Originally, Part 2 was suppose to be only one post, but the problem of explaining our divisions as a nation grew more involved than is appropriate for one blog post.
What is the focus of these last two posts? The following question.
What Is The Origin Our Rights?
Why was Part 2 of this series necessary? Why a post on Who Or What Is God? This question arises because we disagree about the purpose of government because we disagree about the nature of God. Conservatives believe government exists to protect our rights, and modern Liberals think government exists to give us our rights.
Note: We use the expression “modern Liberals” to distinguish today’s Liberals from Classical Liberals like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
The Difference Between God-given And Government-given Rights
Consider. Do all Americans still believe this is true?
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,
Instead of believing what The Declaration of Independence says, many Americans, apparently about half the country, now believes that government, not God, gives us our rights. For example, almost everyone will agree that we have a right to life, but we vehemently disagree over who should pay for our healthcare. Modern Liberals think we have a “right” to healthcare, that government should pay for everyone’s healthcare. Whereas Conservatives think we already have a right to healthcare, that that guy we each see in the mirror just has to pay for it.
What is the argument for government-given rights? Pragmatism (britannica.com). Pragmatists trust in their own ability to discern what works. So, if something seems to work, we ought to do it because it works.
Consider, for example, the basic argument for government-run healthcare. The idea anyone should die because they cannot pay for their own healthcare seems unsupportable, that anything is justifiable to keep someone alive. If someone is going to die, doesn’t the end justifies the means needed to keep that person alive? Where does such an observation — such logic or pragmatism — lead us?
So and so needs (or perhaps just wants) a medical procedure. So and so has a right to life, but so and so cannot pay for the medical procedure he needs (or wants). Government has money. If government pays for so and so’s medical procedure, so and so gets the medical procedure he needs (or wants). Therefore, government should pay for so and so’s medical procedure. In fact, to be “fair” to everyone, government should pay for everyone’s entire healthcare bill.
What is the problem with this argument? What is wrong with government-given “rights”?
Conservatives argue that government cannot give us any rights. Government can only protect rights we have already been given been by God. Because government gives them to us, government-given rights, like “rights” to health care, food, clothing, shelter, a job, retirement, and so forth, are supposed to be positive (The Perils of Positive Rights – Foundation for Economic Education (fee.org), but these so-called rights are actually privileges. Government cannot give us anything that it doesn’t take from someone else, thus depriving that someone else of their “rights.” This is also why government-given rights are unconstitutional. All in some way violate the Bill of Rights (archives.gov).
We have other, practical, alternatives to government-run healthcare and other so-called positive rights. We just have to pay for these “rights” ourselves, or we have to find someone else willing to cover the bill. Because we don’t have a right to other people’s property, many of us still call socialized medicine government-run charity.
Socialism leads to government-run monopolies and the concentration of power into a few hands. Because people are not innately good and abuse power, Socialism eventually leads to far more trouble than good.
Nevertheless, you may still say that none of the above demonstrates our rights are God-given. You may also ask, “who would deny us our rights?” Isn’t everyone basically good? No. Look around the world. We are obviously not basically good. Most people are poor because we constantly strive against each other. Given the opportunity, the strong among us will systematically deny the weak among us their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Bible tells us only God is good. Therefore, we need a government to make us behave, and we need to obey the government because the role of government is to protect us from each other’s bad behavior.
13 Every [a]person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except [b]from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore [c]whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for [d]good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a servant of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; [e]respect to whom [f]respect; honor to whom honor.
Because of their experiences during the American Revolution and the teachings of the Bible, the founders understood we have a propensity to sin against each other. Hence, because they were fearful of government power, our Constitution is full of checks and balances. In addition, the Constitution is only a charter. One of the reasons the men who wrote the Constitution thought a Bill of Rights unnecessary is that the Constitution is a charter. This charter, the Constitution, only gives the Federal Government certain powers. That is, the Constitution says both what the Federal Government is supposed to do and authorized to do. The Federal Government is not supposed to do anything that is not spelled out in the Constitution. Nevertheless, some of the founders were wary of the craftiness of powerful men. So, they insisted upon a Bill of Rights, and these men have been proven right, unfortunately. Even with the Bill of Rights, powerful people have undermined the limits on the powerful set by our Constitution.
How did the founders make use of the teachings of the Bible? The Bible recognizes our propensity to sin. The Bible prohibits murder, robbery, bearing false witness, and cheating on our spouses. The Bible commands us to love each other as we love ourselves. The Bible says we are to serve each other, not tyrannize each other.
Our Bill of Rights approaches the issue of rights the largely the same way as the Bible. Like the Bible, the Bill of Rights explicitly condemns certain sins, and, like the Bible, the Bill of Rights reminds us that government exists to serve the people, not tyrannize the people.
Like the Bible, the Bill of Rights attacks the problem of restraining government power from two directions. Most of the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights list rights that the government cannot violate. The 9th Amendment even lists unspecified rights. The 10th Amendment breaks the pattern; it explicitly states that the Federal Government is only empowered to do what the Constitution says it can do.
Are these observations too subtle to take seriously? Look again at our national debate. Look again at the overall objectives of each side.
Modern Liberals insist upon a society ruled by “experts,” a nation where supposedly no one will be held responsible for making his or her own decisions and accepting the consequences because the “experts” will get it right. An exaggeration? Consider the response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Consider the sweeping ramifications of the Green New Deal.
Conservatives insist upon a society where government power is limited, where each of us must accept responsibility for making his or her own decisions and accepting the consequences. Are Conservatives really so pure? Is there not a danger Conservatives would impose their beliefs upon others? Yes, but the point of limited government is to avoid that problem.
Which path is correct? Conservatism or Modern Liberalism? Undoubtedly, some will think this portrayal of Modern Liberalism unfair. However, much of the news media did all it could to make the election about a highly negative portrayal, the demonization of President Donald Trump. Hence, based upon what we saw in the Democratic Party’s Presidential Primary Elections, we can only guess at Joe Biden’s agenda. What will he do if becomes president? That remains to be seen.
In addition, the venomous, uncompromising anger Democrats have displayed over the last four years has done nothing to comfort those who supported President Trump. Given the efforts of the administration of President Barack Obama to transform America — as he put it — many are unapologetically anxious about the possible continuance of this transformation.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin (from here)
Today is the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower Compact (britannica.com). Strangely, this day is passing us by almost without comment. Therefore, today seems like a good day for Christians to talk about the relevance of our nation’s Christian heritage.
What is it that divides our country? Consider that many Christian Conservatives pray for a revival. Why? Why would we need a revival? It is because of the nature of our divide. We are divided over moral issues. What is the origin of this division? We are divided over how we define the nature of God. We are divided over how we believe God wants us to treat each other.
How we define God has a practical consequence. How we define God determines the principles we use to define good and evil. Because we define God differently, we are divided over how we believe God wants us to treat each other.
In today’s post, part 2 of this series, we will examine how our definition of God divides us. In part 3, we will get into how our different beliefs about God affects our attitude towards government.
Who Or What Is God?
Some will say that God is not important to defining the difference between right and wrong, that all men can share the same ideas about right and wrong. Some will say that we can determine the difference between right and wrong using simple logic. Is that true? By now we should know better. We cannot ignore our divisions. Whether we like it or not we are divided by basic moral issues. As a nation, we no longer share the same beliefs about right and wrong. Why? We start with a fundamentally different beliefs about the nature of God.
Is God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Is there an eternal Being who created us and everything else? Is God a sentient being who loves us?
Is God “The Force”, the ill-defined entity without intelligence or personality proposed by The Star Wars movies? Is there a God?
