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Reuniting Faith and Reason

“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

This famous quote comes from Tertullian, a second-century Carthaginian Christian, and the author of several theological tracts. Tertullian’s question has echoed across the centuries for a very curious reason. He meant it rhetorically, and it is still normally posed as a rhetorical question. But where he expected readers to agree that Christianity had nothing of significance to learn from ancient Greece, later Christians viewed the matter quite differently. Over the centuries, Christianity matured into a faith that had everything to do with both Athens and Jerusalem. Rejecting Tertullian’s call for a disciplined separation between revealed truth and natural reason, we have insisted across centuries that Athens and Jerusalem do indeed belong together. Sages and scholars have dedicated lifetimes to showing how these two pillars of the ancient world can, in fact, be united in one graceful edifice.

In a technocratic, post-Enlightenment age, it’s easy to forget how incredible and vitally important this marriage of faith and reason truly is. Fortunately, Samuel Gregg has reminded us with his recent book, Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization. It’s a delightful little volume, which manages simultaneously to be uplifting, substantial, and entirely unoriginal. That’s not a criticism. The goal of a work of this kind is not to develop new ideas, but to familiarize readers with old ones that are in danger of being forgotten. It’s rare to find a book that packs so many important truths into 166 lucid pages.

Echoes of Regensburg

The book offers a simple and elegant narrative arc. Gregg begins with a discussion of Pope Benedict’s 2006 speech at Regensburg. Readers may recall the explosive controversy that this oration ignited, mainly in light of its suggestion that Islamic violence is a predictable consequence of Islam’s historical rejection of natural reason. Ironically, some Muslims demonstrated their displeasure at this speech by rioting. It was a grim illustration of the pontiff’s point. As Gregg explains, however, the lessons of the Regensburg speech go far beyond its diagnosis of radical Islam. Benedict’s central point was really about the relationship of faith and reason. People of all faiths (and none) are losing sight of the essential connection between them, and the consequences of that uncoupling may be very grave indeed.

To help his readers grasp this point, Gregg goes back to the beginning, explaining how remarkable it is that the Judeo-Christian tradition was able to identify the God of Israel with the logos of the philosophers. Far from being evident, this identification is in many ways deeply counter-intuitive. Across the ages, the religiously devout have always recognized that humans, in their pursuit of natural excellence, may find themselves competing with the divine, pridefully grasping at power that is not rightfully theirs, in an effort to further their own ends. While the prophets fret about this problem, the philosophers tend to have the opposite concern. In their anxiousness to explore human potential, they are wary of the possibility that a jealous God or gods may punish human excellence, as part of a bid for absolute sovereignty. Ancient, mythical deities (like Zeus) were sometimes inclined to punish over-ambitious underlings whose excellence threatened their own divine rule. The obvious way to avoid this danger is by jettisoning God entirely, and declaring man an end unto himself. If God is dead, men will be free to develop their rational potential to the highest possible degree.

Insisting that Israel’s God simply is the logos, Christians argued that this conflict is illusory. The God who made us is Truth itself, and our capacity to reason is what most clearly marks us as bearers of His divine image. Faith can help us to unfold our natural abilities. Meanwhile, developing the gift of reason is a fitting way to honor the Creator who bestowed it.

On paper, this may look like a mere philosopher’s trick. Gregg shows that it is not. This idea has tremendous consequences; socially and politically it is transformative. Gregg illustrates this by discussing the consequences both of faithless reason, and of ungrounded faith. Without reason, he explains, faith descends into fundamentalism. The slavish missionaries of an opaque deity may end up committing atrocities “in God’s name,” as part of a desperate effort to force the created world into their preferred narrative arc. This is potentially terrifying, but faithless reason can be just as destructive. Without its natural partner, reason lacks the transcendent horizon that allows human beings to unfold their real potential. It turns back on itself, becoming tyrannical in its own way as it fruitlessly seeks fulfillment on a natural plane.

Misreading Our Opponents

It’s critically important to understand both of these hazards. It can be hard for us to remember that, since we live in an age when the religiously devout are regularly skirmishing with the militantly secular. We want to choose sides, and countless books, articles, and popular media creations have indulged this impulse, explaining how the evils of modern life can be traced back either to fundamentalism or to a warped secularism that has made itself into a godless faith.

