Atheists & secularists, like anyone else, will sometimes speak of what gives their life meaning and purpose. It might be fighting against religious dogma, or helping people think rationally, or spending time with their family, or "making the world a little better place", or... whatever. Note that these are self-imposed "purposes" or "meaning", often involving leaving some sort of intellectual or philosophical legacy. But, is this really consistent with their worldview? Have you ever heard of Lawrence M. Krauss or Glenn D. Starkman? Even if you don't run in scientific circles, you may be familiar with Krauss, who is a well-known ...
"Those who are unwilling or incapable of discerning or judging between good and evil are in this manner revealing either their disobedience or their immaturity." -- Pastor E.L. Bynum In our last "episode", we began to address the issue of what it means to "judge" others. Specifically, we took a practical, nonsectarian look at why people cry, "Don't judge me!" and why we should, in fact, make fair judgments about others' behaviors & beliefs, always with the welfare of them and others around them in mind. Now, what about Christians, in particular? Aren't we supposed to be extra loving and kind and ...
If you are at all familiar with Christian apologetics, whether engaging challenges from non-theists or from Christians with different views, you know that the topic of pain, suffering, and death is a major issue. (In fact, Darwin's struggle with this was the impetus for developing his theory.) These things are considered "evil", so the question is "Why would a 'good' God make a world full of pain, suffering, & death for His creatures to endure?", or "How could God include pain, suffering, & death (for millions of years) in His 'very good' creation?" The Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) solution is that none ...
Welcome to the 3rd and penultimate installment of this series, in which I explain how self-deluded I have been about my own hatred and bigotry regarding, well, just about everyone but straight, white, white-collar males between 18 & 65 years of age (or thereabouts). Where was I? Oh... [caption id="attachment_1341" align="alignleft" width="225"] Pro-choice Activists[/caption] 7) I hate women. And it's not just because I'm single. (Or, should that be the other way around?) ;-> In particular, I think most of today's "feminist" positions and causes reveal a certain level of narcissism and another excuse to play the blame game for ones woes, real ...
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!" That was my response (posted on Facebook), give or take an "R" or two, to the 2012 Election results. Actually, that was my second FB post. My first was, "Crap on a stick! I'm so depressed." But, that's not quite right. I'm very disappointed, obviously. And a bit morose. But, really, I'm angry. So, here goes the rant... Are you freakin' kidding me?!! Do we really have to listen for 4 more years to this pompous, Marxist ...
Sometimes, I can't help myself. I mean, people make spurious claims and ridiculous accusations against God, Christians, "the Church", etc., all the time. Usually, I let it go. Can't be constantly getting into long, drawn-out internet debates ALL the time, after all. But, sometimes, I just have to say something. And, so it went the other day, when a FB friend of a FB friend, amidst generally mocking comments, claimed that Christians were responsible for "lots of mass murders." Of course, I had my suspicions about what she was referring to. There are some nasty stains on Christianity's record. But, I also ...
"I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." -- Mitt Romney, in an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe (7/26/2005) In "The Pro-Life Position: Just One Question", I argued that if the unborn is indeed a member of the human family, no matter how small or odd it looks, then "no justification for killing it is adequate." But, then I left a footnote saying that there are rare exceptions to that rule. So, I figured I may as well address those now.... When the ...
Part 1: Firm Foundation "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam." -- Popeye, the sailorman Given the subjects that I usually read and write about on this blog, critical thinking really comes in handy. Not that I'm some great logician or anything. Far from it! But, over the last few years, I've been exposed to the discipline of informal logic by some pretty darn good thinkers. (At least, I think they are.) I've noticed that I am now more apt to notice logical errors & fallacies when reading or listening to someone's arguments for his/her position on a ...
[caption id="attachment_1464" align="alignleft" width="300"] Original Star Trek bridge crew[/caption] I remember when, many years ago, I first found out that the cast of the original Star Trek series did not always get along and a huge part of the problem was William Shatner's ego. Star Trek was one of my all-time favorite TV shows (and the movies and the books), and Shatner was a favorite actor when I was growing up -- right up there with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, and later Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I., fame. So, I was understandably disappointed to find out my "heroes" ...
"[S]cience and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach." -- Dr. Martin Andreas Nowak, mathematical biologist Once upon a time (actually, it was about a year ago) in a land far, far away (OK, it was here in NE Florida), I had a brief but interesting discussion. I had been taking a few skills & personality assessment tests, which involved identifying what I thought my strengths & weaknesses were, figuring out my personality traits, etc. While discussing the results with a couple family members, the religiously-agnostic one noted, "Huh! You consider yourself ...
“Bang! Zoom! To the Moon!”
Did you miss it? Splashdown!
Just a couple days ago, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule came home after spending over a month at the International Space Station (ISS). This mission was the 9th (out of a planned 20 under contract) since 2012, when Dragon “became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth.” It is still the only such spacecraft that can return large amounts of cargo to Earth.
Dragon has been effectively functioning as a remote-controlled shipping container, hauling essential equipment and supplies to the crew of the ISS and returning with, for example, results from various scientific experiments being performed up there — even live mice. All together, it transports thousands of pounds worth of cargo on both legs of its journey. For instance, this time…
“Among the 5,000 pounds of cargo it delivered was a docking ring that will enable astronauts to visit the orbiting research complex in commercial capsules SpaceX and Boeing are developing under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program…. NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins installed the docking ring, called International Docking Adapter-2, or IDA-2, during a spacewalk last Friday.” (Florida Today)
That’s right. SpaceX is planning manned missions, too. In fact, once it finishes refining and installing the necessary modifications to Dragon for “crew configuration”, two-person crews will suit up for manned flights to the ISS. These are currently scheduled for late-2017 and early-2018.
