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Should the secular state legislate morality?


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#81 Evan

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 08:49 PM

One thing to look at that might be more in line with this forum's purpose might be to talk about the fact of how Locke's understanding of human nature was faulty and in what way. I guess this is where I have been tending toward, although, maybe it is not of general interest.

In a way I guess I look at it with an engineer's eye. If I want to design a machine to do a particular job, it's success lies in being able to accurately know the forces and stresses to which it will be subjected, as well as having an accurate view of what needs to be done and how. If someone's view of human nature, and the stresses and forces that are acting on this nature are faulty, and their ideas about how this nature responds under different kinds pressure is faulty well...... how can they engineer a social structure that will do what they intend it to do..


For my part, I'd enjoy talking further about where Locke went wrong-- although I suppose it's clear enough that I think he got several important things right (no pun intended), chief among them the notion that the state's foundation is to be laid in a fixed understanding of human nature, as God's worksmanship, and thus that there are things that it simply cannot do and there are things that it must do, because such is God's will, who so shaped us and molded us.

Perhaps we might also ask how "right" one has to be about human nature in order to establish a polity that does "work." What are we intending to do? To my mind, we're trying to provide the most hospitable forum for working out our salvation in fear and trembling and proclaiming the Gospel-- which would seem to recomend a state that was bound to some ascertainable moral standard consistent with our view of the human person or at least not outright hostile to it, but not, to my mind, necessarily identical to it. Again, we do live in a fallen world, and civil society is going to encompass people who are fallible and passionate, may not have a right understanding of human nature, and may not act on it if they do. I'd daresay the "fullness" of human nature, as we understand it, is certainly not accessible to the world. Would an orthodox understanding of human nature, if made the foundation of a polity, make for a civil order that would best serve the end I've set forth (if that's even the right end), given that all political order is imperfect and temporary and we'll never get something perfect? What would such a polity look like? Should we even be contemplating such an enterprise?

Another avenue for productive discussion might be to discuss the Christian idea of the duties of kings in a Christian state (for instance in Tsarist Russia) and how the Church in Christian empires has viewed this problem of "Caesarism" and how they have attempted to mitigate it. Obviously Christianity existed within cultures under a monarchy for a long time, and had plenty of opportunities to respond to abuses of the authority by the rulers -whether those rulers be within the state or the church. Their answer was not the answer we find among the enlightenment thinkers..



Indeed, Orthodox Christians have patiently suffered under what such as Locke would have considered abject tyranny. And yet, leaders of the Orthodox Church in Greece played an active role in encouraging the people to cast off the Turkish yoke. "Liberty or death" was the rallying cry among those who fought, priests and laypeople together. This would seem to be another line of fruitful inquiry.

In Christ,
Evan

Edited by Evan, 09 September 2011 - 09:47 PM.


#82 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 09 September 2011 - 09:44 PM

Indeed, Orthodox Christians have patiently suffered under what such as Locke would have considered abject tyranny. And yet, leaders of the Orthodox Church in Greece played an active role in encouraging the people to cast off the Turkish yoke. "Liberty or death" was the rallying cry among those who fought, priests and laypeople together. This would seem to be another line of fruitful inquiry.

A sub-line from this might be nationhood when Greece other-threw the Turks they did just that it was not a rebellion against an authority it was an overthrowing of a foreign yoke that had enslaved them since the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 1400's -does anyone else find it odd that it Old Rome fell in the 400's New Rome 1400's? Also altough a Christain's duty is to God and the Church first there were wars between Orthodox nations such as the Roman Empire and Georgia.

Something else that comes to mind is the difference between the Roman view and other views although in both the Emperor or King was the representative of God's authority on earth in Rome the emperor could and was deposed in places like England and Georgia this was unthinkable the was a clear link with the kings of the Old Testament indeed the coronation of English Kings follows that of Saint Dunstan's which he based on Saint David the Prophet King.

A final point can the change of view from authority coming from God and down through kings governors governed changing to a top up where man is his own ruler and free to come together and define how he wants to be governed even to rejecting the very notion of God himself (which although Locke did not want or dream would happen is the end of his line of thinking) relate to the Apostles's warning of the coming lawlessness which seems to being fulfilled at least in part in our days.

