John Livingston

The Rules of the Game

A group of well-intentioned people, several of them my friends have formed an organization with the purpose of finding as one of them said on a radio show last week “the common ground between well intentioned people who represent disparate political factions”. I believe that everyone should try to get along and find “common ground”, but not for the mere sake of getting along. There is no question that the great majority of choices we have in life we can agree upon. But to “get along” we must be able to agree upon a set of rules common for all sides so that there can be a basis for discussion.

Each human being is subject to the same laws of nature. We disobey the law of gravity at our own peril. All organisms follow the biochemical rules of nature. Humans and animals cannot disobey the rules of biochemistry like the Krebs cycle or any of the laws we find in the Natural World. But the law that is unique to our human nature, the law that man does not share with the organic or inorganic world, is the law that he can choose to disobey. God has given man the choice to do so if he follows his own “will”.

Football teams who are violently opposed to the goals of their opponents must agree upon the set of rules by which the game will be played. If they don’t there will be no “common ground” that will govern the terms of the competition. The common sense of “common ground” can be found as the foundation of all successful cultures. If anyone would take the time to compare the moral teachings of ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans they will see how close they are to each other. Successful cultures don’t admire warriors who run from their enemies, or people who lie and cheat, or leaders who serve themselves before their people in any form of governing. The real difference between Christianity and the others is who and why we serve. I believe the answer is not us, but God.

The Western tradition has been to define this Law of Nature that has evolved from Biblical and Classical traditions as The Natural Law. The Enlightenment philosophers defined this law as ” as a law imprinted in the hearts of all men made known through the faculties of reason and if you are a Christian “revelation and conscience”(jl). Any social, political, legal or religious discussion must have as its’ predicate the understanding of a standard by which we can proceed—just like the rules between two violent teams in a football game. When children—and sometimes adults argue with each other we can learn something very important from their arguments. We may say “you took something of mine(property rights?), or that you lied to my best friend about something I said, or that you took my place in the lunch line, or in the case of adults—the college admission line. When evaluating these remarks or actions the person being wronged almost always appeals to a standard of behavior which he expects both parties to know about. And the other side never replies—there is no standard—UNTIL NOW.

We Christians all fall short of the moral standard that was given to us throughout all Biblical history. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you even when they are your enemy” Really? Talk about an impossible bar to cross look at the BEATITUDES. The important thing is that there is a bar and that we try, and when we fail, we try again and over the course of a lifetime, no matter how long and short that may be, we improve ourselves and make the lives of others around us better. Social—good manners and etiquette, political and legal, all are lessor standards that all peoples and all cultures have agreed upon—UNTIL NOW

Throughout the ages of Western man, Biblical and Classical principles, The Common Law, our Founding Documents have all been agreed upon. Everyone knew what inalienable rights” meant—do we today? “All men are created equal” were words that were understood to mean “all men” and when some people failed to acknowledge what “all” meant, 700,000 brave souls lost their lives answering that question based on a predicate that had been given to them “Four Score and Seven Years” earlier. A MORAL PREDICATE. In the 15,000-year history of man up until today slavery was an understood way of life. There are believed to be 75 million “men” living in slavery in 2023 throughout the world not to mention political and religious prisoners, The Christian Church including Popes dating back to the 13-century fought against “chattel” forms of enslavement. The Evangelical, Quaker, and Anglican abolitionist movements have for over 200 years led the way toward emancipation and hopefully soon complete liberty. All this was based on a set of rules that defined the grounds of the argument. UNTIL NOW.

Today however political factions can’t agree on the rules of the game. Should our moral arguments be based on Biblical and Classical Natural Law Principles? Should our political arguments be based on our Founding Documents—Our Constitution and Great Declaration? Or should we blow up all that proceeded us thinking we can do better by making ourselves our own gods and creating our own relativistic-humanistic rules of the game. The rules of the game haven’t changed UNTIL NOW.

For those who want to “blow the whole thing up” don’t waste my time. Biblical and Natural Law Principles have stood the test of time and they are based on unchanging truths. If we can’t play the game by those rules, I am not in your game. “As it was in the beginning….” The rules of the game never change—EVEN NOW.

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