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Wrongdoing- an unalienable right?

[This is a comment and reply occasioned by my WND piece today, “On Rights and Righteousness”.]

The Comment

I respect Keyes, I really do. He is so wrong here…

There are at least two meanings of the word “right”. One means all that is morally correct to do; the other mean all that I have been given the authority to do. When one looks at all that Christ told us is wrong we realize that the “right to only do right” is incredibly limited, to the point that no man save the Creator has done it. If lust and hate are the same as adultery and murder, and the punishment for these was death, then how can we claim that we have the “right” to even feel or think for ourselves? Why do we call the 1st amendment a “right” if it says that we can choose something other than God and blaspheme him? By this understanding, a govt that only recognized our “rights” would be a Theocracy of the worst kind.

We have the “right”, as the Founders used the term, to do some wrong things. That isn’t to say that we won’t be held accountable for them, simply that God gave us the authority to do them and they don’t fall under govt’s purpose. I have no right to murder, as that takes the “right to life” away from another. I DO have the right to do other sins, such as certain addictions, as long as these don’t take the rights away from others. It is still wrong, I will still be judged for them, but I have the right to do them. As Jefferson put it, as long as it didn’t “pick his pocket or break his leg”, he said it wasn’t a governmental issue.

What did Christ say we should do about evil in the world? He said we should be salt and light, we should train our children up in the way they should go, he recognized our right to defend ourselves from a direct threat of harm (Luke 22:36-38). He did NOT advocate the use of govt to make people good (neither did the apostles). If we (Christians) were to actually do as commanded instead of trying to use force of arms against sinful people (as the Pharisees did), then we wouldn’t be in this mess. We have lost our first love…

 

My reply

In your analysis of the word “right” you confuse things in a way America’s founder’s did not, when they wrote the Constitution. Though we carelessly refer to first amendment “rights”, the Constitution actually speaks of the “freedom of speech and of the press” but the “right…peaceably to assemble.” It speaks of “rights” in the ninth amendment, but uses the word “powers” in the Tenth Amendment.

Instead of imposing a false distinction on the Constitution, why not carefully think through the distinctions it actually makes. For example, by using the word “freedom” with respect to speech and the press, the Framers avoid the pitfall to which you refer (i.e., referring to wrongs as rights). Also by referring to the free exercise of religion, they allow a certain tolerance with respect to religious practices, without falsely denying the difference between that religion which is true to God, and therefore right, and that which is false.) Do you think this respect for truth was intentional or just an accident? By the same token, people tend to confuse the 9th and Tenth Amendments, but if they gave careful thought to the distinction between “rights” in the one and “powers” in the other they would gain great insight into understanding of human sovereignty the Constitution implements.

Sometimes, instead of using the Constitution to make a point, its important first to consider what point is made by its actual wording.

You also fail to see the very practical reason for my concern about the right meaning of rights. My reasoning helps people to recognize the boundaries of the government’s enforcement power, which is properly limited to the business of securing unalienable rights, as they are endowed by the Creator (not human free will). Though the Creator authorizes us to be free, He is precisely not the author of any given use of our freedom. If He were, the choice would not be ours but His. So though He permits us to use or abuse our freedom, he only authorizes uses that accord with His righteous provisions.

By confusing right and freedom you actually open the door to the claim that unjust government is authorized by God. Why? Because superior power gives people the freedom to do as they please. If God authorizes them to do wrong, victorious conquerors who rule as unjust tyrants are correct when they claim the divine right to do so. But America’s founders rejected the species of absolutism based on the understanding that, in and of itself, proven superior human power constitutes divine justice, and must therefore always be reverenced as law.

But if the standard of right is not power, there must be a difference between being free (i.e., powerful enough) to do something and having the right to do it.

According to America’s principles the standard of right is determined by the power of the Creator, not by any merely human power. Those principles further declare that His standard obliges government to confine its use of coercive power to that which is necessary for the security of individuals willing to take certain actions which the Creator encourages in all human beings, as such; and which He therefore authorizes as right for all humanity.

This standard of right allows us to distinguish the individual uses of freedom that government is obliged to protect; from the abuses of freedom government is obliged to curtail (mainly, as you suggest, those which, by endangering the unalienable rights (right usages) of others defy the authority of the ultimate sovereign of all; and to distinguish both the foregoing from exercises of freedom which may be tolerated for good reason, even when in some respect they fall short of the perfect standard of God’s righteousness (which, as you say, only God can properly administer.)