P.S. Evan I'm still reading through your post before, I certainly agree that man is not alone but together. Another problem with the issue you raised with dependent is the role of women as in the past they where considered dependent, and how this worked out in the democratic but male only societies of the 18,19th and early 20th centuries. The reason women did not play a role historically in monarchy systems compared to in democratic systems seems to be different.

In Christ.
Daniel,

Edited by Daniel R., 09 September 2011 - 10:05 PM.


#83 Evan

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 07:56 AM

. Another problem with the issue you raised with dependent is the role of women as in the past they where considered dependent, and how this worked out in the democratic but male only societies of the 18,19th and early 20th centuries. The reason women did not play a role historically in monarchy systems compared to in democratic systems seems to be different.

In Christ.
Daniel,


One of the striking things about Locke's quite limited discussion of the family is how utilitarian an arrangement it is and how indifferent to gender.

As to utility. Marriage is for him "a compact, where procreation and education are secured, and inheritance taken care for." There is nothing in the nature of a sacrament to it, no sense that its permancy arises from the fact that God has joined them together, and what God has joined together should not be rent asunder, no sense that it is an icon of God's love for us: "(The) chief, if not the only reason, why the male and female in mankind are tied to a longer conjunction than other creatures, because the female is capable of conceiving, and de facto is commonly with child again, and brings forth too a new birth, long before the former is out of a dependency for support on his parents help, and able to shift for himself, and has all the assistance is due to him from his parents." It arises as a means of dealing with our weakness and vulnerability, as compared to other creatures. As you might imagine, then, Locke is a strong advocate of a right to divorce, when the children are of such age when they can subsist by themselves, "either by consent, or at a certain time, or upon certain conditions, as well as any other voluntary compacts, there being no necessity in the nature of the thing, nor to the ends of it, that it should always be for life." Similarly, once children can subsist by themselves, authority held by their parents becomes insubstantial, and indeed the family relationship itself may become so. Parents are "instruments in his great design of continuing the race of mankind, and the occasions of life to their children." Having served that instrumental purpose, they are entitled to a certain "honor." The "honor" due the parent by the child after he has become self-sufficient, as it were, is presented as if contingent upon how well the child has been nourished and educated: "The subjection of a minor places in the father a temporary government, which terminates with the minority of the child: and the honour due from a child, places in the parents a perpetual right to respect, reverence, support and compliance too, more or less, as the father’s care, cost, and kindness in his education, has been more or less."

As to gender. We do not have male headship that is anything more than a matter of convenience, given the greater ability and physical strength of the male. It's important to note here that when Locke speaks of "men," he is speaking of men, women, and children, all of whom he believes capable of realizing their equality and independence and taking possession, as it were, of their rights (later, Jefferson, in a draft version of the "Declaration of Independence" will denounce George III as having "determined to keep open market where men should be bought and sold," knowing full well that men, women, and children were sold into slavery). What place, then, could there be for a more than conditional subjection? Locke interprets the "punishment" imposed upon Eve in Genesis thus: "If we will take them as they were directed in particular to her, or in her, as their representative, to all other women, they... import no more, but that subjection they should ordinarily be in to their husbands: but there is here no more law to oblige a woman to such a subjection, if the circumstances either of her condition, or contract with her husband, should exempt her from it, than there is, that she should bring forth her children in sorrow and pain, if there could be found a remedy for it." (From Locke's "First Treatise on Government"; all other references are to the "Second.")

So, as in ecclesiastical and political matters, we again see a "levelling," grounded in an appeal to nature. Locke does not deny that there is a "natural" subjection of child to parent and wife to husband, but it rests upon a debased understanding of human nature that distinguishes a family of persons from a family of beasts in quite minimal ways and results in conclusions that are not only theologically incorrect but turn marriage and the family itself into something that's more or less a necessary evil. We may be seeing the bitter fruits of the latter in our own time.

In Christ,
Evan

#84 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 12:22 PM

I don't think there's any need to go to the other extreme to demonize such thinkers as if they were without nay moral or religious sense. This is factually false and serves no purpose except for us to score points.

But still I would encourage us as Orthodox Christians to understand in a critical and sober way the basis of our society. In this light some knowledge of its founding fathers can be useful. We can pursue this knowledge like Fr Seraphim Rosé did in understanding how such thinkers contradict an Orthodox way of thinking but yet without going to the other extreme of portraying them as being evil and irredeemable.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#85 Anna Stickles

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 12:56 PM

Evan, This was a very enlightening post on his view on family. I can see how, like the issue's related to the political contract, these ideas have sunk into our society's conception of family till they are unconscious and unquestioned.

