Tag: Liberty

The Lord Thy Surgeon

Hamilton and Perfection

It has been a long time since the last blog post.  Thank you to one encouraging reader who said, “Are you still posting on your blog? I keep checking the website to see if a new one is up.” I’ve been so busy recently moving up into a leadership job at the hospital that I work at. Secondly, I feel an overwhelming sense of the need for perfection when writing.  At times, I feel paralyzed at writing the wrong thing or typing something that I won’t want on the internet FOREVER…

But I truly believe that we cannot be afraid of failure.  Failure is the beginning of new growth.  Failure is an opportunity for improvement. As Michael Jordan said, “”I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.” Is he not considered one of the best of all-time at basketball? Failure allows us to see our needs in Christ.

Recently, I was in Chicago and had the opportunity to watch the Broadway show “Hamilton.” I think I had been spending more time thinking about how special our country is prior to going to the show but the forethought that the founding fathers had to keep the Union together is overwhelming and inspiring.  Can you imagine 13 “united” states trying to decide on a “Constitution” or agreement of how they would govern themselves together?  As Hamilton states in the first Federalist Paper, “The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

Can men govern themselves? Can they reflect on the important questions and choose how their government would look rather than being pushed around by the forces around them?  After Jacob wrestled with God, God gave him the name Israel (Genesis 32:28). Israel means “God governed.” The people were under God’s government until they demanded their own government and chose King Saul.  It was downhill with Saul as the “people’s choice.” I’d argue that we’re in the same situation now.  If it were not for God holding this Union together, we’d have destroyed it already.

What amazes me so much about the founders is how they knew how bad men were.  Or at least they knew even good men could go bad.  Hamilton, in the first federalist paper, also says this, “So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society.” I truly believe that there are good men on both sides of the spectrum that are truly misguided.  And in the age of Twitter, the information just whizzes by us in such rapid fashion.  How could we possibly fact-check all the information that might “give a false bias to judgement”?  Perhaps some cooler heads might prevail in polarized political debates if we first see that we both want the best for our nation but have different ways of solving the problem.  I believe we frequently assume bad intentions of our neighbors rather than poor plans.  Are their motives really hateful or just misguided?

Finally, in closing his first Federalist paper, Hamilton writes, “I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars: THE UTILITY OF THE UNION TO YOUR POLITICAL PROSPERITY, THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE PRESENT CONFEDERATION TO PRESERVE THAT UNION, THE NECESSITY OF A GOVERNMENT AT LEAST EQUALLY ENERGETIC WITH THE ONE PROPOSED, TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS OBJECT THE CONFORMITY OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION TO THE TRUE PRINCIPLES OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT, ITS ANALOGY TO YOUR OWN STATE CONSTITUTION and lastly, THE ADDITIONAL SECURITY WHICH ITS ADOPTION WILL AFFORD TO THE PRESERVATION OF THAT SPECIES OF GOVERNMENT, TO LIBERTY, AND TO PROPERTY.”

The pace of Hamilton and the Federalist papers was furious with 51 essays in not even a year. For me, perhaps the paralysis of trying to attain perfection will pass and the passion for posting will return. Perhaps, we’ll call it writing by faith about faith.  One other interesting observation from the Broadway play, Hamilton, was the reflection of Aaron Burr and his legacy.  (He did so much and basically, he is remembered only for shooting Hamilton.)  May God help us press on by faith to have a legacy of faith.

Therefore, I propose that I continue writing to show you the utility of union with Christ to your eternal prosperity, the insufficiency of the present confederation with the world to preserve yourself, the necessity of a relationship with Christ to the attainment of Life proposed in the Bible to true principles of God, its contrast to your own state of confusion, and lastly, the eternal security which your adoption as son will be to your preservation of liberty and prosperity under God. (Eph 2:8-9, Rom 3:23-28, Rom 8:31-39, Heb 7:25, Rom 5:10-11)

The Lord Thy Surgeon

Doing Justice: What is Legal is not always Right.

What is Legal is not always Right.

Does the law determine what is right? Where do we determine what is right? Is our country based in majoritarianism or are we in submission to God? Much debate surrounds the appointment of the next Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Scalia. Will the Republicans confirm Obama’s appointment? Will the next President choose the appointment? Five of the eight current justices are Catholic (Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Sotomayor) The other three are Jewish (Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan) One might expect them to come to overwhelming decisions that reflect that true justice can only be obtained if the law comes from God. This seems not to be the case.

Let us back up though. Arthur Leff in 1979 may have framed the situation best in an article in the Duke Law Journal regarding constitutional law. “I want to believe—and so do you—in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoratively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe—and so do you—in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species, what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.”

By “findable” rules, he’s referring to the Torah. It is the law of God written down. It is a natural law of the universe that is found by man and written down. Something that is more eternal than creation. However, we want to rule ourselves. We want to create the law that fits us best. However, we cannot escape the sensation to want to find an order that is right outside of ourselves. As Leff puts it, each law that is written down ultimately someone may ask, “sez, who?” Who will enforce it? By what authority does it come?