These days the main point of resistance against the righteous basis of rights has to do with sexual freedom. Like the tares that Christ advises his disciples to leave to the disposition of the master of the house (Matthew 13:24-30), there are sexual practices best left to God’s judgment, for mercy or for punishment. However, when those who engage in such practices falsely promote them under the name of “right”, they ascribe to God (who is the author of right) what is in fact the consequence of their own will. They unjustly demand that people willing to exercise their freedom according to right, as God intends, abandon the rights of the natural family and/or purposely raise up children who will not be encouraged to respect the obligations that give rise to them. They abuse the powers of government, which are meant to secure rights, to force such people to deny or disparage that exercise of right whereby the Creator provides for the perpetuation of human nature, individually and on the whole.

Faced with such demands and abuses of power, people determined to exercise their rights are obliged to answer as Peter and the other apostles did: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) For obedience to God is service to true liberty. It is the substantive ground of proof for every just claim of right. For the validity of which, when all else fails, we may appeal to Him, as to the Supreme Judge of the World, just as America’s founders did.

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  • Richard Chiu June 14, 2013, 5:58 am

    Unfortunately, Dr. Keyes has taken an untenable position here. This
    is probably due to a misunderstanding of the term “authority” as it is
    used by “the interlocutor”, stripped of the laudatory sense that
    attaches to it in common usage.

    When we say that someone is an
    authority, or has authority, we mean that they speak as the author of
    something, and therefore have the role of full responsibility for what
    it is. The laudatory implication comes about because generally
    authorities were referenced when they had established scripture (God, by
    revelation to prophets) or important doctrinal or scientific advances
    in the understanding of human and natural affairs. To say that someone
    is an authority on a subject is to say that they “wrote the book on” it.

    In
    this sense, all human beings are presumed to have authority over their
    actions, the power to decide what those actions will (and won’t) be, for
    good or ill. And to take away that power from anyone is to remove what
    God has ordained. In moral affairs, our sense of “right” (originally
    meaning straight, square, fitting properly) is based on what God
    ordains, so it is not at all confusing that we refer to the authority of
    an individual over personal actions as a right.

    It does not
    follow that the actions themselves are right, consonant or fitting with
    what God ordains. Only that it would be contrary to the dictates of God
    that the responsibility and power of choice be removed from the
    individual on whom God has conferred it.

    In practical terms, this
    means that we cannot restrain people from having the choice of what
    they do without inflicting a wrong, a violation of that which is right,
    being in this case their God-given (or natural, if we allow that nature
    is in this instance arranged by God for the purpose of permitting human
    choice) right of moral self-determination.

    This does not mean
    that we are restrained from exercising our own right to act in response,
    nor that we cannot declare the response which we will enact to a given
    action. But we must not attempt to remove the choice itself. If our
    declared response to an action is reflective of natural law, which is to
    say that it is commensurate with justice, then we may say that such a
    declaration of a fixed response is itself right, and rather than
    hindering others in making their choices is an assistance to them in
    understanding the natural consequences of their actions so that they may
    be more fully responsible for them.

    In particular regard to the
    difference between rights, freedoms, liberties, privileges, and so on,
    the Founding Fathers were definitely aware that there are degrees of
    latitude of action which are good for people to have but which it are
    not intrinsic to their condition as beings created with moral agency,
    and thus can be restricted in a person without necessitating a violation
    of right (that is to say, a wrong) being inflicted by another person.
    The freedom to associate with others is an example, it is not intrinsic
    in the created condition of any individual to always have the ability to
    associate with others. You can deprive others of their freedom to
    associate with you without doing any wrong to them (it may be said that
    you have “harmed” them, if one uses the term loosely, but really all you
    have done is refused to lend them assistance in their activities at
    your own expense).

    The freedom of the press is an extension of
    the freedom of association, and exists along the same lines, if others
    refuse to read (or otherwise be an audience to) what you have produced,
    you cannot complain that your right has been violated, clearly all that
    has happened is that they have exercised their own rights to choose
    whether or not to heed you.

    On the other hand, the right to bear
    arms does not require cooperation from anyone else (though certainly it
    is made easier by it). Even modern military firearms can be (and are)
    made by individuals with rudimentary tools from available scrap. The
    act of bearing a weapon does not require any assistance either (though
    again it is a benefit). Which is why belonging to a militia is NOT
    called a right, notwithstanding that it was considered by the Founding
    Fathers as a duty, the militia being called “necessary to the security
    of a free State”.