I know for myself coming into Orthodoxy that coming to see our family relationships in a more truly Christian light has been a major part of my conversion. I grew up in a bad family situation, without much example of how a family ought to operate, and simply absorbed a lot of values from our culture as replacement.

There is nothing in the nature of a sacrament to it, no sense that its permanency arises from the fact that God has joined them together, and what God has joined together should not be rent asunder ..... Similarly, once children can subsist by themselves, authority held by their parents becomes insubstantial, and indeed the family relationship itself may become so.



Defense of marriage by Christian thinkers abounds, but an unmasking of the problems with the culture's views on the parent/child relationship and a defense of a truly Christian view, I have seen very little discussion of. It was not until coming into Orthodoxy and having experience with the pastoral model of the Church, which of course is lifelong - we do not become independently self-supporting in the Church - that I started to question the whole idea of children simply getting to some age of independence and then the parent/child relationship being free of further obligation.

This whole mindset is very damaging and it would be nice to see the Church address it more actively.

Although it is interesting to note, how the quote above contradicts this quote:

"The subjection of a minor places in the father a temporary government, which terminates with the minority of the child: and the honour due from a child, places in the parents a perpetual right to respect, reverence, support and compliance too, more or less, as the father’s care, cost, and kindness in his education, has been more or less."


I think that often with these thinkers, there is a real conscience at work that recognizes the good and so they end up contradicting themselves. When they try to push those ideas not in conformity with how God created us and then hit an obvious conflict with what we recognize as good, they back up and try to somehow fit this in. Although even this whole idea of honor due is terribly distorted as you say when taken out of a sacramental context based on communion and love, and placed into a utilitarian context of what is due - like some kind of business contract.

#86 Evan

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 03:03 PM

I don't think there's any need to go to the other extreme to demonize such thinkers as if they were without nay moral or religious sense. This is factually false and serves no purpose except for us to score points.

But still I would encourage us as Orthodox Christians to understand in a critical and sober way the basis of our society. In this light some knowledge of its founding fathers can be useful. We can pursue this knowledge like Fr Seraphim Rosé did in understanding how such thinkers contradict an Orthodox way of thinking but yet without going to the other extreme of portraying them as being evil and irredeemable.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


Father,

In charity, I'm trying to proceed as critically and soberly as God grants me the discernment to, to that very end. Having articulated why I'm highly sympathetic to Locke's general approach towards political foundations, as laid in fixed truths concerning created human nature (which become Jefferson's "unalienable rights"), I sought to provide some balance by pointing out where I think his views concerning created human nature, are problematic, in response to comments on the previous page, and thought to proceed to consider what that means for us as Orthodox Christians who have an interest in their relation to the political and social order in which they find themselves. It would indeed be "factually false" to regard Locke (or Jefferson, or anyone we've discussed in this thread, really) as "without any moral or religious sense," or as "evil and irredeemable" (this we can't say of any man). Please help me to understand precisely where I've gone wrong concerning Locke, if you consider that I have, or if you think the discussion is heading in a direction that's unproductive.

In Christ,
Evan

Edited by Evan, 10 September 2011 - 03:20 PM.


#87 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 04:30 PM

I don't think there's any need to go to the other extreme to demonize such thinkers as if they were without any moral or religious sense. This is factually false and serves no purpose except for us to score points.


Sorry Evan. I'm making a general statement here; not about a point you're making.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#88 Anna Stickles

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:05 PM

Evan,

Your discussion and a number of your questions here has been very helpful to me. I hope you don't mind if for a moment I turn things away from Locke to something more general - and then if there is no interest the discussion of Locke can continue.

I suppose it's clear enough that I think he got several important things right (no pun intended), chief among them the notion that the state's foundation is to be laid in a fixed understanding of human nature, as God's worksmanship,... Would an orthodox understanding of human nature, if made the foundation of a polity, make for a civil order that would best serve the end I've set forth (if that's even the right end), given that all political order is imperfect and temporary and we'll never get something perfect? What would such a polity look like? Should we even be contemplating such an enterprise?


and Namely, given that any political order is necessarily "fallen" in the sense of being unable to save those who are under it, can we speak of a Christian political science?


