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John Livingston

Back to Basics

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers

I started writing 12 years ago because I wanted to document for my children the reasons for my religious and political beliefs. More importantly, the predicates upon which those beliefs are grounded are very important. In today’s world even Christian conservatives pull back a little when talking or writing about their beliefs. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the arguments today about political philosophy, policy and economic theory.

The “efficiency defense” of liberty and economic freedom is not enough. Comparing free societies to totalitarian states is only an empirical observation—just like the theory of evolution. It doesn’t tell us about the “why”. Recognizing that the management of a free society without reference to “the natural law” and the Biblical Principles upon which it rests will eventually prove destructive of liberty itself.

Let me start this series with a quote from Fr. Robert Sirico the founder of The Acton Institute and a Catholic Diocesan Priest:

“No civilization in the history of the world has survived or flourished without a religious foundation (even in Pagen and non-Western cultures—jml). Nor have classical great liberal thinkers neglected the spiritual nature of man. From the writings of the scholastics to the eighteenth-century British economists, they have always discovered a linkage between faith and freedom”—and economic liberty.

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The first people who risked their lives and fortunes to cross the Atlantic Ocean—the Puritans, were described as “dissenters and separatists”—they were outliers. They were idealists. Today they would be described as being “radicle”. Their ideals were grounded in a deep faith in God and a moral order prescribed in God’s words and summed up by the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Their political and economic philosophy was grounded by a transcendental single moral standard.

They found out the hard way that socialism didn’t and will not work. Early on the Pilgrims practiced communal farming by sharing property and putting all that was produced into communal warehouses. They found out that when every member of a community got an equal share from unequal productivity, overall productivity would go down. When the rules were changed each family owned their own plot of land and would receive what they produced. Overall productivity increased dramatically, and The Colony survived and thrived.

The platform where the principles of political and economic liberty are first learned, was and always shall be the family. Families can look differently in all cultures but the traditional family with a mother and a father has proven over 8000 years—including in pre-Roman and Hellenistic times and in other non-western cultures, to be the source of moral and ethical teachings and the means by which a population can grow and be improved. As the sociologist Charles Murray says, “the family is where the stuff of life happens”.

Aristotle first wrote about “The Natural Law” and St. Thomas applied principles of Natural Law Theory to Old and New Testament teachings. According to Aquinas “The Natural Law is a Law imprinted into the hearts of all men made known through the faculties of reason and revelation” For Christians the Natural Law’s moral and ethical predicates are embedded in the Ten Commandments and The Teachings of Christ. In almost all the modern theological systems elements of The Natural Law are present. In many countries around the world, and I paraphrase from Judge Scalia. including our own, “Natural Law Theory” is the bases of our legal system. The Natural Law extends into the realm of the physical universe as well but that is for another day.

Our Founding Fathers and everyday citizens during the late 18th century understood deeply the march of civilization from Athens and Rome through Jerusalem and Hastings and into the age of Enlightenment. They understood that civilizations that did not depend on a transcendental moral code never survived. Everyday citizens in early America were conversant in The Bible—New and Old Testaments, Ciscero, The Stoics, Publius, and Livy. Because of the understanding of history, they had a great understanding of human nature. They understood that with God’s great gift of “free will” the bases of our liberty, there was also the opportunity for men to abuse that great gift, and in fact it was a part of their human nature to do so—thus the need for a moral standard and an ethic to build laws around. The bases of our four Founding Documents—Our Great Declaration, The Articles of Confederation, Our Constitution, and The Northwest Ordinance of 1789 were all purposefully informed by “Natural Law Principles.

The major disagreements that I see in our current day political debate center around our misunderstanding of the basic political and economic issues that have been traditionally informed by “The Natural Law”. I hope to address these issues in the coming weeks.

We are hearing little today about the opinions of men and women whose vocation should be centered on issues of philosophy and religion and how they inform our moral nature. How many in the academic and ecclesiastical worlds have ever offered a moral defense of liberty, individual sovereignty, free markets. private property, contract enforcement, unfettered free and fair trade and capital accumulation? Those who lived in our country prior to World War II could.

I am not a professional apologetic. I have no professional theological training nor am I a credentialed philosopher. I hope to ultimately demonstrate the linkage between faith and freedom and between the NATURAL LAW and classical liberal (today we say conservative) political and economic philosophy.

Time to get back to basics. We need a great awakening.

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9 replies on “Back to Basics”

NATURAL LAW ALERT!

“…Hand in hand with anti-Christ Jefferson’s generic god is Jefferson’s generic “laws of nature”: a nondescript generic law for a nondescript generic god.

“Many Christians have bought into both Jefferson’s “nature’s God” and his “laws of nature.” Some of these people insist a case can be made for the laws of nature from Romans 2:

‘For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles [ethne, nations], which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” (Romans 2:12-15)

“The Apostle Paul says nothing about laws of nature in this passage but rather nations doing what was “by nature”—that is, what would come natural to them because of God’s moral law written in their hearts.

