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Common Ground?

We hear today compromise is needed to get things done. But what exactly does this mean? Surely compromise requires common ground? This article explores some items likely to appear in the Left’s platform for this and next year’s elections, and why those items contradict our natural rights and biblical governing principles. While aimed at Christians, the arguments should matter to anyone who wants to truly remain free.

The Left’s position shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2012, Ohio’s Gov. Strickland presented an amendment at the Democratic National Convention to add the statement “Our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values we’ve expressed in our party’s platform.” Two-thirds of the delegates present needed to say yes to add the statement to their platform. Three times a voice vote was called for and three times the delegates said no.

I’ll start by looking at the issue of rights before moving on to governance. This article is somewhat long, but it’s important to discuss the whole and not just parts in a series. Besides, it will take less time than listening to one of the Left’s speeches, and contain more content.

A Different View of Rights

Rights can be positive or negative. This doesn’t mean good or bad, rather think of them as a force or power. Negative ones repel while positive rights attract. Rights can also come from God or man. Man was created by God, and we’ve received gifts of God’s love we call natural rights.[i] They are grounded in His goodness. Only God is inherently good. His natural rights are changeless and timeless. Man is not inherently good. Human rights are grounded in man’s changeable character. Through God’s act of creation, His rights and laws supersede man’s.

Our natural rights are almost exclusively negative, whereas human rights are almost entirely positive. As God’s nature is good, His natural rights come down to instructing us to avoid evil. On the other hand positive human rights direct us as to what we are to do. The Left has recently voiced many positive human rights such as abortion, infanticide, same sex marriage, and gender choice—just to name a few. Positive rights always infringe on negative rights. In fact, they often infringe on other positive (human) rights as well.

As negative rights instruct us in the few things we are to avoid doing, the rest is up to us—through our choices. Those choices order society. Positive rights, on the other hand, either tell you what to do or inform you about benefits you are to receive. Man creates these rights through law, and it is the law supporting positive rights that orders society. This difference has profound implications for justice.

How Right’s Impact on Justice

Within negative right societies, our choices create rules and society keeps those bringing good—the ones it benefits from—and drops what doesn’t work. Law only comes in to play to remove instances where injustice occurs. Legislative power is confined to those instances, and law makers are stewards of society’s rules. Justice in large part comes from the people itself. This requires a people be moral to effectively carry out justice.

Compare that to what is called justice in positive rights societies. Rules within such societies come only from law, and law does not exist until written by the law makers. Over time power becomes unlimited and absolute, and rests entirely in the law maker’s hands. Justice becomes what they say it is at the moment. Man’s values provide the moral basis underlying the liberation theology present today and many of the so-called human rights today’s Left trafficks (see above).

Some items likely to appear in the Left’s upcoming platform include infanticide, gun control, education, equal rights, healthcare, immigration, and climate change. We’ll take a quick look at each positive right before moving to governance.

Infanticide and Gun Control

Seems like a strange combination, but it’s not. Both concern our natural right to life. We all received the gift of life from our Creator. Life is not to be taken by another, for a man will be held accountable by God for shedding another man’s blood.[ii]

Accepting a gift given in love creates a moral obligation to return love. Man has the free will to choose otherwise, but such a choice is morally wrong—it is unrighteous. The Left has deemed man alone determines when life begins, and therefore when taking life is immoral. When man makes his own values, any exception puts everyone at risk.

Taking any life is wrong. Abortion and infanticide are murder as all life is sacred. With the natural right to life comes the duty to fulfill our purpose by becoming good. That cannot be done if a life is taken. We also have a duty to protect another’s life when someone seeks to do them harm. Justice is about accountability for one’s actions. It is virtuous as protecting life is good.

Gun Control

This is where guns come into the picture. It’s true that guns kill people, but only when a human being chooses to pull the trigger and take a life. A choice worthy of the killer’s death as the deliberate taking of another life, except in self-defense, cannot be undone. No restitution is possible.

The Left wants you to believe at issue are people or things. But it’s not, ideas matter. They want you to believe just taking away guns makes everything okay. It won’t. Criminals choose not to follow the law. What the Left wants through ‘fixing’ gun control laws is to treat an effect whose cause is an idea. An idea the Left’s ideology promotes as their ideas turn man away from God. If you want to change behavior, then you must first change the ideas you hold.

Equal Rights

The so-called Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) asks us to embrace a corrupt view of man’s nature. We share an equality of nature and have a natural right that shared nature be recognized. One person should be treated no differently than another.

God could have chosen to make many different people during creation, but He did not. We’re all descended from the same man—Adam. We therefore all share the same nature and kinship. The ERA creates a positive human right making a distinction between male and female where none is to exist. It is another lie.

Civil rights legislation serves as an example of what will likely happen. It too was well intended, removing discrimination based on race, creed, color, or religion. Racism is seeing people through the lens of race, what they can observe instead of who they are. This legislation institutionalized a kind of racism through affirmative action and other such programs, and created a class of people whose purpose prevents whatever division exists from going away—because they’ve derived their living maintaining the division. It will be no different should the ERA ever be enacted. The battlefield will just broaden and additional people enslaved in the name of ‘equality.’ An equality based on shared misery rather than man’s nature.

Greater peace comes from observing our natural rights. As they are negative, we make our own choices. Man is more content when making his own choices, when he can take steps to influence his outcomes. Positive rights remove our ability to choose; creating greater division, jealousy, and discord. The fruit of man turned away from God.

Healthcare

This leads us into healthcare. Healthcare should be all about choice, our choice. We were created with free will—freedom. Free will is a positive attribute. One essential to fulfilling our purpose. That purpose entails learning to discern good from evil, thereby becoming good as God is good. We have a natural right to choose—that is, to do.

We should be the ones making health related choices with our healthcare providers. It should not be either government or insurers. That is backwards, but exactly what the so-called affordable care act (Obamacare) did. It flaunted a false compassion in order to justify its existence and requirements.

False Charity

Obamacare purports to do this in the name of the poor. Those without access to healthcare, but Obamacare didn’t provide healthcare. Instead it forced the purchase of insurance where government directed the terms, conditions, and cost. Your choice became a choice among what government chose to offer you. An untruthful choice, and another lie.

Such actions are false compassion because charity isn’t the government’s responsibility. It is ours. Christ’s sermon on the mount directed what we are to know (hear) and do. Following God’s commands puts our actions on a solid foundation. He did not give that sermon to the Roman or Jewish governing authorities, nor to the religious leaders of the Sanhedrin. He gave it to the individuals who came to hear him as to what they should know and do, and therefore what we should also know and do.

We are to act with charity out of our means. Many early schools, hospitals, libraries, and other such institutions were created not by government or religious organizations, but by individuals who had done well in life and wanted to give back to their communities. It should be no different today, but government regulations (read law) prevents much of that from happening—often in the name of ‘fairness.’

Education

Healthcare is about choice—doing. Education is about knowing. We have a natural right to know God. Man was created to know Him. He gave us His image. An inward image, our ability to reason. Although it is a very remote image, there is also nothing else closer in all creation.

We are not born with the knowledge we need to become good. We must learn, and we are especially adapted to do so unlike any other creature in all of creation. Classical education did this by presenting models and anti-models of behavior—that is, morality. These came from both classical texts and the Bible. God, through His nature, is the source of all morality. Proof of this comes not only from His act of creation, but in creating the things enabling us to survive and thrive.

But we’ve removed this moral content from our education. Government has inserted itself, and since there must be separation between church and state, there is no room for faith based teaching within education. Once again, this is backwards. We’ll see the difference reflected in the two governance models in a moment.

For now, America was founded upon biblical ideas and principles. Those principles separate the spheres of governance and religion. Each has a very specific purpose. Religion’s purpose is to educate people about what it means to live according to God’s requirements.[iii] However, not everyone chooses to do what is right (back to gun control). Government exists to see the virtue of justice is executed when someone fails to do what is right. Government’s purpose is to protect our natural rights. It is to do so impartially and with an even-hand.

Governance

It’s now time to talk about governance, and several policies presenting other corruptions of biblical principles—and our natural rights.

Immigration

We come back to justice again. Justice is the virtue whereby we each receive what we are due. It’s about accountability for our actions, both good and bad. We’ll begin with a bit of history, and then move into the related natural rights and duties.

Let’s take a quick look at immigration into ancient Israelite society. It took immigrants three generations to enter Jewish society, and some were never allowed to become part of it.[iv] Why? I mentioned earlier in negative rights based societies man’s choices created rules. These rules consist of customs, standards of behavior, common practices, etc. Most of these are unwritten. Law is a small part of these rules as it is limited to specific instances where following the rules leads to an unjust outcome or to punish for violating the rules.

It takes time to learn these rules. It is best done by living within the culture, and making choices yourself. Learning to discern the good from the bad. Why? Because people wishing to enter Israelite society were to voluntarily set aside whatever norms they had followed before. They were to accept the norms of Israelite society, norms derived from God’s law and the natural rights we each possess. Judges were not to show any deference to rich or poor,[v] nor make any distinction between Israelite or foreigner.[vi] One law was to rule them all.

Open Border Implications

We are called not just as individuals, but to also be a single people. Man has the natural rights to assemble, communicate, and receive justice. We also have the duties to support the common good and serve others. These cannot be done unless we share common values—God’s values. Freedom is not license to do whatever you want. Our individual choices are not to infringe upon another person’s natural rights. That can only come about when negative rights are recognized.

Those advocating open borders and unlimited immigration are making the issue about people and not ideas. They advocate a positive human right whose freedom is license to do whatever one wants. It is simply wrong. It is anti-biblical because such notions turn man toward himself and away from God. Those supporting immigration regardless of law advocate anarchy and lawlessness, man making his own values and disregarding God’s. Man’s rights and values lead to division instead of unity. We cannot be a single people without God’s principles and values.

Climate Change

We mentioned stewardship earlier. We have the natural right to keep the fruits of our labor.[vii] With this right comes the duty of stewardship.[viii] Creation does not belong to man. It is God’s.[ix] God entrusted its care to man.