Bl Augustine attempts to address some of these issues in City of God, it is not just a spiritual treatise but also a political treatise. But I think that to go forward we have to start to change the way we are looking at things and look not just at legislation of morality, but at the whole context in which the battle between the two cities is going on today. This battle is primarily taking place in the realm of thought, in the ideological realm.

The early apologists like Bl Augustine, St Justin Martyr and others were not shy about recognizing that Satan, as prince of this world, maintained a great deal of influence and power in the civil and religious order of their day. Simply because we live in a supposedly Christian culture, does no mean that we can assume that this is not still true. I think we can all agree on this. When separated out, it is not hard to see the destructive and really demonic roots of some of the ideas that have become part and parcel of our cultural "thought matrix" (ie the unconscious set of assumptions and presuppositions about what is that makes up our culture's worldview) and it is not hard to see that just as the Church teaches us that on an individual level "our thoughts determine our lives" so too on a societal level this thought matrix determines to a large degree what goes on in the culture for positive or negative.

There is a sense in which we can be grateful to thinkers like Neitzche who were intellectualy honest enough to follow these bad assumptions to their logical conclusion, showing them up for the demonic and truly destructive things they were. In most philosophers, like you have noted with Locke here as opposed to maybe Rousseau (and I am just going on what you have said about them in an earlier post, I don't know enough myself to comment) their own intrinsic moral sense tends to insert itself into their philosophy, mitigating the effects of assumptions and ideas that on their own are very destructive. But in a way this confuses the issue, since a spoonful of sugar helps the poison go down.

For myself, and this is something I am just exploring. I don't have answers. I wonder if part of what has to constitute an Orthodox political science is not trying to change the outward forms of govt, but rather striving to expose and destroy these demonic influences just as the early Fathers did in their fight with pagan culture. This then leaves room for something better to develop on its own as man's intrinsic moral sense then has air to breathe instead of being choked up and confused by harmful alien influences.

I think that what you are doing here with Locke, in trying to sort out the good from the bad and also looking at where the bad has led us and what within that same person's "thought matrix" tends to mitigate the bad, reflecting it's origin in a better source, is not a bad place to start.

#89 Evan

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 03:47 PM

Evan,

For myself, and this is something I am just exploring. I don't have answers. I wonder if part of what has to constitute an Orthodox political science is not trying to change the outward forms of govt, but rather striving to expose and destroy these demonic influences just as the early Fathers did in their fight with pagan culture. This then leaves room for something better to develop on its own as man's intrinsic moral sense then has air to breathe instead of being choked up and confused by harmful alien influences.

.




Thanks for this, Anna. As I've said, what I find attractive in the idea of natural right rooted in God’s worksmanship is that, in principle, it compels the state to respect that “intrinsic moral sense” and to ensure general compliance with it through its laws. Left to his own fallen reasoning, man may never arrive at the notion that human flesh is capable of becoming God’s temple, but he does have the capacity to arrive at the conclusion that there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. Because his reasoning is fallen and because he is subject to the passions, he may not arrive at that conclusion, or give much heed to it if he does, human law comes in. To the extent that human law services the natural law, I think there's a very real sense in which it reflects God’s will.

The broader question of political science is one I’ve been pushing towards, and I’m glad you’ve teased it out. For Aristotle, the end of politics was happiness. Happiness, which can be broadly characterized as satisfaction of soul, arises from activity in accordance with reason, reason being the distinctive mark of man, that which is most godlike in him and which sets him apart from the beasts. The "greatest" happiness is to be found in the life of pure contemplation, the exercise of reason, because such a life is most godlike, the least dependent upon anything, or anybody else, just as the gods are. It is not attainable apart from the cultivation of good character, which must be shaped by education and law to "lov(e) what is noble and hat(e) what is base." Without good education and good laws, we will never be all that man can be, and some of us will never be all that man can be. In order to reach his highest stature, man must live in the best kind of political society, in the kind of society that is most conducive to human excellence.

Of course, as St. Augustine pointed out in "City of God," such happiness as the ancients sought is equivocal and unstable and contingent, and doesn't measure up to the surpassing worth of knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. There’s a society we must live in to reach our highest stature, but it’s not political society. In a way, perhaps we can’t be quite as interested in politics as such as the ancients were, because we don’t regard them as “necessary” for the highest good, for that ultimate happiness we were made to experience in the Risen Christ, Who, entering into the sanctuary not made by hands, revealed things about the human potential that “unassisted reason” could never have arrived at, and which don’t depend upon such contingencies as Aristotle thought necessary to the happy life, such as, say, not being a slave.

