Should We Go Back to the Founders?

 

No group of fallen men can come up with any real standard for law.

When seeking to solve the many problems of our day the republican talking heads, ‘tea party’ folk, as well as many of your average conservatives tell us repeatedly to “go back to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution” to reestablish a just and economically stable society. They encourage us to do so because many of the Founders were brilliant men who knew a great deal about politics and government, and because they were the ones that more or less conceived this nation. They were certainly great men. But a contract written by these men (or any group of men) cannot be the ultimate standard for law; as we shall see.

The Founders were greatly influenced by the Enlightenment period of the 18th century. The Enlightenment was a repudiation of Religion, and resulted in an embracing of atheistic, Unitarian, and deistic ideologies as well as a return to ancient pagan Greek philosophies. And with that “enlightenment” returned the Greek idea of “Natural law” [1]. We can see its influence in the opening paragraph of the United States’ Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (Emphasis added.)

“Natural law” is the idea that man can attain to a law/standard by,

a) By following his conscience/common sense, or

b) By digging deep into the recesses of one’s own noggin. (Which as a system is called Rationalism [2])

Examples:

“Morals are too essential to the happiness of man to be risked on the uncertain combinations of the head. She [Nature] laid their foundation therefore in sentiment…” –Thomas Jefferson [3]

“My own mind is my own church.” –Thomas Paine [4]

“To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions, and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending on the will of any other man.” –John Locke [5]

Is this “Natural law” idea legitimate? First, we must note that you can never come to an “ought” from what “is” which is what this philosophy tries to do. For the reader who doesn’t know the difference between is and ought, we will consider the difficulties of deriving norms (or what ought be) from nature (what is). What if I have a “natural” feeling that since Mr. X really ticked me off, it should be legal for me to murder him, should it be? But his intuition tells him that it should be illegal for me to murder him. Whose intuition, or “natural law” do we go by?

 

Enlightenment thinker, Francis Hutcheson

Or, should we follow the arbitrary brilliance of the Enlightenment thinker, Francis Hutcheson, who thought, “that action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.”? [6] What is “the greatest happiness”? Happiness is not a measurable thing; how can you determine which is “more” happiness, really great happiness that lasts for a moment, or moderate happiness that lasts a lifetime? Or what if my happiness comes by murdering Mr. X? Natural law is a failure, and can never be the foundation of a society.

However, the Founders were also greatly influenced by the early Puritans and men of the Protestant Reformation, like John Calvin and John Knox who recognized the Word of God was the only rule for the church, family, and civil government; (a principle commonly called sola Scriptura) as Paul states in II Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (see also, Colossians 2:3-8, Isaiah 8:20, & John 10:35).

The Founders, having been greatly influenced by both the Puritans and the Enlightenment decided to blend Biblical Law with “Natural law”, which is like blending your steak with excrement, or your wine with urine. This has defiled our whole law-system.

Why should we to go back to the Founders in the 18th century as most “conservatives” tell us? Why don’t we go back further, i.e., to Biblical Law: the Puritans, and the Protestant Reformation, which sought to apply that Law? Because our current government is like undiluted urine it seems most conservatives in our day are content to settle with their half wine blend.

– Evan Murch

Footnotes:

[1] This idea is seen in the work of  Sophocles, Oedipus the King.

[2] See Biblical View of Knowledge, Part 3: https://reformedinquisitor.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/the-christian-view-of-knowledge-part-3-rationalism/).

[3] Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826, Author of the Declaration of Independence, in Writings, p. 874 (1786)

[4] Thomas Paine 1737–1809, Opening pages of his book, Age of Reason (1794)

[5] John Locke, Second Treatise, Chapter 2.

[6] Francis Hutcheson 1694-1746, Scottish philosopher in Inquiry Concerning Moral Good and Evil, sec. 3 (1725)

Mom’s Apple Cake 6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples 1 tablespoon cinnamon 5 tablespoons sugar 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup vegetable oil 2 cups sugar 1/4 cup orange juice 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 4 eggs 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.
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3 responses to “Should We Go Back to the Founders?

  • irishanglican ~ Fr. Robert

    Certainly God in His providence allowed the new USA to combine this form of natural and biblical law. This sort of deist mess turned into an overt democratization. Now human rights, gay rights, etc. But the loss now of the Biblical God! Note, I am a Brit myself.

    • Reformed Inquisitor

      God in His providence allows man do a lot of stupid things. However, any combination of natural law with biblical law in the governance of society will always lead ultimately to natural law’s take-over and the removal of any semblance of biblical law. A nation is always governed by laws. Man in his depravity desires these to be laws of his own, rather than God’s. Thus, if the foundation of your law is not strictly biblical, but allows for mans’ sinful reason via natural law theory to “make” law; sinful man will always pit natural law over against Biblical law (and because both law structures are perceived to be of equal validity, they may do this “lawfully”, i.e., according to the law of the land). But, if the law structure is strictly biblical, though man is depraved, he is governed by a perfect law. And a perfect law, even though applied imperfectly, is always better than a corrupt law applied perfectly.

      – Ben

  • Chad Houk

    Francis Hutcheson, who thought, “that action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.”? [6] What is “the greatest happiness”? Happiness is not a measurable thing; how can you determine which is “more” happiness, really great happiness that lasts for a moment, or moderate happiness that lasts a lifetime? Or what if my happiness comes by murdering Mr. X? Natural law is a failure, and can never be the foundation of a society. LOL ( I really did chuckle)

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