Man was to care not just for creation, but his fellow man as well.[x] We are to use the material things of the world to help us with our spiritual development—back to discerning good and evil. This stewardship is a form a charity for those of the present and future generations. However, that does not mean we are not to use what we have. We are instead to use it with wisdom (another virtue).[xi]

Those advocating climate change legislation focus on an end of achieving some outcome equality based on material wealth. This is not what we are called to do. By voluntarily embracing our spiritual calling, those in need should be helped as we’re called to serve others. No country in modern history has provided as much aid, both private and public, as America.

It is not just the ends, but the means used to achieve them that matter. Climate change amounts to man’s agreement with himself on the values to be used to redistribute wealth in the name of ‘fairness,’ when nothing could be further from the truth. Life is not about the material things. It is about the ideas we choose to hold and the opportunity to become better. Those ideas influence the choices we consider and the actions we take. Those actions in turn shape our character. They determine who we choose to become. We can only achieve our purpose of becoming good when turned toward God—the source of all good.

Governance Models

There are two contrary and incompatible sets of ideas shaping all societies. One relies on biblical principles and values, the other on man’s. We’ll close with a brief look at each.

Biblical Model

The biblical model relies on scripture. God as creator is creation’s ruler, its king. He has the absolute power to create, end, or change anything at any time.[xii] We are His,[xiii] and He governs His creation.[xiv] Man rejected that rule.[xv]

Religious authority is to teach what it means to be God’s people. How to make choices and act. It is charged with instilling God’s morality within His people. It is this moral basis that enables a society to exist where our individual choices bring order. Leaders are to come from the people, be elected by the people, to serve the people.[xvi] By serving the people, they in turn serve God. Governance exists to serve the people.

This model can be diagrammed as follows.

 

Rights of Man Model

This model has its roots in writers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau. But the ideas are far older and come from Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. It is a variation of the model used by the state religion societies such as Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, Aztecs, Mayans, etc.[xvii]

Within this second type of society equality is not based upon our nature; but rather on our skills, abilities, and knowledge—what we can do. Instead of all being equal, some or more equal than others. Within these groups (classes) there must exist at least one group with the capabilities to rule. This group should rule because of the skills and abilities they possess. The people exist to see that society is successfully carried forward. The people exist to serve its state (government).

If God exists, He is to be placed under government control. Within this type of society, belief in God is viewed as a two-edged sword. On the one hand this belief is useful because it instills morality in the people, and a moral people is easier to rule. On the other hand, it also teaches belief in an after-life. The latter poses a threat to man’s governance, because man may choose to obey God instead of the governing body. This threat is controlled by placing belief in God under government control. This is why there is so much animosity towards Christianity and Christians in America today.

The rights of man model can be diagrammed as follows.

 

Conclusion

These two models cannot coexist. America was founded on the biblical model. Today’s Left is trying to transform America into a society based on the rights of man model. It doesn’t matter whether they call themselves communists, fascists, progressives, socialists, or something else. It’s all the same thing and comes from the same root.

We can change directions at any time, because we are free to change the ideas we hold. Accepting ideas is the first step. It must be followed by both education and action—knowing and doing. We can choose to do nothing. That is a choice. But choosing nothing means you accept whatever change comes about. What will you choose? If you accept your natural rights, will you also perform your duty?


[i] More about the basis of our natural rights and their duties can be found in, Wolf, Dan, A Handbook of Natural Rights, Living Rightly Publications, 2018.

[ii] Genesis 1:26.

[iii] Deuteronomy 6:1-2 and 30:11-4, 1 John 2:3-6.

[iv] Aquinas, St. Thomas, pp. 243-6, Summa Theologica, Benziger Bros., 1947. Part 1a2ae, Question 105, Article 3.

[v] Leviticus 19:15-6.

[vi] Deuteronomy 24:14-5, Zechariah 7:9-10, and Numbers 15:15-6.

[vii] 1 Corinthians 3:7-9 and Ecclesiastes 2:24-5, 5:18-20, 2:18-9.

[viii] Genesis 1:29-30.

[ix] Psalm 50:10-2 and 95:3-5.

[x] Genesis 2:15, Hebrews 2:6-8, and 1 Peter 4:8-10.

[xi] There are many examples here. Some include 2 Corinthians 1:35, Jeremiah 22:13, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 John 3:17-8, Leviticus 19:9-10, and 25:35-7.

[xii] Isaiah 41:21-4.

[xiii] Isaiah 43:1-3.

[xiv] 1 Peter 2:9-10 and Hosea 1:10.

[xv] 1 Samuel 8:5-9, 12:19-21 and Daniel 4:26.

[xvi] Deuteronomy 1:13-7, Matthew 20:25-8, Isaiah 5:20-3, and Romans 2:1-11.

[xvii] Wolf, Dan, The Light and the Rod, forthcoming.


Posted in: Governance

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About Dan Wolf

Dan WolfMy goal is that my writing will help you to get started on your own journey of discovery, or help you along the way on a journey you may have already begun. Our Founders considered education, religion, morality, and virtue to be the cornerstones for any successful society. Being successful requires understanding both the languages of reason and faith; reason alone is insufficient.