John Locke: Author of Natural Rights
My previous posts on Indoctrination have brought us to the discussion of natural rights which John Locke defended and Thomas Jefferson included in America’s Declaration of Independence. Having said this I believe I need to warn you of this very familiar observation. What one learns first and/or during one’s formative periods tends to become engrained in the bedrock of one’s mind.
This cannot be dislodged based on logical, proofs or even impassioned pleas. If one has the ideologue that all business men are evil at heart then there is no clear argument that will dissuade one from that belief. Clearly, everyone has a set of beliefs (faith) that form one’s worldview and cannot be easily, if ever, dislodged. Americans are as jingoistic about the “rightness” of American values as are the Chinese about their values or worldview. The problem is that to become a Christian, Christ must and does remake one’s matrix of values or worldview. This is the essence of becoming a “new creation” in Christ.
I chose to discuss this subject because during presidential elections the myths of American history and values are trotted out to justify the “rightness” of the presidential candidates. These myths are undefined and unsubstantiated as these are the “assumptions” of our history just as the scientific methodology assumptions are accepted as true without proof. The foundational belief used to form our country is the philosophy of “natural rights” as set forth by John Locke. Christians become impassioned in their defense of these values without ever giving them an iota of thought. I know I did for many years. Now, to set the record straight, I am not anti-American. I spent 26 years of my life in the military in defense of our country as did my father before me. The lesson I learned was that dying for America does not preserve freedom, it only buys time for the succeeding generation to determine how they want to live, even it it is in opposition to those values for which men bravely died! This forced me to look closely at American values and history, cleverly devised myths designed to promote a particular view of history that furthers the aims of the current American government and society. So let us look at this concept of natural rights.
Schematic of Natural Rights
What are these “laws of nature”? According to John Locke these rights are inherent in being made in the image of God and cannot be taken away from anyone. Those governments that seek to infringe or negate these rights can and should be overthrown. This justification was used to make the American Revolution “legal”. John Locke defined the basic rights as life, liberty and property. Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence changed these to read: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This all sounds very well but there are several problems, especially for the Christian.
First, none of these terms are defined! What is meant by liberty. The American view of liberty was very different from the French view of liberty at nearly the same period of history. The American Revolution produced a somewhat orderly society while the French Revolution produced a violent, destructive, chaotic society that gave rise to Napoleon and actually culminated in the October Revolution nearly 100 years later forming the Soviet Union. Why? Not defining these terms allowed everyone and anyone to provide their own definitions. Some of this inherent ambiguity became enshrined in the Constitution such as in the “welfare clause”. This clause has been used to justify many laws because it was never defined!
The next problem is how did John Locke know these “laws” existed? Where in natural did he find these laws? John Locke is an empiricist which means that his philosophy was supposed to be limited by the five senses. This clearly violates his own tenants since none of the five senses can detect liberty, happiness and so forth. Any philosophy of man is limited by man’s finiteness and sinful nature, no matter how well intended so how can we trust that these are indeed true natural laws and not just theories or hypothesis that some want to believe are true while others believe that these laws are non-existent or at least different in form?
If these laws are from God then we must have a common understanding of God in order to have a common understanding of these natural laws. The myriad “Christian” denominations demonstrate that man does not have an integrated, coherent view of God and therefore one’s understanding of these natural laws must also be fragmented. This does not take into account the non-Christian views of a “higher power” or even non-existent power (atheist) and their understanding of these “laws”. Yet, America claims to be the home for all peoples based on these “self-evident” laws according to Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence when he said these truths are self-evident.
Yet, when the Christian comes to the Bible, there are NO passages that codify these “self-evident truths of the natural laws”. In fact, the Bible says something very different. The Bible says that we are in fact, slaves! One is either a slave to sin, and thus to Satan, or a slave to Christ and thus free from the sinful nature as one matures in Christ even though this process is never complete in this life (John 15:15-19). Christ, in essence, is making this statement in these passages and Paul discusses this in Romans Chapter. In the true reality, there is no liberty, it is an illusion. The search for freedom is actually an excuse of licentiousness. For Christians to worship natural rights is to place Satan before God, to value liberty (an illusion) above being a slave, and a friend, to Christ.
What is the Christian to do? Obey those laws that conform to right and wrong as defined by the Bible. Paul, a citizen of Rome, set the example of following those laws that were supported by the Bible even when that same Rome condemned him to death for preaching the Gospel, clearly against the dictates of Rome! We are to be in the world but we are not to become entangled in the world to the point that we sacrifice the Gospel of Christ for the gospel of Americanism, which is of Satan since he is the power behind all governments. We can vote but we need to understand that no person will turn America into a “godly” nation. We can be lights in the world but we must point the path to Christ and not to gun rights or property rights or to the many other “rights” that are fought over. These irrelevant battles only deplete the power of the Gospel and turn the society at large against the Christian and the Gospel of Christ.
In closing, I know that this goes against the indoctrination of many Christians which they received in their public, and private, education. This challenges those cherished, long held beliefs and will simply fall like rain on plastic. Many of the truths Christ taught fell on deaf ears also yet He taught on until He was crucified for His own. Can I, can we as Christians, do any less?