But, SpaceX isn’t the only commercial space venture with big plans or making news with their progress. Earlier this month, it was announced that the U.S. government has finally approved the first private mission to the Moon. The “winner” of this honor goes to Moon Express (aka MoonEx), the first company to apply (back in April 2015) for a commercial space mission beyond Earth orbit.
Under the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, each country must “authorize and continuously supervise” any space missions, governmental or otherwise, from within its jurisdiction. This involves reviewing safety measures and ensuring compliance with “proper planetary protecting procedures.” This being the first such commercial mission, new ground is being broken in regards to regulations and procedures. In this case, the review process involved not only the FAA and NASA but the White House, State Dept., and additional participation by the NOAA, FCC, and the Dept. of Defense. It was a long and complex undertaking, but they somehow managed to work through all the issues and developed what they hope to be a model for “a standard launch licensing process for deep space missions.”
“The Moon Express 2017 mission approval is a landmark decision by the U.S. government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth’s orbit. We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth’s eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth’s economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity.” — Bob Richards, co-founder & CEO of Moon Express
This is just one hurdle, though, and there are many challenges yet to be met. MoonEx’s plan is to launch a small, single-stage spacecraft for lunar landing by the end of 2017. The endeavor is part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition, and there are others around the globe shooting for the same deadline. First Prize is $20 million for being “the first privately developed spacecraft to land on the moon, travel at least half a kilometer across the surface, and return photos and videos.”
Of course, it’s not just about the prize money, which will only partially offset the costs. MoonEx already raised $30 million, and it hopes that the federal approval will convince investors to provide the additional $25 million needed to finish constructing the “coffee-table sized MX-1 lander”. As reported by Eric Berger at arstechnica, MoonEx has been utilizing some of the latest tech in their designs.
“[T]hanks to Cubesat innovations, composites, and 3D printing, MoonEx has been able to reduce the weight and improve performance of the spacecraft’s systems.”
This is all an investment into what MoonEx (and its investors, of course) hopes will be a burgeoning new industry, capitalizing on lunar resources – from water ice to Helium-3 — and eventually further commercialization of the Moon. (Hotels, theme parks, and casinos?) Meanwhile, I suspect the technological advances will lead to other applications for the rest of us, much like the Space Race of the 20th century did. I, for one, look forward to seeing what comes of it all, though I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford a vacation on the Moon.
I recently began reading Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (2006) by Vern S. Poythress. The first few chapters are what you might call foundational for the discussion in the rest of the book. Some of it is good, some I find dry or not sure I totally agree or understand. But, that’s OK. I suspect the rest of the book will make it worth my while.
The third chapter, titled “Knowledge from Whose Authority?”, discusses issues of secularism in the U.S. and Europe and how that affects scientific inquiry, etc. The following in an excursus on public education from the end of that chapter, which I found thought-provoking and sufficiently brief to share. You might be a bit surprised at what he has to say, too.
“Earlier in this chapter I raised a problem about public, state-controlled education. State-controlled education in its present form in the United States tends to impose secularism. Secularism is a whole worldview, and in its approach to the nature of scientific law, it is intrinsically religious, in that it exchanges God for an idolatrous view of scientific law. Moreover, as we have seen, it excludes minority views like animism and Shankara’s interpretation of Vedantic Hinduism. It is oppressive toward those who radically disagree with its worldview.
But is this unique to secularism? Does not everyone have the same problem when it comes to state-controlled education? Parents naturally want their children to be taught in conformity with their own beliefs. But state-controlled education cannot possibly please all parents at the same time. It cannot please both those who believe in absolute moral standards and those who believe that morality is merely the product of personal choices and opinions. It cannot please both those who believe that scientific law is impersonal and those who believe that it is the personal word of God. It cannot please those who believe that the universe is a product of chance and mindless evolution and those who believe that it is the creation of God. In political science courses, it cannot please both political conservatives and political liberals.
At an earlier point in the history of the United States, state-controlled education tended to draw on a broad Protestant consensus as its main religious background. In Europe, education was influenced by state churches. These approaches oppressed all kinds of religious minorities, as well as atheists and agnostics. Nowadays, in the United States and to some extent in Europe, state-controlled education is controlled by secularist ideology and opposes religious ‘interference’ and minority views that would take a different approach to issues like scientific law and moral standards. The victims of oppression have shifted, but the general problem has not disappeared.
I cannot pursue the issue here, but it seems to me the morally proper remedy is not, as many Christians might wish, the reintroduction of less hostility toward the Bible and Christianity in state-controlled schools, but the introduction of real parental control and choice in education. As it is now, because of the tax system for supporting education, only the very rich can afford to send their children to schools of their choice. [Poythress' footnote: Or the very determined can undertake to homeschool their children. I am grateful that homeschooling is allowed in the United States. But it is a great injustice that homeschoolers still see their tax money go to support public schools, while they pay out of their own pockets in time and money for their homeschooling activities.] School vouchers — or better, tax credits for education of the parents’ choice — can provide relief that gives the average parent real choice. And with choice comes control of what kind of worldview and educational approach the child receives. But there is a political price: we must then give up the hope of using state power to impose out own views on others’ children.”