Perhaps it is for this reason that we don’t see the Fathers seeking an active role in the political life of their nations, or pushing for it on the part of the body of the people. Then again, they didn’t have much of a choice about it. They didn’t live under representative governments, but under authority largely insulated from public accountability and with no fixed limits on its scope. We can celebrate the martyrs clothed in porphyry and purple under brutal dictatorships without desiring that any people, anywhere be systematically treated in ways inconsistent with the dignity of the human person. By promoting an understanding of political authority that is tied to ministry to the human person as God’s worksmanship and is fixed by great principles of right and wrong that all are capable of appreciating (a sort of theological bare minimum), we may have a forum more conducive to working out our salvation and proclaiming the Gospel.

Or, we may have a stiff-necked and disobedient people. I cringed a bit when I typed out “dignity of the human person,” because I know what such language can/has/will be used to support. Such is the challenge, I think, that Christians that find politics interesting must face.

Of course, every encounter with a person is, for the Christian, an opportunity to make known happiness that the political order can never of itself bring. We don’t need to rely upon politics for perfection. And thank God!

In Christ,
Evan

PS: I notice that my posts are getting very lengthy. I beg your patience with my enthusiasm on this topic!

#90 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 06:08 PM

Evan,

Without good education and good laws, we will never be all that man can be, and some of us will never be all that man can be. In order to reach his highest stature, man must live in the best kind of political society, in the kind of society that is most conducive to human excellence.

Education and laws are not what make a man, but rather spiritual struggle. This struggle can take place independent of education and laws - - we see great saints who had absolutely no education at all and could not even read, and others who were highly educated in their respective cultures (which cultures often had very different approaches to education) We see saints and righteous ones from simple argrarian societies and from the high culture of both the Byzantine Empire and modern Europe.

Thanks for this, Anna. As I've said, what I find attractive in the idea of natural right rooted in God’s worksmanship is that, in principle, it compels the state to respect that “intrinsic moral sense” and to ensure general compliance with it through its laws.


Here is another thing that maybe needs to be explored. What exactly is meant by "natural right"? Is this a patristic concept? Part of being made in God's image is the fact that we are created as free creatures. This freedom extends even to being able to rebel against our own nature and the One who created that nature, so nothing can compel the state at all, for the state after all is made up of free men.

What is the purpose of human law? I think its purpose is very limited -- and so to borrow your phrase -- the justice and peace it can bring is always equivocal and unstable and contingent. To try to make it do more then this.... oohhh I cringe to think of the disaster this brings... after all to give human law a place higher, and an authority greater, then it deserves.... is this not the root of the abuses of govt - whether that govt be rule by a sovereign or rule by the people?

And here I think has to be the starting place of a decent political theory. We cannot look to human govt to do more then it is intended to do. Its role is to provide for material peace and stability. We cannot put our hope in it or even much help from it in making men's souls better. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to influence it, toward something better and more Christian -- but this has to be a response to the overall culture becoming more Christian, rather then attempting to use govt to make or keep a culture more Christian. In other words the change has to come through the Church, to the souls of the people first, then this will start to be reflected in the ways that that culture lives out this internal change - which includes the way it governs and the relationship between the governed and the govt.

#91 Evan

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 06:16 PM

Evan,

Education and laws are not what make a man, but rather spiritual struggle. This struggle can take place independent of education and laws - - we see great saints who had absolutely no education at all and could not even read, and others who were highly educated in their respective cultures (which cultures often had very different approaches to education) We see saints and righteous ones from simple argrarian societies and from the high culture of both the Byzantine Empire and modern Europe.

.


Anna: Just to clarify.

I was giving a summary of Aristotle, not stating my own opinion in that paragraph. Sorry if that was unclear.

I'm still considering the rest of your post. I'm grateful for the dialogue we're having. But I wanted to get that out there right away.