Deftly walking this fault line, Gregg keeps faith with his subject by offering robust analysis of both categories of error. Unsurprisingly, he frequently ends up speaking in sweeping generalities, and experts in the various thinkers and historical periods he covers would undoubtedly take issue with some of his particular claims. By the end of the book, though, those lower-level debates seem quite secondary to Gregg’s larger purpose. He wants us to understand that faith and reason don’t merely complete one another; they actually need one another. Without the other as a balancing point, each is likely to lapse into fanaticism, undermining whatever goods it may initially have sought.

How are things presently developing in the “struggle for Western Civilization”? In some respects, the battle seems to be going poorly, and Gregg could easily have pitched his book as a counsel of despair. Defenders of Judeo-Christian tradition seem to be flanked at present by the foot-soldiers of irrational faith, and the merciless inquisitors of faithless reason. The space in which reasoned faith is respected, seems to grow ever smaller.

In the East, Islamic radicals continue their nihilistic suicide mission against the entire civilized world, while at home new-age cults spring like weeds from the grass. Institutional faith, meanwhile, has sorely declined. Islamic radicals and new-age occultists put serious pressure on our American tradition of religious toleration, because they lack many of the features that made Christian sects relatively compatible with democratic governance. If the religiously devout are committed to the compatibility of faith and reason, they will have religious reasons as well as patriotic ones for participating in civic discourse, and for supporting the common good. The Kingdoms of God and man will share a common ground. When faith and reason are severed, the relationship between church and state becomes murkier. Clearly, many Muslims (and pagans) are personally committed to living peacefully as law-abiding citizens of Western nations. It’s equally clear though that democratic governance is controversial in the Islamic world. It’s hard to be sure what this will mean for Western states, especially as Muslims come to represent ever-larger shares of the population in many European nations.

Radical secularism isn’t benign, either. Over the past half-century or so, committed secularists have taken numerous steps to marginalize the followers of transcendent faiths. Our Constitution, designed to protect religious faith, has been used as a weapon to drive it out of the public square. The evil fruits of those efforts have become more evident in recent years, as religious believers increasingly struggle to maintain control of their own companies and institutions.

Nothing is Inevitable

Despite all of this, Gregg’s tone is not despairing. He assures us that “decline is not inevitable,” and that it is still possible for the wayward West to return to its Judeo-Christian roots. In the marriage of faith and reason, Americans can find answers to the deep questions that trouble us. There is a way back, but it will require us to see beyond both zealous fundamentalism and committed secularism. We must rediscover those two precious gifts of the God who made us: our natural reason, and the revealed truths of transcendent faith. If we set our eyes on that further horizon, embracing man’s supernatural origin and destiny, we may find that freedom and justice are more attainable even in the here and now.

Gregg doesn’t offer much by way of practical advice for those who wish to help to revitalize Western Civilization. This isn’t necessarily a defect in such a short book, but it does leave the reader pondering a number of difficult questions. How do we persuade our compatriots to turn away from the twin errors of unreasoned fundamentalism, and a blind secularism that jealously eradicates needed sources of wisdom? What policy, project, advocacy, or activism might help to bring faith and reason back together in our culture and civic discourse? There’s no easy answer to these questions, but in the spirit of Gregg’s book, we might consider a few hopeful possibilities.

First of all, we should recognize that people of faith always have the opportunity to sow good seed, simply by engaging in the public square in ways that inspire the respect and gratitude of their compatriots. When non-believers see examples of people of faith as broad-minded, respectful, public-spirited, and generous, they will be more prepared to consider the positive role that faith can play in grounding a healthy culture. People are usually willing to tolerate some differences of opinion among neighbors, so long as the not-like-minded are at least willing to listen and show some level of sympathy. By contrast, if religious people seem insular, paranoid, quarrelsome, and self-righteous, their neighbors and co-workers will be more likely to equate faith and fundamentalism.

Next, we might consider how desperately our society needs reasoned faith. Modern people tend to be well-fed physically, but they are ravenous for more meaning in their lives. Islamic fundamentalists offer one solution to that problem, and pagan spirituality offers another. If defenders of Judeo-Christian tradition think that we have a better way, we should be prepared to explain why at every promising opportunity. Progressive caricatures of religion can actually be helpful in this regard, because they are so easily disproven and discredited. Once a person becomes curious enough to investigate the Western tradition for himself, the battle is at least halfway won.

