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Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

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Friday, November 13, 2009

From The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible

Emphasis, where present, is mine and in bold:
The most secular, rationalistic, and self-consciously non-Christian of all the Founders of the United States--the aristocratic Virginian and slave-owner Thomas Jefferson--ended up writing the most biblically charged words ever enshrined in a political document:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," he wrote, "that all men are created equal and 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; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it."

Once again, we moderns are so brainwashed and asleep, we fail to appreciate the radical, unprecedented quality of those seventy-nine words--still often denied by totalitarians, judges, and college professors the world over.

As described in the Declaration of Independence, human rights are not privileges dispensed or withdrawn at the discretion of the State. Rather, they are gifts from God which no prince or potentate, no State or sovereign, may take away.

That is the key insight behind the American revolution, not democracy or majority rule--and it is derived not from secular philosophy, but from biblical religion.

"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records," said Alexander Hamilton. "They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

This is a sentiment as old as Genesis: God declared that he made the human being (adam) in his image (tselem) and after his likeness (damut) and gave to him authority to rule over all the earth.

This is also what St. Paul was referring to, writing to the Romans, when he said that knowledge of God can be seen through creation and his law, the knowledge of good and evil, is written on the human heart:

"For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them," Paul said. "Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks" (Rom 1:19-20).

Thus, the concept of "self-evident" truths did not originate with the French enlightenment or Rene Descartes but actually dates back at least to the Apostle Paul, writing in 60 AD.

Paul adds that, even though the Gentiles did not have the benefit of the Torah (instruction), certain basic standards of morality can be known even without special divine revelation.

"For when the Gentiles who do not have the (Roah) law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts" (Rom 2:14).

Modern secularists believe that the idea of a self-evident human equality that pervades the U.S. Declaration of Independence came primarily from the agnostic intellectuals of the French Enlightenment; and that the theistic sentiments expressed by Jefferson and other Founders were mere rhetoric, designed to curry favor with Christian colonists.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

While some of the Founders (like Jefferson or Ben Franklin) were not orthodox Christians by any stretch of the imagination, neither were they atheists.

They were steeped, from childhood, in the stories and values and ideas of the Bible; and most believed that, as John Adams put it, "the Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality, and the most refined policy, that ever was conceived upon earth. It is the most republican book in the world."

Men like Washington and John Adams, Ben Franklin and James Madison, were warriors and farmers, writers and statesmen, not parsons.

But a raw religious faith was important to them. George Washington, for example, upon taking command of the Continental Army, ordered that each day begin with a formal prayer in every unit.

"The General commands all officers, and soldiers, to pay strict obedience to the Orders of the Continental Congress, and by their unfeigned , and pious observance of their religious duties, incline the Lord, and Giver of Victory, to prosper our arms," the Order went.

As philosopher Michael Novak argues in his remarkable 2002 book, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding, the revolutionary political philosophy that gave birth to government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" was based on two primary sources:
1) A simple but deeply rooted biblical religiousity that saw human rights as self-evident and "unalienable" gifts of a benevolent and almighty Creator.

2) A "plain reason" that grew out of rugged, practical experience in self-government.
Revolution based solely on "plain reason," without the moral restraint of religious experience and the fear of God in rulers and legislators, gave birth to the nihilistic atheism, cold calculation, and ultimately bloody massacres of the French Revolution.

The American Founding was different.

It was, as the Great Seal of the United States found on every dollar bill puts it, to be a novus ordo seclorum, a new order of the ages. It was a bold, unprecedented attempt to work out a system of self-government and political freedom that recognized the "unalienable rights" endowed by the Creator and bestowed upon "all" men--not just upon a favored class.

Without the fear of God that religion bestowed upon arrogant and powerful men, the Founders knew, tyranny was never far away.

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?" Thomas Jefferson asked.

George Washington agreed.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports," Washington said in his Farewell Address. "Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."

The widespread, stubborn, not always orthodox or churchgoing but sincere religious faith of ordinary Americans--that Europeans and media elites find so childish and unsophisticated--has been a hallmark of the American republic since the very beginning.

According to Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who penned Democracy in America in 1830, "for the Americans, the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of one without the other."
I have often been amused by people who, reading Jefferson's words in the Declaration--let's look at them again, shall we?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and 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...
are at no inconsiderable pains to explain them away. They so obviously and naturally refer to God that those who opine that the United States is without a Christian foundation must somehow explain them away or ignore them. So far, the "explanation" that I have found most amusing is the simple assertion that he must not have really meant it.

Oh. Perhaps he didn't "mean it" when it came to the rest of the Declaration, too.

But leaving idiotic explanations for Jefferson's words aside, there you have it, right there in the Declaration of Independence: precisely what I have been saying ad nauseam for months: the purpose of government is to secure man's God-given rights. That's what it's for.

Government's job is not to make you comfortable. It is not to make you financially secure. It is not to take care of your health. It is not to "spread the wealth around." Its job is to protect your God-given rights. This is not something I am making up. It's right there in one of our two most crucial founding documents.

Why so insistently hammer on "God-given rights?" Very simple: without God, you have no rights! Look yet again: endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...
Strike out "Creator" and what do you have? endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...
You have squat, that's what you have. Without the Creator, without God, where do those rights come from? Other men? Who gave them the authority? Who do they think they are? Do "rights" even exist under those circumstances? I think not. If other men--society, that is--determines what rights you do and do not have, ultimately, you don't have any rights. What society determines is law. If society can grant rights--"rights" to health care, for example--it can take those "rights" away.

A "right" that can be taken away--not simply ignored, mind you, but taken away--by a dictator's decree or a public vote is no right at all. It is simply a temporary privilege, misnamed so as to mislead the rubes. And a view of government that doesn't recognize the concept of God-given rights and that government's job is to protect them is a view of government that ultimately puts them at risk.

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