As to natural right-- this is essentially the notion that there are certain moral principles available to us as reasoning, morally discerning creatures "by nature," arising from what we can see in the human person. I did not mean to deny our God-given freedom. Rather, I meant to speak of moral obligation arising from the fact that those principles aren't "up for debate," and the authority of the state is contingent upon its adherence to them. We have a RIGHT not to be treated in certain ways, owing to this moral obligation. Others can still treat us in such ways, but we need not acquiesce in it, because it is wrong. Caeser's decree notwithstanding.

The term "right" is simply a way of expressing an obligation on the part of the state not to do certain things to us. Not because those who administer state affairs can't choose to do them anyway, but because in doing so, they overstep the bounds of their authority. Because no one has authority to do that which is absolutely wrong. The state's business, as you say, is to bring us a measure of material peace and stability. Wrongdoing does not conduce towards that end. The state's business is not to shape souls. It is to provide a forum in which healthy souls can be shaped. There is one Physician of soul and body. A state that leaves the perfection of man to the God-Man is, in my humble opinion, vastly preferable to one that undertakes to perfect man through its own means. Such is why I'm sympathetic to Locke and Jefferson, deficient though their understanding of the fullness of the human potential might be.

In Christ,
Evan

Edited by Evan, 11 September 2011 - 07:02 PM.


#92 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 11:27 PM

We have a RIGHT not to be treated in certain ways, owing to this moral obligation. Others can still treat us in such ways, but we need not acquiesce in it, because it is wrong. Caeser's decree notwithstanding.


As soon as this thought takes over the mind we have lost the battle in moving toward being something truly Christ-like. Look at Christ's example. He of all people, as God incarnate, had the right to be treated with dignity and respect and yet he gave up that right, making himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. He acquiesced to the wrong being done to Him. The civil govt may have an obligation to be a benefactor toward it's citizens, but we as Christians have an obligation to be Christ-like and live in a Christ-like manner irregardless of what the society around us is doing. To abandon this obligation is to abandon the heart of what makes a Christian, a Christian. And precisely to the degree to any individual buys into the idea that they have the "right" to be treated in a certain way, to that degree has the individudual moved away from Christ.

I apologize if this sounds hard to digest, but this is a point we simply cannot yield on.

It is right and good to talk about the obligation that is upon each of us to treat each other with respect. This is a thought that needs to be nurtured. But it is un-Christian to demand that others treat us in a way commensurate with those rights. And to the degree that this thought -- that it is right and good to "stand up for our rights" --- has infected our society, to this degree has it ceased to be Christian.

The problem here is not with the govt - except to the degree it nurtures and encourages this demand for rights -- the problem is with the people. To solve disputes or enforce laws is one thing, but for the govt to have this as an underlying philosophy is against the principles of our nature. And we see the grief this is causing in our society.

#93 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 12:53 AM

You know Evan, I don't think we are that far apart as far as our moral sense of what's right and good, rather I think, that the difference here is mostly a matter of words, and I think I have found a way to untangle this that will help towards some clarity.

The first part of your statement above, which I did not quote in my last post is something I agree with.

As to natural right-- this is essentially the notion that there are certain moral principles available to us as reasoning, morally discerning creatures "by nature," arising from what we can see in the human person. I did not mean to deny our God-given freedom. Rather, I meant to speak of moral obligation arising from the fact that those principles aren't "up for debate," and the authority of the state is contingent upon its adherence to them.


Except that I would not call what you describe in your first sentence a natural "right" but rather a natural ability for the discernment of good. What this leads to then as you imply is a natural obligation. As part of what it means to be human creatures, created for communion, there exists within our nature an obligation toward one another to live a certain way.

What Christianity teaches us is that intrinsic in this obligation, constituting something basic to the essence of our nature, is the call to be a servant. We see in Philip 2 that Christ "took the form of a servant" and this is part of what it means to be "made in the likeness of man." We are not God but man, and part of the nature of man is to be a servant. This is even more foundational to our nature then our obligation to rule, because it came first, at the very creation of our being and exists in relation to God, while our sovereignty came second and exists only in relation to the material creation and animals. Christ reminds of this proper order of things when he tells us to be servant leaders, not like the gentiles who lord it over one another. Thus servant-hood is an intrinsic part even of the exercise of our sovereignty.

Now coming back to this idea of natural "rights" and some of the thinking that Locke found himself tangled in, we can see how the very concept of natural "rights" leads us to violate this principle of being a servant that exists as part of our nature. A servant does not stand up and defend their rights. Look at some of the NT principles about what it means to be a servant, even under a harsh or unfair master. So any government that is promoting this ideology of "rights" in its laws and in its education is in fact violating its basic moral obligation to nurture its citizens in accordance with human nature.