Finally, we should remind ourselves that even though particular societies can be fragile, the roots of tradition run deep. Faith and reason are not star-crossed lovers; they are literally a match made in Heaven. Gregg’s book is worth reading simply because it reminds us of this hopeful truth. No matter how confused our contemporary culture, faith and reason cannot truly be alienated from one another. When we pursue the truth with integrity, each can draw us back towards the other. Our American republic has been deeply influenced by both Athens and Jerusalem. If we can secure a place for each in our nation’s future, there is every reason to hope that our descendants will thrive.

Reader Discussion

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on November 25, 2019 at 10:07:04 am

Liberals who don't believe in the human capacity to exercise free will. Moral relativists who insist on (their version of) moral progress, which implies a "better" and "worse" version of society. Legal positivists who claim to believe that human rights are real. Secular political thinkers who believe neither in a soul nor a self who make self-actualization the highest personal value. These are among the contradictions of our age -- contradictions that you point to in observing that, without transcendence, reason turns back on itself. Indeed, it undermines itself entirely. John Hill, author of After the Natural Law: How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Values.

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John Hill
on November 25, 2019 at 10:16:50 am

“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

In Athens, as in Jerusalem, True Faith and reason cannot serve in opposition to one another, due to The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, Is The Author Of Love, Of Life, And Of Marriage, thus we can know through both Faith and reason, that in Athens and in Jerusalem, when rendering onto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God, Christ Is King, for Christ Is The Way, The Truth, And The Life Of Perfect Love Incarnate.

“The evils of modern life”, can be traced back to a denial of The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, the source of all heresy, for to Deny The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, is to deny The Divinity Of The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, and thus The Truth Of Love Incarnate, our only Savior, Jesus The Christ.

“It Is Through Christ, With Christ, And In Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost”, that Holy Mother Church exists.

“No one can come to My Father Except Through Me.” - Jesus The Christ

http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.html

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Nancy
on November 25, 2019 at 10:33:53 am

“Come Holy Ghost.”
https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/teachings/leo-xiiis-divinum-illud-munus-on-the-holy-spirit-132

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Nancy
on November 25, 2019 at 11:49:26 am

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/what-some-might-miss-in-our-lady-of-fatimas-message

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Nancy
on November 25, 2019 at 23:48:24 pm

I propose a future culture of civic integrity.

Judeo-Christianity seems a theological oxymoron but a political identity that is popular among some scholars and politicians. The body of people who commit to a Greek idea---human equity under statutory justice---may not support religious beliefs as civic standards. For example, salvation of a soul for a favorable afterdeath may seem undesirable to people who pursue the-literal-truth. Also, I doubt favorable afterdeath is a Jewish doctrine: the Jewish soul may simply return to whatever-God-is.

There is an alternative, better future for the religious, the non-religious, and the secular fellow-citizens under the U.S. Preamble’s proposition. I encourage readers to do the work to develop their personal interpretation so as to order their civic conduct while maintaining their private religious pursuits. (The U.S. Preamble does not include religion among 5 public disciplines, leaving it as a private pursuit.) The proposal is separation of individual hopes-for-soul from civic integrity for life. Thereby, civic citizens may encourage dissidents to join We the People of the United States, a voluntary entity.

Today, my interpretation of the U.S. Preamble’s proposition is: We the People of the United States communicate, collaborate, and connect to establish and maintain 5 public disciplines---integrity, justice, peace, strength, and prosperity---in order to accept responsible human liberty to the continuum of living citizens. The standards of success are unspecified so that We the People of the United States may continually exemplify the leading edge of responsible human liberty.

The U.S. Preamble is unique in the world, in that it proposes human equity under statutory justice---a perfection only the people may approach. It proposes individual human happiness with civic integrity.

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Phillip Beaver
on November 26, 2019 at 08:50:51 am

“For example, salvation of a soul for a favorable afterdeath may seem undesirable to people who pursue the-literal-truth.”

For those who pursue He Who Is The Way, The Truth, And The Life Of Perfect Life-Affirming And Life-Sustaining Love Incarnate, Jesus The Christ

https://societyofignatians.com/

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Nancy
on November 26, 2019 at 12:36:50 pm

I'm not sure that there is a way to reverse the upcoming religious implosion.