I would differ at least somewhat with Poythress on the following three points:
1) I’m not sure I am entirely comfortable with Poythress’ use of the word “oppression” and its variants, since I usually associate that with something much harsher than one would see in school. But, I understand how he is using it.
2) I would disagree with Poythress’ claim that, aside from homeschooling, “only the very rich can afford to send their children to schools of their choice.” Of course, it partially depends on where you live. But, there are plenty of middle-class families that send their children to private schools. Maybe not the elite, but there are more modestly-priced schools, mostly run by Catholic or Protestant churches. There are Jewish private schools, too. Some families may have to sacrifice in other areas to afford sending one or more children to such a school, but they manage. This was true back in the ’70s & ’80s when I went, and it’s true now, as some of my friends can attest.
3) I think the author presents, or assumes, a false dichotomy. It seems to me to be entirely reasonable to “[reintroduce] less hostility toward the Bible and Christianity in state-controlled schools” in addition to giving more parents real control and choice over how their children are educated. “Less hostility” does not mean religious domination, of course, and it would help alleviate the concerns of those non-secularist parents who, for whatever reasons, cannot or would rather not pull their kids out of public school.
Other than these points, I pretty much agree with Poythress. Of course, the broader discussion about public education, its shortcomings, and alternatives, covers a lot more territory than this brief excursus. I’ll probably tackle it again down the road….
“If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” — Sun Tzu
One of the biggest issues in national security today is what to do — what can be done? — about the rise in terrorism. Specifically, the terrorism that is perpetrated and supported by those who hold to a “radical”, “extremist”, “fundamentalist” form of Islam. Can it be defeated? If so, how? If not, can it at least be “contained”?
It’s a complicated issue, and I don’t know the answers. But, I definitely think the international community needs to marshal its resources and cooperate to root out and eradicate this brutal enemy as much as is possible. It may be an ongoing “war” for the forseeable future, but it is necessary in order to protect and defend the world from what is for many an existential threat — i.e., Islamists’ “global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate.” The United States can and should lead this fight, but we need clear vision and leadership that is up to the task.
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn has a few ideas on how to defeat terrorism. If the name sounds familiar, it may be because he has been making radio & TV appearances lately, commenting on current issues and promoting his new book (with Michael Ledeen), The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. I wrote a post about him a couple years ago, shortly after the Obama administration pressured him to take an early retirement, resigning as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency. I also recommended Flynn as a potential Secretary of Defense in a (near?) future Republican administration.
I haven’t read Flynn’s book, yet, though it’s on my list. But, he recently co-authored an opinion piece for Fox News with the NCPA’s Lt. Col. Allen West and Dr. David Grantham which addresses this topic. It isn’t a long or detailed plan. But, it lays out what both experience and, perhaps, common sense tells us are some foundational things to be recognized and acknowledged before we even have a chance at beating this enemy of all that we hold dear.
“The president refuses to know that our current adversary in radical Islam lives by an apocalyptic worldview — one that relies on unconscionable levels of slaughter to bring about its final caliphate…. This willful ignorance has prompted a dangerous mismatch in priorities….
One should never be so intransigent as to deny the truth of the enemy. That only concedes the initiative and gives the enemy an ability to outmaneuver you strategically….
Instead, we must get into the head of the enemy. All three of us have been there. It’s not pretty. There exists an unparalleled devotion to their cause; a fanatical adherence to Islamic conventions….
They are resolute in their convictions. They are dedicated to the slaughter of any who do not share their warped vision for the future. That’s the enemy.
But America must also know itself. Jihadists do not distinguish between black and white, young or old, poor or rich.
Our enemy sees us all as Americans, and we should do the same. It is essential that we champion American exceptionalism — defined not as a pompous view of self, but as the beacon of light for individual freedom in a world lacking it….
The government must also know its responsibilities. The next administration and each one thereafter must embrace its constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense, and must never put the interests of others above those they serve. Those leaders should clearly and correctly define the enemy, and articulate an unambiguous national and international strategy to defeat it….
From the Barbary Wars to Nazism, Imperial Japan to communism, America chose sacrifice over compliancy, bravery over fear. The American people squared their collective shoulders and faced the threat head-on.
All of this can be done. And we will do so with unwavering integrity, renewed strength and unapologetic resolve. Knowing ourselves and our enemy will ensure victory.”
Makes sense to me.
But, this will never get any traction under Obama or Clinton or any other globalist/multiculturalist “progressive” who refuses to recognize the enemy for what it is, nor with a majority of such people in the House and Senate. We must use our voting privilege this election season to make sure this is not the case. We must elect clear-eyed leaders who will not require that intel supports a pre-determined, positive narrative but will instead identify the real enemy — both the physical and ideological aspects — and dedicate the requisite resources to its ultimate and decisive defeat.
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.” -– John Adams, ‘Thoughts on Government’, 1776
As I’m sure you have noticed, the United States — its businesses, communities, families and individuals — are struggling. We are struggling under mountains of debt, both personal and governmental. We are struggling under innumerable, often ridiculous regulations and increased taxes. We are struggling to feel and stay safe, when our government leaders keep opening borders without proper vetting or restrictions, releasing violent criminals into the populace, and shrinking/weakening our military despite growing international threats. And, that’s just the beginning.
