Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Divine Will" or "Will of the People"?

This comment really ties together a number of ideas I have been writing on for awhile - and I think you are NOT a theophobe because you believe that. You are a theophobe if you believe that those who do not have this divided, "enlightened" view of the secular and the divine realms are trying to take over the government for Christ (or Allah) - and you irrationally fear that. After all, as Joe Carter contends:
After all, it is true that some conservative Christians in our country do want to establish a theocracy. Their actual numbers, however, are rather negligible and their political influence almost non-existence. As a group they likely outnumber black separatists, though they are dwarfed by the number of liberal secessionists.
However foolish I really think the theocracy canard is - that is not the point here.

The point is the intersection of faith and politics - and the connecting together of a few threads that have been running through my blogging - some nearly since the beginning: The first part of my view on this is that there are not, as the Enlightenment wished to contend, a spiritual realm and a secular realm. Of course, most devout folks I have met from any religion understand that the morality and ethics flowing from their faith cannot simply be cut-off from their secular lives - we can not be two-minded.

However, the natural law tradition is that all good things in the world overflow from God's character - including the governments we raise up to bring right order and maintain justice since the Fall. Thomas Aquinas and William Blackstone:
But Aquinas is also a natural law legal theorist. On his view, a human law (i.e., that which is promulgated by human beings) is valid only insofar as its content conforms to the content of the natural law; as Aquinas puts the point: "[E]very human law has just so much of the nature of law as is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law" (ST I-II, Q.95, A.II). To paraphrase Augustine's famous remark, an unjust law is really no law at all.

The idea that a norm that does not conform to the natural law cannot be legally valid is the defining thesis of conceptual naturalism. As William Blackstone describes the thesis, "This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original"
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian theologian and martyr who most had to tackle whether the "Two Kingdoms" of Luther had been subverted - also opposed the idea of separate secular and religious realms:
Any reduction of Luther’s doctrine of the “Two Kingdoms” to a notion that there are two spheres, “the one divine, holy, supernatural, and Christian, and the other worldly, profane, natural, and un-Christian,” Bonhoeffer held to be a vulgarization. The modern reading of the Two Kingdoms—a reading shaped (Bonhoeffer would say deformed) by the Enlightenment—unwittingly finalized the separation of Christian concerns from the secular and profane. “On the Protestant side,” he writes, “Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms was misinterpreted as implying the emancipation and sanctification of the world and of the natural. Government, reason, economics, and culture arrogate to themselves a right of autonomy, but do not in any way understand this autonomy as bringing them into opposition to Christianity.” The Lutheran misunderstanding of Luther contributed over time to the Enlightenment cult of reason and the emergence of the self-mastering self.

With that triumph came an idolatrous faith in progress that could only result in nationalism—the “Western godlessness” that became in modern times its own religion. In the “apostasy of the Western world from Jesus Christ,” a massive defection from our collective recognition of finitude, we abandoned the knowledge that we are creatures as well as creators. This for Bonhoeffer is the backdrop to twentieth-century totalitarianism, a terrible story of what happens when we presume we stand alone as Sovereign Selves within Sovereign States, a terrible story of what happens when individual hubris meets nationalism.
For many today, the United States is the country that most reflects "individual hubris" meeting "nationalism" with a "massive defection from our collective recognition of finitude".

For Augustine, Aquinas, Blackstone, and Bonhoeffer laws and government are only legitimate if they maintain the right order and right justice that overflows from God's character in the form of natural law. In other words, right government must conform to divine will - or it is not right.

However, let us say for a second that that is not true (as many reading this will) - what does it mean in modern America to say that government conforms to the will of the people; and where does true justice and right order flow out of the people's will (and, of course, what is it's source).

That is for Part II

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly