Back to the Basics:
Straightening Up America, VIII
Straightening Up America, VIII
By Virginia Armstrong, Ph.D., National ChairmanThroughout this year of 2013, we have been responding to a question that is central to America’s current chaos and future condition: “How far can you make a man bend over backwards before he breaks?” This anguished cry was heard in one of the most widely acclaimed musical productions of the Twentieth Century, “Fiddler on the Roof.” And it is the thought with which we have begun our latest Court Watch Briefings. We are asking, Has America bent over backwards too far in its spiritual, moral, and constitutional life — too far from our Constitution and its Judeo-Christian roots? Are we as a nation in sore need of “a fundamental straightening up process”? Going “back to the basics” gives us the answer.
More remains to be said on this vital subject, but we conclude this year of 2013 with a summary answer to our question. Here we consider the “Basics of the Judeo-Christian System of Law” and five truths explaining the “Benefits of this System” to society in general.
The Basics of the Judeo-Christian System of Law
- The ultimate reality in the universe is the infinite (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibeneficient, triune, immutable) yet personal (rational, volitional, emotional, relational, creative) God who is the Sovereign of the universe.
- As Sovereign, God created the universe and man. He also created, and enforces, a body of Higher Law that human beings are obligated to observe and obey. Man’s disobedience will be judged and punished by the Sovereign God.
- God’s Higher Law consists of absolute truths and norms. This Law is expressed in both natural law (nature and the hearts of men) and revealed law (the Bible). Revealed law is a more objective, perfect, and complete expression of God’s Law than natural law.
- The heart of God’s law is expressed in the Ten Commandments. Both the First and Second Tables of the Commandments embody both specific norms as well as general principles applicable to all of society and to be enforced by civil law.
- God created man in His image, sinless (a creature of dignity and value) yet finite (limited and contingent, incapable of functioning without help outside of himself). But man chose to disobey God (“sin”) and consequently became a creature of depravity (incapable of saving himself from His sinful nature and conduct). Because of both God’s nature and man’s nature, God established civil law as one among several coordinated societal institutions to both restrain man and to help him.
- The primary purposes of the institution of civil law are to maintain peace and order, punish wrongdoing, and promote right doing throughout society for the common good.
This section of our “Briefing” borrows from the work of David Barton, to whom we express our great gratitude for his pioneering leadership in revealing and reviving America’s Christian history. Barton outlines “five distinct societal benefits” of our system of law as understood by our Founders [note: the world “religious” was understood by the Founders as denoting specifically the Christian religion].
- First, “Christian principles produced a civilized society.” As Daniel Webster explained:
Man is not only an intellectual but he is also a religious being, and his religious feelings and habits require cultivation. Let the religious element in man’s nature be neglected — let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self-interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority — and he becomes the creature of selfish passion or blind fanaticism.
- Furthermore, “Our specific form of government would not survive without Christian principles.” This truth is summarized by John Adams in a statement we have quoted previously: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
An expansion of this idea was expressed by U. S. House Speaker Robert Winthrop when he declared that:
Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or a power without them, either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or the bayonet.
- The third practical benefit for the world of Christian principles was “good citizenship.” Benjamin Franklin made this point clear when he wrote to Thomas Paine his (Franklin’s) response to ideas expressed by Paine in his Age of Reason:
[T]hink how great a portion of mankind. . . have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue. . . . I would advise you therefore not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person. . . . If men are so wicked with religion what would they be if without it.
- A fourth general benefit of Christian principles as understood by our Founders was their “elevation of science, literature, knowledge, and national stature which the Founders believed had consistently proved had accompanied the open promotion of Christian principles.” John Witherspoon declared that “It is certain, I think, that human science and religion have kept company together and greatly assisted each other’s progress in the world [hardly supportive of today’s radical anti-Christian evolutionists!].” And Dr. Benjamin Rush, agreed, asserting that “[T]he greatest discoveries in science have been made by Christian philosophers and . . . there is most knowledge . . . where there is the most Christianity.”
- Finally, “Teaching Christian principles produced a cohesive value system necessary for the successful government of a nation composed of millions of individuals from [diverse backgrounds and groups].” Public education was to be a vital instrument in inculcating throughout society these common Christina values. President George Washington as early as 1789 declared that schools were to teach the “religion, morality, and knowledge” which was “necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.” In 1844 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “a public school must instruct in the general principles of Christianity” (Vidal v. Girard’s Executors). [In many of our previous “Briefings” we have explained and illustrated the necessity of society’s having a common core of Judeo-Christian values.]
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