When we compare these two contrasting views - one that has it's basis in mutual obligation lived out in a context of affection, and one that has it's basis in an individual defense of rights in the context of utilitarian relationships welll... at this point I think I am preaching to the choir.

#94 Evan

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 03:47 AM

Now coming back to this idea of natural "rights" and some of the thinking that Locke found himself tangled in, we can see how the very concept of natural "rights" leads us to violate this principle of being a servant that exists as part of our nature. A servant does not stand up and defend their rights. Look at some of the NT principles about what it means to be a servant, even under a harsh or unfair master. So any government that is promoting this ideology of "rights" in its laws and in its education is in fact violating its basic moral obligation to nurture its citizens in accordance with human nature.

.


Anna,

The "rights" language I'm using may be offputting, but I don't see how we can embrace a principle of unconditional obedience to the authority of men, if indeed that is what you're articulating (I'm wary of the possibility of miscommunication). We have it on Our Lord's authority that there is a distinction between what we are to render to God and what we are to render to Caeser. The apostles paid their taxes. They didn't sacrifice to idols. It seems to me that we must assert that there are bounds to the government's authority over bodies and souls-- that our obedience to that authority is indeed conditional. That doesn't mean we leap to our feet as soon as we feel that we have been wronged. It does mean, I think, that there exist circumstances under which we may declare that it is needful to serve God, not men.

I mentioned the Greek War of Independence. How do you understand that event?

In Christ,
Evan

#95 Evan

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 05:49 AM

More needed clarifications:

I view the authority given those set above us in the Church as being of an entirely different order than that given those in the state. The thinkers I've discussed, from aught I can tell, draw no such distinction, and that is why I've sought to be careful to distinguish their ecclesiology from their political philosophy in my qualified praise of certain of their ideas. There was no "enlightened consent" to St. Paul's submission to the authority of the same society that he had been laying waste to. He does as He is told by the Risen Lord, and accepts the authority of the Church with Whom He identifies Himself. We have no promise, by contrast, that the Holy Spirit will guide the state into all truth, or that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Indeed, quite the contrary.

I feel like I'm making things needlessly complex when it comes to "natural right," which is indeed not a Patristic concept. It is, however, so far as I can tell, consistent with what I've read in St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, and various other commentators on Romans 2 and Romans 13, among other passages that discuss conscience and obedience to authority. There is a natural law, it is the work of God in our souls, and it is independent of the political community. Should any official act contrary to it, he does wrong, just as any private person would do wrong to do the same. Thus, the state's authority is not unlimited, even if those who administer the state can, being free, choose to act as if it is without moral obligation to their citizens to do good and avoid evil, just as we all are. We need not, however, acquiesce in evil treatment. That does not give us a blank check. It recognizes that all of us are under authority prior to that of our political communities, in virtue of the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God, which no man can justly defile. It gives leaves us the space between the authority of men and the authority of God (to be interpreted in light of the above paragraph) which God Himself has given us.

So far as I can see, the Fathers are in one accord on the question of whether government itself is a positive good, and, indeed, interpret Romans 13 to refer to "government as such," rather than any particular government. It is the will of God that men be governed.

In Christ,
Evan

#96 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 11:22 AM

Personally, I think I am with Evan. Perhaps the key is to look at "rights" as something that we give to others, but not something that we demand for ourselves?

A little thought from a bear of little brain.

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#97 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 02:52 PM

Evan-
The need for good government was indeed accepted by the Church. It's my own personal sense that this understanding was actually more pronounced for the Fathers and in previous times than it is for us as modern Orthodox Christians.

But to understand what the Fathers believed we have to understand their starting point of how man is inherently a social creature. Much of this was already found in the earlier Greek and Roman philosophers and the Fathers reached back to their writings and conceptual framework. But they also deepened what the philosophers had said for they knew that since man seeks communion then he is social; and since he is social then he needs community. Thus man needs good governance in order to allow the community to flourish and for man to live as social rather than descending to the level of base passions and greed. In other words good governance also exists in order to protect man from falling into a debased form of false community. For even robbers operate together- but this isn't community.