But, much of the struggle is unnecessary, if only our government leaders would abandon the foolish and failed policies that got us here over the past several years. If only they would do what is right for a safe and healthy nation. The Heritage Foundation, with its various specialty institutes, recently published its “Blueprint for Reform: A Comprehensive Policy Agenda”, which is meant not only to educate the American public but to (hopefully) guide the next presidential administration and Congress on how to get government and the nation back on track.
An earlier published “Blueprint for Balance” document provided “detailed recommendations for the federal budget put forth by Congress”. The “Blueprint for Reform” lays out “a long-term vision, and policies to achieve that vision, that requires presidential leadership and congressional action.” This includes “tak[ing] steps to allow Americans to build for themselves a stronger economy, a stronger society, and a stronger defense…. The first six chapters of the Comprehensive Policy Agenda provide policy summaries in the areas of economics, tax, entitlements, regulation, energy and natural resources, and foreign policy and defense. The second section of the book is dedicated to establishing agency and department budgets and policy objectives for the next 10 years.”
But, here’s what it really boils down to:
“The next President of the United States and Congress will face significant challenges in restoring to public life the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”
To that end, Heritage recommends beginning with the following proposals, which I have adapted from their slightly longer summaries….
Pro-growth tax reform: The tax system should raise the revenue necessary to fund a limited government at the lowest level possible for constitutionally appropriate activities. It should apply the least economically destructive forms of taxation, have low rates on a broad base, minimize interference with the operation of the free market and free enterprise, and minimize the cost of compliance for taxpayers. It should also minimize adverse impact on the core institutions of civil society. This plan includes establishing a flat tax that eliminates penalties on saving and investment.
Balance the Budget: The budget should be balanced by driving down federal spending, including through entitlement reforms, while maintaining a strong national defense and not raising taxes. Heritage outlines a plan to accomplish this balanced budget “on a unified basis” by 2024.
Reduce Regulatory Burden: Immediate reforms should include the requirement that legislation undergo an impact analysis before a floor vote in Congress; also, every major regulation should obtain congressional approval before taking effect. Sunset deadlines should be required for all major rules, and independent agencies should be subject to the same White House regulatory review as executive branch agencies.
Repeal Harmful Laws, beginning with Obamacare and Dodd–Frank, replacing the former with patient-centered, market-based reforms. Additional reforms should include removing the federal government from housing finance, ending the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending power, and ending federal loan and security guarantees.
Reform Welfare: The current system has failed to improve self-sufficiency of the poor and the cost of the welfare system is unsustainable. Welfare reform should encourage work, a proven formula for reducing dependence and controlling costs. Furthermore, states should gradually assume greater revenue responsibility for welfare programs; that is, they should pay for and administer the programs with state resources. Additionally, leaders should work to strengthen marriage. The absence of fathers in the home is one of the greatest drivers of child poverty. Policymakers should reduce marriage penalties in the current welfare system and find ways to promote marriage in low-income communities.
Rebuild the Military: The risk to Americans everywhere posed by global terrorism, the eruption of conflicts in many regions of the world, and American retreat in the face of challenges have begun to show the American people what a world without America looks like. The ability of the United States to exercise leadership and protect its interests depends substantially on the strength of the U.S. armed forces. The new President and Congress need to allocate the necessary resources to strengthen U.S. military capabilities.
Much of this probably sounds familiar, as many have been shouting the need for many of these and similar reforms for years. But, with their expertise and dedication to Constitutional conservatism, I trust Heritage to put some meat on the bones. At least one conservative columnist, however, has some reservations about Heritage’s recommendations. Constitution.com’s Joe Scudder notes four issues of concern:
1) In a recent video, “Why Trade Doesn’t Cause Unemployment”, Heritage “refused to acknowledge that the middle class is hurting and identify what (rather than trade) is causing the pain.”
2) Their agenda is “not necessarily the same as Trump’s.”
3) “In areas where they do agree, I have to wonder why the Blueprint recommends actions that Congress has refused to take when they were sorely needed.” Here he cites a Diane Katz’s summary at “The Daily Signal” regarding the call for “a variety of regulatory reforms to curtail the vast administrative state”. Scudder predicts that “[t]he moment the Democrats accuse the Republicans of wanting to “shut down” the government, the GOP majority will surrender. That’s how Republicans gave in to Obama’s budget.”
4) The Heritage report brings up our current unpreparedness to confront “Russian adventurism in Eastern Europe [and] Chinese expansion in the South China Sea” in its national defense section. Yet, Scudder point out, these haven’t exactly been hot issues in the public discussion. “It is the mark of disconnected elites to worry about such things rather than our middle class. The man who won the primary condemning our war in Iraq is not likely to get the country entangled in another foreign war—especially not with a nuclear power.”
These are all certainly fair points to bring up, but I think Scudder’s criticisms are off-base. Regarding #1, his concerns were simply tangential to the focus of the 1-minute video. Regarding the rest, those are not good reasons for Heritage to avoid addressing issues that they deem important, even those that aren’t imminent threats or current hot topics with the public or the candidates. While I haven’t gone through the “Blueprint”, I also doubt that they ignore the concerns of the middle class.
Heritage will release a third report later this year which “will identify presidential and Cabinet-level priorities for reforming major agencies consistent with the policy proposals presented in the first two parts of the Mandate series.” Meanwhile, for a few more details and a direct link to the 152-page “Blueprint for Reform”, see the Heritage article here: “Blueprint for Reform: A Comprehensive Policy Agenda for a New Administration in 2017″.
In the end, all the Heritage Foundation can do is provide information and expert advice. It is up to Congress and the new President to evaluate it and (hopefully) take appropriate action.
“That languages change over time is one of the strongest arguments either for the revision of older Bible translations or for completely new translations.” — Dr. James White, The King James Only Controversy
I am sure that some who love the King James Version (KJV) will immediately be defensive. (Especially if they are KJV Onlyist, but I’m not even going to delve into that whole mess.) So, let me begin by assuring my readers that I am *not* saying that the KJV should never be read. Far from it. Many Christians (and others) read it and like it and are spiritually fed from it, and that’s fine. Some prefer the lyrical structure of much of the KJV for memorization. That’s great. I would hope that they read it along with a decent modern translation or two, too, though. (And there are several options available.) But, if they prefer the KJV while acknowledging its deficiencies (see below), more power to ‘em.
“[The KJV] has justifiably been called ‘the noblest monument of English prose’… because of its gracious style, majestic language, and poetic rhythms. No other book has had such a tremendous influence on English literature, and no other translation has touched the lives of so many English-speaking people for centuries and centuries.” — Dr. Philip W. Comfort, Essential Guide to Bible Versions
The KJV has served Christians quite well to communicate the Gospel and the history of God’s redemptive plan for over 400 years. Indeed, it has been “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16b (KJV)), just as many other translations in English and other languages have been wholly adequate for God’s purposes both before and after the KJV came on the scene.
With all of that said, if someone were to ask me which translation they should get to read and study, I would probably not recommend the KJV. This is especially true if it is to be the first or only Bible for a new believer or curious non-believer. The first reason is the archaic language.
The KJV is, of course, a product of its time. The Elizabethan/Shakespearean language used in England in the early 17th century can be quite lyrical, beautiful, and even fun to read/speak when learning plays and literature of that period. On the other hand, it can sometimes be awkward even for those fluent in modern English — children, in particular, and others with a limited education. It is even more difficult for non-native speakers. So, it can be a stumbling block both in witnessing and in spiritual growth.
Of course, some people — particularly those who have “always” read and heard Scripture from the KJV — are so used to it that they think that is what Scripture is supposed to sound like. Indeed, many grew up with the KJV and learned their first (or all) memory verses in that translation. Also, the combination of formality and lyrical quality sounds more “spiritual” to some. Unfortunately, quoting from the KJV — especially with all of the “thees” and “thous”, etc. — often sounds silly to skeptics, thereby reinforcing the idea that it’s just a bunch of ancient tales with no contemporary relevance. I suggest, then, that neither a sense of nostalgia nor of being “more spiritual” are sufficient reasons for sticking with the KJV at the expense of considering other, more modern translations.
There are several words & phrases used in the KJV that either are no longer used or they mean something very different now than they did 400 years ago. Here is a list compiled by Dr. Edwin Palmer:
“Just to drive the point home even more clearly, what is the meaning of ‘chambering’ (Rom. 13:13), ‘champaign’ (Deut. 11:30), ‘charger’ (Matt. 14:8 — it is not a horse), ‘churl’ (Isa. 32:7), ‘cieled’ (Hag. 1:4), ‘circumspect’ (Exod. 23:13), ‘clouted upon their feet’ (Josh. 9:5), ‘cockatrice’ (Isa. 11:8), ‘collops’ (Job 15:27), ‘confection’ (Exod. 30:35 — it has nothing to do with sugar), ‘cotes’ (2 Chron. 32:28), ‘covert’ (2 Kings 16:18), ‘hoised’ (Acts 27:40), ‘wimples’ (Isa. 3:22), ‘stomacher’ (Isa. 3:24), ‘wot’ (Rom. 11:2), ‘wist’ (Acts 12:9), ‘withs’ (Judg. 16:7), ‘wont’ (Dan. 3:19), ‘suretiship’ (Prov. 11:15), ‘sackbut’ (Dan. 3:5), ‘the scall’ (Lev. 13:30), ‘scrabbled’ (1 Sam. 21:13), ‘roller’ (Ezek. 30:21 — i.e., a splint), ‘muffler’ (Isa. 3:19), ‘froward’ (1 Peter 2:18), ‘brigadine’ (Jer. 46:4), ‘amerce’ (Deut. 22:19), ‘blains’ (Exod. 9:9), ‘crookbackt’ (Lev. 21:20), ‘descry’ (Judg. 1:23), ‘fanners’ (Jer. 51:2), ‘felloes’ (1 Kings 7:33), ‘glede’ (Deut. 14:13), ‘glistering’ (Luke 9:29), ‘habergeon’ (Job 41:26), ‘implead’ (Acts 19:38), ‘neesing’ (Job 41:18), ‘nitre’ (Prov. 25:20), ‘tabret’ (Gen. 31:27), ‘wen’ (Lev. 22:22)?”
(I would throw “unicorn” in there, too.)
These can be confusing or offputting to the modern reader. Attributing a modern definition or connotation to a word that sounds familiar can lead to a misreading and, thus, a misunderstanding of the Biblical text. Not good. For a few more examples, the words “target” (I Sam. 17:6), “turtle” (Song of Sol. 2:12), “carriages” (Isa. 10:28; Acts 21:15), “tire” (Ezek. 24:17), and “feebleminded” (I Thess. 5:14) do not mean what we normally think of.
Also, here are a few samples of wording from the KJV that can be awkward and/or bewildering to the modern ear and mind:
o And Mt. Sinai was altogether on a smoke (Exod. 19:18)
o To fetch about this form of speech hath thy servant Joab done this thing (II Sam. 14:20)
o The noise thereof sheweth concerning it (Job 36:33)
o Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing (Psalm 5:6)
o The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market (Ezek. 27:25)
o We do you to wit of the grace of God (II Cor. 8:1)
That, of course, is a very limited sampling. However, if outdated language was my only concern, I might recommend the New King James Version (NKJV), 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), or Modern English Version (MEV) instead, all of which have updated the language of the KJV and generally read more smoothly. Or, maybe one of the editions of the KJV that has glossary-notes to clear up the outdated verbiage would be sufficient. But, there is another concern I have about the KJV, which also affects these.
While there is no doubt that the KJV translators were very scholarly men who did admirable work, it is generally recognized today that they were working with inferior source texts and had much more limited linguistic knowledge than scholars have today. Dr. Comfort sums it up nicely…
“First, knowledge of Hebrew was inadequate in the early seventeenth century. The Hebrew text they used (i.e., the Masoretic Text) was adequate, but their understanding of the Hebrew vocabulary was insufficient. It would take many more years of linguistic studies to enrich and sharpen understanding of the Hebrew vocabulary. Second, the Greek text underlying the New Testament of the King James Version is an inferior text. The King James translators basically used a Greek text known as the ‘received text’ (the Textus Receptus — commonly abbreviated as TR), which came from the work of Erasmus, who compiled the first Greek text to be produced on a printing press. When Erasmus compiled this text, he used five or six very late manuscripts dating from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries. These manuscripts were far inferior to earlier manuscripts.”
Some of these earlier manuscripts, discovered (or, at least, made available) in the years since the first edition of the KJV was published in 1611, date back as far as the second through fifth centuries. Just as the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated 150 BC to AD 100) and other ancient texts have increased scholars’ understanding of ancient Hebrew and provided a corrective on the Masoretic Text, intense study and comparison of these earlier Greek manuscripts — e.g., Codex Vaticanus (ca. AD 325), Codex Sinaiticus (ca. AD 350-375), Codex Alexandrinus (ca. AD 400), and various papyri — have allowed Greek scholars to put together a more accurate, “modern critical edition” of the New Testament. This critical text is put out by two groups — Nestle-Aland and the United Bible Society — with variations in punctuation, capitalization, and critical apparatus.
Most modern translations now use the NA/UBS critical text as the basis for their New Testament and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia edition of the Masoretic Text for the Old Testament, while sometimes opting to use variants from other sources (e.g., Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls). There are a minority of scholars and publishing houses who still prefer the TR or the Majority / Byzantine Text type. (This should be obvious, given the continuing popularity of the KJV.) While there are no huge theological differences with the critical text, there are cases in which theology is affected. I will again allow Dr. Comfort to summarize the “eclectic” perspective:
“The Nestle-Aland edition is a far superior representation of the original text than is the TR or the Majority Text. This does not mean, however, that those who read the TR and/or KJV are receiving a ‘different gospel’ or a different theology than what is found in the Nestle-Aland text. What it does mean is that they are reading a text that — for the most part — was not read in the first three centuries of the church. They are reading a text that is heavily edited with interpolations and harmonizations, and they are reading a text that is somewhat misrepresentative in Christology…. This text presents the same basic truth about the Trinity as do modern versions, which are based on better Greek texts. What is problematic about the TR and KJV is that they obscure some significant titles of Christ.”
Regarding these Christological issues, compare verses like Matthew 24:36; John 1:18; John 6:69; I Tim. 3:16; Jude 4. I could go on and give examples of whole & partial verses that are found in the KJV but not in most modern versions (or, they are present but bracketed and given a footnote), but I think I’ll wait and do a separate post on those. The KJV is also known for inconsistent translation of certain words, as well as simply poor translation choices — not surprising given the issues already mentioned. But, I don’t have time to get into those, too.
In conclusion, and in my opinion, there are good reasons — both practical and theological — that one should not rely on the KJV. Therefore, I do not recommend that it be used exclusively, nor as a first Bible for a child, non-native English speaker, new believer, or curious non-believer. What Bible translation(s) do I recommend? That’s a topic for another post, as well. But, in general, I suggest avoiding paraphrases like The Message and The Living Bible. They may be easy to read, but they just play too fast-n-loose with the text, sometimes dangerously so.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The past few days have been terrible for us all to witness, but especially for those close to the events or who otherwise feel a strong connection to the victims. First, there were the controversial shootings of two black men by police officers — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, followed by Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN, a day or two later. Then, a black man decided to get some revenge by shooting several police officers after a peaceful #BlackLivesMatter march in Dallas, TX. Many, both the informed and the uninformed, have spoken or written about these events from all different perspectives. I wasn’t sure I had anything to add, or even wanted to, yet I felt like I should post something. (I was also tempted to write about the non-prosecution of Hillary’s Emailgate, but I’m even more sick of that subject.)