We can think of many different setups of government. 1. A majority of the people decides what is law. 2. A committee of people decides the law. 3. A tyrant decides. If we talk about a democracy or majoritarianism, does the majority always choose what is right? Put another way; is the majority always in the right? In our country, blacks and women would have a very different position if the majority were right. If a minority had not pointed to a higher law, blacks and women would have much different standing.

If we speak of a committee ruling or communist party or socialist group or even a republic, or ultimately a small group of people, either chosen by the people or not, do they decide correctly what is right? Or perhaps a king, dictator, despot, or supreme leader, can they decide what is right?

Where do these people come up with the law? Is it in nature? Is it from God? Is it from inside themselves and how they feel? Eventually, we find that the speaker(s) of the law must have power. It is the ones with power ruling over the ones without. Even if those with the so-called “power” may be minority groups. The question of law comes down to, “sez who?” These are the legislators of the law.

The judges of the law are to determine what the law says. They are to judge whether any action is lawful or not. In the United States, we separated the powers of the legislators of the law and the evaluators of the law. My question is: how do we know that the law is right if God’s Word is not the foundation? How do we keep a legislator (or group) from deciding something “legal” but that does not agree with the natural law? How do we keep the judge honest? If they are not submitted to God, does not their power come from themselves? God is the only one who is the Ultimate Legislator and Ultimate Judge.

God’s speech is in the form of “performative utterances.” An example of a “performative utterance” is “I apologize” or “I promise.” The act of saying the speech is the action as well. God is the only one Who when He says, “Light be!” light instantly appears. He is the ultimate backer of His Word. He will judge those in eternity whether they have met the requirement of the law. Only in Him can we find true justice.   He determines and judges what is right.

The law of our world today is about power; not about justice. I would argue that everyone knows that “the taking of an innocent life is wrong.” What we have done today is to add-on qualifications for that understanding. We redefine what “innocent” is and what “life” is. “Life begins at 24 weeks…err…sometime around then…” “Having cystic fibrosis or Downs syndrome is not really a good life. It is a life of suffering.” Where do legislators and judges get their power to say when a life begins? Scientifically we know that an implanted fertilized egg has everything needed chromosomally and environmentally to grow into an adult person. How is removal from the uterus premature not unlike suffocating or starving an adult? Why is convenience (99% of the time), whether be it financial, emotional, or social convenience, a justifiable reason for ending this human’s life? To be an ethical abortionist, one would have to set out with the premise that “life is utterly absurd and meaningless.” It would not be hard then to ethically end any human life.

“But I don’t have the resources.” Or “this child will be suffering and deformed.” Is not all life about suffering? Does not suffering tell us that something is wrong? Where is the justification not to finish off any one who might break an arm or even stub a toe? Even the most deformed person can bring a joy to those around them.

Before 1973, every child born had the “right” to exist. After 1973, every child was “chosen” to exist. It was your “legal” right to end your pregnancy after 1973. It disagreed with the natural law that “all life is sacred.”

But what if I’ve fallen short of that natural law? What if I’ve had an abortion? Here’s the good news, the Ultimate Judge and Legislator is also the God of mercy. He is able to heal your wounds. We know that all have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and the penalty (wages) for sin is death. (Rom 6:23) But God established His righteousness apart from the law in Christ. (Rom 3:21-22). He paid the penalty for our sin. He established your right to life by Christ’s faithfulness.

What is legal is not always right. The founders of this nation knew that we had the “right” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of the current Supreme Court justices claim to come from Judeo-Christian beliefs. The law of the court and the judge of the justices may not agree with the natural law. Some may not find justice in this world. It took over a hundred years for us to recognized that a black man/woman had the “right” to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We set out knowing that “all men are created equal.” We had to relearn what we already knew that a black man is a man. We have redefined what is “innocent” and what is “life” in order to justify our convenience. Where will it end if any “minor defect” will be criteria for ending a pregnancy? Between a Muhammad Ali or a Stephen Hawking in utero, who would we choose? Should we discard a man with Marfan’s-like characteristics with multiple endrocrine neoplasias; a man with a large jaw, drooping eyelids and “pseudo-depression”; a man that likely has MEN2B malformation? Would we be better off without that tall intermittently depressed Abraham Lincoln?

And what about liberty or freedom? “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) Christ set us free for freedom’s sake. He set us free so that we are not under the bondage of men. If the law is from God, we are FREE to serve Him. We are not free to do whatever we want. (Gal 5:13-14) True freedom is granted in serving Him. And for the Christian, happiness is tied up in trusting the Lord. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How Blessed is the one who takes shelter in Him” (Psalm 34:8) How happy is the one who trusts in Him!

It may be legal but it isn’t always right. Nevertheless, “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” (Eph 1:4) We were deformed and imperfect but He adopted us as His own through Christ. (Eph 1:5) What shall we do now then? “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

 

Arthur Leff’s “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law”