    If the Founders had adopted the notion that
    “rights” were what it is right to do rather than what it is wrong for
    anyone else to prevent, then it would have been service in the militia
    that would have been enshrined as a right, rather than simply bearing
    arms as such. Of course, this is not the only example of how they did
    not equate rights with duties, but it is a pertinent one.

    However,
    while it is certainly true that we have the right to choose whether to
    do wrong, it is well worth reiterating a previous point, that the right
    of one person to choose to do wrong does not obviate the rights of
    others to respond in a just manner to such provocation, nor does
    informing persons about the likely consequences of certain actions in
    any way diminish their freedom of choice, but rather enhances it. For
    the ultimate purpose of authority (or perhaps I should say simply
    authorship) over one’s own actions is to develop the capacity for
    self-determination, the ability to shape one’s own destiny through
    personal action.

    However, while I may say that is the ultimate
    goal, it is the actual choice of action which is given by God, an of
    which we may not deprive any human without working contrary to what God
    has ordained and crafted into the nature of humanity.

    ChunLing.

    • alkeyes June 14, 2013, 5:25 pm

      In everything I write I am careful to respect the fact that the word authority literally refers to authorship. This is consistent with the explicit premise set forth in the Declaration of Independence. It is why I frequently remind readers that the first premise of the American creed is the existence and authority of the Creator. The Author determines the nature of things, including the nature of humanity. What you have unaccountably ignored is that the first manifestation of authority is to determine the necessary relations between one way of being and another. Those relations make manifest the laws of nature which, in the first place, rule the whole of creation, at least insofar as it is intelligible to us. From the operation of this rule emerge the different ways of being that God’s will subtantiates as objects of His creation, and which, on account of His will for our nature, He makes us to experience as objects of our understanding.

      But God’s intention for human nature includes the possibility of freedom, i.e., the capacity prospectively to understand the experience of being in a way that differs from what God has determined it to be; and act accordingly. Montesquieu, the French philosopher well known to America’s founders and frequently mentioned in the course of their deliberations, articulated this at the very beginning of his major work, The Spirit of the Laws. “Man, as a physical being, is, like other bodies, governed by invariable laws. As an intelligent being, he ceaselessly violates the laws God has established…”

      Insofar as human beings are bodies, subject like the others to invariable laws, human freedom has the same meaning for us that it has for them. It is, has Thomas Hobbes suggests, “the absence of impediments”, as when water flows without hindrance down a mountainside. But this understanding of freedom (which is, when stripped to its essentials, the one you rely upon) abstracts from the nature of human choice. It assumes and gives rise to a mechanistic understanding of human activities, as governed either by ineluctable material forces, chance or some ultimately unaccountable combination of both. And it results in an understanding of “justice” in which right coincides with the random fluctuations of power, so that there is no standard of right but what coincides, at the moment, with the resultant vector of conflicting powers.

      However, on account of their familiarity with Montesquieu, we cannot assume that America’s founders limited their understanding of human natural freedom to this Hobbesian perspective. Montesquieu says of human beings that, as intelligent beings, “it is in their nature to act of themselves.” In respect of this capacity for self-determined action, Montesquieu takes account of what the Bible also makes clear. Something about human freedom is like the freedom of the Creator. Therefore, human actions and activities do not consistently arise in accordance with the pre-determined relations that govern the rest of creation. Their powers of conception go beyond the bounds of their material experience, and therefore beyond the limits imposed by their material capacities. Unlike birds they are born without wings. Yet they can even so grasp the possibility of flight, and then, in light of what they intelligently comprehend about it, reform the nature of their experience until what is possible for others in their perception of experience becomes possible also for them. (Now, thanks to our devices, we too can fly.)

      In consequence of this intelligent capacity, human nature encompasses possibilities that extend beyond those determined by the general laws that at first govern the material aspects of our particular nature. This includes some possibilities that are contrary to the disposition of things that make human existence possible. So our freedom raises the existential dilemma: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” To be fully what we aim to be means being able to make choices that imply the annihilation of what we are in principle, i.e., in respect of our origins. This is because, in some respect, the nature of our end seems in conflict with that of our beginning.