Regarding the shootings of Sterling and Castile, I know it’s easy to get angry, on the one hand, or defensive, on the other hand. My instincts fall somewhere in the middle. The only thing I want to say, though it is probably too late, is to urge everyone to NOT jump to conclusions, either about racist motivations by the cops or about whether either shooting was justified. Don’t assume it was justified just because the victim had a record, but also don’t assume he was an innocent victim shot for no “good” reason. Even now, despite various disturbing videos and revealed rap sheets and what not, we still only have partial information. Sometimes, a thing is just what it looks like, but often it isn’t.
We like to THINK we have sufficient information to play judge & jury in these cases — I’m speaking to myself, too –, and that’s exactly what certain people in the media and certain politicians and activists want us to do. But, we need to quit throwing accusations around, wait for more evidence to come to light, and let the investigations run their respective courses. (Of course, those who automatically distrust law enforcement and/or the justice system are rarely satisfied, particularly if the official conclusions are not the same as theirs — witness the Michael Brown case, for example.)
Beyond that, I’m not going to get into the specifics of the cases or speculate on my own. I just wanted to post a few videos and article links that I thought were helpful and/or informative. Nothing inflammatory (though it may not be what you want to hear/read), nothing graphic, no recriminations (maybe later), no I-told-ya-sos, etc.
First, here’s a brief article w/ video that give helpful advice re traffic stops:
The second video is a brief Fox News interview with SC Sen. Tim Scott regarding his feelings about the recent shootings:
This third video is a bit longer (9+ min.) but is a very good, on-the-street interview by MSNBC with a black man, Kellon Nixon, who was at the march in Dallas with his 5-year-old son and witnessed the shootings there firsthand. He had some very good personal observations and reflections…
I thought this article by Ryan Bomberger had some very good points to make, some of which I touched on above.
Finally, this last is a piece by Heather MacDonald, who is one of the most knowledgeable on the relevant research. First, here’s a quote:
“The “unarmed” label is literally accurate, but it frequently fails to convey highly-charged policing situations. In a number of cases, if the victim ended up being unarmed, it was certainly not for lack of trying…. One can debate the tactics used and the moment when an officer would have been justified in opening fire, but these cases are more complicated and morally ambiguous than a simple “unarmed” classification would lead a reader to believe…. The Post’s cases do not support the idea that the police have a more demanding standard for using lethal force when confronting unarmed white suspects.”
And, here’s the link: “Black and Unarmed: Behind the Numbers”
While there are many things not addressed here, I hope you find at least one of the preceding videos or articles of value in thinking about these tragedies and also taking a realistic look at the facts in re to some of the claims made in this and similar circumstances.
Take care, everyone!
President Calvin ‘Silent Cal’ Coolidge was known as a “quiet and somber man whose sour expression masked a dry wit.” He was a small-government conservative Republican who fought for racial equality and “embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class.” He could also give one heckuva good speech, as exemplified here. (Fwiw, this is the 90th anniversary of the speech.) It may be a bit idealistic here & there, but good stuff nonetheless, and a great history lesson. It’s also kind of long, so I’ll shut up now….
Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, PA
We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgement of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.
Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.
It is not so much, then, for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.
It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.
It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.
We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.
The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its Members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.
While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.
This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.
When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.
It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.
If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be underestimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.
It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.
The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.
But if these truths to which the Declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our Declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, of Connecticut, as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that…
“The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people…. The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.”
This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled “The Church’s Quarrel Espoused,” in 1710, which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.
While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise. It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch-Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his “best ideas of democracy” had been secured at church meetings.
That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that “All men are created equally free and independent.” It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, “Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.” Again, “The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth. …” And again, “For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine.” And still again, “Democracy is Christ’s government in church and state.” Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.
When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature’s God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say “The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven.”
No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.
Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the Colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.
If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.
We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government — the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that “Democracy is Christ’s government.” The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.
On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever-broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.
It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook to balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.
Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence, they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.
No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.
I bolded a few passages that I found particularly noteworthy, but there are others. Rather than address anything in more detail, I think I’ll just leave it at that.
Happy Independence Day!!
“Once we step outside the moral universe of the [post-national, post-democratic] elites, there is no case whatever for Britain to surrender its self-governing democracy to Brussels.” — the Editors of the National Review
“The vote for Brexit is a vote for sovereignty and self-determination.” — Nile Gardiner, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
When I first heard the term “Brexit”, I thought it was a new breakfast “bisquit”. Or, maybe a certain cut of meat? Alas, I was very wrong. (And, apparently, feeling a bit peckish.)
In the past couple weeks, I’ve learned what Brexit was all about. Well, sorta… I confess, I never got into the details. But, I did learn enough (I think) to be in favor of it — i.e., I would have voted “Leave”, if I were a Briton. Leaving the European Union (EU) seems a bit scary to many. In fact, while 48% of Brits who voted voted “Remain”, I wonder if many were not so much sufficiently informed to make an educated decision as they were frightened — thanks to David Cameron’s “Project Fear” (as the Scots called it) — into thinking that the UK would fall over a financial, economic, and cultural cliff if left to itself. (Sounds like many of my fellow Americans, to be honest.) Rubbish! Those who are in favor of the “progressive”, globalist idea of the EU are/were particularly appalled at the idea of the UK’s secession. To which, I can only say, “Too bad!” (I say that in my best Lt. Worf imitation, hoping that some “Star Trek: TNG” fan out there understands the reference.)