Older non-believers in the US are mostly a-theists - people who have considered the evidence and come to the conclusion that the proposition for the existence of God is not proven.

The youngest non-believers in the US (generation 'Z') are most likely to be post-theist - people so far removed from religious practice that the question of the belief in God is simply irrelevant to the everyday lives.

In order to convert post-theists, you'll need to come up with a more compelling argument than it fills the 'ravenous' need for 'more meaning'. Without compelling and irrefutable evidence of the existence of your God, Gen Z won't even engage the question.

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Tom Gervais
on November 26, 2019 at 14:18:48 pm

Addressing toleration: Three ideas from the Greeks stand out regarding Rachel Lu’s argument. According to my comprehension, 1) Socrates died to avoid rebuking the rule of law even in injustice; 2) Pericles suggested that humans may develop equity under statutory justice or the perfection of law; and 3) Agathon suggested that appreciative human beings neither initiate nor tolerate harm to or from any person or whatever-God-is.
It seems three Greek ideas as I perceive them put “serious pressure on our American tradition of religious toleration.”

Agthon attributes to human beings the ability to not tolerate harm to whatever-God-is. The humble human has the individual power, the individual energy, and the individual authority (HIPEA) to develop integrity perhaps in the image of whatever-God-is.

Socrates was falsely accused of teaching a false God to the youth of Athens. The jury had made up their minds before Socrates presented his defense. In reality, they resented Socrates talent for focusing on the-literal-truth rather than human constructs. He had the nerve to ask on what basis God is good. Perhaps Agathon implied that appreciation and humility tolerated the other gods and thus was whatever-God-is.

Pericles pointed out that HIPEA is sufficient to develop statutory justice if fellow citizens agree to the work. I don’t think he went so far as to claim that God gave humankind that responsibility, but it seems both Agathon and Socrates of my comprehension so insinuate.

These Greek principles impact my interpretation of the U.S. Preamble. It proposes a voluntary civic contract by which living fellow citizens may aid the march to statutory human justice: public freedom-from oppression so that the people may pursue individual happiness with civic integrity. Among civic citizens, a fellow citizen’s religious beliefs are private. That is, religion does not supplant the believer’s opportunity to develop integrity.

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Phillip Beaver
on November 26, 2019 at 21:34:01 pm

"The fear the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Proverbs 1:7 et. al.

Without recognizing the qualitative difference between the creator God and the human self, which elicits the agape ethic in response, the Christian community could never demonstrate a humility that regards others as more important than themselves. My point is that proper faith is nothing like a legalism that builds walls, but woos people toward the intended purpose of creation in the first place- being dependent on God, we care for one another and other created things.

Meeting others with different worldviews requires a thinking Christian to show how God's revelation in Jesus and continuing presence through the Holy Spirit is compatible with human reasoning and scientific knowledge...since God created all.

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John Piatt
on November 26, 2019 at 21:46:20 pm

The essay is actually a brilliant and prescient synopsis of the situation at hand; defensive fundamentalists versus arrogant human intellectualism devoid of absolutes, around which orbits an angry young generation trying to find meaning….unimpressed by the legacy and heritage of an older generation arrogant enough to dismiss the existence of God for lack of physical proof.

It might be said the evil that was WW2 gave rise to a seemingly irreconcilable theological and intellectual divide exemplified by the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer 'A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol'.

But what if God chose to evidence His existence empirically to a cynical world in the ultimate test of reason?
He has done so in a message written across the tablet of time fusing the only two indisputable variables know to humans, the ‘Language of God’ mathematics and the last 6000 years of known history, into stunningly accurate matrices on multiple axes.

Rachael, walk through history in 250 year increments starting in 70 AD and you will find Athanasius severing Christianity from Judaism…then Muhammad and Marx/Engels to birth years with the most important events in the history of western civilization squeezed between. Sound familiar?

Ask and I will answer…you have my email address.

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Adler Pfingsten
on November 28, 2019 at 19:58:39 pm

Interesting subject.

It would help if people took the Word of God seriously. The Ten Commandments of God (Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5) teach us many things: our Duty to God (to acknowledge, trust and obey Him) and our Duty to Man (to do good to our neighbors, respect everyone's God-given rights as identified in Table Two, and cause no harm).