      America’s founders assumed the existence of a Creator, who is reponsible for the disposition of things that makes it possible for human beings to exist in the way that we do. But as human beings, we have the human capacity for an exercise of freedom that trascends this disposition. We can choose to act, to some degree, without regard for it. But if all is as it must be in order for our existence to be possible, acting without regard for that order contradicts the possibility of our being in the way that we are, our natural way of being.

      You simply ignore this paradox of human freedom. America’s founders did not. They realized that it poses a choice we cannot avoid, but which, as human beings, we can survive only if the proper balance is maintained between our determination to achieve our transcendent purpose and our respect for the determinations of being in respect of which it is our purpose. This is the balance between our being in the image and likeness of God, and our being subject, on that account, to God’s self-determination, so that, in the end, the fulfillment of our nature is never simply our will but also His.

      Natural right is the exercise of freedom that, taking account of this paradox of human being, shows due regard for both the law of nature as God understands it, (which includes human nature,) and the laws of nature humanly understood, which encompass possibilties that transcend human nature on account of human freedom. It is in respect of that freedom we seem to ourselves to be like God. But it is also the disrespect possible because of that freedom that tempts us to be most ungodly.

      Your misapprehension of the relation between right and freedom arises from your failure to observe the connection between natural right and the spirit of the laws. Nature is not arranged “for the purpose of permitting human choice.” It is arranged for the purpose of fullfilling God’s self-determined will for all creation. In that creation, human self-determination is an aspect of one way of being (the human way). But even in human nature it exists in relation to other aspects that may contradict it, including the acknowledgment that all ways of being, including our own, depend on the self-determined being of God.

      On account of this misapprehension, you quite literally exaggerate the presumption of authority that “all human beings…have…over their actions”, conflating it with “the power to decide what those actions will (and won’t) be, for good or ill.” Though authority involves and reflects the nature of power, power is by no means simply the same as authority. For in the beginning there can be only ONE true authority, from which all subsequent authorities derive their being, as such. This ONE is alone their source and sustenance. As individuals we have the power to decide our actions, but God alone has already decided the right and wrong of what we do. We have no authority in that regard except as we it is derived from respecting His determinations.

      We can therefore claim as right only those actions that conform with God’s will. The fact that He wills us to be free does not, as you suggest, imply that any move to limit our power to act freely takes away what God has ordained. For though he has ordained as right (fitting to our nature and for its preservation) our capacity to choose, he has also ordained the moral laws intended to govern our use of that capacity. When we abuse our power by denying His understanding of right, the constraints imposed to curtail that abuse simply enforce the boundary that distinguishes the wrong we do from the right we ought to do. The limits that define the essential nature of a thing do not remove or impair it. In fact, it is only on account of those limits that it exists freely as what it is. Hence the enforcement of God’s rule for right actually preserve the right as such, by freeing it from subjection to the abusive human will that confounds right with wrong by erasing the boundaries that reveal and constitute the distinction between them.

      Your discussion of particular examples of freedom, rights, privileges and so forth is a welter of confusion. This is because you ignore the difference between the unalienable rights that are a permanent feature of our God endowed nature; and other exercises of our freedom. Hence you make the inaccurate statement that “it is not intrinsic to the created condition of any individual to always have the ability to associate with others.” In this respect you refer to the “freedom of association”. But the U.S. Constitution refers to the “right of the people peaceably to assemble”, not the abstract freedom of association you purport to analyze. Hence your discussion ignores the fact that human community involves a right that reflects the obligation to associate with others (and the ability that goes with it) which is a God ordained feature of our humanity, essential, on the whole, to the preservation of our nature as such.

      “Male and female He created them” refers precisely to this disposition which God has made instrinsic to our physical nature, along with the inclination to join with another in the way that perpetuates the species. Like most people blinded by the modern political theorists’ neglect of the natural family, you ignore the natural basis for human association, which is as much an obligation in human beings as it is in some animals, (though with a different existential consequence for our nature.)

      Having ignored the obligation that is the basis for the rights of the natural family (the primordial archetype of human association) you proceed to argue as if the right peaceable to assemble and the freedom of the press mentioned in the Constitution, have the same status as the right to life or liberty mentioned in the Declaration. But no purely voluntary human association has the status of an unalienable right. Unalienable rights are, all of them, associated with an obligation derived from the natural law. (This includes liberty, which derives from the inescapable obligation to choose between right and wrong. As you surely know, purporting not to choose is itself a choice.)

