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


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


(from here)
(from here)

Here we continue a series.  I have provided links to the previous posts a the bottom of this post. The subject here? The upcoming election.

How Do We Choose The Best Candidate?

Christianity is not a theocracy. God provided the Jews the Mosaic Law. Christians He provided the Holy Spirit; the example of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; and the promise of redemption.

In addition, the Bible gives us principles to live by.  We generally express those principles in the form of virtues (see the last post in this series). If we wish to live in a society that lives by Christian virtues, then we need to elect leaders who by word and deed demonstrate that they live by those virtues. Unfortunately, here of late we have not done so.

What are we risking with our poor leadership choices? The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of this nation. That document explains that the purpose of government is to protect our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When we fail to select virtuous leaders, then our leaders will not respect our rights. In addition to lacking the virtues mentioned in the last post, our leaders will lack the virtue of Humility.

What is humility? Consider again that poor widow mentioned in Mark 12:41-44. When the widow put her last two mites in the temple treasury, she put in faith in God. Instead of trusting in herself, she put her trust in God. We need leaders with the same sort of humility, leaders who realize that God is our true sovereign. What we have now are too many leaders who see gathering more power to themselves as the solution for every problem.

How foolish is it for us to give our leaders more and more of the power they demand?

Some time back I wrote a post on ants, ANT DEMOCRACY: HOW DO ANTS VOTE? I ended the post with this observation.

We don’t understand how ants make decisions. We are not that smart. We can only model their behavior. Maybe, however, if we study ants enough, maybe we can learn from them how to run a democracy peaceably.

In truth, we already know how to run a democracy. When we follow the principles upon which it was founded, we have a constitutional republic that works. Unfortunately, instead of letting us freely conduct our own businesses, our leaders want to run everything. Again I ask, how foolish is it for us to give our leaders more and more of the power they demand? There is an answer. Consider the following video. As you listen to it make certain you consider the fact that politicians who don’t know how to make a pencil want to run our healthcare, our schools, our banks, plan our communities, direct auto companies,…. Well, there is no end to the power some of them want.

We need to elect a president to who has enough humility to respect The United States Constitution. Please vote for Ted Cruz.


Previous Posts In This Series


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

What is the defining issue in our elections, including the elections of 2016? We essentially have two opposing causes: those who would further increase the power of the state and those who would only use the power of government to protect individual rights. Who is winning? Since the power of the state has grown hugely over the last century, we must conclude that the Statists are winning.

An Appropriate Label?

We know people who call themselves Conservatives and Tea Party activists, people who say they favor constitutional, limited government. When we apply these labels, do we always use the expressions Conservative and Tea Party activists correctly? No, but the expressions do mean something, and there are plenty of people who identify as Conservatives and Tea Party activists, but who calls himself a Statist? Almost no one.

Nevertheless, large numbers of people call for government-run this, government-run that, and government-run everything else. Such people often call themselves Progressives, Liberals, or Socialists, and they argue that at least some aspects of government must be socialist in character. Hence Progressives, Liberals, and Socialists and their sympathizers advocate Socialism.

Here is an example of how those “Socialists” excuse their advocacy of big government. They abuse the definitions of the terms.

What is the difference between socialism and statism (www.answers.com)

Statism: the principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.

Socialism: An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise

Socialism is mostly economic and Statism is both economic and political. All Socialists are Statists but not all Statists are Socialist (Case in point: Iran, Statist but not officially Socialist)

Therefore, Socialists object to being labelled as Statists because Socialism is only an economic model, not both a political and an economic model. Yet that is as dishonest as saying one is only a little bit pregnant. Both Statism and Socialism employ the same fundamental principle, that the state must define and provide for the rights of the individual.

Conservatives hold God gives us our rights, and these are rights that relate to body and soul. Because God created us and we belong to Him, we owe Him our service. Our obligations are to Him, and He has given each of us the choice of serving willingly. Hence we each have God-given Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (Declaration of Independence).

Statists, however, view rights as commodities, merely things given to us by the state. This, of course, is a materialistic and secular view of rights that leaves God out. Once we do that (leave God out), we start seeing each other as objects, and we start enslaving each other.

Even Atheists can see the difficulties of Statism.  Ayn Rand is famous for her books advocating individual rights, including her definition of statism.

Statism (aynrandlexicon.com)

The political expression of altruism is collectivism or statism, which holds that man’s life and work belong to the state—to society, to the group, the gang, the race, the nation—and that the state may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.

Rand blamed this sort of “altruism” on Christianity, but the Bible never speaks of involuntary, state sponsored altruism. Besides, Statism does not require altruism as an excuse. That propaganda is just peculiar to Communism and Socialism. The Nazis did not spend much effort faking altruism.

Nevertheless, both Theists and Non-theists reach the same conclusion.  Whether we recognize our rights as coming from God or not, when we use the government to give people their “rights” (commodities such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation, an education, a job, and so forth), we must sacrifice the inherent rights of the individual to do so, and that adds up to Statism.

What Is Next?

Ideally, I suppose I would have come up with this series and happily used it to promote a specific candidate. Well, I am not entirely happy with any of the candidates. The only one I regard as coming close to being a true Constitutional Conservative is Ted Cruz. Unfortunately, I am not entirely certain the founders would have regarded him as a natural born citizen. I think Cruz believes he qualifies (see here).

How would the courts would decide? Because they would gag on the primary rationale for denying him his rights as a natural born citizen the courts almost certainly would regard him as one (Natural Born Citizen and Naturalized Citizen Explained). So I chuckled at the unpleasant irony and voted for him in the Virginia Presidential Primary.

Because, we have a dearth of honest Conservatives willing to run for public office — because no man is good — we have hard choices. We must choose between the least of evils. We cannot simply do nothing.

So what is next?

  • What Does The Bible Teach About Rights?
  • How Well Does Statism Work?
  • How Do We Choose The Best Candidate?