While there are sure to be “bumps” along the way for the UK, the rest of the EU, and even the U.S., I think such fear is largely unfounded in the long term. Particularly, for the UK. I mean, it could go very badly, especially if people panic and make major decisions based on fear and/or spite. But, it doesn’t have to and certainly isn’t inevitable. I’m not about to attempt to detail any path-to-success for the UK, which would be well out of my wheelhouse, but there are other countries in Europe that do not belong to the EU and they are doing OK. (To be fair, a couple of them have tried to join the EU but were either rejected or dropped their bid.) Of course, the UK is a much bigger player — 5th largest economy in the world — so the impact for it and those it does business with is much broader.
Consider this, as explained in a National Review editorial published before the vote:
“Economically speaking, leaving the EU would mean that Britain was outside both a customs union with an average tariff of 3 percent and a system of massive and intrusive regulation. The first would be a trivial disadvantage, the second a strong positive benefit…. [C]omparable countries — Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Australia — are doing much better than those in the EU. Countries in the euro zone are doing worst of all. And Britain’s trade is already being diverted from Europe to the Americas and Asia because that is where the growing markets are. In other words, even if leaving the EU were to produce transitional market disturbances, the long-term fundamentals for Brexit would be fine.
Admittedly, it is true that both the British and the world economies are suffering from a serious attack of nerves about growing debt and, in the case of the U.K., a balance-of-payments deficit equal to 7 percent of GDP. When markets are nervous otherwise, modest problems can send currencies spiraling upward or downward temporarily. In such circumstances, governments should stress the transitional character of any change, pointing out that currencies and other indicators quickly adjust to the economic fundamentals…. Instead of soothing the markets, however, almost all governments and international economic bodies now exaggerate the financial risks of Brexit. That is deeply irresponsible, of course, but it also invites the observation that the current debt levels and higher risks of the world economy are the result of policies pursued by the very authorities that now use them as bugaboos to frighten the voters.”
The whole article is quite informative and a very helpful read for understanding the European Commission’s control over the EU’s member states and “Why Britons Should Vote to Leave the EU”.
There are at least three directions the UK could go as an independent from the EU. Some (e.g., Andrew Stuttaford at the National Review) have recommended the “Norway option”. Norway is one of four members of the intergovernmental trade organization known as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EFTA has a co-ordinated trade policy which allows its members “jointly concluded free-trade agreements” with many other countries. However, to do business in the EU’s internal market (aka the European “single market”), members must sign onto the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), which is regulated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway have done so. (I’m not sure why this is called the “Norway option”, except perhaps due to its being of more comparable size to the UK.)
Polling earlier this month had British voters overwhelmingly in favor of this option, at least for a 5-10 year transitional period. However, Norway’s own Prime Minister warned, “They won’t like.” While such a relationship grants greater flexibility over agriculture, fisheries and external trade, the think-tank Open Europe points out, “it would still be bound by great swathes of the EU regulation that rankles with businesses and the general public, but — and this is the crucial point — without any vote on it.” This would probably include the lax border/(im)migration policies (i.e., “free movement”), which many see as part of the current problems.
Note: According to the survey commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), 42% of Britons who said they would vote for Brexit also believed that EFTA membership should be considered, versus 45% of leavers who said it should not.
The second option would be to follow the lead of the fourth member of the EFTA, Switzerland. Refusing to agree to all the EEA stipulations, Switzerland instead independently negotiated a set of bilateral agreements with the EU. This seems like the best option to me. Considering the size of its economy and everything else mentioned by the National Review above, I would think the UK brings a lot to the bargaining table, and the other European nations literally can’t afford to be too picky or proud about their trading partners. (Some are willing to do business with some pretty “bad actors,” too, unfortunately.) However, there is something to be said for a Norway-like transitional period to alleviate short-term impact on GDP.
Another option for the EU-free UK is “relying on the minimum tariff rates secured by the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation,” rather than forging new trade agreements. That one doesn’t sound too promising. I’m sure there are other options, hybrid models and the like, but those are the three I’ve seen discussed most — especially the first two.
I’m confident that the UK can come out of all this as a much stronger nation, with returned control of their own borders, laws, and trade policies, along with reduced regulations and the accompanying bureaucracy. If the rest of the EU a) doesn’t panic and b) starts making some smarter (i.e., right-leaning and security-minded) decisions, they should survive, too. In fact, if a few more EU members (e.g., France, Netherlands) jump ship and follow the UK’s lead, perhaps partnering up on some things, all the better. As for the U.S., Brexit works in our best interests, as well. Nile Gardiner and Matthew Dunn, for example, believe that Britain can now be a more reliable ally against Russian aggression, Islamist terrorism, and other threats. Gardiner also points out,
“The United States should seize upon Brexit as a tremendous opportunity to sign an historic free trade agreement with the United Kingdom — a deal that would advance prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic…. Britain’s decision to leave the EU should be a cause for celebration here in America. Brexit embodies the very principles and ideals the American people hold dear to their hearts: self-determination, limited government, democratic accountability, and economic liberty. A truly free and powerful Great Britain is good for Europe and the United States.”
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher seemed to think the UK was better off outside the European Union, too. For what it’s worth, I agree.