      Your confusion over the right to bear arms and the militia is connected with you failure to understand this. Both are rooted in the right to life, which is connected with the obligation to preserve our nature, as ordained by God. Contrary to you assumption that human individuals procure arms by themselves, our first arms are quite literally provided by God, and except for the equipment he included with them (hands with opposable thumbs, for instance) individuals would be hard put to make any others.

      Of course, our arms are so small and weak when we first come into the world that they are useless for self-preservation. Thought through in light of this fact, it is clear that the obligation to preserve our nature takes on a communal dimension, and that it must be understood in connection with the rights of the primordial, natural human community, which is the procreational family.

      It is through the experience of family life that human beings first recognized and acted upon the obligation to care for one another. If you read the posts in which I have discussed the natural rights of the family (a good sampling comes up if you search ‘gay marriage’ in the search box), you’ll find that it is by analyzing the relation between obligation and human freedom in the context of the family that we arrive at the paradigm of self-government, in the context of which the rationale for enforcing the protection of freedoms connected with the obligations of human society emerges.

      It is also in the context of the natural family that the relation between freedom and right is most immediately apparent. Parents have an obligation to care for their children. But in their natural condition, their children’s arms are insufficient to enforce this obligation. God has, however, so disposed our nature that our natural affections move us to accept it. Even so, we may choose to resist and turn away from that natural impulse. If and when we accept it, our acceptance offers a perfect example of the essence of natural right- which is the free decision to do what is required by the natural law, subject to no force but what derives from God’s disposition of our human nature.

      In light of this paradigm, human freedom is not the presumptuous assertion of autonomous authority you invoke, even though it does exist on account of our God ordained disposition self-consciously to emulate God’s activity of creation (beginning with the act of procreation). Out of respect for God’s disposition of our nature we choose to do what corresponds to His will for our good. On account of that correspondence it is a right choice, and a choice for right. This choice of right, being voluntary, is also an exercise of freedom. But because it comes in response to God’s disposition of our nature, it is has the character of obedience to the natural law. Moreover, the aim of the action it entails (procreation, the perpetuation of the species, the perpetuation of human nature) at one and the same time looks to the good of the whole, and cares for the good of all the individuals involved (the child as a needy being subject by necessity to the natural law, and the parents as beings exercising freedom yet obliged by God’s disposition of their nature to make the choice to care for the child, as they care for themselves.)

      America’s founders, informed and inspired by insights their Christian consciousness made possible, sought to establish a form of government that, like the family, affirmed the human capacity for self-government (i.e., government based on freely choosing to do right) while respecting the God-ordained obligation to respect, preserve and perpetuate human nature, individually and on the whole. The key to their understanding in this regard is the fact that the Declaration envisged governments instituted to secure unalienable rights, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

      This phrase should give us pause for thought. The people who institute a government are not yet living under the government they institute. What sense does it make to speak of them as “the governed.” It makes sense only if, in the act of instituting the government they are already under government. And this makes sense only when we remember the Declaration’s recognition of the laws of nature and of nature’s God, the government instituted by the Creator. The just powers of government are derived from the consent of those who already governed by God.

      You are free to see government (As Machiavelli, Marx and many others see it) as a human institution over which the just and the unjust have equal claim to reign. But the Declaration vision of the institution of self-government is the rule of righteous people acting to secure the exercise of rights, connected with their will for righteousness, as God determines it. There is an intensifying contest in the United States between people still loyal to this vision of government, based on the choice to uphold God’s standard of right; and those who want to draw America back to the ancient, ruthless paradigm of government in which freedom means power; “right” is just the word we use for whatever pleases the powerful; and law is the excuse we give ourselves for letting them oppress all those too weak or spiritless to resist.

      • Richard Chiu June 16, 2013, 1:25 am

        The majority of your post here is unworthy of reply (indeed, much of it isn’t intelligible enough for a reply to be useful).

        I will however absolutely refute the charge that I conflate freedom with mere liberty. Liberty consists merely of the absence of restrictions on behavior. Freedom is that sphere in which one’s own actions are determinative of the consequences to which one is subject.

        Indeed, respect for freedom often means permitting a loss of liberty. If you stab yourself, the loss of liberty you suffer (even short of death, which is likely in such a case) may be extreme, but your freedom is fully intact as long as the injury you suffer is the natural consequence of your action. If the power to injure yourself is taken away, then you have lost your freedom, even though you now have much more liberty to stab yourself as much as you like.