Unless we share some beliefs about God, why we were created, our purpose for being, how do we agree upon what is wise? How can we as a people share a common definition of wisdom? What assumptions can we begin with so that we have a common, shared basis for determining the difference between good and evil? How do we know when we have created a good law instead of a bad law?
Is love the answer? Don’t all human beings share the same beliefs about how we should love each other? No. Consider how the Apostle John described Jesus.
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Apostle John, often referred to as the apostle of love, spoke of love, and he said “God is love.” Nevertheless, he also made certain we know that Jesus is full of grace and truth. To love properly, we must love in truth.
Agape: “Agape love is the highest level of love referenced in the Bible. This form of love is everlasting and sacrificial, whether or not the giver receives the same level of love in return. In the original Greek translation of the Scriptural passage “God is love,” the word agape was specifically used to identify the type of love God embodies (1 John 4:8).”
Storge: “Storge love is used to describe familial love. This word describes the type of deep and caring bond that develops naturally between parents and children, husbands and wives, siblings, as well as other people who you may consider to be family. This type of love can withstand many trials, is protective, and loyal.”
Phileo: “The word phileo is expressly used in the Bible and refers to the warmth and affinity shared by close friends, almost as if those friends were actual siblings.”
Eros: “Eros love refers to romantic or sexual love, and is the root of the English word erotic. Eros or sexual love in and of itself is not impure, but is a gift from God to married couples so that they may express their love with one another and continue the human race.”
Christians love in all four ways. Non-Christians may or may not affirm the importance of agape love. The affirmation of agape love is, however, central to Christianity.
Christian love, agape love, requires us to try to love each other as God loves us. God loves us because there is something good in us. We cannot do anything for God, but He loves us anyway. Christians love their neighbors in obedience to God. Agape love is an act of will, not just an emotional response.
The natural man loves another human being because the being he loves builds his ego or gives him pleasure. His or her love is about him or her, not done in obedience to God.
Observe. The natural man does not seek to love as God loves us. The natural man does not seek God’s wisdom.
How do Christians love their neighbors? Consider why we love at all.
Christians believe we learn how to love because God taught us how to love by loving us. He is our Father, and we imitate His example. When we love another and we don’t treat them as God would have us treat them — let Jesus act through us — then to the extent we do not do what Jesus would have us do we fail.
Will we sometimes fail to love as Jesus would have us love each other? Of course, we will. God is far wiser than we are. We are finite, limited creatures. We do not know much. Therefore, we need God’s help, and we do better when we seek and ask for our Lord’s wisdom.
What is this wisdom? How do we learn how to love as God loves us? Where do the moral principles given to us by God come from? The Bible is our best source. Much of the Bible is in fact called wisdom literature.
In addition to the Bible, we have a moral law within us. God wrote it upon our hearts. To some degree, all men follow this moral law. That is, we know when we are not treating another the way we would want to be treated, and we innately know that is wrong. Unfortunately, we complicate matters. Instead of heeding that warning, we do what we innately know is wrong. We follow our natural inclinations. We put our own welfare ahead of others, and we apply a philosophy we call Pragmatism (britannica.com). The pragmatist, especially when he is shortsighted, is perfectly happy to use the ends to justify the means.
Is it easy to be a Christian? No. It is hard to accept the simple fact God created us and the world for His glory, not our own. Because we must set aside our pride first, wisdom is difficult to obtain and support. Didn’t Adam and Eve, even though they knew God, have trouble being wise? Was it wise to eat fruit God had forbidden?
To provide some assurance that our children will grow up and behave as Christians, as parents we have to make certain we instruct our children in the Bible and its teachings. For generations, parents have not accepted that responsibility. Instead, many have turned the religious instruction of their children over to increasingly secularized schools. That is, Americans have allowed their children to be raised as Secular Humanists (gotquestions.org), and many have become Pagans and Atheists. Hence, our nation is now divided, and the worst part of this is many of our children have rejected Jesus, the only One who can save us.
What is next? In Part 3 we look at the difference between God-given and government-given rights.