These Commandments come with a built-in Cause & Effect component that most people miss as did I until about twenty years ago. But in the First Table (Ex. 20:5 & 6) we learn that if we obey these commandments we will be blessed and so will our descendants to a thousand generations hence and if we disobey we will be cursed and so will our descendants to the third and fourth generation.

Now, when I was young I believed in God, or at least in some almighty power who created the Universe. I wasn't sure about the Bible and Christianity. And I took these Commandments as a form of disapproval from God, something arbitrary. I thought God's blessings were arbitrarily dispensed to those who seemed to be hypocrites to me and the curses aimed at people like me. I did not understand the Commandments until I began to study them in earnest after some serious study of the Declaration of Independence which tells us that our inalienable rights come from God, made evident in the Laws of God and Nature.

So, you read the First Table, and there you see the first four laws: 1) the one about acknowledging that the Lawgiver is above all other gods, described elsewhere in the Bible as "The One True Living God" who liberated His Chosen People from slavery to the Egyptians; 2) that he does not want us to make idols or worship false gods because He wants to bless us; 3) that we are not to misuse the name of the Lord our God which seems to mean more than simply cussing & swearing; 4) that we are to observe a day of rest on the seventh day of each week--a rest that applies to our entire household, those who work for us, even our work animals.

Notice that the First Commandment does not demand that we believe that God exists--He knows this is a matter of Conscience--but that if we do then making Him the highest priority for our lives must affect the way we think about Reality. What are the consequences of obeying the first commandment? Well, if this One True Living God, the Almighty Power that created the Universe does exist, then maybe if we listen we will learn something useful. And, indeed, we can. One of the things we will learn is to neither afraid of the things of this world nor overly impressed by them--God as the Autor of Liberty and the Laws that govern the Universe is in control. The consequences of that include that we can pay attention to what is going on around us and not be seduced by the things of this world. The consequences of disobedience, then, become obvious. Even if we believe this One True Living God exists, if we don't put Him first in our minds and hearts then we will be easily upset by things of this world and easily beguiled into believing all kinds of nonsense about everything. The groundwork is laid for the next Commandment.

But suppose we slip up? Well, the Second Commandment warns us not to follow false gods and the nonsense that goes with this practice. If we realize that believing falsehoods has a negative affect on our own lives and the lives of everyone around us, we can see the potential for a lot of bad things to happen. If you follow false gods, you may find yourself or your loved ones being sacrificed to them, or believing that all your problems are caused by some people you despise, or that Reality is relative, or that modern Science is the salvation of mankind. Or that Government is the salvation of Science. You may not have all the answers, but you can come up with the right questions to ask. And you will be a better child, husband or wife, parent to your own children, neighbor, citizen and role model. That means you will be taking the other eight commandments seriously, too. Which leads to the Third Commandment.

If we do, we will clean up our act. We will not only stop using God's name to express our anger at someone or something, we will not add or take away anything from His Word. So, if what I am saying to you now is not a true interpretation of His Word then I am in big trouble. But I arrived at these thoughts by studying the Bible very carefully--every passage long or short for its context, lesson and message--and the use of simple logic regarding Cause & Effect.

What is the consequence of not taking a day for rest & contemplation of eternal things once a week? If you are a workaholic, you will wear yourself out and make everyone around you miserable. Your spouse will feel abandoned, your children won't know you, and the money you leave behind--if any--will not make up for the misery you've given them. If you are already a bum, then a day of rest won't mean much to you and you won't appreciate the eternal things--because if you did you wouldn't be a bum. But freeloading off others means you aren't contributing to your own or anyone else's welfare, which means you are a burden those who are. And you will, in consequence, be depressed an have low self-esteem. If you are hard-working but looking forward toward your retirement, that day of rest will help you recharge your batteries, give you some time to spend with your family & pets, and think about your blessings. You may find yourself looking for ways to do something useful for someone else. You may even find yourself looking forward to Monday morning as a blessing. And when your retirement comes, you may have a good idea how you want to spend it so you don't sit around in front of a television, computer or video game all day long. Now you are making a big difference in the lives of those you love, and being a good neighbor, and contributing more than just goods and services to society, but something lasting. You are helping to hold society together just by doing ordinary things with people you know. And, if you spend some time in God's Word and sharing it with your children, they will learn something of value that will help them in their lives. If you are new to the Bible, get a good concordance and look up what God's Word says about Liberty and Happiness.