        One more essential component must be added to the operation of justice for freedom to exist. Not only must the natural consequences of an action affect the actor, but the action must be a matter of choice.

        God gave humans free will, not so that they could be subject to the operation of natural law, for they were already subject to it, nor to somehow escape the operations of natural law, for that is impossible even to God, but so that humans might be eligible for salvation.

        There is no moral consequence in an ant laboring for the survival of the hive rather than itself, because the ant has no choice in the matter. In a perfected world, ants will labor for the good of their hive, and the hive will repay this with all the necessities of an ant’s existence, but the ant will still be an ant. It does not have the capacity to choose to be anything else.

        It receives justice, but it has no freedom, because it has no choice in the matter.

        God did not create humans with “the possibility of freedom”, humans are endowed by God with the reality of free will, to enable the possibility of inheriting all that God has. Not collectively (for a collective behaves according to statistics, and does not have free will) but individually.

        You embrace a theological tradition that is, in certain important respects, incompatible with the concept of absolute laws to which even God must be subject. This means that there are limits to how far we can progress through theological tradition, I must simply reject much of Catholic teaching, just as I reject the idea of 72 virgins (or raisins, or whatever exactly it says) as a reward for the martyr in the cause of Jihad.

        I do have respect for much of Catholic teaching and theology, much of it represents the pinnacle of human philosophy, and it is substantially grounded on the recorded life of the Son of God, whose understanding and example of God’s laws of life transcends human apprehension. But where we disagree on something, resort to Catholic tradition is only effective in convincing me of what Catholicism teaches, it cannot convince me that those teachings are correct when they plainly contradict the principles of law.

        • alkeyes June 16, 2013, 2:32 am

          Your are of course right. If you believe in “absolute laws to which even God “must” be subject, nothing that I write will be intelligible to you, and, though you speak of it frequently, the idea of freedom is also unintelligible to you. This is what I have long suspected as I have read your comments. God is bound by the natural laws, but only because they are his will. He is their subject in the sense that his being is their substance and his action accounts for their existence. But if there is some “necessity” external to God which he is bound to respect, regardless of his will, then there is a being apart from God whose way of being constitutes that necessity. But then God would be neither the beginning nor the end, neither the Alpha nor the Omega, and therefore not the sovereign master of all that the Declaration relies upon.
          Though you speak of the Catholic tradition, your allusion to it is a rhetorical ploy. I have argued from the American tradition, and for a moment you accepted this as the premise for our discussion. Now that I have amply demonstrated that my understanding of right is consistent with the Declaration tradition, you speak as if I rely upon some other. However, as my purpose in writing is to prompt all Americans to think about the things that are currently threatening our constitutional self-government, I see no reason to wander from the solid ground that that unites me with my fellow countrymen.

          • Richard Chiu June 17, 2013, 7:28 am

            The idea that, if there is something which can constrain God, it must therefore have the same quality of positive existence as does God and thus functionally be a sort of superior to God, is not peculiar to Catholicism. But it was not firmly entrenched in the minds or ideas of all of the Founding Fathers, nor is it either a fundamental premise or conclusion of the Declaration of Independence.

            The conditions of material existence, and particularly human existence, which we may term natural law, are indeed subject to God. The majority of the Founding Fathers would certainly agree with this. But very few of them would fully accept the idea posited in Catholic thought that God is both identical with absolute law and at the same time has characteristics of self such as the capacity for love.

            Real freedom, both the justice of natural consequences being attached to actions, and the individual’s real choice of actions, including those contrary to the commandments of God, is an absolute requirement for salvation. God cannot violate this law, by either offering salvation to those who “earned” it without the exercise of their own volition or by obviating the requirements of justice.

            This is why universal salvation is impossible, not because God has insufficient love of His children to offer it, but because justice and choice are requirements which even God must respect.

            I do not say that the men who drafted the founding documents of America all shared a common doctrine distinct from that of Catholicism, just that they were not all doctrinaire Catholics. They did not all partake of a view that made the existence of free will nothing more than a divine whim.

            They may not have all inferred that the exercise of freedom is a requirement for salvation that God cannot waive. Only some of them were definite in their assertions that even God had to be bound by law, not as a result of whim, because law was whatever happened to please God to do, but because there existed laws that God Himself could not change even to avoid the damnation of many of His children.

            To acknowledge that real freedom is a true necessity for salvation is much easier with such an understanding. I do not know that such acknowledgment is impossible without such an understanding, though.

          • alkeyes June 17, 2013, 2:51 pm

            If there is any sense in which the Supreme Being “has to” do something, then he is obviously not the Supreme Being. You persist in speaking as if in and of itself God’s being is subject to the distinction between “is” and “ought”, which implies that God’s Being is in some respect imperfect, incomplete. But if God’s being is not one, absolute, perfect and complete, then He is not the perfection of Being, the completion of Being, the Being of Being to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken away. But what then is the import of Deuteronomy 6:4- “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

            If this does not mean that he is one in being, then there must be some point at which His being ends, and the being beyond His being begins. But then He is finite, not infinite being. It means as well that there is some being that it is beyond His power to be, so that He is not omnipotent, and does not rule the whole, nor does the whole depend for its being entirely on His being..

            The notion that it is somehow peculiarly a Catholic logic that rejects this denial of God’s omnipresence and omnipotence isn’t unintelligible, it’s just untrue.

            None of this is to deny that God’s law constitutes an absolute standard for us, which we are bound to respect. For us, God’s law defines what in prospect, ought to be, and what in consequence will be, whether we will it or not. But in and of Himself, God simply is, for there is no prospect that escapes the purview of His being, and no “part” of His being that falls short of His perfection. For if the Being of God is both perfect and imperfect, then He is not one; He is not the be all and end all, “the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:6), the one to whom “the Son himself will also be subjected…that God may be all in all.”(1 Corinthians 15:28).

            In this respect, God is the substance of perfect freedom. Subjecting Him, as you seem to do, to a will beyond His own; confining Him, as you seem to do, with some being beyond His own; you deny that He is the complete essence of freedom, and therefore use the word only equivocally. You do so in order to posit laws that constrain God; laws which, if men can master them, will make them God’s master. This is the project of those who exalt science in denial of God’s existence and authority. They openly or covertly promise that science will be the vehicle by and through which Eve’s ambition will be corrected. But the correction will not come by way of reconciliation with God in and through Jesus Christ. It will come by fully digesting the fruit of the knowledge Eve grasped at, until it has transformed human being in a way that surpasses Eve’s ambition. For these progeny of the spirit of Cain do not seek to make man like God. They seek to to make man superior to God. They pretend that the laws of nature are chains that bind the will of God, so that they may become the sling wherewith scientific man propels himself above God, and makes himself the one who exercises the freedom which a deceitful rendition of God’s being denies to God Himself.

            It may well be that some people who call themselves Christians believe that this the way to salvation. But it is a way that goes through man-made God, rather than through Christ, in and through whom God made man. As it perverts and wishes to overturn the only way that truly leads to salvation in God (which is Jesus Christ), it is more anti-Christ than it is Christian in any way at all.

            It may well be that some people who call themselves
            Christians believe that this the way to salvation. But it is a way that
            goes through man-made God, rather than through Christ, in and through whom God
            made man. As it perverts and overturns the only way that truly leads to
            salvation in God (which is Jesus Christ), it is more anti-Christ than it is
            Christian in any way at all.

            That
            being said, was this man-exalting ambition the spirit of America’s founding?
            God forbid.

          • Richard Chiu June 19, 2013, 6:25 am

            Again, you resort on to accusing me of saying the exact opposite of what I have said. But I will at least answer your leading question.

            God must exist. If He does not, then He cannot be at all, let alone be a supreme being.

            This may seem a tautology, but you have not entertained any more subtle idea.

          • alkeyes June 19, 2013, 7:20 pm

            Your tautology is a sophistical word game. It plays upon the fact that what we are discussing is the way God is in, of and for Himself. This is, of course, beyond our understanding. Therefore such a discussion eventually resolves itself into two opposing theses, both of which seem valid according to the necessary rules and conditions of our understanding. In our present discussion, “must” implies a ruling imperative, an inexorably effective command. “Freedom” (as such, i.e., in its perfect and therefore absolute way of being) implies being utterly impervious to any such command.