Here I think that at times we misunderstand what good governance in the past involved on the personal level. This wasn't government related to according to free conscience as we understand this nowadays (a kind of legal contract whereby we allow government to operate as long as it respects our freedom of conscience). Rather it was man attempting to live precisely as social so that he was responsible to society's maintenance as a true community and not as a den of robbers. In so far as governing authorities did not reflect this reality, the rest of the community could and often did react.

I don't think then that we can properly dove tail what past Orthodox precedent was about government and community & what the Enlightenment thinkers proposed about these things and which have so deeply influenced our present society and sense of government. Yes- the Enlightenment thinkers aimed for governance and community. They did base this on what they took as man as created by His Maker. But what is crucial to grasp is how the definitions of all of these terms were being changed from this time on and in a quite conscious fashion away from the traditional Christian view. This after all was precisely one of the chief purposes behind what they were doing- and what made it a social and political program in the first place.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#98 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 03:55 PM

Anna,

The "rights" language I'm using may be offputting, but I don't see how we can embrace a principle of unconditional obedience to the authority of men, if indeed that is what you're articulating (I'm wary of the possibility of miscommunication). We have it on Our Lord's authority that there is a distinction between what we are to render to God and what we are to render to Caeser. The apostles paid their taxes. They didn't sacrifice to idols. It seems to me that we must assert that there are bounds to the government's authority over bodies and souls-- that our obedience to that authority is indeed conditional. That doesn't mean we leap to our feet as soon as we feel that we have been wronged. It does mean, I think, that there exist circumstances under which we may declare that it is needful to serve God, not men.

I mentioned the Greek War of Independence. How do you understand that event?

In Christ,
Evan


Evan, I am not advocating unconditional obedience to men, I am saying that our disobedience cannot be predicated on an ideology of defending our individual rights, it has to be for other reasons.

And these reasons, as Fr Raphael explains above, can also include reasons having to do with how our relationship with each other is being violated by the authority in question, not just how our relationship with God is being violated. (But this is different then disobeying to protect myself or others as individuals)

And while I agree that the authority of the bishops is different then that of the state, even this is not absolute to the point it cannot be questioned. After all how many heretics were at some time bishops, and the example of history is that the faithful did not simply lay down and role over in this situation.

I am saying that for the society to be teaching, and the government to be actively promoting this ideology of the defense of individual rights and the primacy of individual conscience is against our nature and a violation of what it means for us to be humans in community.

Can you see how under this paradigm it is not just marriage but even the greater social community that is utilitarian in purpose? Locke's belief about marriage is simply an outgrowth of how he sees community in general. The individual is the end all and be all. Community is just there to serve the individual when needed. Therefore govt is not there because it is in man's nature to be social, but rather because man needs mediation in his interactions with each other so that each individual is protected from other individuals and from the greater community.

From a quote from Locke in your earlier post you can see this quite clearly.

IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings asmuch as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite,for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.


This differs very greatly from an idea of man's nature such that:

since he is social then he needs community. Thus man needs good governance in order to allow the community to flourish and for man to live as social rather than descending to the level of base passions and greed.


It's a very different mindset that sees govt as doing a different job for a different purpose. One puts a check on passions so that man can live as an individual, and one puts a check on passions so that man can live as social. The law, the idea of the need for law, and the enforcement of it is being used to serve a different end.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 12 September 2011 - 04:18 PM.


#99 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 05:08 PM

I'll just close with one more post. In reading the biographies of the Russian saints, I could see that their view of their sovereigns and the sovereigns' rule was very different from the view of kingship that I had been taught. I really wish I could find some of the quotes, the main one which I think was in the book on Elder Barsanuphius, but it started me questioning the ideas laid out in our Declaration of Independence. I could see that kingship was not the evil we were taught that it was, but rather that the relationship between royalty and subjects could be something beautiful.

It is not till now though, and our discussion here, that I have been able to see what that beauty is. Basically both the Russian royalty (even when they were bad and rebelling against this) and their subjects, had a sacramental view of their relationship not that much different then what we see in a marriage. It is when the people, influenced by the west, started to lose this that the door was opened to the revolution. The revolution in Russia was a terrible tragedy just in the loss of lives, but more, far more was lost then just lives.

#100 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 05:21 PM

So, who here is ready to demand to begin living under an earthly unlimited autocratic despotism?




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