The First Table protects our right to Liberty of Conscience because what you believe about eternal things is between you and your Maker, a matter of Conscience. Remember that the Pilgrims were martyrs to Liberty of Conscience because they came here to build a new world where they could worship God according to their beliefs. It took Roger Williams, William Penn, and the American Revolution to work that principle out to its logical conclusion--that even people who don't believe in God have a right to disbelieve, to not be forced to confess something they don't think is true. And people who do believe have a right to choose their own church or manner of worship--as long as they cause no harm to others. And that is the key--Liberty is the right to do as we think best as long as we cause no harm to others.

The Second Table is easier for figuring out the effects of obedience & disobedience on ourselves and others. It teaches us to respect our parents whether they deserve it or not so that we will live long and prosper (some parents are easier to respect than others, but if you realize that rebelling against your parents when you are young will always bring you trouble you will be able to go out on your own in better shape. Of course, if your parents are seriously abusive then it may be necessary for you to get out of the house, but if you are seen to be a good kid you'll likely find it easier to get help. Showing respect to an abusive parent has a way of protecting you from additional abuse and making it easier for others to see what is wrong. But honoring our parents means that we will not make their lives miserable by being difficult, that when they are old or sick they will not be abandoned, that if they leave us a legacy we will have deserve it. By respecting them we will gain their respect. We will gain our own self-respect. The consequence of that is a sense of self-esteem.

We are then commanded not to murder which turns out to be a rule about respecting the lives, liberty & well-being of others. Think what would happen if everybody did this. Think what would happen if nobody did.

Next, we are commanded not to commit adultery, which is in effect a rule that protects the sacred family bond. Fathers can trust their wives and will know the children born to them are theirs. Wives will be able to trust their husbands, that they will not be abandoned to raise them on their own, that they will work together for the benefit of the whole family. Children will know their own father ab=nd receive the attention they need from both parents. They will learn how to be good parents themselves and what they need to know to become independent. There will be fewer single-parents and fewer abandoned children (think about it--when a couple gets a divorce, they are in effect abandoning their children and anyone who comes from a broken family knows how their parents' divorce harmed them and their siblings. If you are divorced, this is not an excuse to condemn yourself, but a reason to realize the consequences so you won't make that mistake again and that you may actually be able to make amends to your children. Then you can move on and do better.) Families are the building block of society, and essential for a society where Liberty and Justice can prevail. Freedom is not the abandonment of responsibilities, it is the right to carry them out according to our best ability.

Not stealing protects other people's property--including their God-given right to life and Liberty, land, tenancy, personal possessions, intellectual property, and contracts including marriage and being paid for one's labor or goods & services provided to a customer. James Madison wrote the best piece on that. A free society cannot exist if we aren't safe in our own homes, going to and from our homes and other places, and so forth. But if more people observed this commandment government would not need to be so big.

Not lying under oath makes Justice possible. Think what would happen if witnesses were not bound to tell the truth in a court of law, or parties to a contract weren't required to swear or affirm that they are entering into it of their own free will, and so forth. The Rule of Law would not go very far if everybody lied about everything all the time.

Not coveting--meaning to desire what belongs to others so that you are willing to cheat them or steal what's theirs or rob them. Including their land. This is the commandment that clarifies the difference between the evils of communism, fascism, socialism, climate-change scientism--any kind of totalitarianism whatever it is called--and true Liberty.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 & 7) is Jesus' commentary on the laws of Moses, which include the Ten Commandments. He expounds on what Jews considered the broad interpretation of God's laws. The narrow interpretation is the basic rule of a civil society. The broad interpretation fine-tunes that rule by applying the Golden Rule to other human interactions. It is a lot easier not to commit murder than it is not to nurse a grudge against someone who wronged us. Or lie under oath than it is to tell the truth when we have done something wrong. But Jesus shows us the way to do this so that we can avoid causing offense and how to make amends if we did. He even shows us what we need to do to put God first in our lives.

And by studying the principles taught by the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount, we learn that although it is within the realm of government authority to pass laws punishing those who break any or all of the commandments of the Second Table, neither society nor government may force anyone to obey them. Obedience must be voluntary. It must be an act of Conscience.

The connection between the Judeo-Christian moral and legal tradition and a free society is so intense that if we do not study the documents of the tradition that made it possible for America's founding generation to establish a society where people are capable of achieving the virtue necessary to get a government good enough to protect their Liberty we will not be able to keep it. But, if and when a future generation wants to get it back, this is what they have to do.