            As I suspect you know, such theses make manifest what Kant called the antinomy of Pure Reason. Our discussion reflects, in particular, what Kant cataloged as the third conflict of the transcendental ideas, that which opposes the freedom of necessity (the laws of nature which differentiate particular objects from within the undifferentiated continuum of being itself as such) to the necessity of freedom (which alone allows our understanding to comprehend as such all the discrete phenomena of the world. Your sophistry consists in exploiting the antimony for rhetorical purposes, to achieve a purely linguistic victory by confounding the minds of those who sense, but are ill equipped to articulate, the seemingly irresolvable self-conflict of reason it involves.

            Whatever some may hold to be the errors and inadequacies in Kant’s Critique, I do not believe they have discredited the justice of his intention. He aimed to give exclusively empirical reason (and therefore modern scientific rationality) its due, but without licensing the sophistical abuse of reason as a weapon for confounding the common sense that sustains the moral confidence of people of goodwill.

            Tragically for humanity, the thinkers who afterward exploited his work (e.g., Fichte, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx) did not share Kant’s decent ambition. In this they differ from me, but also from the prevalent founders of the United States. In my political thinking as in my other political activities, I respect the American Declaration of Independence. I do so precisely because it acknowledges the primacy of being in, of and for itself as such (God), and its importance for human moral understanding, including especially its importance for the understanding of justice that is vital to decent political life. The practical ground of this moral understanding takes account of the fact that , as self-conscious beings, we are aware of a source of knowledge not derived through the medium of our understanding, and therefore not subject to the rules and conditions that affect its internal self-consistency. “I think therefore I am” is not a statement of priority, but a simple recognition that every activity, affirms being itself, even the one that requires the negation of being in order to establish the boundaries that differentiate one form of being from another. (What the German word “Anstoss” denominates in Fichte’s account of self-consciousness.)

            In this respect, our knowledge of God requires no leap of faith. What makes it possible is precisely the willingness to quiet our restless, bounding ambition. So the Psalmist says “Come behold the works of the LORD…Be still, and know that I am God.” And Christ says “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Wisdom begins in fear, but it ends, and therefore aims at, repose. Thus it escapes the antinomy of freedom and law, by way of the common sense that acknowledges God as the one in whom both are reconciled because all are content with being lawfully free.

            It may not be possible for us to comprehend this consistently by way of our empirical science, but it is, by God, an existential possibility for us and the communities we compose, if and when they are informed by the knowledge of truth and life He instills in us through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) For in Christ, as for God Himself, law and freedom are one.

          • Richard Chiu June 20, 2013, 2:02 am

            So you are unable to even entertain the entirely unsubtle notion that God must exist in order to be the Supreme being…that explains much about the direction this conversation has gone.

            The idea that the freedom God enjoys is totally irresponsible, that God cannot suffer any consequences of His own actions, necessarily implies that the existence of consequences for our actions is an imperfection in our freedom.

            Human freedom is imperfect in several senses, the lack of complete control over our own actions, the limited selection of actions possible to a human, and limited knowledge of the natural consequences of our actions. But the existence of differing consequences for differing actions could only be considered a defect in freedom by the strain of logic that contends that God needn’t exist to be the Supreme being.

          • alkeyes June 21, 2013, 11:57 am

            From our human perspective, the absolute freedom of God obviously means His being without existence, at least in the beginning. Otherwise He would not be the master and source of all existence, its self-sufficient first cause. At its root, existence means being which stands apart from itself. But in the beginning God simply is- absolute, undifferentiated, and for us incomprehensible being, being in, of, and for itself alone. (which is why “being” or “the being being” is the name by which God identifies Himself to Moses for Israel’s sake. Exodus 3:14) I mistakenly thought you had at some time dwelt upon this crucial moment of ontological truth in the Bible, and its implications for what existence means, especially to us.

            We have reached the point where you are refusing to think about what you read. Until you repent of this refusal, what good can it do either of us to offer you more food for thought? Perhaps there will come a time for us to continue this essential discussion, but it is not here and now.

          • Richard Chiu June 22, 2013, 4:18 am

            To exist, something does not stand apart from itself but rather stands out from what does not qualify as existing.

            It matters little where you acquired or developed the idea that, being the foundation of all other existence, God somehow must therefore not have existed in the first place. Regardless of the authority of the source within Catholicism, the notion is obviously false.

  • Lt Frank Moore June 1, 2013, 6:01 pm

    Your comments are right on and make a critical point – progressives co-opt the language to introduce as valid, agendas that do not belong in the political debate, leading it where it would not otherwise go. Thankyou.

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