand we need a savior.

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