The Holy Bible is the place to look for the moral code capable of doing this--the ancient Greeks whose contributions to Western Tradition are part of the Judeo-Christian tradition thought that the Ten Commandments was the only moral code that could.

This is where you go to discover the connection between faith and reason. We learn to Reason from experience. Faith comes when our experience of the world and our experience of the Laws of God match up. If we see that by following the Ten Commandments & Golden Rule outcomes are good and that by failing to follow them outcomes are not so good--sometimes devastating--and we see the certainty of Cause & Effect in the Laws of God and Nature, we can have faith in those laws. And it follows that we may trust in the Power who governs us by those laws. He gave them to us so we could have Liberty, and the blessings of Liberty, and the Happiness that comes from those blessings.

And from that trust comes a desire to obey, and a willingness to recognize when we have goofed up. And humility to take responsibility for them. And a determination to do better. We will be happier, the people around us will be happier, and so will the people around them. Think what would happen if everybody did it.

If we want to have Liberty, we must live our lives as if we deserved to be free.

I learned this from examining my own life in relation to what I've learned from the Holy Bible. It was reading John Trenchard Thomas Gordon's "Independent Whig" essays that I discovered a passage that reads as follows:

"The Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, delivered by God Himself from Mt. Sinai with great Glory and astonishing Circumstances, was little else but the Law of Nature educed into Tables and written in words of God's own chusing." Trenchard & Gordon are considered the fathers of modern Libertarian thought. Their influence on the American Revolution and founding is phenomenal. They also wrote that when it comes to reading the Holy Bible, what is essential to our salvation is clear and what is not clear is not essential.

Their writings pointed me to the relationship of faith to reason, and reason to faith. It takes both.

This is, as a matter of fact, a principle elaborated upon in the writings of John Calvin and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin said that God's Creation is a proper study for Christians. So, when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they were bringing this attitude with them.

Along with their faith in the Providence of God. The first year they starved because they were trying to live the communal life where nobody had any private property and were not compelled to work. Some of the menfolk took a tour of the place they had come and stumbled on a cache of corn the Indians had left behind. They did not want to steal it but it seemed like Providence, so they took it back with them and it saved their lives. They talked about their situation and decided the communal system did not work and everyone should be given their own land, allowed to plant & work as they wanted, and keep the fruits of their labors. Local Indians taught them how to plant corn and fish (the newcomers were not farmers or fishermen, but tradesmen and professionals who were at least adept at hunting),

The people worked so hard that the following year they harvested much more than needed. They invited Chief Massasoit and his people, the Wampanoags, to celebrate a Thanksgiving with them, an invitation that was accepted. The Chief and 90 of his men showed up with venison. The Pilgrims supplied corn, wild greens, barley bread, eels, lobster, clams, spit-roasted duck & goose, cranberry relish, red wine, plums and other wild fruit, pottage (meat & vegetable stew), and some other dishes. Then the menfolk went out and hunted more game.

Later, the Pilgrims decided they should pay the Indians whose corn they had stolen (not the Wampanoags, but another tribe whose name I don't remember right now). They wanted to be good neighbors. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags made a treaty to be allies and keep the peace between them. It turned out the Wampanoags were a small tribe with many enemies who were always causing them trouble, and they were hoping the newcomers would be friends. The Pilgrims saw this as Providential. The peace lasted about thirty years until Massasoit died. But there was a lot of pressure from other tribes who wanted to run the colpnists out and a number of newcoming colonists who painted all the Indians with one brush. Some of the Indians were encouraged by the French to pester the British colonists.

The First Thanksgiving is a testimony to faith, reason, hard work, and devotion to eternal things. Their gratitude is what kept the tradition going, and this tradition carries with it the message of Liberty, of Freedom and Independence, of Self-Reliance and Self-Restraint, and the Rule of Law without which Justice under any code is not possible.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! We've a lot to be grateful for.

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Standing Fast
on December 02, 2019 at 10:45:05 am

[…] society needs reasoned faith,” writes Rachel Lu at Law and Liberty. “Fortunately, Samuel Gregg has reminded us with his recent book, Reason, Faith, and the […]

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Why the West needs reasoned faith – Acton Institute PowerBlog

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