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« Adding to the Law of God | Main | The Cart and the Horse »

Comments

A'ilina

Now, it has been a very, very long time since I read something so optimistic. Great post.

Philip

John Stuart Mill said: "If all mankind save one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing the solitary individual than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is that it is robbing the whole human race, present and future--those who dissent from the opinion even more than those who hold it. For if the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; and, it wrong, they lose the clear and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error."

You mentioned a study that showed "red" females were producing more babies than "blue" females thus the "red" could possibly win on numbers alone. Well, herein lines the PROBLEM of democracy because when by sheer numbers, an ideology is pressed upon a minority, there is an evil done. I think the quote shows why. I am not saying that conservatives are wrong or anything of that sort (that is another debate altogether) I am just saying that I hope sheer weight of numbers isn't the deciding factor in who is right and who is wrong and instead the proper solutions to problems are what are weighed and balanced. Just a thought.

Dory

Great comments, Philip. You take the subject away from where I was going with it and basically challenge the presuppositions that underlie my optimism when I look at the data mentioned. But that's okay, we can go there.

First, though, of course, we are a republic, not a democracy. If we were a democracy there would be far more suppression of the minority than there is now--in some respects to the benefit of those with a Christian world view and in some respects to our disadvantage. I would not advocate we become a democracy.

Second, you assume that the Christian ethic is one that would "impress" an ideology upon a minority. In fact, the biblical view of government restricts the civil government quite a bit and does not give the civil government the authority to enforce all of its law. It may be a "sin" if I hate my neighbor because of his race or because I covet his BMW, but it is not a crime, and no one but God can judge me for it. Likewise, no government is authorized to insist that anyone believe anything or say anything (or worship God or refrain from worship in any particular way). In most respects, if the Biblical model of government was followed, the unbeliever in our culture would live freer than he is now in the sense that he would have more choices on how to live his life, more control of his own resources, more privacy, and the like. In most (not all) cases you will find that Christians complain about civil government having too much control and influence, not too little.

(I will concede that governments with Christian influence have never applied biblical principles perfectly and where they do not they are as guilty of tyranny as any other. No human government has ever been faultless.)

My third point may be more of a question than a point. I do not know what your presuppositions are in regards to ethics. I am not a philosophy expert, but if my memory serves me well (perhaps Philip or someone else can fill in the inevitable gaps and errors in my memory)J. S. Mill was one of those who sought to make a natural determinism compatable with human freedom of will and his ethic was basically utilitarian. So I think he would say that through natural evolutionary processes we inherit certain moral instincts (such as pain is "bad") and then we use reason to act upon that instinct and formulate an ethic that works to create less of the things instinctively known to be bad and more of the things instinctively known to be good. Warning: If I am wrong on that characterization then what follows may be pointless. ;-)

So someone with that point of view must make ethical judgments based upon his own inherited moral instincts and his own reason and then try to order society by that. In order to order society, one must impose law upon others. In this case the imposition is one of a uniquely inherited set of instincts (that others may not share) and reasoned judgments (that others may not share) that may, because of utilitarianism sacrifice some minority individual's liberties or well-being (against his will) for the "greater good." Of course an alternative is for no one to impose anything on anyone and that is anarchy, and I think most would agree that that is not for the greater good, either. But there is no support, within this system, for the idea that anyone has the authority to impose anything, as this authority has no source beyond one person's judgment of it.

Then the question becomes how will we impose this instinct/reason judgment? Will we have a government that is controlled by the people through a democratic or republican structure in which the numbers of people of the same mind matters, or will we place the decision in the hands of one or of a few elite who impose their view on others? How will the elite be chosen if not by the will of the people? By power or force? If this is, as you say, a problem with democracy (and I assume you also mean republicanism) that the majority of the people impose their view upon a minority, are you saying you would prefer the reverse? What is the alternative other than anarchy? Perhaps the difficulty is with what is being imposed rather than the act of imposing. And perhaps the solution to this problem is that the bounds of civil government be strictly limited and clearly defined, but again, who will define it? (I say God has limited it, but what would Mill say?)

So it puzzles me when I hear someone like Mill use words such as, "evil," "ought," "right," "wrong," "truth," and "error." What does he mean? If all he means is that he has determined with his instincts and reason that something is evil, so what? What does that have to do with me? Or is he saying that somehow he is able to transcend his evolutionary status and make an accurate judgment of himself as one of the morally advanced ones? It seems he is being inconsistent with his own presuppositions. I could understand a little better if he said "this works," and "that doesn't work," but instead of using the language of utilitarianism, he uses the language of a moral absolutist.

The Christian ethic is completely different, and unlike Mill's (if I characterized him correctly), it allows us to be consistent. We presuppose that morality's source is the character and nature of a transcendent God and that God has revealed His will in the Bible. We also believe that God is the source of reason and that He has given us the parameters by which we are to govern ourselves by using our reason to apply the Scriptures to whatever moral questions we face. We believe our reason is fallible but God's Word is not.

The Biblical form of government is that all God's people are to be taught the Word. Those who excel at learning it and applying it to their own lives and families are eligible for leadership positions in the church and civil spheres. (Exodus 18:19-23, I Timothy 3, Titus 1) The people recognize and appoint such leaders, who then rule, not as individuals, but as counsels at the various levels of government. Rulers are not imposing their own will, they are enforcing the will of God as a service to the people. As such they act upon a written unchanging standard and apply their reason to it rather than Mill's ever-evolving instinct acted on by reason. (Error may come in then, with our fallible reason, not the material that reason is acting upon. Cases of potential error are addressed by appealing to the written standard.)

You may disagree with these presuppositions about the nature or existence of God and the nature of His Word, but at least the biblical system is a system in which we can exist without logical inconsistency. This system also solves the "problem" you described by limiting civil government's authority.

So then, back to the topic of the post. What I saw and was optimistic about were two sets of data that showed that 1) conservatives (I am am admittedly assuming a correlation, though not a perfect one, between conservatives and Christians seeking to live biblically) were producing more children, and 2) that Christians were taking more care to instruct their children biblically. The outcome I was predicting, or hoping for, was a future generation in which those considered qualified for leadership will be increasingly biblical in their judgments. I was not hoping for some forceful takeover, in fact I criticized that view by comparing it to those who once sought a political Messiah. What I was speaking of was a transformation of the cultural will by faithful Christian childrearing.

At least that's how this frumpy housewife sees it. ;-)

Thanks again for commenting. This is fun. Now I've got to go bake Christmas cookies.

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