“Furthermore, the law Paul describes was not some nondescript law with speculative stipulations, but instead one that, if transgressed, resulted in sin. This can only be referring to the very explicit moral laws of God:

‘Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.’ (1 John 3:4)

“The closest you’ll get to a passage endorsing “nature’s God” is in Psalm 19:1-6, which depicts the everlasting testimony of Yahweh’s creation and which, in turn, provides His credentials for His perfect law of liberty (the Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments) cited in Verses 7-11.

“Had this been the law Jefferson was referring to in the Declaration of Independence, there wouldn’t be so many biblical anomalies found throughout the Declaration. No, the ambiguous laws Jefferson cited were, once again, the generic laws of a generic god, which anyone can interpret to mean anything they want. This was especially true for the theistic rationalists of Jefferson’s day, many of whom esteemed finite man’s reason to be as much of a moral authority as the Word of God….”

For more, see Chapter 3 of free online book “Biblical Examination of the Declaration of Independence: Declaration of Liberty vs. Declaration of Independence” at https://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/declaration/declaration-index.html

Romans 2:12 proves my point.

From Romans—–Aquinas—–Natural Law of the Enlightenment.
We are a Christian country, Founded by Christian People.
The predicate for our Constitution and our legal system is the 10Commandments, The Beatitudes and “The Natural Law” a law written in the hearts of all men made known through reason and revelation”

“The predicate for our Constitution and our legal system is the 10 Commandments….”

Well that oft-parroted claim is proven false by the Constitution itself.

There’s only one moral standard by which everything (including the Constitution) is to be ethically evaluated: By Yahweh’s unchanging morality as reflected in the Ten Commandments and their respective statutes and judgments. Anything else is merely fickle man’s capricious humanism – that is man doing what’s right in his own eyes, per Judge 21:25 – aka We the Peopleism.

When the Constitution is actually examined by the biblical standard instead of dead politicians’ cherry picked quotations,* it’s found to be anything but biblically compatible. In fact, there’s hardly an Article or Amendment that’s not antithetical, if not seditious, to Yahweh’s sovereignty and morality.

For evidence, see free online book “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective,” in which every Article and Amendment is *examined* by the Bible, at https://www.bibleversusconstitution.ORG/BlvcOnline/blvc-index.html

See also the recent debate “Is the Constitution Biblically Compatible?” between Constitutional Attorney Brent Winters and myself in the right-hand sidebar.

*Cherry pick his quotations and even Obama can be made to look Christian.

Love you Ted, But I used your quote. Thanks for commenting.

By the way so did Thoams Aquinas.

The “Natural Law” is embedded in the hearts of all men and is Made known through the faculties of reason and revelation”. That marriage is refelcted directly in our Founding Documents.

Thanks Ted and I appreciate your comments.

Used your quote to prove my point and so did St. Thomas.

Theocracy and coercion never work in a system designed to facilitate “free will” and liberty.

We must take the good with the bad and fight evil when we must.

jml

From George Washington’s letter to the Jewish Congregation in Newport.

“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

A Country founded on Christian principles that embraces everyone of all religious beliefs is who we are and want to become..

John:
You murdered that quote from Robert Sirico. It comes from an essay titled The Moral Basis for Economic Liberty that can be found at The Heritage Foundation on July 13, 2010. It really says:

“No civilization in history has survived or flourished without a religious foundation. Nor have great classical liberal thinkers neglected the spiritual dimension of man. From the writings of the late Scholastics to 18th century British economists, they have always discovered a linkage between faith and freedom.”

Richard

My quote came from the forward–page 1. of the document you reference.

It was written my Edwin A. Opitz and reads: “NO civilization in history has survived or flourished without a religious foundation”. He was actually quoting Fr. Sirico himself.

I should have placed quotation marks behind the parenthesis in my quote.

Thank you for your attention to detail and pointing out my lack of percision.

jml

Ted.

I refer you to Romans 2:13-15.

The Mosaic Law and Natural Law are equally valid and in fact they are the same. They come from the same source.

or when the Gentiles — That is, any of them who have not the law — Not a written revelation of the divine will; do by nature — That is, by the light of nature, without an outward rule, or by the untaught dictates of their own minds, influenced, however, by the preventing grace of God, which hath appeared to all men, Titus 2:11; or, the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world: the things contained in the law — The moral duties required by the precepts of the law, the ten commandments being only the substance of the law of nature. These, not having the written law, are a law unto themselves — That is, what the law was to the Jews, they are by the light and grace of God to themselves, namely, a rule of life. All the ancient Greek commentators, as Whitby has shown, interpreted this passage not of the Gentiles who had been converted to Christianity, but of those Gentiles who had not been favoured with a revealed law, and therefore were neither proselytes to Judaism nor Christianity. Who show — To themselves and others, and, in a sense, to God himself, the work of the law — In its most important moral precepts, in the substance, though not in the letter of them; written in their hearts — By the same divine hand which wrote the commandments on the tables of stone; their conscience also bearing witness — For or against them, or testifying how far they have complied with their light or law. There is not one of all its faculties which the soul has less in its power than this. And their thoughts — Or their reasonings or reflections upon their own conduct; the meanwhile — Or, as the expression, μεταξυ αλληλων, is translated in the margin, between themselves, or by turns, according as they do well or ill; accusing — Checking and condemning them when they have acte

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